Category ►►► Speech, Speech!
March 9, 2013
Early Warning Censor
Scratch a leftist, find a bluenose censor.
Progressivists love to pose as avant-garde, post-partisan worshippers of free speech; but to the Left, that has always meant only one thing: That everybody has the freedom to espouse leftist positions.
The moment the sinistrosphere captures majority control of any institution, all speech that contradicts the current Party catechism is immediately suppressed, and the speakers assailed as violently as the Left can manage. The Weathermen, the Morituri, ELF, ALF, Greenpeace, Fink Progress, La Raza, the Rainbow Coalition, the CBC, and Eric Holder's Department of Injustice -- none of these is a fluke. To a Progressivist, throttling dissent is just one of those eggs that needs to be broken to make the liberal omlet.
This applies not only to overt speech (always suspect to lefties), but even in the realm of "non-speech" freedom of speech -- everything from dance as speech, to flag-burning, to occupiers, strippers, and every other mechanism of nonverbal communication that leftists normally exalt: The purpose is never to give people of opposing viewpoints any liberty or forum to express their cockamamie opinions; its use is restricted to furthering world socialism.
Nothing could make this clearer than the Left's war on pornography: When Progressivist protesters want to strip naked to demonstrate against fracking, against voter-ID laws, against school choice, and in favor of unfettered abortion right up until a year after the baby is born, that display of naked rage is a sacred right that shall not be infringed. But woe betide models or porn actors who voluntarily choose to display themselves for profit, in print, video, or online; for the Left will clamp down viciously on such unauthorized (and unenlightened) exposure of one's own body.
That is why the Demi Moore vehicle Striptease (1996) was lauded by Hollywood in an overflow of praise, while the superficially similar Showgirls was lambasted, and many associated with it blacklisted and later forced to recant and make public apologies (a favorite punishment imposed by Progressivists; cf. Josef Stalin). Here is the distinction that makes all the difference: Demi Moore's character has lost her daughter in a custody fight following a divorce from her crooked and abusive husband; she's a victim of patriarchy! All the nudity and erotic dance is in service to showing how women are exploited and held down by sexism, racism, and homophobia.
But Elizabeth Berkeley's character in Showgirls (1995) freely chose to be a stripper, then a Vegas showgirl; she is tough, determined, knows what she wants in life, and allows nobody to exploit her. She owns herself and calls all the shots. She is no victim; therefore, nudity and sexual content are anathema when the woman has exercised her freedom of choice voluntarily. She's wandered off the victimhood plantation!
Berkeley has barely worked since then. The writer, Joe Eszterhas, as more or less disappeared from the scene as well. The director of Showgirls, Paul Verhoeven, after being savaged in the industry press for his "sick" and "debasing" movie, eventually tried to expiate his sins by directing -- and deliberately trashing -- Starship Troopers (1997). He turned Robert A. Heinlein's tour de force paean to individual freedom into what the movie's own pitch package described as a "glorious celebration of fascism."
(Verhoeven famously bragged that he hated the Heinlein novel so much, he never got past the second chapter; n.b. fewer than thirty-five pages of the paperback. He inverted everything in the book to make it appear as though it advocaed xenophobic racism and a fascist state -- take that, Heinlein! The attacks on Verhoeven ceased, but his career still seems more or less over.)
Which brings us, by a commodious vicus of recirculation, back to the international Left and its peculiar love-hate relationship with pornography; for yesterday, we learnt that a strong majority of members of the European Parliament (MEPs) plan to vote to ban all forms of pornography in the European Union, whether print, video, film, or even internet sites.
This monumental act of censorship is being pushed because of what the EuroLeft calls "a bid to 'eliminate gender stereotypes' that demean women":
The proposal "calls on the EU and its member states to take concrete action on discrimination against women in advertising... [with] a ban on all forms of pornography in the media".
Kartika Liotard, a Dutch left-wing feminist MEP, is seeking "statutory measures to prevent any form of pornography in the media and in advertising and for a ban on advertising for pornographic products and sex tourism", including measures in the "digital field".
The MEPs are also demanding the establishment of state sex censors with "a mandate to impose effective sanctions on companies and individuals promoting the sexualisation of girls".
This particular vote is non-binding; but it's the first step along the road towards legislating an enforceable ban on anything the EuroLeft deems, in its unbiased and nonpartisan wisdom, to be "pornography," "discrimination against women," or "gender stereotypes."
While many conservatives might wish something could be done about pornography, their desire to censor is inhibited by a respect for freedom of speech, plus the understanding that once the State gains authority to define and ban "pornography," then anything the Left dislikes can be so labeled -- thus banned as well:
- Al Gore might well believe that climate "denialism" is obscene and needs to be expunged from the world.
- Michael Bloomberg would be overjoyed to censor all advertising for (or even mention of) products and services he personally disdains, such as sugary drinks, alcohol, or cigarettes.
- And the scrawny, pasty, lumpy members of the Center for Science in the Public Interest are just itching to be able to ban all fatty cuisines -- Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Jewish, et al -- on the grounds that such foods "discriminate against women," because overweight women are "demeaned" and taunted by sexual predators -- i.e., men.
Once the State says, "Adult women are not mature enough to handle certain kinds of speech, visual depictions, or the very idea of sexual practices other than those authorized by law," it infantilizes the entire female population... which is far more demeaning and discriminatory than pornography itself. The Left may as well pat women on the head and say, "There, there, don't bother your pretty, little head about such awful things."
The mind boggles: I just saw a play titled the Deep Throat Sex Scandal in the dying heart of the crumbling city of lost angels; it humorously recounted the making of the most successful porn movie in history (worldwide take in the hundreds of millions of dollars) and the succession of criminal trials that followed in its wake.
A prosecutor in Memphis, Tennessee filed criminal indictments for obscenity and conspiracy against the producer, director, distributers, and even one of the actors (Harry Reems) in the movie -- which was made entirely in New York City; none of the actors had ever even set foot in Tennessee before being hauled in by indictment or subpoena. The case ultimately went to the Supreme Court, where the prosecutor argued that if you make a movie in New York, and later someone shows that movie in Tennessee, the New York actors can be prosecuted where they never were for something that is not illegal where they actually were.
The Court disagreed.
As I watched the play (it boasted a large amount of full-frontal nudity, which was of course the main reason I bought a ticket), I was thinking that they had it all turned roundabout: They blamed all the porn censorship on rock-ribbed, Bible-thumpin' Baptists and babbittry. But they're behind their times; the New Right supports freedom of speech as against suppression of pornography. It's the New Left that has taken up the silencing man's burden of telling the rest of us what we're allowed to say, allowed to hear, and allowed to think; and it has been the Left for decades.
The ban does not appear to have much to do with ending the demeaning of women; so far as I can tell from the article, the ban would apply equally to lesbian pornography, even that which is completely empowering to women. And it wouldn't apply to Bill Clinton.
But I'm quite certain exceptions would be made for works with "redeeming social purposes," which in practice would mean whenever sex is used to sell leftist propaganda, as in Striptease. Or for that matter, as in Starship Troopers, which includes full-frontal nudity in service of slandering one of America's best Capitalist writers and the most successful advocate of liberty and libertarianism in the holy realm of science fiction.
It's always tempting to censor, control, suppress, silence, and eliminate opposing viewpoints; in our meaner moments, duct-taping their mouths seems so much easier and more satisfying than merely arguing. But to reject the very foundation of Western liberal democracy -- free and open inquiry, freedom of speech, and even freedom to do things that we ourselves may find distasteful and even "demeaning" -- is to fling ourselves from the mild heat of injudicious use of liberty into the roaring hellflames of totalitarianism.
The Left finds that bargain acceptable. The Right demurs.
August 29, 2012
Christie Critics Versus the Popular Front for Liberty
Several people have bashed yesterday's convention speech by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey; I name no names, but you know who you are. (Yes, I'm talking to you, Chris Wallace, and you too, Juan Williams!) The argument is that Christie spent too much time talking about ideas, philosophy, the future, and his ample self, and not much time at all savaging Barack "You didn't build that" Obama or buttering up the actual nominee (official now), Willard Mitt Romney.
I say that's all a bunch of hogwarts. That criticism tells me only that Messrs. Wally and Willy utterly fail to understand the extraordinary and irreversible change wrought, not by tea partiers (they are only one manifestation of the movement), but by the popular front for liberty that coalesced on February 19th, 2009 -- just thirty days after President B.O. was anointed, adored, and installed upon the Hog-Butcher Throne.
On that day, CNBC business editor Rick Santelli denounced the Obamic scheme to refinance defaulted mortgages. George W. Bush had pushed through Congress a plan to re-value the "troubled assets," mostly mortgage-backed securities (MBSs) that banks were holding as reserves, but whose values were a complete mystery, even to the banks themselves. But Obama radically altered that sensible plan in favor of a populist, Progressivist scheme to reward something-for-nothing borrowers for buying far more house than they could afford, and taking out mortgages they couldn't possibly repay.
Santelli exploded on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (how apt!), railing against the loss of liberty, individuality, personal responsibility, truth, justice, and the American way. To whoops and cheers among the CME traders, he even called for them to hurl those debased and valueless MBSs into the Chicago River, à la the Boston Tea Party.
Santelli didn't start the fire; individual flickers, flare-ups, and hot spots had hissed and spit over the previous decade. But on that day of freedom, he pulled together all these slow-burning fuses and bound them into a true popular front for liberty, independence, Capitalism, and Americanism. He sparked a simultaneous explosion of revulsion at crony capitalism (its other name is "Liberal Fascism") and an explosive determination to rebuild America -- not via yet another radical socioeconomic "revolution;" more like a religious revival, restoring what the United States had been missing since some time before the "Progressivist" era of anti-Constitution, anti-Founding Father Woodrow Wilson. Americans began to crave more liberty and less government.
Since then, tea-party movements have erupted in every state of the Union. They seized control of the Republican Party in the 2010 midterm elections (and particularly in the primaries that preceded the general), and now the popular front for liberty looms large to take the country itself by storm on November 6th.
Personally, I love this movement; it's just what has been lacking in all previous attempts (including Reagan's) to roll back socialism and Progressivism and return to individual liberty, self sufficiency, and honest Capitalism that Alexis De Tocqueville extolled in Democracy in America.
I have writ rhapsodies in red about the popular front for liberty stretching back to February 20th, 2010 (almost on the anniversary of Santelli's revivalist rant), encompassing nineteen blogposts since then (see below). But those critics of Christie's speech -- did you think I'd forgotten the subject? -- have fallen into the trap of "same as it ever was." They cannot break free of the red meat, attack dog paradigm of twentieth-century campaigns.
Wally and Willy pooh-pooh the Christie speech because he didn't rake Obama over the barbecue pit personally, by name; Christie didn't run down his policies, peculiarities, and pomposities; his diction, gait and sartorial sense; his patterns of pronunciation, prandial pleasures, haircut hilarities, taste in tobacco; his earballs and earmarks, and every word he has ever uttered, including "and", "of", and most especially his very favorite word: "I". (There's no "we" in "narcissism"!)
The speech crickets want to make this contest, every contest, a clash of titanic personalities. They don't understand that this crucial election is not a choice of chumps; it's a long-overdue Armageddon of axioms and ideas.
Christie very ably (and subtlely!) articulates the ideology of the popular front for liberty: self-reliance, traditional American virtues, American exceptionalism, Capitalism, limited government (limited in size, scope, and especially reach), balanced budgets, low taxes, and even lower spending.
He did not need to throw Obama under the Romney campaign bus. Christie stakes his argument on the moral clarity of tea-party ideas and ideology.
Over the past few months, Barack Obama's character-assassination squads have spent hundreds of millions of dollars (quite literally) portraying Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and Republicans in general as bigots, racists, one-percenter plutocrats, and homophobes; bitter-clingers, furiously waging a war against all women; a war driven by rage, impotence, misogyny, and seething hatred.
Many undecided voters must have tuned into the Republican National Convention with trepidation, wondering if they would see howling jackals slavering over their raw meat and bloody petrodollars. After all, that's what the President of the Untied States warned them they would see.
So the last thing in the world we need at this convention is an angry, denunciatory speech attacking Barack Obama. It would play right into his clenched fist.
The time for that raw anger has come, and it has gone. Now is the time for up-tempo, upbeat speeches of hope -- real hope founded on a workable plan to defibrillate the economy and jumpstart the job market -- and change... change back to what has made America unique ever since its founding: We are the only country in the world founded on the basis of a capitalist economy and an ideology of individual liberty, utterly unlike the mass, interest-group, faux "liberté" of the French Revolution, which perverted the very idea of true liberty.
Liberty can only apply to individuals, not marching mobs; that true liberty is what has made us the greatest nation that has ever existed, not only in power but the most moral national as well; whence comes our powerhouse economy (even today), and why we have universally, if sometimes grudgingly, been accepted as the last resort of conscience against tyranny in the world.
But the advance of liberty is occasion for joy, not ugly rage: The speeches at the RNC must be uniformly positive, futurist, and Reaganesque.
If they are, Americans will be stunned by the chasm between what they're watching on the screen, and the vile distortion and caricature they were sold by the Democrats. Voters will finally perceive how they have been lied to and disrespected by Obama and all the president's men. Barack Obama will bear the brunt of that backlash, and the election will become a referendum between Reaganesque and Nixonesque.
That will be the tipping point, where a narrow victory for Romney, without coattails, turns into an utter rout of Progressivism -- with a firm mandate for the popular front for liberty.
Chris Christie's speech may not be the "same as it ever was," "usual suspects," red-meat affair that liberal Democrat Juan Williams hoped to see; instead, it is an extremely effective "new way" argument for the twenty-first century. It carries the virtue that even folks who like the Big Stick as a person can nevertheless reject his ideas in the ballot box. With clear conscience and no lingering taint of racism, voters can punch the chad for a return to the Constitution-based politics of Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln.
To which I can only say, about bloody time!
A list of posts containing nontrivial discussions of the popular front for liberty:
- What Makes Lefty Run?
- Palin and Reagan: Together Again for the First Time
- Tea Partiers Draw Their Foot in the Sand
- Inglorious Results of an Overspent Youth
- So Comfortable in Corruption, They Needn't Even Dissemble
- Salt of the Earth: One Size Fits None
- The Surreality-Based Community
- The Cleaver Conundrum - and the Brilliance of Breitbart's Bucks
- A Capital Idea
- An Excellent Mystery
- Pyrrhic Evictory - the World Nods to the Lizards
- Miller vs. Murkowski: What If...?
- What's in Your Wallet... That Won't Be There Tomorrow?
- Democrat Campaign Grand Strategy: Money Will Save Our Seats!
- Bottoming Out: the Commonest Manifesto
- The War on Judgment
- Can't Buy Me Love - But How About Reelection?
- The Permanent Floating Unbalanced Budget Act of 2011
- Predictions, Predilictions UPDATED
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
June 11, 2012
How's the Economy? Minder Your Own Business!
Anybody remember the "minders" in Saddam Hussein's Iraq? They were government officials always standing just out of camera range during press interviews with ordinary Iraqis, observing hawklike everything was said shown. Any anti-Hussein or pro-democracy sentiment that popped up, the minders would immediately stop the interview and order the news team not to broadcast, write about, or otherwise relay that information (and generally "disappear" the interviewee); if the journalists refused to comply -- or if they pretended to comply and later broadcast it anyway -- that news agency was banned from reporting within Iraq.
But the most shameful aspect of the Iraqi minders was... news agencies agreed to those conditions and didn't even alert viewers or readers; the producers and talking heads were so greedy for access, they passively accepted Iraqi government censorship -- turning ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, AP, Reuters, AFP, and hundreds of other broadcasters and newspapers into de facto mouthpieces for the Butcher of Baghdad, for the privilege of visiting Iraq to prance and preen and strut their celebrity before the world.
(The fledgling Fox News, to its astonishing credit -- and one maor reason its credibility and viewership grew exponentially during the late 1990s -- refused to cooperate with this fraud; it smuggled raw footage out of Iraq that the minders had banned and even managed to conduct interviews without any minders at all. For their courage, they were the first American news agency banned from Iraq. Eventually, nearly all of them were, but not until all the rest had convicted themselves of poltroonery, ignominy, and infamy.)
Well... it appears that Marx was slightly wrong when he opined that history repeats itself twice, first as tragedy, then as farce. In this case, the Obama administration skipped the tragedy stop entirely and went directly to the end-of-the-line farce:
The Labor Department has backed off a plan to force news agencies to use government-issued computers and other equipment to report on jobless reports and other key economic data, following a GOP-led House hearing this week, according to several published reports. [Actually, they just moved the start date back; so far as I can see, they still plan to do it. -- DaH]
Agency officials have said they want reporters who analyze, then write about economic reports inside their so-called “lock up” room to use U.S. computers, software and Internet lines so the government can further protect against such potential security breaches as hacking.
But the plan also resulted in cries about potential free-speech violations and the government now having computer access to news agencies.
I think I understand: The administration simply wants to "mind" what every economic reporter at the Labor Department writes -- just to make sure no secret data is leaked, of course; and also to ensure that these reporters don't "hack"... what, the Bureau of Labor Statistics databases?
Heavens, what's all the fuss? All that Barack "Big Stick" Obama and ultraliberal, unionista Labor Secretary Hilda Solis want is the ability to review reporters' stories before they're transmitted to the news agencies and make tiny changes... just to correct the record, of course. And to prevent sabotage, false reporting, and defamation of the government at such a crucial moment in the fierce urgency of now.
What could possibly go wrong?
"This proposal threatens the First Amendment," Bloomberg News Executive Editor Dan Moss said during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing. "The government would literally open the reporters’ notebooks."
First Amendment, shmerst amendment; we all need to speak with one voice to avoid destructive partisanship. And destructive debate, contrarian contamination, and free-market folderol. If these reporters were patriotic Americans, why should they mind being restricted to using federal-government computers to write their stories? Why all the conspiracy mongering?
Sidebar: My wife Sachi works for the federal government. Her work computer is directly connected to the Department of Defense server.
So long as Sachi's computer is physically connected to the base intranet, the IT department -- or anyone up the chain working through the IT department -- can turn her computer on or off, read any or all of the files, modify any or all files, create and delete files, install or uninstall any programs, and in fact, can simply take control of the computer and do anything IT wants. "Sachi's" computer is actually the federal government's computer, and it can monitor, alter, or take control whenever it chooses, without even telling her. (Many times she has come back from a business trip and found files, folders, and even entire applications removed or replaced -- and all her passwords deactivated, until she laboriously resets them. That's life in Big Government.)
I am quite certain that the computers in the Labor Department's "lock up" room -- the computers that Obama and Solis would require reporters to use to write and transmit their stories -- are connected to the DoL server in exactly the same way that Sachi's computer is connected to the DoD server.
What could possibly go wrong?
I suggest that Big Stick Obama had better tread softly while trampling out freedom of the press (but he won't): He has already lost much of Big Labor (the Keystone pipeline, throwing Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett under the Wisconsin bus); the enviro-mental cases (treating Rio-2012 like it was just a street party, failing to implement carbon-trading or ban fracking, talking up nuclear power); the Center-Left (national-security leaking, destruction of our energy resources, foolhardy foreign policy); the anti-American, pro-radical-Islamist Left (failing to close Guantanamo Bay, continuing to fight the Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- however fecklessly -- and not giving Khalid Sheikh Mohammed a civilian trial); and independents (ultra-partisanship, race war, telling fairy tales about the American economy while flushing trillions of dollars down the sewer).
If the president loses what used to be called the mainstream media, who will be left to claim that Obama can cool the Earth, heal the sick, and order the tides in and out?
January 24, 2012
President Obama's State of the Onion, Boiled Down Edition for You to Stew Over
I take it as given that none of you bothered watching the president's SOTO (we certainly didn't), not desiring any more brain rot than you already get reading AP or the New York Tombs ("All the news we see fit to print!") But just in case your curiosity gets the better of your cerebral cortex, and so you needn't waste time reading a transcript of the speech or (gad!) listening to it on YouTool, Big Lizards has prepared a précis of our precious president's presentation.
It won't take long:
Friends, cronies, benefactors, and fellow citizens of the world. From this point on, I promise to govern like a Republican.
(Nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more.)
I'd like to thank each guest in the audience for the $4,000; your rubber chicken will be served momentarily. We now return you to your regularly scheduled pogrom.
Big Lizards: All the news you can eat!
November 5, 2011
Absolute Freedom of Speech - Progressivist Style
This blogpost isn't about the low-hanging fruit; these fruits have already dropped into the mud and are starting to rot.
ACORN -- remember them? -- have evidently been embarassed by yet another scandal: They were caught red-handed (such a glorious phrase!) funneling money to fuel the Occupiers, on Wall Street and Elsewhere, and even paying their own members to make signs and join the protests. Fox News reports and you decide:
The former New York office for ACORN, the disbanded community activist group, is playing a key role in the self-proclaimed "leaderless" Occupy Wall Street movement, organizing "guerrilla" protest events and hiring door-to-door canvassers to collect money under the banner of various causes while spending it on protest-related activities, sources tell FoxNews.com.
The former director of New York ACORN, Jon Kest, and his top aides are now busy working at protest events for New York Communities for Change (NYCC). That organization was created in late 2009 when some ACORN offices disbanded and reorganized under new names after undercover video exposes prompted Congress to cut off federal funds.
So now, ACORN -- sorry, I meant NYCC -- has formulated its official response to disclosure of its covert ops... and it's a doozie:
Officials with the revamped ACORN office in New York -- operating as New York Communities for Change -- have fired staff, shredded reams of documents and told workers to blame disgruntled ex-employees for leaking information in an effort to explain away a FoxNews.com report last week on the group’s involvement in Occupy Wall Street protests, according to sources.
NYCC also is installing surveillance cameras and recording devices at its Brooklyn offices, removing or packing away supplies bearing the name ACORN and handing out photos of Fox News staff with a stern warning not to talk to the media, the sources said.
The depths of censorship, thought suppression, and manufactured unanimity to which NYCC is willing to stoop is positively Stalinist; only the hapless futility and hair-on-fire panic among the tree-nuts transmute base tyranny into lowbrow comedy. These are not your grandfather's totalitarians!
NYCC is also monitoring its staff’s behavior, cracking down on phone use and socialization. Officials have ordered all papers -- even scraps -- to be shredded every night, the source said.
"And all the supplies -- everything around the office that said 'ACORN' -- is now all in storage until this blows over," the source said. "People literally have to cover up the cameras on the back of their cellphones in the office."
"Now there’s no texting in the office, no phone calls in the office. They tell us to take our phone calls out into the waiting room where there’s an intercom, and then they turn on the intercom to hear our conversations. They’re installing new cameras and speakers around the building so they can hear everything.
"It’s almost like working at Fort Knox." [Emphasis added -- DaH]
No, Ace; it's like working in the Kremlin.
The level of censorship, driven by sheer paranoia, that permeates the Left may be comical; but such fear of exposure is also immanent (or inherent) in the ideology of socialism, in all its forms. Perhaps David Bohm would say it was part of the implicate or enfolded order that overlies all specific characteristics of the ideology; real-world details -- such as the crushing of of freedom, including freedom of speech -- unfold in all their inglory whenever socialist dogma meets reality.
Censorship and gag-orders are unfolded by application of the the Fundamental Syllogism of Socialism:
- Socialism is, at its core, rule by "expert" administrators; cf. Otto von Bismark's administrative state.
- Its model is that a handful of experts, freed from the interruptions of competition between factions (and of course the competition inherent in capitalism), can sort through all the data, separate fact from fallacy, and chart the course that serves the greater good.
- But the illogical, uninformed yammering of ordinary people, non-experts, wastes time and distracts the experts from their vital, urgent work. Normally the latter can just ignore the former; but when the situation is tense, they haven't that luxury.
- Thus, during a crisis, everyone but the experts must shut the heck up.
- Alas, as things fall apart (since socialism doesn't work in real life), we always seem to be in a crisis.
- Ergo, the peons should just shut up, keep shut, and shut up shuttin' up!
And there you have it: "Progresso" brand freedom of speech -- now with extra nuttiness! Maybe we need to Occupy ACORN.
January 26, 2011
Obligatory SOTU Set-to
The short version: For the first time in, z'ounds, thirty years or more, I found that -- after hearing a few excerpts of Lucky Lefty's oration -- any desire actually to watch the thing just drained away. Not only didn't I watch it, I casually and without a qualm deleted it off the DVR.
The Obamunist simply has nothing to say that I care to hear, and I have nothing to say about the State of the Onion report. So it goes.
The long, lugubrious version: I did listen to Paul Ryan's (R-WI, 96%) abbreviated rebuttal; it wasn't bad, but Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-MN, 100%) non-response response was much, much better: It was even shorter than Ryan's but included more specific proposals, for example mentioning the various policies with which House Republicans seek to replace ObamaCare.
But if I'm honest, I have to say that a speech, anybody's speech, is mere entertainment. Imagining that a great speech, by itself, will profoundly change anything is magical thinking.
A speech is an argument; a great speech is a killer argument. But even a killer argument must eventually be implemented... and thereby hangs the tail. I revere Ryan not for his pretty speech today but for his Roadmap for America's Future, about which we blogged here last August; the Roadmap gives fairly detailed and precise GPS (Government Pruning and Slashing) directions to Congress; enact them, and we veer away from the abyss and return, in a reasonable length of time, to fiscal, martial, political, and educational sanity.
Run away from them, and we end up in the quarry pit, covered by tons of rocks and dirt, with a bulldozer sitting atop us. And dang, not a single rocket in the launchers!
I'm more of a big-picture guy; but that too is more important than the pretty speech by Paul Ryan -- or a speech by the pretty Michele Bachmann. I've tried to point out how ridiculous is our current "dilemma," as it is an entirely self-created self-immolation:
- We lack domestic energy resources because we have chosen not to develop our own natural domestic energy resources.
- Our enemies have billions of dollars to spend attacking us because we pay them billions of dollars for their oil... which we needs must do because of (1) above.
- We lose freedoms every day because terrorists attack us... which happens because of (2) above, and because we have chosen not to implement proven behavioral profiling protocols.
- The health-insurance market and free-enterprise medicine are breaking down because we have chosen to regulate the market and free enterprise medicine out of existence.
- We have a staggering Social Security and Medicare unfunded liability because we have chosen not to invest the confiscated moneys (better, to allow the contributers to invest the moneys themselves) in financially productive investment instruments, preferring instead to spend the supposedly sequestered funds on day-to-day expenses. (If a private company treated its pension funds the way government does, the entire BoD and all corporate officers would spend twenty years as guests of the state.)
- We have an education crisis because we have rejected expansion of successful private and parochial schools and homeschooling in favor of the factory model of the early Industrial Revolution, when the point of "education" was to teach prospective workers how to read the directions on a lathe or drill press.
- We have rampant crime because we have seized every opportunity to loose criminals upon society, due to grotesquely misbegotten empathy with evil.
- We have a teen-sexuality crisis because we have chosen to prematurely sexualize children, and on and on; so it still goes.
Does any crisis or catastrophe loom over the United States that was not willfully and recklessly wrought upon ourselves, through the malfeasance and nonfeasance of rent-seeking special interests, the megalomaniacal regulators who implement the special interests' pet projects, the elected officials who fail to oversee and rein in those regulators, and We the People who vote in corrupt candidates, again and again?
Step Number One along the road to American recovery is, strangely enough, exactly the same, word for word, as Rule Number One of deep holes: For God's sake, stop digging!
If we would just stop digging, most of our problems would be dust in the wind.
July 7, 2010
...And Now You Don't!
I began yesterday's lone post with this preamble:
The first clue that a new governmental policy is boneheaded is that the promulgating administration instantly attempts to "clarify" its pronunciamento.
The decision to prevent access by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees to various categories of website, one of which comprised those with "controversial opinion," was simultaneously so tendentious and so risible that I fully expected a speedy withdrawal.
Alas, I blinked, and I missed it:
After intense media scrutiny, the Transportation Security Administration on Tuesday backed off a new policy that would have restricted employees from visiting "controversial opinion" sites at work.
Employees at the TSA were initially informed last Friday that five categories of websites would be blocked on internal computers. They included: chat/messaging, criminal activity, extreme violence and gruesome content, gaming and controversial opinion.
But following questions about how broadly the last category would be interpreted, the TSA sent around an e-mail to employees on Tuesday saying "controversial opinion" sites would not be blocked.
So a policy that was likely implemented after months of discussion and planning, amid what one would expect to include numerous findings of fact and policy, and touted as a necessary measure to eliminate "increased security risk," is promulgated on a Friday -- then partially voided four days later, in response to "intense media scrutiny!"
Can there be any clearer admission, short of outright confession and penance, that adding sites containing "controversial opinion" to the banned list was purely political, never related to actual security concerns?
The TSA, likely at the direction of Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, tries to sneak through a provision to stop employees from viewing sites that pay insufficient homage to the settled questions of the liberal Vision. Had it worked, I'm sure the same orders would have been issued to every other federal agency, administration, and department in the federal government, and might become the basis for many left-leaning states to follow suit.
Instead, such bastions of conservatism as CBS News pick up the story and run it, quite properly, as a massive assault on freedom of speech. So the Obama administration sheepishly draws back a stump and utters an Emily-Litella-esque, "Never mind!"
The Barack H. Obama administration, far from being "post-partisan," is the most intensely partisan and politicized administration in my lifetime, possibly in the entire twentieth and twenty-first centuries. At least the ultra-liberal Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Richard Nixon administrations had occasional real-world problems that they had to deal with, and did so on the basis of reality and pragmatism. By contrast, I don't believe the Obamunists have made a single decision, drafted a single policy, or made a single, cynical appointment, with any thought in mind other than how it would play politically.
That is a breathtaking record that likely won't be repeated before I leave this planet (one way or another).
July 6, 2010
TSA CYA - Now You See It...
The first clue that a new governmental policy is boneheaded is that the promulgating administration instantly attempts to "clarify" its pronunciamento.
The initial edict was as indefensible as it was inexplicable:
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is blocking certain websites from the federal agency's computers, including halting access by staffers to any Internet pages that contain a "controversial opinion," according to an internal email obtained by CBS News....
It states that as of July 1, TSA employees will no longer be allowed to access five categories of websites that have been deemed "inappropriate for government access."
Four of the blocked categories make at least some sense: chatting and messaging sites (potential security breach), sites devoted to engaging in criminal activity (duh), sites depicting "extreme violence" (where one can watch jihadist beheading videos, for example), and gaming sites (we don't want government employees playing online poker or HALO on taxpayer time). But then there's the joker -- websites that provide "controversial opinion."
The email does not specify how the TSA will determine if a website expresses a "controversial opinion."
But I bet I can guess...
The e-mail was sent Friday afternoon (the day after it officially went into effect -- how well timed!); the story ran on CBS's website Saturday; and today (Tuesday), the TSA was already scrambling to "explain" what the heck it was doing. The pushback spin, however, was one of those "non-explanatory explanations":
In response, the TSA sent the following statement to CBS News Tuesday:
"TSA routinely makes improvements to our information technology systems to stay ahead of evolving cyber threats to keep our systems secure. As part of this continued effort, TSA uses a security technology to limit access to categories of web sites that pose an increased security risk. TSA does not block access to critical commentary about the organization and in fact expressly created the TSA IdeaFactory and the TSA Blog to promote diverse opinions. TSA employees will be able to access web sites required for work purposes."
So the reason they must block employee access to websites with "controversial opinion" is that, in order to "keep [their] systems secure," they must "limit access to categories of web sites that pose an increased security risk." There, what could be clearer or more convincing?
Thus one presumes that the Drudge Report, Power Line, the National Review Online, Fox News, the Washington Times online, and the Washington Examiner online might all pose such immediate and obvious security risks that blocking them is a no-brainer: They interfere with employees suckling at the teat of (uncontroversial) liberal orthodoxy.
The TSA Administrator is currently John S. Pistole, a former Deputy Director of the FBI; but he was just recently appointed in May and confirmed by the Senate on June 25th. Since I assume this policy was in the works longer than one week before being announced last Friday, it's probably the baby of Pistole's predecessor, Acting Director Gale Rossides.
But in reality, the TSA is part of the Department of Homeland Security; so the real capa dei capi is Janet Napolitano, President Barack H. Obama's intensely politicized administrative protégé, acolyte, and all-around groupie. If nothing else, blame the policy on the Democratic culture of suppression.
From the very beginning, the Obama administration has fought tooth and nail against freedom of speech, in both its aspects -- speaking out, and hearing what others have to say:
- Obama's attempts to freeze out Fox News;
- His administration's initial refusal to give interviews to any news medium that didn't already share "the Vision;"
- His refusal, for more than three hundred days, even to hold a press conference;
- His staggering use of "policy czars" to keep all decision-making within the administration (and under the rose), not even allowing the ultra-Democratic Congress into the inner circle of knowledge;
- His repeated invocation of "national security" and "executive privilege" -- more than any president since Richard Nixon! -- to clam up his federal employees and keep the public in the dark;
- His bitter opposition to allowing campaign expenditures (themselves a form of speech) by corporations, in order to balance those routinely made by unions.
And his threats to employees to zip it -- or face termination, or possible prosecution, as in the recent disclosures about the Justice Department killing the already-won case against the New Black Panther Party. One career federal prosecutor was exiled to South Carolina (ending his career); another had to resign, giving up his career voluntarily, in order to be free to speak out.
In each case, Obama has made it clear that freethinking, open discussion, and especially "controversial opinion" was neither valued nor tolerated in his administration. Under pure Obamunism, only the truth is allowed to be spoken -- where "the truth" equals the catechism of the radical Left.
Of course, Barack Obama is not the first "progressive" to see dissent as at best a nuisance -- and at worst, a criminal act; consider Woodrow Wilson's signing of the Sedition Act of 1918, which in his administration included any "'disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language' about the United States government, its flag, or its armed forces or that caused others to view the American government or its institutions with contempt," is a direct precedent.
So why should we be shocked that someone in his administration -- whether Rossides, Napolitano, or the big B.O. himself -- has troubled to codify that antipathy to free speech in an internal e-mail?
The only "hope and change" we have left is that we can begin undermining his anti-American power base this November, and that this task will continue through the presidential election of 2012.
That's when the real work begins, of course, trying to undo six years of Alinskyite radicalism before it metastasizes to a terminal cancer in the American body politic, economy, and culture.
April 21, 2010
The Quiet Libertarians
The Supreme Court of the United States just issued a rare (these days) 8-1 ruling; even more interesting, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion -- and the lone dissenter was Justice Samuel Alito.
The facts are interesting but ultimately irrelevant, as the real issue is freedom of speech vs. propriety and empathy: A man who sold videos depicting animal cruelty, likely for a sick form of pornography called a "crush fetish" -- in which viewers are sexually aroused by seeing people crush various inanimate objects, invertibrates, and even live mammals -- was arrested under a 1999 federal law that made trafficking in such videos a felony. Robert J. Stevens was convicted and sentenced to 37 months in the stripey hole, but the 3rd Circus Court of Appeals (in Philadephia) struck down the law as unconstitutional in 2008; today the Supreme Court affirmed that decision.
It was a First Amendment case with a very unsavory and sleazy defendant, so it's no wonder the four Court liberals were on board. What is more surprising to veteran court-watchers is that all but one of the "conservative" justices were aboard as well:
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority in the 8-to-1 decision, said that the law had created “a criminal prohibition of alarming breadth” and that the government’s aggressive defense of the law was “startling and dangerous."
Roberts held that the First Amendment prohibited such an over-broad law as this one on grounds of freedom of speech, though he did not rule out the constitutionality of a much narrower and more specific prohibition of crush videos depicting actual abuse of animals.
I suspect that forty years ago, a paleoconservative majority would have reinstated the law, for the very reason that the minority wanted it overturned: The conservatism of earlier decades saw nothing wrong with using government power to enforce traditional morality, customs, and traditions -- just as left-liberalism saw nothing wrong with using government power to tear down those same traditions, customs, and "repressive" moral codes.
But Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement and the unexpected death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, followed by George W. Bush's appointments to take their place (Alito and Roberts), triggered a sea-change in the Court's outlook. The four constitutionalist justices (Roberts, Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas) seem to reject "big-government" conservatism, by and large, in favor of a sleeker, "small-government," libertarian vision of America -- one where the response to vile and depraved speech is not suppression but commonsensical, ethical, and rational speech:
It has been more than a quarter-century since the Supreme Court placed a category of speech outside the protection of the First Amendment. Tuesday’s resounding and lopsided rejection of a request that it do so, along with its decision in Citizens United in January — concluding that corporations may spend freely in candidate elections — suggest that the Roberts Court is prepared to adopt a robustly libertarian view of the constitutional protection of free speech.
Roberts noted that the law was so vaguely written that it could apply even to ordinary hunting videos, since some areas of the country ban hunting. Roberts argues both slippery slope and unintended consequences; his bias is against banning speech of any kind, though as noted, he will accept bans that are very, very narrowly construed and precisely tailored. He opposes the open-ended prohibitions preferred by activist judges and justices.
Thus, the high Court has ruled by an overwhelming margin that freedom of speech covers even repugnant speech, so long as the speech isn't an integral element in the commission of an underlying crime... which sounds obvious but has all too oft been ignored, forgotten, or deliberately stomped into the dust by earlier courts, congresses, and presidents. Under one of President Barack H. Obama's Democratic predecessors, Woodrow Wilson, Congress even banned speech that was merely critical of the federal government.
Alito's dissent appears to be that the videos in question are integral elements in the crime of animal cruelty; but the law as written was so broad it would probably cover even animation, as well as Roberts' example of hunting videos:
The government argued that depictions showing harm to animals were of such minimal social worth that they should receive no First Amendment protection at all. Chief Justice Roberts roundly rejected that assertion. “The First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter or its content,” he wrote.
The chief justice acknowledged that some kinds of speech -- including obscenity, defamation, fraud, incitement and speech integral to criminal conduct -- have historically been granted no constitutional protection. But he said the Supreme Court had no “freewheeling authority to declare new categories of speech outside the scope of the First Amendment.”
I very much like the trend. Combined with the Court's ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. ___ (2008) (striking down the D.C. handgun ban) and the Court's acceptance of certiorari in McDonald v. Chicago and NRA v. Chicago (which may "incorporate" the Second Amendment to state and local legislation), along with the aforementioned campaign-finance decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. ___ (2010), I believe we are on the brink of a new judicial era, where freedom, liberty, and personal responsibility supplant the current nanny-state. Under the ancien régime, even the possiblity of injudicious use of liberty led the powers and thrones to ban it in the name of public order.
I say hip hip, chin chin... and about bloody time. But the real test will come when the ObamaCare mandate comes before the Court. Never before has Congress passed a law ordering all Americans to purchase a specific product from a private (but government controlled) entity; I cannot imagine that such a blatantly unconstitutional law would not be found so by the four constitutionalist justices. But the big question, as always, is on which side of the bed Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swingin' justice, arose that morning.
If he agrees with Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and (I am convinced) Alito that there is no grant of rights for Congress to order Americans to buy products -- what's next, a federal mandate to buy toothpaste, fruits and vegetables, and Che Guevera t-shirts? -- and the mandate is struck down, that's wonderful. But the victory will not be complete unless the decision is broad enough to put actual teeth into Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, "the Powers of Congress": That is, it's only a great libertarian victory for America if the Court finally agrees that Congress cannot legislate in areas where it is not granted authority to legislate, even if it intones the magical spell, "regulate interstate commerce."
Making us buy insurance from companies forbidden from cross-state commerce cannot rationally be "regulating interstate commerce;" if the Left can get away with that sleight of hand, they can get away with murder. (Oh, wait -- I believe President B.O. recently ordered the summary killing of an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, thought to be a member of al-Qaeda. And note that the previous sentence would have earned me a stretch in prison under Wilson's Sedition Act of 1918.)
If tyranny is a mental disorder like addiction -- the more you dictate, the more you need to dictate -- then the first step on the road to recovery is to strictly limit the authority of Congress and the president to meddle in every state and local issue that bubbles up, as of course the Founders intended when they ratified the Constitution in the first place.
I'm glad that the Court found for freedom of speech in this case, as evil as that "speech" (video) is; I'm certain that Congress can enact a more narrow ban that remains within the constitutional purview. But I'll save my real celebrating for when the Court routinely begins telling Congress, "you've overdrawn your account at the First National Bank of Authoritarianism."
Then perhaps the Court can turn its attention to the activist "beam" in its own eye.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
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