Category ►►► Politics
August 11, 2013
Would I Lie to You?
One of my favorite scenes from the Tim Buton's first Batman film is when the Joker lures the good citizens of Gotham out to the streets with a wild parade and the promise of millions in cash. True to his word, he delivers as promised -- and poses a question to the crowd:
Who do you trust, indeed?
Rather the same can be said of the Obama administration. Not that Barry O is looking to slap a permanent smile on everyone's faces -- at least not the way the Joker would have it -- but his approach to the public has been somewhat simlilar. After throwing trillions of tax dollars at the public with promises of job growth, free health care and security for all, the country does seem to have very little to show for it. To wit, the "stimulus" amounted to little more than a public-sector union payoff. Obamacare, on the other hand, hasn't even implemented its death panels yet but has already proven to be an effective killer of full-time jobs. As for national security -- well, let's just say that Edward Snowden's revelations are the least of Obama's problems, what with Al Qaeda making us flee our embassies in the Middle East faster than businesses getting out of Detroit.
Add to that the ever-expanding IRS brouhaha and the lies about Benghazi, what you have here is a serious breach of trust -- and that presents a real problem for Obama, who has relied on his speechmaking along with a compliant press to maintain the facade that he's a stand-up guy. I think that's why the business with Snowden is so devastating, not to mention dangerous.
How so? Well, coming at the end of a long list of scandals, even Obama acolytes are starting to become less inclined to believe the president when he says that the NSA isn't spying on ordinary Americans. After all, an administration that would sic the IRS on its political enemies hasn't exactly earned the benefit of the doubt -- and it isn't that a big stretch to suggest that perhaps it might use intelligence gathered by the NSA for political purposes.
And here's where the dangerous part comes in. Knowing what I do about the NSA, I happen to believe that what they're doing is vital to the national security interests of the United States. I also happen to believe that Snowden, far from performing a public service, has actually placed this country in great peril with his shenanigans. The problem is that the Obama administration has so abused its powers that nobody has any reason to believe the president when he assures us that this time, everything is on the up and up. The end result, unfortunately, will be a constrained intelligence apparatus that can't do what it needs to do -- and that will, at some point, lead to an increased risk of terrorist attacks.
That's what happens when you lie first, and worry about the consequences later.
July 30, 2013
Yes, I know. Korso has been a tad hard to find in these pages lately, but I swear I've got an excuse! Lots of them, actually. But I won't bore you with any of that, not when there's plenty of other stuff I can bore you with. So let's get to it, shall we?
Ah, Tony the Weiner. What can I say?
We sure missed you, buddy. And after the all-Zimmerman-all-the-time coverage of the last few weeks, your return to the spolight couldn't have come at a better time. Sure, it must've been hard to top the last time your eminence came into prominence -- but you didn't let that hold you back, not for a New York minute. Carlos Danger? Sheer brilliance. And Sydney Leathers? That's just taking it to a whole new level, bro. You've given inspiration to legions of "Fifty Shades" fanfic writers. Salute your little soldier, my friend, cuz he done good.
Of course, not everyone is so enamored of the Weiner's return to pubic -- er, public -- life. One of them is Tina Brown, who posted her thoughts on the Daily Beast. While I certainly admire her coinage of the term "dicksmanship," the piece quickly descends into the kind of male bashing you might find on The View -- men can't be trusted with power, men take too many stupid risks, yada yada -- most of which is largely true, as anybody who has lived in a guys' dorm can readily attest; however, Brown's assertion that women aren't just as guilty of bad judgement in their own special ways strikes me as a bit sexist. Just ask Rielle Hunter. Or Monica Lewinsky.
Which brings us to my larger point: just why is it that we're seeing a vertiable sexplosion of risky behavior on the part of male politicians these days? After all, it's not just Tony the Weiner--there's Mayor Whatshisname Filner out in San Diego kissing the girls and making them cry. Al "Love Story" Gore also managed to squeeze in an affair while he wasn't asking his comely masseuse to release his second chakra. Then there's John Edwards. Jesse Jackson. Not to mention the Mack Daddy himself, Billy Bob Clinton. What is it with these guys?
Well, there is an answer -- but I don't think Tina Brown is gonna like it.
The reason these men do what they do isn't just because they're looking for nothin' but a good time (although that does play into it). The simpler -- and far uglier -- truth is that, by and large, they're allowed to get away with it. Take the Edwards example I listed above. Why would a man risk so much in the middle of his presidential nomination bid just so he could boink his videographer? Because he figured that because he was a Democrat, the mainstream press would dutifully look the other way -- and for a while, that's exactly what they did (until the National Enquirer did the job that "serious" reporters were unwilling to do).
And it's not only that. The culture also looks the other way, so long as the men behaving badly hold the correct political opinions. You support abortion and free birth control? Feel free to fool around on your wife and family! Hell, Teddy Kennedy -- that slice of bread in the famous waitress sandwich -- went to his grave lauded as a champion of women's rights, even after he let one drown in the back of his car.
So is it any wonder that Tony the Weiner thought he could get away with it? And even if he did get caught, did he have any reason to believe that he wouldn't be forgiven? Sorry ladies, but this is what enabling bad behavior in men gets you.
My advice? Expect more. You just might get it.
May 22, 2013
A Fifth of Lerner
If you'e the kind of person who sits in utter astonishment at the obvious, it might come as a surprise that Lois Lerner -- Overseer and Commissarette of the vaunted IRS Exempt Organizations Unit during the time it was administering free proctological exams to Tea Party groups -- has decided to invoke her Fifth Amendment rights rather than testify truthfully before Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-CA, 92%) committee hearings today. It is Lerner's attorneys, you see, who have advised her not to say anything further, ostensibly because doing so might make her tend to look bad. Otherwise, one imagines she'd be ready to sing like a down-home chanteuse auditioning to be the next American Idol. Right?
Well, in Lerner's defense it is possible that she's giving us the straight dope on her reasons for not testifying; but if this is indeed the case, it opens up some intriguing possibilities. Perhaps Lerner knows a little too much, and would rather not be in a position where she's forced to rat out anybody farther up the food chain. This seems as good an explanation as any, as taking the Fifth would circumvent her having to make the choice of either perjuring herself to protect her bosses or spilling the ugly truth about what's really been going on at the IRS. The takeaway: We've only scratched the surface of those wacky shenanigans. Don't change that dial, because there's lots more to come, folks!
No matter what we find out, though, of one thing we can be very certain: this scandal goes deep, and completely compromises the IRS's ability to act as a fair and impartial collector of taxes. It's more than just a matter of "rogue" employees and supervisors carrying out a political agenda. That this targeting of conservative groups went on for years without anyone at the IRS batting an eye speaks of an entirely corrupted culture at that agency -- something that isn't going to be solved by rounding up the usual suspects and giving them their walking papers.
The way I see it, we have two choices: we can either move over to a flat or FAIR taxing system and disband the IRS as we know it, or we have to completely reorganize the agency -- starting with making it illegal for its employees to be unionized. The National Treasury Employees Union directs over 90% of its political donations to the Democrat Party. So long as that remains the case, how in the hell are the American people supposed to trust the IRS not to resume business as usual once the scandal has passed?
May 18, 2013
Just in case you needed another reason to get all wee-weed up over the burgeoning IRS scandal, consider this: One of the factors often cited in Obama's victorious 2012 re-election bid was his campaign's formidable ground game. His get-out-the-vote efforts were superb, and probably made all the difference in what the polls were indicating would be a very close race. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, was clearly unable to match that effort himself, given that he got fewer votes than John McCain did back in 2008.
So what accounts for that difference?
Conventional wisdom tells us that there was just less enthusiasm for Mitt Romney last time around, and perhaps that's true; but one cannot discount the chilling effect that the IRS harassment of conservative grassroots groups must've had on their own get-out-the-vote efforts. What if these groups had been approved for non-profit status in a timely manner (as their progressive counterparts had), and had been allowed to operate during the election? Might they have mobilized more voters for Mitt Romney? And if they had, would it have made a difference in the outcome of the election?
Obviously, we can't know the answer to that question -- but it certainly is well within the realm of possibility. I think the Obama administration knew that too, which only taints the IRS further and makes their actions even more sinister. That a federal agency could be used by the party in power to suppress the vote of the opposition is beyond scary. It's downright terrifying.
December 4, 2012
Deal or No Deal
Apropos Dafydd's post below, here's what you can expect from the Fiscal Cliff "negotiations" going on in Washington right now. Listen carefully...wait for it now...
Can you hear it? The sound of crickets chirping?
The reason is twofold: One, Barack Obama isn't negotiating in good faith. He never has. The idea that Republicans will give a little on what they want and Democrats will give a little on what they want so that both parties can meet in the middle is a farce. That's because Obama's objective isn't to avoid the fiscal cliff -- it's to hike taxes as high as he can, and destroy the Republican Party in the process. Whether he accomplishes this by getting Republicans to cave on raising tax rates for upper income earners or by allowing the Bush tax rates to expire for everyone doesn't matter. Either way, Obama gets what he wants -- and with the MSM lackeys at his side, he'll lay the responsibility for what happens solely at John Boehner's feet.
Second, Obama doesn't care if we go over the Fiscal Cliff. A second term means that he doesn't have to worry about facing the wrath of voters, and in many ways the double-dip recession that will inevitably follow might actually help his cause of permanently remaking America into a quasi-socialist entitlement state. An even lousier economy will lead to an even greater demand for government services -- in other words, more dependency. That a lot of people out here in the real world will suffer greatly matters not a whit to Obama. The notion that he would do anything to avoid having a second recession taint his legacy is misguided at best, utter fallacy at worst.
It's time that Republicans wake up to the terrifying fact that Barack Obama isn't interested in what's best for the country; he's interested in what's best for ensuring a permanent leftist majority. The sooner they realize that -- and the sooner they approach the Fiscal Cliff negotiations with that in mind -- the better prepared they will be. This isn't like Ronald Reagan hammering out a deal with Tip O'Neill.
This is more like asymmetrical warfare. And we need a counterinsurgency -- now.
Update: John Barrasso of Wyoming gets it.
November 16, 2012
We truly are now living in a parallel universe. Apparently because of her ethnicity and sex, Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice should be immune from questioning by duly elected Senators in Congress:
A dozen female members of the House staunchly defended U.N. ambassador Susan Rice against Republican criticism over her remarks on the deadly Sept. 11 Libya attack, suggesting the GOP lawmakers' comments were racist and sexist.
"It is a shame that anytime something goes wrong, they pick on women and minorities," Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, the next chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told reporters Friday at a Capitol Hill news conference.
In case you missed it, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham expressed grave doubts about Rice's fitness to serve as Secretary of State, should Barack Obama nominate her to replace the outgoing Hillary Clinton. That's because Rice took to the airwaves to parrot the White House position that the Benghazi attacks weren't a terrorist act, even though the administration knew that was -- to use a Joe Bidenism -- a whole lot of malarkey.
That makes Susan Rice either a dupe or a liar, neither of which are qualities you look for in a Secretary of State.
What's really baffling about this is how these women of the House seem to think that Rice is this delicate, wilting flower in need of their protection. At the same time, they're suggesting that she's tough enough to represent America's interests against the various thugs, dictators and kleptocrats than run the rest of the world. In psychology, this is called cognitive dissonance. In layman's terms, I believe the expression is, "Huh?"
Here's what I suggest Republicans do: Bring the families of Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith and Chris Stevens up to Capitol Hill and have the defenders of Susan Rice explain to them in person how McCain's and Graham's questions are bigoted and racist.
A More Tangled Web
Oh, boy. Something is definitely afoot:
Former CIA Director David Petraeus testified in a closed-door hearing Friday morning that his agency determined immediately after the Sept. 11 Libya attack that "Al Qaeda involvement" was suspected -- but the line was taken out in the final version circulated to administration officials, according to a top lawmaker who was briefed.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who spoke to reporters after Petraeus testified before the House Intelligence Committee, indicated he and other lawmakers still have plenty of questions about the aftermath of the attack.
"No one knows yet exactly who came up with the final version of the talking points," he said.
King went on to say that Patraeus answered no when asked if the CIA director's affair had anything to do with him changing his testimony from the original "The video did it" story floated by Susan Rice and the Obama administration. Yeah, and Jimmy Hoffa is still alive and well and getting a tan in Costa Rica.
Right now, one imagines the Obama crew is scrambling to find somebody in the chain of information to blame for them "not knowing" about the terrorist angle. If I worked at CIA or the Department of State, I'd be looking to cover my behind with some well-timed leaks. We may yet find out what actually happened in Benghazi that night.
November 15, 2012
A Tangled Web
Scandals have a way of metastasizing. They start off one way, then before you know it the thing has spread in ways you would have never expected. Watergate started off as a "third-rate" burglary. The Clinton-Lewinsky impeachment drama arose from a real estate fraud investigation. And now we have the Benghazi affair, which just left-turned into a full-blown sexcapade involving a four-star general, the director of the CIA, a lovesick biographer, and a social climber from Tampa who -- for reasons still difficult to fathom -- had unfettered access to the upper echelons of military power.
For those of you who need the lay of the land (pun fully intended), here's the story so far.
As Dark Helmet asked after a dense bit of exposition in Spaceballs, "Everybody got that?" I hope so, because the whole thing is giving me a headache.
So how does this screwball comedy fit into the September 11 attacks in Benghazi? That's where it gets interesting. On September 15th, Petraeus gave testimony to Congress that backed up the Obama administration's assertion that the attacks were a spontaneous reaction to that anti-Mohammed video on YouTube -- a story that we now know to be false. More than that, Petraeus knew that story to be false when he gave his testimony. So why did he do it?
Charles Krauthammer posits that the White House held the affair over the director's head so that he would toe the party line. If this is true, not only is it the dirtiest kind of politics, it also points to a coverup of massive proportions. More than that, however, it means that the Obama administration deliberately allowed Petraeus to keep his job for several months, knowing that he was a tremendous security risk.
But that still begs an even harder question: Why reveal the Petraeus affair at all? If there was a conspiracy to shut Petraeus up about what he knew, the White House should have been perfectly content keeping the story under wraps. What then caused them to demand Petraeus' resignation last week?
There are only two answers that make sense. One, somebody involved in this tawdry mess was getting ready to blow it open, so the secret would get out regardless. In that case, it would have been in the administration's interest to get out in front of the ensuing scandal as much as possible. The other answer? Petraeus decided he wasn't playing ball anymore. As a military man with a sterling career, having led troops into battle countless times, he understands the meaning of honor. And in spite of his failures with Paula Broadwell, one would like to think that Petraeus would eventually reach the point where he just couldn't stomach the lies anymore.
At any rate, it'll be interesting to hear what he has to say to Congress in his testimony this week.
August 31, 2012
There certainly was some party rockin' in the house last night if you happened to be at the St. Pete Times Forum in the stripper city of Tampa, Florida USA! That the anarchist threat never materialized was an even bigger bonus (anarchy by its very nature doesn't lend itself well to organization), smoothing the way for Mitt Romeny's big moment. All in all, I'd say it was quite the smashing success.
I tuned in just in time to catch Clint Eastwood's remarks, which definitely weren't what I expected. I know some people didn't rate his performance very highly, but then most of them tended to be stuffed-shirt liberals with no sense of humor. Personally, I thought he was charming, coming on with a soft-sell appeal to centerist Democrats while getting in enough Obama zingers to please us right-wing zealots.
Then came Marco Rubio. Have I mentioned that I'm really proud that this guy is a Senator from my home state? He might have violated the Reagan Rule of not having more than a few token "I's" in any given speech, but he did it to spotlight how his own family's journey is yet another example of the miracle that is America. He spoke without apology about American exceptionalism -- a stark contrast to the Obama view that this nation is but one of many that think they're special. Resounding stuff. There's a reason the GOP has Rubio pegged as a rising star.
You would have thought that Mitt Romney would have had a tough time following that -- but you know what? He got the job done, and then some. Romney spend a lot of time with obvious appeals to women and moderates, but they were in no way gratuitous and they needed to be said. With all the phony "war on women" rhetoric spewed by Obama and his minions, Romney couldn't allow himself to be defined that way. Debunking those myths was crucial.
Another myth Romney demolished was the Democrat narrative of his time at Bain Capital. Romney not only talked about Bain, he owned it. He made no excuses for what the company did, reminding everyone of what Obama can't grasp: that in business, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Business is all about risk, and there are no guarantees. But you know what? That's also what freedom is all about. You succeed and you fail, but you never stop striving. That, my friends, is a real message of hope.
My favorite line of the night, though, was when Romney reminded everyone about Barack Obama's promises to quiet the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. Romney, meanwhile, promised to help America's families. The point was so clear, he might as well have made it with a sledgehammer: Who are you gonna believe? The guy pretending to be Superman? Or the guy who "just" wants to be president?
So even with the bar set pretty high, I think that Mitt Romney reached it. The speech was well-written, his delivery was warm and genuine (and pointed when necessary), and he really seemed to rally the troops. In other words, he did what he set out to do: make a lasting impression on the American people that will serve him well through election day.
Now the real fun begins.
February 18, 2007
I believe in many conspiracies: I believe that a bunch of jihadis conspired to hijack passenger jets and fly them into the World Trade Centers, for example. I also believe that Iran conspires with Muqtada Sadr to extend the former's influence into Iraq.
And I have long suspected that there is, at the least, a conspiracy of shared interests among the elite media in this country -- and many allies within the State Department, the CIA, academe, and such -- to destroy the Bush Administration and engineer the Republican loss of Congress (done) and the presidency (unlikely).
But I believe we are witnessing a rare instance of an out and out, traditional conspiracy among newspaper editors who actually made a deliberate decision to copy certain language from each other. See what strikes you about this New York Times article:
The Senate on Saturday narrowly rejected an effort to force debate on a resolution opposing President Bush’s troop buildup in Iraq....
The 56-to-34 vote in a rare Saturday session was the second time Republicans were able to deny opponents of the troop increase a debate on a resolution challenging Mr. Bush....
But the outcome, four votes short of the 60 needed to break a procedural stalemate....
Seven Republicans split from their party and joined 48 Democrats and one Independent in calling for a debate....
“We will be relentless,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the third-ranking Democrat. “There will be resolution after resolution, amendment after amendment, all forcing this body to do what it has not done in the previous three years: debate and discuss Iraq....”
A vote to open debate would have allowed the Senate to begin considering the identical language that was approved on Friday by the House....
Without 60 votes for the procedural motion, the Senate was unable to start debate.
I have never before seen a filibuster, the "procedureal stalemate" hinted at above, described as an attempt to prevent debate; in fact, it is the cloture vote -- which failed yesterday -- that is an attempt to end debate and actually bring a measure to a vote.
It was the Democrats attempted to cut off debate and actually vote on the Senate version of the House rebuke (not refutation) of President Bush's strategic change of course in Iraq, thus leaving us in the failed status quo (I'm certain that if they succeeded, the next vote would be one to withdraw the troops -- on the grounds that we hadn't changed a policy that was failing).
Certainly, no newspaper ever described the Democratic filibusters against dozens of presidential nominations to the federal bench as "cutting off debate" on those judges. Those actions were rightly described as preventing a final vote.
At the absolute most, the Republicans voted to prevent the start of final debate/voting on this particular non-binding resolution; but this is a peculiar use of the word "debate" that is part of Senate jargon. It doesn't mean "debate" in the normal, dictionary sense, as that has been going on continuously since before we invaded Iraq. There has been and continues to be ample opportunity to "debate the Iraq war" in the Senate:
- Whenever any appropriations, budget, or spending bill comes up in the Senate that in any way touches on the war, a debate on the war inevitably ensues;
- Debate over the war invariably breaks out during any other debate over a bill touching on the war, such as the bill currently before Congress to "fully implemenent" the 9/11 Commission recommendations, or the anti-terrorism bill, also currently before Congress;
- During any confirmation hearing involving any nominee even remotely associated with Iraq, the military, or an intelligence agency, another debate on the war spontenously erupts;
- During any testimony by any member of the administration -- yet another debate on the war;
- During any committee hearing or meeting on any subject whatsoever... you guessed it. Another debate.
- Finally, Majority Leader of the Senate Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) can, any time he wants, recognize members for an extended debate... on the Iraq war or any other topic he chooses.
None of these requires breaking a filibuster; the GOP can stop none of these debates from occurring... and they occur virtually every week of every month of every term, and have done so even back when the Republicans ran the joint. Rather than the symbolic debate on the war being stifled, it has virtually consumed the business of the United States Senate, to the exclusion of much real legislation (for example, consideration of the necessary spending bills for the current fiscal year, which have yet to be debated).
The Senate debates and debates and debates every aspect of the war, like a deranged, obsessed UFO nut going on about the "Greys" who have taken over Washington, Moscow, and Bermuda. But one element of the obsession is to insist that nobody is even debating the war -- the nutroots can't get a hearing! They don't get to make their points! Their freedom of speech is being denied! (Translation: the opposition wants to confuse matters by participating in the discussion, to paraphrase the late Robert Anton Wilson.)
And nearly every elite newspaper uses the same bizarre circumlocution to keep up the pretense that Republicans are denying Democrats "a debate" on the war.
The Washington Post was the most ambivalent; they alternated between calling the filibuster an attempt to prevent a vote (which is is) and an attempt to cut off debate (which it isn't):
With the 56 to 34 vote, Democrats fell shy of the 60 votes required to kick off debate on a nonbinding resolution passed by the House last week that expresses support for the troops but criticizes Bush's decision to expand combat ranks by more than 20,000 troops....
Seven Republicans voted with the Democrats to allow the debate to proceed.
The Los Angeles Times also slipped a pro-forma reference to the Democratic attempt to end debate as the attempt to initiate debate:
In addition to Collins, Republicans voting to debate the measure were Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Gordon H. Smith of Oregon, Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and John W. Warner of Virginia.
The Wall Street Journal slyly slips it in as part of a quotation from Sen. Robert Byrd (D-Bedlam, 95%) -- but allows the term "debate" to stand without debate (paid subscription required):
"The United States Senate, the greatest deliberative body in the world, is probably the only place in this great land where this debate is not taking place!" said 89-year-old Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune ("the Strib") took the easy way out, as usual; they reprinted the Washington Post article... but they added this bit at the top:
Sixty votes were needed to begin debate on the nonbinding measure, which would repudiate Bush's increase of troops.
In fact, of course, the Senate spent the entire day debating the non-binding resolution; Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK, 80%) was particularly scathing during this debate on Reid's demand that the senators all come in on Saturday and debate a futile and meaningless exercise in defeatism.
I thought at first that maybe all these papers took the phrase from the Associated Press; but I didn't recall the AP story from yesterday using it... and indeed, at least the one published yesterday in the Chicago Sun-Times does not:
The 56-34 vote fell four short of the 60 needed to advance a nonbinding measure identical to one the House passed Friday. Seven GOP senators broke ranks, compared with only two during an earlier test on the issue.
But if that is the case -- where did this amazing coincidence of terminology come from? The only other explanation that occurs to me is that editors at the other newspapers simply copied what the New York Times wrote, that the Republicans had "rejected an effort to force debate" on the Iraq war. I suspect they originally wrote their articles straight; but when they saw that artful bit of misdiction in "America's newspaper of record," the lower-tier editorial boards gushed, "What a great way to put it! Let's us do that as well."
I can't think of any other way that such a contorted and misleading phrasing, never before used, could appear on the same day in a half dozen major newspapers and probably dozens of minor ones.
Of all the major media stories I read, only the Chicago Tribune truly got it right:
In a rare Saturday session, one day after the House issued a stinging rebuke to President Bush's plan to boost the number of troops in Iraq, Senate Democrats were unable to muster the 60 votes necessary to end a Republican filibuster and pass what has become a symbol of resistance to the war....
Angry Republicans insisted that the language in question would demoralize American soldiers fighting in Iraq. And they rejected assertions that their filibuster was preventing the Senate from debating the merits of the war strategy.
"Here is the truth that the American people need to know: Republicans in the Senate have not prevented any debate over the war in Iraq," said Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.). "We are debating the war again today. We have debated the war in the past and we will continue to debate the war in the future.
So a tip of the hat to the Trib, and a raspberry to the rest of the fourth-estate tarts. For God's sake, gentlemen -- can't you leave off the inappropriate politicking for even a moment?
Ah, but I forget: "the personal is political," as the feminists constantly insist: thus, for newspaper editors who cut their teeth on the anti-war, anti-Republican protest movement of the late sixties (post-November 1968), whose entire existence is wrought up in their leftist politics, there is no sphere that is not essentially political; when they sit down to breakfast, they ponder the of geopolitical significance of eggs sunny-side up or hard-boiled.
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).
October 17, 2005
A Feast of Talk, and the Law of Barriers
Yesterday, Sachi and I attended the KRLA Talkfest at the Alex Theater in Glendale. Glendale is the home of (oddly enough) KRLA, the local conservative talk-radio station; KRLA carries Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, Hugh Hewitt, and Mike Gallagher... and they returned the favor Sunday by carrying the show at the Alex.
I had previously met Hugh and Dennis -- though of course Hugh stared blankly at me when I reintroduced myself to him. He recognized Big Lizards, though... so now you know that the way to a Hugh's heart is through a blog. He made the rather outlandish claim that he's been reading Big Lizards, which I took as a charitable white lie, an example of the kindness for which he is renowned in myth and legend.
Larry Marino, who has substituted for each of these gentlemen, was also present as the MC; Sachi had imagined a much older gentleman, but I had envisioned him as about eighteen; so if you average us out, our age estimate was right on the money. The format was simple: Larry would ask questions, and the quadrumvirate would pontificate for several minutes, lolling back on their stools and making lordly pronouncements. It was of course enthralling, though I longed to leap onto the stage and join the talkers (flashbacks of my days on panels at science-fiction conventions!)
Hugh directed every blogger present to go home and, when he blogged about this event, to include the following words: " ."
It was actually quite a humorous jape; but being the ornery cuss that I am, I instantly vowed not to quote it... so if you want to find out what the joke was, you'll have to read another blogger's take.
The questions were political and topical, like a tube of Cortizone cream. The best exchange occured over what to do about illegal immigration, and the disputants -- the two Mikes -- battled passionately. Gallagher's simplistic formulation, that we should just "send them all home," met with resounding applause; but Medved utterly stymied him by asking a simple question: how exactly did Gallagher propose doing so?
I pause for a moment. Return with us now to the thrilling days of yesteryear, shortly after the Pentagon and WTC attacks and our overthrow of the Taliban. Bill O'Reilly (I believe) had Phil Donohue as a guest [Sachi believes it could have been Dennis Miller, rather than Bill O'Reilly]. Donohue obstinantly rejected the Afghanistan War, insisting instead that what we really ought to do was just "go right in there and get bin Laden."
The subsequent exchange bordered on the surreal:
O'Reilly: Get him how?
Donohue: Just go right in there and get him.
O'Reilly: But how? How physically would you do it?
Donohue: I would just go right in there.
O'Reilly: Into Afghanistan? When it was still run by the Taliban?
Donohue: Yup... just go right in and get him.
O'Reilly: But how do you get bin Laden? He's surrounded by thousands of al-Qaeda terrorists and tens of thousands of Taliban troops!
Donohue: Right in there. There's no need to kill all those innocent people! We just go right in and get him.
O'Reilly: How many soldiers do you send?
Donohue: I said we didn't need to go to war.
O'Reilly: But how do you get him?
Donohue: Bill, I would just go right in there and get him!
We skip forward four years to yesterday's KRLA Talkfest once more. Karl Marx's wonderful rumination on historical cycles perfectly describes the verbal tennis match between Medved and Gallagher: "History always repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, and the second time as farce." (Karl Marx, the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.) But somehow, a repetition of the O'Reilly-Donohue dialog must have skulked past unnoticed, because Gallagher's repeated refrain of "I would just kick them all out" was surely more farcical than tragic! No matter how Medved tried to pin him down on specifics, Gallagher simply kept repeating the phrase over and over, like an audio clip trapped in an infinite loop.
Hugh finally interrupted, playing referee, and offered his own point, which he amplified later during audience Q&A, that it was in fact possible to get all the illegal aliens out of the United States... but only if Congress imposed upon corporate officers a fine so massive or prison time so lengthy that none of them would hire any illegal aliens ever (or possibly any legal ones, either).
Alas, such a draconian "solution" would impact the American economy so drastically that it would throw us into a recession that would fling far more Americans into unemployment that could possibly be displaced by the illegal population itself. In other words, the economic version of exsanguination, a "cure" more deadly than the disease.
However, Hugh added a codicil to the effect that whatever we decide to do about the illegales, the solution must include "building a wall." I take that as synecdoche for strengthening border security in general, which may include a wall (or fence) but also signficantly increasing the Border Patrol, strengthening punishments for aiding and abetting illegal entry or hiring illegals, and so forth.
Here is where I most wished to enter the fray. I longed to quote ab Hugh's Law of Barriers:
There is no wall, no matter how high or thick, that can be secured against a million peasants with pitchforks trying to knock it down.
Before any wall can be built, no matter how metaphorical, we first must sharply reduce the number of pitchforks. The only way to stop people from trying to batter down your wall is to build them a gate. We must drastically reform our entire immigration system to make it much easier for honest, decent, hard-working foreigners of good moral character to enter, work, earn money, and then either stay or leave as they choose.
There are many advantages: first, there is no controversy among economists... we need those migrant workers to pick strawberries and other agricultural crops. We need them to program our computers, clean our buildings, and build our sun decks.
Besides the purely economic need, America needs a constant influx of new blood, new ways of thinking, and new cultures... so long as the immigrants themselves are forced to assimilate. This is a point that Dennis Prager stressed with a great deal of vim (and volume). In a very literal sense, America was built by immigrants, but immigrants who had every intention of becoming Americans -- not living as Poles, Russians, Chinese, or Mexicans in exile.
Our schools should indoctinate both the children of immigrants and the native born in what it means to be an American -- and why the immigrants left their home countries in the first place. Our civic, cultural, and religious institutions should echo, not fight this message. And the government should not merely encourage but require assimilation as a necessary condition to continued guest-worker privileges.
Nobody not born here has the "right" to live here; but we need immigration as much as the immigrants need a country of greatness and opportunity: ours is a symbiosis of spirit... so long as we honor both sides of this voluntarily chosen social contract.
Finally, we cannot, like France, live securely with a permanent fifth column within the city walls. We must completely absorb these people, and that means citizenship. Now, there is a higgledy-piggledy collection of contradictory and opaque immigration laws that nobody is able to follow, not even immigration attorneys -- or the bureaucrats at the INS.
These must be swept away and replaced by a compact, crystaline progression of steps by which a desirable immigrant who truly wants to become an American can traverse the path from guest to citizen. He should be able to check off the steps one by one, like a pawn advancing to the last row, where he finally stands and takes the oath. But the progression should also allow immigration officials to swiftly identify those who do not belong here and swiftly deport them before they have a chance to hurt us
Thus every immigrant, whether guest or nascent naturalized citizen, will be an integral part of the community... in contrast to the European model, where immigrants are virtually indentured servants forced into degraded slums that breed treachery and terrorism. Ask the ghost of Theo Van Gogh.
It may seem we have wandered far afield, but in fact, this was the most significant exchange of the show, which all by itself earned the price of admission ($45 ea. for the good seats). So let me finish my thought.
Security must be of paramount concern at all levels of the immigration cycle:
- Those who apply must undergo a records and fingerprint/DNA check, just to make sure they're not already wanted.
- We must develop a "Smart Green Card" encoded with biometrics (fingerprints, face scan) and an immigration number; whenever an immigrant is arrested or convicted -- or receives welfare, requires a Child Protective Services intervention, or is found to be addicted to drugs or alcohol -- that fact is appended to his file; negative events such as these accrue "minus points" on the path to citizenship or even continued guest privileges (make it appealable, in case there are mitigating circumstances). Likewise, positive events -- charitable works, continuing education, professional accreditation, honorable service in the United States military, and suchlike -- earn positive points.
- You make a gate, and everyone who crosses the border at any of the gates must pass through automated booths that require insertion of the Smart Card; they scan his face and palm print, and if everything checks out, the front doors open in a second or two, admitting the guest. If the immigrants "point total" falls below the security/desirability threshold, the side door opens instead, and he can explain himself to the friendly Border Patrol agents.
- And with such automatic access to the front door for the law-abiding, anyone trying to cross the border anywhere else can be assumed to be up to no good and treated accordingly. As I said in an earlier post on another blog, if a business allows easy access during business hours through the front door, then anyone entering through the window at night can reasonably be considered a burglar.
Since studies show that 90%+ of all illegal immigrants are not, in fact, criminals in any other aspect than that (and related crimes, such as obtaining false documentation), regularizing and automating the traffic of otherwise law-abiding immigrants would reduce the illegal traffic to a small fraction of what it is today: your wall will no longer need to keep out a million determined immigrants each year, but only a few thousand of the most dangerous... and that, as Israel is proving today, is imminently possible.
The rest of Talkfest was interesting but of less moment than this argument, which is surely one of the two most critical fissures within the conservative community (the other being excess spending, of course).
© 2005-2013 by Dafydd ab Hugh - All Rights Reserved