Category ►►► Logical Lacunae
September 20, 2011
I been waiting for someone on Patterico's Pontifications to point out the ultimate fallacy of those on the Left calling Sarah Palin a "hypocrite" for (a) advocating "abstinence-only" sex-ed classes, while (b) having had an affair with a basketbrawl player when she was in high school.
Nota Bene: We pause for a moment to pass lightly over the actual facts, which are clear: Palin committed neither of these offenses. There is no shred of evidence that a teenybopper Palin boffed any ballplayers; nor has she ever demanded that all sex-ed classes consist solely of ritual chants of "Just say no to sex!" Each charge is a complete fabrication.
So why do we pass lightly? Because the unwillingness of the facts to line up with leftist wet dreams interferes with our point, which is that the "hypocrisy" conclusion is a foaming non-sequitur -- and would be so even if Democrat delusions were reality.
I'm less interested in the Left's hallucinations than its paralogia.
The problem is that liberals, Progressivists, and Democrats in general do not understand what the word "hypocrite" actually means. Not surprising, as they have their own idiosyncratic definitions for many common English-language words; "to lie," for instance, which they evidently believe means to say something that later turns out to be inaccurate (or quite accurate, but not in accord with liberal dogma). It's easy to tease out the liberal definition of hypocrisy...
- The proper definition of hypocrisy: Preaching a moral standard that applies to everybody except you and your cronies; that is, falsely saying one thing while actually believing another.
- The liberal definition of hypocrisy: Preaching a moral standard that, try as you might, you do not always achieve.
Am I right about what the word means? From Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Vol II:
Falsity is an integral part of the definition, but perfection is not required. Suppose I say "everyone should exercise at least four times a week;" but then one week I just can't work up enthusiasm to exercise more than twice. Does that make me a hypocrite?
No it does not, for I don't say that I do well by going only twice. Rather, I admit that I should have gone more often... but I'm not perfect, and sometimes I slip up.
However, it would be hypocrisy indeed for me to say "everyone should exercise at least four times a week," if in fact I have no intention of exercising that much and clearly don't believe the rule applies to me... just to you peons!
Another hypothetical musing on hypocrisy (a hypo hypo): Suppose an alcoholic preaches that drink is the tool of the Devil and everyone should become a complete teetotaller; but then he falls off the wagon and gets blotto. Is he a hypocrite? It depends upon what he says when he sobers up:
- No hypocrisy: "I feel so ashamed; I must redouble my efforts to steer clear of booze and urge everyone else to do the same!"
- Hypocrisy in spades and doubled: "I wasn't drunk -- I'm perfectly capable of handling my liquor; it's you lot that need to abstain!"
Back to our real point; time to state the obvious once again: Sarah Palin did not do any indoor body surfing in high school; at least nobody has ever given us reason to think she did. And she does not insist upon abstinence-only sex education. So let's talk instead about another hypothetical politician, this one named "Parah Salin;" and this Bizarro-world version actually did that which causes liberals to salivate like Pavlov's dogs:
- When not dangling from a boat-drawn parachute, Parah Salin runs around the country preaching that abstinence from sex is the only thing that sex-ed classes should teach.
- But yesterday we found out that Parah Salin was a real wild one in high school: She is known to have done the entire boys' basketball team, the entire lacrosse team (male and female), and half the faculty lounge. Hypocrite!
- But wait... when questioned about her porn-star past by some smarmy "reporter" for Pink Throgress, this is what Parah Salin says:
It's the most humiliating memory of my youth; and all the time I was sleeping with anything that didn't run away fast enough, I hated myself. I even thought of committing suicide; thank God I didn't, because now I can try to redeem my life by warning other kids away from the horrible ruin I made of my own childhood!
I defy any reader to read me the riddle, where is the falsity? Does Parah Salin falsely claim she was a virtuous women in high school? Does she tell others that out-of-control sex is awful, while telling herself it's all right for the morally exempt Parah Salin to do it? Or perhaps she says "abstinence is vital" merely to avoid public opprobrium, while in reality believing that there's nothing wrong with promiscuity.
No, no, and no; under the terms of this hypothetical, she appears to sincerely believe what she says, even if she did not always live up to that standard throughout her life.
We agreed earlier that hypocrisy requires falsity; without the false, there is no hypocrisy, hence Parah Salin is no hypocrite.
In other words, this isn't an example of hypocrisy; it's an example of wising up. And don't we routinely expect people to wise up as they grow older?
I suppose such growth (real or imagined) seems like hypocrisy to the Left because they, uniquely, neither wise up nor grow up. Since they cannot imagine or understand growth, they see it only as fickleness, disloyalty, treason, heresy! For whatever cause a liberal espoused as a teen he carries with him to the end of days.
And that, serendipitously, pretty much explains Barack H. Obama, too.
July 28, 2011
Right-Wing Folly, Another Reason Why I Am Not a Conservative
Two epigrams bubble up in my cerebrum at the moment. The first is just a statement of principle that seems to encapsulate the essence of Americanism; too bad so few on the side of goodness affirm it:
- For society's sake, it's best the consensus of the people sticks to the traditional values of monogamy, loyalty, decency, and faithfulness; but for liberty's sake, it's best that the people's government sticks to encouraging, not enforcing, such tradition.
And the other is more flip but equally true in my opinion:
- Extremism in defense of conservatism is -- still extremism.
A momentous civil-liberties lawsuit in Utah pits two opposing forces against each other, forever locked in battle unto the end of time (like that old Star Trek episode). Both sides spin their arguments around the Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas, like planets orbiting the same sun. On its face, the Court simply struck down all federal and state laws against "sodomy," however defined; it did not make any findings anent marriage.
But each side accepts the same central folly, spinning the consequences of of that supposition in opposite but equally extreme directions. Side A, which we generally call the Dark Side, abuses and twists that case pretzel-like in order to argue that laws banning polygamy are unconstitutional (as the same partisans also argue that laws banning same-sex marriage are unconstitutional); by extension, Side A argues that every state in the United States of America must immediately allow "plural" marriages.
The flip side -- which conservatives ironically call Righteousness -- uses the same argument used by polygamists: Some radical marital "reformers" make paralogical arguments, twisting the principle of simple liberty and "the right to be let alone" into a paeon to perversity; therefore, conservatives argue that liberty itself is suspect and must be curtailed. Side B ripostes that citizens must be legally prevented from doing icky things that might nauseate decent folk and frighten the horses.
But let's get less airy-fairy and more specific:
The suer is Kody Brown, who stars in a TLC "reality" show called Sister Wives, which I've never seen; the dissenter is Power Line's own Scott Johnson. And yes, on this subject, both are equally extreme and impervious to reason.
Brown argues from Lawrence that if a man has the right to cohabitate -- to live with -- more than one woman, then clearly he has the right to marry them all. That is a complete non-sequitur, of course; the principle of liberty means we can do as we please, so long as we're not harming others. In Lawrence, the Supreme Court found (albeit via flawed reasoning from the noisome Griswold v. Connectucut) a principle of liberty that it nevertheless true; it ought to be considered "self evident"... that there is a fundamental right to a zone of independence around each individual, inside of which government cannot intervene save to protect another and non-consenting individual.
That us, under liberty, if two adult men want to have intimate relations with each other, privately and without coercion, then government cannot arrest them for it. Likewise if one man and three women want to have intimate relations, or two men and one woman, so long as all are consenting adults. Prior to Lawrence, trysts of this sort were lumped under the label "sodomy" and were criminal acts under the laws of a number of states. For that matter, the same statutes often criminalized certain types of sex between husband and wife -- fellatio and cunnilingus, for example. It was an extraordinary, pre-modern burst of authoritarianism, now defended only by some movement-conservatives.
I assert that a government with the legal power to dictate what sexual positions a husband and wife, or any other group of consenting adults, can legally perform is a tyranny of the most grotesque and unAmerican sort, where citizens are owned by the State.
Yes, I know full well that the Founding Fathers, to a man, supported such laws against sodomy; they were wrong. They were misled by the emotional and religious baggage of their society and upbringing, which prevented them from seeing that the logic of their own arguments for liberty belied their emotional inconsistency, just as it belied acceptance of slavery and of state-established churches. Either one believes in freedom of conscience; or one believes that ultimately, the State can condemn you for dissent, thoughtcrime, or nonconformity. There really is no middle ground.
But granting the fundamental right to do something perverse does not obligate society to applaud the perversity: The same freedom of conscience that says I cannot stop Brown from living with three "sister wives" in addition to his legal spouse likewise prevents him from forcing me to sanctify such a relationship by calling it "marriage." But that is exactly what Kody Brown demands:
Reality-TV star Kody Brown and his “sister wives” may not intend to be an example of the “slippery slope” in the gay-marriage debate, but their new lawsuit against Utah’s anti-polygamy laws bolsters the argument that legalizing marriage for same-sex couples could open the door to recognition of other kinds of marriages.
Mr. Brown; his legal wife, Meri Brown; and “sister wives” Janelle Brown, Christine Brown and Robyn Sullivan, who appear with their 16 children on “Sister Wives” on TLC, want Utah’s anti-polygamy laws declared unconstitutional and unenforceable on their “plural family.” [Emphasis added -- DaH]
I readily admit there is a serious problem with the Utah statute, if it's being accurately and honestly reported by the Washington Times (and I have no reason to believe otherwise): The law evidently bans not only polygamy itself, the marrying of more than one wife, but something more sinister:
In the Brown lawsuit, Mr. Turley and Mr. Alba said the Brown family, members of the Apostolic United Brethren faith, has committed no crime except to live together, “motivated by their sincere religious beliefs and love for one another.”
States cannot “criminalize consensual intimate relationships, including homosexual relationships, between unmarried adults,” the lawyers wrote, citing the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas.
And yet Utah has a law that forbids a legally married person from “purport[ing] to marry another person or cohabit[ing] with another person,” the lawyers wrote. [Emphasis added -- DaH.]
With this and other anti-polygamy laws, Utah “criminalizes not just polygamous marriages, but also an array of plural intimate relationships and associations of consenting adults,” Mr. Turley and Mr. Alba wrote.
In other words, the Utah law bans not only plural marriage, it appears also to ban plural living arrangements, even those not legally blessed as "marriage." Only one of the women with whom Brown lives is his legal wife; to the eyes of the law, the rest are just honeys.
The Brown family’s “basic liberties and equal protection” are being violated, they added, asking the court to “preliminarily and permanently” block enforcement of Utah’s laws that ban and criminalize polygamy.
I absolutely agree that the "basic liberties" of Brown and the individual women are violated by the Utah anti-polygamy statute, but only to the extent that it criminalizes living together. But I reject the "equal protection" argument, the ground used in most cases that seek to overturn the traditional definition of marriage; and in any event, the solution to the unconstitutionality of one part of a law is not to toss the entire law out, but to make the smallest possible change consonant with the demands of liberty, as enunciated by the Court.
In this case, toss out the part that bans "cohabit[ation] with another person," but keep the part that bans declaring such relationships legal "marriage." That is, ban polygamy but not shacking up.
This is where the logic of the Left flies to flinders: Under liberty, you can do a great many bizarre, outre, unconventional, kooky, or perverse things; but one thing you cannot demand is that society embrace and ratify your perversities and eccentricities, a democratic State's imprimatur and nihil obstat. You have the right to give yourself a high colonic with Liquid Draino, but it's a stupid idea; and don't expect me to shout "mazel tov" when you finish.
I would have thought it obvious: I am allowed to write what I please; but the State isn't required to support my writing or even give me a prize. In the immortal words of Thomas Jefferson, "duh!" But it appears that Brown believes that anything he has a right to do, he also has a right to demand official praise for doing.
In a freakish twist of fate, contemporary conservatives appear to have locked themselves into supporting the same paralogia, albeit to prove the opposite conclusion.
It seems monstrous to me to argue that any government, even at the state or local level, can put you in prison for using an unapproved sexual position in the privacy of your own home. But when movement conservatives argue that Lawrence v. Texas should be overturned -- as nearly all of them do -- that is precisely the position they stake out: They're all in favor of "individual liberty" -- but not when that means engaging in sex that conservatives don't like. Casual day has gone too far; there oughta be a law!
If it was simple prejudice, t'would a simple task to point out the hypocrisy; more than likely, a fair-minded person would admit being led astray by thinking with his heart, when the proper organ for such cogitation is further north. But our movement-conservatives (with whom I typically ally) buttress their glandular rejection of homosexuality and polyamory with specious, backwards reasoning: They argue that Lawrence must be wrong because it leads to overturning traditional marriage. Or as a pal of mine says, "It can't be true, because it would be so dreadful if it were true!"
In other words, conservatives typically argue that the liberal argument is right: If you have a right to cohabitate with anybody, that necessarily implies a right to marry anybody.
Therefore, you have no right to cohabitate. (Supposed "reductio ad absurdum.")
But the absurdity is not Lawrence v. Texas; the absurdity is inventing a nonexistent and inconsistent rule of inference, that allowing an action means approval of that action... the invalidity of which we surely have proven by now (ad nauseum).
But here is Scott Johnson making that exact argument in the Power Line post:
Now comes Professor Jonathan Turley to the defense of polygamy. Professot Turley represents one Kody Brown, a man, and his four wives and 16 children -- who, he notes in a New York Times op-ed column, are the focus of a reality program on the cable channel TLC called “Sister Wives.” One of the marriages is legal and the others are what the family calls “spiritual.” Professor Turley is lead counsel in the recently filed lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Utah law criminalizing polygamy....
Professor Turley relies for his argument on the logic of the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision overturning state sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas. Professor Turley has a point -- indeed, some of us criticized the Lawrence decision on precisely that ground -- though Justice Kennedy’s opinion waltzed away from the question of polygamy. And it didn’t even mention laws against bestiality and incest. Perhaps Professor Turley will undertake the glorious cause of extending Lawrence to them in another case.
The link, supplied by Scott himself, points to a Power Line post of his from 2003, just after the Court decided Lawrence. Here is the smoking gun:
In one sense the Supreme Court’s opinion today in Lawrence v. Texas, asserting the existence of a constitutional right to homosexual sodomy, was utterly predictable. Thirty years ago the liberal constitutional scholar John Hart Ely wrote a classic law review article (“The Wages of Crying Wolf”) condemning the jurisprudence of Roe v. Wade, and Lawrence is in a sense only a few steps further down the jurisprudential arc that will end, as Justice Scalia notes in dissent, in the constitutional right to homosexual marriage, prostitution, bigamy, and adult incest.
There is a trivial sense in which Scalia could be right; lawless judges can seize upon and twist the language of Lawrence to argue something radically different from the actual findings. However, the true source of Scott's position would seem not to be reason and logic but something more atavistic: a visceral loathing of certain icky kinds of sex (as opposed to other, more privileged positions and partners). He continues in lurid prose:
Among the founders, sodomy was universally condemned as a crime against nature. It was illegal in each of the thirteen states existing at the time the Constitution was ratified and the Bill of Rights was adopted. In Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia, it was a crime punishable by death. When Jefferson wrote an amendment to the criminal code lessening the penalty for sodomy, he nevertheless classed it as a crime with rape, polygamy, and incest.
Today the Supreme Court declares that homosexual sodomy constitutes “a form of liberty of the person in both its spatial and more transcendent dimensions.” Justice Kennedy, the author of this nauseating palaver, is obviously so in love with what he thinks is his own eloquent rhetoric that he fails to notice his laughable double entendre. What is not funny, however, is the destruction of the recognition of the laws of nature and nature’s God on which our true rights depend. The Supreme Court’s opinion today is an act of political destruction that should be recognized as such.
All that -- for holding that private sex between consenting adults is none of the State's damn business! It's a marvel Scott didn't toss in heresy, treason, crimes against humanity and the future, and the ritualistic summoning of the Elder Gods as further indictments. (I can only infer he was so hopping mad, he didn't think of them.)
So what do we have? The same conservatives who are outraged that the government dares tell them what to wear, how much to eat, where to recreate, who to choose as their doctors, how to finance and invest, and whether companies can fly corporate jets, now welcome (with gusto!) government control of sexual relations.
What's wrong with this picture?
The only distinction between the activities above is that the last is the most personal, the most intimate, and lies most thoroughly within the "zone of independence" of them all. Is the conservative argument that the more private and emotionally intimate the activity, the greater the authority of the State to control and regulate it?
Where else does that priority hold? What parents teach their children about right and wrong is surely more intimate and private than what they teach them about fashion and hairstyle; should the former therefore be subject to rigid governmental review and control, with only the latter trivia left to the discretion of individual parents? The argument is risible.
I wish I could call it a straw-man construction, but I can think of no other reason why conservatives argue that the State can tell us who to make love to -- but for God's sake, don't monkey with our Happy Meals!
But lose not sight of the point: Scott Johnson embraces the cri de coeur from fellow movement-conservative, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, that the freedom to be intimate with whom you want (rather than with whom the government allows) is logically equivalent to license to legally marry persons of the same sex, close relatives, and persons already married, and license to commit the inhumane crime of bestiality and even the horrific, violent crime of forcible rape! Yes, I can certainly see that those acts are all of a feather.
And where is Scott's argument why this should be so? It doesn't seem facially obvious to me. Would he likewise argue that if government allows nude beaches, we'll be constitutionally required to legalize public orgies in middle school? The route between point A and point B on the "slippery slope" seems no less preposterous than the connection between decriminalizing "sodomy" (in private, among consenting adults) and legalizing bigamy, same-sex marriage, consanguineous marriage, bestiality, and rape.
I don't know about Scott himself, but I speculate that for most conservatives, they have no real syllogism; their "thoughts" on this issue are actually feelings, emotional responses that have no, and need no rational explanation.
Where does this leave us? It's not the only issue on which conservatives can be as mulish and irrational as liberals. Immigration and drug policy are two others, but the worst is modern biological evolutionary theory. The last is the most similar example to conservative allergy to sexual liberty:
- Many dyed in the wool atheists -- including Richard Dawkins, Chris Hitchens, Philip Pullman (of the wretched His Dark Materials books) -- insist that accepting the idea of evolution by natural selection requires one to reject God and faith and embrace atheism.
- A large number of conservatives with inadequate scientific schooling -- including Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, Michael Medved, Ben Stein -- completely swallow the liberal argument.
- Therefore, being unwilling to reject God, they instead reject modern evolutionary biology, casting overboard more than a century of brilliant and apolitical science.
In fact, there is no logical or rational connection between allowing sexual freedom and requiring the definition of marriage to include any old relationship somebody might want; just as there is no reasoned conflict at all between biological evolution and faith in a theistic God, as Francis S. Collins conclusively proves in the Language of God; but there you are: Conservatives reject both as unthinkingly and reflexively as liberals denounce the Koch brothers, and for eerily similar reasons.
So I say again: Extremism in defense of conservatism is certainly less annoying than the liberal strain... but it's no less extremist -- and no more rational.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
September 10, 2010
Companion Piece: Risible Racism vs. Gender Benders
Same-sex marriage (SSM) activists frequently cite the Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), a unanimous ruling that overturned all anti-miscegenation laws across the United States by holding that marriage was "one of the 'basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival," and that laws banning mixed-race marriage violated both the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. SSM activists argue that if marriage to the person of one's choosing, regardless of race, is a fundamental right, then so too must be marriage to the person of one's choosing regardless of gender.
But there is a flaw in this first, naive version of the argument: No right is absolute, not even fundamental ones; they are simply held to the strictest scrutiny, with the state or feds having to show:
- That the government has a compelling interest in the law, that it is vital and necessary, not merely desirable;
- That the law itself is narrowly tailored to accomplish that purpose without branching out into irrelevancies;
- And that the law uses the least restrictive means of achieving that purpose.
Laws which pass that three-pronged test can and do limit even fundamental rights. For example, we limit the fundamental, First-Amendment right to the free exercise of religion in various ways, such as prohibiting Christian Scientists from denying urgent medical care to their children or prohibiting human sacrifice, even of willing victims.
The brighter SSM radicals recognize this problem, so they attempt to get around it by denying that the State has any legitimate "compelling government interest" in promoting opposite-sex marriage over same-sex marriage (or, one presumes, in promoting two-person marriage over polyamorous marriage). In particular, they argue that:
- There is no possible reason to prefer opposite-sex marriage over SSM other than the purely religious, specifically the Judeo-Christian and Moslem belief that homosexual acts are an "abomination."
- Yet such a sectarian interest constitutes an "establishment of religion" and cannot possibly pass the "strict scrutiny" test.
- Therefore, the traditional definition of marriage is prohibited by the First Amendment.
I fully support the Court's decision in Loving v. Virginia: Given the clear meaning of the words of the Civil Rights Amendments and their obvious application to racial equality, the Court made the right decision. But I utterly reject its application to SSM.
Is this inconsistent or irrational? Not in the least: There is a bright line between the two that should be obvious, even to the activists themselves.
There is no possible compelling interest in preventing mixed-race marriages other than perpetuating "racial purity" and ultimately "racial supremacism." Yet there is no significant biological difference between the "races," and it's frequently hard even to distinguish between them.
Biologists cannot even generally define a "race"... there is no specific scientific guideline to judge how dark one's skin can be while remaining "white," or how narrow a nose can be while still being "African," nor even exactly what percent African, American Indian, Causasian, or Oriental descent makes a person that race: If one great-great-great grandparent of African ancestory makes one black, then why don't the other thirty-one great-great-great grandparents of European ancestory make that same person white? (Is white blood that much weaker than black blood? Did any racist ever think this argument through?)
Similarly, there is no inherent or genetic difference in how different races think, behave, or reacts; all such differences are cultural or driven by will. Even if one buys the premise of the Bell Curve, which I do not (yes, I read the book), a supposed difference in intelligence is not the same as a difference in how one thinks, behaves, or reacts.
Thus we long ago concluded that legally, there is no essential difference among people on the basis of race. And therefore any racial classification or racial law is inherently invidious and requires the absolute strictest of scrutiny.
In the case of laws banning miscegenation, no compelling government interest other than the even more vile racial supremacism or separatism has been offered for banning mixed-race marriages... so such laws clearly fail the test of "strict scrutiny" and were rightly struck down as unconstitutional.
Contrariwise, only the most radical of radicals would dispute the essential difference between men and women. The claim itself is preposterous: Men can impregnate, women cannot; women can give birth, men cannot.
Moreover, much scientific testing has discovered profound differences in the way men and women think, behave, and react; and as any parent knows, such profound differences begin at birth (some say even earlier) -- so they are not simply constructs of an oppressive society, as the most radical feminists argue.
One can easily find many compelling government interests in promoting traditional marriage over SSM (and over polyandry):
- To raise the fertility rate, so our population doesn't dwindle (as it has in many European countries), causing society to collapse.
- To provide a more stable, well-rounded environment for raising children, thus lowering crime, drug use, and other socially destructive behaviors.
- To mate the aggressive male personality with the loving female personality, in order to civilize the former and embolden the latter.
- To prevent the objectivization and abuse of women by restricting men to but one wife, not the harems we find in, e.g., the ummah and among primitive tribal cultures.
- To promote marriages that tend to last longer and be more stable -- as research clearly shows traditional marriages do, compared to same-sex or polyamorous marriages -- which in turn makes society itself more stable.
Each of these interests is compelling in itself; and traditional marriage promotes all of them. And please notice one point: Not a single one of these listed compelling government interests is in any way driven by religion. In fact, I myself am not in the least religious, yet I support all of them.
So yes, marriage to the person of one's choice is a fundamental right; but both laws that prohibit racial discrimination in marriage and laws that define marriage as between one man and one woman clearly pass the "strict scrutiny" test. We can prohibit racial separatism and supremacism, saying there is no essential difference between the so-called "races," without having to profess the absurdity that there is no essential difference between the sexes. The two claims are worlds apart.
August 16, 2010
An Unanswerable, Five-Word Response to Judge Dredd's Claim that Prop. 8 Proponents Have No Standing to Appeal His Decision (Why Yes - It's Shorter Than This Title!)
Judge "Dredd" Vaughn Walker recently hinted rather strongly that the defendants who defended traditional marriage and Cailfornia Proposition 8 in Perry v. Schwarzenegger have no standing to appeal, now that the judge has washed his hands of their arguments.
Walker opined (his target audience is the Ninth Circuit three-judge panel) that nobody but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Attorney General Jerry Brown had standing to file an appeal of Walker's gift to same-sex marriage supporters.... knowing full well that both had already refused to defend Prop 8 or file the appeal. (Yes, that Jerry Brown; the former ultra-liberal governor of California who served after Ronald Reagan.)
According to the Los Angeles Times:
To have standing in federal court, a party must show that it has suffered an actual injury, and Walker said no evidence suggests that the campaign would meet that test....
"Proponents may have little choice but to attempt to convince either the governor or the attorney general to file an appeal to ensure jurisdiction," Walker wrote.
Picture a sitting federal judge sticking his tongue out at California voters.
Message received: The notorious Ninth, the most liberal federal appellate court in the land, has developed a sudden fascination for the question of standing; deciding Prop. 8 defenders had none would allow the panel to dismiss the appeal without even bothering to review the merits of Walker's decision (hat tip to Le-gal In-sur-rec-tion and Allahpundit at Hot Air). Quoth the three-judge panel:
In addition to any issues appellants wish to raise on appeal, appellants are directed to include in their opening brief a discussion of why this appeal should not be dismissed for lack of Article III standing.
All by way of preamble; but I have a response to Walker's argument that (1) only the governor or the state Attorney General has standing to appeal his order; but since (2) they both applaud his decision and refuse to appeal it, then (3) proponents of Prop. 8 and traditional marriage can go eat worms. My response is just six words long, but I see it as quite unanswerable:
If Judge Walker is right, and nobody willing to appeal the ruling is allowed to appeal the ruling, then... who speaks for the people?
Seven million California voters voted for Proposition 8; who speaks for them?
The whole point of a citizens' initiative is to allow the voters themselves to enact reforms or repeal tyrannical laws, even when elected officials are corrupt, out of touch, or unwilling to listen. But if the governer can overturn such an initiative merely by refusing to defend it in the inevitable lawsuit, allowing opponents of the initiative to win by default, then the entire point of a citizens' initiative is thwarted. (George Will would be overjoyed.)
At the federal level, the president could do the same thing, effectively overturning legislation passed by Congress and signed by the (then) president, but which the current president dislikes: Simply refuse to defend the law in court, giving himself retroactive veto power over laws already enacted. What a sweet way to amend the constitution without having to amend the constitution.
This is liberalism; this is the "hope and change" that Barack H. Obama promised. This is what the Left does, its forte: If you voted for Obama or a third-party candidate, then this is the world you wrought.
...Miss him yet?
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
August 13, 2010
The Distinction Goes Sub Silentio
Paul Mirengoff of my favorite blog (P - - - - L - - -) admirably faced what I've come to call the Question... a childish retort that inevitably bubbles up whenever one undertakes to defend the traditional definition of legal marriage against the tendentious redefinition that gives us the non-sequitur "same-sex marriage."
The Question is, of course, "If you applaud the courts overturning anti-miscegenation laws in Loving v. Virginia, how can you decry the courts overturning anti-gay-marriage laws in Perry v. Schwarzenegger? Doesn't everyone has the right to marry the person he or she loves?"
(Answer: No, no more than everyone has the right to be the most popular person on campus.)
It's a smug and juvenile argument tarted up as a question; it's equivalent to a born-again atheist demanding to know whether God can make a rock so big He can't lift it, and doesn't that paradox prove an omnipotent deity cannot exist?
(Answer: No; it just means Mr. Atheist has too simplistic a notion of "omnipotent.")
Paul answers the question as would a lawyer, oddly enough:
Loving v. Virginia did not implicate the definition of marriage. The largely regional ban on inter-racial marriages was not founded on the belief that such unions cannot be marriages under the nearly universal understanding of what a marriage is (i.e., between a man and a woman). Rather, the ban was based on the notion that, although it is possible for blacks to be married to whites under that understanding -- just as it is possible for blacks to sit on the front of a bus -- such marriages represented an undesirable mixing of the races.
The decision in Loving no more changed the definition of marriage than allowing James Meredith (a black) to attend the University of Mississippi changed the definition of "student," or requiring the lunch counter at Woolworth's to serve blacks changed the definition of "customer." But recognizing a marriage between two men (say) changes the definition of "wife" (say). [And changing the definition changes the concept itself. --DaH]
To me, the notion that a constitutional amendment mandates, sub silentio and plainly without intent, such a monumental change in an institution as fundamental as marriage is, as I said, ludicrous.
Having been involved in the Marital Wars for years before even Proposition 22 trundled along in the year 2000, I have long since had to come to grips with the Question. But being a lifelong non-lawyer, I am quite certain I never essayed an answer that contained the phrase "sub silentio." (It's legalese for "without saying;" I looked it up.) I've had to answer the Question in mortal terms, but I think I've boiled it down pretty well:
We cheer Loving v. Virginia (1967) because it struck down legal antebellum relicts of irrational and despicable racism... the idea that we must stop the "mingling of the races" to avoid breeding "race mongrels." We have long since adopted the credo that there is no intrinsic or essential distinction between the races -- whatever those are.
But nobody in his right mind can argue that there is no intrinsic or essential distinction between men and women. Any parent knows that boys are worlds apart from girls; any human being knows (excepting only hermits who have never met anyone of the opposite sex) that women and men think differently, react differently, argue differently, take revenge in different ways, hate differently, and yes, love differently.
Marriage has always been, by definition, the union of opposites -- man plus woman (or some number of women); the synthesis is more than the sum of its parts. Thus, same-sex marriage is logically inconceivable... like a monochrome checkerboard, a coin with only one side, or a debate between proponent and proponent: By its very nature, marriage requires at least one member of each sex, or else it isn't a marriage... it's just a partnership or merger.
I see nothing wrong with sexual, emotional, and financial partnerships of all sorts; enjoy! But such unions that involve only one sex are not marriages -- and redefining the word "marriage" won't change that fact.
If you call a cow's tail a leg, how many legs does she have? Four, of course, because calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one.
Got it? Good.
May 20, 2010
The Lizards Defend That Blooming Idiot, Rand Paul
Before diving into the substance of Dr. Rand Paul's remarks on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, let's get one thing straight: Paul was a fool for blundering into that tar pit -- or allowing MSNBC's Rachel Maddow to lure him into it like a drunken farmer chasing a corpse candle into a bog. Worse, once hip deep in the big muddy, he contracted a bad case of hoof-in-mouth disease and couldn't defend his position.
But just because one shallow thinker of today was unable to defend the liberty position doesn't make indefensible a principle famously argued by Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election campaign... no matter what Hugh Hewitt says.
It's hard to nail down exactly what Paul's position actually is; I think it's the same as Goldwater's: Where state or federal policy either directly discriminates on the basis of race or else mandates private racial discrimination, it is absolutely appropriate to pass a federal law overturning such "institutional racialism;" however, such a law should not and constitutionally cannot reach beyond that point to purely private and voluntary racial discrimination, which (alas) the final version of the Act did.
That's why Goldwater voted against it after having supported earlier versions that did not outlaw private, volunatry discrimination; and fair warning, that is my objection to the Act, as well.
Here's my best collage of Paul's lengthy, meandering, and unfocused response to Maddow:
MADDOW: Do you think that a private business has the right to say we don't serve black people?
PAUL: Yes. I'm not in favor of any discrimination of any form. I would never belong to any club that excluded anybody for race. We still do have private clubs in America that can discriminate based on race.
But I think what's important about this debate is not written into any specific "gotcha" on this, but asking the question: what about freedom of speech? Should we limit speech from people we find abhorrent? Should we limit racists from speaking?
I don't want to be associated with those people, but I also don't want to limit their speech in any way in the sense that we tolerate boorish and uncivilized behavior because that's one of the things freedom requires is that we allow people to be boorish and uncivilized, but that doesn't mean we approve of it.....
MADDOW: I mean, the Civil Rights Act was the federal government stepping in to protect civil rights because they weren't otherwise being protected. It wasn't a hypothetical. There were businesses that were saying black people cannot be served here and the federal government stepped in and said, no, you actually don't have that choice to make. The federal government is coming in and saying you can't make that choice as a business owner.
Which side of that debate would you put yourself on?
PAUL: In the totality of it, I'm in favor of the federal government being involved in civil rights and that's, you know, mostly what the Civil Rights Act was about.... Most of the things [Martin Luther King, jr.] was fighting were laws. He was fighting Jim Crow laws. He was fighting legalized and institutional racism. And I'd be right there with him....
MADDOW: As I understand it, what you`re saying, [is that] the portion of the Civil Rights Act that said you can't actually have segregated lunch counters here at your private business [is the one title of the Civil Rights Act you reject].... Until the year 2000, Bob Jones University, a private institution, had a ban on interracial dating at their school, their private institution. If Bob Jones University wanted to bring that back now, would you support their right to do so?
PAUL: Well, I think it's interesting because the debate involves more than just that, because the debate also involves a lot of court cases with regard to the commerce clause. For example, right now, many states and many gun organizations are saying they have a right to carry a gun in a public restaurant because a public restaurant is not a private restaurant. Therefore, they have a right to carry their gun in there and that the restaurant has no right to have rules to their restaurant.
So, you see how this could be turned on many liberal observers who want to excoriate me on this. Then to be consistent, they'd have to say, oh, well, yes, absolutely, you've got your right to carry your gun anywhere because it's a public place.
So, you see, when you blur the distinction between public and private, there are problems. When you blur the distinction between public and private ownership, there really is a problem. A lot of this was settled a long time ago and isn't being debated anymore....
MADDOW: Let's say there's a town right now and the owner of the town's swimming club says we're not going to allow black kids at our pool, and the owner of the bowling alley in town says, we're not actually going to allow black patrons, and the owner of the skating rink in town says, we're not going to allow black people to skate here.
And you may think that's abhorrent and you may think that's bad business. But unless it's illegal, there's nothing to stop that -- there's nothing under your world view to stop the country from re-segregating like we were before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 --
It goes on an on, but the basic points are all here. Note that Paul brings up a valid analogy -- should gun owners in a gun-friendly state be allowed to bring guns into a restaurant, even against the will of the restaurant's owner?
Paul says no. But if the owner is allowed the private-property liberty to control who brings a weapon into his facility, then under what principle can he not control who he allows in, period? The analogy was valid, but it was (again) foolishly chosen: No listener not already predisposed to the Goldwater, Paul, and Lizardian point of view will understand his point.
Allow me to help Dr. Paul out of the mire; again, bear in mind I'm defending his position, not the hamfisted way he expressed it.
Rachel Maddow's fundamental confusion is shared by all liberals and about 80% of conservatives (e.g., Hugh Hewitt): Under Jim Crow, the problem wasn't that individual owners "decided" to racially discriminate; state laws required them to discriminate.
In a free market, some-but-not-all restaurants will discriminate, while others won't. Those that do cut off much of their customer base -- not just the potential customers who are black but also those whites who vehemently oppose racial discrimination; their non-discriminating competitors get the extra business instead. Thus, a discriminatory stance creates an automatic "economic penalty": Racism becomes an expensive luxury that most business owners simply cannot afford.
(The same punishment operates whenever an owner makes an economic decision on a completely non-economic basis, such as not serving old people or divesting stock from companies that do business with Israel; that's one of the magical effects of a free market!)
After a while, many racists will decide they need the money more than they need to discriminate; they will take down the "whites only" sign, no matter how much it pains them, or risk going out of business. A few will maintain their discrimination until the bitter end; so it goes.
But wait, what about the other side of the coin? Some dyed in the wool racists would only frequent those establishments that discriminate. They will boycott the integrated businesses and patronize only the racists.
Frankly, I doubt that such persons would have been the majority in any state even back in the days of Jim Crow: If they had been the majority, there would have been no need for laws to force them to do what they wanted to do in the first place. The very fact that the state legislature had to enact Jim Crow laws testifies that residents weren't discriminating, they weren't keeping blacks "in their places."
Walter Williams writes about this in his wonderful book, South Africa's War Against Capitalism: The Afrikaaners enacted Apartheid laws precisely because at the turn of the twentieth century, businesses (from railroads to mines to hotels), left to their own free will, were rapidly integrating the races. Economic necessity was breaking down the barriers; blacks offered their services for lower wages than whites, and employers snapped them up to save labor costs. Soon the whites had to lower their own wages to compete; at the same time, as blacks gained more experience, they raised their demands... eventually, the two races met in the middle, more or less.
Funnily enough, one of the first bills the Kreugerites enacted forced businesses to pay blacks and whites exactly the same wages, "equal pay for equal work." Sound familiar? The effect was to remove the financial incentive to hire blacks, because their labor was no longer any bargain.
With the market mechanisms removed, it was easy to threaten or bully businesses into hiring and promoting only whites. (Most of the racist coercion was committed by the socialist labor unions, by the way... quelle surprise!) Thus, even in Apartheid South Africa, the free market acted to integrate and equalize the races, while the government -- "for their own good" -- acted to segregate and discriminate between them -- "Apartheid" literally means "apart-ness".
In any event, I steadfastly believe that even in the deep South in the 1950s, far more potential customers would choose to patronize a business on the basis of quality and price -- than on the basis of whether that business segregated black from white. Over the long run (which would likely be only a few years), that would drive out the adamant racists: Businesses operate on such a small margin that even a small economic advantage towards race neutrality would have an oversized effect on a business' viability.
Unless, that is, the state steps in and makes such racial discrimination mandatory; that is what we mean by "Jim Crow." If the state interferes with the market, forcing everyone to discriminate, it kills the market's ability to drive behavior away from irrelevant (and offensive) absurdities like racial discrimination: I can no longer compete with a "whites only" lunchcounter by advertising "we serve everybody!" I would be arrested and my business shut down if I tried.
That robs me of my liberty, my property rights; and that is the ground on which the Civil Rights Act should have been fought. Let freedom reign, and allow the market to do its holy job of driving the fools and haters out of business.
Of course, there will always be pockets where there really are more racists than sons and daughters of liberty; in those dark nooks, they will open their whites-only swimming pools and bowling alleys and ice-skating rinks. What do we do about that?
We let them. If they want to segregate themselves away from the rest of society, let them huddle together and fester. So long as we all have freedom of mobility and association, the 99% of the country that is decent will isolate the tiny fraction who are morally putrid; and the good citizens will open their own pools, alleys, and rinks open to everyone. After all, there's gold in them thar businesses.
The racist kooks will become curiosities, monkeys in a zoo: We'll point and laugh at the funny and now-powerless haters, just as we do whenever the Ku Klux Klan musters its eight or nine hoodwinkers to stand on the corner holding up racist, and typically illiterate signs.
That's the American way, the path of liberty. Just as we don't deny Klansmen, Black Panthers, or MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán) their freedom of speech, we should also not deny them their right to serve only "their own kind," if that's what they want.
Nor do we prevent the rest of us from expressing displeasure by patronizing their competitors instead.
Had Rand Paul really thought this all through aforehand, he could have answered Rachel Maddow much more powerfully and directly, like this:
MADDOW: Do you think that a private business has the right to say we don't serve black people?
LIZARDS: Sure -- if they want to cut their own economic throats.
MADDOW: What do you mean? The Civil Rights Act was the federal government stepping in to protect civil rights because they weren't otherwise being protected. It wasn't a hypothetical. There were businesses that were saying black people cannot be served here and the federal government stepped in and said, no, you actually don't have that choice to make. The federal government is coming in and saying you can't make that choice as a business owner.
How about desegregating lunch counters? Lunch counters. Walgreen's lunch counters, were you in favor of that? Possibly? Because the government got involved?
LIZARDS: The problem wasn't that Jim Crow wasn't protecting civil rights, Rachel. The great evil of Jim Crow laws was that they forced even non-racists to racially discriminate.
In a free market, I could open a lunchcounter right across the street from a "whites only" Walgreens; and in my front window, I could put a sign that says "we serve everybody!" I have faith in the American people, Southerners included. Let me compete with the racists without the state government or federal government stacking the deck, and I guarantee you I'll drive the racial haters out of business and out of town.
That way, we'll lose the racists -- good riddance -- but we'll keep liberty and the sanctity of private property, the cornerstone of America. That's the same sanctity of private property, by the way, that allows a homeowner to sell his house to a black family, no matter what the ancient, entrenched political class in the state capital demand.
MADDOW: Mr. Reptile, until the year 2000, Bob Jones University, a private institution, had a ban on interracial dating at their school, their private institution. If Bob Jones University wanted to bring that back now, would you support their right to do so?
LIZARDS: Bob Jones University didn't drop its policy as a result of the Civil Rights Act; President Bob Jones dropped the policy in the year 2000, because the adverse publicity of its racist stance was hurting the university. That's an important point, Rachel: The market was hurting Bob Jones badly enough that it forced them to change their stupid, evil policy.
The most the feds ever did to BJU was to take away its religious tax exemption. I've long argued that when an insitution requests special dispensation that amounts to an endorsement of that institution -- such as a religious tax exemption that secular private universities don't get -- the government has every right to make that privilege contingent upon meeting the base-level standards of decency that American society demands. I would just as vigorously oppose giving a tax exemption to Mohammed Atta Martyrdom University, no matter how sincerely held was its jihadist religous curriculum.
MADDOW: Let's say there's a town right now and the owner of the town's swimming club says we're not going to allow black kids at our pool, and the owner of the bowling alley in town says, we're not actually going to allow black patrons, and the owner of the skating rink in town says, we're not going to allow black people to skate here.
And you may think that's abhorrent and you may think that's bad business. But unless it's illegal, there's nothing to stop that -- there's nothing under your world view to stop the country from re-segregating like we were before the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
LIZARDS: Nothing but the justice and common decency of the American people! In the first place, this isn't the 1950s. The whole world has come a long way in the last half century, wouldn't you say? And no country in the world is less racist than the United States: Not a single state in the Union has even one pair of racists in its legislature to conspire together to re-segregate the country.
But frankly, Rachel, I don't even believe any state in the deep South had a majority of racist citizens even in 1964. What they had was an oligarchy of bitter, hate-filled, septuagenarian racists who occupied state legislatures like the Nazis occupied the Reichstag. They were corrupt, elections were rigged, and they couldn't be ousted from their seats except perhaps by dynamite... or by joining Republican Party!
But that's no longer true, and it hasn't been since I was in grade school. Oh yes, there is still racial discrimination in the United States; but today, as in the 50s and 60s, it comes from the left side of the aisle, from race-obsessed Democrats and leftists allied with radical Islam. But so long as we can keep the Left away from the levers of power, I'm confident America will never re-segregate.
I am quite certain this would have been much, much harder to spin as racist, pro-segregation, and anti-civil rights. And in any event, it sure would have made more exciting political theater!
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
January 1, 2010
In Theory, It Ought to Be a Theory, But...
Frequent commenter Snochasr: has responded to a previous Big Lizards post titled Gas Masquerade, which notes that even some mainstream scientific publications for lay readers have begun to think a second time about the pronunciamentos of globaloney. Snochasr japed:
This looks like my list of the "top four flaws" in the theory of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW). Those are that it's not catastrophic, it's not anthropogenic, it's not global and it's not warming. But it IS a theory.
Well actually, it's not even a theory -- at least not a scientific one.
In science terms, a "theory" is "an analytic structure designed to explain a set of empirical observations."
To continue quoting from that unimpeachable font of all wisdom, Wikipedia...
A scientific theory does two things:
- it identifies this set of distinct observations as a class of phenomena, and
- makes assertions about the underlying reality that brings about or affects this class.
In the scientific or empirical tradition, the term "theory" is reserved for ideas which meet baseline requirements about the kinds of empirical observations made, the methods of classification used, and the consistency of the theory in its application among members of the class to which it pertains. These requirements vary across different scientific fields of knowledge, but in general theories are expected to be functional and parsimonious: i.e. a theory should be the simplest possible tool that can be used to effectively address the given class of phenomena.
Here are the theoretical problems with the "theory-ness" of AGCC:
- AGCC is not primarily based upon empirical observation but rather computer modeling; as the models are designed by global-warming activists, they naturally show global warming... but that is purely an artifact of the modeling: A spurious characteristic introduced by human manipulation, whether deliberate or unconscious.
- It is inconsistent with about half the available data -- which is therefore suppressed, e.g. Michael Mann's infamous "hockey stick" graph, which wished the Mediaeval Climate Optimum out of existence. When observation is subservient to the model, when data is cherry-picked, when results are misreported or manipulated, when contrary results are censored, that is not science; it's politics.
- It is not functional; it cannot even "predict" the warming from 1900 to 2000; nor can it explain the lack of warming since 1998, other than by denying it.
- It is not parsimonious, in that there are simpler explanations than AGCC that account for what observational evidence does exist -- variations in solar output, for example.
- It is not testable, since even its proponents proclaim that there are too many confounding factors to make firm predictions.
- It is not falsifiable, as "climate change" can mean a climate that is warming, a climate that is cooling, or a climate showing unusual stability, each of which thus becomes "evidence" for AGCC.
Ergo, AGCC is not a scientific theory. At best, it could be an interesting hypothesis for future scientific study.
More accurately, as currently used, AGCC modeling is a political formulation whose true function is to rationalize and facilitate the gargantuan transfer of wealth from developed to underdeveloped nations and the accumulation of totalitarian power within an international quasi-government.
This global regime is cobbled together from environmental regulations, economic utopianism, and radical misanthropy... "hatred of humanity" so extreme it calls for the destruction of most of the human race (or all of it, in some cases) and the degredation of whatever fraction remains.
So... AGCC Theory is not anthropogenic, not global, not climate change -- and it's not even a theory. Strike four, and globaloney is really, really, really out!
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
October 6, 2009
How is one to explain the film world's conscience?
He refers not to Polanski himself; as Movie Badger noted, the existence of evil people is not hard to accept, even if it's hard for some to understand, believing, as many of the religious do, in a God Who is absolutely good. Rather, the more fascinating question, and the more important for society, is why people who themselves would never even imagine orally, vaginally, and anally raping a little girl... will nevertheless passionately defend a man who did exactly that.
(I do believe some of the people defending Polanski, such as Woody Allen, are disturbingly close to understanding Polanski's desire to rape a thirteen year old -- not just Polanski's ephebophilia. But the vast majority of Polanski's vociferous defenders do not share his violent, sadistic, and torturous impulses towards the helpless.)
Prager finds two explanations for the adultatory support (which is also condemnatory -- of everyone except the criminal):
- Hollywood elites see themselves as Nietzschean Übermenschen, "overmen" who "transcend the boundaries of classes, creeds, and nationalities... overcome human nature itself, and maintain a lordly superiority to the normal shackles and conventions of social life." (The quotation is from the online philosophy dictionary at Answers.com.) Thus, Polanski represents the aristocratic warrior-artist who is "beyond good and evil," and cannot be judged by mere humans wallowing in egalitarian modernity.
- Second, "Hollywood specifically, like the film world generally, is a cocoon." That is, Polanski's elite defenders don't even know how out of touch they are with the rest of humanity. They defend Roman Polanski because all their friends do.
Each of these explanations has merit; but collectively, I think it only explains a tiny fraction of those demanding that Polanski be released. The first may explain Harvey Weinstein, who refered to Polanski's multiple rapes of a terrified (and drugged) thirteen year old girl as a "so-called crime;" it's also possible that Weinstein lives so much in a bubble he literally has never heard any of his Hollywood friends mention that the rape was not merely statutory rape; if you believe the victim, it was forcible rape.
I think the second explanation is the best one for Whoopi Goldberg, who claimed it wasn't a "rape-rape;" she doesn't listen to anyone but liberals, and liberals have all got it in their minds that the sex was consensual -- the girl was just a little too young. I suspect she still believes this... and believes that everyone on the right who claims it was more is simply lying to hurt a liberal icon. [This paragraph is corrected; I mistakenly wrote Oprah Winfrey instead. Thanks to an e-mailer!]
But neither explanation really satisfies me. Why are Hollywood personalities so unwilling to believe that one of their own may have done something horrible?
I know this will startle you all, but I have my own theory about what really drives support for Roman Polanski; alas, it's a logical fallacy that affects nearly everyone to some extent, myself included, no matter how carefully I try to avoid it. Every day, I see similar defenses -- albeit of less egregious crimes -- by ordinary, non-Hollywood people who do not see themselves as "beyond good and evil," and who do not live in a cocoon.
A friend of mine defined it most succinctly:
"It can't be true, because that would be too dreadful!"
In other words, most Polanski defenders support him not because they have a broken moral compass; they support and defend him because they simply cannot believe he really did it -- despite the evidence, the testimony, and even Polanski's own confession (to a lesser edition of his crime). They cannot believe it because they refuse to allow themselves to believe it; the truth would do such damage to their worldview that they just can't handle it.
A great many people (mostly liberals) believe the following syllogism:
- To produce great art, a person needs a great soul (or spirit, for the atheists);
- A great soul cannot be associated with the basest and most despicable of carnal crime; it's impossible by definition;
- Therefore, a great artist is incapable of child rape, no matter what anybody says. Who you gonna believe, the manifest truth of liberal logic, or your own lyin' eyes?
The illogic of this is easily spotted; since a "great soul" is never defined, it ends up being defined post-hoc as the inability to do whatever it is the great artist is accused of doing -- which makes the argument completely circular.
But lest we feel too superior, consider this variation:
- Man is more than just an animal; he has a soul.
- The soul is of the spirit, not of the flesh.
- Flesh cannot transform into spirit; it's impossible by definition.
- Thus, a human being cannot evolve from non-human animals.
- But it seems absurd that evolution could explain the creation of all species on the planet but one.
- Therefore, evolution from one species to another is a complete fraud, no matter what those lefty, atheist eggheads claim.
Here we have the same complaint: The creationist begins with a premise that is logically equivalent to the conclusion he seeks.
Or this one:
- Capitalism is the greatest engine of wealth creation ever invented; it's also the most just system of distribution of wealth.
- Any government attempt to control Capitalism is doomed to failure, because it subsitutes the decision of a single mind or small group of minds for the godlike decisions of all minds linked in a collective called the Market.
- So any and all constraints on the Market are wrongheaded and should be abolished.
- Therefore, governments must never aid individuals or even entire regions stricken by devastating natural disasters or calamitous attacks, because that violates the precepts of Capitalism, no matter what those statist, redistributing Benthemites say.
Each of these syllogisms is paralogical and invalid, and each has the same fundamental fallacy: Assuming the conclusion, then finding some path to it, no matter how tortuous:
"It would be too dreadful if government intervention in the market actually worked; therefore, it cannot work."
"It would be too dreadful if evolution by natural selection actually occurred; therefore it didn't."
"It would be too dreadful to imagine that a man could direct a masterpiece like Chinatown, or a man who could write an opera like Götterdämmerung, or a man who could play brilliant football, yet could also be capable of committing rape, engaging in despicable Jew hatred, or killing two people in cold blood; therefore, none of those things really happened... it was all just some awful misunderstanding."
Have you ever tried to find some argument to explain away the fact that the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence was a life-long slave owner, as was the father of our country? How many people rail against socialized medicine, then turn around and castigate Obama for threatening Medicare?
I don't think either of these is an example of hypocrisy; nobody actually defends Thomas Jefferson's or George Washington's slave ownership -- "It's okay for them, because they were so great; but it's not okay for lesser mortals." Rather, they try to weasel out of condemning them for it; they claim extenuating circumstances.
Rather, they simply cannot accept the idea that one of the greatest apostles of liberty and America's first president could also engage in chattel slavery on the basis of race; it's too dreadful to imagine such greatness of spirit containing such carnal ignominy. It can't be true -- so it must not be true! There must be some other explanation, like... like Jefferson and Washington were just keeping slaves to -- to protect them; yeah, that must be it.
(This non-defense defense naturally implies that the defender accepts the evil of slavery. If he didn't, why bother claiming Jefferson wasn't "really" a slave owner?)
So how does this work in the present case?
- The violent drugging and multiple raping of a thirteen year old girl was really some strange (but perfectly understandable) version of consensual sex.
- This means the victim must have been a willing, even enthusiastic participant. Which means she must have been a huge fan of Roman Polanski, and probably on the make for a star "scalp."
- Thus her testimony at the grand jury proceeding was obviously perjured; after having her fun, she wanted to soak Polanski for as much money as she could. She's the real criminal, not the director. Is giving pleasure a crime?
- Since we all agree she was thirteen, and the law says that thirteen year olds cannot consent to sex, that implies the very concept of "age of consent" must be screwy (all right, bad word choice). The girl must have been very advanced for her age; she must have seduced Polanski; it was all her doing anyway.
- Therefore, Polanski did nothing wrong; the D.A. and the judge were just been out to get him, to put another notch on their prosecutorial gunbarrel. They were doubtless smug, anti-art, conservative Philistines.
- Which means that... Roman Polanski had every right to flee to France! Anybody else would have done the same thing.
It's a crazy, convoluted way of looking at such a simple crime of violence, control, and sexual brutality. But its very complexity tells us that his defenders are struggling to harmonize what they know would be degrading and violent behavior with what they know simply cannot be the case. They're not hypocrites; they're lying to themselves to prevent their heads from exploding.
Happily, it's simply not the case, in my mind, that America includes hundreds of thousands of people who believe that great artists are allowed to commit heinous crimes, as some vile version of "jus primae noctis;" instead, a huge number simply refuse to accept the possibilty that a person could be so sensitive in one case and such a brute in another.
Sadly, America contains tens of millions who believe some corollary of that last point.
Cross-posted to Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
April 26, 2009
Word Inflation - UPDATED
Suppose we accept the Left's conclusion that pouring water on a terrorist's face, shoving him, poking his chest with your finger, making him stand at attention for a few hours, holding him in a cell that's moderately cold (i.e., not freezing or anywhere close to it), stripping him buck naked, or -- evidently worst of all -- forcibly washing and delousing him... that each of these things constitutes "torture." Then what?
All right; that's what the word torture means. In that case, what word do we use for gang raping women, stoning people to death, lopping off limbs, shoving a cattle-prod up a prisoner's anus, cutting off a captive's nose and ears, gouging out his eyes, and finally beheading him -- on video?
Just tell me what word I'm supposed to use for all that, if the word "torture" now means making him stay awake past his beddie-bye time. G'wan, I double-dog dare you.
This is my pet peeve, Argument by Tendentious Redefinition, in a nuthatch. It's structurally identical to those ultra-radical feminists who defined all heterosexual sex to be "rape"... then accused nearly every man of being a rapist. "Reagan was a rapist! Bush is a rapist! Cheney is a rapist!" Yep, every last one of them has had sex with a woman... so by the tendentious redefinition of "rape," each and every one of these men is a rapist!
So if playing "good cop, bad cop" with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed now constitutes "torture," then I guess every policeman who ever interrogated a suspect is a torturer or torture enabler. Voilà -- we are all Nazis on this bus. Lt. Tragg is now Reich Minister of Propaganda Josef Goebbels.
When we twist words into such tortuous knots, we diminsh our language; soon none of us will be able to communicate at all. We cannot exploit an opportunity, because exploit now means only to abuse. We cannot discriminate between right and wrong, because to discriminate means to prefer one race over another, and nothing else. We can no longer progress into the future because progressive now has only one meaning: Socialism à la 1916.
And now even Rick Moran and Fox News' Shepard Smith -- not to mention former GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 63%) -- have blindly accepted the Left's definition of "torture" as "any form of interrogation that induces a terrorist detainee to spill information he would rather keep to himself." Soon, the very fact that an interrogation was successful will be ipso facto proof that it constituted torture.
When a word comes to mean anything at all... then it really means nothing at all. Effectively, we no longer have a word for torture, real torture, like al-Qaeda carries out routinely. No such word, thus no such concept; no concept, no torture! By trivializing what should be profoundly evil, we allow evil to flourish unremarked, let alone unprevented, unrepented, and unrevenged.
The world has gone mad; and even the Republican-Party attendants have swallowed the magic mushrooms.
UPDATE April 26th: I probably should have made reference to our overseas contingency operation, designed to reduce man-caused disasters down to a (politically) manageable level...
If you no longer have the words to discuss the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis, designed to end militant Islamist terrorism, then those concepts no longer exist either: If you can't say it, you can't think it.
This is literally Orwellian -- Newspeak is upon us!
February 24, 2009
Michael Medved: Still Liberal After All These Years
(But of course, I think most of us already knew that.)
I was listening to Mr. M. today; in his first segment, he examined the phenomenon of blacks as monkeys... well, to be fair, the phenomenon of blacks claiming that any reference to monkeys or apes -- no matter how far removed from racial considerations -- is actually a racist reference to blacks as monkeys, and therefore requires an abject, belly-crawling apology, contrition, and a healthy financial donation to Al Sharpton.
All right; fair topic. But in the middle of his intro, he noted that Charles Darwin, "who we honored the same day as Lincoln's birthday" -- possibly because they were, in fact, born on exactly the same day: February 12th, 1809 -- was a racist who believed that blacks were closer to monkeys and apes than were whites.
Again, fair point: But the proper conclusion to draw is that, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many great men and women were flaming racists... not that Darwin in particular was a more egregious racist than his peers (he wasn't).
The second time Medved noted that point, I was a bit puzzled; why harp on poor Charles Darwin? Literature from this period is replete with such casually racist observations and portrayals, from Harriet Beecher Stowe to Rudyard Kipling to Booth Tarkington... and they're even found in such notably anti-racist works as Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn: The character of "Nigger Jim," while depicted as the most kind and decent person in the work, is nevertheless painted as a shuffling Stepin Fetchit, not a visionary like Frederick Douglass or Booker T. Washington (throughout the book, until the very end, Jim thoroughly accepts his inferiority compared to whites, for example).
So why Darwin specifically?
I didn't realize Medved's real purpose, however, until the third time in the same hour that Medved brought out that "startling" fact (in case anyone had missed all but he final ten minutes of the segment) -- this time in response to a black caller who said the New York Post cartoon of the bullet-riddled corpse of Travis the Chimp, with the caption "They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill," clearly played to the latent racism of American society: Medved believes the nineteenth-century racism of Darwin completely discredits evolutionary theory.
How could he think that? What would Darwin's racism have to do with the validity of modern evolutionary theory? We all agree that William Shockley supported eugenics (he doesn't appear to have been a racist, but eugenics is bad enough); does that mean transistors don't really work?
I believe the problem is that Medved either doesn't understand the scientific method, or more dastardly, understands it but hopes to confuse his listeners for purely tendentious reasons. He never discusses "evolutionary theory," "biological evolution," or even just evolution; he invariably refers to that entire subject as "Darwinism," and he conflates biological evolution with "social Darwinism," generally, though somewhat inaccurately, identified with eugenics. Medved doesn't see "Darwinism" as a scientific theory but rather a cult of personality, like Scientology, the Branch Davidians, or Jim Jones' People's Temple in Guyana. Thus to Medved, the best way to "discredit" evolutionary theory is to smear Charles Darwin. There, that'll put paid to all this nonsense!
This tactic is a dangerous tendency alike of conservatives like Ben Stein and pseudoconservative former leftist radicals such as Michael Medved; we've discussed it a number of times before, going all the way back to the dim mists of antiquity (2005):
- Evolution, ID, and Science
- I appear to have become a Nazi...
- Expelled: No Intelligence Offered - part 1 (Win Ben Stein's Monkey Trial!)
- Expelled: No Intelligence Offered - part 2 (Ben in the Dock)
- Semi-Intelligent Design
(The last is a rare post by Big Lizards co-founder Brad Linaweaver.)
This particular rhetorical trick is quintessentially liberal, though sadly, it's used by all sides: It's "Fruit of the Forbidden Tree" Reductionism (FFTR). The Left uses it almost to the exclusion of all other arguments. It consists in first reducing an entire argument, school of thought, philosophy, or movement to a single "founding" individual... then personally smearing that individual, thus "discrediting" the entire movement. Thus:
- American Democracy was invented by Thomas Jefferson in his Declaration of Independence; but Jefferson the hypocrite clearly did not believe that "all men are created equal" or were "endowed" with "liberty," because he himself kept slaves; therefore, Jeffersonianism is irretrievably racist, regressive, and belongs in the dustbin of history.
- Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who started the anti-Communist hysteria, was a bigot, a racist, and a drunkard; it's no wonder that many decades of McCarthyism have failed to uncover any Commies hiding under our beds.
- Ronald Reagan was one of those rich and privileged Hollywood elites who betrayed their own fellow union members by denouncing them to McCarthyite witch-hunts; this explains Reaganism's later betrayal of the whole country by slashing taxes on the rich and crushing the poor.
And here's another one from the other side, besides "Darwinism":
- In 1938, the cowardly, pacifist appeaser Neville Chamberlain gave Adolf Hitler everything he wanted as part of the European "peace process," imagining this would satisfy Hitler and prevent war; now, seventy years later, we're supposed to give Mahmoud Ahmadijejad everything he wants in the new Iranian "peace process"... which will have the same effect as last time.
Let's dissect that last. First, note that it's not necessary actually to use an eponym like "Chamberlainism;" the sin is in the identification itself, however expressed. Second, I agree with the underlying conclusion... but finally, FFTR is not about the conclusion, it's about the rhetorical road by which one arrives there. Its essence is:
- Identify the enemy philosophy with a single individual;
- Villify that individual, especially if one does so unfairly;
- Conclude, by the mother of all non-sequiturs, that the enemy philosophy is thereby refuted.
In the last example above, (a) the philosophy of appeasement is identified with Neville Chamberlain, as if he had invented it; (b) Chamberlain is ludicrously caricatured as a coward, a pacifist, and a blind fool who believed that the Munich Agreement would permanently prevent war with Nazi Germany, none of which is accurate; and (c) the arguer uses the identification and denunciation to shortcut the heavy lifting of really analyzing appeasement to see where it works and where it doesn't.
In fact, appeasement does sometimes work. For one example, in 1978, Israel returned the Sinai back to Egypt in exchange for the promise that Egypt -- which had taken the lead in all three previous major wars against Israel, in 1948, 1967, and the Yom Kippur War of 1973, just five years before the Accords -- would normalize relations with Israel. This is classic appeasement... land for the promise of peace. But in fact, it has worked. Since 1978, and the Egypt-Israel peace treaty of the next year, Egypt has kept the peace with Israel and even fought against Hamas in Gaza (to some extent). Hey, appeasement worked for more than half of Israel's existence; we can't deny that stubborn fact.
Thus, those of us who oppose appeasement anent Iran (which is a horse for another day) must analyze and explain why it wouldn't work and would be a catastrophe, despite the positive example of Egypt. That complicates the argument, though not unduly; it is, however, an argument of some subtlety and the polar opposite of FFTR.
FFTR flattens all distinction, subtlety, and nuance into one big smear of fire-engine red. A good analogy increases understanding of an issue by removing the structure of an argument from the emotion-laden specifics; but a rhetorical trick like FFTR reduces understanding of the issue by conflating unlike things as if they were one and the same.
And that surely is true with Medved's and Stein's full-throated employment of FFTR to "refute" modern evolutionary theory (ET): They flatten all distinctions between ET and religion, between ET and "social Darwinism," between logic and sincerity, and between legitimate and ideological personnel decisions; they leave behind only a raw, "four legs good, two legs bad" bleat designed to prevent rational discussion, trying to silence science.
And in yet another rhetorical trick filtched from liberals, Medved and Stein then project their own thuggishness onto their victims -- Expelled is the poster-child of such role reversal!
It's disgusting when a former left-liberal radical war protester, like Michael Medved or David Horowitz, reverts to form, seizing upon the rhetorical tricks familiar to his misspent youth; but it's utterly vile when a lifelong conservative like Ben Stein appropriates alien, leftist tactics to his own cause. Buckley never did this, nor did Goldwater; in fact, not even liberal-turned-conservative-icon Ronald Reagan did it.
When those identified as conservative use Carville-like tricks to bamboozle the audience, they discredit not only themselves but the rest of us as well, handing open leftists the perfect ammunition to use for their own adventures in "Fruit of the Forbidden Tree" Reductionism.
Thanks again, guys. I truly enjoy being forced to swim upstream through your rhetorical sewers, undoing the damage you cause, before I can even get to my actual point.
January 15, 2009
But in Theory...
Of all the crazy memes flogged by Democrats and liberals, this one is, I believe, the most psychotic:
Attorney General-nominee Eric Holder forcefully broke from the Bush administration's counterterrorism policies Thursday, declaring that waterboarding is torture and pledging to prosecute some Guantanamo Bay detainees in U.S. courts.
It was the latest signal that President-elect Barack Obama will chart a new course in combatting terrorism. As recently as last week, Vice President Dick Cheney defended waterboarding, a harsh interrogation tactic that simulates drowning, saying it provided valuable intelligence.
The CIA has used the tactic on at least three terrorism suspects, included alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. In past hearings, Attorney General Michael Mukasey and his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales, frustrated senators by repeatedly sidestepping questions about waterboarding.
It was the first topic discussed at Holder's confirmation hearing, and he made an unambiguous statement about its nature: "Waterboarding is torture."
As a practical matter, Holder said torture does not lead to reliable intelligence. And on principle, he said the United States needs to live up to its own high standards, even in the face of fear and terrorism.
Let's walk it through; what exactly is Holder saying? Many members of President George W. Bush's administration have testified -- from those interrogators who were directly involved in the interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, each in 2003 (the only time evidence indicates we ever used waterboarding), to experienced military and intelligence experts, to high officials (including, op.cit., Vice President Dick Cheney) -- that waterboarding those three top terrorists in fact yielded a wealth of intelligence; that intel directly led to hundreds of arrests and the disrupting and interdicting of scores of follow-on terrorist attacks against the United States, saving thousands upon thousands of American civilian lives.
Numerous people are in custody in Guantanamo Bay today because we caught them red-handed in the midst of plotting terrorist attacks -- with ample physical evidence to back up the charges -- on the basis of searches and investigations sparked by the intelligence gained from waterboarding Mohammed, Zubayday, and Nashiri.
But no... the Left considers waterboarding to be "torture," and the Left's theory about torture states unequivocally and without exception that "torture does not lead to reliable intelligence."
Ergo, none of the foregoing ever really happened: We didn't actually get intelligence from waterboarding the Three Amigos; we didn't really disrupt any terrorist plots; we didn't actually arrest anyone (or if we did, they were necessarily innocent bystanders); and in fact, we didn't stop further attacks on the country; thus, by a simple deduction, we actually were hit again and again by the terrorists -- and the Bush regime just covered it all up, yet another Bush war crime!
Sure, physical observation appears to indicate that waterboarding, the putative "torture," in fact yielded reliable and even vital intelligence; but appearances can be deceiving. Theory proves this cannot be, so logic dictates we must throw out the observations as obviously flawed.
Oddly, this is the same argumentative technique used in the globaloney debate; perhaps it needs its own name: How about Argument of the Irresistable Theoretical Construct?
- Your so-called "measurements" claim that the Earth's temperature rise since 1900 correlates almost exactly with solar activity, and there has been no global temperature increase since 1998 (in fact, a decrease). But the theory of anthropogenic ("human created") global warming -- which every legitimate scientist accepts -- belies that claim. Therefore, your measurements must be in error... go and fix them, and don't come back for more funding until you do!
- According to all supposed observers in Iraq, including those vehemently opposed to the war from the beginning, since the Bush regime implemented the surge, military and civilian deaths have plummeted to the normal base-level of violence found in Arab countries. But as we told you repeatedly, the "surge" could not possibly work, because there is no military solution to military defeat. So who are you going to believe -- the considered weight of expert opinion from nearly all foreign-policy professionals, including some who have won the Nobel Peace Prize... or your own lyin' eyes?
- All those revisionist historians and economists have been busy tarnishing the reputation of the greatest president of the 20th century, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, producing fact after evidence after measurement indicating that none of his New Deal programs did anything to end the Great Depression, that it continued unabated until the beginning of World War II; but it's utterly impossible in theory that programs with such good intentions -- implemented by a brilliant president who was not only the darling of liberal, compassionate professors and socialist progressives and reformers but even of the masses -- could possibly fail. Clearly then, FDR's NRA and other programs restored the American economy and ended the depression... and any claims to the contrary are just mean-spirited attacks by frustrated conservative Republican robber-barons.
- John Lott and other eggheads have published numerous books purporting to show that increasing civilian ownership of guns decreases, not increases, the homicide and other violent crime rates; but this is absurd on its face: The only purpose of a gun is to kill; and everybody knows that guns are useless in self-defense because the criminal will simply take it away from the victim (and get very angry). So the only explanation for the spate of pro-gun books is... Lott, et al, are being paid off by the NRA! (The other NRA, the bad NRA -- not the good one of the previous example. Nitpicker.)
Argument of the Irresistable Theoretical Construct: Add that one to the list; it will crop up again and again.
November 11, 2008
The FEC Shrugged
Obama's Brobdingnagian fundraising is simply too huge to be investigated
Politico casually drops a bombshell (and of course, tilts the story a bit towards Barack H. Obama):
The Federal Election Commission is unlikely to conduct a potentially embarrassing audit of how Barack Obama raised and spent his presidential campaign’s record-shattering windfall, despite allegations of questionable donations and accounting that had the McCain campaign crying foul.
Adding insult to injury for Republicans: The FEC is obligated to complete a rigorous audit of McCain’s campaign coffers, which will take months, if not years, and cost McCain millions of dollars to defend.
It turns out that when Obama broke his word and refused to accept public funding in the general election, the first presidential candidate to do so in the modern era, he thereby skated away from the automatic audit that accompanies acceptance of such cash; while John S. McCain's honesty in accepting public funding as he promised is exactly why he will be audited.
Worse, the very hugeness of Obama's fundraising -- over $600 million through September and probably topping $700 million overall -- means that not even the millions of dollars of questionable and completely unmonitored credit-card donations will be investigated either: The formula the FEC uses to decide on an audit takes into account the amount in question as a percentage of the total raised by the candidate. Thus, substantial and well-founded allegations of even $5 million of potentially criminal fundraising would represent less than 1% of Obama's funds raised, and therefore the FEC is not required to investigate.
Of course, the commission could still simply vote to authorize an audit, no matter what their formula says about automatic audits; but it's unlikely to trouble itself. The commission membership is deliberately kept to an equal number of Democrats and Republicans (whether or not it's fully staffed or even has a quorum); and, well, the Democratic commissioners have signalled that they're going to vote en masse against any audit of Barack Obama's fundraising practices. Thus any vote on an audit will at best be a stalemate, with three for and three against (a majority is required except for automatic audits).
So Obama will almost certainly waltz away without any audit at all, while McCain will have to spend millions of dollars defend his own fundraising practices. Surprise, surprise on the Jungle Riverboat ride tonight.
Meanwhile, it appears, astonishingly enough, that even now, Politico is completely ignorant of the real scandal of the Obama fundraising machine: They deliberately disabled fraud monitoring of credit-card donations. This despite the fact that reputable conservative blogs with hundreds of thousands of daily readers -- more than many mainstream newspapers -- have published many substantial blogposts on the issue... for example, this sequence of posts from Power Line:
- Who is John Galt?
- What did Della Ware?
- ObamaFraud: Still Not News
- Obama shrugged
- Obama Shrugged: The Website
- Obama Shrugged: An update
- Obama Shrugged: Neil Munro is on the case
- An irregular campaign
That series of eight posts represents quite a substantial and in-depth analysis of probable criminal violations not only of the McCain-Feingold fundraising laws but also credit-card fraud: The Obama campaign evidently turned off all fraud-monitoring processes whatsoever, in order to make it easier for anybody to donate any amount under any name... or even to charge donations to the credit cards of people who never authorized such charges.
You'd think such a substantial allegation of deliberate criminal fraud would deserve at least a mention in an article specifically on the possibility that Obama's campaign fundraising might possibly, but probably wouldn't be audited. But either Politico never heard a word of it... or else they're still in the tank for the One, even after he has been safely elected. Either nonfeasance or outright malfeasance; that's a heck of a dilemma that bodes ill for future reporting.
And they're hardly alone; the entire elite media has been mimicking the three monkeys (see-no, hear-no, report-no) throughout the 114 years of this campaign (except for Neil Munro at National Journal; see link 7 in the list above); and many appear determined to maintain the frantic pace of campaigning even after the campaign has ended. What started as rewriting the election is now metastisizing into rewriting history even as it's being made.
So it goes. And so it will go for the next four or even eight years... welcome to Obamaland.
I suspect there is only one solution to this problem: The GOP should likewise disable all monitoring and throw the fundraising valve wide open. We might not raise as much as Obama did, but at least we'll be at less of a disadvantage than we were this time, when we foolishly played by rules that were, in reality, "no longer operative."
If Chicago rules are the to be the new rules of the game, then we'd better begin playing by them as well. We should appoint nothing but absolute GOP partisans to the FEC, and they can deadlock on every vote on an audit of Republican candidates, just as the Democratic commissioners already do for their side.
In a bizarre way, the FEC's inaction is good: It makes the complete failure of campaign finance reform brutally clear. It's a backdoor way finally to overturn the unworkable, thoroughly discredited, and unconstitutional (no matter what the Supreme Court says) McCain-Feingold "Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act," BCRA.
Too bad its collapse must take with it the perfectly reasonable laws against donations by foreigners; but as A.E. Housman says, we find ourselves "In a world [we] never made":
To Saturn nor to Mercury,
Keep we must, if keep we can,
These foreign laws of God and man.
October 22, 2007
Why Do So Many People Hate Intellectuals? Let Me Count the Ways...
The major reason people tend to hate self-styled intellectuals is that so often, their thinking is divorced from ordinary human thought. They say or write things so truculent, while simultaneously so risible, that you wonder whether they need a sedative -- or a keeper.
Take this year's Nobel winner in literature, Doris Lessing:
Nobel laureate Doris Lessing said the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States were "not that terrible" when compared to attacks by the IRA in Britain.
"September 11 was terrible, but if one goes back over the history of the IRA, what happened to the Americans wasn't that terrible," the Nobel Literature Prize winner told the leading Spanish daily El Pais.
"Some Americans will think I'm crazy. Many people died, two prominent buildings fell [two? well, ten, actually -- and three other buildings were heavily damaged, including the Pentagon in a separate attack as part of the same operation], but it was neither as terrible nor as extraordinary as they think. They're a very naive people, or they pretend to be," she said in an interview published Sunday. [Oh! Those colonists think they're the centre of the world. But we civilized people have suffered too... how we've suffered!]
"Do you know what people forget? That the IRA attacked with bombs against our government; it killed several people while a Conservative congress was being held and in which the prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, was (attending). People forget," she said.
(Lessing is British, of course.)
Here is the next paragraph of the Reuters story, which demonstrates the essential absurdity (and narcissism) of her statement:
Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the Sept. 11 attacks. About 3,700 died and tens of thousands of people were maimed in more than 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland. The Irish Republican Army guerrilla group, which caused most of the deaths, disarmed in 2005.
Ergo, when you subtract those killings carried out by terrorist Protestant groups, we probably have a rough parity between killings by al-Qaeda on September 11th, 2001, and killings by the terrorist IRA -- spread over a thirty year period, averaging 100 homicides per year.
I believe that people who consciously think of themselves as intellectuals -- living the life of the mind (in their own minds) -- feel pressure to stand out from the pack of lesser mortals. This leads them to say outrageous things for sake of outrage itself... as if saying the mirror-opposite of what a normal person would say betokens superiority. But it's a faux superiority and glibness that often masks thoughts no more interesting than the quotidian ruminations of the masses; their verbal ability fools nearly everyone, starting with themselves. But except in a very few cases, at core, it's charlatanism.
The intellecual typically slings around polysyllables with pyrotechnic abandon -- prismatic diction like "quotidian" instead of more ordinary words like "ordinary" -- in an effort to appear brighter than he actually is. Original thinkers are rare; contrary to popular belief (especially among intellectuals), they're no more common among intellectuals than among ad-men, landscapers, or battlefield commanders.
Intellectualism is almost entirely disconnected from intelligence: The Bell curve of brightness for soi-disant "intellectuals," if superimposed over that of humanity as a whole, would match nearly exactly (allowing a bit of blueshift for the fact that intellectuals do have to be literate). Viz:
"I always hated Tony Blair, from the beginning," El Pais quoted Lessing as saying. "Many of us hated Tony Blair, I think he has been a disaster for Britain and we have suffered him for many years. I said it when he was elected: This man is a little showman who is going to cause us problems and he did."
"As for Bush, he's a world calamity," added Lessing. "Everyone is tired of this man. Either he is stupid or he is very clever, although you have to remember he is a member of a social class which has profited from wars."
What matchless, incisive analysis! While Tony Blair is "a diaster," Bush is "a world calamity." And the worst part about the American is that, "Either he is stupid or he is very clever;" and who could argue with that?
I'm not sure what "social class" Bush is a member of, since America does not have classes the way Britain does; and Doris Lessing doesn't know either. But she knows, by God, that whatever class Bush belongs to, it has "profited from wars!" This doesn't mean that he, personally, profited; but some other people who went to similar schools did. You see? Even intellectuals of the first water are just as prone to stereotyping and collectivism as real people.
Lessing's thinking doesn't even deviate from the mundane widely enough to be considered disordered. It's Nancy Pelosi level; Lessing could be Squeaker of the House, would she but come here and run for Congress.
Being intellectual doesn't mean you're stupid; but it doesn't mean you're smart, either. It means you live a life of verbal acuity, but you think you live a life of the mind. Some intellectuals (such as Thomas Sowell) are right; they do live for deep thinking. Others are only ponderous; and all, without exception, are pompous.
To shift back to science fiction (Lessing decided she could conquer SF with her Canopus in Argos series), intellectuals think of themselves as slans -- a term derived from the first-rate 1946 novel Slan, by A.E. Van Vogt; slans are mentally and physically superior to humans, and some are even telepathic. For a while in the 1950s through 1970s, science-fiction fans would say, only half in jest, that "fans are slans." I suspect most intellectuals would say the same, could they but force themselves to read a science-fiction novel.
In Slan, the slans are hunted by mundane humans; that is another parallel, playing into the delusion of persecution shared by intellectuals and sci-fi fans.
In fact, there are many similarities between the intellectual community and fandom; I suspect the latter aped the former, but I wouldn't be surprised at some cross-pollination: Both communities tend towards smugness, superiority, fantasies (or even delusions) of grandeur, insularity, unexamined liberalism, poor physical condition, and both like to read a lot -- mostly as escapism.
The shared trait of liberalism is the least surprising of the intersection between intellectualism and science-fiction fandom: Liberalism is not a political philosophy -- it's a lifestyle, one that promises childish libertinism (what Freud would call an oral fixation), freedom from hard choices, and the intellectual life of a teenaged joyrider. Liberalism is Peter Pan syndrome tarted up with intellectual pretension... envision Ward Churchill, standing athwart the intesection of liberalism, intellectualism, and American-Indian fantasy fannishness.
Most ordinary people despise intellectuals for the same reason they despise the snotty, adolescent know-it-all, constantly lecturing everyone else on moral failings, while his own emotional and spiritual development never rose beyond smoking weed, groping drunk girls at a party, and listening to "Free Bird" and "Crazy Train" with the knob set to 11.
Note that I'm not saying intellectuals are stupider than ordinary people; I'm saying they're not demonstrably more intelligent. When an intellectual is both intelligent and morally sound, he can serve as a true spirit guide to humanity. When he's intelligent and evil, he can create or at least empower the most horrific movements for misery the human race has ever seen, from Communism to radical Islamism.
And when an intellectual is not particularly bright and has no moral compass whatsoever, he becomes a star columnist for the elite media.
So if you've ever felt the urge to sneer at self-anointed intellectuals, with their pipes and elbow patches and Volvos, please go right ahead; most of them deserve it. Note those intellectuals who seem best able to connect with the outside world and get along well at barbecues and the Winternationals... they're the smart ones.
But if you ever run into one who uses any of the following words or phrases --
- Living Constitution
- Substantive due process
- Original intent
- Overreaction to 9/11
- Question my patriotism
- Antidisestablishmentarianism (if correctly used in a sentence)
- Womyn (or wimmin)
- North American union
- Voter suppression
- Mexican superhighway
- Flyover country
- NASCAR innoculations
- Religious fanatic
- Thank you for telling me that
- Operating thetan
- Liberation theology
- Freedom from want
- Information wants to be free
- Free Tibet
- Cowboy diplomacy
- New Left
- or That's not funny
-- Then run, do not walk, to the nearest exit.
October 5, 2007
The "Hush Rush" Crusade
I've stayed away from this story for days now, on the grounds that everybody else is already covering it. I didn't think there was much to analyze. It's completely clear what Rush Limbaugh meant by the phrase "phony soldiers," which he muttered on September 26th: He was referring to the hit parade of actual, literal phony soldiers -- as in fake, fraudulent, ersatz -- using phony atrocities to denounce the Iraq (or Vietnam, or Korean) war.
But at least I can post a compilation of everything I've read about this flap, so it will be here in one place for easy reference... tell your friends! Link and trackback! Drive up our Sitemeter stats!
Democrats and their willing accomplices in the elite media have been belching forth such slanders of our military for, quite literally, decades now. Here are just a few of the lowlights in the Liberal Hall of Shame:
- Jesse Macbeth, who billed himself as a "Special Forces Ranger" (don't ask!) and claimed that he and his SFR pals had butchered "thousands" of innocent Moslems, mostly while they prayed peacefully in mosques. In reality, he served for 44 days, then was discharged without finishing basic training. Needless to say, he not only had not witnessed any war crimes in Iraq, he hadn't even been there.
- Jeff Engelhardt, who claimed to have been an eye- and earwitness to American forces deliberately massacring thousands of civilians in Fallujah, under orders from Command, by burning them to death with white phosphorus. But his own contemporaneous account of his brief time at Fallujah never mentions any atrocity, and it makes clear he was never close enough to be able to observe the "burned bodies" of "children" and "women" that he claimed, in an Italian TV documentary, to have examined.
- Josh Lansdale. Alas, we never reported on Lansdale; but Michelle Malkin did. Lansdale, a medic in the Army Reserve who was in Iraq for a year, claimed to have spent much time in Baghdad, where he said he pulled people out of burning buildings and was wounded in heavy combat. Back home, he cut ads with retired Gen. Wesley Clark, claiming that he (Lansdale) was treated horribly by the VA, whose negligence turned his ankle wound into a permanent disability.
Alas for Lansdale, subsequent investigation showed that he had never sought treatment through the VA; that he was not wounded; that his unit was never in Baghdad; that they rarely came under any sort of fire; that they were never in combat; and that neither Joshua Lansdale nor anybody else in the unit had ever even seen a burning building in Iraq, let alone pulled anyone out of such a fire.
- Scott Thomas Beauchamp, the New Republic's dastardly diarist, about whom the less said, the better. (Say -- whatever happened to that in-depth investigation TNR was conducting on Beauchamp's now thoroughly discredited claims?)
- Edward Daily -- who claimed to have been a machine-gunner who witnessed an alleged American massacre of Korean civilians in July 1950 at the Bridge of No Gun Ri. Daily was the cornerstone of a 1999 AP series of articles "documenting" this "war crime." But subsequent investigation showed that he was not a machine-gunner but a mechanic; he was never at No Gun Ri and witnessed no massacres, war crimes, or atrocities; and in fact, he was not even deployed to Korea until 1951, long after the supposed incident.
- John Kerry, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and the "Winter Soldier" project; again, the basics of this story should be well known to all of our readers.
I've noticed there is a taxonomy of phony soldiers:
- Some are literally lifelong civilians who have never been in the service (as some in the "Winter Soldier" project), but pretend to have been -- either to tell fake war-hero stories about themselves... or else fake atrocity stories to attack the service.
- Another group were technically in the military, but they exaggerate their careers to make themselves appear far more important and credible than they actually were. Examples include Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA, 100%; for years, he claimed to have been a combat pilot in Vietnam... until he was forced to admit he was a ferry pilot who never saw a day of combat), Jeff Engelhardt, Josh Lansdale, and Jesse MacBeth.
- A third group comprises real servicemen who really held the ranks they claimed, were members of the units they claimed, and performed the duties they claimed... but who nevertheless tell fabricated tales of nonexistent war crimes: John Kerry and others of his VVAW co-conspirators are good examples.
I would call each of these groups "phony" because each tries to use a real or fabricated military background to lend an air of credibility to fake accounts of heroism or war crimes. They are all charlatans, bearing false witness against their "band of brothers."
Finally, I want to post the timeline of events in what Hugh Hewitt calls the "the Left's Great Snarl" at Rush Limbaugh. The actual sequence is important to understand the context in which Limbaugh made his remark. I take this timeline from Byron York's account in National Review Online:
Friday, September 21st: Limbaugh and his staff pore through news stories about the now-convicted and imprisoned Jesse MacBeth and other phony soldiers (see above).
Monday afternoon, September 24th: Limbaugh records a lengthy piece on phony soldiers, spending most of the time on the most recent outbreak, MacBeth.
Monday evening: ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson broadcasts a long piece on phony soldiers and fake heroes, including MacBeth.
Tuesday, September 25th: Limbaugh's "morning update" piece on MacBeth and other phony soldiers airs. Throughout the day, listeners call in and discuss MacBeth, et al, with Rush Limbaugh.
Wednesday, September 26th: During an on-air conversation with "Mike in Olympia, Washington," the caller complains about how news agencies "[N]ever talk to real soldiers. They pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue..."
At which point, Limbaugh interjects: "phony soldiers." (Byron York says Limbaugh said "the phony soldiers;" but listening to the clip, I didn't hear any article.)
Then, after a couple of minutes, Limbaugh re-reads the piece from the previous day about phony soldiers, especially Jesse MacBeth.
Why "after a couple of minutes?" Because Limbaugh had to "vamp" a bit while one of his staff printed out the transcript that Limbaugh would then read from. Yeesh, what an amazing load of conspiratorial claptrap burbles forth from such a trivial lapse of time.
Thursday, September 27th to today: Media Matters for America (a Hillary Clinton front group), ThinkProgress (a "progresssive" -- that is radical Left -- organization), 40 Democratic senators, many Democratic congressmen, and an uncountable number of lefty bloggers engage in a collective howl about how Limbaugh supposedly said that any soldier who disagreed in any way with President Bush's strategy was "a phony soldier."
Whew! Having finally finished the odious chore of playing journalist -- "just the facts, ma'am," like the elite journalists from Columbia and other J-schools invariably give us -- I will now turn to what I find much more comfortable (and less reputable): a sentence or two of actual analysis.
There simply is no legitimate doubt that Limbaugh's "phony soldiers" comment referred to -- wait for it -- the phony soldiers he had just been talking about during the previous day's show, and who were the subject of an ABC news segment Monday night.
How tough can this be for people to understand? He does a Tuesday show on "phony soldiers;" and then the next day, he makes the comment "phony soldiers". Reasonable minds would conclude the two are related.
But not Democrats. No, nearly the entirety of the Democratic conference in Congress insist that the Limbaugh comment be considered utterly tabula rasa, as if it arose instantaneously and unbidden from the vasty deep and can be assigned any surreal value that will (in Democratic minds) hurt the evil Rush Limbaugh.
This is such an unwinnable argument for Democrats that I'm astonished their saner political heads -- Rep. Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL, 90%), James Carville, and Bill Clinton -- are allowing them to rush in where angels fear to tread:
First, Rush Limbaugh is a professional debater; he is not some Junior Assistant Undersecretary twice-removed, who can be bullied into silence.
Second, Limbaugh has a daily radio show that is heard by millions of people; he has a core audience predisposed to believe him, especially in preference to Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%), Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham (D-Carpetbag, 95%), Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%), or Rep. John "Mad Jack" Murtha (D-PA, 65%).
Limbaugh has as much time to speak as he chooses to take, and the audience will stay with him the whole way. Contrariwise, Democrats in the House and Senate have only a minute or two to speak... and only their own colleagues will ever hear their complete remarks. The rest of America will hear only a snippet or two, perhaps a single line -- and then only if they trouble to tune into the national news each night.
And there's something else I was thinking of; what was that? Oh yes, here it is in my notes. In addition to these other advantages, Limbaugh has one more up his sleeve: He is actually factually correct about what he said and what he meant. The Democratic interpretation is so preposterous and risible that nobody but the mentally challenged could possibly believe it.
Since none of the above Democrats are mentally challenged -- I deliberately didn't mention Sen Barbara Boxer (D-CA, 95%) -- I can only conclude that they know very well that they're lying and falsely smearing a private American citizen; but that they have concluded (wrongly, in my political opinion) that this assault on Limbaugh will destroy his credibility in the future, or even out and out silence him. Hence, my title for this piece.
For all the reasons above, I think this is a catastrophic error in judgment by the Democrats. The American people are never as stupid as liberals and Democrats imagine them to be... and they're about to find that out the hard way.
In the meanwhile, I will sit back and enjoy this national Democratic embarassment until it finally peters out. I don't intend to comment further unless there is some sort of "bombshell," which I sincerely doubt.
September 24, 2007
Cindy Sheehan's Day of Out-of-Tunement Manifesto
I rarely do this, as you know: I rarely link to some piece and say simply "read this." (I'm too in love with the sound of my own fingers typing on a keyboard.)
But here's an exception. Read Cindy Sheehan's Yom Kippur "sermon," delivered at Michael Lerner's Beyt Tikkun "synogogue;" you will be -- if not exactly glad, then at least agape. (Rabbi Lerner is Hillary Clinton's mentor, author of the Politics of Meaning and other works of Socialist agit-prop masquerading as theology.)
My response (I love this) is entirely contained in the list of categories I had to attach to this post.
(Well, one more thing. It has always been my understanding that Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, is a day for each person to atone for what he, personally, has done wrong -- not "atone" for his enemies failing to live up to his own lofty standards, apologize for all the times America hasn't followed his lead, or wallow in self-righteous indignation that nobody listens to him. 'Nuff said; read the list of categories above.)
August 1, 2007
Gonzales, Intelligence, and Perjury: the Penultimate Word
Today, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales received his best testimonial yet from the pen (all right, word processor program) of Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell (all right, from some flunky who actually does the typing).
Our previous reporting on this issue can be spelunked here:
As the post is fairly long -- but absolutely fascinating, riveting! -- I'm tucking the rest into the "slither on;" I urge you to read it; I can personally vouch that the author is brilliant when sober.
McConnell sent a letter to Arlen Specter (R-PA, 43%), ranking Republican on Chairman Pat Leahy's (D-VT, 95%) Senate Committee on the Judiciary, trying to explain to Specter -- as if to a retarded seventh grader -- why Gonzales, in telling the truth, therefore did not lie:
In a letter to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), McConnell wrote that the executive order following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks included "a number of . . . intelligence activities" and that a name routinely used by the administration -- the Terrorist Surveillance Program -- applied only to "one particular aspect of these activities, and nothing more."
"This is the only aspect of the NSA activities that can be discussed publicly, because it is the only aspect of those various activities whose existence has been officially acknowledged," McConnell said....
McConnell's letter was aimed at defending Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales from allegations by Democrats that he may have committed perjury by telling Congress that no legal objections were raised about the TSP. Gonzales said a legal fight in early 2004 was focused on "other intelligence activities" than those confirmed by Bush, but he never connected those to Bush's executive order.
Gonzales had been asked point blank, during Senate J-Com testimony, whether the argument in the hospital was over the TSP; he therefore, honestly and accurately, said no, it was about a different program... and he then offered to go into secret session to describe exactly what program he and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft discussed.
Chairman Leahy, however, had zero interest in finding out; he was only interested in screaming "perjury!" and demanding a special counsel (all right, manipulating four other Democrats on the committee, plus Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid, D-Caesar's Palace, 90%, into screaming perjury and demanding a special counsel; see links above.)
This seems pretty conclusive. So why "penultimate?" Because I cannot imagine that the Democrats -- and their RINO acolytes, such as Arlen Specter -- will discard the perjury card merely because Gonzales told the truth. I sense another shoe about to drop.
As it happens, I'm not just whistling past the gravy train; revisionism has already started. Now it turns out that even if Gonzales fully and truthfully answered the question, he still "misled Congress" because he did not immediately disclose every classified intelligence program in our arsenal... on national TV:
Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), who was among a group of four Democratic senators who called last week for a perjury investigation of Gonzales, said: "The question of whether Attorney General Gonzales perjured himself looms as large now as it did before this letter.
"This letter is no vindication of the attorney general," he said.
Is it just me? Shouldn't the revelation that a statement thought perhaps to be perjury was in fact completely truthful at least make it implausible that it was also perjury?
And what about our esteemed RINO from Pennsylvania? Arlen Specter is witholding comment, as the Democrats have yet to give him a lead:
Specter was noncommittal yesterday on whether McConnell's explanation resolved his questions about the accuracy of Gonzales's previous testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Specter is the ranking Republican. Specter said he was waiting for a separate letter from the attorney general to provide additional clarification.
"If he doesn't have a plausible explanation, then he hasn't leveled with the committee," Specter said on CNN. Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said that "the department will continue to work with Senator Specter to address his concerns" but declined to comment further.
Pssst... Sen. Specter: Perhaps Gonzales' "plausible explanation" for why he said that there was no dissent on the TSP, that it was on a different intelligence program instead, is that there was no dissent on the TSP... it was on a different intelligence program instead. You think?
Finally, the Washington Post indulges in one of liberalism's favorite ploys; they quote an allegedly unbiased expert to "analyze" the situation -- which analysis, oddly enough, always seems to point exclusively in one direction:
Kate Martin, executive director of the Center for National Security Studies, said the new disclosures show that Gonzales and other administration officials have "repeatedly misled the Congress and the American public" about the extent of NSA surveillance efforts.
[Sidebar: Am I the only person who has no recollection of Gonzales or President Bush ever claiming that the TSP was the only surveillance program we had? I would certainly hope we have many more than one -- and in fact, many more than are known by the editors at the elite media.]
"They have repeatedly tried to give the false impression that the surveillance was narrow and justified," Martin said. "Why did it take accusations of perjury before the DNI disclosed that there is indeed other, presumably broader and more questionable, surveillance?"
The "Center for National Security Studies" is a bitter, relentless partisan in the conflict between Congress and the White House over who should run this war (and previous wars, even back to the Clinton administration): From their website, it appears they invariably take the side of Congress in trying to extract information, no matter how heavily classified, from the Executive. Too, Kate Martin is a professor at ultra-liberal Georgetown University.
So we are shocked, shocked to discover that she is 100% on the side of Pat Leahy and Chuck Schumer (D-NY, 100%) in demanding that Albert Gonzales brief all members of both houses of Congress on every last intelligence surveillance program under the NSA, CIA, or any other intelligence agency.
Martin and her fellow Democrats demand that Leahy, et al, of the Senate Judiciary Committee be briefed -- including the fifteen J-Com members who are not members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence... and there is a reason it's called "select;" J-Com Chairman Leahy in particular was expelled from the Intelligence Committee... for leaking classified information (hence his nickname).
I guess Kate Martin has never heard the words "need to know."
And the Democratic House is now competing with the Democratic Senate to see who can make the most outrageous demand. On Monday, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI, 100%) -- who had evidently read the New York Times and Washington Post articles revealing that the Gonzales-Ashcroft main event really was about a different program than the TSP -- fired off an angry letter to Attorney General Gonzales insisting that Gonzales spill the beans about every intelligence program we have... to John Conyers, who is not a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and never has been:
We have two potential concerns with the disclosure. First, at a time when the Administration is seeking to make changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, it is imperative that all members of the House Judiciary Committee be fully apprised of these controversial, and possibly unlawful, programs, and any related programs....
We now request copies of all opinions, memoranda, and background materials, as well as any dissenting views, materials, and opinions regarding the same, concerning the database program disclosed by the media yesterday.
Yow. Why doesn't the White House just burn a few hundred CDs containing the complete NSA and CIA databases and pass them out to all 535 members of Congress?
(All right, 540 -- counting D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the delegates to the territories of American Samoa, Eni F. H. Faleomavaega, Guam, Madeleine Bordallo, and the United States Virgin Islands, Donna M. Christian-Christensen, and Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico Luis Fortuño.)
And all their aides, of course; mustn't forget the congressional aides, including those who are still teenagers. After all, if you can't trust a teenaged girl with a deep and vital intelligence secret, well who can you trust?
The ultimate word of the Penultimate Word is this: Democrats in Congress will not rest until we have no secrets, none whatsoever; everything we know, every program we undertake to develop actionable intelligence against past, current, and future terrorist threats, should be instantly and unreservedly shared with thousands of senators, representatives, delegates, aides -- and anyone else that anyone else might choose to enlighten.
The insanity (and inanity) of this position is manifest and requires no explanation. But the implication is chilling. This demand isn't just surrendering in Iraq; the Democratic Party's overt position has now become one of utter American defeat in the broader war against global hirabah ("unholy war"). Because if we were to reveal all that we were doing to collect intelligence... well, then we might as well not bother doing it, because none of it would work anymore.
Leahy is not an idiot, and neither is Schumer nor Conyers. They know the logical consequences of what they demand. So why do they demand it?
Straightforward question, simple answer: They believe "Nixoning" Bush, accusing him of a coverup, will help their political fortunes in 2008.
What I cannot answer is whether the motivation is core hatred of America as it currently exists... or depraved indifference to what, if we lost this war, America might become.
May 31, 2007
Hewitt Responds - Sort of - to Big Lizards Point!
During today's interview with Mark Steyn, Hugh responded, vaguely and without attribution, to the point we raised in Where's Walid? He could at least have mentioned Big Lizards.
Referring to his interview yesterday with Tamar Jacoby -- that was the female journalist whose name I couldn't recall in the last post -- Hugh said that she had argued that terrorists could be traced using the Z visa, as they worked inside and traveled outside the country. Actually, she didn't... Big Lizards did. She tried, but she couldn't get the words out, being only a journalist (heh).
But Hugh then offered the most unanswerable argument I have ever heard; it's hard to see how anybody could fail to be moved by it. (Moved to something, at least; I was moved to scorn and mockery, but that's just me.) Note: Except for the last three words, this is a paraphrase to the best of my recollection; it's not word for word accurate until the very end:
Hewitt: Jacoby said they could be tracked as they moved around and worked and went in and out of the country... and that's laughable.
Well! Who could argue with that?
Hugh then turned to Steyn; "that's just laughable, isn't it?" Steyn -- who also calls the bill "amnesty" -- dutifully agreed that the scenario was laughable.
Both Hugh Hewitt and Mark Steyn failed to tell us exactly why it was laughable. True, Hewitt's baccalaureate is in government, so he probably took no science classes and only the barestly minimum of math classes; and Steyn is a high-school dropout. But surely Hugh's experience as a lawyer and Steyn's as an art critic, and the experience of both of them as pundits, should make up for complete ignorance of science and technology, even when the subject is technology.
Steyn then rambled on, saying that it didn't matter what anybody did about visas or immigration law, because "nobody ever checks anything anyway." Of course, if this is true -- then what makes him think a strict, enforcement-only bill would be, well, enforced? Or does he, perhaps, believe there should be no further law whatsover, since it's all useless and hopeless?
Sidebar: Too many years ago, at university, I was getting lunch at a Chinese fast-food restaurant on campus. I took some rice, then I poured some soy sauce over it. A woman (occidental) standing behind me in line, who I had never seen before, said "that's too much salt! You'll get high blood pressure." (This was at UC Santa Cruz, where RadFems were encouraged to believe that everyone wanted to hear their opinions on every issue.)
I had just read an article on that very point. "Actually," I responded, "several recent studies found that a moderate amount of salt, which they defined as what the average American eats, does not negatively affect people with normal blood pressure."
"The average American doesn't eat a moderate amount of salt! They eat much more than that."
"I'm sorry, the study defined 'moderate' as the amount that an average American ate."
"That just proves those studies are bogus... because the average American eats way, way more than a moderate amount of salt!"
I thought for a pair of seconds. "You're a Womyn's Studies major -- aren't you?"
"And what does that have to do with anything?"
For some odd reason, when I heard Hugh's argument against using the Z visa and the Total Information Awareness data-mining system, I had an LSD-like flashback to that afternoon at the Omei restaurant at UCSC.
At first, hearing what Hugh said and Steyn eagerly seconded, I took offense; I shouted at the radio. But upon further reflection, I suppose expecting either Hugh Hewitt or Mark Steyn to even understand a technological, information-science argument, let alone craft an informed response, would be like expecting me to write a brief for a tax-law case.
I just wish they would follow "Dirty" Harry Callahan's advice in Magnum Force: "A man's got to know his limitations."
April 28, 2007
Forgive My Unstiff Upper Lip
There is a fascinating, little back-story concerning that top al-Qaeda agent that we just announced having captured, Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, and our closest ally for the last, oh, 192 years. First, let's dress the stage a bit. From the Times of London:
Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, a former major in Saddam Hussein’s army, was apprehended as he tried to enter Iraq from Iran and was transferred this week to the “high-value detainee programme” at Guantanamo Bay.
Abd al-Hadi was taken into CIA custody last year, it emerged from US intelligence sources yesterday, in a move which suggests that he was interrogated for months in a “ghost prison” before being transferred to the internment camp in Cuba.
Oh dear. I hope he wasn't inconvenienced, not being able to hide behind his barrister.
So who was Abd al-Hadi anyway? Here's part of his c.v.:
Abd al-Hadi recognised the potential for turning young Muslim radicals from Britain who wanted to become mujahidin in Afghanistan or Iraq into terrorists who could carry out attacks in their home country. He realised that their knowledge of Britain, possession of British passports and natural command of English made them ideal recruits. After al-Qaeda restructured its operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas he sought out young Britons for instruction at training camps. In late 2004 Abd al-Hadi met Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, from Leeds, at a militant camp in Pakistan and, in the words of a senior investigator, “retasked them” to become suicide bombers.
They were sent back to Britain where they led the terrorist cell that carried out the 7/7 bombings, killing 52 Tube and bus passengers.
Oh... you mean that Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi! The mastermind behind the horrific attack in Great Britain, carried out by British subjects who happened to be Moslem jihadists.
But here is the part that is just delicious, in a bitter-sweet, black-comedy sort of way:
Abd al-Hadi has also been linked to a number of other foiled al-Qaeda plots to carry out attacks in Britain. But the Security Service, which has previously sent officials to question detainees at Guantanamo Bay, may not have the opportunity to question him directly.
The Government’s recently adopted position in favour of closing Guantanamo Bay is likely to act as a bar on agents travelling there.
Because Tony Blair's government has gone on record demanding that we shut down Camp X-Ray at Guantánamo Bay and end all interrogations there, it just doesn't seem, well, entirely cricket for agents of MI5 and MI6 to trundle off to the place they don't believe should exist, to interrogate people they don't believe should be at the place that oughtn't exist -- and possibly even use techniques that should never be used on the people who shouldn't be at the place that oughtn't exist in the first instance.
But of course, they do need some answers to those interrogatories from the man who is where he shouldn't be. So what is British intelligence to do?
It's so simple, I'm surprised you didn't think of it yourselves (for shame!):
British Intelligence would have to rely on relaying questions it would like asked by American interrogators.
And there we have it... the absurdist solution to the surreal conundrum of how to eat your spotted dick and have it, too:
Just send the people who shouldn't be running the place that oughtn't even be there to use the techniques that mustn't be used to interrogate the man who isn't supposed to be held, so that the folks who are too moral to be there themselves can nevertheless gain the critical information they need -- but mayn't have.
As Tom Lehrer sang, "it's so simple, so very simple, that only a child can do it!" Or, it appears, a Brit. (And jolly good thing that we didn't listen to the Brits and actually close the joint, what?)
Has anyone asked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 65%), who has also called for the dismantlement of Camp X-Ray, what he thinks of all this?
March 18, 2007
Quote of the Scandal
I know you're more used to seeing "Quote of the Week" or "Quote of the Year;" but I am oriented more towards substance than calendar... so allow me to call this the Quote of the Fired-Attorneys Scandal. And you're not going to budge me; I am adamant!
The Drudge Report linked Politico.com -- how can I get him to link Big Lizards? and would Hosting Matters explode into flinders if he did? -- about the continuing saga of eight U.S. Attorneys fired from the Bush administration for having their own set of priorities that did not match those of the White House. And let's lay one talking point to rest right away: Of course the firing was political!
It was political because policy itself is necessarily political: The administration has a set of principles of governance during time of war; those principles lead to a set of priorities of law enforcement. For example, Bush believes that controlling immigration is critcal to national security; therefore, he believes that the U.S. Attorneys should "privilege" immigration cases.
Democrats and some liberal Republicans by and large believe the opposite, that there is no connection between uncontrolled immigration and national security. Therefore, they tend to "deprivilege" immigration cases. This is a very deep, very consistent political split.
Thus, when several U.S. Attorneys (two or three of the eight) refused to prosecute or focus on immigration cases, they did so for political reasons: because their political priorities conflicted with those of the administration. And when they were subsequently fired, that too was political. However, those particular political differences form a perfectly valid basis for discharge.
Likewise anent the attorneys fired for refusing to take seriously allegations of Democratic electoral corruption: They were let go for political reasons, but those reasons were nevertheless perfectly proper.
This by way of prologue; now to the Quote of the Scandal...
The Democrats are clearly fanning the flames of scandal here -- you're way ahead of me -- for partisan political purposes: They want to make Republicans appear corrupt so they can beat them in 2008. As a prime example, here, from the Politico.com story, is Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL, 90%) on the subject of Republican corruption:
"Every time you get more memos, or more communications between the White House and the Justice Department, you get more facts that don't look good," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. "The White House either hired a bunch of incompetent U.S. attorneys to start with, or hired a bunch of competent U.S attorneys that were incompetently fired...."
[Emanuel fails to consider a more plausible alternative: Eight of the 93 U.S. Attorneys the White House hired were competent, but they had their own agendas that prevented them from earning the pleasure of the president. So they were canned.]
Emanuel said his party would continue to focus on the corruption cases that several of the prosecutors had under way when they were fired. "One operative theory, and that doesn't mean that it's right," Emanuel said, "is that if you believe corruption was at the root of the election results, one way to handle that is to get rid of the U.S. attorneys who were pursuing corruption cases."
Why does this statement take top honors, in my opinion?
- It conveys the implication that Republicans are somehow corrupt without actually coming out and making a specific, rebuttable accusation;
- It looks vague but is in fact meaningless;
- It will likely be picked up and recycled by the media, as if it were some crushing argument to which there can be no response... which is true, in a way, as you cannot respond sensibly to absolute nonsense.
Thus, Rahm Emanuel's summation is the Platonic ideal of a political statement in the midst of this entirely political non-scandal.
Is Emanuel saying that this is only one theory among many? If it may not be right, yet he offers no criteria by which to judge, then why bother saying it at all? (One operative theory, and that doesn't means that it's right, is that Howard Dean is a centipede.)
Is he saying that the Bush administration believed that corruption was at the root of the 2004 election results? Does he mean Democratic corruption or Republican corruption? Does Emanuel imply that the Bush administration believes that they, themselves only won by corruption?
Or is he saying that the Democrats believe that Bush only won by corruption? Which states does he believe were so corrupted that they wrongly cast their electoral votes for Bush?
And in any event, does "you," the subject of the primary verb "believe," persist as the implied actor of the infinitive "to get rid of" in the final clause? If so, that would mean it was the Democrats who "got rid of" the attorneys -- so that can't be right! But then, who is the implied actor... the Bush administration? How many separate and contradictory subjects is a sentence allowed to have?
So what in the hell is he actually saying? I don't see any hands raised, except for the grammarians in the back... and I suspect theirs are raised, not to answer the question, but in unconditional surrender.
Thus I dub this quotation the synecdoche of the Democratic response to this firing, and to the Bush administration in general: They know (in a Gnostic sense) that there is some horrific, Lovecraftian corruption in there somewhere, but they just can't quite wrap their tentacles around it.
February 19, 2007
The Political Is Personal
A few days ago, I was personally denounced in a blogpost by a person who barely knows me, with whom I'd had no conversation in a dozen years or more, and with whom the only interaction I'd had before that was on an online bulletin board and occasional chance meetings at conventions.
We never had any vicious arguments; I know this for a fact because, by the nature of the software I was using at the time, I have a record of every message I ever posted on that BBS. I have just searched through the archives for every exchange I ever had where I even so much as mentioned that person or the person's spouse; I read every one, and nowhere was there any unpleasantness between us. The closest I came was when I said that the spouse can be very scathing online but is unfailingly kind and polite in person.
And yet I was denounced, and in the most personal, rage-filled way. The ostensible trigger was a blogpost here on Big Lizards (which of course did not mention the denouncer). But the denunciation segued pretty quickly into a very personal (and oddly misremembered) recounting of my time on that BBS, written as if the blog author were on the receiving end of some rather rough treatment from me.
The only problem is -- it never happened. He or she has confabulated the memory or confused me with somebody else.
What strikes me most about the exchange is the reversal it implies in the old feminist phrase, "the personal is political." What they meant was that your politics arises from the circumstances of your life, what a lefty would call your "class interest." Thus, they argued, a rich woman who could afford to jet up to Montreal to get an abortion for her teenaged daughter wouldn't understand why a poor, unmarried woman with a teenaged daughter would want abortion legalized across the United States.
It was always a silly argument; most of the liberal leaders who pushed abortion rights were from rich and privileged backgrounds, just as most (not all) of the Communist revolutionaries were from at least middle-class, highly educated backgrounds... striking against class-interests like a house afire.
But the reality appears to be just the reverse: the political becomes deeply personal. Among a few on the Right and nearly everyone on the Left, a sharp political disagreement with Mr. X causes them to hate and despise Mr. X, and the little dog he rode in on, too.
Bush Derangement Syndrome is a typical instance of this: nothing for which President Bush is attacked, excoriated, denounced, and hysterically feared would even raise an eyebrow if he had the same politics and party as Bill Clinton; I do not recall the Left assailing President Clinton for bombing Kosovo or invading Bosnia and Haiti (to be fair, a small number of individual pacifists did, but not the Democratic Party or the Democratic Left as a whole).
When Bush was elected in 2000, I lost three friends. Each of them put it to me bluntly: either I agreed that he "stole the election," and that Al Gore had "absolute won Florida" -- or I could never speak to them again. I had to choose the latter; what sort of friendship can flourish in the poisoned soil of extortion? But I was shocked.
(My opinion is that it's not mathematically possible to say with any degree of certainty whether Bush or Gore got the most votes in Florida; the count was simply too close. It is impossible for human beings to count objects in the millions without error. But since Bush was ahead when the Supreme Court blew the whistle, he gets to be president. Had Gore been ahead, I would have been unhappy... but I wouldn't have said it was impossible that he legitimately got more votes.)
I see much more of this sort of personalization of political difference on the Left than the Right; for every Ann Coulter, there are a good half dozen Al Frankens, Jonathan Chaits, and Keith Olbermanns. But the Right is not blameless: while it was perfectly appropriate to impeach President Clinton for various high crimes and misdemeanors, nothing justifies the sort of ludicrous conspiracy-mongering exemplified by the "Clinton Death List."
It's true that the former president knows an unusually large number of people who died violently, but there is not the slightest shred of evidence that Bill Clinton had anything to do with any of it: Vince Foster committed suicide; he was not murdered. Ron Brown died in an airplane crash; he was not assassinated, and the crash was not rigged to cover that up. James McDougal died in prison from a heart condition; at worst, he died by neglect... there is nothing whatsoever to justify the risible charge that Clinton ordered his medication be denied him.
There is some evidence (testimonial) that Clinton raped Juanita Broaddrick; but until and unless such evidence is tested in court, we have no idea whether she's telling the truth, lying, or confabulating; and she has shown a marked lack of interest in bringing such a case (which is now long past the statute of limitations). Republicans are not generally the ones saying that "a woman would never lie about rape;" we're the party that remembers Tawana Brawley.
Yet the hatred by the Right of Bill Clinton was bizarre and ugly. I was an anti-Clinton activist, but I never hated the man; I thought he was a wretched president -- I still think he sold out American national security to Red China for campaign cash... but that's a political judgment. I accepted that he was a groper, and he admitted as such when he settled Paula Jones's lawsuit and more or less admitted Kathleen Willey's charges.
But apart from the unproven Broaddrick charge, Clinton is no more a proven lecher than Arnold Schwarzenegger, now governor of California... and I certainly don't hate Schwarzenegger, despite disagreeing with about 70% of his politics.
I believe that Clinton (wrongly) thinks that everything he did was good for America... or at the least, that since he, himself was good for America, therefore everything that was good for him was good for the rest of us. His venality was petty; it was not on the level of a Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or a Timothy McVeigh.
The hatred by the Right for Bill Clinton was aberrant; but the hatred by the Left of everyone to the right of Hillary Clinton appears to be a perpetually renewed virginity: each time they find someone new to despise, it's as though it were the first time they ever saw anyone so despicable.
[Correction note: I mixed up the Thomas nomination, putting him earlier and stating that Reagan nominated him -- hat tip to commenter Karrde; it was of course his successor, President George H.W. Bush. I should also have mentioned the nomination of Sen. John Tower of Texas to be Bush's Secretary of Defense, and the politics of personal destruction that destroyed him; but I must confess I didn't follow that nomination debacle as well as that of Clarence Thomas. What follows is the rewrite of this paragraph.]
I was too young to be politically active (or even aware) during the 60s and early 70s, so I first noticed this intense personalization of political difference during the Reagan administration, when opposition to Reagan took on an almost evangelical fervor. This accelerated during the administration of the rather innocuous George H.W. Bush -- in particular, the persecution and character assassination of Justice Clarence Thomas, when Bush-41 nominated him to the Supreme Court.
At first, the Left was content to oppose Thomas on political grounds. But when it became clear they had failed, and that even in a Democratic-controlled Senate, he was about to be confirmed, the Democrats scrambled about for a weapon. Leftist journalist Nina Totenberg recruited former Thomas employee Anita Hill to charge Thomas with... with what?
It was never exactly clear what she was charging him with; but it was pretty darned disreputable... whatever the heck it was. It wasn't sexual harassment, because she never claimed he pressured her for sex, touched her, or made her think that her career depended upon giving him sex. She and her puppetmasters tried to claim Thomas created a hostile work environment; but she never presented any other witnesses who testified that they thought so, nor did she claim to have objected to it or even refrain from participating.
It certainly wasn't discrimination, unless she meant discrimination in her favor, because he promoted her and offered to bring her along when he was promoted from the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education (DOE) to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). And she certainly did not feel threatened, because she eagerly jumped at the opportunity to follow him in that move... despite being guaranteed, because she was a civil servant (and personally assured by her supervisor) that she could stay on at DOE, keeping her rank and seniority, if she preferred.
Another feminist chum, "Judge" Susan Hoerchner, testified that Hill had called her every day, upset and terrified about how Hill was being sexually harassed by her boss -- and that that boss was Clarence Thomas. But Hoerchner made a very foolish error; she said the calls had occurred while they both lived in D.C., and that when Hoerchner moved to California, they no longer telephoned each other because of the long-distance rates.
Alas for Hoerchner's testimony, Hill did not even meet Thomas until months after Hoerchner moved away; and it was more months after that before she was working for him. So whatever boss she was complaining about, it wasn't Clarence Thomas.
Yet to this day, liberals (and especially black liberals) routinely call Thomas the most vile epithets imaginable, of which the very least is "Uncle Tom." And they repeat as fact all sorts of accusations that were never even floated during the hearings (for example, that Thomas raped Hill, which Hill herself certainly never claimed).
Two Wall Street Journal writers, Jane Meyer and Jill Abramson, wrote an angry, tendentious book titled Strange Justice that interviewed a number of people who hate Thomas (but none who like, support, or defend him). The book is completely unsourced; for every absurd charge, the footnote refers only to private interviews with the person making the charge. There is no independent verification of anything; it just goes on and on, reviling the man up one side and down the other... and by the end, he's thoroughly reviled, let me tell you!
We skip twenty years; this post has gone on too long already. It's a two-decade long unbroken chain of vile personal attacks on Republicans whose only fault is to disagree with the fundamental premises of Leftism, what Thomas Sowell (another "Uncle Tom," according to black liberals) calls "the vision of the anointed." Most recently, when Charles Pickering was nominated to a federal judgeship, Democrats leveled the charge that he was a "segregationist."
In fact, there is no evidence at all that he ever advocated segregation or was a racist; even moreso, he actually fought against just such segregation and racism in Mississippi in the 1960s, testifying against the head of the Mississippi chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, an man who was running around dynamiting businesses and people he didn't like.
Pickering enjoys near unanimous support from black leaders in his home state. But none of that matters: he was being appointed to take the "slot" of a liberal judge... so anything goes. The political turf war justifies any level of invective... even smearing a good, decent, anti-segregationist, anti-racist as a vile, evil segregationist and racist.
When the ends are so cosmic, they justify any means... no matter how repugnant. You can't make an omlet without breaking a few legs.
There is a reason that former leftists or liberals who have broken ranks and joined the other side vastly outnumber those who traveled the opposite route: There are many more Whittaker Chamberses, Ronald Reagans, Robert Heinleins, Irving Kristols, David Horowitzes, and Harry Steins than there are David Brocks (and it's hard not to notice that the former are heavyweights compared to the snarky, gossipy last). The reason is that most people tend to grow up as they grow old. They lose interest in "fan feuds" (modern equivalent: blog wars) and start wondering at the provenance of what they have always believed. They start to think... and thought is the death-knell of fanaticism.
(In an interview in World Press Review, playwright Eugene Ionesco said, "a fanatic can never be convinced, but only converted.")
But there are some Lost Boys (and Girls) who never grow up, for whom the political will always be intensely personal; people who are never content disputing the reasoning of those on the other side but must instead work like the Dickens to destroy them. I mean people like Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon and Melissa McEwen of Shakespeare's Sister, for whom any political disagreement means a personal war.
The enemy cannot possibly disbelieve the Vision: If Musab Zarqawi is an "Islamofascist," then a person who opposes abortion on demand must be a "Christofascist;" he cannot possibly actually believe that a foetus is a human person! It can only be a Fascist scheme to trap women in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant.
I refuse to understand why I cannot like -- or at least be pleasant to -- someone I disagree with. I reject the notion that my positions are so obvious and opalescent that only an imbecile, a madman, or a thug can dispute them. And while I may well respond in kind to an unprovoked personal attack (I'm no Albert Schweitzer), I will not initiate such attacks based entirely upon political difference.
And I will thoroughly disrespect those who do. I wish I could say those for whom "the political is personal" disappoint me; but sadly, no... I have learned to expect nothing better.
November 30, 2006
Attack Terrorist Funding - Unless That Means Attacking Terrorist Funding (Clinton Judges, Take 2)
A federal judge has struck down a critical element of "connecting the dots" to fight against terrorism: she says it's unconstitutional to freeze assets of terrorist groups -- because terrorist groups are designated by the president, rather than by a laborious, multi-year process involving Congress and the judiciary, clerks and aides, and the entire labor force of the Bureau of Procrastination... during which multiple challenges could be filed, rulings made and overturned, written, published, discussed, stamped, mailed, folded, spindled, and mutilated, stretching the procedure out long enough to give the bad guys plenty of time (even at a snail's pace) to transfer all the funds to another dummy organization. Then we start all over again. (Though that's not exactly the way she phrased her opinion, I believe.)
A federal judge struck down President Bush's authority to designate groups as terrorists, saying his post-Sept. 11 executive order was unconstitutional and vague.
Some parts of the Sept. 24, 2001 order tagging 27 groups and individuals as "specially designated global terrorists" were too vague and could impinge on First Amendment rights of free association, U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins said.
The order gave the president "unfettered discretion" to label groups without giving them a way to challenge the designations, she said in a Nov. 21 ruling that was made public Tuesday.
The judge, who two years ago invalidated portions of the U.S. Patriot Act, rejected several sections of Bush's Executive Order 13224 and enjoined the government from blocking the assets of two foreign groups.
And here is the really shocking part: Judge Audrey Collins was appointed by -- wait for it -- President Bill Clinton! She was nominated in 1994 and confirmed by the Senate that same year, when it was still under the control of the Democrats.
Say, is there an echo in here?
The ruling was praised by David Cole, a lawyer for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Constitutional Rights, who represented the plaintiff Humanitarian Law Project. [Never trust any D.C. based organization that includes the word "humanitarian" -- as in vegetarian? -- in its title.]
It "says that even in fighting terrorism the president cannot be given a blank check to blacklist anyone he considers a bad guy or a bad group and you can't imply guilt by association," Cole said.
Sure you can! You aren't really trying, Mr. Cole. How about, "anyone who joins the Ku Klux Klan is guilty of racism?" Or this one: "anyone who joined any version of the Nazi Party after 1945 is a nutter who should be on a leash."
Similarly, I consider it quite reasonable to argue that anyone who joins al-Qaeda in Iraq is more or less a terrorist by definition (and an antisemite by hobby). And any fellow who joins a group called the Humanitarian Law Project is a screaming liberal guilty of utter jackassery... though that last might be more of a genetic disability than a guilty act: every mens rea first requires a rea, after all.
All right, I love picking on idiot rulings by Clinton judges; but there really is a deep point. I'm actually going somewhere with this.
The incoming Democratic majority insists that its primary interest, after raising the minimum wage, is defending the country. It's not your grandmother's Democratic Party -- no more of those anti-war protests, assaults on returning soldiers, bombings of ROTC buildings, attempts to exorcise Yog Sothoth from the center of the Pentagon, or concerned citizens against America chaining themselves to MX missiles. Not this Democratic Party! This is the steely-eyed party of John Murtha, Jim Webb, and Nancy Pelosi; of John McCain (oops, sorry about that), Harry Reid, and Joe Lieberman (oops, sorry about that).
And of course, everyone knows that terrorism travels on its stomach, to paraphrase Napoleon (which is about the only way to discuss what he said, unless you read French). The surest method of killing terrorism is to starve it out, cut off its funding.
Cut its funding by, you know, freezing its assets. Which raises an interesting question: are the Democrats actually in favor of cutting funding to terrorist groups -- hence will denounce this narcissistic, self-indulgent, flower-child, airy-fairy opinion?
Or will they remain true to their roots (and their BDS fix) and praise this decision as the first step in undoing all the horrible depredations against the precious civil liberties of Jemaah Islamiyah and the Tamil Tigers?
Alternatively, if you ask the Democrats, will smoke come out of their ears, as they intone in rising hysteria, "Norman, please explain -- only Norman can explain!" Sorry. Got caught up in a Star Trek moment; Captain Ed understands.
Most likely they'll take the fourth option, the one they've taken so often, it's on speed dial: say nothing. No comment. If a reporter is rude enough to ask Ms. Pelosi about this ruling, she can look blank and say that the 9/11 Commission already determined that there is no al-Qaeda.
Be thankful that President Bush is still president for a couple of years, and let's all hope that 2008 doesn't leave another coal in the electoral sock.
November 26, 2006
A Challenge to Libertarian "Reason"
Here is the fact situation of this gedankenexperiment:
- A seemingly wealthy man named Achmed Khalid Mohammed Abu Fatwa lives in a high rise in Green City, surrounded by other high rises. He lives on the 15th floor -- he owns the entire floor -- of a 60-story building that houses 4,000 people. Similar high rise condo complexes surround this one.
- Abu Fatwa tells everyone he meets that he hates and despises Jews, infidels, and especially Americans. He wishes they were all dead. He would be overjoyed if Allah would stretch forth His hand and crush them all, insh'allah.
- He talks often about how his religion teaches that the most holy and righteous act a man can undertake is to die as a martyr killing the unclean. He prays that someday, he will be given that opportunity.
- The owner of the local hardware store says that Abu Fatwa has ordered many tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer over the last three years; but you know as well as anyone that Abu Fatwa has no farmland, no fields, not even a window flowerpot.
- The manager of a local camping store tells you that Abu Fatwa has likewise spent the last three years stocking up on massive quantities of kerosine, saying he likes to go camping and barbecue shish-kabob.
- Abu Fatwa is known to have an extensive background in mining back in Saudi Arabia, whence he came. He might have knowledge of explosives, but nobody knows for sure.
- He has not left his apartments for the last month; everything he needs he orders.
- He can dimly be heard to be praying almost constantly, day and night;
- But nobody can honestly recall ever hearing him explicitly threaten anyone or say that he is going to do anything to anyone. He has only talked in a general, philosophical way about his terrible hatreds and his love of martyrdom. He owns the 15th floor; he has no criminal background; he has no known contact with unsavory characters. He does have a high-speed internet connection.
Now, Mr. Libertarian... what do you believe should be done?
- The cops should raid Abu Fatwa's apartments, secure him, and search the place for explosives;
- The cops should surveil him as best they can, tapping his phone and trying to read his internet connection, hoping that before he does anything he will talk openly about it over some electronic instrument;
- Nothing! Regardless of what our anti-Moslem, anti-Arab prejudices may lead us to think, he has not made any overt threat to anyone; hence, the State has no moral right to invade his home or interrogate him. It is no crime to buy fertilizer; it is no crime to buy fuel oil; and it certainly is no crime to believe in an extreme form of Islamism.
Please answer in the comments -- and argue whether your answer conforms to your philosophy (and how so), or whether it violates it (and what principle allows you to do so).
November 21, 2006
Ban it, Janet!
Oh ho! Janet Reno -- you remember her? -- has gone to court, leading a bunch of lesser legal accolytes to make it look like a movement, to overturn the anti-terrorism Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA).
The MCA was passed by Congress at the end of September 2006; it created the military commissions... you recall, the law responding to the Hamdan decision by the Supreme Court. It passed in the House by 253 to 168 (with 34 Democrats supporting it), and in the Senate by 65 to 34 with 12 Democrats supporting. (In the House, 7 Republicans voted against the bill; in the Senate, the only Republican to vote against it was -- wait for it -- Lincoln Chafee. (Aren't you sad that he's gone?)
Anyway, Stretch Reno really, really dislikes the MCA, and she wants it gone. She and her seven new best pals insist that terrorists can easily be tried in the ordinary criminal-justice system, alongside carjackers and welfare defrauders:
"The existing criminal justice system is more than up to the task of prosecuting and bringing to justice those who plan or attempt terrorist acts within the United States -- without sacrificing any of the rights and protections that have been the hallmarks of the American legal system for more than 200 years," the attorneys wrote.
They are of course correct that terrorist suspects can easily be tried by the CJS; what they can't be is convicted, which is fine by Reno and the Seven Consiglieri.
The problem with the CJS is discovery, of course: any smart lawyer (probably supplied by al-Qaeda) will demand all sorts of highly classified documents, claiming they are all vital and essential to his client's defense. Since there is no way that the federal administration can release such mission-critical information to terrorists and their terrorist shysters (think Lynne Stewart), they will refuse... and that will immediately trigger many federal judges to dismiss all charges and order the terrorist freed. Simplicity itself!
Thus, if Janet Reno, the last Democratic Attorney General, has her way, the carefully crafted work of Congress over the past year plus will be thrown out the window; instead, terrorist suspect will be tried by ordinary civilian courts in a "catch and release" program that will take our breath away. Perhaps quite literally.
So the real question before the house is... will the incoming Democratic majority in Congress support this lawsuit filed by their top cop? Will they agree that terrorist suspect should only be tried by civilian courts, where the terrorists' rights can be fully protected (and to hell with the rest of us)?
Or will they diss Hillary Clinton's closest ally and confidant among President Clinton's cabinet and argue for some form of military commissions... even if they don't particularly like the law that was actually enacted?
Or the most likely, in my opinion: will Democrats duck this issue, focusing instead on such urgent national business as raising the minimum wage and getting Alcee Hastings situated as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence?
No predictions today -- "only time will tell!"
October 19, 2006
Jonah and the Wail: the Virtue of Ignorance
This is one of those rare moments when I must vehemently disagree with Patterico, one of the people who got me into blogging in the first place (quite literally: Patterico's Pontificaitons was the first of two sites that allowed me on as a guest blogger). He gives a one-handed round of applause to neocon columnist Jonah Goldberg -- who now reverses himself, arguing that going into Iraq was "a mistake."
Interestingly, Goldberg, and by extension Patterico, make a pretty big whopper of a mistake themselves.
Here is Goldberg, as linked by Patterico:
I must confess that one of the things that made me reluctant to conclude that the Iraq war was a mistake was my general distaste for the shabbiness of the arguments on the antiwar side.
But that's no excuse. Truth is truth. And the Iraq war was a mistake by the most obvious criteria: If we had known then what we know now, we would never have gone to war with Iraq in 2003.
Oh, I quite agree: if Congress had known in 2002 that Iraq was only twenty minutes to midnight, instead of two minutes to midnight, it would have punted on the invasion. Congress would instead have settled upon a really, really, really strong letter to Saddam, asking him to be nicer.
But that's not the definition of a mistake, Jonah Goldberg notwithstanding. After all, had Congress known just how bad the Civil War would get, with 600,000 dead Americans and a nation ravaged by all four horsemen of the Apocalypse, it's very likely they never would have voted to go to war; they would have accepted the secession of the Confederate States of America instead.
I do not believe it was a mistake for the Union to fight the Civil War. So thank God they didn't know what was going to happen.
Suppose we'd had perfect knowledge of what would transpire in Iraq, and therefore, as we all (Jonah, Patterico, and I) conclude, we did not invade Iraq. What would have happened then? This is the question that neither Goldberg nor Patterico essay to answer... but I will.
- The Iraq sanctions regime would have collapsed.
This was already well on its way, as the sanctions were routinely circumvented and outright violated by European powers, even while the U.N.-mandated regime was still in place. Doesn't anybody remember that this was exactly what the Oil for Food scandal was all about?
European nations were already applying heavy pressure on the U.N. to drop the sanctions, which were "killing millions of Iraqi children" (remember? doesn't anybody remember?) Even Charles Duelfer of the Iraq Survey Group agrees that the sanctions were likely going away very quickly, certainly de facto and likely de jure as well:
Saddam was surprised by the swiftness of Iraq’s defeat. The quick end to Saddam’s Regime brought a similarly rapid end to its pursuit of sanctions relief, a goal it had been palpably close to achieving.
With increasingly shrill and bizarre claims of the death and destruction caused by sanctions, and the hundreds of oil deals Saddam cut with various countries that would only be implemented once sanctions were lifted, pressure to do so would have been irresistable.
And even if we used our veto power to keep them on the books, that is the only place they would exist: in the real world, sanctions only work when other countries cooperate. Europe had long ceased cooperating.
- When sanctions did collapse -- even if simply de facto, by rampant cheating and by European "inspectors" turning a blind eye -- Saddam was set to resume WMD development, using the knowledge, personnel, and WMD programs he had carefully retained from 1991 to 2003.
The ISG says this, too:
The Regime made a token effort to comply with the disarmament process, but the Iraqis never intended to meet the spirit of the UNSC’s resolutions. Outward acts of compliance belied a covert desire to resume WMD activities. Several senior officials also either inferred or heard Saddam say that he reserved the right to resume WMD research after sanctions.
I think, after the revelations of Oil for Fraud, few reading this post think it at all farfetched that sanctions were already on life support and would have died entirely... probably in months, not years; and that when they did, Saddam Hussein had no intention of turning over a new leaf and becoming a peaceful member of the community of nations.
- Having once lifted sanctions, it would be politically impossible to reinstate them -- as France and Russia both have veto power as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council;
Does the picture become clear? It's true that we almost certainly would not have invaded Iraq had we "known then what we know now" about the cost in blood and treasure... and that failure would have been a dreadful mistake of historic proportions -- far worse, in retrospect, than the decision not to oust Hussein in 1991, following the Gulf War.
- There is very strong evidence of an increasing tempo of cooperation between Hussein and al-Qaeda, as well as cooperation with more traditional terrorist groups, such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
Evidence even from the 9/11 Commission (which admitted a few connections), but much more elsewhere, including here, for example.
- Saddam Hussein would have recreated his chemical and biological weapons, but this time attaching them to longer-range missiles that could strike any country in the Middle East.
- He probably would not have been able to develop working nukes on his own; but he could eventually have bought them from North Korea or perhaps Pakistan;
- He would have become the dominant player in the the region, and would very likely have funneled WMD to terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah and al-Qaeda, with the international reach to strike in the United States.
- We would have had an American intifada -- and our response to further WMD attacks within our own country would have been a draconian clampdown on civil liberties here that would truly undercut the Constitution... unlike the minor and trivial "infringements" of the USA Patriot Act.
It amazes me that neither Goldberg nor Patterico even considers the question of what would have happened had we not invaded Iraq in March of 2003. Both buy into the idea that, if we would have made a different decision then, knowing how hard it would be, that the other decision would necessarily be better than the one we made.
We stumbled into the Iraq War by our own ignorance: but this was another one of those astonishingly fortuitous accidents that lead people like Michael Medved to believe that God directly intervenes in human affairs. While I wouldn't go that far, I will say this, echoing what I said above about the Civil War:
Thank God we didn't know in 2002 what we know now about the Iraq War! The "rational" response to that knowledge would have been a catastrophe for American security... and indeed for the entire war against jihad.
October 6, 2006
It Just Keeps Getting Better and Better
In my previous post, Judicial Tyrants Teetering On the Brink, I discussed the California state appellate court that overturned the ruling by a San Francisco court requring same-sex marriages (SSMs) in this state, regardless of the 2000 ballot measure that restricted marriage to one man, one woman. I rather gloomily (and perhaps prematurely) wrote the following:
The sad part is that it was evidently an integral part of the ruling that in California, domestic partnerships are virtually the same as marriages.
In this, I foolishly relied upon the Associated Press story, which stated in unambiguous terms:
In reversing the March 2005 ruling of a San Francisco trial judge, the 1st District Court of Appeal agreed with the state's attorney general, who argued that California's ban on same-sex marriage does not discriminate against gays and lesbians because of the state's strong domestic partner law.
Lawblogger Xrlq was skeptical, however. Having at least skimmed the primary source (the court's opinion), he commented that "What I've seen so far indicates that the principal holding was that marriage is what the legislature/voters say it is - not that gays have a fundamental right to marry, but that right is satisfied by the domestic partnership law."
Intrigued (and more hopeful), I scurried after later, completer articles, and I found this Reuters piece. It completely backs Xrlq's position; if anything, it goes even farther... the state circus in fact enunciated a ringing endorsement of democracy over judicial tyranny:
"The Legislature and the voters of this state have determined that 'marriage' in California is an institution reserved for opposite-sex couples, and it makes no difference whether we agree with their reasoning," the California Court of Appeal held.
"We may not strike down a law simply because we think it unwise or because we believe there is a fairer way of dealing with the problem," it said in a majority opinion written by Justice William McGuiness....
The appeals court reversed a lower court, which had overturned California's ban on gay nuptials in a lawsuit triggered by the marriage licenses San Francisco briefly issued to same-sex couples in 2004.
"Courts in this state simply do not have authority to redefine marriage," the appeals court said.
It said a voter initiative or legislation would be required to legalize same-sex marriage.
This is a tremendously stronger slapdown of the SSM crowd than AP reported, and I am correspondingly much happier with it. However, one of the judges, Justice J. Anthony Kline, dissented. I hesitate to characterize his dissenting argument on the basis of a media account ("once bitten..."); but since Reuters seems to have gotten the rest of the story right (that is, it matches Xrlq's read of the opinion), I'll go for it.
Kline dissented on the grounds that domestic partnership laws constitute an unconstitutional "separate but equal" institution:
In its ruling Thursday, the court noted gay couples in California have rights comparable to married heterosexuals thanks to domestic partnership laws.
But gay rights activists said comparable rights are not equal rights, and, citing Justice J. Anthony Kline's dissent, they said the majority carved out an unconstitutional "separate but equal" standard for gays by supporting domestic partnerships, which Kline compared to laws enforcing racial segregation.
The domestic partnership act is "a form of pseudomarriage that stigmatizes homosexual unions in much the same way 'separate but equal' public schools stigmatized black students," Kline said.
"Like separate educational facilities, domestic partnership and marriage are 'inherently unequal,"' he said.
This is an emotionally powerful argument, but it's logically flawed. Let me take a few thousand words to show why that's obvious...
Origins of desegregation
First, what is the point of the Civil Rights Amendments and the racial desegregation they ulimately spawned? Prior to the Civil War, North America had a 250 year history of racial slavery stretching back long before the founding of America; and the West had an even longer tradition of racial slavery. (So did the Arabs and Turks, but that's irrelevant to this point.)
The Civil War was fought, whatever Southerners might absurdly argue, to end the practice of slavery. There were proximate causes, but that was the underlying one. But why is slavery wrong? Why should we put 600,000 soldiers into the ground just to end an institution that had stood in this place for two and a half centuries?
The Civil War was fought over the unique and unprecedented proposition that underpinned the very founding of our country:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
In the end, no argument for slavery, no matter how recondite, could batter down this simple, "self-evident" truth... if all men are created equal, then how can a whole race of men be condemned to slavery merely because of their skin color?
Once the nation finally accepted that argument (with the Civil War as a resounding exclamation point), desegregation was the inevitable result: because people being what they were, segregated public institutions, even if they began as equal, would in short order become very unequal.
But not all inequality is wrong, let alone unconstitutional. We do not outlaw income disparity; nor do we follow the lead of Kurt Vonnegut's seminal short story "Harrison Bergeron" and handicap the talented so that they're no better than everyone else. What we hold to be "self-evidently" equal is the essence of personhood; and the laws we strike down are those that discriminate solely upon what a person is, not what he chooses to do.
Thus, the actual corollary to the segregation laws for gays would be a law that said, for example, that children determined to have "homosexual tendencies" were required to be educated in separate schools from those other kids who have "heterosexual tendencies."
So the first error in Kline's argument is that the marriage laws do not discriminate in such a fashion; they don't even mention heterosexuality or homosexuality -- and such a distinction is necessary for a law to discriminate against a person, rather than against an action: without a detailed description of the subset of humanity that is to be put down, how would anyone know who to discriminate against?
Segregationist laws always included a legal description of what makes a person black or white. The marriage laws contain no such distinction between heterosexual and homosexual... so right away we know Kline's argument is off base.
Moreover, the laws are exactly the same for all genders and sexual preferences.
Jon Davidson of the gay rights group Lambda Legal said the California law was unfair, and legal analysts expect lawsuits over same-sex marriage will continue for years across the United States.
"This violates a fundamental right that all people have in California, which is to marry a person of their choice," Davidson said.
But this is nonsense; there is no such right "to marry a person of their choice." There are many rules:
- You can only marry a person of the opposite gender --
- Who is not already legally married --
- Who is not too consanguineous to you --
- Who is of legal age --
- And who consents to marry you;
- In addition, you must obtain a marriage license first.
(There may be other restrictions as well.)
Note that the exact, same rule applies to men and women, to gays and straights, and to all races. There is no extra restriction on gays; a gay man can marry any woman who fits the above requirements, just as a lesbian can marry any man who qualifies as above... just as with straights.
Not even SSM advocates actually argue that the law is different for people with different sexual preferences; what they really argue is that it's easier for straights than gays to obey it. It's a disparate-impact argument, not an equal-rights argument: since it's harder for gays to find an opposite-sex person they want to marry than it is for straights, they argue, it should be unconstitutional.
But it's likewise harder for swingers to find a single person they want to marry; they would prefer to marry half a dozen folks together. So does that mean the Constitution requires we legalize polygamy?
At this point, I start to get out of my legal depth: I only play a sea-lawyer on the web... I'm not really an attorney! Even so, it's my understanding that "disparate impact" theory is based in statute -- specifically, Title VII of the Civil Rights code, which relates specifically to employment discrimination. Beyond the obvious (marriage is not an employment contract), there is also the fact that even if some statute could be stretched to apply a disparate-impact theory to marriage, it would be a general statute... and there is a more specific statute, the Defense of Marriage Act, that explicitly restricts marriage (in federal cases) to one man and one woman; in addition, nearly every state has a similar act either as state law or in the state constitution.
The specific trumps the general, so this argument collapses upon inspection. Marriage laws are not in any way "unequal;" and if they have a disparate impact on people who prefer to marry members of the same sex -- or who prefer to marry their first cousins or marry two women at the same time, or marry a woman who doesn't want to get married -- that's too bad for them, but it doesn't make marriage law unconstitutional.
Finally, there is the ultimate question: who controls society? Another element of the Declaration of Independence -- which is actually federal law, by the way, one of the "Organic Laws of the United States" -- makes the answer to that question very clear:
To secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
In no state of the United States have "the governed" ever consented to SSM; but if they did, I would argue that they do have that right: if the good people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts were to enact through referendum (or through their legislature without the lege being compelled by the courts) laws allowing gay marriage, sibling marriage, or polyamorous marriage, I say fine; that is the job of the democratic arms of government, not the judicial.
When the courts order SSM, they usurp power that rightfully belongs to the voters. There is no clause nor amendment to the Constitution or any state constitution that says people have a "fundamental right" to "to marry a person of their choice;" some courts simply made that up, like the "right" to an abortion.
So there is a clear separation of powers argument against SSM that I doubt Justice Kline even considered.
The end -- at last!
As usual, it takes a powerful lot more argument to knock down a crazy theory than to propound one. But this is a nutter idea, that denying the "fundamental right" of gays "to marry a person of their choice" is the legal and moral equivalent of the discredited "separate but equal" doctrine. Such an argument results from the muddled and narcissistic emoting that masquerades as ratiocination at university today, where what matters is not what folks do -- but how they feel about themselves.
It has no place in a court of law.
See? I told you it was obvious!
September 27, 2006
Weak Leak Soup, Ctd: Evolution of a Punk Job
I was going to put a post up here noting that the president saw fit Tuesday to declassify the "key judgments" of the National Intelligence Estimate from April (the one we discussed here too early Tuesday morn, before the announcement). If you'll recall, on Saturday, the New York Times published a story that claimed -- falsely, we now discover -- that the NIE concluded that the Iraq War had "worsened" the threat from terrorism:
A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.
The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.
But when the document itself was released Tuesday, it turns out the key findings were far more mixed and balanced; and nowhere did the NIE say that the Iraq War had made terrorism worse: to use the phrase Hugh Hewitt used all afternoon, the Times got punked. Its sources sold it a bill of goods; and like the Sy Hersh travesty on Abu Ghraib, its reputation (heh) lies in tatters. Tatters.
So the MSM came out swinging, here, here, and here: with grim determination, as soon as the document was made available by the NID, they slapped up their stories saying: it confirms eveything we said before! Don't look! Just take our word for it! We wouldn't lie to you 365 days in a single year, would we? (They're nothing if not persistent!)
So I was going to write a post quoting from AP, Reuters, and the New York Tombs, then quoting from the NIE itself, to make them all look like the farkakte macacas they are. Alas, I spent too long on my hobby of painting extra zeros on all my $10 bills... and you-know-who slithered in ahead of me, posting exactly the article that I was going to post (except mine would have been better; no, really). If only I posted it. Or wrote it. Or came out of my digestive torpor soon enough.
So I'm just posting to let you know I won't be posting on this topic. I think, where one's friends are concerned, it's only polite to keep them apprised of one's good intentions, for future reference.
Well... maybe just a little. This is a brief sketch of what I might have said, if I'd said anything (which I didn't, and I'm not).
Prior to the release, the elite media tried to play the Sy Hersh game of creatively (and tendentiously) misinterpreting classified intelligence someone leaked to them, confident that the "secretive" Bush administration would never dare declassify and release it... thus proving them liars. When Bush double-crossed them, they found themselves like a Wile E. Coyote, when he runs off a cliff but doesn't fall... until he looks down.
For God's sake, don't look down! The MSM's instinctive reaction was to double-down and pretend that the law of gravity had indeed been repealed. Here is how AP began their first story after the publication of the NIE showed the entire world that they had relied upon sources who lied to them (the first link in the "so the MSM came out swinging" paragraph above); this was from late Tuesday morning, shortly after the release:
The war in Iraq has become a "cause celebre" for Islamic extremists, breeding deep resentment of the U.S. that probably will get worse before it gets better, federal intelligence analysts conclude in a report at odds with President Bush's portrayal of a world growing safer.
In the bleak report, declassified and released Tuesday on Bush's orders, the nation's most veteran analysts conclude that despite serious damage to the leadership of al-Qaida, the threat from Islamic extremists has spread both in numbers and in geographic reach.
Bush and his top advisers have said the formerly classified assessment of global terrorism supported their arguments that the world is safer because of the war. But more than three pages of stark judgments warning about the spread of terrorism contrasted with the administration's glass-half-full declarations.
Note the specific word "bleak," which they used in their story before the release. In fact, this by and large is the same story they ran before the release; all they did was pop the hood and install an aftermarket clause noting that the report had been "declassified and released."
Don't look down!
By early Wednesday, the AP had added a bit more to their article, softening the hard line that the full document completely vindicated their clumsy hit job:
White House release of a previously secret intelligence assessment depicting a growing terrorist threat gives both political parties new ammunition in the election-season fight over the Iraq war.
For Republicans, the excerpts of the document - declassified under orders from President Bush on Tuesday - are more evidence that Iraq is central to the war on terrorism and can't be abandoned without giving jihadists a crucial victory.
For Democrats, the report furthers their argument that the 2003 Iraq invasion has inflamed anti-U.S. sentiments in the Muslim world and left the U.S. less safe.
In a bleak National Intelligence Estimate, the government's top analysts concluded Iraq has become a "cause celebre" for jihadists, who are growing in number and geographic reach. If the trend continues, the analysts found, the risks to the U.S. interests at home and abroad will grow.
For the first time, AP recognized that there were points on the side of those supporting the Iraq War; but they refused to get all radical on us and actually quote any of those findings. That would have been asking too much.
And note that the NIE is still characterized as "bleak," which is interesting; throughout these permutations, they cling to that word as a liferaft... despite the fact that it never appears in the NIE key conclusions themselves, and the fact -- easily ascertainable by reading them -- that they present a picture that is neither bleak nor rosey but simply a list of challenges and assessments.
Later on Wednesday afternoon, AP put up this story -- still written by the same reporter, Katherine Shrader. It begins thus:
The White House refused Wednesday to release the rest of a secret intelligence assessment that depicts a growing terrorist threat, as the Bush administration tried to quell election-season criticism that its anti-terror policies are seriously off track.
Note the counterattack; AP begins to lay the groundwork here for an infamous argument made popular in the days of bulletin-board systems: the lurkers support me in e-mail. (I think it even became a "filk song" -- not a typo.) That is, the Bush administration is suppressing secret evidence that would actually prove we were right all along. Over the next few days (or weeks), this argument will take shape within other branches of the Democratic Party besides the antique media:
After a few paragraphs wasted arguing with Tony Snow over the release of the really heavily classified portions of the report, AP continues:
In the bleak National Intelligence Estimate, the government's top analysts concluded Iraq has become a "cause celebre" for jihadists, who are growing in number and geographic reach. If the trend continues, the analysts found, the risks to the U.S. interests at home and abroad will grow.
Peppered with questions Wednesday about the report, he [Snow, we presume] said the NIE report was "not designed to draw judgments about success or failure, it's an intelligence document, it's a snapshot."
Snow said the report confirms the importance of the war in Iraq as a bulwark against terrorists. "Iraq has become, for them, the battleground," he said. "If they lose, they lose their bragging rights. They lose their ability to recruit."
He said that a bleak intelligence assessment depicting a growing terrorist threat was only a "snapshot" - not a conclusion
The last line I quote above is especially illuminating; no, I didn't accidentally cut off the period; it's missing in the original. It's clearly an editing mistake; she rewrote the line and separated "bleak" and "snapshot" onto two different lines, then forgot to go back and erase the original (so much for the vaunted "multiple layers of editing!") But note how important it was for Shrader, hence AP, to keep that word "bleak" prominently in the story. She was only dithering whether to place it lower or higher -- and she chose the latter.
AP picks up the Tony Snow argument again:
"The American people deserve the full story, not those parts of it that the Bush administration selects," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.
Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, warned, however, that releasing more of the intelligence assessment could aid terrorists. "We are very cautious and very restrained about the kind of information we want to give al-Qaida," Hoekstra said....
A separate high-level assessment focused solely on Iraq may be coming soon. At least two House Democrats - Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Rep. Jane Harman of California - have questioned whether that report has been stamped "draft" and shelved until after the Nov. 7 elections.
An intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the process, said National Intelligence Director John Negroponte told lawmakers in writing only one month ago that he ordered a new Iraq estimate to be assembled. The estimate on terrorism released Tuesday took about a year to produce.
AP rejects that obviously concocted explanation that an intelligence assessment might take longer than a month to prepare; it's patently obvious to Ms. Shrader that this is just a dodge to avoid releasing a report that would completely vindicate her -- oops, I mean vindicate the Associated Press -- along with the happy side-effect of bringing about the downfall, ah, defeat of the Republicans in the 2006 election. (Secret evidence that would support me...)
It ends with a couple of rollicking quotes from Joe Biden (D-DE, 100%) and John D. Rockefeller (D-WV, 100%), savaging the president and the war without allowing supporters to confuse matters by participating in the discussion. And once again, AP does not quote those paragraphs that actually make Bush's case about the war -- the complete quotation from which the snippet "cause celebre" was cherry-picked:
We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.
- The Iraq conflict has become the cause celebre for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.
By contrast, here is how the Iraq War's effect was described in the original New York Times story about it that was published when the elite media still thought the NIE would remain forever classified and uncheckable:
An opening section of the report, “Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,” cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.
The report “says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,” said one American intelligence official.
Clearly, the Times' source is describing an earlier section before the "key judgments" that come later; but equally clearly, that earlier section cannot have concluded that "the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse," as the anonymous source smirked; because if it had, then the corresponding key judgment would not have been so supportive of continued fighting in Iraq.
At worst, the early sections might have quoted one official saying such a thing (possibly Jay "100%" Rockefeller). But that is why we don't release the entire NIE: it's like a packet of court filings that contain arguments from both the plaintiff's attorney and the defendant's attorney... you can't just grab a claim from one and act as if it's been proven in court.
If there were such an assessment by one specific person -- and we don't even know that much -- clearly it was not accepted in the final analysis, not even for a candid document that none of the principals thought would ever be released.
So far, most of the mainstream news stories about the released NIE have shied away from quoting this paragraph in full... likely because it so clearly argues the case for the Bush policy: if, at the end of the day, the jihadis are seen to be winner in Iraq, they will be emboldened and their recuitment will soar; contrariwise, if they are seen as failures -- if Iraq remains as a democratic state in control of its own destiny, rather than a Somalia-like failed state full of terrorist training camps -- then the jihadis will suffer a terrible blow, and their recruitment will drop off.
So the real conclusion of the NIE anent Iraq is that we must win at any cost; cutting and running is not a viable option, no matter what Joe Biden and Jay Rockefeller -- or Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francsico, 95%) and John Murtha (D-PA, 75%) -- say.
Eventually, the media will be forced to admit this; it's been widely quoted in blogs and on the radio, and even in a few television programs. It's possible they've already snuck it into a few stories, buried deep.
But it won't help: they've been exposed, as Hersh was, not only as rampant partisans... but as DNC house organs so partisan they're willing, even eager, to lie, or at least pass along lies in reckless disregard for the truth, to further the political ambitions of their Democratic friends in Congress.
In Othello, the Moor of Venice, Shakespeare wrote:
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.
How much poorer then is a person, an entire organization, that throws its own century-old reputation into the sewer, merely to help elect its favored party into power?
I actually feel sorry for them. What must it be like to live behind those eyes?
Anyway, that's more or less what I would have written. Except I'm not going to post on this topic.
September 26, 2006
Weak Leak Soup
In keeping with the madly egotistical Big Lizards motto -- Never first, always final -- I've been pondering Saturday's New York Times story about the impact of the Iraq War on the global war on terrorism (GWOT) ever since, er, Saturday. (Maybe Sunday; Saturday, I think I was pondering whether to raise the pot on the strength of a king and a trey with a queen-jack-eight on the flop.)
There is a powerful lot that the Times failed to tell us about that story; my idol, John Hinderaker at Power Line, has a great story up quoting several other passages from that same national intelligence estimate (NIE) (enough with the alphabet soup already!) that tend to undercut, to say the least, the spin put on the thing by the Times, as well as their sidekick and pale shadow, the Washington Post.
But craven that I am, I shrink from duking it out with Power Line, who has the actual factual response pretty well covered. Oh, I could think of better arguments to make against the bizarre claims in the media; but I'd just be making them up, so I'd better not.
Let's instead focus on the problems and deficiencies in the two main antique-media stories... by an amazing coincidence, the two I already linked above. Slither on, dude.
Let's start with a startling admission against interest on the part of the "elite" media:
- Neither the New York Times reporters nor the Washington Post reporters have actually seen the NIE. Or any portion of it; they rely entirely upon their various sources' characterization of the NIE.
In other words, they do not actually know if the report "has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks," as the Times puts it in a traditionally quaint run-on sentence; they have absolutely no idea. All they know is that one or more of their (anonymous and undescribable) sources claims that's what it says.
Von Unaussprechlichen Külten
Here's another good one:
- Neither the Times nor the Post deigns to name even a single source. Not one. O, for the good old days of Watergate, when Ben Bradlee demanded at least two sources for every claim -- only one of which could be anonymous! (Were that rule in effect today, both the Times and the Post would have to shut down and convert operations to printing vacation brochures and cereal boxes.)
They don't even characterize these sources; for all we know, they could be Oompa-Loompas. Here is how the Times introduces the presumed humans upon whom the entire shebang depends, which they finally get 'round to doing in paragraph 6:
More than a dozen United States government officials and outside experts were interviewed for this article, and all spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a classified intelligence document. The officials included employees of several government agencies, and both supporters and critics of the Bush administration. All of those interviewed had either seen the final version of the document or participated in the creation of earlier drafts. These officials discussed some of the document’s general conclusions but not details, which remain highly classified.
So let's see... a senior CIA analyst would count, but so would a junior-grade employee of the Department of Agriculture. An "official" might be an aide to Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI, 100%) or Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%), both of whom sit on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (hence could have access) -- or for that matter, an aide to the disgraced, corrupt liar, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL, 90%), who sits on the House equivalent.
But we do know one thing about some of them, courtesy of the Washington Post; we know that some, at least, of these "officials" have a partisan axe to grind:
"It's a very candid assessment," one intelligence official said yesterday of the estimate, the first formal examination of global terrorist trends written by the National Intelligence Council since the March 2003 invasion. "It's stating the obvious."
If this source begins with the idea that it's "obvious" that the Iraq War has caused us to be less safe, then he's hardly an unbiased source for relaying what the NIE has to say about that subject.
Past the expiry date
- The assessment was begun in 2002, before the Iraq War began -- and it was completed back in April of this year... five months ago.
An awful lot has changed in the past five months... much of it for the better, including the increasing tempo of turning provinces over to the Iraqis, the stunning buildup of the Iraqi military and national police forces, and of course the death of Musab Zarqawi. But this NIE cannot have taken those changes into account, because they hadn't happened yet when it was written.
The school for wives
Here is a minor point that is emblematic of how easy it is to get so lost, you can't see the forest for the weeds:
The Times notes, in a paragraph notable mainly for being oddly out of place in the article, that one danger is that jihadis fighting in Iraq can learn techniques that they subsequently pass along to others:
The report mentions the possibility that Islamic militants who fought in Iraq could return to their home countries, “exacerbating domestic conflicts or fomenting radical ideologies.”
The implication is clear, if rather unbalanced:
- The Times frets that all we're doing in Iraq is training the next generation of jihadis, who will be faster, stronger, and more deadly because of the skill they learn from encounters with American forces.
But this discounts two very important points:
First, that it's the United States, not the jihadis, which has learnt the most from the Iraq War. The American military of 2003 was the most powerful and effective that had ever existed... but that is no longer the case: today, they could get their butts kicked -- by the American military of 2006. We have learned from every encounter, every battle, every victory, and even from the occasional defeat.
Our own effectiveness has grown much faster than that of the jihadis... that's why the death rate of our troops has dropped by nearly 1/3 from "period 3" (from the turnover of sovereignty to the Iraqis to the first set of elections) to "period 5" (from the last set of general elections to today) -- and dropped even further in the last year.
Second, this argument presumes that large numbers of Iraq-based jihadis survive their encounters with the Americans, so that they can pass their experience along to others. In fact, most of those who leave Iraq and head back to their home countries never actually engaged American forces, because we kill or capture a very high percentage of all the terrorists we engage.
In hock to post hoc
Finally, here is the most glaring omission -- whether from the NIE itself or merely from its mischaracterization by the elite media's "sources," we cannot possibly say without seeing the document itself:
- The storyline does not consider what might have happened had we not invaded Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein.
A lot would have happened: most analysts believe that Hussein was on the verge of cutting a deal with the Europeans (via the corrupt U.N. "Oil for Fraud" program of direct and indirect bribery) to end the sanctions and inspections. As Charles Duelfer and the Iraq Survey Group (ISG... more letters, I'm afraid) assessed in its final report:
There is an extensive, yet fragmentary and circumstantial, body of evidence suggesting that Saddam pursued a strategy to maintain a capability to return to WMD after sanctions were lifted by preserving assets and expertise.
Instead of considering this possibility and exploring which American action would have been better for the terrorists -- attacking Iraq or not attacking Iraq -- the argument of both these articles is strictly "post hoc ergo propter hoc": after the fact, therefore because of the fact. The Leftist, anti-war leakers in the CIA or NSA argue (through their sock puppets in the Times and Post) thus:
- We invaded Iraq, deposed Hussein, and occupied the country;
- Jihadi websites now cite the war to try to drum up recruits;
- Therefore, the Iraq War was a boon to jihadis!
But this is logical gibberish: if, after ranting on and on about Hussein, we had let him stay and even lifted sanctions, then that would be cited by jihadi websites to drum up recruits... just as they cite our failures in Somalia and Sudan, our refusal to retaliate for the Cole bombing, and so forth. The jihadis cite anything that shows us either running away or standing and fighting: either way, they'll spin it to their advantage.
If this is the central conceit of the NIE, as opposed to the media's misinterpretation, then this signals a fatal flaw still extant in the ratiocination of our top intelligence services: they are still thinking linearally, as if al-Qaeda and its spinoffs and wannabes are really just funny-looking Europeans in headscarves, using Western two-value logic and classical game-theory analysis of their own actions and our responses.
If we keep thinking that way, Western civ will fall.
Moslems in general, and especially Middle-East Moslems, and most especially Middle-Eastern jihadis, think in very different, apocalyptic terms. They don't perform a rational calculus to decide whether, say, to try to explode a nuclear weapon in the middle of a Western city: in fact, the "Hidden Imam" theory of players like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says that Mohammed al-Mahdi will arise when the jihadis have precipitated the final battle -- and are losing it badly!
In other words, Ahmadinejad expects to start World War III (or IV, if you count the Cold War), and he expects his side to lose; after which the Mahdi will come, leading the heavenly host of Allah, and wipe away all the infidel armies, ushering in the age of Islam. How do we threaten a man who believes that? Should we threaten not to fight, allowing them to win, and thereby failing to fulfill the conditions that will activate the 12th Imam's return?
If the media's understanding of this not-very-momentous NIE is accurate, then the CIA is still fighting the Soviet Union in the Cold War; and we're in desperate trouble indeed!
As the Bangles sang, we've got to "Walk Like an Egyptian" (or a jihadi) to have a prayer of winning this last crusade. Doesn't mean we have to act like they; only that we must be able to think like they, lest we be surprised again and again by their unconventional and unexpected moves.
What's wrong with this "report," at least as recounted in the mainstream media? Virtually everything. It's vague, unsourced, unbalanced, and shows clear signs of mental sclerosis.
But if this is not the NIE's real view, then how low the American media has sunk, if this is the best hit piece on the president and the GOP that they can muster in the last weeks before the election.
September 12, 2006
Because We Trusted Bush... Yeah, That's the Ticket!
The story that Democrats are attacking President Bush over his magnificent, almost Churchillian speech last night is already being adequately covered by many other excellent bloggers. Oh, and also by those guys in the elite media, if anybody still reads them (besides us excellent bloggers, I mean). But I think we've found just a tiny hook that has not yet been exploited. (I was going to say "just a tiny nipple that has not yet been sucked," but I thought that unduly vivid.)
Check out this line from the Reuters story:
Top Democrats on Tuesday accused President George W. Bush of exploiting the September 11 anniversary to boost his faltering Iraq war policy and his party's sagging popularity in an election year. [Good, good -- squeezed two Democratic memes into the very first sentence!]
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said Bush should have tried to recapture a spirit of national unity in a televised Oval Office address on Monday night.
Reid told reporters Democrats had been so confident the Republican Bush would be nonpartisan that they had not sought equal time on television to offer their party's response.
Reid told reporters Democrats had been so confident the Republican Bush would be nonpartisan that they had not sought equal time on television to offer their party's response.
...Is it just me? Or does this sound roughly like Danish King Hrothgar saying "I was so confident that Grendel wouldn't come back and slaughter my warriors sixty-five times in a row, that I didn't bother posting any guards around Heorot last night."
(What do you mean, "what the hell are you talking about, Dafydd?" Couldn't you guys manage to stay awake during your high school English Lit classes?)
Considering that the primary meme of the Democrats is that Bush is all politics and no policy, what do you think are the odds that anybody in the DNC thought "the Republican Bush would be nonpartisan" in his prime-time speech on September 11th?
Of course, in reality, he was nonpartisan; he never even mentioned the Democrats (which is probably what really torqued them off). But this is a question of perception: if the Democrats think of Bush as the ultimate political-party animal (tomorrow, Bill Clinton sues for trademark infringement), then how risible is it for Sen. Harry Reid (D-Mirage Hotel and Casino, 100%) to claim it never occurred to them that he would be political?
(Friend Lee reminds me that Charles Krauthammer, in the commentary after that speech on Fox News Channel, correctly distinguished between a speech being political -- which it must be, if it's to talk at all about policy -- and the same speech being partisan, which requires not merely saying "this is my policy" but also "and here's the stupid policy of my opponent.")
So what's the real reason the Democrats didn't ask for equal time -- which I noticed and wondered about myself? Simple: for all the wrangling going on in the GOP these days over immigration, troops levels, and such, it's the Democrats who are in complete policy disarray. Look at their pathetic “Real Security Act of 2006,” where all they could get their caucus to agree on were three bland, vague platitudes -- and that Don Rumsfeld should be canned!
That's it; that's their entire defense + anti-terrorism plan for the looming November elections.
They didn't request equal-response time because they had no idea what they were going to say. An insider who must remain anonymous, but who was privy to the hastily arranged response conference, and who has secretly informed Big Lizards, reports the following minutes from yesterday afternoon:
3:08 PM EDT: Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi gaveled the response conf. to order, after a brief struggle with Minority Leader Harry Reid over who controls the gavel, which Rep. Pelosi won by repeatedly kicking Sen. Reid in the chest.
Rep. Pelosi: Shut up. Shut up you in the back, whoever you are. And stop clutching your chest like you're having a cardiac arrest. I took off my shoes before kicking you.
Now we all agree that Bush is essentially Hitler in all important points. But we can't say that. No, I will not recognize you, Russ; trust me, we can't say that. You shut up too, Bernie. We can't say that yet, so what do we say?
8:58 PM EDT: Meeting adjourned following five hours and fifty minutes of discussion; the 87 motions made were all tabled until next week by general consensus. Sen. Reid returned from Bethesda Naval Hospital just seconds before Rep. Pelosi banged the gavel down. No cause-effect should be inferred from the time relation between those two events.
See? No matter how long the media chickens have pecked at the story, there are always a few grains left to digest. I'm sorry, was that too vivid as well?
September 1, 2006
Rare Logical Lapse From My Favorite Blog
It's well known that Big Lizards strongly disagrees with Power Line about the effect and consequences of the recent Israeli-Lebanese war: Power Line believes it was an unalloyed, ringing victory for Hezbollah and an unparalleled catastrophe for Israel; while Big Lizards believes that it was a lose-lose scenario, where both sides lost -- but Hezbollah lost worse:
This is why I say that overall, neither Hezbollah nor Israel won this war; both lost. Hezbollah lost the actual ground war worse than Israel did; but Israel lost the PR war worse than did Hezbollah. Iran/Syria and the United States both had slight wins; and Europe showed itself to be, once again, feckless and unreliable....
I agree that Israel did not do anywhere near as well as it could have, had it a different government. But it's just plain irresponsible to don sackcloth, roll in ashes, and proclaim a total and complete victory by the forces of darkness. For heaven's sake, results were mixed on all sides.
The former notes that:
True, under the inept and indecisive leadership of Ehud Olmert, Israel did miss the opportunity to militarily destroy Hezbollah and make it a non-factor in Israel's security, Lebanon's politics and Iran's foreign policy. Nonetheless, Hezbollah was seriously hurt. It lost hundreds of its best fighters. A deeply entrenched infrastructure on Israel's border is in ruins. The great hero has had to go so deep into hiding that Nasrallah has been called "the underground mullah.''
Most importantly, Hezbollah's political gains within Lebanon during the war have proved illusory. As the dust settles, the Lebanese are furious at Hezbollah for provoking a war that brought them nothing but devastation -- and then crowing about victory amid the ruins.
Paul of Power Line finds some logical disconnect between these two sentiments. He believes that if the latter idea is true, that Hezbollah also suffered defeat, then this casts doubt on the idea that Olmert's leadership was "inept":
If Hezbollah has suffered a major defeat and if, as Krauthammer claims, Hezbollah will not attack Israel again, then one can defend Olmert's decision not to sacrifice the lives of hundreds of additional Israeli soldiers in order to accomplish more.
I'm puzzled; typically, Paul Mirengoff is the most logical of the three (John Hinderaker is the passionate Power Liner, especially when it comes to female beauty pageants; while Scott Johnson, with his emphasis on music, is the mystic). But of course, there is no conflict between the following two statements:
- Ehud Olmert is an inept clod who mismanaged the war;
- Nevertheless, Hassan Nasrallah still had his butt handed to him.
What it really means is that Hezbollah was stronger than we thought but weaker than we feared. It certainly doesn't meant that, with more effort and brainpower on Israel's part, Hezbollah couldn't have been wiped out. In fact, recognition, however delayed, of Hezbollah's true weakness should fuel the idea that, if Israel had just tried a little harder, it could have obliterated that awful terrorist group.
No illogicality at all, Paul; the two ideas go together like Michael Moore and a box of jelly donuts.
(By the way, just to sharpen Big Lizards' own nosehorn, here is what Austin Bay said on Strategy Page:
But the emerging "big picture" suggests the War of the Rockets physically punished and politically damaged Hezbollah, despite its media touts of victory.
On the other hand, Israel cannot claim a victory -- at least, not yet.
Heh; Col. Bay could have saved some time by simply reading our previous post!)
July 25, 2006
The "Proportionality" Fallacy
I've been pondering and mulling for many days now the charge, absurd on its face, that Israel's response to the attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah is "disproportionate." What has puzzled me all this time is where the silly meme of "proportionality" came from in the first place.
I understand proportionality in, say, criminal sentencing: if a person stole some cash from the church poorbox, it's grossly disproportionate to punish him by cutting off his hand; the severity of the punishment vastly exceeds the mendacity of the crime.
And I understand proportionality in civil lawsuits: if a company produced a dangerously defective product, then tried to cover it up, and if a victim of that product is injured thereby... then it makes perfect sense for that victim not only to receive compensatory damages in the lawsuit (damages to make him whole again, or as much so as possible), but also punitive damages.
Even so, if the company has an annual income of $10 million, it's grossly disproportionate for a jury to award the victim $60 billion in punitive damages.
But how does any of this relate to warfare? The question has baffled me for a long time now, from even before the present ruckus in Lebanon and Gaza. How did a theory of criminal punishment get tacked onto the "law of war?"
And just now, the answer I'd been seeking struck me like a load of hay: those critics squealing about Israel's "disproportionate" response think war is how Israel "punishes" the Arabs.
All of a sudden, other paralogical incongruities fell into place: the Left believes war is not waged in order to gain national-security advantages for one's country; they see it entirely as an extension of the criminal justice system... a tit-for-tat revenge taken against countries that have criminally assaulted one's own. Thus, the Left cannot even understand the conservative argument that terrorism "cannot be defeated by a criminal-justice response but must be treated as an act of war."
To them, all war is a criminal-justice program. Why should the war on jihadi terrorism be any different?
And because they think war in general is a punitive action designed to punish transgressors, they also believe:
- It's wrong to punish countries disproportionately to their "crimes," such as killing more of their soldiers than they killed of yours... it's too much "tat" in the tit-for-tat equation;
- It's wrong to "collectively punish" the people living in the enemy nation by, e.g., dropping bombs;
- In fact, killing enemy combatants is wrong in general, because we're against capital punishment;
- It's wrong to "punish" a country for the actions of a terrorist group within that country;
- It's horrifically wrong to "punish" a country before it has actually committed the crime or even taken steps to commit the crime (pre-emption); that would be the same as putting someone in prison because you thought he might commit a crime in the future;
- It's wrong to go to war without first holding a criminal investigation and finding the enemy country guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the transgression;
- Captured unlawful enemy combatants must be tried in civilian courts (presumably for "conspiracy") with all the protections afforded ordinary criminal defendants;
- Captured unlawful enemy combatants may not be interrogated unless they have a lawyer present, and they cannot be interrogated at all if they "take the Fifth;"
- Once combatants have "served their sentences," which must be "proportionate to the crime they committed," they must be released, even if there is a chance they will return to the front lines and "commit more crimes;" after all, they've paid their debt to society.
As suspicious as I am of any general "Theory of Everything," this revelation (well, to me, anyway) does seem to explain an awful lot about liberal squeamishness anent the Israeli war on Hezbollah, the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and other attempts by the civilized world to defend itself against the forces of Islamist barbarity.
(It doesn't explain why liberals supported the carpet bombing of Serbs in Kosovo; but then, they also gave Bill Clinton a pass on a lot of other actual criminal behavior, too. To explain this, we must invoke a different thesis: the Theory of the Charmed Charmer, the lovable rogue who can do no wrong.)
It also explains why the American Left is increasingly bitter and hateful towards Israel: they look at Israel and they see a country that persistently violates the "liberal law of war" by treating warfare as if it were some means of defending the country from attack, instead of a police action.
Thus, to the liberal mind, Israel is like a "rogue cop" who commits serial acts of "police brutality." The Left's reflexive hatred of "the pigs" or "the Man" kicks in, and Ehud Olmert morphs into Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, with Lebanon as the new Democratic National Convention of 1968. "Israel is not there to cause disorder... Israel is there to preserve disorder!"
Arabs (and Persians, to the extent that liberals even know there is a difference) are the long-suffering poor who are always getting shafted by the Man; we need a healthy dose of "social justice," man, to redress the historical imbalances. Power to the people, man! Off the pigs! Free Mumia!
(In fact, wouldn't Arab suicide bombers be seen as heroic followers of Mumia Abu Jamal, giving their lives -- well, the real Mumia hasn't given it yet, alas -- to fight the inherent injustice of the Israeli neocon lobby establishment? Right on, man!)
I believe every Democratic candidate in 2006 and 2008 should be given a hot seat (I don't mean Old Sparky) and asked this question: if terrorists kill 3,000 Americans, how many terrorists will you allow us to kill before you decide our response is "disproportionate?"
Watch 'em squirm.
July 20, 2006
Who Pays For That Ticket to Ride Out of Lebanon?
After twenty-two years absence, the U.S. Marines have landed in Beirut to help evacuate American citizens who are stuck in the war zone. Not surprisingly, many evacuees are tired, shaken and angry... but rather than being angry at Hezbollah for starting a war of aggression along a peaceful border, many Americans in Lebanon seem angry at the United States for not dropping everything to mount a massive mission to rescue them.
I sympathize with all the innocent people being hurt or threatened in Lebanon; that's why we say "war is hell." But if foreigners decide to live or visit an unstable country like Lebanon -- especially south Lebanon, which has been under total Hezbollah control since the year 2000 -- and despite their own country’s warnings, then those people must bear primary responsibilities for their own lives.
But that's not how a bunch of very demanding Americans and other foreign civilians see it:
Shebbo, now in Cyprus, said she and her husband had struggled to get information from the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, and had found out about the boat from people in the United States. For four days, they inhaled the fumes from a bombed power plant two miles from where they had been staying.
Others echoed her complaints about the embassy.
"The guard was so rude and said there was no evacuation plan," said Michael Russo, 23, of Tucson, Ariz., of his visit to the embassy. "On Wednesday and Thursday, I asked them if there was a plan, and they looked at me like I was crazy."
They were probably wondering why on earth somebody would travel to southern Lebanon without having his own escape plan.
For many decades, Americans have been taught by the elite media that the federal government is responsible for everything that happens in America. Remember Hurricane Katrina and all the people that blamed President Bush and former FEMA Director Michael Brown -- but who gave a complete pass to Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray "the Grand Nagus" Nagin?
Responsibility is always pushed upwards: it's not the state's job, call the feds; it's not the city's job, call the governor; don't protect yourself... call the city police to come protect you! But the farther removed "help" is from that individual in that place at that moment, the less helpful it will be. Reagan always got a big laugh out of his line, "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you."
Having dealt with the American Embassy in Japan and the Japanese Consulate in the U.S., none of this surprises me. This is a screaming, hair-on-fire emergency... which means the embassy is even more overwhelmed than the Americans demanding evacuation. If embassy personnel act worse than usual, that may be unacceptable -- but it's comletely understandable. And it's not just our embassy:
Many Canadians in Larnaca and Beirut also expressed anger at their government's evacuation effort, either because of the long wait at the port or the lack of planning. About 1,600 were waiting in the hot sun at the Beirut port.
This has all happened before. Twenty years ago, around the time 241 U.S. Marines and 58 French paratroopers were killed by Hezbollah terrorists, the U.S. Government strongly urged all non-essential U.S. Citizens to get out of Lebanon and to call off any planned visit.
A number of westerners had already been kidnapped there; but despite all the dire warnings, a bunch more Americans (mostly journalists) rushed to Lebanon and immediately commenced being kidnapped themselves. Naturally, each and every one of them insisted that we lay aside all the more urgent business we had and send the entire Sixth Fleet to pluck away some guy from CBS... so he could wander straight back into Beirut again (it's Freedom of the Press!)
Obviously, if it's possible and not too damaging to our national goals, there is nothing wrong with the government helping Americans who find themselves in need of evacuation. But strangers in a strange land have no right to demand that this will always happen: when you travel to foreign countries, you assume the risk that something might happen to you.
You're not in the United States; you're in a separate sovereign nation. It's just like going to Singapore, committing a crime under Singaporese law -- and then demanding they not prosecute you because whatever you did isn't against the law in America (or maybe it is, but you don't get "caned" for it here).
Any traveler, regardless of where he is going, must have an emergency Get the Heck Out plan. The government is not always there to help, just like the cops can't always be there the moment you need them. Each individual must be resourceful, because he may be thrust upon his own resources.
A few years ago, I watched a documentary on TV about people who refused to be victims: they successfully escaped from dangerous situations, such as natural disasters and military coups in foreign countries. These people were mostly volunteer workers for non-governmental organizations -- the Peace Corps, religous missionary groups, Doctors Without Borders, and so forth.
They all came hoping for the best but prepared for the worst. None of them waited for somebody else to risk his own life to run help them, nor did they sit around in the dark, waiting for instructions. They individually found a way out for themselves and their companions.
What they had in common was that each had an escape plan going in. They had thought about the dangers and planned for them; when the worst happened, they followed their plans as best they could -- and they made it out alive when others dithered, waited for rescue -- and died.
So always bear it in mind: if you are unfortunate enough to get stuck, then unless the government sent you there in the first place, don't demand that somebody else save your bacon: you and only you are the one who assumed that risk... so pay for your own ticket, please.
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