Date ►►► May 28, 2009
Mine's Bigger Than Yours, but Theirs Is Bigger Than Anybody's!
An open letter to John Hinderaker of Power Line, in response to his post High Points, discussing which state has the lowest highest elevation... that is, the state of the United States whose highest point is the lowest of any state:
I know you were looking for the lowest high point; but I can't resist bragging that my own California has both the lowest low point in North America -- Badwater, a depression within the depression of Death Valley (282' below sea level) -- and also the highest high point in the lower 48 -- Mt. Whitney (14,505'); it's 65' taller than the tallest peak of the Rocky Mountains (Mt. Elbert, 14,440').
[This paragraph is corrected; there are other mountains in Alaska that are taller than Whitney. Hat tip to commenter Brotio.]
The only point in the United States that is taller The only state in the United States whose high point is higher than California's is Alaska; Alaska's Mt. McKinley, a.k.a. Denali, is 20,320'... the highest mountain peak in North America.
The question, "what is the tallest mountain on Earth?" is interesting because of its essential ambiguity; depending on what the meaning of "tallest" is, there are three possible answers:
- Mt. Everest, which boasts an elevation of 29,028' above mean sea level (MSL), but rises only about 12,000' from its surrounding plain.
- Mount Chimborazo, in the Andes (Ecuador); although its summit is only 20,564' above MSL, it happens to be the point on the Earth's surface farthest from the Earth's center (due to the equatorial bulge) -- 3,968 miles, 1.3 miles more than the distance from the peak of Mt. Everest to the Earth's center.
- Mauna Kea, the tallest peak on the Big Island (Hawaii), is the mountain that rises the farthest from the base on which it sits; but since Mauna Kea's base is of course beneath the Pacific ocean (that's why it's an "island"), it doesn't seem as tall, rising only 13,803' above MSL. However, it rises 33,476' (!) above its base in the surrounding (subaqueous) plain.
But we're being so geocentric... If we expand our search to the tallest known mountain in the solar system, that would be Olympus Mons on Mars, which soars a truly majestic 88,600' (16.7 miles, yow!) above the mean surface level of Mars... the measurement that substitutes for MSL, as Mars hasn't any "S." (No liquid water, at least not aboveground, because the Martian atmosphere is so thin that the boiling temperature of water is below the freezing temperature; therefore water can only exist as ice or vapor on Mars.)
So the next time you go bragging about the looming mountains of Minnesota (highest elevation: Eagle Mountain, 2,301' above MSL), look upon the Ozymandian Olympus Mons, ye Mighty, and despair.
Martial Arts and Marital Darts
Why is the gay Left so hot for same-sex marriage, but not for gay soldiers?
It's an intriguing question; facially, you'd think that if benefitting gays were the primary goal of gay activists -- restoring them a vital and almost undisputed liberty that is currently withheld for obscure and indefensible reasons -- that the very first task they would tackle would be to remove the absurd and dangerous requirement that gays serving in the military do so in secret.
Oddly, however, gay activists by and large ignore that rather breathtaking denial of a fundamental liberty to gays in favor of agitating in favor of same-sex marriage (SSM). Oh, if you delve deep into the websites of some of the major gay activist organizations, you can eventually find that they issued a press release three months ago, blasting some general -- who bears a striking resemblance to the loony brass-holes that Hawkeye Pierce regularly made a monkey of every week on M*A*S*H -- for saying something either ignorant or conservative about gays in the military.
But the endless daily soap opera of As the Marriage Turns is splashed across the index page in full-color, animated Flash graphics, leaping off the page in 3-D modeling, or flinging itself like a caffeinated squirrel out of your monitor and onto your desk (or your lap, if you're unlucky enough to be reading the site on a laptop). The difference in emphasis is brutally stark.
And all for a cause that can only advance when robed high priests of the American judiciary threaten to erase their own state from the map unless the legislature enacts SSM; whereas President Barack H. Obama could this very day demand Congress change the 1993 "Don't ask, don't tell" law preventing gays from serving openly in the military... and he would probably get his way.
Yet despite his campaign promises, he has not done so... and the Pentagon "reaffirms that it has no plans" in the works, having received no hint from the White House that such a policy change is coming.
The ultimate question for me is... why? Why make SSM a priority over allowing gays to serve openly in the military?
I reckon you're shocked, shocked to learn that Big Lizards has its own answer to that question. (If we didn't, why would we waste the bandwidth for nothing... when we could instead waste it to flog our own pathetic, tired, crabbed nostrums?)
Slither on to see just how pathetic, tired, and crabbed we truly are!
Gays in the military -- shoo, gay, shoo!
There are many points that would give pause even to those opposed to gays serving openly:
- I have never seen a persuasive argument that gays serving openly, rather than secretly, in the military would have a detrimental effect on national security or our warmaking capability.
Nobody can credibly argue today that gay men are any less capable of fighting aggressively than straight men (the idea that gays are "too limp-wristed" or "too effeminate" is laughable); in fact, nobody even tries. The only counterargument I have ever seen -- and it's pretty lame -- is the one used in the current federal statute (10 U.S.C. § 654)... that knowing for sure there were gays in a unit, as opposed to merely guessing, might cause some straight soldiers to freak out:
The presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.
As here, this argument is almost never fleshed out; it's left as a hanging assertion, like "Women can't be fighter pilots because they go crazy every month due to PMS." And of course, they don' need no steenkin' evidence; they just say it and glare, as if it would be unpatriotic to ask if they've ever been involuntarily committed to a home for the mentally confused.
This putative "reasoning" is, frankly, risible; it really boils down to "I can't be in a foxhole with Jeffy, he might be looking at me!" There is really no logical distinction between saying "I can't stand the thought of serving next to a homosexual" and "I can't stand the thought of serving next to a black." Though clearly we as a culture have far more of a history of trying to stamp out discrimination against race than discrimination against sexual preference, in both cases the problem is not the individual target of official retribution -- but the reaction of the most bigoted person standing next to the target: Jeff can't serve because Bob is too squeamish.
There is no evidence I have seen to indicate that today, when other members of a unit find out or come to suspect that one of their number is gay, that this disrupts morale, destroys unit cohesion, or leads to any negative consequences whatsoever... except among a tiny number of very bigoted military personnel (making them the problem, not the gay soldier just trying to do his job). In fact, quite the opposite: Many gays who have been prosecuted for discharge have been adamantly defended by their squadmates and fellow soldiers.
Such an argument could have been made in, say, the 1950s or earlier... just as the similar argument against integrating the troops was more believable during and before World War II than after that watershed moment of history; acceptance of racism in polite society took a real nosedive following revelations of Hitler's death camps. But today, the argument of "gay revulsion" is the last refuge of the desperate, clinging to their bigotry.
- Worse, by requiring gays to hide their sexual preference, we create a ready-made pool of potential blackmail victims... gays who might be extorted into aiding or abetting the enemy.
Gays constitute somewhere around 2%-3% of the population, depending how you define "gay;" presumably they have the same range of ethics and morality as anyone else. Hence, while the vast majority of gays would out themselves, risking involuntary discharge rather than hurt their country, on the margins, there would still be thousands for whom the career is more important... just as there are with straight officers who cheat on their spouses.
But the difference is, you cannot discharge a person from the military merely for wanting to cheat but abstaining. But under current law, a gay man or lesbian can indeed be discharged from the military merely for having the "propensity" towards homosexuality... where propensity means "a natural inclination; innate or inherent tendency." He doesn't even have to act on that propensity in order to be punished with the loss of his career.
A homosexual or bisexual can also be discharged merely for revealing his sexual preference or for having "married or attempted to marry a person known to be of the same biological sex," even in a state where that is legal -- even if the marriage occurred before he joined the military; even if he subsequently renounced the marriage, got divorced, and considers himself completely heterosexual now! The fact that he once married a person of the same sex is itself sufficient, if discovered (including discovery by being ratted out by a thwarted blackmailer), to get him involuntarily discharged.
There is no other innate characteristic, especially one that many people believe is inherent and unchangeable (I express no opinion on this point), which can by itself bar an American citizen from serving in the military if he has the physical and mental capacity to do so; all other prohibitions are behavioral... e.g., a convicted felon can be barred from service for something he did, not something he is.
- In a time of existential warfare against an enemy that wants to destroy our civilization because we are who we are, shouldn't it be a liberty issue that every member be allowed to defend that society with force of arms, to his best physical and mental ability?
Yet the law actually goes out of its way to assert that "There is no constitutional right to serve in the armed forces."
I'm certain that is legally correct; there is probably caselaw proving it. But not everything that's legal is necessarily moral or ethical or even in the best interests of civilization itself.
If this war is the crisis and turning point of Western civilization that most of us believe it to be, then we're really not in a position to reject good soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines on frivolous grounds of "ickiness" unrelated to martial ability. It's like saying we won't accept soldiers who have hair on their backs, because some people might find that disgusting.
A tale of two priorities
I suspect that if put this way, Americans would probably agree this policy is grotesquely unfair and unAmerican; and in addition, that it is if anything destructive of America's national security needs. In other words, this is a major fight that gay activists could win. So why do they barely trouble to make it, instead focusing nearly all their attention on cramming SSM down our throats? (It's not even a "more in sorrow than in anger" moment; I get the impression gay activists experience an almost orgasmic rapture from thwarting the will of the people anent traditional marriage.)
It can't be because of the numbers of homosexuals affected; would anybody seriously argue that there are more gays who want to marry people of the same sex than gays who want to serve in the United States military? On the contrary, the percent of gays who want to marry appears far smaller than the percent of straights who want to marry, judging from the marriage rate in the few states that allow SSM.
So -- why? Why focus on the controversial, the uphill battle, the cause that has the potential to alienate the usually silent majority, the argument that has lost every time ordinary voters have had a chance to decide? Why not focus instead on the essentially non-controversial cause that is almost a slam-dunk, that even brings many conservatives on board (those for whom the right to defend our culture outweighs their personal disapproval of homosexuality), and that can be justified and argued by appealing to well accepted, fundamental American virtues?
Consider the reaction (non-reaction) to the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), the case that found the laws across the nation that banned "sodomy" to be unconstitutional. While some conservatives still decry this decision (such as Michael Medved), even they recognize that to the extent the American people even cared about it, they tended to support it -- as I do. It's clearly a liberty issue, affecting what people can do in the privacy of their own homes; and by the same measure, so is eliminating the thuggish "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
But SSM is not a liberty issue -- it's a status issue. Nobody in the United States is prohibited from being gay, engaging in gay sex, cohabitating, finding a church, synogogue, mosque, or temple that will religiously marry him to a same-sex partner, and presenting himself to family, friends, employers, and indeed all of society, as being "married." Yet even there, nearly all states have domestic partnerships or civil unions that provide all or nearly all of the state-based material benefits of marriage, everything from disposition of property in probate to visitation rights in hospital.
The law in those states that have resisted judicial tyranny says only that the government of that state does not recognize same-sex marriages. They won't send police to break up your wedding, and they won't arrest you for it; but they will withhold official approval... status, in other words.
Yet a miniscule minority of SSM activists want to change the definition of a core social value -- marriage -- not just of the United States but of thousands of years of Western civilization itself; and they want to force that change against the will of the "we the people." They demand that America award the same status to SSM that it awards to traditional marriage, whether the citizens of a state want to do so or not. Status is not liberty; there is no bar to same-sex couples (or larger groups) behaving as if they were married. But the activists demand not only that the state tolerate their preferences but that it applauds them.
By contrast, allowing gays to serve openly in the military requires no redefinition, does not violate any core value, requires no positive affirmation of an outre lifestyle by society (merely tolerance), likely aids national security by expanding the pool of potential soldiers and removing a forced vulnerability to blackmail, and doesn't even require any fundamental change in American morality: You can believe homosexuality is a sin yet still support gays serving openly. After all, we don't reject single people from the military simply because they have sex outside of marriage.
But what about the comparison of laws banning interracial marriage to laws banning same-sex marriage? Isn't that a good argument that SSM is a liberty issue after all?
Sex vs. race: never the twain shall meet
The comparison of SSM to miscegenation is spurious; by the time courts began ruling that laws banning interracial marriage were unconstitutional -- starting in 1948 with Perez v. Sharp, 32 Cal.2d 711, 198 P.2d 17, by the California Supreme Court -- we already had a strong and growing consensus in California that race should not define marriage; the state courts followed the consensus of the citizenry -- they didn't lead it.
In addition, by 1948 -- and especially by 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court once and for all declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional (Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967)) -- we already had a long history of legal precedent for skepticism about official racial discrimination. This history included a civil war, followed by the enactment, from 1865 through 1870, of three constitutional amendments to codify opposition to racial discrimination, and culminating with the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
And of course, we have never had a universal definition of "race" to begin with, because it's scientifically impossible: All scientists agree that racial characteristics exist upon a continuum; there is no sharp dividing line between black and white, brown and red, yellow and white. We are all mongrels, in the very best sense of the word.
But none of this is true anent SSM:
- There is no national or even statewide consensus in any state that I'm aware of that SSM is the same as opposite-sex marriage or should be treated the same. In some states, there may be a slim majority in favor -- though I doubt it. But "majority" is not the same as "consensus," the latter being a much stronger term that means "an opinion or position reached by a group as a whole."
- We have never before had states that allowed SSM; there is no precedent. By contrast, from the very beginning of the United States in 1776, a majority seven of the original thirteen states allowed interracial marriage.
- The courts are definitely leading this charge, rather than reacting to actual changes in social consciousness and democratic legislative actions.
- There has been no SSM amendment or gay-rights amendment to the Constitution and no federal legislation mandating it. In fact, the only federal legislation touching on the issue, the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, goes the opposite way; it has never been revisited, not even by the Democratic Congresses of 2007 and 2009. No president has ever endorsed SSM, Congress has not passed laws to establish it, and no state referendum has ever enacted it, while a great many have banned it. There is no federal or state consensus of the people in favor of same-sex marriage; it remains the pet project of the pampered, intellectual leftist elite in this country (including the pampered, intellectual leftist elite that controls the Vermont General Assembly).
- And of course, a person's gender, in contrast to his "race," is easily determined with precision, except in strange and extraordinary cases.
Thus, there simply is no valid equation of interracial marriage to same-sex marriage.
A little privacy, please?
Well, what about the point that we should allow SSM because of the fundamental right of privacy?
This one is really dopey: How could demand for public recognition of same-sex marriages possibly be an act of privacy?
Contrast that nonsensical claim with the perfectly reasonable contention that anti-"sodomy" laws do violate privacy... as they prohibited private sexual activity between consenting adults behind closed doors, even in their own home. See the difference?
"Why" is a four-letter word
All right, we've teased the tiger long enough. Now it's time to open the cage and get our arms torn off and our heads crushed between his mighty jaws. (Some analogies should not be overextended.) I am now prepared to answer the question: Why are gay activist groups so monomaniacal about SSM, but so casual and blase about letting gays serve openly in the military?
I can identify three major factors:
Empowerment is the enemy of control: I believe that gay activists truly do not want gays to be allowed to serve openly in the military, because they truly do not want gays actually mainstreamed into American culture. Special-interest pressure groups like the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination (GLAAD), the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP), the Lamda Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Equality California, thrive on power; and their power does not come from mainstreamed gays who are strong and confident to fight to fight their own battles as individuals, as everyone else does. Rather, interest-group power comes from frightened, timid, dependent, isolated people who cling to the activist pressure groups as their only hope.
Similarly, larger "progressive" groups like the ACLU, People for the American Way, Democracy Alliance, and MoveOn.org really, really don' t want liberals to feel empowered; because then they would have no need for those groups. The stock in trade of activists has always been "you're weak and powerless, so you must call upon us -- and pay us -- to fight for you." Unions function exactly the same way, and the last thing in the world they want are workers who are more like independent contractors... they want pliant, frightened workers who are always afraid they're only two paychecks away from starving to death -- and if the union ever disappeared, so too would they.
Gay activist groups are no different: They see a zero-sum game between individual empowerment of gays and control by the activists themselves, and it's obvious on which side of the fence the activists fall.
Mainstreaming gays is not in the Left's interests: Too, just like the various "feminist" organizations and "environmentalist" groups, gay activists are nearly always leftists first and gay-rights advocates second.
How would it benefit them for gays in the service to come out of the closet? They're more easily hooked into Socialism (whether Communist or liberal fascist) when they feel insecure and threatened by having to remain under cover. Remember that a socialist government is the ultimate special-interest pressure group.
Too, the Left tends to be anti-military to begin with; thus, I think many of them despise gays actually serving patriotically in the service, because they see them as sell-outs to the straight, traditional culture, just as so-called feminist groups see women in the military as sell-outs to patriarchy. As well, they see the United States as the primary obstacle to a one-world leftist government -- so why should they want to strengthen American military power?
Therefore mainstream gay groups don't waste much time agitating for gays serving openly in the military, just as mainstream feminist groups don't push for women being allowed into combat -- or even for civilian women to be able to get permits to carry concealed firearms. In a conflict, leftism will always trump individual empowerment... just ask Tammy Bruce how she was treated by the board of directors of the National Organization for Women when she was the president of the L.A. chapter.
Transformers: Activists and other fanatics typically don't want a specific solution to a particular problem... they want the complete transformation of society into something alien. They want to utterly abolish the old human being and create the new starchild -- what Marxists called the "New Soviet Man."
They are also catastrophists: They believe that only by a social cataclysm of Brobdingnagian proportions and cosmic reach can they achieve their final goal. Therefore, they see partial solutions not as advancements but rather as big steps backwards: They take pressure off the system, making it less likely to shatter, more likely to survive -- when transformers want the opposite.
So why do they so hysterically support same-sex marriage -- "protesting" by sitting in busy intersections to block traffic, smashing store windows in an unknowing imitation of Kristallnacht, and shrieking spittle-flecked denunciations of anyone who voted for Proposition 8 as a homophobic bigot -- when they show so little interest in the gays in the military issue? What makes SSM so special?
The cause of SSM is everything that the other is not:
- It's not individually empowering, because individual gay families actually gain virtually nothing from forcing states to call their domestic partnerships "marriages." All the benefit goes to the groups that flex their muscles.
- It fits in perfectly with the Left's general attack on American society as hopelessly bigotted, racist, sexist, and homophobic; and there is a clear divide between Left and Right, Democrat and Republican on the issue, with liberals and leftists supporting SSM and conservatives generally supporting traditional marriage. Thus enacting SSM -- especially through the undemocratic courts -- benefits the larger Left at the expense of the Right.
- Forced legalization of SSM constitutes the most wholesale transformation of traditional marriage, a core Western virtue, that has ever been attempted... and both Left and Right agree that achieving that goal would utterly upend Western civilization, Judeo-Christian religion, and all American tradition. Leftists pine for exactly that, while conservatives want to defend what we have now.
And if you think our tradition of freedom of religious worship will protect churches or synogogues, or even ordinary people, whose religion condemns homosexuality, you're in for a very ugly reality check. Please read this Michael Medved column; he explains why the gay activist tactic of offering "guarantees" that no one will be forced against his conscience to officiate at a same-sex wedding, forced to cater or photograph one, forced to allow gay married couples to adopt children on the same basis as opposite-sex married couples, is really no guarantee at all: As soon as SSM becomes a "fundamental right," any such protections written into law will be swiftly struck down by the courts... in lawsuits filed by the very same activists who offered them as "concessions" in the first place!
Conservatives who clutch for such a "compromise" will quickly find out that the deal is really "I win and you lose."
I believe that the Left, despite denials, knows full well that once they establish the precedent that the people have no right to restrict marriage to opposite sex couples, they will have established precedent for taking away the right of the people to restrict it to couples altogether... paving the way for polyamorous marriages (marriages between more than two people).
After all, if two men have a fundamental right to marry "because they love each other," then what is the legal argument against allowing three men to marry for the same reason? Or two men and three women?
Or -- and this is what it will invariably turn into -- one man and four women, just as the Koran advises. The addition of a religious demand for polygamy in fact strengthens the case against restricting legal marriage to a mere two people. Thus yet another dollop of sharia law will be injected into the squirming body of Western civ.
After a while, it may dawn on the people that a "marriage" that can mean anything in fact means nothing, and they will simply stop getting married, just as in Europe. And it's a short jump from people eschewing marriage to the same people eschewing pregnancy and childbirth. Just as in Europe.
Except of course the Moslem immigrants, who will begin colonizing America the way they have already colonized much of Western Europe, by immigration and demography.
SSM is a poisoned crossbow dart aimed directly at traditional marriage; its real purpose is not to allow "gay marriage" but to destroy marriage altogether; but in fact, it will result in the transformation of America into a sharia-friendly country, including polygamous marriage.
The path of destruction is clear, and yes, in its own way, it too is existential: If we allow same-sex marriage to be imposed upon us, or even if we give up the defense of Western virtues and "go with the flow," our fate will be the same as that of those who went before, across the pond; the barbarians will enjoy their final victory as our culture suicides itself into oblivion.
Date ►►► May 26, 2009
On Hugh Hewitt's show just now, he was interviewing Mike Allen of Politico; Allen stated that in addition to the various women that Barack H. Obama considered (including the one he ultimately picked, Judge Sonia Sotomayor), there was a mystery candidate for the pick. All that Allen knew was that it was a "white male."
Hugh Hewitt kept trying to guess Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, based upon Hewitt's insistance that Hispanics should be considered "white." Regardless of the merits of that position, I think it highly unlikely that BO himself would consider Hispanics to be "white," so that's out.
As Allen toddled off into the radio sunset, Hewitt was left completely befuddled as to who that mystery candidate could be. But I think I've solved the enigma; it's clear and obvious to me... and he may well be the next pick Obama gets:
Can you say -- Justice Bill Ayers?
Supremes Do the Right Thing
The California Supreme Court has handed down its decision on Proposition 8, the citizen initiative constitutional amendment that overturned a previous California Supreme Court decision, In re Marriage Cases (2008) 43 Cal.4th 757; Marriage Cases had held that the state's restriction of marriage to a union between one man and one woman -- as embodied by an earlier initiative enacted in 2000 (Proposition 22), by a previous 1977 law, and by law as commonly understood from the state's incorporation as a state in the United States in 1850 -- was nevertheless unconstitutional under the equal protection clause.
The court did not reverse that decision today; none of the justices voted that the ruling in Marriage Cases was wrong. But the court did find that Proposition 8 was likewise a valid state constitutional amendment, not a "revision" of the constitution, which would have required legislative approval before being placed upon the ballot. The vote was a healthy 6 to 1.
The net effect is that California is now firmly back in the traditional marriage camp -- except for the roughly 18,000 marriages that occurred in the brief window after the ruling in Marriage Cases took effect but before Proposition 8 was passed.
Chief Justice Ronald George wrote the opinion, which was joined by Justices Joyce Kennard, Marvin Baxter, Ming Chin, and Carol Corrigan. Justice Kathryn Werdegar wrote her own opinion concurring in the judgment that Proposition 8 was a valid amendment, but "dissenting" (so to speak) from the reasoning: She held that the majority was wrong to restrict the definition of constitutional revision to a change that fundamentally altered the way the state governed, as opposed to impinging only upon an individual right.
Werdegar held that an impingement upon an individual right, were it substantial enough, could still constitute a "revision" that requires legislative approval before it can be placed before voters. But she held as a substantive matter that Proposition 8 did not impinge in such a manner upon the fundamental right of equal protection under the law, hence was a valid amendment that required only a petition circulated among voters to qualify for the ballot.
(Interestingly, Werdegar was among the majority in Marriage Cases that held that same-sex marriage was required by the fundamental right of equal protection. I strongly disagree with her on that point; but I'm closer to agreement with her on the procedural question of what can constitute a constitutional "revision" than I am with the rest of the majority.)
The only complete dissent came from Justice Carlos Moreno (who was also, like Werdegar, in the pro-same-sex marriage majority on Marriage Cases). By a most curious coincidence, Moreno also happens to be the only justice on the court appointed by a Democrat, Gray Davis. The other six were all appointed by Republicans: George, Werdegar, and Chin by Pete Wilson; Kennard and Baxter by George Deukmeijian; and Corrigan by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Ergo, the six justices appointed by Republican governors had great deference for the right of the people of the state of California to enact and amend their own constitution, while the sole justice appointed by a Democrat thought that his interpretation of newly minted "fundamental" rights (which no justice before that day had dreamt existed) trumped the right of the people to determine their own style of government.
Please bear that distinction in mind the next time you are confronted with a vote for chief executive in your state or for President of the United States: Not only do words have meanings and actions have consequences, but so too do political parties.
Now let the leftist circus begin!
Hatch As Hatch Can: Venom of the Gay Left
In just four more hours, give or take, the California Supreme Court will release its decision and opinion on three consolodated cases demanding the invalidation of Proposition 8, the citizens initiative that overturned a decision by that same court mandating same-sex marriage in California on bogus "equal protection" grounds. The citizens initiative is one of the greatest tools of real grass-roots democracy, not liberal "astroturf," in America's most populous and richest state. (Which is headed towards bankruptcy and possible receivership; so it goes.)
In just four hours, we shall learn whether we still live in democracy with a government of the people, by the people, and for the people -- or whether we live in a tyranny with a regime of the activists, by the activists, and for the activists. I'm betting that even this court will shy from throwing a sacred Californian right of more than a century and a half standing into the dustbin of history, simply to satisfy a whim of policy preference, in a case that was originally decided by the slim and unconvincing majority of 4 to 3.
The gay Left says that if they do not get the "invalidation" ruling they want -- if the citizens of California are allowed to retain their self-evident right to write their own constitution -- then the radicals will go ape; there will be days of rage:
Gay rights advocates have scheduled marches throughout California and in several other states for Tuesday evening. Organizers say the gatherings will be celebratory if the court rules in their favor and angry if Proposition 8 is upheld.
Activists in the San Francisco Bay area, including several clergy members, said they planned to block the street outside the courthouse and to be arrested in a mass show of civil disobedience if the justices do not invalidate the measure.
"Words are not enough right now. We believe it's time to put our bodies on the line to show that separate is not equal," said Kip Williams, an activist with One Struggle, One Fight, a group that was launched in response to Proposition 8's passage.
I say, let them. Bring it on! Let the world see just how committed the American hard Left is to "outmoded" concepts such as democracy, liberty, and honesty. Let America see the liberal fascists for what they are: unAmerican, even anti-American. Apt pupils of Oogo Chavez and other Stalinists.
In sum, if the court has the audacity (chutzpah is the better word) to flush 159 years of the right of citizens initiative, over a stunningly recent, transitory, and bitterly partisan dispute, it will be the greatest outrage in the history of California jurisprudence... even for those who voted against Proposition 8: You cannot target your invalidations to those initiatives with whose policy you disagree -- without simultaneously invalidating it for all initiatives. I don't think even Los Angeles Mayor and likely next Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Antonio Villaraigosa, would go that far (though certainly San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom -- his most likely rival for the nomination -- would).
But if, as nearly everyone predicts, even most of the justices who voted to declare unconstitutional the state's perennial definition of marriage to apply only to male-female unions, nevertheless vote to uphold Proposition 8... then let us see the violent, adolescent Left rage and blow, smashing other people's property, assaulting their opponents, the police, and randomly selected bystanders. Let them show their Jerry Brown-shirts in public.
The medicine will be bitter, but its effect curative for our state's internal organs.
Date ►►► May 25, 2009
Memorializing Memorial Day
Today is Memorial Day... and if you don't know what that means, well I'm certainly not going to tell you!
Speaking Ill of the Dead
Yes, yes, I know: "De mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est" (do not speak ill of the dead). But why not? I say, go ahead and speak ill of the undeserving dead.
Erstwhile South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun is dead. He threw himself off a cliff today, coward that he was, because he was afraid to face the legal consequences of his corruption. Good riddance to very, very bad rubbish.
As we spoke ill of him several times in the past, we shall remain consistent and speak ill of him in death:
- A Rock And a Hard Peace
- No Samurai Spirit Here!
- Japanese Prime Minister Defies Asian Pressure
- Honda's Chinese Accord
- Next Time, Listen to Your Mother
Roh was not an evil man; he wasn't important enough (or, as is now obvious, brave enough). He was a wicked man however, though you'd never guess from his fawning obituary in the Associated Press. He rose to power as a demagogue, riding -- and fanning -- a wave of anti-Americanism in South Korea, the country which owes its very existence to American blood.
Roh repeatedly insisted that America and Japan were the Republic of Korea's greatest enemies, that we wanted to enslave them, that we had ravaged their countryside with war for no reason, and that we are today allied with the World War II oppressor of Korea (as if the current Japanese government is the same as that of Tojo). Paradoxically (and incoherently), Roh has also condemned us as war criminals for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
(He also once stood at an international conference to deliver a long speech denouncing Japan for trying to colonize Korea; but for a change, he wasn't talking about the Japanese military dictatorship of the 1930s and 40s... he was furiously condeming them for the invasions carried out by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the late sixteenth century. Roh Moo-hyun was also, atop everything else, a weirdo.)
In addition, he is most famous for his many acts of petty bullying of the weak and appeasement of the strong:
- Roe made repeated overtures of appeasement and submission to Kim Jong-Il, "president" of the neighboring Democratic People's Republic of Korea, a.k.a., Stalinist North Korea. (Actually, Kim is emperor of North Korea, a position he inherited from his father, Kim Il-Sung, as is customary in monarchies.) On Saturday, Kim referred to Roh as his little buddy... rather, his "lifetime democracy movement comrade":
Roh maintained liberal predecessor President Kim Dae-jung's "sunshine policy" of offering North Korea aid to facilitate reconciliation, holding a summit in Pyongyang with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in 2007, the second such meeting between leaders of the two countries that technically remain at war.
"I lost my lifetime democracy movement comrade. I feel like half of my body has collapsed," Kim said, according to an aide.
- Roh precipitated numerous military confrontations with Japan, knowing the Japanese would never fight back; typically, Korean warships would bully, capture, or even sink unarmed Japanese fishing vessels. Once, Roe even threatened to sink a Japanese scientific survey ship if it continued on a planned mission to the Japanese island of Takeshima... which the South Koreans have claimed since 1954 (with no international support), and which President Roh tried to seize by force in 2006.
- Roe did nothing about North Korea's incessant kidnapping of South Koreans and their indefinite detention in prison camps up north; needless to say, he said not a word about North Korea's kidnapping of Japanese, either.
- And in 2007, in response to demands made by the Taliban after capturing seven South Korean missionaries and holding them hostage, Roh ordered his government to pull all of its troops out of Afghanistan -- they were scheduled to leave anyway, but we were in talks with Roh to extend their stay... talks which he abruptly quit after accepting the Taliban's demands. And as part of the deal with the kidnappers, he also promised to prevent Korean Christian missionaries from ever again evangelizing in Afghanistan.
He rode to power on the claim that he was, as AP put it, "a 'clean' leader immune to South Korea's traditional web of corruption." Then he was enmeshed in a scandal and accused, with mounting evidence, of accepting as much as $6 million in bribes:
He previously acknowledged that a local businessman indicted in December in a separate bribery scandal - gave his wife $1 million, which he did not consider a bribe. He also said he was aware the man gave $5 million to another relative but thought it was an investment.
Prosecutors suspect all $6 million eventually reached Roh, and were expected to announce soon whether they would seek to arrest him. His wife and children also were summoned for questioning, and last week his elder brother was sentenced to four years in prison in a separate bribery scandal.
Like many bullying thugs, he turned out in the end to be a craven; he was so afraid of being arrested, tried, and convicted that he left a suicide note on his computer, then went for a walk (with his security detail) and flung himself into the void.
Roh was not a "bad man" in the sense of his demended North Korean soulmate, or even a "strongman" like Oogo Chavez, Robert Mugabe, or Muammar Gaddafi. But he was an enabler of bad men, a coward who led his country into cowardly, dastardly acts, a slanderer of truly good countries like the United States, and a despiser of friendly relations with his nation's allies -- though he certainly seemed to long for submissive relations with his country's enemies. He was a vain, pompous, truculent, dishonest, corrupt, dangerous fool; and the world is better off without him.
As I have said many times, every human life has value, but sometimes that value is a negative number. Sic transit Roh Moo-hyun: Out of sight, out of mind. He will not be missed by many, and the world, including his lifetime democracy movement comrade, will forget him in ten minutes time.
Date ►►► May 24, 2009
Diversity Lane on Big Lizards!
Please look right to the sidebar and notice the new appearance of the wonderful webcomic Diversity Lane, a fine mockery of all that is Left. (To see the words and things big enough to read them, please click on the cartoon image.)
I have been working with the creators of the strip to be able to present it here... I hope you enjoy it as much as I! In theory, as the artist, Zack Rawsthorne, draws new strips, they will appear in our sidebar in place of the one currently there. If this fails to eventuate, I'll try to figure out why it's breaking down.
Needless to say, given my respect for copyright, the appearance here is with the full and enthusiastic cooperation of the copyright holder.
To read more about the strip, the characters, the artist, and everything else, please head here...
Inactions Have Consequences
Oh, the dangers of sloth!
I wrote the post below at about 3:15 pm Saturday; but then I got lazy and let it sit and ferment, without getting back to it, editing and posting, until now. Alas, in the meanwhile, GW at Wolf Howling published his own take on the same story. As an object lesson of the necessity of action, action, action on the part of bloggers, please read this post (published second) first, and then read the Wolf Howling post (published first) second!
So the courts weighed in, seizing for themselves the power to wage war -- including the disposition of POWs and detainees and the collection and analysis of wartime intelligence -- and essentially ruled that henceforth, military actions would be subject to much the same rules as ordinary criminal investigations.
Thus, we can no longer hold POWs without trial; we can no longer interrogate unlawful combatants (notwithstanding long-standing standards derived from treaties); we can no longer try them by military commissions; and however we do try them, we must show them (and their terrorist attorneys) all relevant classified information and allow them to subpoena every person involved in their capture, at all levels... even to yanking top military commanders from the front lines to scurry back to the United States, be deposed, and testify under oath. (The unstated implication is that if our soldiers didn't read the terrorists their rights during capture, the terrorist must be kicked loose under the Miranda rule.)
Then came Barack H. Obama, who has reacted to this perplexing array of new court demands in his customary way: by not letting the "crisis" go to waste, using the occasion to hamstring our war effort even further, enunciating an absurdist panoply of new rights for terrorist detainees that go beyond even what the courts have enunciated... while his aides work desperately in the background, trying to mitigate their boss's reckless pronunciamentos by policies that strikingly resemble the "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity" of the Bush administration. Thus, as Ted Kaczynski might put it, Obama eats his cake and has it too.
The net effect is that we simply can no longer capture, hold, and interrogate the shadowy operatives, spies, and infiltrators who spurn the laws of war, wage war upon America, and share a belly laugh at the expense of our criminal justice system: We are bound like Gulliver in Lilluput by a thousand tiny threads of asinine rulings by tiny-minded judges -- and ten thousand leftist advocates, in and out of the administration, hoping to achieve their life goal of completely disarming the United States in the midst of an existential war.
Want evidence? Let's turn to that right-wing extremist organization, the New York Times:
The United States is now relying heavily on foreign intelligence services to capture, interrogate and detain all but the highest-level terrorist suspects seized outside the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to current and former American government officials....
The current approach, which began in the last two years of the Bush administration and has gained momentum under Mr. Obama, is driven in part by court rulings and policy changes that have closed the secret prisons run by the Central Intelligence Agency, and all but ended the transfer of prisoners from outside Iraq and Afghanistan to American military prisons.
We are now forced almost entirely to outsource terrorist detention and interrogation, leaving us at the mercy of countries like Pakistan, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia for everything we learn about al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah, or any other multinational terrorist organization hell-bent on destroying America. Court rulings -- and especially the current administration's tendentious overreaction to those rulings, and its feigned outrage over "crimes against humanity" committed by the previous administration (like putting Zubaydah in a box with -- a caterpillar; will Obama secretly approve that hellish torture as well?) -- have made it impossible for us to prosecute a major part of the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis ourselves. Instead, we leave it to our dubious "allies"... and are forced to sit with a begging bowl, hoping for whatever scraps of intelligence (or propaganda) they choose to give us.
Yet even that is not humiliating enough for Obama's activist friends:
Human rights advocates say that relying on foreign governments to hold and question terrorist suspects could carry significant risks. It could increase the potential for abuse at the hands of foreign interrogators and could also yield bad intelligence, they say.
The fate of many terrorist suspects whom the Bush administration sent to foreign countries remains uncertain. One suspect, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who was captured by the C.I.A. in late 2001 and sent to Libya, was recently reported to have died there in Libyan custody.
“As a practical matter you have to rely on partner governments, so the focus should be on pressing and assisting those governments to handle those cases professionally,” said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.
Anyone taking bets on how long it will be before the Supreme Court, with swinging Justice Anthony Kennedy as the tie-breaker, rules that it violates habeas corpus for the CIA even to receive intelligence from other agencies -- unless we can guarantee beyond a reasonable doubt that those Middle Eastern and South Asian intelligence services extend the full protections of the American Constitution to terrorist detainees that they capture and they interrogate?
After all, why not? In for a penny, in for a sheep.
We have here two different kinds of inaction -- America's inaction in its own defense, in its own war, against the devourers of civilization; and Big Lizard's inaction in actually publishing posts, instead of leaving them languishing, twisting slowly, slowly in the wind -- each with its own unpleasant consequences: the first dire, the second droll. Ouch again.
As usual, Wolf Howling has a cool picture perfectly encapsulating the theme. I wish I had the gumption (and access to such a wonderful library of graphic images) to do the same!
Date ►►► May 21, 2009
The Biannual Full Moon
Brave Sir Ron Leaps to the Lady's Defense
Today, in a vote so shocking my jaw dropped at least an angstrom, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX, 90%) -- the J. Neil Schulman of the House of Representatives -- thrust out a beligerant lower lip and cast his lot... not to create a "bipartisan congressional panel" to investigate Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) bearing of false witness against the CIA:
House Democrats on Thursday defeated a Republican push to investigate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's assertion that the CIA misled her in 2002 about whether waterboarding had been used against terrorism suspects.
Republicans Ron Paul of Texas and Walter Jones of North Carolina joined Democrats in voting 252-172 to block the measure, which would have created a bipartisan congressional panel. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, sponsored the resolution.
Paul doesn't want to investigate whether the ultraliberal Democratic Speaker is a liar; he doesn't even want to know. Evidently, he has bigger birds to fry.
So what was the reason enunciated by Democrats for not probing the Squeaker, the argument that persuaded Ron Paul (and "Walter Jones," if that is his real name)? Oh, it was quite compelling:
"This is partisan politics and an attempt by the Republicans to distract from the real issue of creating jobs and making progress on health care, energy and education," said Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami....
[T]he Republican-drafted proposal was a partisan jab meant to distract from the question of whether the Bush administration tortured war prisoners, [House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer, D-MD, 95%] said. Hoyer called the resolution another example of Republicans engaging in "politics of personal destruction."
Wow, that comes perilously close to persuading me to Pelosi's and Paul's side. Who can argue with that?
So the charge that Pelosi lied about what the CIA told her simply hangs out there, uninvestigated, hence unprovable. And the libertarian representative is just fine with that; doesn't want to contribute to any "partisan jab" that might "distract" from the urgent business of transforming America into a Eurosocialist welfare state. But wait, there is going to be an investigation after all:
[Hoyer] told reporters in a separate Capitol Hill news conference that he supports creation of a panel to investigate the nation's interrogation policy. What the CIA told Congress and when could be part of that, he said.
Say... what do you want to bet that the agenda of that investigation will be carefully controlled by the majority, so that the only party "in the dock" will be the CIA during George W. Bush's administration? (And how much should we wager that Ron Paul votes in favor of that one?)
I have long believed that "libertarians" -- especially Libertarians, members of the Libertarian Party -- are like werewolves: Every even-numbered November, they turn into hairy, howling, snarling Democrats, demonstrating their commitment to the values of Ludwig von Mises, Friederich Hayek, and Robert A. Heinlein by supporting the major American political party that is closest to Socialism.
The support isn't always blatant; some vote for cranks like Ron Paul, others for nonentities like Babar. But at least some self-described libertarians, such as Christopher Buckley, actually go the whole Chaney (Lon) and vote for leftist Democratic candidates such as Barack H. Obama himself. (Colin Powell is a whole 'nother case; I'm convinced that he was voting more for BO's skin color than his politics... though I'm sure some personal animosity against President Bush enters into the equation as well.)
But at least, thank God, the libertarians have enough principle not to vote for America's greatest enemy: the neocons!
A libertarian may talk a good liberty argument; but every election day, he becomes a wereliberal, spreading the leftist contagion by his own rabid saliva. All the while insisting that he's not really a liberal; he just plays one in the voting booth.
Now you know why, despite my libertarian sympathies, I'm very, very reluctant to call myself one of them. I have a lot of disagreements with the GOP, some of them quite significant; but at least I know the difference between a conservative and a liberal fascist: The one can sometimes irritate me; the other would gag me, loot me, and lock me away in Gitmo, if he only could.
Date ►►► May 20, 2009
Worse Than Preening
My fave blogger at my fave blog found occasion to publish a post on the contrast between Barack H. Obama's extraordinary concern that three admitted terrorists may have been questioned harshly -- with the president's complete uninterest in the statistical certainty that his new fuel standards, enacted "with a stroke of the pen" via executive order, will result in thousands of innocents dying in automobile accidents.
(The key is that the only way to significantly increase mileage -- barring a breakthrough like, oh, a high-temperature ceramic engine -- is to reduce weight, which means manufacturing flimsier cars... which in turn means more people killed in accidents that would not kill someone in a stronger, heavier vehicle.)
John Hinderaker ends his short post thus:
The contrast in Obama's priorities is striking, to say the least. I would submit that this is what happens when you substitute preening for intelligent policy-making.
Alas, I think John is being a bit obtuse, missing the boat. I don't believe the most serious problem here is moral preening, though that certainly is a hallmark of leftists in general and this president in particular. Rather, it's much worse than that.
The more disturbing conclusion is that Obama, for all his protestations of Protestant religiosity, acts as if he were an atheist. That is, he appears to see no value in an individual's existence except as an insignificant cog in the giant machine of the revolution of the new progressive man. He sees us not as cardinals, numbers interesting for their own sake, but as mere ordinals, numbers interesting only in their place or rank in an ordered set.
(The distinction is easy to grasp. Consider height; a cardinal is the measurement itself: "Bill is five-foot eleven." But an ordinal is a ranking: "Bill is the third tallest man on the team.")
I believe that Obama sees people, other than those he personally knows, as very like cockroaches; if you kill a few, so what? You can always break another few thousand out of the hatchery. He has not the slightest sense of empathy for people of other tribes; and his only concerns about those of his own tribe are propinquity and loyalty: He needs people around him to elevate his importance, and if some critical player dies, that leaves a hole in the line-up.
In this case, the deaths of thousands of strangers, while statistically certain, is to Barack Obama statistically meaningless. He fails to think about it not because he is distracted, by preening or any other of his unsavory habits, but because the deaths and inuries are just "white noise" to him. "Can't make an omlet without breaking a few legs."
It may be neither policially correct or politically wise to say so, but I believe Obama is the coldest hearted sociopath to have occupied the Oval Office in my lifetime -- or possibly ever. Your life or death literally means nothing to him, except insofar as it could affect his reelection chances in 2012. I almost wonder whether he is an out and out solipsist.
This is symptomatic of graver moral sickness (or crime) than mere "preening."
Date ►►► May 19, 2009
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Vows to Lose War (Through the Eyes of a Child...) UPDATED
UPDATED with a clarification; see below.
Former Lieutenent General Karl Eikenberry, now Barack H. Obama's Ambassador to Afghanistan, promises to "change tactics" so that minimizing "civilian" casualties, rather than destroying the enemy, becomes paramount:
In a face-to-face meeting Tuesday with the Afghan survivors of a recent bombing in the western province of Farah, the new American ambassador to Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, promised that the coalition forces would change their tactics in order to prevent civilian casualties in the future.
Acknowledging the hurt inflicted on the Afghan people by American airpower, General Eikenberry called the May 4 aerial bombardment in Bala Baluk district a tragedy and pledged to sharply reduce the chances of civilian casualties in future operations.
Lest you think this is just empty rhetoric, Ambassador Eikenberry expanded upon his theme:
The American ambassador said he had been shocked when he learned about the bombing, Mr Khedmat said by telephone. “It might have happened due to a mistake, so we will not repeat it in future and we will be much more cautious about civilian life in the future,” he said Mr. Eikenberry told the crowd....
General Eikenberry questioned the wisdom of dropping 2,000 pound bombs on houses when it is unknown who might be inside, and the balance between the short-term gain [!] of eliminating enemy fighters and the larger danger of alienating the general population, the former general said.
“We have to look very carefully at the military tactics that are being used,” he said. “We have to avoid having tactical victories that translate into a strategic loss.”
Several realities here point up the risibility of enacting such restrictive rules of engagement:
- The Taliban's main tactic is to hide among civilians, specifically hoping to force us to inflict death and injury upon non-combatants.
- Technically, the Taliban themselves are "civilians," since they're not members of any official military.
- Taliban supporters in the Afghan media, in hospitals, and even in the Afghan government itself routinely exaggerate civilian casualty counts; so do Afghans who do not support the Taliban but also do not support the American presence there.
The third point above demonstrates why it's impossible to eliminate reports of civilian casualties, no matter how hesitant and tepid we become: If we fail to massacre women and children, the usual suspects will simply fabricate such incidents -- again.
As we should have learnt by now, hamstringing our troops in combat by overreacting to "atrocity" claims (real or imaginary) has very real, very predictable consequences. We're been down this road before, and it ends only one way: In a Vietnam-style snatching of defeat from the jaws of victory.
I'm shocked that the "father of the Afghan National Army" believes we can fight terrorists without inflicting civilian casualties. Certainly that was never the policy of Gen. Petraeus in Iraq; he used his army to protect civilians... but that did not mean abjuring from any combat unless we had absolute assurance that no non-combatants would be harmed.
I suspect that Eikenberry is taking his cue from his Commander in Chief; he reiterated America's, Secretary Hillary Clinton's, abject apology for not sanitizing the Afghan war so that nobody but the bad guys died (particularly since the "bad guys" dispute being the bad guys and insist that they are themselves innocent non-combatants).
This is yet another example of the adolescent "teen logic" of the Obama administration.
UPDATE 23:49: Commenter Binder, defending the decision by Ambassador Eikenberry, called my attention to an opinion piece by Lt.Col. David Kilcullen, Gen. David Petraeus' top expert on counterinsurgency warfare, calling for an end or dramatic scaling back of Predator drone attacks in Pakistan; the same piece was referenced by Ambassador Eikenberry in response to the incident above:
“It is clear to me that if we don’t get this right, we do run the risk of alienating the Afghan people and creating what David Kilcullen has called the accidental guerrilla,” he said, referring to a counterinsurgency expert who has advised Gen. David H. Petraeus. “Unwittingly and unintentionally we are driving away the Afghan on the ground, we are driving them away and consequently weakening the Afghan government.”
But if you investigate the incident itself, briefly sketched in the Times piece linked up top and discussed fairly extensively over the past few days (weeks?), three significant differences between it and the sort of thing Kilcullen decries are apparent:
- The incident above took place in Afghanistan, not Pakistan; unlike the latter, the government of Afghanistan is in no danger of collapsing anytime soon.
- The Afghanistan bombing had nothing to do with Predators remotely firing missiles to assassinate suspected "high value targets," which is what Kilcullen was talking about. It used 2,000-lb bombs, while Predators carry Hellfire missiles. In fact, the Afghanistan attack comprised a series of bombs by airplanes with American crews inside.
- Most important, however, is this: The Afghanistan attack was an airstrike called in to end a firefight -- not a remote assassination attempt.
As I understand it, the Afghan police made first contact with the Taliban group. They called in the Afghan National Army when then realized they were outgunned. But the huge Taliban military unit was even pushing the army units back... so they called in the Americans.
The firefight turned into a major battle, with boots on the ground from three different services -- two local and the Americans -- all of them taking heavy casualties. It was then, with even the American forces unable to dislodge the Taliban from a number of houses they were using as nests, that we called in air strikes.
Here is a description of the sequence from an earlier story in the Times; I had to tease the factual storyline out from its literary shields of moral finger-wagging and heartstring-tugging:
Farah, a vast province in the west, contains only a smattering of foreign special forces and trainers who work among Afghan police and army units. Exploiting the thin spread of forces, the insurgents sought to seize control of Granai and provoke a fierce battle over the heads of the civilian population, Afghan and American officials say.
After hours of fighting and taking a number of casualties, the American forces called in their heaviest weapon, airstrikes, on at least three targets in the village....
Colonel Julian, the American military spokesman, said that the airstrikes hit houses from which the Taliban were firing....
The police chief, Colonel Watandar, confirmed much of the villagers’ accounts of the fighting. A large group of Taliban fighters, numbering about 400, they estimated, entered the village and took up positions at dawn on May 4. By midmorning, the Taliban began attacks on police posts on the main road, just yards from the village, they said.
The fighting raged all day. The police called in more police officers, Afghan Army units and an American quick reaction force from the town of Farah as reinforcements.
By midafternoon, the exchanges escalated sharply and moved deeper into the village. Taliban fighters were firing from the houses, and at one point a Marine unit called in airstrikes to allow Marines to go forward and rescue a wounded Afghan soldier, said Colonel Julian, the United States military spokesman. After that, Taliban fire dropped significantly, he said. [This would have been some hours before the evening bombing about which controversy ensues. -- DaH]
A villager named Multan said that one house along the southern edge of the village was hit by a bomb and that one Taliban fighter was killed there. But villagers did not report any civilian casualties until the American planes bombed that night.
So in fact, what we had here was a major (battalion-sized) enemy force ensconced in a village, pinning down a smaller combined American and Afghan force; our guys had taken significant casualties; and according to American sources, the firefight was continuing. (Locals claim the fighting had already stopped, the Taliban had already withdrawn, and we bombed houses emptied of all combatants, for no reason other than pure malice. Each of us can decide which witness to believe.)
We called in airstrikes as part of routine close-air support... which is completely different from the remote Predator "assassinations" that David Kilcullen condemns in his opinion piece. And it truly worries me that our new ambassador, a lieutenant general until Obama named him, cannot see the crystaline distinction between the types of incident.
What Eikenberry called for was for us to essentially give up the superiority and security given us by our extraordinarily effective use of close-air support during ground combat ops, in favor of -- what? He offers no clue.
But if Kilcullen thinks we should refrain from using air power to extricate our soldiers when they are being beaten or stymied, he certainly has never written such a thing... no matter what Eikenberry believes.
Date ►►► May 17, 2009
What's a Conservative Anyway?
As before, I'm not looking for every possible policy position held by conservatives, but rather the core principles of conservatism. Particular policies should be derived from the principles of the ideology; we must never again allow the arrow of causality to point in the other direction. That, in a nuthouse, is what happened during the Bush years in which the GOP controlled Congress: Ideology was rewritten to retroactively justify the grab for power, sex, and money engaged in by Republicans, conservative and non-conservative alike.
Bear in mind that non-conservatives don't automatically hold the opposite of every principle below. Liberals are not obliged to reject all traditions, embrace all radical change, deliberately enact laws designed to encourage evil, and be atheists. My point in this list is that liberalism does not demand any of the following virtues. The liberal can reject tradition, embrace radical change, push for the mandatory abortion of "defective" foetuses, and write books entitled Atheism, unGod's Great Gift to Mankind, yet still remain a liberal in good standing among other liberals.
A conservative who did the same would be shunned by his erstwhile fellows; that is the sort of principle I try to deduce here... what would get you drummed out of the club if they caught you at it.
But remember, I am not myself a conservative; some of these principles I more or less support, though perhaps not exactly as a conservative would understand them; others I completely reject; still others seem "orthogonal" to my own principles (oh, look it up, for Pete's sake.) If any actual conservatives take issue with some of these principles, well, the comments section is your friend; argue away! (Just always bear in mind the commenting rules.)
I'll try to put these in order of increasing specificity (or decreasing generality):
Support for tradition and established order
This is the most fundamental, basic definition of conservatism: the wish to conserve what is already here, except for those elements that are completely incompatible with other principles of conservatism (e.g., slavery, which conflicts with human liberty).
Resistance to fundamental change
This flows from the first principle, but it's such an innate characteristic of conservatives that I think it deserves its own bullet point.
There is a tradition that, on his return from France, Jefferson called Washington to account at the breadfast-table for having agreed to a second chamber. "Why," asked Washington, "did you pour that coffee into your saucer?" "To cool it," quoth Jefferson. "Even so," said Washington, "we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it."
Resistance to change can be good, as when conservatives vigorously oppose the radical changes envisions by the One We Have All Been Dreading. But it can also be bad (to my way of thinking), such as when conservatives fight against cultural changes that enrich the American Borg culture: interesting new forms of music and art; cultural elements imported from other countries via immigration; scientific innovation (genetic research, for example, even when they do not require killing human embryos, as with cloning); fundamental change towards something positive, such as more Capitalism; and so forth.
Clearly not every conservative takes everything to extremes; but there are forms of conservatism that do, such as the Amish. And the tendency is there and must be fought in cases where fundamental change is good or even necessary.
Belief in God
I suppose it's technically possible to define conservatism such that an atheist can be a conservative; but it would be a conservatism unrecognizable to nearly everyone who calls himself a conservative, hence a useless exercise; when a label means anything at all, then it really means nothing at all.
Conservatives must believe in God, and He must be the God of the Book, more or less... some aspect of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. It's very difficult to have a conservative polytheist, for instance, because by its very nature, polytheism does not lend itself to universal morality -- a signal attribute of conservatism (see below); if you worship Hermes, god of thieves, then thievery is not only acceptable, it's a sacrament! Likewise, a Buddhist could easily be a fatalist, but not a conservative, I believe; I won't argue the point here, but perhaps in the comments, if anyone takes issue.
Belief in essential human libery, dignity, and life
Because God created humans in His own image, each person has an implicate holiness. It may be unrealized, it may be brutally suppressed by the personal evil of the individual... but no person is beyond the reach of God's grace. Hence every person must be accorded certain "unalienable rights," until and unless he forfeits them by his actions.
Of course, conservatives can and do differ on the specifics; does "human dignity" require society to guarantee a "living wage" to every worker, or does the "human liberty" of employers to set their own wages and conditions of employment trump dignity? But those who would deny liberty, dignity, or life altogether, such as the Khomeiniists in Iran or the unholy warriors of al-Qaeda, cannot qualify as "conservatives." They are radicals... in this case, radical, militant Islamists. (For heaven's sake, you can hardly call a man a conservative if he leads a Jacobite revolution against a somewhat functional democracy.)
Strong version of pro-life position, along with traditional morality
The strong version says that abortion is always morally wrong, even evil, except in the narrowest case: when absolutely necessary to preserve the life (not merely the "health") of the mother. (The weak version would ban abortion after some point later than conception, or would only ban some types of abortions.)
Traditional morality presupposes that a universal morality exists -- some things are absolutely right, others are absolutely wrong, and humans can determine what those things are -- and the belief that it is the duty of the government to enforce the most vital elements of that universal morality.
Beyond that point, there is much disagreement among conservatives. Some grudgingly allow that abortion should remain up to the states, believing that Federalism (liberty) trumps life; others believe in a constitutional amendment banning all abortions, believing that life trumps the liberty of Federalism. But every person I've met who calls himself a conservative fits one of two patterns: Either he believes abortion is always a great evil, or else he has many other facets of what I would call liberalism... he is a "CINO."
There is even more disagreement about what exactly "traditional morality" entails; a few conservatives (e.g. Patterico) reject privileging traditional, opposite-sex marriage over same-sex marriage; but most are more like the lads at Power Line, however, rejecting both same-sex marriage and also court rulings like Lawrence v. Texas, which found laws banning "sodomy" to be unconstitutional; they believe the State can and should legislate many more aspects of morality than it now does, or than libertarian-conservatives would tolerate.
(A few conservative Moslems and Mormons privilege polygamy over monogamy; but most who hold that position simply cannot be shoehorned into "conservatism;" they are radicals, and not just on the marriage question.)
Typically in the West, "traditional moral values" is adequately described by the Ten Commandments -- or Ten Mitzvahs, "blessings," to Jews -- plus whatever Talmudic dicta is necessary to flesh out the broad rules.
Government policy should encourage moral behavior and religious belief and discourage the opposite.
This is a stronger version of "the rule of consistency" than found in the Republican version; the latter requires only that the government not violate principle, while the former requires active legislation and regulation to enforce principle. Thus there may well be conflict between a conservative and the Republican Party, especially over libertarian issues; this is why some conservatives (especially "single-issue" cons) can also be found in the Democratic Party, the Reform Party, various nationalist parties, and suchlike -- not just in the GOP.
Again summing up, I believe the core principles of conservatism (in order of increasing specificity) are:
- Support for tradition and established order;
- Resistance to fundamental change;
- Belief in God;
- Belief in essential human libery, dignity, and life;
- Strong version of pro-life position, along with traditional morality;
- Government policy should be consistent with conservative ideology.
But as I said before, this is to a much larger extent "terra incognita" to me than was the previous post; because, while I am not a conservative, I am a Republican.
Working and playing well with each other
So conservatism and the Republican Party are not synonymous, nor is one a subset of the other; there is, however, a very large insection between the two sets. There are a number of points of agreement; and if we focus on these, instead of the few areas of disagreement, both conservatives and Republicans will benefit -- as will the nation itself.
First, because the American tradition is more fiscally conservative, supports a very strong national defense, and has generally been more pro-trade than anti, a conservative's orientation towards a traditional understanding of hot-button issues will tend to drive him towards the GOP, rather than the Democratic Party (currently on the leash of the radical Left).
Second, both sets include the principle "Belief in essential human libery, dignity, and life," albeit not for the same reasons: Republicans deduce it from the necessity of free, reasoning individuals to run an enlightened government, while conservatives tend to profess it as deriving from the implicate Godliness of Man.
By contrast, neither liberals nor Democrats demand support for any of those three qualities as a prerequisite of membership in "the club." Thus again, conservatives will naturally feel more comfortable with the morals of the GOP, rather than the morals of the Democratic Party (which are those of an alley cat).
Third, most conservatives mistrust the government. But the Democratic Party demands far more trust in the Capo di Tutti Capi than does the GOP. Again, conservatives are nudged rather strongly towards the Republicans.
In fact, conservatives are so strongly identified with the Republicans, now that we're at least two generations past the terrible division of segregation, that some conservatives mistakenly believe that they are the Republican Party... or at least that they should be the only drivers on that bus.
We very much need to distinguish between commonplace and truly universal positions among Republicans; in other words, which is actually a shibboleth to identify who is and who is not a bona fide member of the party. There are a lot of fights we must join immediately which are fought entirely within the realm of core GOP/conservative principles; for instance, Obama wants to radically remake America (anti-conservative) into a Eurofascist welfare state (anti-Republican).
If we stick to those battles and set aside, for the moment, our internecine squabbles, we shall have a very good chance to make great gains in 2010 -- and maybe even take back the House of Representatives. But if we spend more time going after the heretics in the hall than the barbarians at the gate, we can kiss the next twenty-plus years goodbye.
I'm very interested to see where this finally goes; please comment to your heart's desire.
What's a Republican Anyway?
I often note that while I'm a Republican, I'm not a conservative -- generally to hoots of disbelief from liberals, who see everyone to the right of Lincoln Chafee as a "hard-right extremist proto-domestic terrorist." But readers of this blog surely ken that there are many types of Republican within RR's big tent. Some are just barely Republican... RINOs like Arnold Schwarzenegger and
Arlen Specter Michael Bloomberg. (The former because to be a Democrat in California is to be a Socialist; the latter purely for expediency -- Bloomberg didn't think he could win the Democratic primary for mayor of New York City.)
But there exist other "non-conservatives" who will remain honest and loyal members of the GOP, so long as the party itself stays true to its principles. So what are those principles, and how do they differ from the principles of conservatives, whether Republican or Democratic? We'll have to answer this question ourselves.
Let's try to identify the core principles that underpin the Republican Party; later we'll find the core principles of conservatism, then compare the two.
Here we go:
Fiscal conservatism: Low taxes, balanced budgets, low interest rates to encourage entrepeneurship, strong support for Capitalism
If you don't believe in Capitalism and all that it requires, including rule of law, less regulation, and government taking no more of our money than is absolutely necessary, then what would you want to be a Republican for anyway? Such people have only underhanded reasons to join our party... and we should have the bouncers bounce them out of the tent.
If a person cannot at least say that Capitalism serves America better than Oogo-Chavez style nationalist Socialism, then he can find some other party, and good riddance to bad rubbish.
A strong national defense: Defending the nation using any means necessary, short of betraying America's own principles
For a counter-example, I could never support "defending America" by enslaving people -- American Moslems, for example -- and forcing them to build tanks at gunpoint, as the Soviets did with political dissidents and the Nazis did with the Jews. An America that did that would not be an America worth defending.
But leaving adolescent hypotheticals behind, any Republican should, I believe, support such policies as missile defense; harsh interrogation of unlawful enemy combatants that does not amount to torture (room for diversity of opinion on what does constitute torture); and taking the fight to the enemy. Anyone who believes in "fortress America" -- that we should simply bring all of our soldiers home, ring our borders with them, and otherwise refuse to sally forth to other countries to fight the Iran/al-Qaeda axis there -- is an isolationist; and while isolationism (typically born of xenophobia) was a respectable position prior to World War II, I believe there is no room for it in the post-Holocaust GOP. (This doesn't mean I think isolationists are evil; but they differ so fundamentally with the mainstream of the Republican Party that I think they should join another or start their own.)
Belief in essential human libery, dignity, and life
Note that this does not mean an absolute pro-life position; we're still talking about the principles of Republicanism, not yet the stricter principles of conservatism.
But even non-conservative Republicans should oppose such flagrantly anti-life positions as late-term abortions for no necessary medical reason; involuntary euthanasia of "defectives;" policies that trap innocent souls in degrading, subhuman lives (no Republican should support policies that lead to beaten, abused, or starving children, for example); involuntary servitude except upon conviction of an actual crime (not the "crime" of being born the wrong color); and denial of basic liberties, including freedom of speech, worship, and the vote.
Treating each person as an individual, not as the representative of some group defined by characteristics beyond his or her control
This is not only fundamental, it should be obvious. For the most obvious example, Republicans should never support putative "affirmative action" by the State unless it's administered individually, rather than collectively. I applaud the EEOC helping some particular individual who can show that he, personally has been discriminated against; but it's morally corrupt for the State to favor Jesse Jackson's children over those of a middle-income white family, just because Jackson is black.
(I personally think it's even morally corrupt for the government to favor the poor over the rich; but that's one of my personal principles, not one I think the GOP must assume. Note that wealth is not a characteristic "beyond the individual's control.")
A foreign and domestic policy consistent with the principles above; that is, Republicans must believe that our principles are not simply things we say when engaged in moral preening; our principles are actual core elements of our government's ideology and policy
This may be the most controversial element of my GOP creed: I reject as a true Republican anybody who believes in a ban or even a moratorium on all immigration, or on immigration by certain types of people determined not by individual action but by inherent characteristic (e.g., a ban on all immigrants from Venezuela). This is simply another and uglier aspect of isolationism, combined with tribalism.
But I don't feel as strongly about, for instance, a ban on all immigrants who have been members of any group on the list of terrorist organizations, even if he insists that he has since changed his mind (I think such a blanket policy is foolish but not unRepublican).
I also think that those who in general reject treaties, including free-trade agreements (FTAs), with other countries are unRepublican and should join some other party; but of course, there may be good reasons to reject some particular FTA, if it's not good for the United States.
And proper Republicans cannot support excessive regulation of the market (I understand that "excessive" is a weasel-word), onerous government intrusion into citizens' lives, or attacks on certain religions or religion in general -- and yes, that includes Islam; it's urgent to attack the type of Islam that poses a direct threat to the nation... but not to attack Islam in general or, e.g., put all Moslems under surveillance.
All religions must obey the law; but the law should not discriminate against any religion, against religion in general, or against irreligion. So no government-mandated prayer in schools and no government ban on wearing a cross, a yarmulke, or praying towards Mecca (excepting regulations obviously crafted just to avoid conflict, of course).
So to boil it down, here are what I consider to be the core elements of the Republican Party; anyone who opposes one or more is being unRepublican and should seriously reevaluate whether the GOP is the right home for him:
- Fiscal conservatism;
- Strong national defense;
- Belief in essential human libery, dignity, and life;
- Treating each person as an individual;
- And a foreign and domestic policy consistent with the other four principles;
Next we'll tackle conservatism and see how its principles intersect with those of the Republican Party.
Date ►►► May 16, 2009
Our Big Fat Greek Wedding Party, part β
We got home before sunset (just barely, about 8:30), and we decided to eat some more of last night's fried fish. For some reason, I was totally drained; despite my firmly announced intent to stay awake until 10:30 at least, I fell into bed about an hour before that. But Sachi was disturbed by a raucus celebration next door. When someone opened the gate of our villa and parked his car directly in front of ours, she decided to march out and find out what was going on.
She returned excited, urging me up and into outdoor clothing: "It's Tadis... his son is getting married, and they're having the wedding party right now! -- and they've invited us!"
Grumbling, I scaled the side of the bed, dressed, and headed after Sachi, who was tugging me forward like an anxious Akita at the end of a leash (what will she say, I wonder, when she discovers I analogized her to a dog?) But it turned out to be the highlight of the trip so far.
It was an honest to Artemis big, fat Greek wedding feast. All the women had gathered in Tadis' house and cooked up a number of dishes; prominent among them, though not exhaustive:
- Wild goat stew;
- Roasted rooster (I hoped it was the damned thing that had awakened us every morning at 4:00 since arriving);
- Rice cooked in the fat of (surprise) goat and rooster;
- Spinach pie;
- Broadbeans and steamed sprouts;
- Home-baked Greek bread (pretty similar to Italian bread);
- Figs in heavy syrup (seems to be a staple);
- Some sweet pastry I can't identify;
- Lots and lots of home-fermented wine, one bot of which had been aged since the birth of the lucky son, thirty-eight years ago.
Bizarrly enough, the talk in our section of the table swiftly turned to a discussion of Greek contributions to philosophy three thousand years ago and a comparison of sixties rock to seventies progressive rock (I held out for the primacy of the latter, to general derision).
One point that struck me is hinted above: The groom, Manos, is 38 years old, and he's just getting married now. The marriage and children culture of Greece, in fact all of Europe, has changed so radically, it's virtually unrecognizable. The wedding feast comprised two types of guest: the very young, from childhood until early twenties; and the old, sixty and more. I don't recall seeing a single "middle-aged" person in his thirties or forties (Manos himself was off with his new bride).
I believe this points out the tragedy of Europe: It is dying. More precisely, it's committing suicide by demography. Mere replacement fertility rate is about 2.1 live births per female, but Greece has 1.36, just over half; thus, each new generation is about half the preceding... a cultural death-spiral if ever we saw one. If they don't reverse this trend very quickly and begin breeding at least as fast as the Moslem immigrants in that country, Greece, cradle of Western civilization, will become a Moslem nation in 20-30 years.
I hate the America Alone imagery of the Mark Steyn book, but it's tough to argue with the facts. My only caveat is that I believe the West will awaken before the terminal phase, while Steyn believes the last throes are already upon them.
In any event, we ended our day happier and more wistful, full and yet drained. Just as we were drifting off to the Land of Nod, the real celebrating began: The guests and host began firing rounds into the sky to celebrate renewal of life... a custom that long predates the Moslem invasion of Greece. The only thing we have done today (Sachi had to work in the evening) is lounge around the beach and swim in the Med; though we did have a miraculous lunch of Cretan rabbit stew, a porkchop the size of Delaware, more stuffed grape leaves, and a dish that neither of us had ever imagined before: boiled cucumbers and steamed spinach in olive oil and lemon juice.
Tomorrow, it's ho! for Iraklion/Heraklion, the city of Herakles (Hercules to the Roman upstarts), and the adjoining major Minoan archeological site of Knosos, capital of Minoan Crete and legendary site of the palace of King Minos -- and the labyrinth below it which contained the Minotaur. The Crete chronicles shall continue...
Our Big Fat Greek Wedding Party, part α
Crete is a sympony of thundering dogs, tumpeting roosters, yowling stray cats, baying fishmongers, and loadcasting Greeks gathering with friends to discuss the day's triumphs and defeats over homemade Greek salad, heavy bread, and handrolled cigarettes. At this season it's chilly in the dawn, steamy in the sultry afters, noisy and cool at night.
There is no morning; or if there is, nobody observes it. The day begins at noon, as the restaurants open and the stores flip their signs. Even the shade is bright, caroming off the cushion of brightly painted buildings (primary colors) to sink in the eye pocket. Greece is a typical Southern European country with lusty men who yet produce few children, hot-tempered men and women who yet don't fight: It may be too hot, or else it's too humid, or then again it may be too cold.
Picking up where we left off in Chania, after leaving the internet cafe, we set off for the inner harbor -- past the Mosque of the Janissaries (with its hideous concrete dome, it looked less like a house of worship than a kiosk dispensing travel insurance), hooking east towards the restored arsenals. I was hot to see a promised carefully reconstructed Minoan galley (ca. 1500 B.C.); but we had to wait... for a reason never clearly explained, the museum opened at 10:00, closed at 3:00, then reopened at 6:00 and closed again at 9:00. As we were still in the window of darkness, we decided to eat dinner first.
Taking the advice of the Rough Guide to Crete, we dined at Apostolis 2 (just three doors down from the original, Apostolis 1). There we split a fried-fish platter and the omnipresent Greek salad (tomatoes, cukes, and a feta cheese much looser than I'm used to having). Everything was excellent; and as with the lunch restaurant, they served free and unexpected dessert. This time it comprised two items (mixing and matching was in order): figs preserved in heavy syrup, and yogurt accompanied by a different syrup, this one made of rose petals. Each was more delicious than the last. Raki -- brandy-like wine fermented from the skins and stems left over from grape pressings -- was also freely handed out (as at nearly every Cretan restaurant, taverna, and cafe).
Every meal we've had in Crete so far has been accompanied by fried potatoes (we would say "steak fries"). The waiter at Apostolis asked Sachi if she wanted fries; always wanting to know her options, Sachi asked what the choices were besides fries. "Fries or no fries," explained the waiter succinctly.
We had plenty of fish left over, so we had it for breakfast next day. I should take a moment to describe it more fully (if it seems I'm dwelling on the food, that's only because it's one of the facets of travel I love best). The basket contained a mix of shrimp, squid, red snapper, sardines (sardella), and a slightly larger fish than the last, with an orangish tint. There was also octopus, but that alone was grilled instead of fried. The snapper had bones that required surgical extraction; but for the rest, one simply pops the entire beast into one's mouth -- head, tail, gills, suckers, tentacles and all -- and grinds away with one's molars.
In the morn, we decided to do some local exploring. We had noticed a sign in the village from which the mountains of villas sprout; "Ancient Aptera 2 km" it read. Since a major reason to visit Crete is to ponder the Ozymandian collapse of ages past, we decided to see what Ancient Aptera entailed.
Driving through scenic, rolling hills of scrub and some greenish-purple, heather-like plant, past the modern Aptera (relatively speaking), we eventually found the archeological site in question. What astonished me was the aeonic range of architecture. The oldest ruins were from the 8th century B.C., before the Hellenic period of Greece; but there was also a monastery dating from more than a millennium later at the same site! Shortly thereafter, Ancient Aptera was destroyed by an ancient earthquake... else I'm sure it would still be there, its taverns asking customers whether they wanted fries or fries with their mousaka.
The site includes Greek burial chambers; a Byzantine fortress; a Persian fortress; Roman sisterns; Christian churches dating from when Arthur War Duke still reigned over parts of England; Venetian and Florentine coins; Ottoman cannon emplacements; and Nazi pillboxes. It was well worth our expedition (we could even have walked from Villas Manos), but our presence was required in Chania once more.
For lunch, we returned to the scene of the crime, Apostolis, with a couple of Sachi's accomplices and had temera -- I think -- which is a porridge of yogurt, fish roe, and olive oil, along with souvlaki -- shish kabob, more or less. After some more sight-seeing (while I was at the internet cafe again), it was time to drive back to the villas.
Driving in Crete is a true adventure, particularly in the cities. First off, in Greece generally, speed limits are what separate locals from tourists, and the center line is only a suggestion. One drives at the right edge of the lane; when a car inevitably races up behind, one pulls further over until the right wheels are actually in the emergency lane. I think the reasoning is that the impatient chap is going to pass you anyway... so you might as well make it quick and painless, with a minimum of driving on the wrong side of the road, by giving as much room as you can.
In general, Cretans seem to be good (or at least skilled) drivers; but today, en route to the small town of Kalive, the cops went roaring past us on the National Road; a kilometer further along, we saw a car flipped upside down in a ditch along the right side, with police trying to extract the driver -- or at least ascertain whether it was a rescue or a recovery. So it goes. Sachi was nervous behind the wheel for the rest of the day.
It appears impossible to obtain a proper street map of any Cretan city, likely because the streets change names every couple of blocks (like in Ireland). But it would be useless, since next to none of the streets have visible steet signs anyway. Those few that do are sometimes labeled in both Greek letters and Roman script; but the most important always seem to be the former only. While I can usually sound out Greek words in peace and comfort, I require less pressure than while trying to navigate through a city of back alleys and narrow closes at breakneck speed, and more time than is available in the fleeting flash I get as we roar past.
The only way to get to any "there" from one's current "here" is to look at the larger map, note the general direction of travel -- Chania is northwest from the Souda Bay/Chania exit off the National Road, for example -- and then combine ingenuity, a compass, and brazen ruthlessness to stick to that course (ignoring do-not-enter signs as required). Eventually, one should reach a part of the city one recognizes.
To be continued...
Date ►►► May 14, 2009
The Raucous Baucus Max-Tax Flim-Flam Plan
Always, those in the public sector have eyed the private sector as Martians observing the Earth: "vast and cool and unsympathetic." They envy the money; gross domesic product is many times larger than the measley $3 to $4 trillion available to the feds even in the age of Obama. They envy the productivity, which puts government programs and R&D to shame. They envy the freedom of CEOs simply to make decisions -- while government bureaucrats can only write memos of recommendation and shunt them one notch up the chain of infinite regress that is the government heirarchy.
They cannot duplicate the success of Capitalism and entrepeneurship, quite naturally; those qualities are characteristic of liberty, while government is its antithesis. So as with everyone consumed by envy -- even H.G. Wells' Martians -- what they cannot duplicate they can at least destroy.
Which brings us around, by a commodious vicus of recirculation, to the Democrats and their government takeover of health care:
Senators are considering limiting -- but not eliminating -- the tax-free status of employer-provided health benefits to help pay for President Barack Obama's plan to provide coverage to 50 million uninsured Americans.
Mighty considerate of them not to offhandly eliminate it; having us that momentus favor, surely we cannot carp about a little, itty-bitty tax, can we? By the way, anent those "50 million uninsured"... the only way to reach that number is to include the huge number of young, healthy, and well-paid young workers, who voluntarily choose not to carry insurance because they think themselves indestructable.
(Thank goodness I'm finally going to subsidize them! I couldn't stand the guilt, knowing I have condemned by inaction those young adults to having to pay for what they use, just as if they were ordinary people.)
On the controversial question of taxing health benefits, [Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max] Baucus is staking out a position that could put him at odds with Obama.
The president adamantly opposed such taxes during the campaign, arguing they would undermine job-based coverage. Obama's aides now say he's open to suggestions from Congress, even if he criticized Republican presidential rival John McCain for proposing a sweeping version of the same basic idea.
Baucus said he wants to modify the tax break, not abolish it.
"We are not going to repeal it," he said.
Baucus suggested that the benefit could be limited by taxing health insurance provided to high-income individuals, although he did not specify at what income levels. He also said that plans offering rich benefits -- for example, no co-payments or deductibles -- might be taxed once their value exceeded a yet-to-be-determined threshold....
In government jargon, the tax-free status of health insurance is called the "tax exclusion."
Let's set aside the weasle words for a moment and just look at the extreme case; we can reason backwards from there. Suppose that, contrary to Baucus' (D-MT, 80%) hand-on-heart claim, he really does intend to "repeal" the "tax exclusion"... what would that mean to taxpayers?
How does it work? Your employer pays you a salary (taxed), and he also pays for your medical insurance; yes, the latter is technically "income;" but it's not really, because you have no choice in how it's spent, other than small variations that the insurance plan my allow you -- picking an HMO or a Preferred Payer Plan, for example. (The purpose of the putative tax exclusion was, of course, to encourage employers to offer such plans -- which is why nearly everybody who wants medical insurance has it today.)
Employer-provided health insurance is considered part of workers' compensation, but unlike wages, it is not taxed. The forgone revenue to the federal government amounts to about $250 billion a year.
You rich villains are stealing the government's money!
In a typical case, your employer may pay you $50,000 salary and may pay about $450 per month in health-insurance premiums; you yourself may have to pick up a smaller portion of the premium, perhaps $150 per month. That means the total payment is, let us say, $600 per month or $7,200 per year.
The employer-paid part of that ($5,400 per annum) is not taxed: The employer deducts it as a business expense and the employee doesn't have to declare it as income. If the employee itemizes his income tax (for example, if he's buying a house and wants to deduct the mortgage interest), he may be able to deduct all or part of his own share of the premiums ($1,800 per year). Thus, he doesn't have to pay tax on anywhere from $5,400 of his "income" to $7,200, depending on how much of his own payments are deductable.
Splitting the difference, he gets to "deduct" (deduct or not have to report) $6,300 from his income. Since this will clearly be a marginal deduction, it all comes out of the highest income tax he's paying (unless that drops him below the level for that tax rate). This rate is currently 35%, I believe, but the specifics are less important than the principle.
So the final tally is: The taxpayer pays $2,205 less to the government than he would were the "tax exclusion" repealed; that of course means that if it were repealed, he would have to cough up an additional $2,205 to the feds -- so that other people would get to use government-controlled health insurance for free.
Sweet, isn't it? You pay a couple grand extra per year for the privilege of having private health insurance; but if you drop it and take the government-run health care instead, you pay no extra tax. As the Romans say, "Cui bono?" Who benefits? The public sector does... at the expense of the private sector, of course: This is yet another way that ObamaCare will drive people out of private health-insurance plans and into the loving arms of Uncle Sugar.
Of course, Baucus says (yesterday) that the Democrat-controlled Congress doesn't want to completely eliminate the "tax exclusion"; they just want to levy an extra tax on some of your health-insurance premium, not all of it. So they're not actually stealing the full $2,200... just a portion.
Of course, it still means that you must pay an extra penalty for using private health insurance but not for using ObamaCare. Thus the perverse incentive for everybody to dump private insurance in favor of government-run health care remains; it's just not quite as strong as if they went the full Monte. (And who knows what they will say tomorrow? Especially as the bill-writing continues, and it becomes obvious that the numbers just won't add up.)
Democrats are trying to sell the bill as purely utilitarian:
Many experts say that Congress won't be able to come up with the kind of money needed to provide coverage for all unless limitations on the health care tax break are part of the mix.
"I don't see how you're going to put a package together ... unless you touch the exclusion," said Robert Greenstein, director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which advocates for low-income people [that is, welfare recipients].
(Note that the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is heavily underwritten by the Democracy Alliance -- which itself is funded by George Soros and many other prominent radical lefties. Just thought you'd like to know.)
I am less and less willing to give any benefit of the doubt to this administration on any point touching politics, progressivism, liberal fascism, or attacks upon the "Right." If -- in addition to raising revenue -- a bill also tends to drive people away from a market-driven, capitalist solution and towards government nationalization of health care, I will naturally conclude that this, not revenue, is the real goal.
Some of the arguments by proponents of
HillaryCare ObamaCare seem to be brazen attempts at misdirection:
Proponents of repealing the benefit say it encourages lavish health insurance plans that only add to waste in the health care system. And they argue that the benefit is unfair, since self-employed people don't get as big a tax break for health care.
First, who cares if some rich people are willing to pay through the nose for a plan that includes rhinoplasty? Evidently the Left does: They care so much, they want to repeal all differences in the level of medical care between rich and poor. Equality is so important to the bad stepchildren of George Soros that, instead of some having more than others, they would rather everybody be equally poor and equally miserable.
If carried to its logical conclusion, this "reasoning" leads to the destruction of all private property... the rich will have the money but be disallowed from spending any of it! The response by the rich would be to flee the country, quite obviously... taking all of their talent, drive, and money with them. This disincentivizes intelligence, courage, and entrepeneurship: Why bother starting up a company if you won't even be able to enjoy the increased money you might make?
And the second argument for government-controlled health care is even more specious: If it's true that "self-employed people don't get as big a tax break for health care," then for God's sake, give them a larger tax break! Don't take away the break enjoyed by ordinary, company-employed workers.
With every new day, everything about this administration and this Congress makes it more and more clear that they aim to fundamentally transform America away from what we have been for 220 years -- and turn us into something alien. This is not patriotic; this is unAmerican. This is French.
We must kill this bill before it kills us.
Date ►►► May 13, 2009
Cretans to the Left of Me, Cretans to the Right...
Yeesh, it's just like in the U.S.! (Oh, wait -- the domestic variety would be cretins, a whole 'nother thing entirely.)
We set out at about 3:45 am Monday morn (or as Sachi calls it, "zero dark thirty"). Got to the airport in plenty of time and whisked through security; but even so, the gate agent was unable to change our seats to something other than "stuffed in the back like excess sardines."
When we got the reservations, we naturally arranged for seats: right ahead of the wing, a window and the one next to it. But at some point, the carrier -- whose name I will not mention anywhere in this post -- decided to change "equipment" (that is, the airplane) from a Boeing 757 to a Boeing 757 (don't ask, becuase I can't tell; I don't get it either!)
When they did, they simply dumped all the previous seat assignments and arbitrarily changed our seats to the empenage (look it up)... and of course they didn't tell us, despite having our e-mail address. In any event, even when I found out, they refused to let me change over the phone or internet; "Just tell the gate agent when you get there, and he or she will take care of it. None of the seats are assigned, so you should have no problem."
On a completely unrelated note, a pure non-sequitur, remind me never to fly Delta Airlines again.
So we bounced and rattled all the way to New York City (first leg of the trip). The same thing happened there, of course, and we were stuck clinging to the rudder again for the trip from NYC to Athens, Greece (not Georgia), second leg; this time, it was about eight and a half hours of Shake 'n' Bake. No sleep.
In Athens, we had a three-hour layover... so we tortured ourselves with some airport food -- which is every bit as savory and delicious as its American counterparts. I had a ham and cheese sandwich. It was crumby... literally, the bread was falling apart.
But at last we rode the final leg across a little snippet of the Mediterranean to Chania (or Hania) airport on the island of Crete.
I must admit, it was a dreadful flight (and I'm very much not looking forward to the return trip in a week, all alone this time... Sachi must stay here for business reasons for a few more weeks). But what's past is prolix, especially when I write it. And once here in Crete, things began to look up rather decidedly.
We're staying at a villa (actually a duplex, with a different person related to Sachi's work in the other side of the villa)... it's achingly beautiful, with a polished stone floor and hardwood ceilings, a swimming pool (too cold to swim in), and an amazing view of Souda Bay. The opalescent water here is Magritte blue; I don't know how Disney does it!
Today (Wednesday), our first full day here, we drove into the city of Hania -- second largest city in Crete, after Heraklion/Iraklion -- and we're now wandering around the Old City... a maze of twisty passages, all alike: tiny alleys (you can stand in the middle, stretch out your arms, and nearly brush the walls on each side). We saw a collection of Byzantine art, ate at a wonderful taverna (see below), and we're now at the Notos internet cafe on the waterfront of the outer harbor, directly opposite an ancient stone lighthouse.
Lunch was spectacular; we started with three appetizers:
- Tzatziki, which is yogurt with cucumbers, olive oil, and garlic;
- Stuffed grape leaves with sour cream, the best I ever tasted;
- And a mixture of melted cheese, red peppers, and the ubiquitous olive oil, blended into a mixture the consistency of thick oatmeal... wonderful!
The main course (we shared one order) was lamb cooked in a savory mushroom and gouda cheese (why not feta? oh well, can't have it all). It was ambrosia to me, to stick with the Greek motif, since I love lamb.
Speaking of food, last night, in the village just below the villa, we ate grilled rabbit, some kind of sausages, and moussaka. I tried ouzo, but one taste persuaded me that I will avoid it from now on; it tastes very strongly of licorice, a flavor I just dislike for whatever reason. But the rest of the meal excelled.
We also tried raki, a snapps-like drink; according to Answers.com, raki is "A brandy of Turkey and the Balkans, distilled from grapes or plums and flavored with anise." Anise also tastes a little like licorice, but it's much milder a flavoring. We got some again to wash down today's luscious lunch.
The prices are very reasonable... and you just can't beat the atmosphere. Today's lunch was in an open-air agora-like space with tarps covering it, hung all about with Greek and Turkish thingamabobs. Sure, it was touristy; but what the heck, we're tourists.
Later today, we're going to the archeological museum, and then we'll see a reconstruction of an ancient Minoan ship. The Minoans were a sea empire that predate the Hellenistic Greeks by some 1,200 years. It's possible that a great catastrophe -- perhaps the eruption of the volcano Thíra, a.k.a. Santorini -- destroyed the Minoan civilization; although Thíra was not heavily populated, it's only 70 miles north of Crete, the center of the Minoan empire... and the eruption was so staggeringly huge that it could have created a devastating tsunami that wiped out the cities and palaces on Crete. In any event, shortly thereafter, the Greeks took over the island... and a few hundred years later, they propagated the legend of Atlantis, which could be a folkloric memory of that explosion and destruction.
That's as much as is practicable or desirable in the way of travelogue; a good host always knows to leave when they still want you to stay (rather than the other way 'round)... so adios until the next time we can find internet access here.
Date ►►► May 12, 2009
Racism Is the Most Natural Thing in the World
I don't mean that sarcastically at all: For most human beings, racism comes so naturally, they don't even know they're racists.
Of course, being "natural" is not a synonym for being good. It's "only natural" that a man will forcibly take any woman who arouses him. It's "only natural" that we steal whenever we're sure we won't get caught; these behaviors are ubiquitous in the animal kingdom... and thank God we do the unnatural thing in such cases!
Racism is simply tribalism, where the tribe is expanded to encompass everyone of the same color or gross physiognomy. Western civilization is powerfully anti-racist because it's anti-tribalist; it redefines the comfort-group to a set determined by culture, not by skin color or facial features. That is why Western Borg culture led the way towards the abolition of racial slavery -- and why many non-Western cultures, particularly in Moslemdom, still cannot understand what is wrong with that "peculiar institution."
(I use the term "Western Borg culture" because Western civilization is so powerful and attractive that it assimilates every culture it comes into contact with; resistance is futile.)
The song from South Pacific, "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught," has it exactly backwards: Racism is the default state; what must be carefully taught is individualism: Not the I-me-mine kind of narcissism found in infants and liberals, but the full-monty philosophy that other people are also individuals deserving of as much respect and liberty as we, unless by their own actions they forfeit that respect.
That philosophy is bizarre, unnatural, and incomprehensible to very young children and very primitive peoples. Fortunately, the economic version of individualism -- Capitalism -- is such a powerful wealth producer that (a) Western countries are rich enough to mandate liberty (subsistance societies haven't the luxury), and (b) the smell of money lures the primitive towards liberty, Capitalism, and individualism by another completely natural deadly sin: Envy.
Thus does God -- if He exists -- turn even human failings to His own purposes.
Date ►►► May 11, 2009
Does Dick Cheney (or Someone on His Staff) Read Big Lizards?
I would be thrilled to discover such a connection to the Dick and powerful. Yet something I just read on my favorite blog -- Power Line, not Big Lizards! -- truly makes me wonder...
In a recent Johnblog, Mr. Hinderaker quoted an interview with former Vice President Cheney on Debase the Nation:
It was a time of great concern, and we put in place some very good policies, and they worked, for eight years. Now we have an administration that's come to power that has been critical of the programs, but not only that, there's been talk about prosecuting the lawyers in the Justice Department who gave us the opinions that we operated in accordance with, or referring them to the Bar Association for disbarment or sanctions of some kind, or possibly cooperating with foreign governments that are interested in trying to prosecute American officials, those same officials who were responsible for defending this nation for the last eight years.
I purse my lips and suck on my teeth. Where did Dick Cheney get that last point? I don't recall him mentioning it before now.
That casually creepy bombshell -- Attorney General Eric Holder suggesting that "the United States could cooperate with a foreign court's investigation of Bush administration officials" -- came from a couple of paragraphs buried in an obscure AP article discussing a press conference that Holder held, which was mostly devoted to his efforts to bribe our allies to accept a handful of released detainees from the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility.
So far as I know, until I posted about it, nobody else had picked up on Holder's rather shocking trial balloon. When I posted it, I e-mailed some other (bigger, importanter) blogs, and a couple of them linked us and mentioned the quote; Power Line and Captain Ed at Hot Air spring to mind.
Of course, it's possible that someone in Cheney's office read the Power Line or Captain Ed post; but even so, that would still make me feel good: As long as word gets out -- Holder hinting that he might help a Spanish court, which has granted itself "universal jurisdiction," prosecute American officials for implementing policy that is perfectly legal under American law -- I don't care who gets the credit. (Pfui, who am I fooling? Of course I care; I just care a great deal more that the scandal does actually get out!)
The third possibility is that someone in Cheney's office read the same story I did, but it just took eleven days to percolate up to the former veep himself. But that strikes me as implausible: I say, it must ultimately have come from Big Lizards, because it would be so wonderful if it ultimately came from Big Lizards! There, you can't get any more conclusive than that.
So nobody tell me that all my years of blogging have been in vain. It may be true -- but for God's sake, don't nobody tell me!
In Just a Few Short Hours...
In just a few short hours, Sachi and I will be winging our way to Crete, the largest of the Greek Islands and once home base to the Minoan sea empire.
(Actually, the hours will be regulation, 60-minute intervals. I don't know what came over me.)
Neither of us has ever been to Southern Europe before, so we can carve another notch on our intercontinental travails.
According to my calculations, we should be able to maintain connection to the blogosphere via a nearby internet cafe... so we hope to bring you a couple of travelogue posts, along with at least some of our usual astute (or destitute, or ill repute) political analyses. I'll be back in a few days to pick up the shards and pieces of our shattered dextrospherical dream.
Date ►►► May 10, 2009
Q: Which Wanda Sykes Statement Is the Most Outrageous?
Wanda Sykes, unfunny comedienne and B-grade actress, spoke at the White House correspondents' dinner yesterday -- the premier social event of the D.C. calendar. The eyes of the elite-media world were upon her; here is a clip from the joint:
She made three intriguing statements; in reverse order, they were:
- "Rush Limbaugh.... I hope his kidneys fail -- how 'bout that?"
- "I think maybe Rush Limbaugh was the twentieth hijacker; he was just so strung out on Oxycontin, he missed his flight."
- "Rush Limbaugh said he hopes this administration fails. So you're sayin', I hope America fails! I don't care about people losing their homes, their jobs, our soldiers in Iraq... He just wants the country to fail. To me, that's treason: He's not saying anything different than what Osama bin Laden is sayin'."
In the third statement above, Sykes casually equates Barack H. "Lucky Lefty" Obama with the United States of America; thus if Limbaugh hopes for the failure of Obama's massive expansion of the federal government to control every aspect of our lives, then that means Limbaugh wants America itself to fail. Hey, Obama -- America -- same thing: The One We Have Been Waiting For begins Le Grand Siècle Nouveau des États-Unis.
"L'État c'est moi!"
I can't answer the question in the title of this post, which of the three statements is most outrageous; but I certainly maintain that the final statement above is the most unAmerican. Alas, it is also the least controversial -- among America's media elites.
Date ►►► May 8, 2009
Heh, So Much for Federalism!
According to the Los Angeles Times, the administration of President Barack H. "Lucky Leftie" Obama -- in particular, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius -- has in effect vetoed California's budget deal, worked out between the Democrat dominated state legislature and RINO Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: He has ordered the state to restore the wage cut it made to home healthcare workers who are members of either the Service Employees International Union or the United Domestic Workers union.
(Do we detect a pattern here? Once again, as with the Chrysler and GM bankruptcies, we see the president personally intervening to tip the scales in favor of unions and against creditors, shareholders, and now, the entire citizenry of the largest state in the United States.)
But evidently, the president had no legal grounds to issue such an order to the state. How do we know this? Because he did not issue an executive order, nor did he ask Solicitor General Elena Kagan to file for an injunction in federal court. He didn't even ask Sebelius to issue an administrative ruling.
Nope; Obama has chosen a method more suited to his powers as Capo di Tutti Capi... extortion: He has threatened to take back California's $6.9 billion in "stimulus" money unless the California legislature restore the wage cut:
The Obama administration is threatening to rescind billions of dollars in federal stimulus money if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state lawmakers do not restore wage cuts to unionized home healthcare workers approved in February as part of the budget....
The cut was highly contentious during last winter's budget talks. Republican lawmakers insisted that the rapidly growing, multibillion-dollar state program, In Home Supportive Services, be scaled back significantly.
Democrats fought major reductions in the program, which they say is a cost-effective alternative to nursing-home care, but ultimately compromised.
So in addition to the president's other crimes against the Constitution, we can add "overturning the last remnants of federalism" to the list.
However, he may or may not win this time; to reverse that element of the budget deal, the legislature must vote by a 2/3rds majority. That would require a minimum of two Republicans in the state Senate and three Republicans in the Assembly voting to do so -- assuming (as we should) that the entire Democratic caucus in the legislature will roll over and pay protection money to the goodfellas of Barack Obama. If the GOP holds together ("heh" again), they can block it... and see if the president is really willing to piss off two Democratic United States senators (Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, 100%, and Barbara Boxer, D-CA, 100%) and 34 (!) Democratic United States representatives in the House... votes even Lucky Lefty cannot do without in many cases.
Of course, given how spineless the Republican conference in the legislature has been since, oh, about 1970, if I were betting at one of the president's bookie joints, I would put my money on the Capo -- and federalism be damned: He'll get his way, as usual, and another debtor state will meekly pay the squeeze and say, "thank you, Don Obama; may I kiss your -- ring, now?"
Date ►►► May 7, 2009
Jew Hatred and Other EuroLeft In-Jokes
I cannot more strongly urge everyone to read Mark Steyn's piece Israel Today, the West Tomorrow. A few snippets:
"Israel is unfashionable," a Continental foreign minister said to me a decade back. "But maybe Israel will change, and then fashions will change." Fashions do change. But however Israel changes, this fashion won’t. The shift of most (non-American) Western opinion against the Jewish state that began in the 1970s was, as my Continental politician had it, simply a reflection of casting: Israel was no longer the underdog but the overdog, and why would that appeal to a post-war polytechnic Euro Left unburdened by Holocaust guilt?
Fair enough. Fashions change. But the new Judenhass is not a fashion, simply a stark reality that will metastasize in the years ahead and leave Israel isolated in the international "community" in ways that will make the first decade of this century seem like the good old days.
The problem is not simply European boredom with Holocaust haranguing but a combination of three trends:
- The demographic expansion of the Arab and Moslem populations, coupled with the decline of the population of (Old World) Christendom. (Christendom is expanding in Latin America, Asia, and Africa; but so far, they have not entered the lists in the battle of civilizations.)
- The aggressive expansion of radical, militant Islamism -- whether of the Salafist, Wahhabist Sunni variety or the Iranian-controlled Qom Shia flavor: Recently, both strains of terrorism-wielding militancy have allied in a war against the "Dar al-Harb," or "House of War" (also called Dar al-Garb, House of the West)... meaning any country that is not run as a sharia state; Shiite Iran now controls Sunni Hamas, for an example of such ecumenicalism.
- The recent suicidal alliance between the atheist, intellectual Left and radical Islamism: The former seem to believe that they can temporarily team up with the Moslem militants to overthrow democracy, Capitalism, and Christendom (and Judaism); then they'll quickly brush the mullahs and caliphs aside, so that the New Marxism -- that is, liberal fascism -- can reign supreme.
The reality of point 3 above, of course, is that the opposite will happen: It is the Islamists who will fall upon their secularist "allies" and rend them to pieces, leaving only the former to reign over the ruins. The Left, especially the EuroLeft, whose "intellectual" ideology still rules the roost over Chinese and Latin American strains, is in fact intellectually bankrupt and enervated. All the passion, energy, and revolutionary fervor comes from the Moslem militants (hence the name).
Back to Steyn... who is, in case you've forgotten in all the excitement, the actual subject of this post...
Brussels has a Socialist mayor, which isn’t that surprising, but he presides over a caucus a majority of whose members are Muslim, which might yet surprise those who think we’re dealing with some slow, gradual, way-off-in-the-future process here. But so goes Christendom at the dawn of the third millennium: the ruling party of the capital city of the European Union is mostly Muslim.
I find this astonishing; not because I was unaware of the trend, but just as Steyn anticipates, because I had no idea we were so far along the trendline. This goes beyond "disturbing" to "time to push the Panic Button." But there's more to come:
One Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago, a group wearing "BOYCOTT ISRAEL" T-shirts entered a French branch of Carrefour, the world’s largest supermarket chain, and announced themselves. They then systematically advanced down every aisle examining every product, seizing all the items made in Israel and piling them into carts to take away and destroy. Judging from the video they made, the protesters were mostly Muslim immigrants and a few French leftists. But more relevant was the passivity of everyone else in the store, both staff and shoppers, all of whom stood idly by as private property was ransacked and smashed, and many of whom when invited to comment expressed support for the destruction. "South Africa started to shake once all countries started to boycott their products," one elderly lady customer said. "So what you’re doing, I find it good."
Others may find Germany in the ‘30s the more instructive comparison. "It isn’t silent majorities that drive things, but vocal minorities," the Canadian public intellectual George Jonas recently wrote. "Don’t count heads; count decibels. All entities -- the United States, the Western world, the Arab street -- have prevailing moods, and it’s prevailing moods that define aggregates at any given time." Last December, in a well-planned attack on iconic Bombay landmarks symbolizing power and wealth, Pakistani terrorists nevertheless found time to divert one-fifth of their manpower to torturing and killing a handful of obscure Jews helping the city’s poor in a nondescript building. If this was a territorial dispute over Kashmir, why kill the only rabbi in Bombay? Because Pakistani Islam has been in effect Arabized. Demographically, in Europe and elsewhere, Islam has the numbers. But ideologically, radical Islam has the decibels -- in Turkey, in the Balkans, in Western Europe.
How long before Europe's liberal-fascist rulers seize upon such "boycotts" as government policy, to placate (appease) the rampaging "Asian youths" in their cities -- and to distract the rest of their population away from the EuroLeft's own abysmal economic, social, and police failures? How long before the "boycott" extends from Israel to "unregistered Israeli agents"... that is, Jews? Please pardon me if I don't have much faith in the ability (or willingness) of leftist intellectuals to take the high road, and not blame some convenient minority group for all of the Left's incompetencies.
(Note the sarcasm-quotes around boycott. A real boycott is voluntary: Charles Parnell did not force anyone to shun landlord Charles C. Boycott. But these Carrefour rioters, which is what they actually are, prevent other people from buying Israeli products.)
I think I can only quote one more passage and remain within the "fair use" exemption to copyright infringement, so I shall choose carefully. Consider this; Steyn postulates :
So it will go. British, European, and even American troops will withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, and a bomb will go off in Madrid or Hamburg or Manchester, and there will be nothing left to blame except Israeli "disproportion." For the remnants of European Jewry, the already discernible migration of French Jews to Quebec, Florida, and elsewhere will accelerate. There are about 150,000 Jews in London today -- it’s the thirteenth biggest Jewish city in the world. But there are approximately one million Muslims. The highest number of Jews is found in the 50-54 age group; the highest number of Muslims are found in the four-years-and-under category. By 2025, there will be Jews in Israel, and Jews in America, but not in many other places. Even as the legitimacy of a Jewish state is rejected, the Jewish diaspora -- the Jewish presence in the wider world -- will shrivel.
And then, to modify Richard Ingrams, who will dare not to damn Israel? There’ll still be a Holocaust Memorial Day, mainly for the pleasures it affords to chastise the new Nazis. As Anthony Lipmann, the Anglican son of an Auschwitz survivor, wrote in 2005: “When on 27 January I take my mother’s arm -- tattoo number A-25466 -- I will think not just of the crematoria and the cattle trucks but of Darfur, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Jenin, Fallujah.” Jenin?
Jenin, you will all recall, is the fake massacre that many accused Israeli forces (without a shred of evidence) of committing in April 2002, during an incursion into the West Bank called Operation Defensive Shield. Despite wild allegations that Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers wantonly slaughtered civilians and machine-gunned prisoners, bulldozed houses and entire apartment buildings with families inside, and tied Palestinians to the front of Israeli tanks as human shields (!), subsequent investigations by the United Nations and even Israel-hating Amnesty International debunked all the claims except two:
- There was indeed a battle in Jenin; but it was between the IDF on the one hand and Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Yassir Arafat's Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades on the other. Nearly everyone killed on both sides during the Battle of Jenin (and in the larger operation) was an armed soldier or militant.
- When Israel took control of Jenin, they followed their longstanding and pretty effective policy of bulldozing houses of the families of suicide bombers -- but specifically, only those houses that had been granted to those families by the PLO or Fatah or Hamas (depending on the era) as a reward for the suicide bombing (eras may go and come, but Jew hatred abides).
Palestinian "leaders" hope to encourage even more suicide bombings, as sons kill themselves so that their fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters can live in a nice house that otherwise the bomber could never afford. By bulldozing such houses, Israel removes that incentive. Amnesty International, however, considers any bulldozing of "civilian" housing to be a "war crime," no matter the provenance of said house.
War crime it may be, in the technical sense. But to lump Jenin in with the real genocides in Darfur and Rwanda is utter madness, especially for a man whose mother is a Jewish Holocaust survivor. Perhaps when the sharia court comes to hang Mr. Lippman, he will lend them the rope, in an effort to show his "interfaith multiculturalism."
Israel is vitally important to the West not only because it's the Jewish homeland, not only because it's one of only two democracies in the Middle East (the other being the rather recently democratized nation of Iraq), but because Israel is a bellwether, the "canary in a coal mine" that previews what is to come for the rest of the non-Moslem world. As Israel goes, so goeth Dar al-Harb.
Israel is going -- going under for the second time, though not yet the third. An increasing portion of the world sees Israel as the greatest threat to world peace... not because anyone expects Israel to attack Antwerp or Brussels, but rather because the very existence of Israel so enrages Dar al-Islam (the "House of Peace") that they can think of nothing but war and bloody human sacrifice.
The non-American world (plus the Barack H. Obama administration) thinks of Israel as a threat to world peace because of how Moslems insist upon reacting to Israel: "Look what you made me do!"
And they see world peace arising from Israel's suicide as an act of spiritual propitiation, rendering it consistent for militant Moslems to allow everyone else to live in relative peace, as dhimmi, second-class citizens in a sharia state. Thus, secular leftists around the globe argue, we bring about world peace by joining in violent attacks upon the only peaceful culture in the most violent part of the world.
Welcome to the monkey house.
Date ►►► May 6, 2009
Obamic Apology Tour Crawls to Kabul
In a burst of enthusiastic self-abasement, the One the World Has Been Waiting For has dispatched his Clintonian emissary to (once again) apologize profusely -- "deeply, deeply" -- for American military actions... this time in Afghanistan; and this time knowingly without knowing what really happened (a "known unknown!"), whether anything happened, and if so, who was at fault:
Meeting with Afghanistan President Harmid Karzai and Pakistan's Asif Ali Zardari in a prelude to their talks with President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Washington "deeply, deeply" regrets the loss of life, apparently as a result of a bombing there on Monday.
"Any loss of innocent life is particularly painful," Clinton said. Karzai responded before the cameras that he appreciated Clinton "showing concern and regret." The visiting leader also said he hoped Washington and Kabul could "work together to completely reduce civilian casualties in the struggle against terrorism."
State Department spokesman Robert A. Wood said later that Clinton's remarks were offered as a gesture, before all the facts of the incident are known, because "any time there is a loss of innocent life we are going to be concerned about it, and we wanted to make that very clear."
The Telegraph offers a more complete version of Secretary of State Clinton's apology:
"I wish to express my personal regret and certainly the sympathy of our administration on the loss of civilian life in Afghanistan," Mrs Clinton said at a joint meeting with Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, and Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani president.
"We deeply regret it. We don't know all of the circumstances or causes. And there will be a joint investigation by your government and ours," Mrs Clinton said.
"But any loss of life, any loss of innocent life, is particularly painful."
Of course, the Telegraph also accepts the word of "Afghan officials" from "a Taliban-controlled district," that our military is to blame -- in fact, the British newspaper claims a much higher toll of "innocent life":
Afghan officials said up to 120 non-combatants were killed when US warplanes dropped bombs on two villages in Bala Baluk, a Taliban-controlled district in the western province of Farah.
Is it just I? Doesn't the very fact that "all the facts of the incident" are not known mean that we have no idea whether the lives lost were, in fact, "innocent?" We are told that women and children were slaughtered; according to the AP article:
The bombing issue arose earlier Wednesday, when Karzai ordered a probe into allegations by local officials that more than 30 civilians were killed by U.S.-led troops battling militants in western Afghanistan. The International Committee of the Red Cross said a team it had sent to the area saw "dozens of bodies in each of the two locations," including women and children.
Karzai's office said he was going to raise the issue with Obama. And the U.S. has sent a brigadier general to investigate.
One presumes that most children would indeed be innocent; but does "children" include 15, 16, and 17 year olds? If so, they could very well be Taliban killers or al-Qaeda terrorists and every bit as guilty as their compadres a few years older.
But in any event, the mere existence of "dozens of bodies"... "including women and children" does not actually prove that they were killed by any action of the United States military forces -- or indeed by any direct action of anybody -- even if we were to accept the Red Cross' assertions at face value, which I'm not prepared to do. Nor does it prove that we were in any way culpable. Even the generally less forgiving Telegraph article admits the possibility that it is the Taliban, not NATO, that is directly responsible for the deaths:
Abdul Ghafar Watandar, the provincial police chief, said Taliban militants used villagers as human shields by herding them into houses during the US air attacks.
We cannot yet even say how many people, innocent or guilty, were killed. We know from the Pallywood revelations that anti-American, anti-West Moslem activists -- would the Taliban qualify? -- see nothing wrong in faking deaths (e.g., the Mohammed al-Dura case), raiding morgues for long-dead corpses, or even toting the bodies of dead children from site to site, in full view of the elite news media, yet passing them off as different victims each time (à la Green Helmet Guy).
The press is typically complicit in such lies, of course. Reporters often hire local "stringers" with suspect loyalties, if any; such stringers, familiar with the location and culture, cannot possibly fail to notice the fakery and stagecraft in these sick melodramas.
Nor can the Western and even American "journalistic" bosses fail to be aware of the opportunism and ideology-based deception their stringers routinely practice... any more than the top reporters and news readers could ever have been unaware that what Iraqis said in the Hussein era -- when accompanied by "minders" just outside camera range -- was worth less than zero.
Evidently, in both cases, many putative reporters considered the end (damaging America or the Bush administration) sufficiently vital to justify the means: degrading and slandering the United States and our military and jeopardizing American national security.
But let's suppose that many innocents really did die in Bala Baluk. The collapsing prosecutions of a number of Marine Corps officers and enlisted men for the supposed "Haditha massacre" demonstrate the terrible risk of humiliation and blowback run by those who go off half-cocked and conclude that if innocents are killed, Americans (or NATO) must be to blame. I refer here to accusers such as Rep. John Murtha (D-PA, 85%), to pick the most egregious example.
Murtha, congressman and poster-boy for the Democratic culture of corruption, so despised the American victories in Iraq and Afghanistan that he flatly announced that the Marines (his own branch of the service!) were guilty of wartime atrocities. (In this, he only mimicked Sen. John F. Kerry, D-MA, 100%, in a previous war.) On May 17th, 2006, speaking at a press conference, Murtha thus demonstrated his committment to a fair and impartial trial for the Marines accused in the Haditha case:
Murtha, a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq, said at a news conference Wednesday that sources [secret sources!] within the military have told him that an internal investigation [hidden evidence!] will show [precognition!] that "there was no firefight, there was no IED (improvised explosive device) that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood." [Marines are bloodthirsty monsters!]
On December 21 of that year, eight Marines were charged with murder, negligent homicide, conspiracy, filing false reports and failure to investigate, and other UCMJ crimes; in the last two plus years, however, charges against seven of them were dropped, leaving only SSGT Frank Wuterich's case (seven counts of negligent homicide) still pending. But even if he is convicted -- which seems increasingly unlikely, as more evidence exonerating the Marines surfaces -- there is no way in which negligent homicide can honestly be described as having "killed innocent civilians in cold blood"; that is practically the definition of premeditated murder.
This cautionary tale directly applies to Hillary Clinton's crawlfest in Afghanistan. Here is what we do not yet know about the supposed American massacre in western Afghanistan:
- Whether the "local officials" were telling the truth or lying, accurate or mistaken about 30 to 120 civilians killed in a bombing; who are these officials anyway? What is their general attitude towards the American presence? That they are "officials" in "a Taliban-controlled district" immediately makes me skeptical of their claims.
- What, exactly, did the International Committee of the Red Cross see? And who showed it to them? Did they actually examine the bodies to ensure (a) that they had wounds consistent with the airstrike claim (as opposed to having been shot in the head at close range, a favorite tactic of militant Islamists holding human shields); and (b) whether they were actually dead? Or was the Red Cross simply shown shrouded lumps and told that they were bodies? Or were they shown anything at all, as opposed to being told about it by local Red Crescent affilliates? I'm not necessarily inclined to give the Red Cross the benefit of the doubt here, as they have lied, for political reasons, about American "massacres" in the past. Show us the bodies!
- Assuming those twin hurdles are overcome, how do we know it was American munitions that killed them? Perhaps the Taliban holding them in the buildings either decided to blow themselves up or else detonated their own explosives by accident.
- How many of those "dozens" or 30 or 120 were actually "innocent?" It's hardly uncommon for "local [Taliban-supporting] officials" to claim that all persons killed by NATO forces in Afghanistan have been innocent -- even if they are later identified as al-Qaeda or Taliban members or leaders.
- How do we know they were killed deliberately? They could have been caught in crossfire, they could have been "human shields," they could have died by a tragic accident (such as trying to salvage an unexploded bomb and accidentally triggering it).
If the answer to any of these questions falls out on the side of the American or NATO military, then Secretary Clinton's premature apology is a grotesque insult to our own armed forces: We should not apologize for fighting against the murderous evil of others, even if innocents die; those deaths are on the heads of the terrorists who precipitated the bloodshed -- in this case, by assassinating three government workers in Bala Baluk -- not on our heads for trying to stop them.
By "regretting," Clinton and Obama encourage the spread of the despicable meme that we are no better than the Taliban, that we massacre innocent people, that there is a moral equivalency between a mass murderer and the cops who try to stop him: Hey, they both have guns -- they both engage in violence -- they both kill... therefore, they're two sides of the very same coin, no?
A final point that I shouldn't even have to debunk: Some on the Left will surely point out -- rather gleefully, as if this is a rhetorical capper that completely clears the administration of any wrongdoing -- that Hillary Clinton did not actually say she "apologized" for the deaths, only that she "deeply, deeply regretted" them. But this is classic Clintonian deconstructionism, hair splitting, word parsing. Nobody in the Moslem world is going to care that she regretted rather than apologized; everyone will see it as an apology and an admission of guilt. Instead of regretting or apologizing, she should have said something along these lines:
That would have commemorated all deaths of innocents at the hands of terrorists without drawing moral equivalency between our military and our country, which has done more than any other nation in history to fight the horror of the Islamist holocaust, and refocused blame on those committing human sacrifice themselves. Evidently, that was too much to ask of Hillary Clinton and her Capo di Tutti Capi.
Date ►►► May 5, 2009
Taming the Beast
The Washington Times -- still one of the very few national newspapers not worshipping at the shrine of the Obamacle -- reports on the "taming" of the White House press mob since You-Know-Who moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave:
The White House press corps, once accustomed to examining the world in excruciating detail, is now under the microscope.
Speculations are afoot among observers who say the media have gone soft, solemnly rising when President Obama walks into the room or delivering cushy questions like strategic softballs. Journalists, the arguments go, are either delirious over Mr. Obama or shellshocked by eight years with President Bush.
But not to worry! Long-time veterans, such as ABC's Sam Donaldson, assures us that this is only a temporary swoon, that soon the ship of fourth estate will right itself, and everything will be back to norbal:
"Have no fear. The White House press corps will come to life in good time," said Sam Donaldson, a longtime ABC News anchorman.
"Right now, President Obama is riding a great wave of public approval and, let's face it, so far has not made any large missteps. But his real challenges lie ahead and, as all presidents do, he will face some tough times. And, I say again, fear not: The press corps will do its duty in holding his 'feet to the fire.' "
No large missteps? Au contraire, mon ami. Has Sammy D. given some thought to any of the following?
- A $3.6 trillion (and counting!) budget with at least $1 trillion deficits as far as the eye can see, that has reduced President Barack H. Obama to pleading with China to continue financing his spending spree -- while simultaneously setting up a Ponzi scheme (sayeth GW at Wolf Howling) where debt incurred by U.S. government agencies will be purchased by other U.S. government agencies, then (one must assume) resold back to its original owners. Sound familiar? It's what Japanese banks were doing anent real estate to create a "bubble" of price inflation, so they could lend far more money than their actual reserves would permit. Then the bubble burst, and the rest is history.
- This mind-numbing level of federal indebtedness would be "paid for" either by a colossal tax hike (on everyone, not just the rich -- unless you believe "the rich" includes anyone who pays any income tax at all), Latin-America-sized hyperinflation, or most likely, both.
- A mewling, belly-crawling foreign policy that appears to combine one part begging other countries, especially our enemies (Iran, China, North Korea), to help us achieve our policy objectives, even when they run directly counter to theirs, with three parts apologizing profusely for ever having pursued our own national interest in the first place.
- A policy of treating man-caused disaster-causing men detained during our overseas contingency operation (abroad) or our overseas contingency operation (homeland) just as if they had been arrested by local cops and charged with credit-card fraud. Each detainee shall have the right:
- to refuse to answer any questions (and not to be interrogated without his Hezbollah or al-Qaeda lawyer present);
- to have a speedy trial under civilian court rules, before a civilian judge appointed by Carter, Clinton, or Obama, in front of a jury of his peers (other radical Moslems);
- to see all the evidence to be used against him, including highly classified intelligence information, all of which must also be shown to his legal team;
- to be set free on bail pending trial;
- to remain free even after being convicted, pending endless appeals to higher courts;
- to ultimately appeal the entire case to the International Court of Euroleft Opinion for mandatory review.
- A domestic policy that envisions expanding government to control virtually every aspect of our lives, including medical care (rationing, both direct -- what medical treatments you're allowed to get -- and indirect -- rationing by waiting list); education (the feds decide every school's curriculum, funding, classroom size, special programs, and of course the political orientation of the school; note that this will apply from K all the way through University); the workplace (many of which the government will actually own... sort of like Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, or Cuba under the Castros); union membership (the Employee Freedom from Choice Act); and the entire financial sector (federal government decides who gets a loan, how much, what interest rate, when, and for what reason).
- A political jam-down of all of the above without the slightest nod to the democratic process by:
- secret Democratic-Party caucusing;
- injective massive, revolutionary changes into the reconciliation process (to prevent Republicans from even having the opportunity to fillibuster any of Obama's agenda);
- corrupting the decennial census to artificially inflate Democratic districts and artificially suppress Republican ones;
- out and out electoral fraud, such as that for which ACORN was just criminally charged (again);
- and enticing Democratic districts in purple states to engage in corrupt inflation of their vote counts, as we saw in the Al Franken campaign in Minnesota's senatorial race.
- All informed by an adolescent worldview (see, e.g., Obamunism - Through the Eyes of a Child; Obamunism II - the Infection Spreads; and Obamunism III - Biden His Time) that elevates "teen logic" to the level of philosophy -- and party loyalty to the level of religious faith.
Note: This is just what Obama or his administration has already enunciated -- discussed, floated, proposed, or enacted; we haven't even delved into abortion on demand, from conception likely all the way through the fifth trimester; strict gun control; same-sex marriage (and eventually polygamy); an actual, for-real amnesty for illegal immigrants (not the plea-bargain offered by Bush and Sen. John S. McCain, R-AZ, 63%, but literal amnesty); and a war against Judeo-Christian religion that will dwarf that waged by Jimmy Carter -- even the Jimmy Carter of today. That's all coming, but it's not here quite yet, so I mention it not.
Of course, Sam Donaldson likely doesn't consider any of these discontinuities to be a "misstep;" he might think some are politically premature. But I wonder if he has bothered consulting with his colleague at ABC, Jake Tapper, about whether Tapper thinks Obama has committed any "large missteps."
Tapper is currently undergoing an artillery barrage from the sinistrosphere for daring to report that some of Chrysler's "secured" (there's a laugh!) creditors are being bullied and strong-armed by the One and his acolytes into abandoning all but a few pennies on the dollar of the loans they extended, in good faith, to the car company. Why should they write off those loans, taking billions and billions of dollars in losses? So that the administration can fully reimburse the United Auto Workers union with a combination of preferential payoffs in the bankruptcy proceedings and 55-gallon drums of Chrysler stock that will leave the government owning about 50% -- and the UAW owning about 40%. (Hat tip to Wolf Howling)
(One wonders how this will affect collective bargaining, when the union both represents the workers... yet is also "management." Will the UAW call a strike against itself?)
Perhaps I'm unduly cynical in my late youth. Perhaps in just a year or so, in enough time to affect the 2010 elections, the elite news media will begin applying the degree of scrutiny to the administration of Barack H. Obama that they applied to George W. Bush for nine years (starting during the campaign).
Perhaps they will drop the double standard and begin treating both Left and Right the same, in terms of trust, investigation, and holding accountable for hypocrisy.
Perhaps they will once again seek to earn their readers' and viewers' trust by reporting the facts, in as unbiased a fashion as humanly possible, without political and ideological spin.
Perhaps they will rediscover their duty, as the "fourth estate," to hold government accountable to the American polity; their patriotism, to defend American exceptionalism; their decency, not to savage their opponents just because they can; and above all, their journalistic curiosity: to report the news, not simply take dictation from the Democratic Party and print slightly rewritten White House press releases.
Perhaps baboons will learn to dance the Argentine Tango.
Date ►►► May 4, 2009
Sacrificial Lamb: Obamacle Sets Up Israel as Fall Guy
This was so unexpected, so out of the blue, that when I read it, you could have knocked me over with a 2,000-lb anvil:
Israel is concerned about remarks White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel made during a closed-door meeting Sunday with 300 major donors of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the powerful pro-Israel lobby in Washington.
While expressing unwavering U.S. support for Israel, Israeli media reported that Emanuel also said confronting Iran depends on making progress in negotiations seeking to create a Palestinian state.
Does Emanuel believe that such an implied threat will actually cause Israel to reverse course, with newly elected (for the second time) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly transmaugrifying into former Prime Minister Ehud Barak? No; say what you will about Rahm Emanuel, he is not one of the pie-eyed fantasists with which the president has surrounded himself.
Nor does anyone else expect such a result... not even CBS:
Israel's hawkish new government flatly rejects that linkage. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sees the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat to the existence of the State of Israel -- a separate and far more pressing threat than that of the Palestinians. Netanyahu will make that clear when he meets President Obama in two weeks at the White House....
Netanyahu has also said "Israel will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons -- with all the implications." In other words, Israel would consider a unilateral, preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities as a last resort.
And the citizens of the state of Israel would never permit Netanyahu to go "wobbly" on them; they elected Likud over Kadima's Tzipi Livni for precisely that reason:
The Israeli public at large is also skeptical about U.S. talks with Iran. A poll by Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv shows that, while 60 percent of Israelis have a favorable opinion of President Obama, only 32 percent approve of his policy regarding Israel.
So what on earth is going on here? Why does the Chief of Staff to President Barack H. Obama make such a point of publicly linking the two issues? I can think of only one reason: Emanuel believes that his boss' attempt to bully Israel into caving to Palestinian demands (pushed not only by Obama but also the raft of brazenly anti-Israel and antisemitic members of his administration) is doomed to failure... so Rahm Emanuel is already setting Israel up as the scapegoat.
When talks to create a "two-state solution" collapse again -- as they invariably do, given that only one side has any interest at all in there being two sovereign states west of the Jordan River -- the administration plans to blame Israel for Barack Obama's failure. The One the Palestinians and Eurolefties Have Been Waiting For may even lead a crusade against Israel in the court of world opinion, perhaps even refusing to veto some of the continuous anti-Israel resolutions that splash into the U.N. like sewage into a septic-tank.
That will serve three purposes:
- It will overjoy the Jew-hating Left in both the United States and in Europe, leading to an outpouring of money and electoral support for B.O.;
- It will make it easier for Obama to hold his unconditional-appeasement talks with Iran, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda;
- And it will give the president someone to point his finger at in respose to all the bloody horrors that will befall the Middle East (and the rest of the world) when Iran tests its first working nuclear missile.
With one cold-blooded, narcissistic set up, Emanuel could bring about a Middle-East war the likes of which the world has never seen before, possibly resulting in the complete destruction of Israel and the energy and economic collapse of the rest of us. Interesting, considering the Chief of Staff's last name.
Silvestre the Prat
Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX, 82%), has now sent a letter to the CIA apologizing for Congress' role anent the controversy over waterboarding and other "enhanced" interrogation techniques.
No, really; in his letter, he laments that the Intel Committee didn't run all interrogations more directly, instead leaving such vital functions to professionals who actually knew what they were doing:
"One important lesson to me from the CIA's interrogation operations involves congressional oversight," wrote Mr. Reyes, Texas Democrat. "I'm going to examine closely ways in which we can change the law to make our own oversight of CIA more meaningful; I want to move from mere notification to real discussion. Good oversight can lead to a partnership, and that's what I am looking to bring about."
The letter both seeks to excuse Democrats who were briefed after Sept. 11, 2001, about interrogation techniques such as waterboarding and at the same time suggests that members of Congress cleared to receive highly classified material have a responsibility in the future to let their criticisms be known.
I read this as saying, in effect, "Yes, I admit that we were partly to blame" -- wipes tear from eye -- "we should never have allowed the CIA to make intelligence decisions that we could easily have made in their place." One presumes that little bit of awkward permissiveness will be corrected henceforth, and Congress will assume much more aggressive and direct control of intelligence operations. "No more license for you, young man!" From now on, CIA Director Leon Panetta will sit quietly and wait for instructions from Congress before interrogating any captured man-caused disaster-causing men.
On the other hand, given Panetta's odd set of credentials for his job in the first place -- he was never in the CIA (or any other intelligence-related organization); and in his sixteen years in the House of Representatives, he never served on the Intelligence Committee -- perhaps it's just as well that Congress takes the lead role in this one instance.
(I am being a bit unfair to Director Panetta. It's true he had no formal participation in intelligence gathering or analysis whatsoever, unlike his predecessor, Michael Hayden -- who had a long and distinguished intelligence career before heading up the CIA, including stints running the Air Force's Air Intelligence Agency and working as an intelligence officer in Guam, being Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, and running the National Security Agency. But on the third hand, Leon Panetta "has long been an advocate for the health of the world's oceans"... surely a distinction that Hayden cannot claim!)
On the fourth hand, House Intelligence Chair Reyes doesn't exactly come to the table with cleanly scrubbed paws; there is that slight, ah, faux pas he made when his pal, Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, 100%), assigned him that committee chairmanship over longtime ranking member and co-statist Jane Harman (D-CA, 100%): Asked by reporter Jeff Stein of the Congressional Quarterly whether al-Qaeda was primarily a Sunni or Shiite organization, Reyes -- who had sat on the House Intelligence Committee and Armed Services Committee for eight years or so -- answered thus:
"Al Qaeda, they have both,” he answered, adding: “Predominantly probably Shi’ite.”
In fact, Al Qaeda was founded by Usama bin Laden as a Sunni organisation and views Shia Muslims as heretics. The centuries-old now fuels the militias and death squads in Iraq.
Jeff Stein, a reporter for Congressional Quarterly, then put a similar question about Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia group. “Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah . . .” replied Mr Reyes. “Why do you ask me these questions at five o’clock? Can I answer in Spanish? Do you speak Spanish?” Go ahead, said Stein. “Well, I, uh . . .” said the congressman.
On the fifth hand, another former Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV, 94%), had his own small brush with destiny: When he was the ranking minority member (which the committee somewhat pompously calls the "committee vice chairman"), he appears to have been a target of a probe by the Justice Department about whether he and former fellow committee member then-Sen. Dick Durbin may have leaked classified information about a new spy-satellite program (including some of the satellite's weaknesses).
Though it's not certain who the probe targetted (we have not yet seen any results yet), the leak immediately followed and buttressed criticism by Rockefeller and Durbin on the floor of the Senate, and Durbin at least subsequently opined that the leak "points to a weakness of the whole process...[that] it takes a leak to understand that billions of taxpayers' dollars are being wasted that could be spent to make America safer."
And a few months earlier (hand number six), a mystery memo drifted out of Rockefeller's "vice chairman's" office in early November, 2003; it was a Democratic game-plan for politicizing an investigation on pre-Iraq war intelligence gathering, using the joint report -- and a planned exclusive minority report -- to campaign against President George W. Bush in 2004. The Wall Steet Journal editorialized on the case a couple of days later (link may require either a subscription or registration; I'm not sure):
Mr. Rockefeller refuses to denounce the memo, which he says was unauthorized and written by staffers. If that's the case, at the very least some heads ought to roll. A good place to start would be minority staff director Christopher Mellon, who served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence in the Clinton Administration.
But we'd say Republicans ought to go further and make this a matter of political consequence. After months of Democratic charges about the "politicization of intelligence" based on little or no evidence, this memo is smoking gun proof of precisely that. A referral to the Senate Ethics Committee seems in order, and we'd even suggest that the entire committee be shut down, cleaned out and reconstituted later, preferably after the next election.
This may seem like political shenanigans, but we've been here before as a nation. With the Church Committee purges of the 1970s, U.S. intelligence gathering was crippled for a generation, arguably right up through 9/11. Given the crucial importance of intelligence to the war on terror, the country can't afford a repeat Congressional performance.
Sen. Rockefeller still sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, evidently unscathed and unabashed by his earlier exploits. This history of congressional involvement in the collection, analysis, and management (including keeping secrets!) of vital classified intelligence should at least give the reader a moment's pause about whether expanding congressional control would actually improve matters.
The award for Howler of the Day (last Friday, May Day 2009) goes to the following exchange, from the Washington Times story about House Intelligence Chairman Reyes' letter:
Mike Delaney, staff director for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said Mr. Reyes had not received complaints from the CIA about President Obama's decision last month to release Justice Department memos authorizing so-called enhanced interrogation and describing methods that Mr. Obama has banned.
"No, we've not received complaints from CIA work force," Mr. Delaney said. "CIA employees, in the chairman's experience, typically don't complain."
No, they make their displeasures known in more gracious, subtle ways: they leak classified information to blow the cover of operations they dislike, thus destroying their effectiveness.
It's tempting to simply say "a plague on both their houses" and be done with them. Alas, they're responsible for being the nation's eyes and ears. But has anyone looked into the possibility outsourcing the job to Israel's Mossad? They, at least, are run by professionals.
Date ►►► May 2, 2009
Weapon of Gas Discussion
A left-wing enviro "think tank" -- well, I reckon that's a misnomer! -- has suddenly tigged to what's stopping the mass conversion to Globaloney that the econuts have predicted (demanded!) for decades: It's not the preposterous premise, the muddled modeling, the risible rejection of ratiocination, the brouhaha of bullying, the abhorrent adhering to ad-hominems, or even the inconvenient injection of raw reality... the misbehaving meteorological malaise that causes ice storms and blizzards to descend upon global-warming gabfests like starving seagulls upon a seaside soirée.
No, none of that is the problem. It's that damned phrase, "global warming." It just doesn't sing. Liberal lexicographers at ecoAmerica have fallen into a frenzy of phraseology, trying to find a New! Improved! dictionary of doom and disaster to awaken the weary bourgeoisie:
The problem with global warming, some environmentalists believe, is “global warming.”
The term turns people off, fostering images of shaggy-haired liberals, economic sacrifice and complex scientific disputes, according to extensive polling and focus group sessions conducted by ecoAmerica, a nonprofit environmental marketing and messaging firm in Washington.
They advocate globaloney proselytizers eschew "grim warnings" in favor of terms that sound vague but are in fact meaningless... but which poll well. Ecospeak dictionary in hand, they plan to send "TALKING POINTS" (caps are theirs) out to advocacy groups around the world, helping them gin up support by spinning up their speech.
How did we find out? Well, EcoAmerica e-mailed its secret report to a number of friendly (that is, liberal Democratic) lawmakers; it wanted to keep the results under wraps until they could find a way to frame it so that the entire project would not end up a laughingstock. Alas for them, some well-meaning cement-head on their website accidentally cc'ed a number of news organizations.
Of course, they have every reason to worry about the report leaking prematurely:
Environmental issues consistently rate near the bottom of public worry, according to many public opinion polls. A Pew Research Center poll released in January found global warming last among 20 voter concerns; it trailed issues like addressing moral decline and decreasing the influence of lobbyists. “We know why it’s lowest,” said Mr. Perkowitz, a marketer of outdoor clothing and home furnishings before he started ecoAmerica, whose activities are financed by corporations, foundations and individuals. “When someone thinks of global warming, they think of a politicized, polarized argument. When you say ‘global warming,’ a certain group of Americans think that’s a code word for progressive liberals, gay marriage and other such issues.”
Well, yeah. We do. And so it is. As word trickles down to the masses about how their legislators are spending the staggering emergency deficits they have voted to snow voters with hot air on global warming, strong steps might be taken through the proper channels. 2010 approaches faster with every passing month.
Here are some of ecoAmerica's suggested circumlocutions. I wonder how much they got paid for this?
- "Global warming" → "our deteriorating atmosphere;"
- "Carbon dioxide" → "the dirty fuels of the past;"
- "Cap and trade" → "pollution reduction fund;"
- "Energy efficiency" → "saving money for a more prosperous future;"
- "Environment" → "the air we breathe, the water our children drink." (That's still boring; now if they had it, "the water we breath, the children we dunk," they might have something.)
The movement should have come to me; I would have given them much more bewildering babble at a small fraction of the probable millions they forked over to ecoAmerica. Viz.:
- "Banning all industrial operations" could be renamed "greenlining;"
- "Carbon rationing" becomes "redistribution of illth;"
- "The Kyoto Protocol" -- frightening, technical, foreign -- becomes "atmospheric contingency operation;"
- "Tailpipe emissions of carbon and carbonoids" becomes "van-caused disasters;"
- "Mandating use of hybrid cars for all non-governmental usage" becomes "the Prius is right;"
- A "collapsed economy" is a "global financial resimplification;"
- An "ice-age Earth" is defended as "it's cool to be blue;"
- And complaints from globaloney deniers of "flawed general circulation models that cannot even accurately predict the past" shall henceforth be referred to as "exochronic evidentiary discrimination."
See? No need to modify hypotheses that are shot down and predictions which fall flat. All we need do is change the user interface, and presto! Hope meets anthropogenic global climate change.
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