Date ►►► December 31, 2010
If I could have global-warming prophet-in-chief James Hansen, or the directors of the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (those lovable, old curmudgeons who brought us Climategate), or any other "warm-monger" on the witness stand for just one, single question about putative anthropogenic global climate change (AGCC) -- the conjecture that the Earth is warming, the warming is primarily due to human activity, and that it's a looming catastrophe for the human race which must somehow be prevented, reversed or mitigated -- this would be it:
Anything? Is AGCC falsifiable at all? Or does every possible result of every possible measurement inevitably support AGCC? Can you even imagine a result that would invalidate it? Because if a scientific theory is not falisifiable, then it most assuredly is not a scientific theory.
I wonder if I would get any response. Incredulous minds want to know! I suspect the witness, any such witness, would be loathe to describe any such experiment or test... because he would know that some well-credentialed but skeptical climate scientist would be sure to set it up and run it, just to be perverse.
And suppose it came up negative; what could the AGCC evangelist possibly say except "Hamina-hamina-hamina" -- and weep for his lost millions in grant money, and his lost tens of millions in royalties from the carbon-trading companies in which so many warmists have so heavily invested?
Date ►►► December 30, 2010
Progressivism and Populism... Separated at Birth, or Steel-Cage Death Match?
At a recent gathering, I made remarks to the effect that I didn't really see much difference in practice between Progressivism and Populism, provoking first astonished gasps, then loud denunciations and a proclamation that "only an idiot" could say such a thing. It was as if I had said of the French Revolutionary government under Maximilien Robespierre that at least he made the jet airliners fly on time.
Since then, I've been reading more about populists and progressivists... and quite frankly, the more I read, the less of a difference I can see between them:
- Both exalt "the people" to the point of idolatry -- and both rail against "the elites" to the point of hysteria.
- Both profess a devotion to
mob ruledirect democracy, while complaining in the footnotes that voters just aren't up to the job and must be overruled by the experts (who speak in the name of the People, not the Powerful, of course).
- Both are appalled by the limitations imposed upon "direct democracy" (i.e., rule by elite decree, see point above) by constitutions and common law, and believe those documents should be abolished as obsolete and reactionary.
- Both passionately reject the defense of "freedom of speech" for those who engage in sedition, which they appear to define to include any argument refudiating their own ideology.
- Both are generally beards for demagoguery by those who wish to become absolute despots.
Can somebody who has actually studied political taxonomy please enlighten me as to the big-picture difference between these two ideologies? Something that I, a math guy who never had to take any Poli-Sci at university, can understand and use to distinguish between one and the other.
Note, I don't mean some historical or nomenclatural difference: "Woodrow Wilson was a Progressivist, while Huey Long was a Populist, so you can see how completely different they are!" Please explain in what way they are different; don't assume I already know, because if I did, I wouldn't be writing this post.
Then I can either correct my thinking or defend my heresy, whichever seems most appropriate.
Date ►►► December 27, 2010
The Turn of a Fiendly Card
The dangerous flip-side of an independent military
There's a war on down south; south of the Rio Grande, I mean.
As most are aware, the drug cartels in Juarez and other Mexican states have become almost as big a problem in Mexico as they were in Colombia. The government is fighting against well-entrenched, heavily armed, deep-pockets banditos, and Mexican soldiers are fighting this "police action" as an all-out, even existential war.
Unfortunately, they're also accused of killing innocent bystanders, then planting evidence to make them look like narcoterrorists:
[American murder victim Joseph Proctor's] mother, Donna Proctor, devastated and incredulous, has been fighting through Mexico's secretive military justice system ever since to learn what really happened on the night of Aug. 22.
It took weeks of pressuring U.S. diplomats and congressmen for help, but she finally got an answer, which she shared with The Associated Press.
Three soldiers have been charged with killing her son. Two have been charged with planting the assault rifle in his hands and claiming falsely that he fired first, according to a Mexican Defense Department document sent to her through the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.
It is at least the third case this year in which soldiers, locked in a brutal battle with drug cartels, have been accused of killing innocent civilians and faking evidence in cover-ups.
I think it fairly can be said that Mexican President Felipe Calderon is fighting an existential war against the drug-runners... but does that mean that "anything goes," a tarjeta blanco for the military? Is it acceptable, in the name of fighting such brutal and depraved evil, to protect Mexican soldiers -- who are functioning as domestic law-enforcement agents -- from the consequences of their own sloppy investigations and hair-trigger reactions, to the point of falsely painting innocent victims of overzealous police executions as criminals?
A good case can be made that we in the United States have gone too far in allowing civilian judicial interference in the war against radical Islamism (WARI); but I think it equally clear that Mexico has gone too far in the opposite direction; they're flirting frighteningly with out and out military dictatorship.
When Mexican soldiers are found to be tampering with evidence, or are reasonably accused of such by the National Human Rights Commission of Mexico, the trials are held in secrecy; even the rest of the Mexican government can get virtually no information about the case. Thus when the military acquits its own soldiers of abuse, assault, or murder, it's hard to imagine anyone taking the "verdict" seriously:
Such scandals are driving calls for civilian investigators to take over cases that are almost exclusively handled by military prosecutors and judges who rarely convict one of their own....
President Felipe Calderon has proposed a bill that would require civilian investigations in all torture, disappearance and rape cases against the military. But other abuses, including homicides committed by on-duty soldiers, would mostly remain under military jurisdiction. That would include the Proctor case and two others this year in which soldiers were accused of even more elaborate cover-ups....
The military justice system operates in near total secrecy, choosing what to publicly reveal and when.
What disturbs me most about the example of our nearest neighbor to the south is that I myself have argued against civilian federal courts having jurisdiction over purely military matters, including the holding of POWs and the treatment of unlawful enemy combatants; I have condemned the two Supreme Court cases, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U.S. 557 (2006) and Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723 (2008), that essentially gave full civilian defendant rights to captured terrorists. But the Mexican war against the cartels demonstrates the horrific dark side of allowing the military to proceed unchecked, unmonitored, and unaccountable.
I believe our own situation is very different from the Central American example for several reasons:
The Mexican army is operating as a domestic law-enforcement agency, arresting, prosecuting, and engaging in summary executions of Mexican citizens suspected of committing crimes.
It is not engaging in "purely military matters."
Our own military is forbidden from acting as police under the states' general police authority by two legislative acts of 203 years and 132 years standing: The Insurrection Act of 1807 and the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 prevent any use of the military to conduct ordinary police activities within the United States, except during times of actual insurrection, rebellion, or martial law.
But even if the president declared martial law in some section of the United States, that still does not give the military authority to act in secret, to shield its activities from the (civilian) governmental branches of Congress, the administration, and the courts, or to quash criminal or civil cases alleging banditry, abuse, assault, or criminal homicide by military personnel... which appears to be exactly what the Mexican army is doing.
The Mexican civil authorities appear to be powerless against the army, which smells suspiciously like military rule.
The United States, by contrast with our southern neighbor, has a wealth of civilian authorities which can investigate members of the military -- and are themselves armed, granted jurisdiction over crimes committed by the military, given subpoena power, and with the authority to imprison or even execute military officials who are convicted of abuse of authority or other serious felonies, even if the military services in question oppose the prosecution.
First, there is the Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Defense; the DoD IG is appointed by the President of the United States and must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, civilians all. But in addition, each branch of the service has a criminal investigations divison; and each CID employs many civilian investigators and agents, along with military personnel:
- Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) for the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps
- United States Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) for the U.S. Army
- Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) for the U.S. Air Force
- Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) for the U.S. Coast Guard
Our Founding Fathers were greatly worried about even the existence of a standing Army; they certainly insisted that the entire military be under civilian command, which is why the Constitution specifies that the President, an elected civilian official, be the supreme Commander in Chief. And we have seen a number of occasions where the President has indeed exercised his authority against the wishes of the military -- for example, when President Harry S. Truman fired five-star Gen. Douglas Arthur MacArthur for insubordination during the Korean War.
[I originally wrote "four-star" above; but MacArthur was appointed General of the Army in December 1944, and the uniform at that time specified five stars. I don't believe anyone in the American military forces has been authorized to wear five stars since Gen. Omar Bradley in 1950, but I'm not a military historian, so don't take my word for it. Thanks to commenter DK for the correction.]
Mexico has a history of its military seizing power from civilian leaders, for good or for ill.
The United States has never been ruled by a military dictator, but Mexico has had several -- for example, Field Marshal Anastasio Bustamante, Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna, and Gen. Porfirio Díaz, whose last electoral fraud triggered the 1910 Mexican Revolution. It is far more likely that the Mexican generals would seize control from President Calderon than that our own military would execute a coup d'état against Barack H. Obama.
Think a second time... then a third.
Even so, it's well to bear in mind that we set up a system of civilian control of the military for a reason... and we should think many times before advocating, e.g., that the President declare that the civilian courts have no jurisdiction over the military's machinations.
Still, that does not mean that it's inconceivable that, after such thinking, we still reject judicial interference in what really are -- in our case, not Mexico's -- purely military matters. As it happens, even after pondering the current situation south of the Rio Grande, I have not changed my mind about the unAmerican, unconstitutional ruling of the Court in Hamdan and Boumediene.
It's always good to reevaluate one's conclusions in light of new facts; but to reevaluate means to reconsider... it's not a synonym for "to reject." Even upon further consideration, I stand on my previous opposition to Hamdan and Boumediene, the Mexican experience notwithstanding.
Date ►►► December 25, 2010
Troffie Claus sure will!
Date ►►► December 23, 2010
Coming to Our Census
I've been toying with the reapportionment numbers triggered by the 2010 Census, and it's rather interesting. (Well, interesting to math folks.)
My first curiosity was how the current reapportionment (and the 2000 one) would have altered the 2000 election. In that contest between George W. Bush and Al "Lawfare" Gore, Bush prevailed by an electoral score of 271 to Gore's 266. (In 2000, one of D.C.'s three electors abstained instead of voting for Gore, who won the District; thus Gore only got 266 votes instead of the 267 he actually earned.)
But following the two reapportionments -- that is, adjusting the states won by each party according to the newest electoral-vote count for each state -- the result in 2012 would be 285 for the Republican and 253 for the Democrat; in other words, Gore could have won up to 15 more electoral votes than he did, one or two (or three or four!) extra states, yet still have lost by a clear majority of electoral votes, 270 to 268... that's how much strength the Republicans have gained since 2000 by population growth and shifting alone.
Side issue: I just read a risible article on Newsmax.com titled Census Won't Help GOP in 2012 Presidential Race, the take-home of which is this:
Any gains that flow to Republicans in Congress because of redistricting after the 2010 census are not likely to carry over to the 2012 presidential race, The New York Times FiveThirtyEight political blog reports. President Barack Obama, for example, would have won the White House in 2010 even if the electoral college then had looked like it will in 2012.
In fact, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver writes, “the outcome of every presidential election in the past century would have been the same had the new numbers been used.”
This has to be one of the stupidest articles ever written. What the headline writer actually meant was not that reapportionment "won't help GOP in 2012," but rather than reapportionment has never been determinative... which is trivially true, as it's rare that the electoral college vote is so close that a swing of fifteen electoral votes (EVs) would switch it; and in the 2000 election -- when it was that close and even closer -- the winning party is also the party that saw electoral improvement due to reapportionment.
But consider: If any small states (adding up to 15 or fewer EVs) on Bush's side had fallen to Gore, then Algore would have won the electoral vote by 269 to 268 or better. And if that had happened, then had 2011's electoral numbers been in effect, they would indeed have reversed the outcome. So it's not only possible that reapportionment could make the difference, it could have done so in an election we all vividly remember!
In the 2008 election, Barack H. Obama won a lot more states than did Al Gore -- 28 states (not counting the one Nebraska electoral vote that went to Obama), eight more than Gore; and of course, several of those states were very significant: Virginia (13 EVs), North Carolina (15), Ohio (20), and the whopper, Florida (27). This propelled the Democrat to a resounding victory of 365 to 173.
But with the 2010 shift, those same states would have given Obama an electoral-college count of only 359 to 179, making it a little easier for the Republican to make up the difference in 2012.
The states that flipped between the razor-close 2000 election and the substantial Democrat victory of 2008 were:
- Colorado - 9
- Florida - 27
- Indiana - 11
- One electoral vote from Nebraska - 1
- Nevada - 5
- New Hampshire - 4
- North Carolina - 15
- Ohio - 20
- Virginia - 13
The six (out of nine) states depicted above in bold italics enjoyed major Republican gains in the 2010 election, making them very strong candidates for flipping back to the Republicans in the 2012 presidential election. As you can see, those states would yield an electoral GOP pickup of 84 electoral votes, based upon their EVs in 2010; when we add in the changes from the 2010 reapportionment, that EV switch drops to 83: Florida gains two seats, but Ohio loses two, for a wash; then Nevada -- which I assume doesn't switch and stays with Obama -- gains one. If these six states actually switch back to the Republicans in 2012, that would make the total 275 (Dem) to 263 (Rep).
This still leaves the GOP slightly short; but flipping just seven electoral votes would bring victory to Republicans and defeat to Obamunism. For example, flipping any one of the states of Iowa, North Carolina, or Pennsylvania would do it, three states that Obama won (relatively) narrowly.
So perhaps that's the GOP game plan: Focus on the states that flipped from R to D between 2000 and 2008 and go after those that seemed to be returning to the fold in the 2010 mid-terms; then try to pick off at least one other state whose devotion to Obama looked a little weak in 2008.
That scenario also implies that a victory over Obama in 2012 is likely to be pretty thin... which not only means the reapportionment is likelier to be determinative but also raises the specter of the Hewitt Hypothesis Corollary: If it is close, they can cheat.
Unless of course the electorate has soured even more on Barack H. Obama and Obamunism two years from now than they did in the elections this November, in which case a myriad of viable routes to Republican victory present themselves. But that happy thought requires, I believe, at least one of three extraordinary circumstances:
- Obama manages to economically infuriate voters even further -- perhaps by vetoing many attempts by the GOP to improve the economy, followed by an anemic rise in employment (or even a further drop), so that Obama takes the blame for it.
- We suffer a huge terrorist attack that the American people blame on Obama's feckless national-security policy.
- Or a hitherto unknown Republican presidential candidate rises who truly captures the imagination of the voters; not another Ronald Reagan, who would already be known right now, but perhaps a Republican version of Obama -- though with more and better substance, one hopes!
Naturally, none of these three is predictable or reliable; and if the last is to occur, it must begin within the first couple of quarters of calendar 2011. At this point, I would put my money on a very close presidential election in 2012... with the result unknown right down to the wire, and in which we'll be very glad for those extra few EVs from reapportionment.
And rampant Democratic cheating, of course. Keep watching the skies.
Date ►►► December 22, 2010
Don't Gasp, Don't Kvell part IIII - Faster Than a Speeding Pullet
As readers well know (and generally lament), I do support the ending of Bill Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" policy that allows gays to serve in the military, so long as they stay in the closet. I believe gays should be allowed to serve openly, but not flauntingly. (Similarly, I believe women should be allowed to serve in any position in the military for which they qualify, including combat.)
But I do not in any way like the way that DADT was repealed. Following the crushing GOP victory in the 2010 midterm elections, it's appalling that the lame-donkey Congress which has just been repudiated has the audacity to vote on major pieces of transformative legislation -- that everybody knows would not pass in the incoming Congress. That's just wrong, and there's no two ways about it.
The previous rants of this ongoing Obamanation are:
- Don't Gasp, Don't Kvell part I - a Reader Shibboleth
- Don't Gasp, Don't Kvell part II - a Modish Proposal
- Don't Gasp, Don't Kvell part III - a Blogger Responds
There's another outrage besides the revolutionary lame-donkey. Back in June 2009, we posted the thoughts of, as I described him, "an upper mid-level commissioned officer who served two tours in Iraq and now commands a training team," and who goes by the name Boss Mongo. Boss Mongo of course completely opposes the repeal of DADT; but I asked him what he would do to minimize the potential damage from the transition that, indeed, is expected to be signed by President Barack H. Obama next week. Here is what Boss Mongo said in that post, Straight Eye for the Queer Guy:
What, I asked him, would you do? He agreed that he would not resign his commission; he's a career guy, and he would stay in the military and obey orders. So with those caveats, here is Boss Mongo's plan -- including how he arrived at it, which is amazing in itself... I think I spawned a series of high-level meetings that may have set-off a policy prairie fire; what power these blog-things have! Here is what we would need to do in order to make such a policy change work, if the government decides to do so:~
Okay, under great protest and not ceding to the premise that the open service of homosexuals would not be prejudicial to good order and discipline, I'll proffer a mitigation strategy for incorporating the policy.
While thinking of the answer, I used the topic, and our e-mail discussions, to conduct a couple round-table discussions with various members of my team and some of my subordinate teams. The demographics of the participants were pretty varied. Tallying it up later, I talked in small groups to: two O4s (one Asian, one Puerto Rican), three O3s (two white, one black), two E8s (both black), five E7s (two black, two white, one hispanic), and one Warrant Officer (hispanic). When I initiated the discussions, the universal first reaction was "Eww."
So it took a while to get the guys to focus on the discussion point; the first X number of minutes were spent getting them off of decrying the policy itself. Most of the senior (ie, ~20 years) guys said that it would be time to drop retirement paperwork (my crew consists of mostly senior guys; my youngest team member is 28 with six years in). Anyway, once we established the constraints of the conversation (and tabled the HIV factor for a later discussion), most of the guys came up with the same concept of response that I had:
- First, tangentially, commissioned officers thought that problems would manifest mostly on the battlefield, NCOs [non-commissioned officers -- the Mgt.] thought that the most serious problems would arise in the barracks environment.
- The service already has a chain training mechanism in place; it is used for annual, biennial, and quarterly training on EO [Equal Opportunity, I presume -- the Mgt.], Family Advocacy, prevention of sexual harassment, suicide prevention, DUI/Drug prevention, etc. This would be the venue for most training. Officers, NCOs, and junior enlisted would probably have different training evolutions, with unit training at the end, conducted by said officers and NCOs.
- The training would have to be tailored to present homosexual service as consistent with the military values -- loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage -- and the military values would have to be the foundation of the training/instruction.
- The service-member support networks, from the Chaplains to the headshrinkers, would have to be a part of it and be consistently available to help members with problems arising from the new strategy.
- Orders would go out giving the officer and NCO corps instructions on how the chain of command wanted adverse or serious incidents handled.
- One thing we all agreed on was that a significant chunk of time and effort would have to be expended on retention, keeping good service members in who are determined to vote with their feet -- or rather, their discharge paperwork -- because of the policy.
That's about it. Everything after that would be adapting to the situations arising and always being ready to call an audible when things go awry, and they will.
This is the sort of thing I was trying to get at in another, more recent post here on Big Lizards, Don't Gasp, Don't Kvell part II - a Modish Proposal (linked up top); that was the post in which I proposed a small-scale dry run of repealing DADT. What I had in mind was to give training officers an opportunity to test the Boss Mongo training plan, see where it worked well and where it fell down, then implement the former and restructure the latter.
But in the pell-mell rush to jam through Congress the instant repeal of DADT, I cannot imagine that the Obamunists have the slightest interest in a "go-slow" approach that would give us the time to work the kinks (sorry!) out of the system. Rather, I agree with Paul Mirengoff at Power Line: Obama will shove this revolutionary transformation (which underlying policy I support) down the tracks like a runaway freight train, and any testing policy that tries to slow it down will be squashed flatter than today's GDP growth (which unseemly haste I abhor).
After all, the policy must actually be a done deal before January 3rd; else the incoming House of Representatives might refuse to appropriate or authorize the funds to implement it.
This is exactly what I was afraid would happen: Because conservatives made it clear that they would never, ever, ever vote to repeal DADT, no matter when or how, the "progressivists" rightly concluded that they have only this one brief window, which, if not seized upon, slams shut in just under a fortnight... so the Left must move the policy faster than a cannon-fired chicken. Full scream ahead, and damn the training!
Well, never let it be said that Congress failed to disappoint.
Date ►►► December 21, 2010
Rite of Rerun
I see that Barack H. Obama has finally dared to speak truth to power: He has "accepted" the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. What a stunner!
So what does this mean for the hundreds of millions of
Indignant Indigenous Peoples around the globe? Well obviously we're not going to "return" the entire territory of the United States to Native Americans Indians; and Russia isn't going to return all of Eastern Russia to the Tartars, Japan isn't handing their islands over to the Ainu, and France doesn't revert to the Languedoc.
But I fear every "native" group in the world will now have a U.N.-sanctioned claim on the industrialized nations for -- wait for it -- reparations:
[Kenneth Deer, secretary of the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawke in Canada] dismissed the warnings of critics who say the document could be used to argue for massive land transfers back to North America's Indian tribes, but agreed that the declaration offers support for reparations.
Article 28 states that indigenous peoples "have the right to redress," which can include "restitution" or "just, fair and equitable compensation" for lands and resources they have traditionally owned or occupied, but which have been "confiscated, taken, occupied" without their consent.
And here is a clear and concise analysis of what this declaration entails:
"It's not that all indigenous lands have to be returned to indigenous peoples. We have to respect the rights of people who are on the land now," Mr. Deer said. "What the states have been saying is, 'This is not your land anymore,' but the declaration is saying, 'Yes, this is their land, and you have to deal with it.' "
As I understand Mr. Deer's position, it's not that all these "confiscated" lands must be returned to the natives; it's just that the natives still own it (if they're "they"), or that the current occupiers own it and the natives have to deal with it (if they're "you," rather than "they"). Well, that clears things up!
Add the new displacement reparations for all indigenous personnel to slavery reparations for everyone who can claim a drop of black blood, and multiply by the Globaloney transfer tax, and it looks like it will be a rum go for anybody who happens not to haply have some remote ancestor who can be claimed as anything other than a white conservative Christian.
But more urgent, how long before Palestinians hijack this universal declaration to demand the "right of return" to their homeland of "Palestine" -- whose borders, by a funny coincidence, coincide with the borders of the Zionist Entity?
It is of course impossible to state with authority that such and such a tribe comprised the first inhabitants of any particular geographical area; every spot on Earth has been fought over, bled over, and conquered, typically hundreds of times. Which one of that long parade of ancestral peoples is the real owner?
We'd better come up with a heuristic pretty darned quickly, because the man who speaks for America is furiously committing us to such U.N. transfer schemes as fast as the human mind can fathom.
Date ►►► December 17, 2010
Proud of Mel, on the Occasion of Winona's Denunciation
Aaron Worthing at Patterico's Pontifications recently wrote a post about an interview in GQ with Winona Ryder -- who is Jewish; who knew? -- in which she offhandedly charged that, "like, fifteen years ago," she was at a Hollywood party, where she met a drunken Mel Gibson... and that, when she mentioned her religion, he jokingly referred to Jews as "oven dodgers." (Ryder also claims that Gibson "made a really horrible gay joke" to her gay friend.)
We couple this with the iconic antisemitic rant another drunken Mel Gibson made -- rather, the same Gibson during a different debauchery -- while being arrested for DUI, and the pattern is fairly clear: In his heart, Gibson is a raging antisemite.
And as a USDA-certified non-religious Jew, that makes me very, very proud of him.
We pause briefly to allow readers to finish caroming around the room, flapping their arms like emperor penguins trying to take to the air.
Settled again? Good; I can explain what in blazes I mean very concisely...
We all have demons; no one but a saint is so free of evil that he hasn't even a single moral blindness, a single skeleton in his skull. On those issues, the beast screams to be released to rend and eviscerate someone who, while he may be irritating or offensive or even thuggish, doesn't actually deserve the level of irrational vitriol or violence that we feel, in those moments, like dishing out.
How many of you -- be honest -- had flashes of rage following the 9/11attacks that induced fantasies of flattening the entire Arab world with nuclear Armageddon?
But wait, think a second time: Should we really kill hundreds of millions of people, the vast, vast majority innocent of that act of war, out of sick revenge at what, at most, half a hundred people plotted and maybe fifteen or twenty thousand actively applauded? All but the mad among us quickly suppressed that first idea and swallowed our rage, choosing instead to do as George W. Bush said: Find the people who knocked those buildings down and kill them personally, or capture them and hold them indefinitely, crushing every scrap of usable, actionable intel out of them. (Or at the very least, if we couldn't keep silent about our general fury at Arabs and Moslems in general, we confined those ravings of universal slaughter to close friends who wouldn't broadcast our intemperance to the world at large.)
And who here has never, ever, ever been so enraged by some nitwit driver that he hasn't screamed out loud, in his car, that he was going to ram the son of a bachelor and drive his car into a telephone poll? Sure, we yell it... but if we retain our sanity, we don't actually do it.
Civilization is largely a voluntary act of mass repression; and that's a good thing. An awful lot of thoughts and desires we experience throughout a given day should be repressed, jammed down so deep we barely feel them except for a burr in the brain -- notwithstanding that stupid sixties philosophy of "let it all hang out" and "never repress what you feel."
Sometimes it takes a heroic effort to suppress saying or doing something that Seems Like a Good Idea at the Time™, but upon sober reflection would be a horrific and life-destroying indulgence. But that's one of the prices we pay for living in a society, surrounded by other people.
I'd say that the definition of a civilized human being is the ability to look past anger to a later time, when we will have calmed down, and imagine ourselves saying, "My God, what have I done? My life is ended!"... then to return to present time and not do it in the first place.
Those with the loudest demons have the greatest struggle; and quite evidently, Mel Gibson's demons are very loud and vile indeed. But the point is, when not in the madness of strong drink, he does manage to suppress them. He suppresses them so well that until that videotaped, besotted rant during his arrest, I daresay the vast majority of us had no idea he struggled with such internal Hell.
Some Gibson critics have tried to claim that his movie the Passion of the Christ was antisemitic; I believe they do so precisely because they realize that to condemn Gibson, they must show that he indulges his demon even when stone cold sober... as when he is writing and directing a movie.
Yet I watched that movie as a Jew (having been "primed" to believe it would be antisemitic); and while I was unmoved by the story, I certainly felt no stirrings of anxiety over religious persecution, as I did when watching Leni Riefenstahl's the Triumph of the Will, glorifying Adolf Hitler's 1934 Nuremberg rally.
In fact, in the twenty-one Gibson movies I've seen, including Passion and Apocalypto, both of which he only wrote and directed, I've never seen anything to indicate he was a deliberate Jew hater or "homophobe." Knowing as I now do how he must struggle against the irrational illnesses of racism and xenophobia, I am astonished at what a great job he does.
Gibon's conscious, intelligent mind realizes one of two things, the first more creditable than the second but both being acceptable marks of civilization:
- Either that his "feelings" are simply wrong, as feelings frequently are; and there is nothing inherently inferior about Jews, gays, or any other human, even if he believes that some of the things they do -- deny Christ, engage in the "abomination" of homosexual acts -- are sins. He may honestly believe he must hate the sin but love the sinner.
- Or at the very least, he must believe that he cannot live in this American society and express such loathing that is rejected by nearly everybody else here (Europe and the Orient are friendlier to Jew hatred); and Gibson must believe that the benefits of living in the United States outweigh any personal satisfaction he might derive from venting venom at Jews and gays. And that, as I said, is practically the definition of a civilized man.
I don't know which, but either way, Mel Gibson "gets it" -- when he's sober. And he doesn't seem to be a habitual drunkard; such incidents are few enough and far enough apart that they still shock us.
Of course Gibson still has a drinking problem; anytime someone allows himself to get so drunk that he cannot control his inner demons, he is a menace to himself, and what is infinitely worse, to the rest of society. But I feel as proud (as a fellow civilized human being) of his personal achievement as I would of a kleptomaniac who controls himself and does not steal, or a drug addict who steers clear of the needle, or a believing Catholic who is gay, yet who lives a celebate life so as not to commit what he believes to be sin. It must take a mental effort of mind-over-glands more monumental than most of us can imagine -- a true "triumph of the will" -- for Gibson to bottle his imp of rage and hate and cast it into the sea, even if it does occasionally come bobbing back ashore when he's in his cups.
By contrast, I have heard many and many a man or woman of the Left openly, brazenly, almost tauntingly fling antisemitic, anti-gay, and racist ideas and epithets into the maelstrom of his political and ideological madness without having touched a drop of "the creature" all day. Which, by the way, is practically a textbook definition of barbaric savagery.
Even as a Jew, who would you rather luncheon with: Mel Gibson? Or Special Assistant to President Barack H. Obama Samantha Power, head of the Office of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights?
The defense rests.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► December 14, 2010
Food for Abuse
Speaking at Monday's signing ceremony for the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act”-- a law that will subsidize and regulate what children eat before school, at lunch, after school, and during summer vacations in federally funded school-based feeding programs -- First Lady Michelle Obama said of deciding what American children should eat: “We can’t just leave it up to the parents."
The law for the first time gives the federal government the authority to regulate the food sold at local schools, including in vending machines.
Aaron rightly focuses on the eye-popping bit of nanny-statism in Mrs. Obama's statement, "We can't just leave it up to the parents." He also quotes the more complete version of her casual tyranny in context:
“But when our kids spend so much of their time each day in school, and when many children get up to half their daily calories from school meals, it’s clear that we as a nation have a responsibility to meet as well,” Mrs. Obama said. “We can’t just leave it up to the parents. I think that parents have a right to expect that their efforts at home won’t be undone each day in the school cafeteria or in the vending machine in the hallway. I think that our parents have a right to expect that their kids will be served fresh, healthy food that meets high nutritional standards.”
But I believe this school food-sales bill is much more insidious than it seems at first glance; in fact, I believe it's only the first salvo in a war on parental food choices at school.
The purpose of the bill is not just to fund school lunches and other meals for those children whose parents are too poor to give them lunch. (And are there really that many parents who are so staggingly poor, they can't even pack their kids a baloney sandwich?) In reality, right now, the National School Lunch Program alone serves free or subsidized meals to over 26 million schoolkids every day, according to the USDA. 64 million kids are enrolled in primary and secondary schools in the United States (according to the U.S. Department of Education); thus, fully 40% of all school children receive at least one federally subsidized meal every day in school under this one program alone; and there are many other such programs at all levels of government.
Are 40% of school pupils living in poverty? No, of course not: The NSLP is available for schoolkids from families earning up to 185% of the poverty level, or about $31,000 for a family of four. Is $31,000 really insufficient to afford lunchmeat, a loaf of bread, dinner leftovers, or even a jar of peanut butter?
Whoops, I forgot: Many schools now ban peanut butter on the curious claim that if child-A is allergic to peanuts, and if child-B has a PB&J, then somehow A will inevitably wind up ingesting B's lunch and dying. (Or perhaps A will ingest B in toto, thus inadvertently ingesting B's stomach contents as well).
This argument numbfounds me. I have been allergic to egg white all my life; yet never in all my school days did I ever feel the slightest compulsion to eat someone else's egg-salad sandwich, or hard-boiled egg, or even a turkey club with commercial mayonnaise (which contains egg white, though it shouldn't). I stuck to my own lunch -- generally leftovers, which I liked better than a lousy sandwich anyway.
But that brings us to the real danger of the federalization of nutrition in school: If la Casa Blanca has the authority, in the name of "children's health," to regulate what lunches can be sold at a local school, in a local school district, in a local county, in an individual state -- if nationalization has so shredded the very concept of federalism -- then surely the same folks who advocate increased federal subsidization and regulation of school lunches would also argue that the feds assume, at the very least, all powers currently held by those local schools, districts, and states.
Thus, the federales would assume the power to ban certain foods at school, even when brought to school by a student, prepared by that student's mother or father. That, I believe, is the real goal behind Michelle Obama's new school lunch program: The power to regulate, not merely everything students can buy at school, but everything they can eat at school, no matter where it came from; the federal power to overrule parents' dietary decisions, all in the name of protecting innocent children from their own parents' bad choices.
Shouldn't parents have the "right," the Left demands, to a benevolent government nanny who prevents Mom from mistakenly packing the wrong kind of lunch for her kids? The great unwashed conservatives in flyover country, who cling to their guns and their religion, might send their kids to school with food and drink that is too fat, too sweet, too carbonated, or Obamacle forbid, contains a toy!
Kids eat too much meat; we should require three vegetarian days per week. They eat too much cooked vegetables; all greenery should be raw. And everything must be certified organic, produced without the use of chemicals or at facilities that use energy sources that contribute to Anthropogenic Global Climate Change™. The Center for Science in the Public Interest -- the chaps who breathlessly inform us at regular intervals that Mexican food, Chinese food, German food, American food, fast food, and pizza can be fattening if eaten to excess -- should be given quasi-governmental status as the Committee of Nutritional Hectoring and Hand-Slapping.
After all, “we can’t just leave it up to the parents." Michelle knows best!
I would worry that I was just being paranoid; but the more I read about the "crisis" of child obesity, the more I wonder who is positioning himself not to let it go to waste. And the phrase, "Oh, they would never go that far!" has long since found its permanent home in the dustbin: Not only can the Obamunists go "that far," they routinely push the limits of "too far" to the boundaries of the universe... whence they expand indefinitely at the speed of light in all directions.
I really want to see all our roundheeled Republicans, confusticated conservatives, nattering neocons, talky Tea Partiers, insecure Independents, were-liberal libertarians, and all other angst-addled anti-liberals grow a spine, for heaven's sake, and stop rolling onto their backs for every leftist gigolo who promises that the Earth will begin to cool, the oceans to subside, and their kids won't be pumpkin-shaped couch potatoes, if only we'll acquiesce to the Obamic "five-year plan" for child nutrition.
It's time, folks, to stand up and just say no to our federally funded feeding frenzy.
Date ►►► December 11, 2010
The city of Aurora, Illinois, has a clever new system for protecting its citizens from criminals: They seize the assets from anybody who looks like a drug runner, even if they can't find a shred of evidence against him. But hey, image is everything, yes?
In this case, the reluctant "miscreants" are Jose and Jesus Martinez, whose packet of savings ($190,040) was seized from Jose's truck by Aurora police officers under very peculiar circumstance:
The case started Oct. 18, when an Aurora officer stopped Aurora brothers Jesus and Jose Martinez. Police searched the car and the Martinezes. Police used drug-sniffing dogs, but found no drugs, according to court records. But police did find a bag with $190,040 in cash in the trunk of the car.
Although the brothers were issued no tickets, the cash was seized by police. As of Thursday, neither brother was charged with a crime.
“Not so much as even a traffic ticket,” said Kathleen Colton, a Geneva attorney who is helping the Martinez family. Colton has done work for the family previously and is aiding Aurora attorney Patrick Kinnally, who has filed a lawsuit seeking the return of the money.
“I’ve been practicing law for 23 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Colton said. “This is an egregious abuse of power.”
Then in order to ensure that the guilty-looking innocents could never get their money back, even with a court order (which the Martinezes sought and received), the city lateraled the money to the state of Illinois within "a blink of the eye" after the seizure, as Aurora's attorney, John Murphey, put it.
When Judge Michael Colwell heard the case, he ordered the money returned; the city refused, telling the judge that it couldn't return the money because it didn't have it anymore.
I reckon that's what folks mean by "Murphey's Law."
It's a fascinating legal theory: I steal your money; then when a judge demands I pay restitution, I shrug and say, "Sorry, your honor, but I can't return the money I stole because I gave it to my accessory after the fact."
But the bucks didn't stop there. "Immediately" (another quote) after receiving it, the noisiest Illinois, perhaps concerned about its own liability (and rather liking Aurora's clever legal strategem), re-lateraled that same blessed $190,040 cash to the federal Department of Homeland Security.
And there, the department sits on it, smugly declaring that the Martinez brothers "violated the Drug Abuse Act." This in spite of the fact that neither Martinez was convicted, tried, arrested, charged, or even issued a citation, despite a tapped phone and an extensive search (including drug dogs) of the vehicle in question directly after it was stopped. And despite the embarassing lack of a criminal record for either Jesus or Jose Martinez.
The closest the police can come to "connecting" the Martinezes to any drug abuse is guilt by familial relationship; hold onto your bowlers...
The brothers have denied being involved in drugs at all. They do not have any criminal record. However, another Martinez brother, Froilan, and a cousin, Juvenal, were convicted of drug charges in 2002. Both were released in 2006 after an appellate court ruled that Froilan and Juvenal had essentially been coerced into making a drug deal by an undercover officer who pestered them.
Colton, who represented Froilan and Juvenal, maintained the case was entrapment. She said she thinks Jesus and Jose were targeted because of the previous case.
So there you have it: Jose and Jesus are suspicious characters because Froilian and Juvenal were (briefly) convicted of trafficking in 2002 -- before the conviction was overturned four years later when an appellate judge ruled they had been entrapped. And that, dear readers, seemingly gives the city of Aurora valid authorization to seize J&J's money and fire it up the chain to the feds, whence it may never be seen again. Voilà!
Oh, in case you wonder why a couple of Mexican immigrant remodelers would have $190,040 in a truck, here's their explanation -- which actually makes some sense, to me at least:
The officer found the sack of cash and asked Martinez about it; he said it was the family's savings. Colton said Jesus Martinez had just picked up cash his brother had collected from other family members and was on his way to his father's to give him the money so his father could pay off his mortgage and retire to Mexico.
Works for me.
It's difficult to fathom the thinking of the police in this case; it seems so outrageous and fantastical that I wouldn't even accept it as the plot of a second-rate penny-dreadful. Wouldn't you think that somebody somewhere along the line would take a step back and demand, "What on Earth are we doing here? Why are we seizing this non-drug-related money after finding no drug relation under the Drug Abuse Act?"
Anybody? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?
It would seem that asset forfeiture has become so ubiquitous, it is now its own justification: The police, especially small-town cops (but aided and abetted by both state and federal authorities), believe they have to right to seize property merely because there is property there to be seized; and the police hate to walk away from a felony stop empty handed.
This is precisely why we need a strong Constitution that can override (read: trample under foot) the fiats of covetous legislators and authoritarian administrators -- and why Obamunism, with its Wilsonian belief in a "living Constitution" that should simply represent the will of the People (that is, the momentary whim of the mob), is so deadly antithetical to Americanism. Simply put, if Barack H. Obama and his cohorts have their way, all of America will become one great, sprawling Aurora.
Then God help us all, for there will be nowhere to turn.
Date ►►► December 9, 2010
A Complex and Tricky Scheme Republicans Can Use to Force Lower Spending in 2011
It's a bit hard to follow, filled with parlimentarian maneuvers (like votes and such) and much hand waving (by frustrated Democrats); and readers not steeped in congressional jargon may have difficulty understanding the machinations (just as Barack H. Obama believes liberals opposed to his anti-tax-increase deal with the GOP just don't understand his genius); but I'll give my best shot to clarifying and simplifying this labyrinthian, byzantine, Rube Goldberg-ian gimmick:
- On January 3rd, the incoming Republicans will have a strong, 242-193 majority in the House of the 112th Congress.
- Anticipated Streaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH, 96%, and pronounced "BAY-ner," for all you Beavis and Butthead viewers) will have a much greater control over that body than will Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) over his. This is because senators are more egotistical and autocratic than representatives, and because they have the filibuster in the Senate but not in the House.
- Here's where the maneuvering gets really, really hard to follow: Since any bill must pass the House in order to pass Congress and land on the president's desk, Streaker Boehner must lead his Republican caucus to vote down any budget bill, appropriations bill, or spending authorization bill that increases overall spending -- or better, that fails to reduce overall spending by, say, 2% over the previous year's spending. (I realize how difficult that is for lay readers to comprehend; if you're confused, consult an expert in congressional rules and traditions.)
- Moreover, the Streaker can refuse even to bring a bill to the floor for a vote. Thus Boeher can announce in advance that no spending bill will even get a vote if it raises overall spending; if a bill raises spending on one place, it must reduce it somewhere else by that amount (or more). Thus, even if too many Republicans defect and want to vote for a bill that raises spending, Boehner can refuse to schedule a vote. (The only way around that is via a rare and politically dangerous House discharge petition.)
- So if Republicans stand firm on the principle to reduce spending, which was the most basic and obvious message of the "Tea Party" elections of 2010, they can prevent any 2011 spending that exceeds 2010 spending (or better, that fails to reduce it). The Democratic Senate alone cannot pass a bill, and the president cannot spend money without full congressional authorization (except for what is already authorized). So either Democrats and the president accept a spending freeze (or reduction), or they move nothing at all to the president's desk. Period.
If Democrats scream about a "government shut down," Boehner just politely and non-confrontationally -- not like Newt Gingrich! -- explains, "cut the spending, and we'll be happy to vote. If we don't cut spending, we'll drown in a sea of unmanageable debt." I think the American people will get it; they're much smarter than most members of Congress.
Whew! Tough sledding to get through all those intricate manipulations and prestidigitation, I know; but I hope it's at least reasonably clear what control of the House can accomplish.
Date ►►► December 8, 2010
Tax Hax Axe Lax Pax
All right, I admit I don't really understand the urgency about extending the Bush tax rates before they expire. I certainly favor (kind of) extending the tax cuts; I'm much more in favor of further reductions in the rate, simplification to a single tax rate for everyone (and everything, including corporations), and the complete elimination of the death tax.
But why the rush? Come January 3rd, we'll have a much stronger hand, with more Republicans to vote for economically sound taxing and spending policy and fewer Democrats to filibuster it. And no matter how loudly the Left screams and threatens a primary challenge, Barack H. Obama must realize that if he is seen as obstructing the very people who just gave him a "shellacking," then next election, they may give him a tar-and-feathering.
If the deal does collapse, which I expect it will, it will mostly be because of Democrats, not Republicans; and that part is out of our control. When it does, we can hammer the heck out of congressional Democrats, crowing that they're so obsessed with a new tax increase that they even went against the deal put together by their own president.
In any event, what bad thing will happen if the year expires without a deal to extend the Bush tax rates? Michael Medved just said on his radio show that, "Everyone in the country will get an immediate tax increase on January First." And indeed, the scheduled rates will rise by about 5% across the board (that's how much was cut ten years ago), plus the loss of the $500/child tax credit and some other things.
But does that translate into an immediate tax increase? Well, no, not really; it means the tax rates will leap up for calendar year 2011. (Even for those businesses that use fiscal years, the months before January 1st, 2011, are taxed at the current rate, not the higher rate; to apply the tax increase retroactively would be an ex-post facto law, hence unconstitutional.)
But nobody pays 100% of his income tax on the first day of the year. We pay later by various schemes and systems -- and there is time and means to adjust your payment before sending it in.
Vital Note: I am not a lawyer. Bear that in mind. If you follow my advice and get in trouble, don't bother suing me; you will be laughed out of court. Not a lawyer, get it?
Most of us pay taxes via some combination of these three ways:
- Income-tax withholding by our employers.
- Quarterly income-tax payments for income not subject to withholding (rents, royalties, investment income, Schedule C income, etc).
- A final catch-up payment accompanying the filing of a Form 1040 on April 15th of the following year, 2012 in this case. (You're still supposed to pay by this date even if you file for an automatic extension to file the 1040 itself.)
Let's take them in reverse order:
Tax day: The deadline-payment is due fifteen and a half months after the tax rates rise, not immediately upon January 1st, 2011. So don't worry about it; by this date in 2012, you will obviously know what the tax rates were for 2011.
Quarterlies: The first quarterly payment at 2011's rate is not due until April 15th of that year, three and a half months after New Year's Day. But even if the tax rate isn't settled by then, bear in mind that, because you're estimating your income, the amount you pay is pretty much up to you. You just have to be able to justify it later.
In the end, on April 15th, 2012 (or later if you file an extension), the IRS will decide whether you paid enough on each quarterly payment. I doubt it would be very much of a financial hit if you paid the quarterlies at the current (pre-increase) rate until it became clear which way the wind was blowing; then if a tax-rate extension is rejected by Congress at some point during the year, you can adjust your remaining quarterlies to make up the difference.
Withholding: Again, you, the wage-earner, can largely set your own withholding rate. How do you do that? When you fill out your Form W-4 for you employer, look closely at the Deductions and Adjustments Worksheet on page 2. Here are two questions the IRS asks that allow you to reduce your income-tax withholding:
- Enter an estimate of your 2010 itemized deductions.
- Enter an estimate of your 2010 adjustments to income and any additional standard deduction.
If it looks like Congress is going to extend the current tax rates, but they're still wrangling about it after January 1st, I think it's quite reasonable to adjust the W-4 withholding to maintain withholding at the current tax rate.
Then if Democrats dig in their heels and allow a middle-income tax hike, then I believe you can file an amended W-4 to increase your withholding not only to reflect the higher rate but to make up the shortfall for past withholding.
(Or else just readjust the W-4 to the higher rate, then send the difference between what you withheld and what you should have withheld as a quarterly estimate at the next quarter; and you're all caught up.)
Remember, my understanding of the law -- as a lay person and not any kind of a lawyer -- is that you have no legal obligation to overpay your taxes. Likewise, you have no legal obligation to estimate your taxes precisely; how could you, when you don't actually know until it arrives? You could get a raise, or lose your job, or incur a big medical expense that's deductable, or even have a baby. A precise estimate isn't an estimate, it's a prophecy!
You are obliged, as I understand it, to make a good-faith estimate of your taxes and make sure they get paid on the appropriate schedule. If I think I might sell a book late next year, I'm certainly not going to make any quarterly income-tax payments on the basis of that hope. But if I really do sell a book, then I'll consider it.
It's all a bit of a pain, and we'd rather not have to make quarterly payments or monkey around with withholding. But my point is that it's simply not true that we'll get an "instant" tax increase on New Year's Day. In fact, we'll have months to work on this before the increased rates begin to bite us significantly... ample time for the new Republican House and the somewhat less Democratic Senate to bite the bullet and cut a deal that's a darn site better for Republicans than this one, even if it isn't everything we want.
Date ►►► December 7, 2010
Don't Gasp, Don't Kvell part III - a Blogger Responds
Ordinarily I don't debate blogposts in the comments section; I leave that for the readers to express their opinions. On the other hand, there are a some arguments which merit response. The compromise is to respond with another blogpost in order to answer the many points and questions raised by a previous post in this series... so here goes!
The previous parts of this ongoing series are:
Kill the messenger, not the message
Commenter RRRoark sees a larger agenda in the push to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) and allow gays to serve openly:
I too see merit on both sides, but the deciding factor for me is that the demand is coming from a group that has traditionally hated the military.
But why should we penalize gay service members who only want to serve honorably and honestly in the military, simply because their demand for equal treatment is echoed by a Greek chorus (I couldn't resist!) which hates the military -- and whose support is likely not appreciated by gay service members in the first place?
We could make a corresponding "guilt by association" argument that favors repeal: Why do we take the same position against gays in the military that is echoed by the despicable Westboro Baptist Church, the vile haters who invade military funerals to chant "God hates fags" at grieving widows? The answer is, we cannot decide policy on the basis of which side has the worst unwelcomed supporters; there are fanatics on all sides. As Larry Niven says, "There is no cause so noble that it will not attract fuggheads."
Discrimination is as discrimination does
Is discrimination against gay service members akin to discrimination against black service members before President Truman desegregated the troops? Commenter Mdgiles disputes the notion:
The difference -- and it is a major difference -- between segregation in the old military, and allowing gays in the military; is the difference between appearance and behavior. I am black, a fact that can be ascertained over the proverbial country mile. Just as it can be ascertained whether I am short or tall, fat or lean. It's simply a question of how I look. It says noting at all about my probable behavior.
All right, then let's take another example. Should we enact a DADT-type policy requiring Moslem service members to keep silent about their religion, never mention even casually that they sometimes attend a mosque, that they read the Koran, or that they pray to Allah, on pain of being dismissed from the service with an other-than-honorable discharge?
"Moslemness" is certainly not something that can be detected a mile away, or even five feet away. Worse, unlike with gay service members, we have suffered several incidents in which Moslem service members have gone "jihad" and actually attacked and murdered their fellows in the name of Allah and Islam!
By contrast, even if Bradley Manning is gay -- and I have no idea -- nobody has suggested that he leaked classified information to WikiLeaks in an effort to further the gay-rights agenda.
Would it make our military more effective and efficient if we decreed that Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Atheists could all openly discuss their religion, but Moslems must stand silent, and forever live in the fear that somebody might spot them coming out of a mosque or overhear them praying -- even off base, even on leave! -- leading to disgrace and discharge?
Maybe a little, since we could discharge any radical Islamist unwise enough to let the mask slip -- along with thousands of other servicemen who would only have fought honorably for America and never attacked anyone on our side. Too, doubtless some servicemen don't like Moslems and get nervous when they find out somebody in their squad is one; I daresay more servicemen are worried about Moslems in the ranks than gays in the ranks... just as, during World War II, some soldiers were very uncomfortable fighting alongside American soldiers with names like David Hasselhoff or Norman Mineta. Some service members would surely have better morale if all Moslems are excluded from service (or forced to keep quiet about their suspect religion).
So should the slight increase in "effectiveness" and morale lead us to adopt that policy? The answer is an emphatic No -- and the reason cuts to the very heart of why we have a military in the first place.
What's the Army for, anyway?
The point we should understand is that, Rush Limbaugh aside, the ultimate purpose of the American military is not to "kill people and break things;" otherwise, it would be a good thing if an Army unit sortied out from a base in one of our allies' countries and went on a looting and killing rampage. Violence by itself is not the goal of the military, it is one means, a tool it can use to further a goal that is decided far "above the paygrade" of even four-star admirals and generals.
The purpose of the American military is to advance the national interests of the United States of America. This of course includes, but is not limited to, national self-defense.
Sometimes our national interests require killing and breaking; other times they require delivering food, building schools, saving residents of a distant land from the effects of floods or hurricanes, or negotiating a peace between rival tribes.
But at all times, the goal (accepted by the military) of advancing the national interests of the United States always includes promoting the foundational values of the United States, the virtues that brought us into existence in the first place: Democracy, individual liberty, rule of law, and limited government.
If our government uses the military to assail those values, then both government and military have become anti-American and must be stopped. For example, if United States Marines stood in polling booths and told voters how to vote; or if the Army began making mass arrests of peaceful dissidents; or if the U.S. Navy began seizing people they suspected of being pirates and summary executing them on the spot, without a trial... then our uniformed personnel would have disgraced their uniforms -- even if they acted under orders -- and should be prosecuted under the Universal Code of Military Justice.
(And note, I never specified the nationalities of the above victims. It doesn't matter.)
The reason is that the military is not an end to itself; its function is to promote American interests, which includes promoting our foundational values. If they act to demean those values, they violate the sacred trust we endow them by allowing them to wage war in our name. An army of tyranny cannot fight for liberty.
Back to the Moslem example. Were we to proclaim religious liberty with our mouths, then spit on that very freedom within the ranks -- were we to discriminate within the military service against one religion among all others -- we would be mocking the ideals and the credo of the United States; the paltry gain from treating Moslems in our military service as "dhimmi" would be far outweighed by the message of hypocrisy and fraud, which would drag our country down into the same filth as the very countries we're fighting in the war against radical Islamism.
Note that nothing above prevents us from going after Moslem service members who engage in, conspire to engage in, or call for others to engage in jihad against America or our allies. Why not? Because then we are discriminating, not on the basis of religion or any other statistical class of people, but on the basis of violent and criminal actions committed by an individual.
"Unapproved" is not "evil"
I strongly believe that the same holds true for gays serving in the military. While homosexuality is not a religion, the syllogism is strikingly similar in structure:
- Gays hold certain beliefs and engage in certain actions that make others "uncomfortable."
But those actions are not inherently mala in se, the legal term for activity that is a crime by its very nature, inherent evil such as murder, assault, rape, robbery, theft, and so forth -- within the American culture as a whole.
For an action to be malum in se, it must be almost universally considered so in our society, our entire society (which is what the military is there to protect and promote, remember?) -- not just among a small subset of very religious Americans.
- Yet we have made it a crime within the military, a malum prohibitum -- a crime only because we have declared it a crime, like driving on the left side of a road or painting your house the wrong color as defined by zoning laws.
- And the justification for this malum-prohibitum law is not that anything inherent to homosexuality itself causes a breakdown in morale, good order and discipline, or military effectiveness -- nobody alleges that gays are inherently incapable of engaging in effective combat or standing watch or peeling spuds -- but rather that some heterosexual service members might feel an unreasonable fear or loathing against gays that might stop those heterosexuals from peforming their duties.
That is, the argument is not that "gays can't fight;" the argument is that "some straights are so rattled by the fact of homosexuality that they themselves can't fight." Therefore -- gays shouldn't serve openly? The argument is mad on its face.
-- With liberty and justice for all
Obviously the military can prohibit behavior that quintessentially disrupts military functioning, such as gays aggressively soliciting straights -- or other, non-interested gays -- or straights harassing gays -- or straights aggressively soliciting service members of the opposite sex. And any sort of harassment, oppression, political activism, or evangelism can legitimately be curtailed within the military, whether its purpose is to recruit members into homosexuality or to recruit members into Christianity.
But there is no more reason to single out gays, as a class, for official silencing than there is for singling out Moslems, Democrats, or blacks.
The difference between the American military and, say, the North Korean military is that our armed forces promote freedom and liberty, while theirs promote the whims of the Dear Leader, no matter what those whims may entail.
We engage in the absolute bare minimum restriction of liberty in our culture, even of our soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen; so long as speech or activity does not impede the goal of protecting and projecting the national interests of the United States, we don't treat our servicemen and -women as slaves or prisoners. (After the initial period of training is completed, and lumpen civilians have been turned into fighting men and women, that is.)
We don't tell them who to vote for, or what religion to practice, or even what movies to watch. Heck, we even let them publish blogs, unless those blogs begin to disrupt combat (for example, by giving away our tactics, positions, or objectives). We don't tell servicemen what kinds of girls to date or marry; why should we tell them which gender to date?
There is no mission-related reason to curtail that liberty, especially since the Supreme Court struck down (Lawrence v. Texas) all laws against "sodomy" in the larger culture; it is now only a crime within the military and nowhere else, despite the inability to articulate any reason why homosexuality is inherently incompatible with "good order and discipline."
Personally, I believe it all comes down to irrational hatred of homosexuals and homosexuality. And please do recall that I completely oppose same-sex marriage and support all efforts to promote traditional marriage, even covenant marriage; I'm not a spokesman for the gay agenda.
Who's a sodomite anyway?
In fact, I also think the UCMJ should be brought into line with Lawrence even on purely heterosexual matters; I believe it's still technically "sodomy," under Article 125, for a serviceman to engage in oral sex with his wife, in his own home, on his own time:
Article 125 -- Sodomy
(a) Any person subject to this chapter who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy. Penetration, however slight, is sufficient
to complete the offense.
(b) Any person found guilty of sodomy shall by punished as a court-martial may direct....
It is unnatural carnal copulation for a person to take into that person’s mouth or anus the sexual organ of another person or of an animal; or to place that person’s sexual organ in the mouth or anus of another person or of an animal; or to have carnal copulation in any opening of the body, except the sexual parts, with another person; or to have carnal copulation with an animal.
When is the last time a straight serviceman was prosecuted and kicked out for oral sex with a woman? Why is there no DADT for BJs? In addition to everything else, gays also suffer disparate treatment under military law; they are unequally prosecuted for doing (or even admitting doing) what is equally illegal under the code if done by a heterosexual serviceman.
So how many servicemen are there right now in the military who demand that homosexuals serve in secret or not be allowed to serve at all -- yet who are themselves "sodomites" under the UCMJ? And how many of those would agree never again to get a BJ or even reveal that they enjoy it?
Fox in the hole
This might not present a problem to some pencil pusher in the Pentagon (where they seem to have concentrated this "survey") because they go home at the end of the day. However at the "sharp end of the spear" it's often 24/7, and 365.
The implication being that the demands of front-line combat make it impossible to accept openly gay service members fighting alongside straights.
But why? Other than appeal to privilege, nobody has given a real argument why a straight soldier would feel more nervous sitting in a foxhole with a gay soldier than with a soldier of unknown sexual preference. It's hard to imagine that in such a tense situation, anybody, gay or straight, would be chumming for sexual partners.
We all agree that there already are gay soldiers, sailors, airmen, and even Marines in service; evidently, they aren't putting the moves on the other guy in the foxhole, or the DADT-discharge rate would be much, much higher than it is.
I would guess that DADT notwithstanding, most gay members of the military service are already known to be or suspecting of being gay by most of their squadmates. In nearly all cases, the latter generally ignore the fact as irrelevant -- unless the gay member actually starts causing a problem, making a spectacle of himself, or hitting on people left and right... which is a separate problem and easily dealt with by disciplinary action, just as it would be in the case of heterosexual or non-sexual harassment.
This is a silly argument, unsourced and unsupported. It amounts to the ancient stereotype of saying that gays just can't control themselves like straights can: Bob bends over to pick up a sandbag, and Nigel just can't stop himself from grabbing Bob's posterior.
But -- in a foxhole? On the deck of an aircraft carrier? In a Boeing 767 AWACS controlling a battlefield? In a fast-attack submarine? For heaven's sake, isn't this argument just a tad ridiculous? It's reaching so far, it topples off the table. If somebody is that oblivious to external reality, it doesn't really matter if he's gay or straight; he's a menace either way.
Now there is one circumstance where this could happen, but it's not strictly confined to gays. If a gay man is living an explicitly "gay lifestyle" -- say in the ferment of the Castro-Street subculture of San Francisco -- surrounded by other, very promiscuous gay men and heading out to the bathhouse every other night with his friends, then yes, his sexual activities could overwhelm every other aspect of his life. But by the same token, straights who fall into the "swinger" lifestyle might find their own sex lives out of control; and Moslems living a strict and fundamentalist Islamic lifestyle might find their religion getting out of control.
Yet the danger in these cases come from radicalism of any kind, not from Moslems, heterosexuals, or homosexuals as a class. I agree that we should not allow radicals into our armed forces, and we should discharge them if we discover their radicalism after enlistment. But radical anything, I mean.
Slip sliding away
Commenter Pam worries about the slippery slope (bracket-notes added for reference below):
Guess I'm a big picture person, but if we allow gays to serve openly, then  couldn't they get married or have a civil union if they so choose? If they can do this,  how can the government deny a spouse all the dependent privileges that current spouses have? If this happens, then  isn't the Federal Defense of Marriage Act pretty much gone, and if that's gone, then we pretty much have to  accept any or all unions from state to state!
- No, just because you are allowed to serve doesn't change the definition of marriage.
- A government cannot deny a spouse spousal benefits; but we do not recognize same-sex marriage at the federal level.
- You cannot "back-door" (sorry again!) a repeal of DOMA by allowing gays to serve openly in the military, because DOMA says nothing about that issue.
- Finally, even if Congress voted not only to repeal DADT but also to repeal DOMA, that would not immediately allow polygamy and sibling marriage; each issue would have to be fought separately, either in the proper venue of Congress and state legislatures, or in the entirely inappropriate venue of the courts.
(This argument is basically, "If we give gays one item from the gay agenda, aren't we obliged to give them every other item?" Of course the answer is No, we're not.)
Brains rinsed while U wait
Commenter Bill Befort raises a jurisprudential point that I've seen from others:
There's a lot more to this than who showers with whom. As Adm. Mullen's comments hint, it means endless brainwashing: the services essentially ordering members to demonstrate acceptance of homosexual behavior, or else.
No brainwashing at all... any more than allowing, say, atheists to serve means endless brainwashing of members to force them to approve of atheism. The answer is that, in order to serve in the military, you needn't approve of homosexuality, promiscuous heterosexuality, atheism, Islam, or even the military culture of orders and discipline: You only need to tolerate those things and be willing (even if you don't like it) to obey orders and do your duty, to support your fellow members, and to be willing to lay down your life, if necessary.
You don't have to like your squadmates, and you certainly don't have to approve of their lifestyles from some cosmic perspective. For that matter, some gay servicemen who happen to be monogamous church-goers might thoroughly disapprove of the lifestyle of a straight serviceman who drinks like a chimney and sleeps with ten different women every month.
But hey, he doesn't have to approve. He only has to tolerate Mr. Don Juan; and both men have to be there for each other when the bullets begin to fly, literally or metaphorically.
Bill Befort continues:
And the services will need to collect data on whether the policy is "working," which among other things will mean Must Ask, Must Tell.
Surely we can tell whether units are coming together (ack, I just can't stop myself!) or falling apart without having to query (sigh) every service member as to his sexuality. The signs would be obvious... just as they are when, for example, politicos dictate unworkable rules of engagement or a bad CO is unable to lead his men.
We need to give the test enough time that units find ways to overcome the inevitable problems that any change brings, but not so much time that a unit that is not adapting is utterly demoralized or rendered unfit for duty.
Measure six times before you repeal
The experiment is to see whether (and how) units can overcome any initial friction and remain melded together. Any change, even a good one like desegregating the troops, brings some dislocation for a while. Let a small number of units experience that and find ways to overcome it, and then we'll have a template for overcoming similar temporary dislocation in the armed forces as a whole.
Alternatively, we may discover that it's impossible to overcome the problems; in which case conservatives have new and potent ammunition to argue against repealing DADT throughout the entire military.
My hackles rise automatically whenever those who oppose some policy on the grounds that it will lead to disaster are unwilling even to support a small-scale test run; I cannot shake the feeling that the real reason isn't that they think a scale run will disclose serious problems... but rather that the scale run will generate solutions that make the policy change easier, less dangerous, and therefore more likely to occur.
But if it turns out that fears of catastrophe are unfounded, yet the same people still oppose the policy, then fear of failure was never the reason for rejecting the policy in the first place.
And then we're back either to irrational hatred of gays, or the inappropriate institutionalizing of specific religious doctrine into military law... or both.
Date ►►► December 5, 2010
Don't Gasp, Don't Kvell part II - a Modish Proposal
Liberals demand that gays be allowed immediately to serve openly in all areas of all branches of military service, on grounds of civil rights. Conservatives demand that gays not be allowed to serve openly but only covertly, under the infamous Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy of Bill Clinton, or else not allowed to serve at all -- on the grounds that many-but-not-all front-line soldiers and Marines, sailors and airmen believe that unit cohesion would suffer.
And here I am, stuck in the middle again!
I see merit on both sides the divide:
On the one hand, the troops do not "own" the military; service members are told to do many things they don't want to do, including swallowing rules of engagement (ROEs), commanders, and even missions that severely and negatively impact unit cohesion... for example, being ordered to perform "peacekeeping" duty, a monumentally stupid policy that led directly to the 1983 Beirut bombing, in which 241 American servicemen were slain by Hezbollah terrorists.
But do we give service members a vote on whether to be deployed as peacekeepers, or under what ROEs they must fight? Of course not; when you raise your hand and swear to obey orders "according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice," it's not an à la carte menu; you must swallow the whole meal, even parts that never occurred to you when you took that oath, so long as the orders are legal and they're issued to you by somebody in your chain of command.
On the other hand, people, including servicemen and -women, cannot always control how they feel about people who engage in certain activities that many religions consider "abomination." Try as they might not to let their feelings affect their duty to obey lawful orders, troops are nevertheless human. They may treat those fellow members differently, and that would indeed be bad for morale and unit cohesion, not to mention degrading effectiveness and safety.
On the third hand, an awful lot of members of the same services, combat servicemen, strictly heterosexual, seem to have no problem at all serving alongside openly homosexual members. So why can't the others just shrug off the "ick" factor and treat fellow members' sexual preferences as none of their business?
On the fourth hand, some gays join the military for the sole purpose of making a political statement, adopting a flamboyant and promiscuous lifestyle and rubbing it in the faces of their squadmates, and in general turning what should be a fighting machine into a witches' cauldron of agenda-driven experimentation in pushing the sexual limit.
On the fifth hand -- am I starting to sound like John Kerry? -- there are some pretty darned flamboyant heterosexual swingers, fornicators, and irresponsible impregnators in the military, too, like the sailor with the proverbial "three girls in every port." If religious Christians, Jews, and Moslems can learn to work alongside a man who measures the number of his female conquests in four digits, they should be able to show similar restraint towards a man who has just one lover -- who happens also to be a man, but remains always offstage.
On the sixth hand, when gays who ardently desire to defend their country can only serve while keeping a huge, career-killing secret, that is an invitation to blackmail... which could result in terrible damage to the American military, depending on who is doing the blackmailing and what he demands for his silence.
So let me cut this Gordian cheese with a simple suggestion:
- Randomly select a small number of units, some combat and some support, and allow gays to serve openly in them for a period of, say, five years.
- During that time, it will be made very, very difficult to transfer out of (or into) one of those experimental units, and definitely no transfers on the basis of "I can't serve alongside gays," or "I'm gay and I want to serve openly." Members are assigned into and out of those units on the normal bases used in every other unit... no special favors for pro- or anti-DADT activists. (This is to prevent politically motivated "grand gestures" from mucking up the test results.)
- During that time, rules against harassment (by any party, targeting any party), adultery, rape and sexual assault, and sexual-preference discrimination are strictly enforced (as they really should be throughout the service anyway).
- At the expiry of five years, units are evaluated and compared to units still under DADT rules on the usual bases: unit effectiveness (fighting or support), cohesion, morale, problem incidents, and so forth. (Of course, if truly serious problems develop before the five years are up, we can always cancel the program immediately and return to DADT for all units.)
- Finally, nobody in one of those units who served openly is to be penalized after the five year period for having done so, no matter which way the decision goes. Without that legal guarantee, nobody would serve openly, because everyone would be too afraid of retaliation as soon as the testing period is finished.
At that point, everyone should agree that we had tremendously more hard data than we do now, data that particularly pertains to the United States military, not foreign militaries. Congress and the Commander in Chief would be much better situated to make the decision yea or nay at that time, and the American people would have much more information to decide whether they approve of that decision, whatever it is -- or hate it so much that they vote the "deciders" out of office.
In other words, I'm suggesting we perform the experiment of allowing gays to serve openly in the military on a scale-model of the military first, and only proceed to a final, service-wide decision when we see how the scale version worked out. (Afterwards, we could use the same technique to test whether allowing women to serve in combat positions in combat zones enhanced, diminished, or had no effect on those same military standards and criteria.)
Why has nobody suggested this before? It seems pretty straightforward to me.
(If there is some reason why it would be worse to test out such changes on a scale version than to go for the whole enchilada all at once, please let me know; although embarassing to be proven wrong, it's much less embarassing than persisting in some foolish error year after year because everyone is too polite to tell you your idea is full of schist!)
Date ►►► December 1, 2010
We used to say there were two major parties in the United States: The Corrupt Party and the Stupid Party; and most of us reading this blog are members of the latter.
Well, we may have to change the former to the Corrupt and Stupid Party:
A food safety bill that has burned up precious days of the Senate’s lame-duck session appears headed back to the chamber because Democrats violated a constitutional provision requiring that tax provisions originate in the House.
By pre-empting the House’s tax-writing authority, Senate Democrats appear to have touched off a power struggle with members of their own party in the House. The Senate passed the bill Tuesday, sending it to the House, but House Democrats are expected to use a procedure known as “blue slipping” to block the bill, according to House and Senate GOP aides.
The debacle could prove to be a major embarrassment for Senate Democrats, who sought Tuesday to make the relatively unknown bill a major political issue by sending out numerous news releases trumpeting its passage.
As they say, "heh."
Note that this guff about tax bills needing to originate in the House, not the Senate, is not just a congressional regulation or even a law; it come straight from the United States Constitution, Article I, section 7:
Although there was a previous version of this bill that did originate in the House in 2009, it seems that Senate Democrats added "a set of fees that are classified as revenue raisers;" that triggers the constitutional concerns (and Democrat embarassment).
The two possible responses are:
- Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) can try to ram it through the Senate again after (if) the House wastes time passing it.
- Or Reid can just drop the issue -- and look even more of an ass, after that PR blitz -- to focus on the DREAM Act, granting amnesty and full voting rights to any illegal immigrant willing to swear allegiance to the Corrupt and Stupid Party.
Of course, Reid must be familiar with this sort of self-humiliation; he is a repeat offender:
This is not the first time that Reid has run afoul of the Constitution’s tax origination provisions. His efforts to pass a tourism promotion bill that was key to his re-election hopes was temporarily stymied earlier this year because the Senate passed a version with revenue raisers similar to those in the food safety bill.
Scott Johnson of Power Line posted today about the Senate GOP's letter to Reid, in which they promised to filibuster all bills until and unless Congress (a) passes a budget, and (b) rejects the built-in tax increase that the Democrats forced into George W. Bush's tax cut bill of 2001. Scott concluded his post thus:
The letter is a good idea, but couldn't they have signed off on it before the Senate passed the stupid and misguided Nanny state food bill on Monday?
Looks like Christmas came early to Mr. Johnson this year!
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