Date ►►► April 30, 2010

Building on the Feet of Ozymandias

Hatched by Dafydd

In an earlier post -- The Religion of Fear Itself, or Why I Despise Modern Liberals (reason 334) -- I proposed that modern, "New Left" liberalism has become utterly dependent upon inducing terror of the future and the unknown in its adherents. Quoth I:

Why is Hawking so frightened? And why does he think should the rest of us be afraid? Because liberal ideology -- and in particular disgust with Western civilization and unthinking acceptance of all the environmenalist myth-making about the unnaturalness of humanity -- leads many liberals into despair and terror....

[L]iberalism has metastacized into the philosophy of catastrophe, where every way we live brings about our gruesome death: Eating, drinking, exercising, heating our homes, cooling our heels, and now even exhaling. From the Center for Science in the Public Interest to the IPCC to ELF and ALF, liberals warn that we must fear everything.

But there is yet another reason I despise modern liberalism -- or actually post-modern, or "pomo" liberalism; I despise it for what it has done to science fiction, the most quintessentially American literary form.

Science fiction, as a distinct literary genre set apart from fabulism and fantasy, began in France in the 1860s, as Jules Verne penned such masterpieces of science speculation unfolding within a narrative as Journey to the Centre of the Earth, From the Earth to the Moon, and Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea. (The latter two have been "overtaken by events," but we have yet to send humans to the Earth's core.)

The field continued to develop in a continental way as the mantle passed to Herbert George Wells. H.G. Wells took on much more challenging and controversial themes in the Time Machine (time travel), the Island of Doctor Moreau (genetic engineering and creation of hybrid "manimals"), the Invisible Man (duh), the War of the Worlds (interplanetary warfare), and Men Like Gods (parallel universe), along with his movie, Things to Come, which depicted a radically changed future Earth -- itself quite shocking to movie-goers of the 1930s (admittedly Fritz Lang paved the way with movies like Metropolis; but that silent classic was more of a socialist parable than real science fiction).

But around this time, the power and impetus of "scientifiction" shifted to the New World, as publisher and rip-off artist Hugo Gernsback began pushing pulp science-fiction magazines to the masses. The first was Amazing Stories, which began publication in 1926; it was soon joined by numerous other competing science-fiction magazines, of which the most important for many decades was Astounding Stories (original title, that), which began publication in 1930.

American science fiction was distinguished from its European counterpart by:

  • The muscularity of plot and characters;
  • An optimistic, forward-looking perspective;
  • The "normality" with which the abnormal was handled -- people in the 22nd century don't wander about talking about the marvels of the 22nd century; it just seems normal and natural to them;
  • The celebration of science, technology, and change, rather than seeing it as a dire portent of terrible things to come;
  • And the elevation and promotion of the original science-fictional idea, which subsequently drives the rest of the story.

It's the latter I'm most concerned with in this post... for it is precisely that original SF idea that makes good science fiction a more useful, more optimistic, and yes, more American genre than any other literature.

And it is precisely that original SF idea that liberal publishers and editors have nearly succeeded in driving out of the genre, thus transforming the perfect American literature into an anemic parody of Euro-decadent "literature of the fantastic."

What's an original SF idea? I define the term to mean an original idea so interesting that we can discuss it for hours -- without even referencing the story whence it came. My favorite example comes from Poul Anderson's most important early work, Brain Wave (1953):

For (hand-waving) reasons, every form of life on Earth that has a central nervous system (CNS) becomes, over a several-month period, about five times as intelligent as it began; in particular, humans now have an IQ of roughly 500.

How would the sudden, radical increase in intelligence affect human civilization? How much of daily interaction between people, government, commerce, and even love depend upon each person having imperfect information about other people? Would that situation still obtain in a world of geniuses beyond what any of us could possibly imagine? (And on a more po-mo level, how does a writer with high-normal human intelligence write convincingly about people many times smarter than he?)

What of the relations between humans and dogs and horses, our closest symbiots with CNSes? (Our digestive bacteria are not affected by the change.) What about people who really just don't like thinking... wouldn't being so dreadfully intelligent and unable to turn it off be sheer torture?

The point is that we could sit in a room and discuss the ramifications of several billion people with IQs in the 500 range for hours, even days, without ever getting to the events that unfold in the novel.

Such original ideas used to be the core of the definition of science fiction.

They needn't be "hard science;" Ursula K. LeGuin's novel the Left Hand of Darkness (1969) posits a race that is neither male nor female but cycles to one or the other "gender" once a month or so. Yes, it's a liberal feminist book by a liberal feminist author; but her liberalism is older than the New Left... before the former lost its ability to think, to create, and to imagine radical change that wasn't necessarily towards either socialist utopia or capitalist dystopia. Clearly, if we did not have static, defined genders, our society would be profoundly different.

Original science-fictional ideas are often short-handed to "what-ifs": What if we could travel forward in time and bring back a report of what we saw? What if we could travel backward in time and alter the past?

A what-if can also be an original "riff" on a previous original idea: What if so many people were traveling backward and forward in time, changing events higgledy-piggledy in a never-ending "change war," that reality itself was crumbling around their ears? That last is the original SF idea Fritz Leiber used in his "change war" stories, including the novel the Big Time (1957) and several short stories.

Another non-hard-science, original SF idea forms the basis of Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus! trilogy (1975): What if every imaginable conspiracy was literally true -- and all at the same time?

What-ifs train our minds to be more flexible and tolerant of differences, to look for solutions in unlikely places, to think "sideways," to accept the inevitability of change, and in general, to prepare us for the future -- which is always different from the past, but more recently has become more different at a faster rate (cf. Alvin Toffler's Future Shock series of nonfiction sociological speculations).

They also put severe constraints on the author, because he is forced by the game rules to make his speculation plausible within what is currently believed to be reality, whether science, sociology, politics, or any other venue for speculation. That is, even the most phantasmic what-if must be handled by the author in as realistic a way as possible... unlike magic in a work of fantasy, such as the Lord of the Rings (at the high literary end) or the Harry Potter stories (at the pedestrian and juvenile end).

While I have no objection to fantasy -- I have probably read thousands of fantasy stories and published two fantasy novels myself -- and while I wholeheartedly agree that Europeans (especially Brits) have contributed many original SF ideas to the field, spearheading the "New Wave" of science fiction in the late 50s and through the 60s... nevertheless, we have lost something terribly important and very American from the literature over the last few decades; and I want it back.

But how did liberals get such power to thoroughly remake science fiction?

The problem with traditional publishing is the huge up-front cost of typesetting, printing, binding, stocking, distributing, and promoting books. It literally takes tens of thousands of dollars to make copies of a single title available in a Borders or B&N bookstore; for a book expected to be a bestseller, that cost jumps to hundreds of thousands of dollars per title.

It takes a giant corporation willing to invest beaucoup bucks to bring a book to the normal market (as opposed to small presses, speciality presses, give-aways, and vanity presses); and whether corporation or government, control follows funding as corruption follows liberalism: The editors and publishers, who must part with the money, dictate to the authors what they may write, by the simple expedient of rejecting any manuscript that does violence to their liberal sensibilities.

Too, the larger the corporation, the more closely it acts like a government, and the more intimate and incestuous are its relations with the State. That is why CEOs and BoDs of big corporations are so often liberals and socialists: The last thing in the world they want is a free market where they must actually compete for market share. They would much rather belly-up to the pig trough of private-public "partnerships" -- that is, conspire against the general public. Simply put, huge corporations attract liberals because "rent-seeking" profits multinationals far more than Capitalism.

So liberals took over the publishing industry many decades ago; and when the New Left took over liberalism, they recreated science fiction in their own uncreative image. In the front door went political correctness and sucking up to post-modern trends like gender-feminism and conservative-bashing; out the back door went those pesky (and dangerous!) original ideas.

True, SF sales in the standard model of book production are drastically down; but it's easier for lefties to explain that away -- too much unrestricted competition from movies and TV, literacy is in decline, the economy is bad, it's all Bush's fault -- than actually to analyze the problem and solve it. SF books used to give readers something they couldn't get from sci-fi movies and spacy TV series: serious speculation about original science-fictional ideas, what-ifs. Absent that bonus, more former readers prefer the visual media to a denuded literature of absent ideas.

Not all publishing falls into the standard model; so-called "print on demand" books are cheaper, because you don't print the book until someone orders it, then you mail it to him. But that has never been a very large component of the total book-selling market. Most readers want to see the book and flip through it before deciding; then when they decide to buy it, they want to take it home on the spot.

So how to break the liberal stranglehold on the publication of putative "science fiction?" Alas, there are only two ways for the what-ifs to return:

  • The New York SF publishing Mafia loses control of the literary genre (and corresponding marketing category), allowing real capitalists to restore the original idea to its former centrality. (This should happen shortly after Hollywood turns Republican.)
  • Alternatively, some new means of publication allows authors to bypass the New York SF publishing Mafia entirely, making titles available to customers without first having to pass the liberal Cerberus at the gates. Thus could we build a new edifice upon the crumbled feet of Ozymandias.

Ozymandias
by Percy Bysshe Shelly
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

I don't see online reading as that "new means of publication"; too many people (such as myself) cannot find pleasure in reading fiction on a CRT, or even an LED or LCD screen. It makes my eyes ache. But I hold out great hope for "smart paper" or "electronic paper" devices, like the Amazon Kindle or the Sony Book Reader. These technologies more closely mimic the experience of reading words printed in ink on paper that has defined a "book" for millennia, long before Gutenberg hurriedly invented the printing press to pay off the loan sharks on his tail.

Of course, in order to be just as comfortable on the eye as high-quality printing, e-paper needs to get a much higher dot-density -- more in the 2500 pixels per inch (ppi) range, or at least 1250, than the pitiful and myopia-inducing 167 ppi of the Kindle 2 (150 ppi for the Kindle DX), or even the 200 ppi of the Sony Reader Pocket Edition. And it needs a lot more than sixteen shades of grey; better yet, the same spread of full color found in contemporary monitors. But these are just engineering details, easily worked out. The main point is that e-paper has all the advantages of online text (storage capacity, the ability to make notes, hold bookmarks, link to other passages in the same work or other works), plus the ability to read it in broad daylight at the beach without your eyeballs dropping out of their sockets.

Being well-trained in science-fiction reading protocols, I can easily envision a future in which such e-paper readers become the standard means of "publishing" (disseminating) books. In such a world, my task as an author would be...

  1. Write the novel
  2. Put it into the format necessary to display on the e-paper reader
  3. Make it available for downloading
  4. And last, the biggie: Find some way to publicize the book so potential readers know it's available.

Somewhere in that muddle I must find a business model that puts money in my pocket for writing the book in the first place. My best guess for step 4 is that well-known amateur book reviewers would receive a dozen books a month, each author hoping his book makes the cut and a prominent place in the next online review column.

Too, companies, organizations, or groups of respected individuals could form book clubs to filter books by quality and orientation. Thus if you went to the Conservative Book Club's website, you might see a list of fifty or so books published the last year that the club mavins think conservatives would particularly like. Each book listing would include a download link.

As for the author's money, either the download or decrypting the file beyond the first couple of chapters would require payment, or perhaps the download site would sell adverts and pay the authors directly based upon frequency of (free) download. But by some means, money must flow to authors, or authors will be forced to quit writing and find honest work.

Either way, liberals will have their own lists; but they won't get to control everybody else's list. The chokehold will be broken, and proper science fiction will flourish once more; a huge, untapped market for it still exists, and to quote a much misunderstood phrase, "information wants to be free" -- meaning not that information wants to stiff its writers, but that information cannot be shackled for long.

I hope to play a role in bringing about that Millennium, but I don't know exactly when it will commence; I don't have any secret deals I'm working on; I'm just waiting for the technology to catch up with the vision. Keep watching, as they say, the skies.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 30, 2010, at the time of 9:59 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 28, 2010

Irony of Ironies: Boy Sprouts May Be Sued to Death - for Homosexual Molestation!

Hatched by Dafydd

First, the Left filed hundreds of lawsuits against the Boy Scouts of America demanding that they be forced to allow gay scouts and gay scoutmasters into the organization. That tactic failed when the Supreme Court found that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) was a private, religious organization, and that it had a First-Amendment, free-association right to set standards of morality for membership.

But now the BSA must defend many lawsuits filed by former scouts who allege they were molested by gay scoutmasters.

Yeesh.

At least now we know why the Boy Scouts have steadfastly refused to relax their standards. As I have argued before, sending a pack of barely pubescent boys into the woods, in charge of a man who finds young boys sexually attractive, is a prescription for disaster -- whether or not the scoutmaster does anything: All it would take to cost the Scouts millions in damages is for a troubled lad to falsely claim an openly gay scoutmaster molested him; most jurors would be far more inclined to believe that accusation than if all evidence showed that the scoutmaster was strictly heterosexual.

I certainly will not second-guess the facts of the present case, in which a jury has ordered the Scouts to pay $18.5 million; I have no reason not to believe the jury's decision that the victim was indeed molested, and that the Scouts knew that scoutmaster had a history of molesting boys. But doesn't this underscore the urgency of keeping openly gay boys and men out of the Boy Scouts in the first place?

  • Most worrisome is the destruction a real molester can inflict, both to the victim and to the BSA itself, its reputation and its finances.
  • But think of the harm a Boy Scout can cause via a false accusation against an openly gay scoutmaster.

    Whether due to emotional problems, revenge for some real or imagined insult, fear of exposure after he himself makes unwanted advances to the scoutmaster and is rejected, or if he makes the charge for purely mercenary reasons -- either the lure of "jackpot justice" or if he is bribed by those who hate the Boy Scouts -- such an accusation, false though it be, can devastate the organization. Enough of them can destroy the organization utterly, a potential with which a large number of utterly ruthless enemies of the Boy Scouts must be well aware.

  • Even without molestation, boys just going through puberty may have an exaggerated fear of molestation or ogling; what an adult should be able to handle might still traumatize a teen.

    An embarassed boy may be terrified that the scoutmaster might see him undressing or in the shower; he might be afraid to ask questions about his bodily changes; knowing that the scoutmaster in general finds boys or yound men physically attractive, the boy might well not want to be seen with the scoutmaster, worried that others will draw the wrong conclusion. As mentoring is a primary function of the Boy Scouts, an openly gay scoutmaster or an openly gay scout cannot help but cause problems.

    I had a friend in junior high (now called middle school, for those readers just recently graduated from junior high); call him M. M. was rather high strung as it was; then one day he found, stuffed in his school locker, several pages of gay porn pictures. I thought it was kind of funny (no, I didn't put it there); but M. actually broke down sobbing, right in front of other schoolboys. Imagine how that affected his subsequent career at that school...!

Simply put, it's not something that young boys should have to confront if they don't seek it out, and certainly not while bonding nonsexually with other boys on scouting trips.

I detour now to contrast openly gay scoutmasters or scouts in the Boy Scouts to openly gay soldiers in military service, thus responding before the point is even raised. The most important distinction is of course age: There's a vast difference between an eighteen year old military recruit and an eleven year old Boy Scout. The former is expected to be able to handle sexual subjects -- as well as, you know, killing people -- without hysteria; the latter may have no personal experience with sexuality whatsoever... and may be very, very vulnerable.

Also, by the time a person is old enough to be in the military, he almost always knows his sexual preference; he is much closer to being fully formed as a sexual being. But a pubescent or even pre-pubescent boy may still be confused or uncertain about his sexual identity and not prepared to confront the subject in such a visceral or tactile way. He just wants to hike and earn merit badges, not wonder whether he really has the hots for his scoutmaster or tentmate or just likes and admires him a lot.

Finally, I passionately believe that one of our fundamental rights is to defend the society in which we live; it's an extension of the fundamental and universal right of self-defense. Contrariwise, nobody has a constitutional "right" to be a member of the Boy Scouts of America; it's a private club, like a bowling league or a synagogue.

The BSA is among other things a religious organization; and as such, it promotes a moral code that is necessarily "divisive" and "exclusionary": It divides the population into those fit to join and those unfit to join, and excludes the latter. Among other things, you cannot profess disbelief in God and still join the Scouts; but of course, Wiccans, Druids, worshippers of Crom, and even atheist agitators are legally allowed to join the service. Recruiters are forbidden by law from discriminating on the basis of religion.

Thus I demonstrate no contradiction or hypocrisy in supporting the full integration of openly gay servicemen while simultaneously opposing the same integration among the Boy Scouts and similar youth organizations. In fact, I'm hopping mad that the Girl Scouts appear to have caved completely on this subject... though of course, it's nowhere near as bad for a lesbian scoutmaster (scoutmistress?) to lead girls into the woods than for a gay male scoutmaster to lead boys into the woods. (If you can't see why, ask in comments.)

Thus my defense of the policy; now my fear about the legal strategy itself. Anent the lawsuit in question and the $18 million verdict it spawned...

I have no information about the provenance of this suit, but here is my worry: The Left, having been thwarted by the federal courts (which finally held that the BSA is a private organization, so can exclude gays and atheists without violating anyone's civil liberties), might now take a different tack -- and use accusations of gay molestation to sue the Boy Scouts out of existence.

Of course, this would send a message precisely the opposite of what the Left's first line of lawsuits sent; but if our national socialist movement had the chance to destroy one of its most hated enemies, the Boy Sprouts, would the Left really care how it did so? It may already be sponsoring, or even inventing out of whole cloth, such lawsuits; just as I'm sure many of the similar molestation suits against the Catholic Church were discovered and promoted, if not actually fabricated, by leftists more interested in destroying the Church than obtaining "justice" for the (real or fake) molestation victims.

What a sick irony that would be. I certainly hope the Scouts can weather this storm; what a dreary world would be revealed by the BSA's obliteration.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 28, 2010, at the time of 7:32 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 26, 2010

The Religion of Fear Itself, or Why I Despise Modern Liberals (reason 334)

Hatched by Dafydd

Rarely do I get such an opportunity to opine on my two favorite topics, politics and science fiction, simultaneously!

Physics idol Stephen Hawking is quite convinced that life -- and intelligent life -- exist elsewhere in our galaxy:

The suggestions come in a new documentary series [beginning Sunday, May 9th, at 9 pm, on the Discovery Channel -- DaH] in which Hawking, one of the world’s leading scientists, will set out his latest thinking on some of the universe’s greatest mysteries.

Alien life, he will suggest, is almost certain to exist in many other parts of the universe: not just in planets, but perhaps in the centre of stars or even floating in interplanetary space.

Works for me. The chemical processes that produce the building blocks of life are entirely natural, and indeed many might not even need a planet on which to form; analysis of the data is not conclusive, but some simple amino acids may be able to form spontaneously in space.

The next step will produce a few howls of outrage; but one must accept that much good evidence points to life arising from non-life on this planet due to entirely natural, thus repeatable processes. Indeed, biologists and science writers have written entire books on the subject of abiogenesis, e.g., Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins, by Robert Hazen. There are so many models and hypotheses, so much experimental and observational data, so much creative science being published monthly, that the intelligent, well-read student simply cannot dismiss the possibility without months or years of research. That is, unless one is willing to...

  • Reject virtually all modern science along with the scientific method;
  • Adopt the a priori and unfalsifiable assumption that life requires a "Creator" who is cagey enough to deliberately hide all evidence of his (sorry, His) presence;
  • And insist upon referring to contemporary evolutionary biology as "Darwinism" -- thus smarmily implying that it's just a cult of personality like Stalinism or Scientology.

For the 80% or so who are still with me, as life arose here through natural processes, it's a good bet that there are other planets elsewhere in the galaxy (and in other galaxies) where similar natural processes produced forms of life that we could at least recognize as such.

The penultimate step is that like life itself, intelligence -- that is, animal cunning -- is clearly a biological advantage; thus the chain of life will necessarily produce smarter and more sophisticated animals (shorthand for animated forms of life)... unless freakish local conditions preclude, e.g., the development of multicellular organisms. In any event, some planets with life will evolve cleverer life.

The last step is the one about which we know least. Does self-awareness arise spontaneously? Is it part of the implicate order of cleverness? Or does it require the breath of God to create the spark of a soul? If the former, then clearly we should assume there is intelligent life elsewhere in the void until proven otherwise.

But even if the latter situation obtains, what hubris would we exhibit were we to assert with confidence that God would never strike that spark anywhere but on this particular planet where we happen to live! Who are we to tell He who made Leviathan that Earth is the only planet "zoned" for self-aware, moral beings?

I believe as much as ever before that the odds favor a universe populated with many, many civilized cultures; but of course, nobody can know what civilization, morality, or even communication means to creatures which evolved on a completely different planet... or in a gas cloud or the surface of a somewhat coolish star, for that matter.

Hawking agrees with that point as well:

Hawking’s logic on aliens is, for him, unusually simple. The universe, he points out, has 100 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of millions of stars. In such a big place, Earth is unlikely to be the only planet where life has evolved.

“To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational,” he said. “The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like.”

But what's all this about modern liberals? Why should I despise someone with whom I fundamentally agree on such a vital issue? Because in his next breath, Hawking proves himself a coward; and I despise poltroonery:

The aliens are out there and Earth had better watch out, at least according to Stephen Hawking. He has suggested that extraterrestrials are almost certain to exist -- but that instead of seeking them out, humanity should be doing all it that can to avoid any contact.

Note that my main dispute with the eminent Hawking stands, even if the reader of this post rejects evolution: Hawking obviously believes in evolution by variation and natural selection, and he believes that will ultimately produce alien civilizations; but he is clearly terrified of the prospect of contact. Contrariwise, all my space-nutter friends and I desperately hope to see human-alien contact during our lifespans. That is one major difference between New-Left liberals and true libertarians: Whether one dreams of alien contact -- or endures an agonizing nightmare about it.

Why is Hawking so frightened? And why does he think should the rest of us be afraid? Because liberal ideology -- and in particular disgust with Western civilization and unthinking acceptance of all the environmenalist myth-making about the unnaturalness of humanity -- leads many liberals into despair and terror.

Such scenes [of imaginative and extraordinary alien life that might exist] are speculative, but Hawking uses them to lead on to a serious point: that a few life forms could be intelligent and pose a threat. Hawking believes that contact with such a species could be devastating for humanity.

He suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.”

He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is “a little too risky”. He said: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

So many Eco-Left bugbears bubble up from this ill-considered froth! If only Hawking would apply the same faculty for critical thinking to the potential of alien civilizations as he applies to physics problems.

Resource scarcity

Let's start with the scenarios he himself presents. Why would aliens travel dozens of lightyears (at least!), hundreds of trillions of miles, just to "raid Earth for its resources?" Which resources would those be... hydrogen, the most common element in the galaxy?

Oxygen, nitrogen, water vapor, and carbon dioxide, easily obtained from any Earthlike planet much nearer to the aliens than Earth? Pure water, as in the original TV series V -- which can be melted from any water-ice asteroid in our asteroid belt without us ever noticing its "theft?"

Gold, silver, uranium, or any other precious metal -- which can be mined anywhere?

And why would the aliens even need to dig minerals out of the rock? Assuming they're smart enough and technologically sophisticated enough to cross interstellar distances, wouldn't it be likely they could artificially produce such elements in nuclear manufactories in any quantities they needed, and with a fraction of the cost and none of the danger?

There is no vaguely logical reason why a civilization in search of resources would trundle across the vastness of space to tussle with some squalid alien Neanderthals (that would be us by comparison) for what they can obtain or create by lifting their smallest tendrils. "Invasion for resource raiding" is complete nonsense as a plausible reason for violent attack. Christopher Columbus may have stumbled upon the New World and enslaved the natives, but that's because he lived in a universe of scarcity, where mechanization could not yet replace human labor.

Empires

What else could aliens want -- territory? But planets that can support life, on which life evolved, where intelligence reached a critical peak, where that bright life awoke into self-awareness, where science was discovered and technology invented, and where practical spaceflight was developed... such planets would be an occasional fleck of diamond in a vast beach of ordinary sand. Why fight for territory when it's all free for the taking, as much as you want?

Psycho-sociological quirks

One can always wave one's hands and warn that the aliens might have some cockamamie religion that requires them to conquer and enslave humans. But it's equally valid to speculate that their cockamamie religion might drive them to help us gain the scientific understanding and technological powers they themselves enjoy. The same Western powers that claimed entire continents in the name of king and country centuries ago have more recently used their blood and treasure to raise up the Third World to First-World status (or tried to do, anyway).

Abstruse and obtuse reasons

When my pal and worthy co-conspirator Brad Linaweaver and I wrote the Doom tetralogy, we wanted (for plot reasons) to have an interstellar war (we were writing a subluminous, Einsteinian space opera, which I think is unique in science-fiction history). My goodness, how we struggled to come up with a reason that was not preposterous on its face, that was vaguely plausible, why alien races would ever go to war!

We finally settled on a long-ago dispute between competing schools of literary theory, the Surrealists and the Post-Modernists, each trying to analyze a fistful of fragments left behind by the first race ever to achieve spaceflight, billions of years earlier. These academic disputes erupted into a war that, due to lightspeed limitations, still continued after thousands of millennia. But that took us days of teleconferences to concoct.

Simply put, logic implies there is simply no reason for beings of one stellar system to attack beings of another. And while it's true that alien logic might be very different, we don't have any to study; so we're stuck with our own logic. To be frightened of the prospect of contacting aliens is to yield to xenophobia and the mortal sin (and bleak helplessness) of despair.

And that brings us, by a commodius vicus of recirculation, back to contemporary eco-nut liberalism. As we have seen, liberalism has metastacized into the philosophy of catastrophe, where every way we live brings about our gruesome death: Eating, drinking, exercising, heating our homes, cooling our heels, and now even exhaling. From the Center for Science in the Public Interest to the IPCC to ELF and ALF, liberals warn that we must fear everything.

Is Hawking a liberal? He tries not to talk about it, but enough has seeped out to make it fairly clear: He was a member of the Oxford University Liberal Democrats when he was at university; he "appeared on a political broadcast for the United Kingdom's Labour Party," according to his Wikipedia biography; and like most scientists who don't specialize in climate-related research, he is a fierce proponent of global-warming hysteria -- "globaloney chic."

He's either an agnostic (if you believe him) or atheist (if you believe his first wife). And of course, he hails from England, where even the so-called Conservatives are far to our left on the political spectrum.

Everything fits; it's all of a pattern. Hawking is clearly a liberal, and he evinces the same terror of the unknown that liberalism propagates as its primary recruiting tool. And for what the wretched ideology of left-liberalism and eco-nuttery has done to such a fine intellect, I despise modern liberals.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 26, 2010, at the time of 3:50 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 23, 2010

Crist at a Crux

Hatched by Dafydd

The kettle comes to a boil for Republican Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, as he decides whether to switch to Independent in order to run a three-way race for the Florida U.S. Senate seat recently vacated by Mel Martinez. If Crist stays within the Republican party, he will lose the primary big time; if he turns his coat, he will be running against Republican Marco Rubio and Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL, 95%).

I wrote before why I think he would be a fool to switch parties; now there is more evidence that even if he does light that sorry candle, Crist will likely lose the race anyway -- and will have destroyed his future political career as well.

Back in mid-April, a Quinnipiac poll of a three-way donnybrook showed Crist ahead of Rubio by a scant two points, with Democrat Meek trailing far behind. I noted that this was easily within the margin of error, and the poll was taken before voters had really had a chance to think about the idea of Crist departing the party and running as an indy.

But a much more recent Rasmussen poll now shows Rubio seven points ahead of Crist, this time with Meek almost falling off the back of the turnip truck, 15 points behind the front runner. Evidently, if this poll is to be believed -- and there's no reason it shouldn't be -- voters have made their decision about Charlie Crist running as spoiler.

Looking back, only two polls have ever shown Crist winning that threesome: The Quinnipiac poll cited above from April 8th-13th, and a poll back in November by Daily Kos, which showed Crist ahead by 1%, Meek in second, and Rubio third. This earlier poll was conducted before Rubio's meteoric rise; that same Kos poll also showed Crist walloping Rubio in the primary by 10 points, the last in a long series of polls showing Crist beating Rubio comfortably. But since late January, every poll shows Rubio leading Crist in the primary by double-digits.

This is hardly encouraging news for a sitting governor seeking to switch jobs and parties at the same time.

Finally, here is an amusing piece by Chris Cillizza in his Washington Post column the Fix: "Why Charlie Crist is no Joe Lieberman." I particularly like this section:

* Standing on principle: In the wake of his loss to Lamont, most general election voters attributed the defeat to the fact that Lieberman refused to back away from his support for the war in Iraq -- a position he cast as a stand on principle. (Liberal Democrats would almost certainly disagree with that characterization but it was the prevailing perception among many Connecticut voters.) Losing on principle made Lieberman a sympathetic -- and hence electable -- candidate in a general election. Crist will have a harder time making the "principled stand" justification if he switches as it will have come after months of polling showing him with next-to-no path to victory in the Republican primary against Rubio. If he does switch, expect Crist to make some sort of "I didn't leave the party, the party left me" appeal to independent voters but Rubio is doing everything he can to frame a Crist switch in the most crass political terms possible. [Emphasis on last phrase added]

Well... can anyone think of more creditable terms than "crass political" to describe Crist's road-to-Damascus conversion to Independent?

I stand by my pronunciamento: Crist would be a fool to run as an independent. But of course, there are fools in the world.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 23, 2010, at the time of 2:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 22, 2010

The Coming Conflagration: the Inevitable Ground War Against Iran

Hatched by Dafydd

The mullocracy of Iran has made brutally clear that they will not be satisfied with anything less than a full-scale, intercontinental war against the West, which means (certainly to them) against the United States of America. And in the process of sending this message, they have humiliated and cuckolded our weak and frankly delusional president, Barack H. Obama: His policy of "engagement" -- which appears to comprise begging and pleading with Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be his Facebook friend -- lies in ruins; in the process, he has made America the laughingstock of the ummah.

Yes, for all his faults, I certainly miss the muscular foreign policy of George W. Bush.

This is what I'm talking about:

Iran is increasing its paramilitary Qods force operatives in Venezuela while covertly continuing supplies of weapons and explosives to Taliban and other insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the Pentagon's first report to Congress on Tehran's military.

The report on Iranian military power provides new details on the group known formally as the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), the Islamist shock troops deployed around the world to advance Iranian interests. The unit is aligned with terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, North Africa and Latin America, and the report warns that U.S. forces are likely to battle the Iranian paramilitaries in the future.

The Qods force "maintains operational capabilities around the world," the report says, adding that "it is well established in the Middle East and North Africa and recent years have witnessed an increased presence in Latin America, particularly Venezuela."

So in response to all of the Obamacle's "diplomacy" towards Iran; in response to all the apologies he has made them about America the bully, the unilateral concessions to Russia on sanctions, the heavy-handed pressure on Israel to capitulate to the Palestinians; in response to every Eid and Ramadan greeting Obama has extended to "the Iranian people;" and in particular, in response to the clear policy statement that we will not attack Iran for any reason, and that we shall sit idly by and let them get their nukes... Iran's response to this appeasement is to send even more special forces to our own backyard.

Thank you, Mr. Hope N. Change.

The benefit to Venezuela President-for-Life Oogo Chavez of an infusion of highly trained, brutal, and very combat experienced "shock troops" is obvious: Chavez rules by terror, but the Venezuelan military is frankly pathetic. In particular, Venezuela's next-door neighbor, America-friendly Colombia, has a significantly better trained and better funded military -- according to the CIA World Factbook, Colombia spends about $13.6 billion annually on its military, three times the $4.2 billion spent by Venezuela; and while Colombia President Álvaro Uribe Vélez has his own internal problems fighting the Marxist insurgency -- Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) -- I suspect that Oogo Chavez must deploy a lot more of his military just to maintain his barbarous rule.

Chavez needs military aid, which the Iranian pact supplies him; but what does Ahmadinejad get? Venezuela is not a Moslem country, nor will it ever be. It's nowhere near Iran, and there is no ideological connection between them, other than hatred of America. And while Venezuela has a lot of oil, so does Iran and hardly needs any crude from Oogo.

That one shared trait then must logically be the answer: The only reason for Iran to send Qods-Force troops to Venezuela is to threaten or attack the United States:

The report gives no details on the activities of the Iranians in Venezuela and Latin America. Iranian-backed terrorists have conducted few attacks in the region. However, U.S. intelligence officials say Qods operatives are developing networks of terrorists in the region who could be called to attack the United States in the event of a conflict over Iran's nuclear program.

Qods force support for extremists includes providing arms, funding and paramilitary training and is not constrained by Islamist ideology. "Many of the groups it supports do not share, and sometimes openly oppose, Iranian revolutionary principles, but Iran supports them because they share common interests or enemies," the report says.

George W. Bush, I believe, once said (if I may paraphrase) that the difference between the Vietnam war and the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis is that unlike in Vietnam, if we retreat from the jihadis, they will follow us home and continue the war on American soil. In 2001, al-Qaeda proved it.

It's pretty clear this is exactly the situation we see in Latin America: Under President B.O., we have (in Iran's view) fled the battleground. As Lee Smith discusses extensively in his book on Arab culture, the Strong Horse, the reaction this provokes in the Moslem world is not one of sympathy for the vanquished but rather the bloodthirsty desire to follow and utterly destroy the beaten foe. "Mercy" only has meaning within the ummah as a (possible) response to "submission."

Even though Persian Iran is not Arab, its Moslem culture and history of empire cause it to react just the same: Ahmadinejad unquestionably believes that Iran is the "strong horse," America the weak horse. In his world, once the Iranian people realize how the power has changed with the passing of the Bush administration, they will quickly regroup behind the new strong horse. Thus, when we retreat and submit to Iranian demands and insults, not only does Obama encourage Iran to project yet greater force into the Western hemisphere, buddying up to our greatest enemy in Latin America; but the One We Have Been Regretting Already also manages to strengthen the hand of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad within Iran itself. Obama executes a perfect double-play -- against America.

The latest aggression in Venezuela hardly occurs in a vacuum. Iran has repeatedly attacked American forces, both indirectly and directly, for decades, going all the way back to the hostage crisis of 1979. Attacks continue to the present day:

  • In response to military intelligence that Iranian troops had infiltrated southern Iraq, President Bush responded forcefully; from 2006 to 2008, we captured a number of Qods Force officers and other personnel.

    In July of last year, President Obama ordered five of the most senior Qods Force detainees released from custody and handed over to the Iraqis to be returned to Iran. The president never really explained what he hoped to accomplish by such blatant appeasement. It was not reciprocated by the mullahs.

  • We fought a long and ultimately successful campaign against Iran's biggest puppet within Iraq, Muqtada Sadr, driving him to exile in Iran; there he remains, so far as I know -- hunkered down in the holy city of Qom (217th holiest city in all of Islam!)
  • Iran also gave powerful explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) to Shiite insurgents in Iraq, along with Qods Force trainers and commando leaders; EFPs are powerful enough even to rip apart our Abrams main battle tanks.
  • Iran has also been supplying Afghan insurgents with high-powered and technologically sophisticated weaponry with which to fight not only the democratic Afghan government (democratic by the standards of the "non-integrating gap") but also the American military forces prosecuting the Afghanistan counterinsurgency (COIN) under the command of Gen. Stanley McChrystal:

    Qods forces in Afghanistan are working through nongovernmental organizations and political opposition groups, the report says. Tehran also is backing insurgent leaders Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Ismail Khan.

    "Arms caches have been recently uncovered [in Afghanistan] with large amounts of Iranian-manufactured weapons, to include 107 millimeter rockets, which we assess IRGC-QF delivered to Afghan militants," the report says, noting that recent manufacture dates on the weapons suggest the support is "ongoing."

    "Tehran's support to the Taliban is inconsistent with their historic enmity, but fits with Iran's strategy of backing many groups to ensure that it will have a positive relationship with the eventual leaders," the report says.

  • Most recently, Iran transferred Scud missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon; that branch of Hezbollah is nominally controlled by Syria, operating under the direction of Iran. The Scuds have a range of 435 miles and are quite accurate, in contrast to the rockets Hezbollah has been shooting at Israeli cities recently, which have a maximum range of 60 miles (and very little accuracy at even half that distance). This brings nearly all of Israel within Hezbollah's range, including Tel Aviv, Israel's second-largest city with a population of nearly 400,000... and the natural target, as the capital and most populous city, Jerusalem, is also holy to Moslems (the 355th holiest city in all of Islam!)

    It was this same Lebanese branch of Hezbollah that directly slaughtered 241 American Marines, sailors, and soldiers (along with 58 French paratroopers) in the Beirut barracks bombing of 1983. Qods Forces also likely had a hand in the terrorist attack on Americans at the Khobar Towers in 1996, killing 19 American servicemen.

Bluntly put, Iran is already at war with America, Israel, and the West, and has been since 1979. In response to Obama's policy of Neville-Chamberlain like capitulation, it has only gotten more aggressive, belligerent, and intractable. And just like the last evil empire we defeated, Iran has boldly moved its military forces into our hemisphere to threaten or even outright attack the United States homeland, secure in the knowledge that even if they did, the only response likely from the Obama administration would be a public tongue-lashing -- followed by a furious fusillade of indictments.

Only two possible endings exist to this buildup of Qods Force in Venezuela and around the world: Either we ultimately go to all-out war against Iran and defeat it, overthrow Ahmadinejad, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and the mullahs, and and "drain the swamp" by democratizing Persia (same caveat about "democracy")... or else Iran goes to all-out war first and defeats us. If we respond by retreating in panic and confusion, then we cede the entire Middle East to what will become an Iranian Caliphate... a crescent stretching from the pyramids of Egypt to the minarets of Istanbul, across the Hindu Kush to Islamabad, encompassing the aptly named Persian Gulf, and with colonies and outposts speckled across Africa, India, and Latin America.

I know which option our current Capitulator in Chief will choose; through Secretary of Defense (and neutered Republican) Robert Gates, Obama has already signalled his intentions: He intends to do nothing:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates recently played down the growing Iranian influence in the Chavez government. Asked about Iran's ties to Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, Mr. Gates said, "I think it makes for interesting public relations on the part of the Iranians, the Venezuelans."

"I certainly don't see Venezuela at this point as a military challenge or threat," Mr. Gates said during a visit to the region.

Well, neither do the rest of us, Mr. G.! Neither is Syria, to pick another small ally of the enemy.

Iran itself, however, is a different question, one that Gates should not have begged with a snark: Iran has "the largest missile force in the Middle East" (the Moslem Middle East, one presumes the Washington Times means) and borders the Persian Gulf and the Straight of Hormuz, through which much of the world's oil passes -- including most of the Middle-East oil we buy to fill the gap left by our truculent refusal to responsibly develop our own oil, natural gas, and coal fields. Iran has already overtly threatened, if attacked, to sink a tanker or two in the Straight to shut down all the Western economies, possibly for years. (I wonder: If Iran carried out its horrific threat, then could we drill in ANWR and the Gulf of Mexico?)

Oh yes, and I almost forgot; there's also that pesky "nuclear warhead atop a Shahab-3 missile" problem. That might complicate a war with Iran two or three years from now.

Fortunately, I don't think Iran will be ready to launch such a cataclysmic attack before 2013, so we still have a chance to make the only sane decision and launch a pre-emptive war. (By "pre-emptive," I mean like our other putatively pre-emptive war in Iraq, in which we finally responded to the latest casus belli after twenty years of provocation.)

The Herman Option is more difficult now; evidently, somebody on the Guardian Council staff reads Big Lizards, and Iran has been building more gasoline refineries and trying to strengthen its existing facilities against attack. But the option is still available -- at a somewhat greater human cost than if George W. Bush had acted before leaving office, as he promised he would. I suggest that now is the time to take it; that door may no longer be open for the next president.

Instead, Obama's legacy will be to force us to use a much longer, more expensive, and tremendously bloodier invasion of Persia proper, fighting against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the IRG Qods Force, and Hezbollah in Iran, Syria, and Lebanon. Call that the "no-option Obama mandate."

That is, if we have any money left after four years of Obamunism.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 22, 2010, at the time of 3:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 21, 2010

The Quiet Libertarians

Hatched by Dafydd

The Supreme Court of the United States just issued a rare (these days) 8-1 ruling; even more interesting, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion -- and the lone dissenter was Justice Samuel Alito.

The facts are interesting but ultimately irrelevant, as the real issue is freedom of speech vs. propriety and empathy: A man who sold videos depicting animal cruelty, likely for a sick form of pornography called a "crush fetish" -- in which viewers are sexually aroused by seeing people crush various inanimate objects, invertibrates, and even live mammals -- was arrested under a 1999 federal law that made trafficking in such videos a felony. Robert J. Stevens was convicted and sentenced to 37 months in the stripey hole, but the 3rd Circus Court of Appeals (in Philadephia) struck down the law as unconstitutional in 2008; today the Supreme Court affirmed that decision.

It was a First Amendment case with a very unsavory and sleazy defendant, so it's no wonder the four Court liberals were on board. What is more surprising to veteran court-watchers is that all but one of the "conservative" justices were aboard as well:

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority in the 8-to-1 decision, said that the law had created “a criminal prohibition of alarming breadth” and that the government’s aggressive defense of the law was “startling and dangerous."

Roberts held that the First Amendment prohibited such an over-broad law as this one on grounds of freedom of speech, though he did not rule out the constitutionality of a much narrower and more specific prohibition of crush videos depicting actual abuse of animals.

I suspect that forty years ago, a paleoconservative majority would have reinstated the law, for the very reason that the minority wanted it overturned: The conservatism of earlier decades saw nothing wrong with using government power to enforce traditional morality, customs, and traditions -- just as left-liberalism saw nothing wrong with using government power to tear down those same traditions, customs, and "repressive" moral codes.

But Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement and the unexpected death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, followed by George W. Bush's appointments to take their place (Alito and Roberts), triggered a sea-change in the Court's outlook. The four constitutionalist justices (Roberts, Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas) seem to reject "big-government" conservatism, by and large, in favor of a sleeker, "small-government," libertarian vision of America -- one where the response to vile and depraved speech is not suppression but commonsensical, ethical, and rational speech:

It has been more than a quarter-century since the Supreme Court placed a category of speech outside the protection of the First Amendment. Tuesday’s resounding and lopsided rejection of a request that it do so, along with its decision in Citizens United in January — concluding that corporations may spend freely in candidate elections — suggest that the Roberts Court is prepared to adopt a robustly libertarian view of the constitutional protection of free speech.

Roberts noted that the law was so vaguely written that it could apply even to ordinary hunting videos, since some areas of the country ban hunting. Roberts argues both slippery slope and unintended consequences; his bias is against banning speech of any kind, though as noted, he will accept bans that are very, very narrowly construed and precisely tailored. He opposes the open-ended prohibitions preferred by activist judges and justices.

Thus, the high Court has ruled by an overwhelming margin that freedom of speech covers even repugnant speech, so long as the speech isn't an integral element in the commission of an underlying crime... which sounds obvious but has all too oft been ignored, forgotten, or deliberately stomped into the dust by earlier courts, congresses, and presidents. Under one of President Barack H. Obama's Democratic predecessors, Woodrow Wilson, Congress even banned speech that was merely critical of the federal government.

Alito's dissent appears to be that the videos in question are integral elements in the crime of animal cruelty; but the law as written was so broad it would probably cover even animation, as well as Roberts' example of hunting videos:

The government argued that depictions showing harm to animals were of such minimal social worth that they should receive no First Amendment protection at all. Chief Justice Roberts roundly rejected that assertion. “The First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter or its content,” he wrote.

The chief justice acknowledged that some kinds of speech -- including obscenity, defamation, fraud, incitement and speech integral to criminal conduct -- have historically been granted no constitutional protection. But he said the Supreme Court had no “freewheeling authority to declare new categories of speech outside the scope of the First Amendment.”

I very much like the trend. Combined with the Court's ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. ___ (2008) (striking down the D.C. handgun ban) and the Court's acceptance of certiorari in McDonald v. Chicago and NRA v. Chicago (which may "incorporate" the Second Amendment to state and local legislation), along with the aforementioned campaign-finance decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. ___ (2010), I believe we are on the brink of a new judicial era, where freedom, liberty, and personal responsibility supplant the current nanny-state. Under the ancien régime, even the possiblity of injudicious use of liberty led the powers and thrones to ban it in the name of public order.

I say hip hip, chin chin... and about bloody time. But the real test will come when the ObamaCare mandate comes before the Court. Never before has Congress passed a law ordering all Americans to purchase a specific product from a private (but government controlled) entity; I cannot imagine that such a blatantly unconstitutional law would not be found so by the four constitutionalist justices. But the big question, as always, is on which side of the bed Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swingin' justice, arose that morning.

If he agrees with Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and (I am convinced) Alito that there is no grant of rights for Congress to order Americans to buy products -- what's next, a federal mandate to buy toothpaste, fruits and vegetables, and Che Guevera t-shirts? -- and the mandate is struck down, that's wonderful. But the victory will not be complete unless the decision is broad enough to put actual teeth into Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, "the Powers of Congress": That is, it's only a great libertarian victory for America if the Court finally agrees that Congress cannot legislate in areas where it is not granted authority to legislate, even if it intones the magical spell, "regulate interstate commerce."

Making us buy insurance from companies forbidden from cross-state commerce cannot rationally be "regulating interstate commerce;" if the Left can get away with that sleight of hand, they can get away with murder. (Oh, wait -- I believe President B.O. recently ordered the summary killing of an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, thought to be a member of al-Qaeda. And note that the previous sentence would have earned me a stretch in prison under Wilson's Sedition Act of 1918.)

If tyranny is a mental disorder like addiction -- the more you dictate, the more you need to dictate -- then the first step on the road to recovery is to strictly limit the authority of Congress and the president to meddle in every state and local issue that bubbles up, as of course the Founders intended when they ratified the Constitution in the first place.

I'm glad that the Court found for freedom of speech in this case, as evil as that "speech" (video) is; I'm certain that Congress can enact a more narrow ban that remains within the constitutional purview. But I'll save my real celebrating for when the Court routinely begins telling Congress, "you've overdrawn your account at the First National Bank of Authoritarianism."

Then perhaps the Court can turn its attention to the activist "beam" in its own eye.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 21, 2010, at the time of 1:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 19, 2010

Emptying My Thimble

Hatched by Dafydd

Over on my favorite blog, Power Line, Scott "Big Johnson" Trunk has a series of posts called something like "emptying my spindle." The phrase, for those of you younger than Scott (i.e., born after 1907), a spindle is a vicious spike sticking up out of a flat base; the idea -- horrific even to imagine in today's Nerfworld -- is to take important memos (printed on paper!) in one's hand and jam them onto the spike with a lusty whack, where they will stick... along with your hand, if your aim be unsteady. Having been "dealt with," said memos are promptly forgotten until until Doomsday.

To empty or clear one's spindle is thus to go through one's old business and respond belatedly to urgent matters that should have been taken care of months ago. Scott uses the phrase to mean going back through his voluminous file of posts he meant to make but didn't, and write some quick and pithy abstract of his thoughts on the subject, jamming two or three hundred essays into a single post, like a fossil-rich sediment layer.

Well, I don't have a spindle-full of such ancient pith, but I think I can scrape together at least a thimble-full of comtemporary stories about which I have a milliliter or so of fresh pith. So here goes nothing!

A man, a plan, a genocide -- Ahmadinejad!

Secretary of Defense and Bush leftover Robert Gates says President Barack H. Obama has no plan for what to do when Iran gets its nukes. Doesn't that make your chest swell with ideological pride?

A memo from Defense Secretary Robert Gates to the White House warned that the United States lacks a nimble long-term plan for dealing with Iran's nuclear program, according to a published report.

Gates wrote the three-page memo in January and it set off efforts in the Pentagon, White House and intelligence agencies to come up with new options, including the use of the military, The New York Times said in its Sunday editions, quoting unnamed government officials.

But of course, now that Obama's own SecDef has called attention to the gaping hole in our nuclear policy -- whoops, forgot all about that Iran thing -- surely the White House is rushing to rework our strategic posture to take into account this fairly likely scenario, yes? Well, not exactly:

White House officials Saturday night strongly disagreed with the comments that the memo caused a reconsideration of the administration's approach to Iran.

"It is absolutely false that any memo touched off a reassessment of our options," National Security Council spokesman Benjamin Rhodes told The Associated Press. "This administration has been planning for all contingencies regarding Iran for many months."

Ah, contingencies. So what contingencies are in place to deal with a nuclear Iran?

One senior official described the memo as "a wake-up call," the paper reported. But the recipient of the document, Gen. James Jones, President Barack Obama's national security adviser, told the newspaper in an interview that the administration has a plan that "anticipates the full range of contingencies."

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell, who did not confirm the memo Saturday night, said the White House has reviewed many Iran options.

"The secretary believes the president and his national security team have spent an extraordinary amount of time and effort considering and preparing for the full range of contingencies with respect to Iran," Morrell said.

Well, that certainly clears the air!

This is one area where President Obama actually has an opinion beyond voting "present." The man is so pure and adamant in his hatred of nuclear weapons that he refuses -- on principle, one must surmise -- to think about them... even to the extent of how to respond if the world's most beligerent and most anti-democratic, and most Jew-hating regime on the planet perfects them. To plan a response is to accept the existence of atoms, which is anathema to the Obamacle.

Rather, the administration's policy appears to be cajole, beg, threaten... wash, rinse, and repeat, ad infinitum. And if Iran doesn't listen?

Gates and other senior members of the administration have issued increasingly stern warnings to Iran that its nuclear program is costing it friends and options worldwide, while sticking to the long-held view that a U.S. or Israeli military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities would be counterproductive.

See? "Stern warnings": They do have a plan after all.

Renewing his bows

Speaking of the One Himself, Barack Obama has been bowing recently to all and sundry. From the Heisei emperor of Japan, Akihito, to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, to President Hu Jintao of China, Obama has groveled to them all.

This chaps my hide. What's next... will our president crawl on his hands and knees, scourging and debasing himself (or more likely George W. Bush) in penance for America's sins?

But I tell you this: The day Obama bows to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, I will forever refer to the Windy City community oorganizer as "President Hussein."

You may think it petty; I see it as symbolic... let the world know that he will have chosen up sides.

The mad tea-bash

Bill Clinton, in a fit of retro triangulation cleverly timed to remind us why we really don't miss that administration, has just equated tea-party rallies to the Oklahoma City bombing:

"What we learned from Oklahoma City is not that we should gag each other or that we should reduce our passion for the positions we hold - but that the words we use really do matter, because there's this vast echo chamber, and they go across space and they fall on the serious [read: Democrats] and the delirious [Republicans] alike. They fall on the connected [liberals] and the unhinged [neo-conservative running-dog imperialists] alike," he said.

He warns the country against that lunatic fringe of "tea partiers" who hurl incendiary rhetoric like "Taxed Enough Already" and "repeal the bill." But here's the point missed by throwback leftists such as Mr. C.:

"I'm glad they're fighting over health care and everything else. Let them have at it. But I think that all you have to do is read the paper every day to see how many people there are who are deeply, deeply troubled," he said.

He also alluded to the anti-government tea party movement, which held protests in several states Thursday. At the Washington rally, Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota railed against "gangster government."

Clinton argued that the Boston Tea Party was in response to taxation without representation. The current protesters, he said, are challenging taxation by elected officials, and the demonstrators have the power to vote them out of office.

No, actually, they don't; at least in most states, voters cannot recall their U.S. senators and representatives willy nilly as they please (nor do I wish they could). To set the record straight, we have the power to vote some of them out of office six months from now... but not right now.

Alas, in the upcoming demi-year, the Progressivist supermajority can do incalculable and irreversible damage to the United States of America. And we haven't even mentioned the horror that will attend the lame-duck session following the election, when scores of Democrats will know that their careers are ruined anyway... so why not be hanged for an entire abattoir of swine as be hanged for a single sheep?

Clinton says he isn't asking for us to censor ourselves, just tone down the demands; but freedom of speech includes not only the right to present the case for fiscal sanity, but also the right to do so colorfully and dramatically.

When the Left regularly drops F-bombs and N-words, plays the race card like a permanent joker, flashes its get out of jail free card to be exempt from all consequences of its actions and its own violent rhetoric, and encourages its members to confabulate wild, unsubstantiated urban legends for no reason other than to paint Republicans as ogres and cannibals... then why should the anti-Left be restricted to mild, hesitant argumentation, accompanied by much apology and forelock tugging?

I say, unconstrain your rhetoric, so long as you target the real culprits. Let the Left start responding with rational and logical debate, instead of special pleading and threats. Let a thousand points of light bloom. That may not be the Chicago way, but it's the American way.

Frame by frame

I had a fascinating revelation yesterday, what I shall call an "utterly obvious profundity."

Sachi and I were driving through an old section of town, one that was more or less intact from the twenties and thirties. As I looked at the buildings, I abruptly realized something: That world really was just as colorful and three-dimensional as today's. It's just that our only visual window into that world -- movies -- has a narrow aperature and happens to be in black and white.

While Cagney and Bogie and all the rest pursue their violent courses within a noir world of shadow, the real inhabitants of that spacetime locus wandered through the same colors, more or less, as we do today. (By the same token, when Enrico Casuso sang, his voice was not scratchy and drowned out by vinyl or wax hiss; that is simply an artifact of the recording medium.)

Perhaps this just proves my own banality; but I believe more people than myself subconsciously envison yesteryear as we've always seen it on late-night TV: grainy, black and white, occasionally silent, always narrowly constrained to the TV's dimensions... and constantly interrupted by adverts for Cal Worthington and his dog Spot.

My thimble is empty. Tally ho.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 19, 2010, at the time of 5:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 17, 2010

Crist Vetoes Merit Pay: "Best" Enemy of "Better?" Or Something More Troubling?

Hatched by Dafydd

On Thursday, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the education reforms passed by the Republican state legislature; the bill would have eliminated grade-school teacher tenure and instituted merit-based pay in its place:

The veto puts Mr. Crist, a moderate Republican, at odds with his party base in the Republican-controlled Legislature. His decision has also renewed speculation that he might drop out of the Republican primary for a United States Senate seat and run in the general election as an independent. For months, he has been trailing the more conservative Republican candidate, Marco Rubio, a Tea Party favorite, in polls.

Mr. Crist said Thursday that his decision was not political. He cited "the incredible outpouring of opposition by teachers, parents, students, superintendents, school boards and legislators."

Crist is likely trying to stake out a position as the "third way" candidate in the race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. George LeMieux (R-FL, not yet rated), Crist's former chief of staff, whom he appointed to fill the remainder of Mel Martinez's Senate term.

Crist trails conservative Marco Rubio by a Real Clear Politics average of 23 points in the Republican primary; either Crist or Rubio would beat the probable Democratic nominee, Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL, 95%); but a Quinnipiac poll released yesterday indicates that if Crist ran as an independent against both Rubio and Meek, he might squeak out a narrow victory -- Crist 32%, Rubio 30, and Meek 24.

Three caveats might cause Gov. Crist to hesitate before setting off down that road:

  • 32-30 is easily within the margin of error; and Rubio's lead has been growing, not shrinking. If Crist abandons the Republican Party to run as an independent and loses anyway, he has pretty much immolated his political career.
  • A Rasmussen poll from late March -- which polls likely voters, rather than Quinnipiac's registered voters, hence is more likely to be accurate -- finds a very different picture: Rubio 42%, Meek 25, and Crist 22. Has Crist actually surged against Rubio and Meek? Or is the Quinnipiac poll fatally flawed by surveying registered voters who may not be likely voters?
  • In 2012, Florida's other Senate seat, currently held by Bill Nelson (D-FL, 95%), comes up for election. If Crist remains within the GOP and even campaigns for Marco Rubio if (when) Rubio wins the primary, then Crist can reasonably expect strong party support for him to challenge Democrat Nelson. But if he breaks with the party, runs as an independent, and loses, odds are slim that the party will welcome him back and support him two years hence.

In the end, I don't think he'll do it. But the New York Times article above speculates this is a last-ditch effort to move the meter in his direction for the Republican primary, since the education reforms he vetoed are fairly controversial.

Which is, of course, why Crist claims he vetoed them:

The bill was supported by the Florida Department of Education and statewide business groups, which expressed disappointment in the governor’s decision, saying that teachers should be held more accountable.

But the governor, announcing his veto in the Capitol in Tallahassee, said the changes envisioned would put "teachers in jeopardy of losing their jobs and teaching certificates, without a clear understanding of how gains will be measured."

Linking teacher pay to student achievement has long been a goal of some education reformers. They are mostly conservatives, but their ranks also include people in the Obama administration.

They argue that teachers should be treated like people in most professions, and paid based on how effective they are.

Let's take Crist at his word; assume he vetoed the bill because he fretted that teachers would lose their jobs "without a clear understanding of how gains will be measured." Has the governor pondered the point that no matter what anti-tenure, merit-based system is concocted, it will always be possible that some teacher might lose his job because he had no control over students' home lives and family relations? That the only realm where we can be sure that no teacher would be fired (or not given a raise) unfairly would be -- paradise itself?

In this case, "the best" may well be enemy of "the better." Assuming (for sake of argument) that Crist is not a closet liberal, unwilling under any circumstances to eliminate tenure -- a dream come true for the teachers' unions -- or pay based on actual achievement (a nightmare for the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers)... mustn't Crist at some point be willing to sign onto a conservative, market-based education reform, even if imperfect?

If so, then what is so wrong with this one?

I fear that the most obvious conclusion is correct: That Gov. Charlie Crist really is a liberal Republican, not a moderate; that he really does believe in big and bigger government; and that he has no intention of ever approving any reform that shatters the union monopoly and inviolability of teachers in the great state of Florida, fourth largest state in the union.

Ergo, it's time for Mr. Crist to return to the private sector for a refresher course in Capitalism. Any scheme to bypass the market is not only counter-economic, ushering in rising costs without a ceiling and deteriorating services with no floor, but also doomed to failure in the long run: In the long view, I believe Americans will always detect the scent of protectionism and special pleading, and vote against it.

That's why I am a political optimist; and that's why I say, it's time for Charlie Crist to go.

Cross-posted to Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 17, 2010, at the time of 12:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 15, 2010

ObamaCare Media Coverage: What's In a Verb?

Hatched by Dafydd

At first crack, this may appear to be a meaningless cavil on my part. But I think it cuts to the very heart of the leftstream news media's coverage of the "Progressive" -- that is, national socialist -- policies of President Barack H. Obama.

I read an AP story on the surprising but charming fact that, since passage of ObamaCare, support for it and the One's handling of health care in general has plummeted. This was unexpected, since normally support for a policy rises after it becomes "the law of the land."

Of course, Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) threatened that they had to pass the bill so that we could know what was in it. Well, they passed it; now we know (some but not all of) what's in it; and it's hardly surprising that with each new revelation, Americans realize anew what a huge pile of fertilizer has been dumped on their front porches.

But here is the section that jumped out at me, where AP describes the bill as enacted into law:

The nearly $1 trillion, 10-year health care remake would provide coverage to nearly all Americans while also attempting to improve quality and slow the ruinous pace of rising medical costs.

Nonpartisan congressional budget analysts say the law is fully paid for. [But see previous post. -- DaH] Its mix of Medicare cuts and tax increases, falling mainly on upper-income earners, would actually reduce the federal deficit. And people covered by large employers may even see a dip in their premiums.

The public doesn't seem to be buying it.

Whoa there, Hoss... ObamaCare provides coverage? Perhaps memory dims with age, but I seem to recall that rather than providing coverage, it mandates that everyone pay for coverage at his own expense. The only thing it provides us is yet another reason to vote Republican in November.

So AP cannot forbear cheerleading for government-controlled medicine, even in an article about Americans' rejection of government-controlled medicine! Mark Twain would be vastly entertained.

It is heartening that the public is not "buying" ObamaCare, even (especially) after passage; but to me, the great scandal is what has happened to American journalism. In many ways, it's less competent, and certainly less diverse in its bias, than at any time in America's past.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 15, 2010, at the time of 12:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Catching up... CBO Scoring: All You Can Eat, Baby!

Hatched by Dafydd

As you've probably surmised, everything anent translocation is taking much longer than we expected; as we must vacate the old reptillian presence by Thursday (that's today!), you can likely imagine the -- er, Upper Iguanan fire drill, trundling back and forth between the two domiciles toting dozens of boxes on scores of trips. All this is special pleading, of course, trying to bias your response to the post below. To quote the one-termer, "that's how we roll."

I've puzzled for days over the scoring of ObamaCare by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO); what exactly does it mean to say that a bill will reduce the deficit... when we all know, including the board of directors of the CBO, that it actually adds hideous amounts to the deficit?

The explanation is simple: The CBO must, by law, score in accordance with the assumptions provided by Congress -- rather, by the majority party in the House and Senate -- no matter how preposterous, mendacious, or insane.

Pondering this quirk of the law, I think I have come up with a good analogy to illustrate its absurdity. Suppose you decide upon a weight-loss program. You visit a reputable doctor, describe your new diet, and ask him to estimate how many pounds you will lose in the next six months. You say:

  • My new diet is called the Pizza and Cheesecake Freakout Diet; I eat nothing but those two food items.
  • I will eat only one half of one slice of pizza and one tablespoon of cheesecake per day... nothing else.
  • I will spend six hours each day in the gym, seven days a week, vigorously exercising -- I will burn 3,000 calories a day doing so.
  • How many pounds will I lose by October, Doc?

By some bizarre section of the medical licensing regulations, the doctor is barred from questioning any of the assumptions you gave him. In theory, then, he could calculate how many calories you claim you will consume, subtract how many you say you will burn in the gym, subtract the calories you burn simply by daily existence, multiply by 182 days, divide the total by 3,500 calories per pound -- and tell you the absurd answer of how many pounds you will "lose"... probably 200 or somesuch.

He knows it's nonsense, but he is forbidden from using more accurate figures. His only choices are to give you the fantasy answer you clearly desire, perhaps enabling you to get some job that has an upper weight limit or some other scam... or else quit the medical profession.

But why would the law require the CBO to operate under such ridiculous constraints? Let me rephrase the question: Why would Congress force the CBO to accept Congress' own bogus assumptions? Why wouldn't Congress allow the CBO to second-guess the legislators instead? Put this way, I believe the question is self-answering.

My guess is that many of the economists working at the CBO are frothing at the mouth, wishing they could make a real projection of what ObamaCare will do to the federal deficit. But of course, they can: All they need do is quit their phony-baloney government jobs and go to work for the Heritage Foundation!

Here's hoping that they all simultaneously come to their senses; admit that money and prestige are less important than truth, a reputation for integrity and competence, and good public policy; and resign en masse. A forlorn hope is better than no hope at all.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 15, 2010, at the time of 9:07 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 12, 2010

Anals of Relocation 003: Back Online

Hatched by Dafydd

A quick note to declare we survived translocation relatively intact. I have restored (some) online connection; haven't rebuilt the entire LAN here, but at least I connected a laptop... I'll just pretend I'm on holiday in a foreign land, where I must use portable means of internet communications.

I will make a real post later today; for right now, this is it. But keep watching the skies...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 12, 2010, at the time of 10:58 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 10, 2010

Anals of Relocation 002

Hatched by Dafydd

My word, but one never realizes just how many barnacles one has collected until one attempts to move.

We have already carted out about forty banker's boxes, mostly filled with books; yet we still haven't completely cleared the decks for moving the bookcases, let alone the bed, couch, and other furniture. Which we're doing tomorrow... yikes!

One of our (now empty) bookcases is so tall and wide that the only way the delivery guys could get it inside in the first place (several years ago) was to haul it up and over the balcony; and that looks to be the only way to get it out now, or rather the reverse. I toyed with the madcap idea of doing it ourselves; but by the time I'd investigated the high tensile-strength rope we would need and mulled how I could anchor myself to the sliding glass door, I realized just buying the materials to lower the 150 lb bookcase would be a significant fraction of the cost of simply hiring professional movers to come up, spend an hour or so, and just move the dad-burned thing themselves.

Mercifully, logic dictates that we move everything else ourselves, but allow the movers -- who are insured, mind -- to schlep the fershlugginer bookcase down a flight of air.

I see that the aptly-named Stupak has opted out of standing for reelection; evidently, it would have demanded too much "exertion." Gad, if that's the criterion, Sachi and I would have resigned in the middle of the move days ago!

The tough part tomorrow -- later today, actually -- is that we have to disconnect all the computers, the cable modem, the TV, cable box, DVRs, VCRs, and such here... then reassemble them all in the new venue; yet we must await the pleasure of the cable guy before we can do so. They're supposed to come between one and three p.m. -- but anybody who saw the Jim Carrey novie knows how secure that prediction is.

Everything may or may not work; if not, then we're offline until it does.

And while we're on the subject, our local phone company is taking its sweet, own time scheduling the big switch, when the phone lines stop working here and start working (with the same phone number) over there. In fact, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas -- before we'll have phone service restored. For the first time in my living memory, I may actually be glad I have a cell phone...

Busy, busy day upcoming; if you see a post late on Saturday, then you will know that something, at least, went right. As an eternal optimist, I'm under a lot of pressure to be optimistic; but it's awfully tough right now. I desperately need an internet connection and a DVR/TV connection; if I get those, I can live without much of the rest for a few days. If the videotape, the CD/DVD player, and the other computers survive the transit -- well, that's just gravy on the cake.

Keep watching this spot to see if we ever emerge from our dark offline of the soul.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 10, 2010, at the time of 2:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 8, 2010

New and Disturbing Under the District Sun

Hatched by Dafydd

During the tenure of President George W. Bush, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, though sometimes prickly, continued to work with the United States and other members of the "Coalition of the Willing" to defeat the Taliban and take back the country. There never was any question which side he was on.

But now, under the increasingly unstable administration of Barack H. Obama, we have come to exactly that terrible pass: As of this moment, we really cannot say for sure whether Karzai is "with us or with the terrorists."

Karzai strongly hinted that he might side with the Taliban if the Obama administration continues accusing him of corruption and rigging the recent elections in Afghanistan; in fact, he has now accused us, or the West generally, of rigging them ourselves! ("This clumsy fool tried to plant that ridiculous camera on me," as Soviet Ambassador Alexi de Sadesky says in Dr. Strangelove.)

Both charges are true; but in Oriental cultures in general, and the Moslem cultures in particular, those accusations are about as serious as accusing an American politician of catering to lobbyists and special interests. In general, in what Thomas P.M. Barnett calls the "non-integrating gap" (in his book the Pentagon's New Map), one only levels such charges against one's enemies, never against one's friends.

So by accusing Karzai of corruption and vote rigging, Obama sent the message that America no longer considers him an ally... yet another diplomatic gaffe on the part of the One We Have Begun Dreading. Hence the verbal return-fire:

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's public accusations of vote-rigging against the West are eroding support among international backers already concerned about rampant corruption in his government and are jeopardizing a major U.S. offensive in the heartland of the Taliban, analysts say....

Marvin Weinbaum, a former Afghanistan analyst at the State Department, said Mr. Karzai's comments will have grave consequences. "It is one thing to play the nationalist card, but quite another when his remarks undermine his relations with his international partners and threaten the military operation," he said.

Mr. Karzai's remarks also can be seen as bolstering the Taliban cause and confirming a belief prevalent among Afghans that Western troops seek to occupy their country, he said. "Looking at his remarks, you'd think the Taliban wrote the script," said Mr. Weinbaum, a scholar in residence at the Middle East Institute.

How could this happen? The more I read about Arab -- and by extension, Moslem -- culture and society, in Lee Smith's excellent book the Strong Horse, the clearer the reason: The utter incompetence of Obama, how he is ignored by our friends and mocked by our enemies, has convinced world leaders that our president is a "weak horse;" that in turn encourages them to seize the opportunity to carve out their own fiefdoms -- at America's expense.

In the present case, Karzai no longer has confidence that we will even continue the current Afganistan offensive to the end; he worries that when we pull out on a date certain, without regard to conditions on the ground, the Taliban will fill the vacuum. He must place a bet on one of the two horses, and he increasingly sees the Taliban as the strong horse.

Under President Bush, he never would have dared. The previous administration would never have announced a withdrawal by a specific date, nor would it have said facts on the ground would not alter its timetable. In fact, if Karzai had started going wobbly, the Bush team could have quietly noted that we already induced one regime change; and with the troops we had in place, it would be as easy as falling off a bicycle to arrange another.

But Obama, caught like a Dear Leader in the headlights, cannot think what to do, beyond talking to Karzai and reassuring him that Afghanistan is the dominant and we the submissive in this relationship. Thus, as Smith writes, we reaffirm that we are the weak horse and Karzai can safely pin horns on us, cheating and flirting with the Taliban and al-Qaeda; like a cowed Moslem wife, we can only hunker down and hope for the best.

The problem here is not one of ideology; whatever Obama's private qualms, he publicly espouses the ideology of fighting and defeating Islamic radicalism (even if his administration is afraid to use that word). Yet he governs in so amateurish and ham-fisted a way, he makes even Jimmy Carter look like an organizational prodigy:

  • His inexplicable breeches of protocol and comity among our allies, such as Great Britain and Canada, have stumped veteran foreign-policy watchers.
  • His single-minded animus against our greatest ally in the Middle East, Israel, calls into question either Obama's basic competence at good governance -- or perhaps his sanity. Even if he wants to improve relations with the Arabs (which clearly he does), even if he is a raging antisemite (which clearly, judging by his appointments and actions, he is), Israel is nevertheless a very, very strong horse in the region. Why go to such great pains to turn it into our enemy? It's bizarre -- and nerve-wracking.
  • The president seems to have no policy, no plan, not even a clue how to respond to the economic woes of the European Union, despite the fact that our interconnected, interdependent world economy guarantees that if Greece brings down the EU, America will be severely hurt as well. In fact, I don't recall him even mentioning the subject. Is he even aware that a crisis looms across the Atlantic Ocean?
  • Nor has he any notion how to deal with emerging threats, such as Venezuela, or allies drifting away from us, such as India, Pakistan, as the Eastern European countries. I'm not sure he's even noticed.
  • In negotiations, Obama was rolled by the Russians, chewed up by the Chinese, irradiated by the Iranians, and deposed by the DPRK. Even excluding the wars, I cannot think of a single foreign policy victory of which this administration can boast. Not one!
  • Not once has he taken a firm stand against our enemies; even Carter stood up to the Soviets (belatedly, but better than be-neverly) and maintained our nuclear deterrant. By contrast, Barack Obama has just announced our new nuclear policy is -- not to develop any improved nuclear weapons, even as our enemies frantically upgrade every system they have, and in particular upgrade their air defenses. Our nuclear posture can be changed on a dime; but not developing new systems means we won't have the capability to believably threaten retaliation even for nuclear attack, let alone chemical or biological warfare.

Obama's incompetence extends to his signature domestic agenda as well:

  • His clumsy efforts to nationalize health care have turned plurality support for his "reform" into majority opposition.
  • He talks of massive tax increases on business when we have 9.7% unemployment and 17.5% real unemployment (that's unemployment plus underemployment plus discouraged workers opting out of the labor pool). (Hat tip to Wolf Howling.)
  • He pushes "cap and tax" energy legislation and identical EPA regulation to stop global warming, seemingly oblivious to revelations that the science is much shakier than we have been led to believe -- and in complete defiance of a mounting consensus that we should not cripple our energy production in the midst of the deepest and longest economic dislocation since the Great Depression.
  • Despite having an overwhelming majority of Democratic supporters in the House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, the Obamacle was unable to enact most of his agenda. Only ObamaCare, and even the implementation of that is delayed far enough into the future that Republicans can probably kill it before it even begins.
  • In just a little over a year, he has turned huge approval ratings into dismal, anemic numbers that in most polls -- even Gallup! -- sulk in negative territory. (To be fair to Obama, however, while it's true his own reelection numbers are bad, at least his party is about to get shellacked in the midterms.)

My catchphrase is "Never attribute to stupidity what can adequately be explained by malice." I assume that those who hold high positions of much power are generally intelligent and competent, and therefore they intend the obvious (or odious) consequences of their policies.

For example, Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) and Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 70%) are almost certainly aware that ObamaCare will result in the destruction of the private-insurance model of American health care, forcing us into a completely government-controlled, single-payer model instead; they're not stupid, they're venal.

But in the case of Barack Hussein Obama, I honestly believe he really is as foolish and incompetent as he seems. He may also be venal; but his naïveté, fecklessness, paralogia, obtuseness, and rank incompetence at the simplest presidential tasks -- how difficult it is to let the Japanese Prime Minister stay at Blair House, rather than force his team to scramble to find rooms at Howard Johnson's? -- poses a much greater threat to the nation than mere corruption or honest "liberal fascist" tendencies.

I can't speak for the nineteeth century, whose presidential politics I know little about; but I believe it's safe to say that Obama is the most incompetent president since the turn of the twentieth. He really seems to believe that being president consists of touring the country in a four-year victory lap, giving the same speeches he gave during the campaign, and basking in the glow of success, like the last panel of a motivational cartoon tract: a beaming Barack upon a pedestal, arms akimbo, with rays of light shining out from behind him.

Sadly, this is what happens when the electorate decides to "punish" one party -- without regard to the likely consequences to the nation, or even to its own best interests. When we throw out the Democrats, and later Barack Obama himself, I sincerely hope it's not merely because we're "angry" at them. I want us to vote the scoundrels out coldly and rationally, because we have seen their national-socialist program and we want no part of it.

Otherwise, when the Republicans fail to produce paradise on planet Earth, we may whipsaw back and forth between freedom lovers and totalitarian tenderfeet. And that could be even worse for America than Obama and the Democrats themselves have been.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 8, 2010, at the time of 6:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 6, 2010

Anals of Relocation 001

Hatched by Dafydd

Note the new category of this post; we'll be using it frequently as we keep you in the loop (thus making us all loopy).

~

For the first time since the inception of the Big Lizards blogsite in 1931, we are resiting the physical facilities, buildings, and sordid premises of the corporate presence; by which I mean we're moving from the condo we live in at this moment to a real house, about 1.5 miles away. Still in the same city -- heck, still in the same zip code -- but definitely a condescension to upward mobility.

Our deadline for being out of here and into there is April 15th. I have a recurrent nagging feeling that this is also some other important deadline, but it escapes me at the moment. No matter; I'll remember what it was sometime in May.

We still have a list of things 2 do a mile high; but it used to be eight miles high, so we're making progress. Aside from running back and forth between Lamps Plus, Home Despot, and the new Lizard Central, I spent most of the day removing the stump of a hedge whose branches we had already excised.

Did you all know that it's very difficult and time consuming to remove a stump by digging and hacking at it? We pondered dynamite; but since the hedge stump is approximately 5 inches from our bedroom wall, we tabled the suggestion indefinitely.

Three hours of chopping with pick and spade, undermining the roots, savagely attacking the living thing with a powerful set of clippers, and periodically drenching the ground with water to sling mud at the grass roots not only rid us of the noisome and unwanted presence, it also qualified us for high-level employment at Organizing for America.

Nota bene: Seeing the mene mene tekel upharsin on the wall, Sachi cleverly managed to be selected for several back to back to back business trips; so whenever I use the first-person plural, be advised it's more the "royal we" than indicator of actual collaboration.

We were stuck at the house for some time, as first a glazier, then a pair of locksmiths paraded through our property, plying their trades. The glazier had to replace three panes. It was originally two panes when we bought the place; but last week, while attempting to budge a stuck front window (several successive paint jobs whose performance artists thickly coated all the window runners, aspiring to make the cover of House Paintiful), we -- that is, I -- put our elbow through the window glass.

I actually don't mind glass cuts too much: They're clean and sharp, they don't leave a ragged edge or an ugly scar, and I usually don't even feel them. But I did feel this one, as it meant one more pane in the wallet.

We paid to paint the outside, but we're planning to paint all the interiors ourselves. We have some other grandiose (Sachi's worried term) schemes:

  • Plant vegetable garden in backyard.
  • Plant flowers and such, and create a Japanese garden in one out of the way spot back there.
  • Kill the front lawn with Round Up, till it under, and landscape ourselves a Southwestern motif... spineless cacti -- I call them "prickly pro-life Democrats" -- sagebrush, wild desert flowers, and such. Maybe a dry riverbed runs through it, depending on how much patience we possess.
  • Put up a picket fence along the western boundary of the property and another, more decorative fence from the garage to the house, thus fencing in the backyard completely and allowing us to get a canine companion. (The garage-house fence posts must be driven into concrete, so maybe we'll be renting a hammer drill. Or even hiring some illegal aliens to drill through the concrete for us.) We've never done anything like this before, but it's a good time to learn.
  • We want to drywall the garage, walls and ceiling; and we can really only afford to buy the materials -- not pay for the labor. Unless we use more illegales. So we'll be doing most of it ourselves. Needless to say, we're as unexperienced at putting up drywall as we are at putting up fences. Necessity is the great teacher.

Sure, it seems like a lot; but our other motto has always been "the world is not enough." (Our other other motto is "nothing succeeds like excess;" and of course, as we have mentioned more than a hundred times on this blog, our original motto is "no pussyfooting.")

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 6, 2010, at the time of 8:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Does FCC Stand for Federal Command and Control?

Hatched by Dafydd

One of the hallmarks of Obamunism is that "due process" becomes irrelevant: Whatever the great man decides the people "need," whatever he decrees, shall become law, by hook or by crook (mostly the latter).

Thus, when Congress fails to enact Barack H. Obama's "cripple and tax" energy bill, despite staggering Democratic majorities in both houses, the president's Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, issues the very same rules that failed to gain majority support as administrative EPA regulations instead.

If the intricacies of Senate debate prevent ObamaCare from being enacted due to a potential GOP filibuster, the Obamunists in Congress concoct a scheme to misuse the reconciliation process as an end run around standard practice and due process. If even Democratic senators and representatives are reluctant, no problem; a series of bribes, including offers of federal jobs after the congressman is booted out by his irate constituents, will fix the vote right up.

Following the correct process is irrelevant... we need action, action, action! Our ends are so vital they justify any means necessary (or expedient) to enact them.

Thus, today's ruling against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in its quest to impose "net neutrality" rules on the internet was an amazing and hopeful sign that the federal courts may finally be willing to clip the wings of Obamunism, before it becomes as powerful as New Dealism did 75 years ago. And this is true regardless of whether net neutrality itself is good or bad: Today's ruling struck a blow for due process and rule of law, and against the Obamacle's penchant for rule by decree:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the FCC lacks authority to require broadband providers to give equal treatment to all Internet traffic flowing over their networks. That was a big victory for Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable company, which had challenged the FCC's authority to impose such "network neutrality" obligations on broadband providers....

The FCC now defines broadband as a lightly regulated information service. That means it is not subject to the obligations traditional telecommunications services have to share their networks with competitors and treat all traffic equally. But the FCC maintains that existing law gives it authority to set rules for information services, including net neutrality rules.

Tuesday's court decision rejected that reasoning, concluding that Congress has not given the FCC "untrammeled freedom" to regulate without explicit legal authority.

FCC Chairman Julius "Caesar" Genachowski, a crony of Obama's from their Harvard Law Review days -- meet the new boss, same as the old boss -- takes exception to the very idea that he cannot enact any regulation he deems fit. True, the FCC predictably blames George W. Bush for the ruling, since the FCC originally promulgated its order in 2008; but that only proves the will to rule as a Caesar didn't begin with the Obama administration.

But Genachowski took up the cause as soon as he was appointed; he enthusiastically supported it, and now he owns it. And it is Genachowski who now mulls ways to slalom around the federal circus court ruling, according to one of his allies:

With so much at stake, the FCC now has several options. It could ask Congress to give it explicit authority to regulate broadband. Or it could appeal Tuesday's decision.

But both of those steps could take too long because the agency "has too many important things they have to do right away," said Ben Scott, policy director for the public interest group Free Press. Free Press was among the groups that alerted the FCC to Comcast's behavior after The Associated Press ran tests and reported that the cable company was interfering with attempts by some subscribers to share files online.

The more likely scenario, Scott believes, is that the agency will simply reclassify broadband as a more heavily regulated telecommunications service. That, ironically, could be the worst-case outcome from the perspective of the phone and cable companies.

Process, schmocess; who cares what the Constitution says about the legislative branch, not the executive, having exclusive power to enact federal legislation? There are too many important things we must do right away -- we need action, action, action!

I doubt the real problem is lack of time to go through Congress and properly enact FCC authority to regulate the internet. Rather, I believe the real worry is that Congress might not do it. Republicans and some Democrats might object to the power grab, especially now, after ObamaCare and all the other government takeovers. The only time limiter is that, if this "due process" drags on long enough, we'll have a new Congress that will at the very least have much stronger Republican minorities, and could very well have a Republican majority in one or both houses.

At that point, any "net neutrality" rules will necessarily give more consideration to intellectual property rights... and rely less on the Left's hippie-mantra, "information wants to be free" -- by which they generally mean, "I want to be able to download my favorite music, books, and movies without having to pay the copyright owners a dime."

But at core, this argument is not about the merits of "net neutrality"; it is instead about whether we are to be a constitutional republic that limits what each branch of the federal government can do; or whether we are to retravel the Woodrow Wilson, liberal-fascist route of disdain for constitutional limitations in favor of pure populism... defined, as populism inevitably is, as the immediate imposition of whatever policy is popular -- among the federal government's inner circle of powerful congressmen, cabinet officials, and the president.

To heck with rule of law; and for that matter, to heck with rule by the people themselves. No need to think for yourselves, we'll tell you what you think.

Bear in mind, if the FCC can promulgate "net neutrality" rules all on its own, without any grant of authority from Congress, then why couldn't it likewise promulgate the "Fairness Doctrine" the same way? Or a rule making it illegal to broadcast "disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language" against the government -- or to undermine government policy -- à la Wilson's Sedition Act of 1918? Adios, Fox News and conservative talk radio; buenas dias, the Government Broadcasting Agency.

It's not a pretty future. But as Ebenezer Scrooge asked, is this the future that will be, or only a future that may be? As an optimist, I opt for the latter; the future is never fixed and can always be changed if we change our own ways.

We'll have a perfect opportunity to demonstrate such hope and change on November 2nd.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 6, 2010, at the time of 3:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 5, 2010

Obamunism in Action: Gaming School Funding

Hatched by Dafydd

As part of its ongoing project to taint and corrupt every element of federal policy, the administration of President Barack H. Obama has started gaming school funding... literally: It initiated a "contest," called Race to the Top, that states could enter to pick up a jackpot in federal education grants. But rather than base the awards on, for example, the ability of different states actually to educate students, they had another set of winning criteria in mind:

Officials from several states criticized the scoring of the contest, which favored states able to gain support from 100 percent of school districts and local teachers’ unions for Obama administration objectives like expanding charter schools, reworking teacher evaluation systems and turning around low-performing schools.

Marshalling such support is one thing for a tiny state like Delaware, with 38 districts, they said, and quite another for, say, California, with some 1,500.

Delaware was one of only two winners, the other being Tennessee.

“It was like the Olympic Games, and we were an American skater with a Soviet judge from the 1980s,” Mr. Ritter said [Gov. Bill Ritter of Colorado].

If the Obamacle intends to be as fair and impartial between local schools and the teachers' unions as he was between General Government Motors and the UAW, or between the needs of state and local governments (and America in general) on the one hand versus the SEIU on the other, then I think we have a pretty clear idea what sort of "educational reform" Voyage to the Bottom of the Ethical Sea will flog.

Obama and his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, may have yet another game in mind anent their funding X-prize:

Administration officials say they consider last week’s outcome a splendid success. By awarding only $100 million to Delaware and $500 million to Tennessee, Mr. Duncan retained $3.4 billion to dole out to up to 15 winning states in September, weeks before the midterm elections -- a political bonus that officials insist is mere serendipity.

Too, for the next round of funding, Secretary Duncan has added a new twist: all the federal flavor, but only two-thirds the funding calories -- and even that spread over four years. The new grants will be capped and amortized, giving states much less money, dribbled out very slowly... but with the same federal takeover of previously locally controlled school districts:

“That’s a lot of money, and we need it,” said [South Carolina] superintendent of education, Jim Rex. “But spread it over four years, with all the federal expectations that come with it, and you have to ask whether you have the time and capacity to gear up again for the arduous work of filing a new proposal. We’re still weighing that.”

To egregiously paraphrase Mark Twain, there is something satisfying about federal grants: One gets such wholesale return of control for such a trifling investment of funding.

I suppose that after the federal takeover of GM and Chrysler, insurance giant IAG, hundreds of banks and savings & loans, health care, and the entire student-loan system, it was inevitable that the lidless eye of Obamunism would turn its hungry gaze upon the American public-school system. Imagine, thousands of local school districts that Barack Obama doesn't personally control, whose students he cannot extort for his reelection and recruit into the revolutionary brigades for national socialism! Something simply must be done about that.

But I don't think this seizure will be as successful as the recent vote on ObamaCare; for one thing, even Democrats -- albeit lame-duck Democratic governors, like Bill Ritter of Colorado -- are fighting to preserve the rights and authorities of states over their own local school districts:

“People judging our application may not have appreciated that in the West there is a great deal of local control,” he said. “Many tiny school districts don’t like federal mandates. So even as I believe that school reform is important for our country, it’s also important that people in Washington understand that one size doesn’t fit all.”

By the way, Ritter decided not to run for reelection; the latest Rasmussen poll (a month ago) shows Republican former congressman Scott Innis leading Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, by six points. Similarly, Rasmussen shows the Republican winning the U.S. Senate seat for every matchup they polled. The times they are a-changin'.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 5, 2010, at the time of 1:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Drumbeat Grows Louder: Petraeus for President?

Hatched by Dafydd

I sincerely believe Gen. David Petraeus is sincere: He really, really, really doesn't want to run for president.

But that's not the point, is it? Who but a dyed in the rib politician would eagerly seek a job that requires one to be "on call" 24-7, for a minimum of four years and perhaps eight? That feels like being the molten material battered between hammer and anvil? Who but a career power-monger would actually enjoy being the last word on what Americans want, need, and shall get? Who but a certifiable loon could actually desire all that pressure, responsibility, accountability; all the lies, the remorse, the grief; the heavy weight of history, and the delicious poison of power?

The question with Petraeus is not whether he wants to do it, or is running to do it -- but whether he would be willing to do it if prevailed upon by enough respected women and men on both sides the aisle. Despite all his denials and flat refusals, he has never yet said that he would not serve, even if his country desperately needed him.



Gen. David Petraeus

General confusion

Even the Daily Telegraph has noticed, in its article titled "David Petraeus for President: Run General, run":

The problem is that Petraeus appears to have no desire to be commander-in-chief. His denials of any political ambition have come close to the famous statement by General William Sherman. The former American Civil War commander, rejecting the possibility of running for president in 1884 by stating: "I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected."

Close, but no cigar. By the way, our chums across the "pond" (by which one means the Atlantic Ocean) appear to have taken that quotidian quotation from Bartlett's, refusing to succumb to the more elegant version usually attributed -- without citation -- to William Tecumseh Sherman:

If drafted, I will not run; if nominated, I will not accept; if elected, I will not serve.

I don't care if he didn't actually say it that way; he should have.

The conundrum for Petraeus is this: If it becomes clear that Americans truly yearn for a non-politician as president -- following the most political, partisan, and most unAmerican president in American history -- how then can patriot Petraeus refuse? There literally is nobody else with his stature, nobody else whose reluctant acquiesence would instantly vault him to front-runner status and open the floodgates of campaign contributions. Beside David Petraeus, all other pretenders to the throne (including the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave) shrink to the stature of Miguelito Quixote Loveless... or for those with no cultural memory, the size of "Mini-Me."

And yet -- we don't know the first thing about Petraeus' political opinions! For all we now, he could be another Eric Shinseki or Colin Powell, eager to further the "Europeanization" of America and knife Republicans -- and Tea-Party activists -- in the back. Yet somehow, I doubt it; I think that if Gen. Petraeus were free to tell us what he truly believes, he would be neither a liberal nor a conservative, and certainly not a Dick Cheney "neoconservative" (which I mostly find myself being), but rather a Tea Partier... whose motto would be "Taxed Enough Already," and who would be horrified by what the Left has done to his country.

I don't know if he will come 'round to accepting the plea from hoi polloi and politico alike, or whether, like Caesar, he will refuse it three times. (I hope not the latter; it didn't do J.C. a bit of good to be so dismissive.) But I have little enough interest in the professed and eager candidates already announced or rumored to be waiting in the wings that I would dearly love to roll the bones with Dr. Gen. David Howell Petraeus, PhD... if for no other reason than I would be bewitched, bothered, and bemused at the mismatch of the presidential debates between B.O. and CENTCOM.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 5, 2010, at the time of 2:50 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► April 1, 2010

On Jihad, Terrorism, Democratization, and the Strong Horse

Hatched by Dafydd

I've been reading the wonderful Lee Smith book the Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations; I just came across the following passage on pages 55-56:

The United States is hated [in the Arab Moslem world] not because of what it does, or because of what it is. The United States is hated for what it is not, not Arab and not Muslim. America plays the part of the utterly alien force that puts the Arabs at existential risk unless they cohere as one. The United States is the most powerful embodiment of the non-Arab other, and as any tribe is galvanaized by the present threat of its rivals, anti-Americanism is the easiest method available to consolidate the Arabs and create consensus. Fear of the outsider clarifies Arabism, and war against him unifies the whole -- or in Nasser's formulation, "No voice louder than the cry of battle."

...

This is not something that's generally accepted in American press and policy circles, where the governing assumption is that the regimes are single-handedly responsible for inciting their people against America. The general thesis goes something like this: To deflect attention away from their corruption and incompetence and lay the blame elsewhere, Arab rulers use mosques, media and educational systems to brainwash an otherwise-moderate Arab citizenry that would naturally be predisposed to like the United States were it not for the incitement of their rulers. This narrative is so widely accepted that the Bush administration based its democratization strategy upon it: If Washington could circumvent the regimes and speak directly with the Arabs themselves, then it could make plain that America was not their enemy. This was a delusion. Nasser and his Arab nationalist followers have connected with the Arab masses, while the United States has failed, because Arab nationalism is a variation on a theme with which they were already familiar and comfortable -- resistance to the West, or opposition to another tribe. [Blue emphasis added.]

I don't know whether Smith is saying that one of the arguments often made in support of democratization -- that it would lead to less anti-Americanism in the Middle East -- is delusional; or if he believes there is no other possible argument in support of democratization, so the policy itself is delusional. But if the latter, I strongly disagree.

I support democratization, but not for the facile reason that it would somehow make Arabs and other third-worlders begin to like America. I've never made that argument and I don't believe it. Rather, I support democratization for reasons very ably defended by Thomas P.M. Barnett in his seminal work the Pentagon's New Map. (Barnett himself is a Democrat, I believe, and I don't think he supported the Bush administration's democratization policy; but he clearly supports shifting pre-modern nations towards modernity.)

To perhaps oversimplify, I believe that rule by tyranny, terror, and violent oppression of the masses leads to a "great divorce" (to misappropriate a term) between government and people. That divorce leads to a larger disconnect from society, especially by young males. And that social disconnect leads directly to violence, terrorism, and jihad.

When young males feel "apartness" from their society, it's very easy to dehumanize its members... which is required before someone can bring himself to slaughter children, women, and innocent men. Contempt and dehumanization lie behind every mass slaughter in human history, from the mass execution of prisoners, to Stalinism, Naziism, Pol Potism, and of course the 9/11 massacre: If one's victims are not even human beings, but soulless animals, demons, or zombies instead, then it's easy to assuage one's conscience at doing something against which sane people naturally recoil.

Remove the wellspring of alienation that nurtures such dehumanization, and you necessarily reduce the level of violence, terrorism, and jihad.

Paradoxically, the terrorism ends up being directed not just against the repressive regimes themselves but also against their enemies, America and Israel. This is where Smith has it exactly right, it seems to me: Because we -- America, Israel, and the West -- are the perennial outsiders, we will always be the targets. But if there was simply less terrorist violence, there would necessarily be less terrorist violence directed against us.

And if there was less of a disconnect between state and subject, there would be less terrorist violence.

And if the state was less repressive and more responsive, there would be less of a disconnect; the great divorce would be partially healed... and that is the whole point of democratization: to wrench Arab nations and Iran, among others, from what Barnett calls the "Non-Integrating Gap" into the "Functioning Core," from "unstable leadership and absence from international trade" (I quote from the Wikipedia entry for the Pentagon's New Map) to "economic interdependence." Or as I would put it, from antiquity to modernity.

That is why I support democratization, even while rejecting the argument Smith cites; the two are not intertwined but only mistaken for each other.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 1, 2010, at the time of 2:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tea Partiers Draw Their Foot in the Sand

Hatched by Dafydd

In an event that has been widely reported by every member of the antique media -- well, actually the only place that seems to care enough even to mention it is Newsmax.com -- results from an online survey by ContractFromAmerica.com were released today as the Tea Party's "Contract From America."

Of course, since there is no national Tea Party authority, this is not a platform the same way that the 1994 Contract With America was, under the guiding hand of then-House Minority Leader Newt Gingrich and other congressional Republicans; but as the current Contract From America (CFA) was drafted via 365,000 responses to the website, what it lacks in political authority it regains as the manifesto of the Tea Parties' "popular front," a window into the heart and soul of a growing political movement.

Two of the three planks that dominate voting are predictable; but the winningest plank is the least effective but most interesting of all. In reverse order:

  1. "Demand a balanced budget: Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require a balanced budget with a two-thirds majority needed for any tax hike."
  2. "Reject cap and trade: Stop costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices, and weaken the nation's global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures."

And the third; what could it be? Killing ObamaCare? Deporting all illegal immigrants and half the legal ones as well? Banning abortion, divorce, and homosexuality? Requiring Christian prayer in the schools and making little girls wear burkas? Since the CFA wasn't snuck in as a poison pill by the Puffinstuffian Post, the answer is no; but I was fascinated to see what actually won -- and by a long margin too, 81%, versus 71% for number 2 and 70% for number 3:

  1. "Protect the Constitution: Require each bill to identity the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does."

I am under no illusion that this would in fact do anything significant. Bills in Congress already list bogus, ridiculous "provisions" -- most often "To regulate Commerce... among the several States" (article I, section 8). Even if this provision was enshrined in the sacred Constitution itself, it wouldn't change one jot or tittle of classical congressional corruption.

But what the winning plank tells us is that, contrary not only to charges by devious Democrats, ludicrous liberals, and lying lefties, but also by some confusticated conservatives, laughable libertarians, and even asinine anarchists, the Tea-Party popular front is neither "populist" nor "fascist" but simply constitutionalist.

I'm certain the drafters of this particular winning option are well aware it's legally meaningless, unlike the other two planks; but as a statement of first principles, it's priceless: More than anything else, the Tea Parties stand for a return to constitutional government, vigorous rejection of the populist tyranny of "Progressivism," and the repudiation of President Woodrow Wilson's condemnation of the United States Constitution as antiquated and too limiting of "progressive" and "populist" desires:

More than anyone, Woodrow Wilson advanced the new Progressive theory of human nature and human institutions and the corresponding Progressive critique of the principles of the American Founding and the Founders' Constitution. Wilson, who was president of Princeton and of the American Political Science Association before becoming President of the United States, was the first Chief Executive to openly criticize the Constitution, once comparing it to "political witchcraft." So hostile was he to the self evident truths of the Founding that in a 1911 address he remarked, "if you want to understand the real Declaration of Independence, do not repeat the preface."

Wilson above all others deserves credit for the notion that the Constitution is a "living" or "evolving" document. As he wrote in 1908, "Government is not a machine, but a living thing. It falls, not under the theory of the universe, but under the theory of organic life. It is accountable to Darwin." Insisting that the Constitution does not contain any theories or principles, Wilson argued that the Constitution has a "natural evolution" and is "one thing in one age, another in another." "Living political constitutions," he wrote, "must be Darwinian in structure and in practice."

Aside from the arrogance of power the "Progressives" exhibit, both in content and even in their self-selected name, the claim that the Constitution is "Darwinian" is an insult to actual evolutionary biology. What Wilson tried, with some success, to foist upon America has nothing whatsoever to do with the principle of evolution by variation and natural selection:

  • The planks of Progressivism did not arise from small variations in existing principles of governance or government policy; they were radical, instantaneous revolutions never seen in nature, pronounced from on high by ivy-league theorists (led by Wilson himself, former president of Princeton University).
  • And they were never ratified by testing in the crucible of the real world (natural selection); they were imposed by force, with jackbooted thugs arresting anyone who resisted.

Michael Barone clearly places the Tea Party popular front on the side of the Founders, not their Progressive enemies:

Over the past 14 months, our political debate has been transformed into an argument between the heirs of two fundamental schools of political thought, the Founders and the Progressives. The Founders stood for the expansion of liberty and the Progressives for the expansion of government.

It's an argument that has been going on for a century but was largely dormant over the quarter-century of low-inflation economic growth that followed the Reagan tax cuts. It's been raised again by the expand-government policies of the Obama administration and Democratic congressional leaders.

Those policies, thoroughly in line with the Progressive tradition, have been advanced by liberal elites in government, media, think tanks and academia. The opposition, roughly in line with the Founders tradition, has been led by the non-elites who spontaneously flocked to tea parties and town halls. Republican politicians have been scrambling to lead these protesters.

Today's release of the Contract From America (though voting continues through Monday) should put paid to the cockamamie misapprehensions and deliberate misinterpretations of Tea-Party antagonists. It should... but of course it won't.

Those who intend to destroy it for political reasons certainly won't care that the movement itself has enunciated its own most important goals. And those dinosaurs still grimly hanging on since the Cretaceous epoch, locked into what they have believed since puberty -- those who simply cannot imagine a popular front opposing more bread and circuses from the government -- will never change their minds. For, with apologies to George R. Stewart, Men may go and come, but obduracy abides.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 1, 2010, at the time of 11:25 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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