Date ►►► August 30, 2011
The New York Times Defines "Fiscal Conservative"
Just in case you weren't sure of the definition, the New York Times shows us the perfect "fiscal conservative" in Yoshihiko Noda, incoming Prime Minister of Japan:
Yoshihiko Noda, a down-to-earth fiscal conservative, was elected prime minister by the Japanese Parliament on Tuesday in the sixth change of leaders in five years, a period of mounting economic and social challenges to the world’s third-largest economy. [Emphasis added - DaH]
And what fiscal policies does this plucky, self-deprecating, "down-to-earth fiscal conservative" intend to enact to earn that title? The Times clarifies:
In his previous role [as finance minister], he orchestrated multiple interventions in currency markets to weaken a strong yen that has battered Japanese exporters....
As a fiscal conservative, he is one of few within his party to suggest that raising taxes might be necessary to rein in Japan’s deficit....
Mr. Noda “will most likely temper his fiscally hawkish stance, which other candidates were loath to espouse, even as he champions an eventual return to fiscal responsibility,” Naomi Fink, a Tokyo-based strategist at the investment house Jefferies, said in a note....
Mr. Noda has said that he will stick to [outgoing Prime Minister Naoto] Kan’s promise to gradually phase out nuclear power, but that it remains necessary in the short term to prevent electricity shortages that could further cripple the economy. [Emphasis added - DaH]
All right, I think I've got it. A fiscal conservative is a government official who:
- Manipulates currency markets for corporatist political purposes...
- Raises taxes on a shattered citizenry during a terrible recession and ongoing disaster recovery...
- Offers, as the cornerstone of his energy policy, to eliminate (on grounds of eco-hysteria and radical enviromentalism) efficient, highly productive, and clean nuclear power, which is already up and operating, to be replaced (when?) by what, oil and coal, which must be imported at enormous cost, and the infrastructure for which Japan does not even possess? More likely by "green energy": windmills, solar cells, or perhaps banks of perpetual-motion machines to power the island nation...
- And who sees "fiscal responsibility" as a vague and distant goal he might embrace... "eventually."
Yessiree, that's the kind of steely-eyed fiscal conservative the Little Old Grey Lady pines for, in America as well as abroad.
And let's add one more qualification: Japan's Yoshihiko Noda is definitely not one of those slope-browed, slack-jawed, snake-handling, tongues-speaking, science-rejecting, theocratic "Christianists" who lurk in the United States; I'm certain he rejects "either-or" dichotomies: Right and Left, right and wrong, economic and uneconomic, true and false.
If Noda is like his brethren in the Diet, he sees the world in shades of grey, a twilight zone where the wild things are never quite asleep but never fully awake. Noda is certainly from one of the good religions that reject harsh, Judeo-Christian values -- Buddhism, Shinto, Atheism, Communism... something into which a man like Bill Keller can sink his teeth!
Perhaps now we understand Keller's urgency in getting to the bottom of all this "Christianity" stuff rampant among Republican candidates for President: Keller is still searching for those elusive, Times-approved "fiscal conservatives" in the GOP.
Date ►►► August 28, 2011
In Case I Ever Contract Mad-Cow Disease and Decide to Run for President...
New York Times' Executive Editor Bill Keller, is just about to expire; I mean, he has set his expiry date in September, when he will step down to become "a full time writer." Keller will be replaced by Jill Abramson, who, along with Jane Mayer, wrote a despicable smear-job cum character assassination of Justice Clarence Thomas titled Strange Justice in 1994.
I think she'll settle into the top Times job nicely.
But soon-to-be-but-humble-writer Keller is going out with partisan flair: He crafted a series of smarmy questions on religion, religous nuttery, and how a presidential candidate's goofy religious cult (like Rick Perry's "Christianity") might adversely impact his decision-making and rationality, leading to national catastrophe and faith-caused disaster.
Curiously, he asks his questions only of Republican candidates; I can only conclude that Keller, too, believes that the current squatter at 1600 Pennsylvania is lame duck quacking.
We already have quite a number of GOP candidates; but it's always possible that every one of them will drop out, a la Tim Pawlenty -- see? it's happening already! Thus there's a chance the resulting power vacuum will force the Republican National Conceders to search deeper down the bench for our nominee. In fact, the RNC might finally end up tapping people with zero political training, zero interest in politics, negligible mental stability, and even less experience than Barack H. Obama. That is, people like me!
When that time comes, I'm sure even we schlimazels and schnorrers will have to confront the inquisition and come up with some reasonable (and reasonably waggish) answers. Ergo (Latin for "tell the girl to leave"), firmly taking up the witty man's burden (or at least the half of it), I shall be more than happy to answer the K-man's vital questions for myself, by myself, and as always, only thinking about myself. Read on, assuming you have nothing better to do, like grooming baboons or filing your teeth.
(Keller's questions are in blue below; my answers are in regular, unadorned, manly black. Or rather in manly reddish brown, the normal, lovable, Big Lizards standard typeface color you've all come to know and loathe.)
Keller's Curiously Concentrated and Condescending Killer Questions
1. Is it fair to question presidential candidates about details of their faith?
Under some circumstances, yes. For example, it may be worthwhile to discover whether a candidate's faith requires him to sacrifice pious virgins to the Volcano God -- if for no other reason than to determine how many interns he might need in a given year. (Not that one is likely to find a D.C. intern, male or female, who met the qualifications.)
2. Is it fair to question candidates about controversial remarks made by their pastors, mentors, close associates or thinkers whose books they recommend?
Show 'nuff! And also about whether it takes more than a bicycle path disagreement to cause said candidate to change religions.
3. (a) Do you agree with those religious leaders who say that America is a "Christian nation" or "Judeo-Christian nation?" (b) What does that mean in practice?
(b) Take a look around you, clod: Our entire culture -- its laws, religious sects, recreational activities, marital habits, prandial habits, and everyday idioms and expressions all scream "Judeo-Christian." For example, the United States rarely holds auto-da-feys anymore, in which infidels are tortured to death in arenas and sporting venues, while spectators bet on which sinner will survive the longest during his the stoning; so evidently, we're not a Moslem country.
And most of us have long ago given up virgin sacrifices (see question 1 above); so it appears we are not a nation of atheistic, lefty film makers with Polish surnames, either.
As Sherlock Holmes wrote in one of his stories about the ficticious writer "Arthur Conan Doyle," when you eliminate all the incredibly stupid things in politics, then whatever remains, no matter how bizarre, must be... Well, I reckon you're usually left with a fistful of nothing. Nevermind.
Look, America is a Judeo-Christian country, see? And if you're not aware of this fact, you're unqualified to live here. Move somewhere else!
4. If you encounter a conflict between your faith and the Constitution and laws of the United States, how would you resolve it? Has that happened, in your experience?
Hasn't happened, unless it did and I missed it.
Now, if I were Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Mecca, 100%), I would have six impossible conflicts before breakfast, as my religion would demand that I overturn all democratic institutions, marry multiple wives, wage literal war upon liberty, eschew porcine delectables, cease drinking like a chimney, and remake America into a vassel state of the world Caliphate. All without giving up any of the myriad privileges that go with being a member of the World's Greatest Deliberative Body. (Wait, I think that's supposed to be the Senate; a member, then, of the World's Greatest Second-Rate Body.)
But then again, I don't CAIR.
5. (a) Would you have any hesitation about appointing a Muslim to the federal bench? (b) What about an atheist?
(a) If he was Michael Moore, darn tootin'! Oops, correction: You said Moslem, not mausoleum, right? Sorry.
What was the question again?
(b) Appointing a Moslem to be an atheist? What you been smoking, Keller?
Oh, wait; your clumsy grammar threw me off. Do you mean, would I hesitate before appointing an atheist to sit on a bench owned by the feds? Not if it was full of splinters.
6. Are Mormons Christians, in your view? Should the fact that Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman are Mormons influence how we think of them as candidates?
Are Progressivists socialists? Opinions are like... well, you know the saying. Since I'm neither Mormon nor Christian, my long thought out, brilliantly articulated opinion is that I couldn't care less.
(But for the Mormons Romney and Huntsman, I would be more impressed if they were Myrmidons.)
7. What do you think of the evangelical Christian movement known as Dominionism and the idea that Christians, and only Christians, should hold dominion over the secular institutions of the earth?
Objection, question assumes a fact not in evidence: What do you mean, "what do I think?"
8. (a) What is your attitude toward the theory of evolution? (b) Do you believe it should be taught in public schools?
(a) Leaning just forward enough to be off-balance.
(b) It would be nice if something was taught in the public schools!
9. Do you believe it is proper for teachers to lead students in prayer in public schools?
Not if the prayer is, "Please God, don't let me get caught!"
Questions Keller intended for Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN, 100%)
1. You have said that watching the film series "How Should We Then Live?" by the evangelist Francis Schaeffer was a life-altering event for you. That series stresses the "inerrancy" -- the literal truth -- of the Bible. Do you believe the Bible consists of literal truths, or that it is to be taken more metaphorically?
My life-altering film was 2001: A Space Odyssey; and yes, I believe the aliens on the other side of the wormhole obelisk orbiting Jupiter are literally true!
We await the starchild from Sirius -- arf arf!
2. You have recommended as meaningful in your life works by leading advocates of Dominionism, including Nancy Pearcey, whose book "Total Truth" warns Christians to be suspicious of ideas that come from non-Christians. Do you agree with that warning?
The books that meant most in my life are the oeuvre of Robert Anton Wilson. Not the Wilson of the last few years before he died, when he was a foul-mouthed, chain-smoking, wheelchair-bound kook who had rediscovered his inner Hefner; I mean his earlier, funnier period.
But as for your warning, I am suspicious of all ideas. Period.
Especially those of Robert Anton Wilson (in his earlier, funnier period).
3. Last year, in a documentary produced by Truth in Action Ministries, you espoused the idea that the government is not entitled to collect as taxes more than 10 percent of a household’s income, the amount Christians are called upon to tithe to the church. Is that a goal you would pursue as president?
Heck no. As future president (and current Archdruid of the Truth Inaction Miniseries), I would never pursue a goal to set the maximal income-tax rate at 10%.
I was thinking more along the lines of setting each American's income-tax rate to his average blood-alcohol level for the year, though I admit that could disparately affect the protected class of elected officials.
4. One of your mentors at Oral Roberts University, John Eidsmoe, teaches that when biblical law conflicts with American law, a Christian must work to change the law. Do you agree? Are there examples where the Bible guides you to challenge existing secular law?
I believe conservative Christians should seek to overturn every idiotic law that conflicts with basic public sanity; and the quickest way to do this is to find the nearest liberal and smite the jawbone of an ass.
5. Another book you have recommended is a biography of Robert E. Lee by J. Steven Wilkins, who contends that the Civil War was a clash between a Christian South and a godless North. He writes that in the South, contrary to the notion that slaves were victims, there was a "unity and companionship that existed between the races" because they shared a common faith. Do you agree with Mr. Wilkins?
Mr. Keller; is the phrase "tendentious caricature" still in the NYT's stylebook?
(And while we're on the subject, did you know that the word "gullible" is not found in any dictionary?)
Questions Keller intended for Texas Gov. Rick Perry
1. A recent article in The Texas Observer questioned your relationship with the New Apostolic Reformation, which advocates the belief that Christians and only Christians should hold dominion over earthly institutions. A number of leaders of this movement were given prominent roles in the prayer event called the Response. Would you like to clarify your relationship with these leaders? Do you hope for their support in your campaign?
I have never heard of the New Apostolic Reformation Dominionists (NARDs), but I'll try to answer the question as best I can.
I try never to fool around with NARDs; they can be very sensitive, and they bruise easily. And I certainly don't want to kick the NARDs when they're down, as you seem to want us to do; they're not a bunch of nuts, they are precious jewels in the conservative family.
And I very much wish I could have more satisfying relations with all the leading NARDs in America.
But on the other hand, I'm not going wear them on my sleeve or to blow kisses at them, either. I believe the only appropriate response would be to find the nearest NARDs, take them in hand, and firmly apply pressure in a vigorous and manly way; we might thereby raise the pitch of political discussion an octave or two.
But conservatism cannot simply sit on its NARDs. We need them; and when we neglect or abuse our NARDs, the entire body of conservatism aches.
We can only get satisfaction if we keep agitating them, rattling them around in constant motion. And we cannot sever our NARDs, cutting them off from the rest of the movement. Rather, we must hurl our NARDs straight into the melting pot, grinding them togther with all the other strains of conservative thought. After all, NARDs alone can do little without the great pillar of Republicanism that sucks in mere aimless effusions and directs them into a concentrated spray of intellectual fecundity.
For we must always remember that our ultimate target is not a mere trickle of rhetorical fluency here and there, but rather a great gusher spurting straight into the mainstream of voters. We must always aim directly at those busy, little beavers whose hard work joins us all together in an eruption of national love.
Those are my thoughts on this subject; I think I'll go smoke a cigarette.
2. You have been close to David Barton, founder of WallBuilders, who has endorsed your campaign. He preaches that America is a Christian nation, that we should have a government "firmly rooted in biblical principles" and that the Bible offers explicit guidance on public policy -- for example, tax policy. Do you disagree with him on any of these points?
Sorry I can't rise to the occasion; I'm still pretty drained.
3. In 2008, Senator John McCain disavowed the endorsement of the Rev. John Hagee, after Reverend Hagee made remarks offensive to Catholics and declared that the Holocaust was part of God’s plan to drive the Jews to Palestine. In this campaign, Reverend Hagee has reportedly decided you are his favorite candidate. Are you willing to accept his endorsement of your campaign?
I would never accept the endorsement of anyone who would stoop so low as to support someone like me for president.
Questions Keller intended for Sen. Rick Santorum
1. Some voters -- you have probably encountered them -- worry that religious zeal can lead to a rejection of scientific evidence, resulting in policy proposals that are essentially faith-based. In an interview with Rush Limbaugh, you described global warming as "junk science" and "patently absurd," and accused proponents of being part of a plot to expand government control over our lives. Among scientists who specialize in climate, there is now a strong consensus that earth is experiencing a pronounced warming trend, and that human behavior contributes to it. How did you decide that on this issue you agreed with the scientific outliers? Was this an example of faith-based policy judgment?
How did you settle on the phrase "strong consensus?" Do you believe the great scientific questions should be decided by voice vote?
And if so, is this an example of your faithless-based policy judgment?
Personally, I think scientific disputes should be resolved by duels. If you're not willing to guarantee your hypothesis with your body, then we should axe your accolades and eradicate your honorifics.
2. You signed a pledge circulated by the Family Leader, an Iowa conservative group, promising "personal fidelity to my spouse." Do you think cheating on a spouse disqualifies a candidate from being president?
Depends on whose spouse you cheat on. For example, if it's Joachim Sauer's spouse, you might be disqualified on grounds of poor judgment.
If it's Bill Clinton's spouse, you might be disqualified on grounds of insanity!
Questions Keller intended for Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney
1. In your 2007 speech on religion, you said that "freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom." Where does that leave unbelievers, in your view?
In a box, with the ambiguity.
2. This year, as in the 2008 election, polls show that there is some resistance to voting for a Mormon -- including among some evangelical Christians, who have been taught that the Mormon church is a "cult." Do you sense that this prejudice is still a factor in the campaign? If so, how do you address it?
By converting to Algorism. Show the jackanapes what a real cult looks like!
3. Was your religion a factor in your decision to oppose gay marriage and civil unions?
Was your liberalism a factor in your decision to devote the last twenty-seven years of your life to using the old Gray Lady as a bludgeon to dismantle American culture?
4. Do you believe that your upbringing in the Mormon faith provided you with some qualities that enhance your abilities as a political leader?
Why yes, if gave me a great capacity for dealing firmly with liberal mor -- oh wait, did you say Mormons?
Questions Keller intended for Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman
1. Though you were reared Mormon, you have described yourself as "not overly religious." I can imagine that is doubly unhelpful in winning the votes of evangelical Christians who figure so heavily in the Republican primary season: on the one hand, many of them have been taught that the Mormon church is a "cult"; on the other, many of them are looking for a candidate they regard as godly. How do you persuade conservative evangelicals to vote for you?
By turning my microphone into a serpent that devours the other nominees, including the incumbent master debater himself. Can't get much better political theater than that!
2. If not religion, what do you use as your guide in deciding what is right and what is wrong?
At any crossroads, I always ask myself, "WWZD?" He has never failed me.
See? Now how hard was all that. I swear, I don't know what these candidates are whining about.
Date ►►► August 23, 2011
They Call the Wind "Sharia"
Let's start with a simple call and response.
A national drive against citing “foreign” laws in U.S. courts -- one that critics say is a veiled attack on Islamic Shariah law -- has reached the state with the nation’s largest concentration of Muslims.
The Michigan bill, which mirrors "American Laws for American Courts" legislation introduced in more than 20 other states, was introduced in June by state Rep. Dave Agema, Grandville Republican. He has argued that it has nothing to do with Islam or the faith’s Koran-based Shariah law, but is designed to stop anyone who seeks to invoke a foreign law in state courts.
Victor Begg, a Republican and senior adviser to the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan, calls the legislation "hogwash" and said it is clear there is an underlying agenda. He suggested that such measures moving through more than 20 states are part of an organized and well-funded "witch hunt" and that Islam and Muslim-Americans are the real targets.
"We are appalled that our elected officials would waste their time on something that is unnecessary," Mr. Begg said, noting Michigan’s economic woes, including one of the nation’s highest jobless rates.
"We are very unhappy that in these days and times that a large number of legislators would target a minority faith like ours. This is reminiscent of what happened to Catholics a century ago. We don’t need to go back to the Dark Ages here. We have built relationships and we do a lot of interfaith work, and we are not into civil rights, filing lawsuits and such."
Catholics? Were Catholics in the United States trying to introduce Catholic ecclesiastical law into civil and criminal courts? Were they prevented from doing so by brand new legislation forbidding the vicars of Christ from exercising temporal authority over citizens? In my readings of history, I seem to have overlooked that chapter.
In fact, the "Catholic" accusation is a complete non-sequitur, a red herring; but it's also a preemptive strike of "dawa," the promulgation and propagation of jihad by means other than actual warfare.
The American Laws for American Courts legislation can be argued either way, pro or con (though I think on the whole it's a very good idea, and I would vote for it if it was a citizens constitutional amendment).
It's certainly true that American law comes from British law, to a large extent, so we've already let the cat out of the bottle. And what about situations where a court is stuck deciding a case with virtually no American caselaw; shouldn't the court at least look at how other nations have dealt with the situation, for good or ill?
But on the other hand (how Kerryesque!), other countries almost certainly have very different ideas of due process, evidence, and the rights enjoyed by the people. Areas of conflict between foreign courts and the demands of American jurisprudence include:
- The citizen's interaction with the government, including the right to keep and bear arms, religious freedom, freedom of speech and assembly, and due process rights, all of which many countries curtail in ways that would be unconstitutional in the United States;
- The proper interaction between men and women, often abused via the acceptance of so-called "honor" killings and curtailing of women's property rights, voting rights, employment rights, and women's right to choose their own relationships (forced marriages);
- The tension between the individual and his or her community; many countries enforce a national culture by law, for example by prescribing or prohibiting unconventional clothing or hairstyle, banning certain kinds of music, literature, art, and even advertising, or confining immigrants to special zones to avoid "corrupting" the native-born;
- And the proper role of Capitalism; many foreign countries greatly mistrust private capital altogether and have criminalize "excess profit," or allow the State to sue individuals to relieve them of the fruits of their labors; others set up so many rules, regulations, and required licenses that only the well-connected can run the gauntlet to start a new business. (Alas, the United States itself is starting to heed the call of that siren temptation.)
To hijack foreign laws in order to force the United States to become one with the rest of the world would be an irrecoverable enormity that would either spell the end of American exceptionalism -- which many opponents of American Laws for American Courts would likewise denounce -- or spark another bloody American revolution to restore liberty and freedom.
But whichever side you take on the underlying sins and virtues of the legislation, one fact is demonstrably clear: The American Laws for American Courts legislation itself is facially and de facto non-sectarian. Unlike some recent state actions, it does not single out sharia law or any other specific foreign law (which would allow-by-omission the admissibility of all the rest).
I have added the model legislation for American Laws for American Courts in the "Slither on" section of this post (click to read); you can read it for yourself and judge whether it specifically and particularly attacks sharia law while allowing American courts to base decisions on other foreign courts, or whether it is even-handed and applies equally to all.
I take this version of the model legislation from the American Public Policy Alliance. On their website, they do cite sharia law as the most dangerous current incursion of foreign concepts of jurisprudence into American law; but the legislation itself singles out no particular foreign court whatsoever, not sharia, nor Communist, nor tribal principles of criminal compensation, nor the Napoleonic Code of France.
Yet despite that fact, all of the mass protest against this law -- both by sectarian groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR, essentially a front group for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood) and the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan, and by atheist and non-sectarian activist groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU, essentially a front group for the most liberal of the Democratic National Committee) -- all the mass protest has focused exclusively on Moslems and the introduction of sharia law into many, many states of the United States.
Which, in a completely unrelated coincidence, has been accelerating of late:
A study by the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., looked at 50 appellate cases from 23 states and found that Shariah law had been applied or formally recognized in court decisions.
Those cases, said Christopher Holton, a vice president at the center, represent the tip of the iceberg in what he describes as a growing conflict in state courts, where many decisions are never publicized.
"There is no question -- Shariah principles are finding their way into our courts for years now. It’s inherently discriminatory for women -- most of these involved family law. When you get a ruling in a child custody case from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan or Egypt and it’s family law, it’s all Shariah," he said.
So how should we understand this phenomenon? I have a simple principle: When a law banning X is proposed, and a person or group vigorously opposes that law, there are only two plausible motivations:
- The opposition has no personal interest in X but is simply high-minded and believes in the liberty of others, enough so to put themselves at risk for pure principle.
- The opposition actually wants to engage in X and is angry at being thwarted; it has a deep and direct personal interest in stopping the legislation.
Consider Motivation 1: If the opponents of American Laws for American Courts are simply high-minded, then they must believe that courts should generally be allowed to cite not only sharia law but also rulings from Catholic countries like France and Italy; Protestant countries like Great Britain and Germany; the lone Jewish state of Israel; countries whose governments are very socialist and anti-religion in general, like the Netherlands, the Scandanavian countries, and Red China; and of course "international courts," such as the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court (both at the Hague), the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, and indeed all other courts in France, Belgium, Spain, Germany, the U.K., Australia, and Canada that claim "universal jurisdiction" when prosecuting "crimes against humanity."
Such noble dissenters would never single out one kind of court and one alone, because that would fly in the face of the exact principle they defend... just as a true supporter of the principle of freedom of religion cannot say, "oh, but of course I don't mean religious freedom for Mormons; that's totally different!"
But of course, that is precisely how a person or group would act if he opposed the legislation for Motivation 2 -- because he or they actually want to engage in X themselves and are fighting back when told they cannot. There is nothing inherently wrong with Motivation 2; it generally supplies far more energy to a movement than the detatched and lofty dissent emanating from Motivation 1. I would say much of the mounting opposition to Obamunism comes from people suddenly being directly hurt by that avatar of "Progressivism."
But by the same token, opponents driven by Motivation 2 are often few but fanatical, and frequently act contrary to the rights, privileges, and welfare of the many.
I think it obvious which motivation, 1 or 2, best categorizes CAIR and the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan; they rail against the legislation as "an organized and well-funded 'witch hunt'" whose "real targets" are "Islam and Muslim-Americans." You certainly don't hear CAIR sticking up for the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. (For that matter, you also don't hear CAIR supporting the authority of American courts to try American-killing jihadis in American courts, even when the murders are committed in some Moslem dictatorship. It only applauds international precedents when they favor Islamism, sharia, and jihad, not when they attempt to hold radical Islamists accountable for their despicable deeds.)
No doubt whatsoever; the vast majority of those opposing the American Laws for American Courts legislation are doing so from an entirely self-serving motive: They have a long-term plan to fully embed sharia law into U.S. courts.
But why? Consider this: If jurisdictions within the United States codify sharia law into their public legislation, that would allow radical imams to declare the United States to be part of the ummah, the Moslem world; then, under sharia, such a declaration would make it perfectly legitimate to call for full-scale jihad against America -- bombings, assassinations, and the use of weapons of mass destruction -- to "reclaim" that "Moslem" country that is currently "occupied" by infidels.
Laws such as American Laws for American Courts are vital in order to maintain, not some racial or religious "purity of essence," but the seminal, organic principles upon which this country was founded: individual liberty, limited government, and Capitalism.
As Sam Gamgee says, there are good things in this world, and they're worth fighting for. I believe one whopping good thing worth fighting for is the American system of justice: When not being abused by traitors, seducers, and corrupters, it is still the ninth wonder of the world.
This is the model legislation suggested by the American Public Policy Alliance:
AN ACT to protect rights and privileges granted under the United States or [State] Constitution.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE [GENERAL ASSEMBLY/LEGISLATURE] OF THE STATE OF [_____]:
The [general assembly/legislature] finds that it shall be the public policy of this state to protect its citizens from the application of foreign laws when the application of a foreign law will result in the violation of a right guaranteed by the constitution of this state or of the United States, including but not limited to due process, freedom of religion, speech, or press, and any right of privacy or marriage as specifically defined by the constitution of this state.
The [general assembly/state legislature] fully recognizes the right to contract freely under the laws of this state, and also recognizes that this right may be reasonably and rationally circumscribed pursuant to the state’s interest to protect and promote rights and privileges granted under the United States or [State] Constitution, including but not limited to due process, freedom of religion, speech, or press, and any right of privacy or marriage as specifically defined by the constitution of this state.
 As used in this act, “foreign law, legal code, or system” means any law, legal code, or system of a jurisdiction outside of any state or territory of the United States, including, but not limited to, international organizations and tribunals, and applied by that jurisdiction’s courts, administrative bodies, or other formal or informal tribunals For the purposes of this act, foreign law shall not mean, nor shall it include, any laws of the Native American tribes in this state.
 Any court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency ruling or decision shall violate the public policy of this State and be void and unenforceable if the court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency bases its rulings or decisions in in the matter at issue in whole or in part on any law, legal code or system that would not grant the parties affected by the ruling or decision the same fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the U.S. and [State] Constitutions, including but not limited to due process, freedom of religion, speech, or press, and any right of privacy or marriage as specifically defined by the constitution of this state.
 A contract or contractual provision (if capable of segregation) which provides for the choice of a law, legal code or system to govern some or all of the disputes between the parties adjudicated by a court of law or by an arbitration panel arising from the contract mutually agreed upon shall violate the public policy of this State and be void and unenforceable if the law, legal code or system chosen includes or incorporates any substantive or procedural law, as applied to the dispute at issue, that would not grant the parties the same fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the U.S. and [State] Constitutions, including but not limited to due process, freedom of religion, speech, or press, and any right of privacy or marriage as specifically defined by the constitution of this state.
A. A contract or contractual provision (if capable of segregation) which provides for a jurisdiction for purposes of granting the courts or arbitration panels in personam jurisdiction over the parties to adjudicate any disputes between parties arising from the contract mutually agreed upon shall violate the public policy of this State and be void and unenforceable if the jurisdiction chosen includes any law, legal code or system, as applied to the dispute at issue, that would not grant the parties the same fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the U.S. and [State] Constitutions, including but not limited to due process, freedom of religion, speech, or press, and any right of privacy or marriage as specifically defined by the constitution of this state.
B. If a resident of this state, subject to personal jurisdiction in this state, seeks to maintain litigation, arbitration, agency or similarly binding proceedings in this state and if the courts of this state find that granting a claim of forum non conveniens or a related claim violates or would likely violate the fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the U.S. and [State] Constitutions of the non-claimant in the foreign forum with respect to the matter in dispute, then it is the public policy of this state that the claim shall be denied.
 Without prejudice to any legal right, this act shall not apply to a corporation, partnership, limited liability company, business association, or other legal entity that contracts to subject itself to foreign law in a jurisdiction other than this state or the United States.
 This subsection shall not apply to a church, religious corporation, association, or society, with respect to the individuals of a particular religion regarding matters that are purely ecclesiastical, to include, but not be limited to, matters of calling a pastor, excluding members from a church, electing church officers, matters concerning church bylaws, constitution, and doctrinal regulations and the conduct of other routine church business, where 1) the jurisdiction of the church would be final; and 2) the jurisdiction of the courts of this State would be contrary to the First Amendment of the United States and the Constitution of this State. This exemption in no way grants permission for any otherwise unlawful act under the guise of First Amendment protection.
 This statute shall not be interpreted by any court to conflict with any federal treaty or other international agreement to which the United States is a party to the extent that such treaty or international agreement preempts or is superior to state law on the matter at issue.
Date ►►► August 22, 2011
Bunyan Ryan Says He's Out; Let's Take Him at His Word
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI, 96%), chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, looms like a giant in an election year focused almost entirely on the economy; he is the only person in any branch or chamber of the government not only to craft but actually enact (in his chamber, the House of Representatives) a plan to simultaneously grow the economy and shrink the government, restoring fiscal sanity. Understandably, many seek to draft him for the presidential race -- notably lawyer and blogger Beldar (here, here, here), but the ten-gallon Texan is certainly not alone.
But today, Ryan appears to have finally closed and locked that barn door before the horserace got out; he states without equivocation that he is not running:
"I sincerely appreciate the support from those eager to chart a brighter future for the next generation. While humbled by the encouragement, I have not changed my mind, and therefore I am not seeking our party's nomination for President. I remain hopeful that our party will nominate a candidate committed to a pro-growth agenda of reform that restores the promise and prosperity of our exceptional nation. I remain grateful to those I serve in Southern Wisconsin for the unique opportunity to advance this effort in Congress."
I personally was never aboard the Paul Ryan bandwagon (neither, evidently, was Ryan himself!) I think he's great where he is right now, and I'd like to see some actual executive experience before dropping him into the maelstrom of the presidency. Beldar tried to answer that charge in the first of the three Beldar links above, but his argument was weak and unconvincing hand-waving; there really is a difference between being a congressman and being a chief executive, and Ryan ain't got none'a the latter.
But clearly, he still has a strong role to play:
Ryan has said publicly he is concerned that those currently running for the GOP nomination are not addressing long-term fiscal and economic issues in a way that makes clear the magnitude of the challenges.
And I'll go further: I would strongly support him playing that role at a higher and more effective level -- for example, as Vice President of the United States. I believe he would tremendously compliment Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, who doesn't seem to have much international economic or fiscal experience, and would even be an asset to the much more financially experienced Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts; alas, much of Romney's experience is negative, falling into the "fatal conceit" of believing in big-government solutions to problems more properly and effectively solved by Capitalism, rugged individualism, and American exceptionalism. I would hope that Ryan can lead a Romney or a Perry out of the socialist wilderness and into the promised land of liberty.
I think it would be wonderful if both of the two most likely nominees made a joint announcement (after sounding Ryan out, of course) that whichever of them is nominated, he will name Paul Ryan as his running mate. But I'm not going to hold my breath for more than a couple of minutes.
Date ►►► August 21, 2011
Obamnesty: the Lizard's View
This will be one of the shortest Big Lizards immigration posts ever. Blink and it's gone!
I actually support Barack H. Obama's idea of first deporting those illegal immigrants who have been convicted of other crimes, especially heavy felonies -- as well as those illegales who pose a real threat to American national security -- before even considering those who are here illegally just to work. And I also believe that those who were brought here as children and have grown up in the United States as normal Americans should be the last to be considered for deportation (and probably shouldn't be deported at all).
But that ought not be his unilateral decision to make. He's "Mr. President," the one who presides; not "His Royal Highness" who issues decrees.
Technically, the president does have the authority to determine how to enforce the laws of the land; but it's unAmerican to use that authority to circumvent the very spirit of that law and substitute his own whims for the will of the people expressed through legislation. If that's the policy President B.O. desires, let him first go to the people and then to the dadburned Congress; let him persuade the latter to enact such a policy, then in 2012, persuade the former that it was a good idea.
I used to think Obamunism meant transmogrifying the United States into a Eurosocialist parliamentary democracy à la France, Sweden, or even Greece. Now I think it goes much, much deeper: I believe Obama wants to run a one-man dictatorship as another Vlad "the Impeller" Putin.
Date ►►► August 19, 2011
The Permanent Floating Unbalanced Budget Act of 2011
Aaron Worthing, guest blogger at my old stomping grounds of Patterico's Pontifications, draws our attention to the well argued and very persuasive case against a balanced-budget amendment (BBA) by political scientist Carson Holloway of Public Discourse. I was never really on board the federal balanced-budget amendment; it has always struck me as being magical thinking, utopianism -- pass an amendment, and all our spending problems will softly and suddenly vanish away.
(I liken this sort of thinking to Franklin Roosevelt declaring "freedom from want" and "freedom from fear" to be basic civil liberties.)
But the Holloway piece has really crystalized my objections to a BBA. Let me try to explain what's so dreadfully wrong with it.
Holloway's point, on a nutshell, is that there is no way to craft a balanced-budget amndment (BBA) such that it neither cripples our ability to borrow when absolutely necessary, nor allows, under cover of a ficticious "balanced budget," the same unrestricted borrowing for frivolous political reasons that Congress enjoys today. No matter how it's crafted, it will de facto sink into one fallacy or the other (I'm not sure which is worse).
Not only that, but the mere existence of a BBA in the Constitution practically compels Congress to jack up taxes whenever it overspends, probably with wide, bipartisan support: The socialist Left votes to raise taxes because, well, they always want to do that; and big-government Republicans follow suit for reasons of "fiscal responsibility." Can't violate that BBA!
Most likely, "responsible" congressmen will pass enabling legislation that automatically triggers tax hikes if the budget remains unbalanced in a fiscal year; and I can easily imagine a Democratic majority deliberately overspending, precisely in order to trigger that hike, under cover of "constitutional prescription."
Our problem isn't the lack of a BBA; our problem is that individual voters aren't holding their congressman's nose to the fire on limitless federal borrowing and spending, to infinity and beyond.
Or rather, they haven't in the recent past held Congress accountable; we took a huge step towards fiscal sanity last November and are poised to do so again in 2012. My friend and worth co-conspirator Brad Linaweaver recently sent me an e-mail bemoaning the fact that all political parties seem to have to "reinvent the wheel" every generation; and of course, Brad is absolutely right. I believe this is one of those instances, and there's nothing we can do but wait for the renaissance -- which is coming fast and strong, as witness the popular front for Capitalism... i.e., the tea-party movements.
But there is another point to be made beyond Holloway's argument: No real BBA (with teeth) has a chance in Hades of passing the current Congress or any other in the future. The only way a BBA will pass with a two-thirds vote in both House and Senate is if it's so watered down, its only purpose is to give cover to the very fiscal irresponsibility it purports to curtail. For evidence, look how easily states, which generally do have constitutional balanced-budget requirements (like my home state of California), can skirt around them by either manipulating the budget to make it facially appear to be in balance, no matter what the reality; or by simply ignoring the state constitution altogether. Not only is a BBA no panacea, it's not even a good placebo!
Worse, fighting tooth and nail for a BBA is a distraction from the real work of reining in Congress; it drains money, energy, time, and political capital that could be better utilized rolling back Obamunism. Democrats would be overjoyed to see the focus of the 2012 campaign shift from Obama's abominable economic record to a partisan tussle over a BBA... especially with the Left's proven talent at monkeying with statutory language and finding friendly judges to reinterpret out of existence any real restriction on federal power. Instead, we need to spend our considerable resources getting rid of the current squatter at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., along with his gangster government (as Michael Barone dubbed it), and cleaning out the cesspool of socialism and loony leftism in Congress -- on both sides the aisle, alas.
So let's boil the cabbage down:
- It's impossible to enact a BBA that would really work, at least in the present environment; it's utopian wish fulfillment to think some constitutional amendment will be a "magic bullet" that will solve our economic crisis.
- In the long run, the crusade to implement a BBA would cripple our ability actually to solve our terrible fiscal and economic crisis by sucking up vital political and financial resources better spent on voting the thugs out of office; it substitutes wheel spinning for actual progress, in the proper meaning of that word, away from "liberal fascism" and towards individualism, Americanism, and Capitalism.
- And in the very short run, it would remove the spotlight from liberal corruption, incompetence, and socialistic experimentation and focus it instead upon Republican "radicalism," almost certainly giving the DNC a huge boost at the ballot booth in 2012.
If a BBA becomes the main Republican economic platform plank, then I predict we will only barely retake the Senate, may actually lose seats in the House -- and Barack Obama will be easily reelected, running against "radical Republicans" who want to write wartime insolvency and automatic tax hikes into the Constitution.
It's hard to think of a worse economic strategy, for the election and for the country.
Beware the Algore Aliens!
It's hard to imagine that globaloneyism could get any more absurd than it already has; but -- never say never!
I can't even make fun of this self parody. The mind boggles. Imagination fails me:
It may not rank as the most compelling reason to curb greenhouse gases, but reducing our emissions might just save humanity from a pre-emptive alien attack, scientists claim.
Watching from afar, extraterrestrial beings might view changes in Earth's atmosphere as symptomatic of a civilisation growing out of control – and take drastic action to keep us from becoming a more serious threat, the researchers explain.
Oh for heaven's sake, gentle readers, close your gaping mouths! We are not a codfish. Let us continue:
In their report, Would Contact with Extraterrestrials Benefit or Harm Humanity? A Scenario Analysis, the researchers divide alien contacts into three broad categories: beneficial, neutral or harmful....
The most unappealing outcomes would arise if extraterrestrials caused harm to humanity, even if by accident. While aliens may arrive to eat, enslave or attack us, the report adds that people might also suffer from being physically crushed or by contracting diseases carried by the visitors. In especially unfortunate incidents, humanity could be wiped out when a more advanced civilisation accidentally unleashes an unfriendly artificial intelligence, or performs a catastrophic physics experiment that renders a portion of the galaxy uninhabitable....
The authors warn that extraterrestrials may be wary of civilisations that expand very rapidly, as these may be prone to destroy other life as they grow, just as humans have pushed species to extinction on Earth. In the most extreme scenario, aliens might choose to destroy humanity to protect other civilisations.
They could be spacewhales who sing us into oblivion! Or... or... the aliens could be gigantic balls of sentient phlegm that slime the Earth to death! Or intelligent carrots and absorb us for fertilizer! ¡Rabanos radiactivos!
But the most chilling scenario was undoubtedly suggested by the world renowned globaloney philosopher king, Nobel-Prize winner, and former presidential loser, Algore:
"A preemptive strike would be particularly likely in the early phases of our expansion because a civilisation may become increasingly difficult to destroy as it continues to expand. Humanity may just now be entering the period in which its rapid civilisational expansion could be detected by an ETI [extraterrestrial intelligence(s)] because our expansion is changing the composition of the Earth's atmosphere, via greenhouse gas emissions," the report states.
"Green" aliens might object to the environmental damage humans have caused on Earth and wipe us out to save the planet. "These scenarios give us reason to limit our growth and reduce our impact on global ecosystems. It would be particularly important for us to limit our emissions of greenhouse gases, since atmospheric composition can be observed from other planets," the authors write.
Great leaping horny toads, Mankind may be on the verge of invasion by extraterrestrial eco-nuts!
Not that the authors of the paper have any inherent political bias, you understand; as can easily be seen from this excerpt from the study itself, they have a completely open mind about what would constitute good aliens and bad aliens:
As a starting point, it is helpful to think of ETI as trying to maximize some sort of value function.2 Specifically, they are trying to maximize intrinsic value, which is something that is valuable for its own sake. Intrinsic value contrasts with extrinsic value, in particular instrumental value, which is valuable because it causes additional value. One can place intrinsic value on many different things, such as life, ecosystems, happiness, knowledge, or beauty. Human ethics is often anthropocentric in the sense that it places intrinsic value only on human phenomena, such as human life, human happiness, or other human factors. Such anthropocentrism is selfish on a civilizational scale because it involves humans only placing intrinsic value on the interests of their own civilization. In contrast, a universalist ethical framework would place equal intrinsic value on certain phenomena regardless of which civilizations possessed these phenomena. For example, a universalist civilization that places intrinsic value on life will place equal intrinsic value on all life, regardless of which civilization (or non-civilization) the life is part of. In this case, the civilization will try to maximize the total amount of life, regardless of whose life it is maximizing. If instead it places intrinsic value on some phenomenon other than life, then it will try to maximize that phenomenon wherever it occurs.
So you see, the authors give us a bipartisan compromise: Good aliens are socialist collectivists, while bad aliens are -- ugh -- selfish capitalists. But what about us humans? Where do we rate on the consciousness scale, from lowly selfishness to lofty universality?
Conflicts between humans are often, though not necessarily always, rooted in selfishness. These conflicts include struggles for power, land, resources, prestige, and many other instruments of self-interest. Even when human conflicts have overtones of being for some higher purpose, such as for liberty or against oppression, the basic desire for the survival and flourishing of the self often remains a core motivation. Likewise other conflicts we see throughout the sentient animal kingdom appear to be motivated by the desire for instruments of self-interest such as survival, food, or territory . While non-sentient species (animal or otherwise) may also appear to act in their own self-interest, it is inappropriate to attribute intent to them because intent is presumably a property of sentience.
And lest you imagine that the author of the Guardian article was just reading more into the report than the scientists actually wrote, let me hasten to reassure you. From the report itself:
The possibility of harmful contact with ETI suggests that we may use some caution for METI [messages to ETI]. Given that we have already altered our environment in ways that may viewed as unethical by universalist ETI, it may be prudent to avoid sending any message that shows evidence of our negative environmental impact. The chemical composition of Earth’s atmosphere over recent time may be a poor choice for a message because it would show a rapid accumulation of carbon dioxide from human activity. Likewise, any message that indicates of widespread loss of biodiversity or rapid rates of expansion may be dangerous if received by such universalist ETI. On the other hand, advanced ETI may already know about our rapid environmental impact by listening to leaked electromagnetic signals or observing changes in Earth’s spectral signature. In this case, it might be prudent for any message we send to avoid denying our environmental impact so as to avoid the ETI catching us in a lie....
Another recommendation is that humanity should avoid giving off the appearance of being a rapidly expansive civilization. If an ETI perceives humanity as such, then it may be inclined to attempt a preemptive strike against us so as to prevent us from growing into a threat to the ETI or others in the galaxy. Similarly, ecosystem-valuing universalist ETI may observe humanity’s ecological destructive tendencies and wipe humanity out in order to preserve the Earth system as a whole. These scenarios give us reason to limit our growth and reduce our impact on global ecosystems. It would be particularly important for us to limit our emissions of greenhouse gases, since atmospheric composition can be observed from other planets. We acknowledge that the pursuit of emissions reductions and other ecological projects may have much stronger justifications than those that derive from ETI encounter, but that does not render ETI encounter scenarios insignificant or irrelevant.
Somehow, no matter what the danger, the solution is always the same: limit ourselves, cut back, be more eco-friendly, stop exploiting resources, and for God's sake, smash the looms!
I'll conclude by extracting a comment of mine upon an earlier post, which through a bizarre coincidence is exactly on topic for this post:
Brad Linaweaver and I once collaborated on a tetralogy of SF novels "based" on the Doom video games. I put based in quotation marks because, while the plot of the first book (in which we were just getting our feet wet, never having novelized a game before) was taken fairly directly from the game, for books 2-4, we simply wrote pure space opera with only a miniscule connection to the supposed source. (That's why readers like the last three books best -- and gamers can only stand to read the first.)
But the logic of the game itself compelled us to have an interstellar war, and Brad and I made the conscious decision to come up with an actually logical rationale for such a thing to come about.
I daresay I'm much more qualified to speak on the topic than is Stephen Hawking, for all his degrees and awards: He knows far less about science fiction than I know about physics.
I cannot tell you how Brad and I struggled to come up with any plausible reason why one technological civilization would ever attack another one on another planet. Try it sometime!
The main source of international conflict on Earth has always been a fight over resources and room; but if one has routine and ready access to space, resources are so abundant as to be nearly valueless, save for the utilitarian needs; and there is such a staggering amount of room that even Daniel Boone would feel lonely.
For every planet that has sentient life, there are thousands that do not; some will have some combination of flora, fauna, and microorganisma (I know that's not a real classification but should be clear in context); other planets will be barren but still possess a wealth of minerals, crystals, and other useful chemicals.
In addition, there are likely many times more asteroids than full-sized planets, some condensed from minerals, others various varieties of frozen gases or liquids -- including more water than anyone could possibly need, for you V fans.
Isn't it far easier for an alien civilization to exploit resources not protected or guarded by sentient beings, who might, after all, find a way to fight back effectively? If one has interstellar travel -- a must for interstellar conflict! -- then one has an almost limitless larder at one's backdoor, without the necessity of subduing or ousting any residents.
So what's left? Some kooky religion that requires conquest? But religions too arise from scarcity; and in the post-economic environment of the entire galaxy, it's hard to imagine such a dangerous and destructive religion lasting very long without bringing about its own destruction. After all, nobody can rely upon always being the biggest baddie on a playground of three hundred billion stars sprinkled across eight trillion cubit lightyears. (And even that's restricting ourselves to just one of 170 billion galaxies! If aliens have intergalactic travel, I doubt they would even notice our existence.)
Heck, with natural and artifactual resources everywhere, on uninhabited planets and regions of space, it's even hard to come up with items worth trading for! The only valuable items that spring to mind are:
- Art, music, literature
- New philosophies
- Food recipes readily adaptable to one's own nutritional needs
- Personal servants, who likely would charge an arm and a tentacle for the status that such a servant would confer upon his employer: "I'm so rich, I can afford to hire a valet! I just wish he wouldn't be so demanding..."
Such intellectual creations would be the only media of exchange, since they are the only new things under the suns.
Far more likely than interstellar conflict is interstellar snubbing: Aliens, who have probably met many different alien civilizations already, would likely see ours as nothing more than "mostly harmless." They would no more want to go slumming on Earth than you or I would enjoy hanging out with remote African pigmy tribes who had never heard of the wheel.
All right, maybe we'd be visited by alien anthropologists (though probably just grad students); but they would likely try to stay out of sight, so as not to spook the primitives.
We would be astonishly lucky to encounter an alien race that cared enough even to tell us that alien races existed!
If globaloney is a radical solution in search of a problem, then justifying it by the chance that passing extraterrestrial intelligences will be so offended by carbon dioxide that they wipe humanity from the planet ("and let that be a lesson to you!")... then I submit that the globaloney-meisters are clutching the bottom of the galactic straws.
The rebirth of sanity can't come soon enough.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► August 17, 2011
I am irked to report that I just finished watching what I believe to be the premier episode of a Discovery Channel series rather inaptly titled Curiosity.
As per the title of this post, truth in advertising should compel them to change the name to Incuriosity -- because that's what was on parade in episode one, "Did God Create the Universe?" In the enticing blurb sent by the show creators themselves to the Discovery Channel, thence to the various cable and satellite television carriers, two more questions were added: "How was the world created, and can the laws of nature co-exist with a belief in God?"
The host was the completely unbiased Stephen Hawking (yes, that is a joke), a devout atheist who just published a book last year, the Grand Design, in which Hawking and his co-author, physicist Leonard Mlodinow, conclude that our universe -- mass-energy, space, and time itself -- could have arisen out of nothingness according to "the laws of nature," which the television show takes not only to be immutable but to predate the existence of our universe.
It's a neat trick. Perhaps mathematical verities can be said to exist in a larger "meta-universe," inside of which (and according to its mathematical meta-laws) universes spring into existence. But does Hawking, et al, argue that physical constants likewise pre-exist in a meta-universe that contains no mass, no energy, no physical space, and no linear time? By "physical constants," I mean constants like the speed of light in a vacuum, Planck's constant for the ratio of an electron's energy and the frequency of its electromagnetic wave, the elementary charge carried by a proton, the mass of an electron, or the magnetic constant of magnetic permeability in a vacuum. Change any of those measured values (which certainly ought to qualify as "laws of nature"), and I suspect the universe would be dramatically different from ours.
Which leaves a lot of room for an omniscient, omnipotent deity to manipulate a desired universe by setting the physical constants to specific values and perhaps even tweaking other "laws of nature," such as the inverse-square law. Lots of room for deistic choice there!
The episode of Curiosity never gets around to answering the third question they asked, likely because it's so easy to answer: Of course the laws of nature can co-exist with a belief in God; billions of people believe in God, yet that does not prevent the laws of nature from functioning.
I believe what they meant to ask was, "can belief in God co-exist with the ability to make important scientific discoveries?" But they never answered that question, either. (Psst... the answer is likewise Yes; there is a sizeable minority of important, productive, widely respected, and frequently sourced scientists who also happen to be religious.)
Perhaps the question is, "Can a person generate good science using magical thinking?" That question is completely circular, alas, as the definition of "magical thinking" is undefined. You see the problem? (However, it is reasonable to state that anyone who rejects the well-established theory of evolution by natural selection is either woefully ignorant or else rejects scientific thinking altogether -- and that includes two people I quite admire.)
This episode is riddled with overt and covert examples of "epistemic closure;" my brazenly simplistic definition of the term in popular usage (vice its meaning in formal logic) is, going to an intellectual smorgasborg and eating nothing but the Swedish meatballs. In this case, not a single scientist or scientific argument opposing the motion was ever presented; it wasn't an exploration, it was a stern lecture by a very self-satisfied and fully enclosed partisan. The narrator, who is portraying Hawking himself, does nothing but flog his theme, that God is not only unnecessary but impossible, announcing (but never arguing) that this claim is proved by "the laws of nature." He argues that once those laws are set up, then a universe can spring into existence ex nihilio without direct intervention by a sentient deity. But that's a pretty big "once"!
Several questions occurred to me while watching the entertainment:
- Does Hawking presuppose that we already know all the "laws of nature?"
- Do proponents of Hawkism believe that the statement "incessant Godly intervention is not required for science to function" necessarily implies that "God does not exist?"
- Do Hawklings believe that the only reason people believe in God is to explain the alleged "gaps" in science? That if those gaps are satisfactorally explained in the context of what we currently believe to be the "laws of nature," then there is no other reason, moral or spiritual, to care whether or not God exists?
The episode presents one (1) argument that attempts to show that there cannot have been any Creator of the Universe:
- By the current, very well founded theories of cosmology, during the Big Bang that created our universe, all three "ingredients" -- mass-energy, space, and time -- sprang into existence ex nihilio.
- Thus, outside the expanding sphere of the Big Bang, time in particular does not exist.
- By definition, any Creator must have existed outside the Big Bang in order to have caused the Big Bang.
- Therefore, the Creator must have existed outside time itself.
- But that means the Creator would have had no time in which to pull off such a creation, because time was not moving where the Creator would have to have been "standing."
- Therefore, the universe could not have had any Creator, and there is no God.
So my fourth question is:
- Does any Hawkling honestly believe this argument is anything but sheer sophistry?
I agree, it's logically impossible that a putative Creator of the Universe could have existed at a point of spacetime that is contained within the expanding sphere of the Big Bang; He would be creating himself, a.k.a., pulling Himself up by his own jockstrap. Therefore, if He exists at all, He must exist outside that sphere in order to be the One who created it.
(Although, a pseudo-Creator could exist, one who is neither omnipotent or omniscient but fully finite and completely contained within the Big-Bang sphere; but a being who is so powerful, intelligent, and knowledgeable that mere human beings cannot distinguish betwee this being -- call him "Gid" -- and an actual theistic God by any scientific measurement. See below.)
Duh. We all get it. It's hardly a revelation.
And this point was patently obvious even to those benighted teleologists who, because they lived a long time ago, must necessarily be stupider than contemporary atheists. Shockingly enough, even those ancient arguments for the existence of God envisioned Him as outside spacetime.
So to argue that a God who exists outside of spacetime cannot possibly exist because he would have to be outside of spacetime is not just circular, it's positively weird. It's as if some bozo with a book argues that "There can't be life on other planets, because it would have to be living on other planets!" Heavy, man.
The inability to logically disprove the existence of God is the obverse of the coin of reason; let's take the reverse side of the coin, the equally firm inability to prove that God exists: You cannot use knowledge gaps to argue that God hides in every hole not yet filled in by physics or biology.
This is called the "God in the Gaps" argument. The episode of Curiosity did a good job of shooting down the God in the Gaps; kudos. But that's hardly surprising, since doing so perfectly accords with their atheist viewpoint. (Of course, even atheists can be right once in a while.)
Obviously we have had many knowledge gaps throughout human history; the vast majority have been filled in, to greater or lesser extent, as science marches forward. But even for those gaps that still gape, nobody has ever proven that the gaps are unresolvable. The most reasonable assumption is that, given time, they too will be resolved. (Francis S. Collins, staunch Christian and also the head of the Human Genome Project, makes a wonderful argument for this point in his seminal book the Language of God.)
This is the strongest logical argument for theism, yet it is flawed, I think it fair to say that nobody has logically proven the existence of God. But by the reverse side of the coin, neither has anybody logically proven the non-existence of God. It's just one of those questions that cannot be answered mathematically.
But let's get back to my questions:
- All of the proponents of atheism rely upon the unproven, unprovable claim that the "laws of nature" are immutable and cannot be superceded under any circumstance; even God would be incapable of parting a small body of water or stopping the Earth's rotation for a while, then restarting it. Do they really believe this? What makes them believe it -- that they haven't personally witnessed any miraculous exceptions?
Well heck; maybe God is better at hiding than atheists are at finding. Ever consider that?
I personally have never witnessed such a miraculous manifestation, and I would never claim that it ever happened. But neither would I claim it hasn't happened, for a very scientific reason: The "laws of nature" are almost certainly more complex than we imagine today; and for all we know, they may contain built-in exceptions to what we believe to be "immutable" rules... just as quantum mechanics introduced built-in exceptions to what nineteenth-century scientists would have insisted were immutable rules about the conservation of mass or the nature of time.
Perhaps a completely finite superbeing -- Gid, from a few paragraphs up -- has a deeper understanding of the "laws of nature" and can manipulate them to produce effects that, to us, are indistinguishable from magic and miracle. The proper scientific response would be to admit that as near as makes no scientific difference, Gid is God; if measurement cannot tell them apart, if Gid can do everything human beings can imagine as a test of "Godness," then by what scientific argument could a scientist reject the existence of God? If nobody can tell the difference between Gid and God, and if Gid exists, then the correct scientific answer to the question, "Does God exist?", would have to be, "Available evidence indicates that He does." Science does not recognize spooky distinctions between two things that are identical via all known measurements.
And if some scientist were to state that such Gid-manifestations cannot possibly be due to magic or miracle, but must instead be due to as-yet undiscovered physical laws, he would not be speaking from science but rather from a religious faith, as a true believer in the First Church of Fundamentalist Materialism. (I myself would say just what he said; but I would be honest about it being faith-based, not scientific.)
What is the point of Gid? Gid's existence is not prohibited by any known "law of nature." He cannot violate physical laws; he just knows them much more thoroughly than do mere mortals. He is not infinite in any way but completely finite; just so much more powerful and smart than we that human beings cannot trip him up. He does not stand outside the universe but is full contained within the spacetime sphere created by the Big Bang. He is presumably mortal himself; at least, being a creature of this universe, when (if) it collapses back to a mathematical point again (called the "Big Crunch"), Gid would die then, if he hasn't already kicked the celestial bucket.
Therefore, we have this amusing conundrum -- which emphatically was not discussed (or even hinted at!) in the episode.
The Gid-God Syllogism
- We define a superbeing as a finite, living creature who is sufficiently more power powerful and intelligent than human beings that he can fool us into believing he can do and know anything God can do or know.
- Assuming we are not alone in the universe, thus that other civilizations exist that may be millions of years more advanced than we, it is not only possible but very plausible that at least one superbeing exists, whom we shall call Gid.
- Since we humans cannot (be definition) distinguish between a superbeing and the theistic God by any scientific test or measurement known to Man, we must conclude that scientifically, Gid is God.
- Therefore, as far as scientific inquiry can tell, God not only can exist but likely does exist in this universe.
Sadly, this sort of truly intriguing speculation was entirely absent from this episode of Curiosity; throughout, it was insultingly childish, devoid of intellectual meat or honest debate, more likely to make eyes roll than to make converts. But it could have been so much more, had they just consulted a few science-fiction writers, instead of just one fearful atheist.
The next episode (which I have already recorded on DVR but not yet watched) is about what an alien invasion would be like, could we survive, and what should be our response.
I don't know whether Stephen Hawking is involved in every episode or just the first; but I'm afraid if it's the former, then we're in for another clunker: For Stephen Hawking does believe in life on other planets... but he is terrified of what might happen were we to be visited by aliens; so frightened that he argues strenuously against any attempt to contact alien species:
"If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans," he said.
Prof Hawking thinks that, rather than actively trying to communicate with extra-terrestrials, humans should do everything possible to avoid contact.
He explained: "We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet."
Worst of all, the alien could be as squirmy a liberal as Stephen Hawking! Wouldn't that be a pseudopod to the head?
I suspect I'm in for a bumpy flight when I watch episode two, if I ever do. If it's as bad as one, I sincerely doubt I'll ever see three.
Date ►►► August 15, 2011
Anybody Recall Wisconsin? One More Merry Round to Go!
Tomorrow marks the final round of recall elections in tattered and bedraggled Wisconsin. I suspect Badger-State voters are thoroughly disgusted, worn out, and getting angrier by the minute; but they can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
But of course, Wisconsin Democrats are already plotting yet another round of recall elections in 2012, the moment Republicans elected in 2010 are eligible for being recalled. Evidently, waiting all those months for the normal elections in November is just too great a burden for the Left to be asked to bear.
The two Democratic state senators on the chopping block this round are:
- Robert Wirch, 22nd district, challenged by attorney Jonathan Steitz
- Jim Holperin, 12th district, challenged by Kim Simac, founder of a tea party group in Wisconsin
Both state senators are among those who fled the state to prevent democracy from taking place.
Current polling is wildly divergent: What appears to be a conservative web site, Red Racing Horses, commissioned a poll by We Ask America that found the Holperin-Simac race to be within two points; by contrast, the Daily Kos commissioned a poll from Public Policy Polling (PPP, affiliated with the Democratic National Committee) that found Holperin ahead of Ms. Simac by 14 points, 55-41.
Everyone seems to agree that Democrat Wirch in the other race is in a better position than Holperin; at least, Wirch appears to be favored against his challenger by both sides.
Both polls are for public consumption -- that is, for propaganda and get-out-the-vote (GOTV) purposes, so it's hard to take either of them seriously; there are many ways to manipulate the results of a poll, if that is your intent (which it likely is in both cases). Besides, the Washington Post's Rachel Weiner suggests that both polls are "automated," meaning robo-calls where respondents, whoever they are, poke buttons on the phone to indicate their preferences:
Polls are not much help in predicting the contests’ outcome. Republicans are touting an automated survey that showed the race for Holperin’s seat as too-close-to-call. Democrats counter by pointing to an automated poll that shows both Holperin and Wirch with double-digit leads. (The Washington Post does not publish automated poll results.)
Such polls can be well conducted or utterly meaningless, depending on how well they control for getting the specific respondents they're targeting (rather than the fourteen year old babysitter who answers that evening) and how persistent they are (to avoid the self-selection fallacy). But the WaPo sees both races as volatile and close:
"Our polling shows a bump [in the Holperin race] after last Tuesday’s election, that it’s neck and neck," said Adam Temple, spokesperson for the Republican State Leadership Committee. "It’s anybodys race at this point."
Democrats agree that the Holperin race will be tight.
Polling suggesting these races should be easy is wrong,” said Kelly Steele, spokesman for the labor coalition We Are Wisconsin. "Anyone in the know here will tell you Holperin is a toss-up, and the activity on the ground in the district ... along with the huge TV dump on the Republican side suggests they’re definitely pulling out all the stops. Wirch is safer, but by no means a lock."
Those who can remember all the way back to last Tuesday will recall that the Democrats needed to win three of the six recall elections against the Republicans, but they won only two. That leaves Republicans still in control of the state Senate... but by the thinnest possible margin. Democrats are already wooing several Republicans, hoping to get a defection -- always a distinct possibility when only one is needed: When politicians are told they can name their own price, it takes a stronger character than most of them possess to stand on principle.
But if the GOP can capture one or both of the two Democratic seats up for grabs tomorrow, that will make it much less likely that any Republican will defect. Who in the world would want to be the only defecter when two are needed? He would be defecting from the majority to the minority!
I believe the safest bet is to assume the Holperin race will be close, thus will be won by GOTV -- how many voters each side can motivate to the ballot booth. I suspect turnout for both races will be significantly lower than last week's, since the majority in the Wisconsin state Senate is no longer at stake; that means activists will be much more important, both pro and con.
I can't begin to predict the outcome; but then, neither can anybody else, except partisans confidently prophesying a landslide for their guy (or gal, in Simac's case). But keep watching the styes for tomorrow's tumult!
Date ►►► August 10, 2011
Obama Very Popular - Among Moslems and Mullah Omar
Evidently, talks between spokesfolk for Barack H. Obama and aides to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar have "broken down." Those of us still flabbergasted that they were being held at all may be excused, I hope, for not feeling let down that they've evidently collapsed.
For all the secrecy, it was never particularly a secret: The talks -- what, conditions under which we would give Afghanistan back to the Taliban? -- were widely discussed in several news stories over the past few months. In fact, that appears to be the reason they crashed and burned:
Secret exploratory peace talks between the United States and the Taliban leadership have broken down after details of the negotiations were leaked, Western diplomats have told The Daily Telegraph.
The breakdown in the talks at such an early stage has led to recriminations and claims that the details of the meetings and the identity of the Taliban's chief negotiator were deliberately leaked by 'paranoid' Afghan government figures....
[A]fter only three sessions details of two meetings in Germany and one in Qatar – held in March and April - were leaked to the Washington Post and Der Spiegel news magazine which named Tayeb Agha as the key Taliban negotiator.
Well. All I can say is... Holy Hudna! Mullah Omar himself appears to have given his blessing for the talks:
Absolute confidentiality had been a key condition for the meetings which were held in Germany and Qatar earlier this year between Tayeb Agha, Taliban leader Mullah Omar's former private secretary, and senior officials from the US State Department and Central Intelligence Agency. The meetings were chaired by Michael Steiner, Germany's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan....
After years of the Taliban rejecting Hamid Karzai's overtures, news of contact with a senior aide to Mullah Omar had kindled cautious hope in Kabul.
Abdul Hakim Mujahid, the Taliban's former envoy to the United Nations and now a member of Mr Karzai's High Peace Council, told the Daily Telegraph in June that the contacts were "helpful".
He said: "[Tayeb Agha] is still very close to Mullah Mohammad Omar, it's a good sign. Not only close to Mullah Omar, but also close to Pakistan."
But the saddest part of the story is this:
Michael Semple, the former deputy European Union representative in Kabul and a leading expert on Taliban thinking, said the disclosure of the talks and the identification of Tayeb Agha was regarded as damaging by the insurgents.
"The Taliban have long claimed that they will drive the foreigners out by force before contemplating talks. They need a period of confidential contact to satisfy themselves that there is something serious on offer to warrant them taking the big step of acknowledging that negotiations have to start now and not after things have been settled on the battlefield," he said.
"When the fact that talks had taken place and the identity of the Taliban envoy were leaked the Taliban shifted into their version of damage control. The leadership put it about that the contacts were nothing out of the ordinary. They were just routine discussions about prisoner releases, which a movement at war has to undertake periodically.
The Taliban will "drive the foreigners out by force before contemplating talks." Why does Mr. Semple say they've decided to start negotiations "now and not after things have been settled on the battlefield"? The Obamunists are proclaiming throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof that we just can't wait to withdraw our forces from Afghanistan; that we shall do so unilaterally and without regard to the facts on the ground; and that withdrawal will proceed no matter whether we're winning or losing.
So haven't the Taliban met their original requirement, then? If that's not surrender, what is? The Taliban can enter into "negotiations" -- when, where, and how we are sheepishly to return them their country, throwing ordinary, anti-totalitarian Afghans under the camel's hooves -- with a clean conscience, basking the holiness of having already defeated B.O. on the battlefield!
Meanwhile, Obamic love is not distributed evenly throughout the religions; there appear to be some meaningful differences:
Eighty percent of Muslim Americans approve of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as president (!), according to a newly released survey conducted by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center, a partnership between Gallup and the Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi.
According to the survey, 65 percent of Jewish Americans* approve of the job Obama is doing; 60 percent of atheists, agnostics, and those of no religion approve; 50 percent of Catholics approve ; 37 percent of Protestants approve and 25 percent of Mormons approve .
So it's hardly surprising that Mullah Omar is pleased as punch that our president plans to negotiate away everything we've won over the past decade: He's in the 80% majority!
'Zounds, how I wish we could hold the November, 2012 election this September. At this rate, I'm not sure we can survive another seventeen months.
* That is, probably close to 100% of irreligious Jews.
A strong talking point for Mitt Romney.
Date ►►► August 9, 2011
Today was the day that Wisconsinites (Wisconseenies?) voted on the attempt to recall six Republican state senators:
- Robert Cowles (District 2)
- Alberta Darling (District 8)
- Sheila Harsdorf (District 10)
- Luther Olsen (District 14)
- Randy Hopper (District 18)
- Dan "Hanky" Kapanke (District 32)
Two races have already been called for the Republican incrumbents: Cowles and Harsdorf; in the remaining races, the Democratic challengers are ahead in three (Darling - 39% of precincts reporting, Hopper - 23% reporting, and Kapanke - 52% reporting), and GOP incumbent Olsen is in the lead in the sixth (95% reporting). I expect the Wisconsin Journal Sentinel will call the Olsen race pretty soon now.
Next Tuesday the 16th is the third and final round of recall elections (District 30 Democrat Dave Hansen retained his seat in the first round of state senate recalls on July 19th); two Democrats are up for recall: Jim Holperin (District 12) and Robert Wirch (District 22).
Republicans currently hold the senate by 19 seats to 14; so if the Democrats can win three of these six elections, they will edge out the Republicans by 17-16. Should that occur, then the GOP will have a second bite at the apple on August 16th, when they can try to flip one or both of the remaining two seats to the Republican side.
Big Labor has spent literally tens of millions of dollars trying to buy the election, for the obvious reason: They want to prevent Gov. Scott Walker from implementing his plans to rescue Wisconsin's economy by, among other things, banning some forms of collective bargaining by government unions. But since government unions don't poll well in Wisconsin (or anywhere else, for that matter), very little of Big Labor's campaign cash went to commercials extolling the virtues of allowing public sector workers (cops, firefighters, government hospital workers, health and safety inspectors, energy-utility workers, garbage collectors, etc.) to unionize and go on strike.
The problem with "public-sector" unions is that there is no adversarial relationship between the parties. In an ordinary private union negotiation, you have at least two sides: (a) unionized workers, who want higher wages and benefits packages; and (b) management, which represents the stockholders and wants to keep costs down.
But with government unions, you have (a) unionized workers, who want higher wages and benefits packages; and (b) elected officials who have no personal skin in the game but are eager to vote for higher wages and benefits packages, because unions kick some of that back money to the politicians' reelection campaigns. Nobody argues the other side, because there are no stockholders -- only hapless taxpayers, and nobody bothers representing them!
I'll periodically update these elections until they're all called. Keep the faith, brother!
UPDATE 8:15 PM PDT (10:15 PM Wisconsin time): The Luther Olsen race was called with him winning, and the Dan Kapanke race was called with Democrat Jennifer Shilling winning.
UPDATE 9:24 PM PDT (11:24 PM Wisconsin time): The Randy Hopper race has been called with Democrat Jessica King as the winner. But happily, Republican Alberta Darling, the last remaining uncalled race (District 8), has snuck back into the lead, 53%-47%, with 80% of the precincts reporting! Keep your eyes crossed that this one holds; because if it does, then the Democrats will have captured only two seats -- and they needed three to take the state senate.
The Darling race could still turn back again, but the Democrats are running out of time. Even if it does, and the Democrats bag their three, the GOP would only need to flip one of the two Democratic seats to Republican derrières next Tuesday. (While writing this update, the precincts reporting perked up to 82% with the vote still 53-47 in favor of Darling.)
(Had the Dems taken five of the six seats -- instead of either two or three, depending on the Darling senator -- then they would have been guaranteed control of the senate.)
UPDATE 10:35 PM PDT (12:35 AM Wisconsin time): ¡Rabanos Radiactivos! The Darling race has just been called -- and Republican Alberta Darling has held her seat! In the end, it wasn't even close. (Take that, Hindrocket.)
Assuming this is a good call (99% of precincts reporting, Darling eight points ahead), the Democrats have failed to capture their third seat. The GOP still controls the Wisconsin state senate, no matter what happens next Tuesday.
Date ►►► August 4, 2011
Dumbth and Good Jeer
Comedian and humorist (and old-timey liberal) Steve Allen coined the term above. Dumbth is a combination of stupidity, ignorance, and pig-headedness typical of petty bureaucrats and other authority figures throughout society; but it easily adapts to the arrogant arguers, condescending confabulators, obsessed obscurantists, and preening presidents we must interact with, or at least listen to at (great) length, every day.
A couple of really good examples drove me to create Dumbth as a standard category; they seem to pop up with fearsome frequency.
The house-divided homily
To some, the observation that in an election, if one side is split between two candidates, it's at a disadvantage, seems like a revelation of the ages. Splitting votes between two candidates might allow the unified opposition to be elected -- who'd'a thunk it!
But here is none other than Rudy Giuliani passing this hairy, old nut off as Deep Thought:
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday a rift in the GOP pitting the tea party movement against more traditional stalwarts of the Republican Party could hand President Barack Obama the 2012 election.
"It will hurt if it continues," Giuliani told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly. “I mean, the reality is I’m going back to 2007 when I ran -- at this point, we had all devastated each other and it was much more bitter. So, I mean, if there is a certain amount of debate about how far to go, how fast to go there, how much to compromise, that’s OK.
"But if it becomes a real, real battle then we hand the presidency over to Obama." Giuliani said.
Huh. I'm sure that has never occurred to us non-pols before... thanks, G-man!
But he goes on to offer some more sage advice; and this one is certainly far too complex for us mere mortals and civilians to suss out:
"And if we nominate somebody too far out that can’t occupy the middle and win independents -- then we’re going to lose. The election, as you know, as you point out often, these elections are won by who gets the independents."
Words to live by, Mr. Mayor.
The circular syllogism
The next example comes from the realm of science -- proving that no sphere is safe from the deteriorata of dumbth. A research team believes it has discovered seasonal flows of saltwater on Mars. But lest the unwashed and unlettered become over-excited, another establishment voice rushes forth to pooh-pooh any significance to what would will be a momentous discovery -- if confirmed:
The lead scientist of a proposed new mission to drill into the subsurface Martian ice said the saltwater find is interesting, but probably not applicable for a search for life on Mars.
"Water salty enough to be liquid on Mars today is too salty for life," planetary scientist Christopher McKay, with NASA's Ames Research Center in California, wrote in an email to Discovery News.
Mr. McKay, how do you know?
Evidently, what he means is that the water is too salty to support any life we have ever found anywhere in the universe. But of course, what that really means is that it's too salty to support any life we've found on Earth, the only planet upon which we have ever stood.
Or to phrase it another way, no life found on Earth is already adapted to the conditions found on Mars, a planet that living Earth creatures rarely get a chance to visit.
But why on Earth would it be? Isn't it glaringly obvious that Earth life is adapted to life on Earth; while Martian life, if it exists, would be adapted to life on Mars instead? It's like fishy scientists who live in an ocean planet reassuring each other that dry land must be barren, because how could the gills found on all life possibly extract oxygen from thin air?
A somewhat more imaginative fishentist might suggest that land animals must use some other mechanism besides gills; but there will always be the aquatic version of Christopher McKay to dismiss such a fanciful notion with a bubbly wave of his fin. Hey, none of that imagination stuff; science is serious business!
Two good examples of dumbth. You're all encouraged to comment with your own nominations for dumbth on parade. But remember, mere wrong-headedness is insufficient to deserve the label; to be true dumbth, the stupidity or ignorance must be of the inexplicable, colossal kind that reduces readers to wondering, "What were you thinking?" (If anything.)
Date ►►► August 1, 2011
Yet Another Reason...
Taxaholic President Barack H. Obama has been tireless in demanding that the federal government balance its books on the backs of hardworking taxpayers. His position appears to be a minimalist approach to spending cuts, coupled with a two-fisted clutch for all the extra taxes he can squeeze out of a battered and reeling population. And enough deficit spending to drown America in a sea of blood-red ink.
In his latest ultimatum to the American people, Obama swears that if the Republicans don't cave and give him the massive tax increase he demands, then he will refuse to renew the Bush tax cuts, saddling us with an automatic $800 billion in hikes:
After PresidentBarack Obama presented the outlines of a deficit-cutting deal on Sunday, White House officials stressed that he would veto any attempt to extend the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans beyond next year unless other measures to reform the U.S. tax code were agreed....
Obama had pressed Republicans to agree to close some tax loopholes for corporations and raise taxes on the wealthy as part of a "grand bargain" deficit-cutting agreement. But Republicans balked, saying any tax hikes would hurt the economy, and that debate prevented a deal for weeks.
Now, if the deal passes, the issue of raising revenues will move to the new congressional committee. The White House said if tax reform does not succeed there, the tax cuts put forward by formerPresident George W. Bush will be history.
"The president has been clear that he's not going to sign an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. So absent any kind of comprehensive tax reform, you have $800 billion, roughly, of revenue that's going to be gained through the expiration of those tax cuts," a White House official said.
"That's something that is going to be, I think, a motivational thing for both parties, to kind of control the tax reform process as you can, as opposed to be victim to the expiration of those tax cuts."
The Obamunist, who has always longed to steal from the productive and give to the idle, sees himself in the catbird seat: The Democratic majority in the Senate will never allow Republicans to override the president's veto; so he imagines his tax attack is undefendable, forcing the GOP to cave. (We see it as indefensible.) His spokesmen typically revert to smirking, their natural style:
"The president has made clear that if we don't have comprehensive tax reform, he is not going to extend," one official said.
"And those in Congress will have to decide whether or not they will then allow the middle-class tax cuts to expire. Our sense is they probably won't. So, again, I think that's an incentive for everybody."
But Obama appears to have forgotten something important in his glee at being able to threaten the middle-income once more; he has forgotten the issue of timing. In fact, his plot has a gaping hole the GOP can hit with its eyes closed.
The Bush tax cuts are due to expire at the end of 2012... that is, on December 31st, 2012. My guess would be that Obama either pushed for or accepted that date because he didn't want to have to revisit it before the election. (Sound familiar?)
But the net effect is that the tax cuts don't expire until 55 days after the next elections -- and a scant three days before the 113th Congress convenes... and only twenty days before the president is sworn in, whether Obama or somebody new. And we'll know before the tax expires what the new Congress and (maybe) new White House will look like. More than likely, the incoming Congress will be significantly more Republican than the outgoing (112th); the GOP will probably control both chambers by strong margins.
Even if Obama is returned to la Casa Blanca, he will find himself a strangler in a strange land, whose only power is to throttle bills that don't have sufficiently widespread support among voters to encourage a few Democrats to join with all Republicans to overturn the Obamic veto, thus staving off a massive tax hike. I predict that to save his face, rather than suffer the humiliation of being overridden, Obama will cut a deal.
And of course, there is a very good chance that Obama himself will be a lame duck, solving the problem. Even if there are enough Democrats left in the Senate to filibuster the continuation of the tax cuts, the Republican majority could craft a new bill nearly identical to the old and send it through the un-filibusterable budget process.
Thus Obama's tax threat is completely empty: The "expiration" of the Bush tax cuts will be determined, not by Obama and the Senate Democratic majority, but by the Republican majority and perhaps a Republican president. The Bush tax cuts will almost certainly be either (a) extended another two years, if Obama manages to get reelected, or (b) made permanent if we have a new Republican president.
And of course, the crushing load of almost a trillion dollars in new taxes -- which looms over the American people, a Sword of Democratocles, so long as Obama occupies the White House -- gives voters yet another reason to vote the fellow out of office. Firing Obama is the swiftest and surest way to prevent the District of Columbia hoovering away even more of our own money.
Let him scurry off to New York to succeed U.N. Secretary General Nanki-Poo; that's more his style anyway, this "proud citizen of the world."
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