Squaring the Culture




"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

02/22/2010 (10:34 pm)

The West Abdicates

Mark Steyn has written a tour de force over at Investor’s Business Daily, juxtaposing the inanity of nanny-state “protection” laws with the Obama administration’s utter failure to act in the face of Iran arming itself with nuclear weapons.

This is a perfect snapshot of the west at twilight. On the one hand, governments of developed nations micro-regulate every aspect of your life in the interests of “keeping you safe…”

On the other hand, when it comes to “keeping you safe” from real threats, such as a millenarian theocracy that claims universal jurisdiction, America and its allies do nothing. There aren’t going to be any sanctions, because China and Russia don’t want them…

In this case, the slow-motion nuclearization conducted in full view and through years of tortuous diplomatic charades and endlessly rescheduled looming deadlines is not just a victory for Iran but a decisive defeat for the United States. It confirms the Islamo-Sino-Russo-everybody else diagnosis of Washington as a hollow superpower that no longer has the will or sense of purpose to enforce the global order…

In Eastern Europe, a nuclear Iran will vastly advance Russia’s plans for a de facto reconstitution of its old empire: In an unstable world, Putin will offer himself as the protection racket you can rely on. And you’d be surprised how far west “Eastern” Europe extends:

Moscow’s strategic view is of a continent not only energy-dependent on Russia but also security-dependent. And, when every European city is within range of Teheran and other psycho states, there’ll be plenty of takers for that when the alternative is an effete and feckless Washington.

Read the whole thing, and weep.

Now the real cost of the calumny of the Democrats in government becomes clearer. The Bush administration may have been able to garner support for putting a stop to Iran’s nuclear intentions in 2007, but they were stymied by the release of the National Intelligence Estimate that claimed — knowledgeably falsely, as we now know — that the Iranians had quit developing nukes back in 2003. It’s quite plain that this was incorrect; it’s only a little less plain that the error was made deliberately. So we can thank government-employed Democrats for the fall of Europe and the Middle East under Russian-Iranian domination, and all the misery that will ensue in its wake. Well, it was plain that they hated America’s influence in the world, and now they’ve put an end to it. Well done, folks. Hope you’re proud. Meanwhile, permit me to renew my call for the re-invigoration of treason laws with teeth.

I’ll send a hat tip to PowerLine Blog, where I first read of Steyn’s diatribe.

11/19/2009 (5:14 pm)

On Trying KSM in Court

Lindsey Graham is not my favorite Senator by any means, but he demolished Erich Holder in this 4-minute exchange in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Listen:

The lawyers over at Power Line Blog have a pretty good analysis of this that, not coincidentally, concurs with my layman’s opinion. Holder’s attempt to defend the absence of Miranda rights for Osama bin Laden on the basis that his guilt “is so overwhelming” would not survive 5 seconds of scrutiny in any court in America, nor should it; he offered it because he was on the spot and had nowhere to hide. He was on the spot because Graham was clearly correct: if US courtroom standards apply to the 9/11 plotters, then they apply to all such detainees. Holder can’t have it both ways.

The Obama administration’s argument that they’re genuinely offering Kalid Sheik Mohamed a fair trial and full rights according to the rule of law is contradicted by their claim that the outcome is certain. If the outcome is certain, the trial is a show trial like the show trials of the Stalinistas in the 1940s’ Soviet Union. If KSM has full rights, the outcome cannot be certain. The juxtaposition of those two claims — rule of law, outcome certain — is the consequence of the Holder Justice Department having decided beforehand on other grounds that they were going to try KSM in federal court, and then justify the decision by whatever means they needed to manufacture.

So, on what other grounds did they decide that they were going to try KSM in federal court? I believe John Yoo, former Bush administration counsel and favorite whipping-boy of the insane left, gives us a clue when he describes what happened when we tried Zacarias Moussaoui in an American court:

For a preview of the KSM trial, look at what happened in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker who was arrested in the U.S. just before 9/11. His trial never made it to a jury. Moussaoui’s lawyers tied the court up in knots.

All they had to do was demand that the government hand over all its intelligence on him. The case became a four-year circus, giving Moussaoui a platform to air his anti-American tirades. The only reason the trial ended was because, at the last minute, Moussaoui decided to plead guilty. That plea relieved the government of the choice between allowing a fishing expedition into its intelligence files or dismissing the charges…

Prosecutors will be forced to reveal U.S. intelligence on KSM, the methods and sources for acquiring its information, and his relationships to fellow al Qaeda operatives. The information will enable al Qaeda to drop plans and personnel whose cover is blown. It will enable it to detect our means of intelligence-gathering, and to push forward into areas we know nothing about.

This is not hypothetical, as former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy has explained. During the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman (aka the “blind Sheikh”), standard criminal trial rules required the government to turn over to the defendants a list of 200 possible co-conspirators.

In essence, this list was a sketch of American intelligence on al Qaeda. According to Mr. McCarthy, who tried the case, it was delivered to bin Laden in Sudan on a silver platter within days of its production as a court exhibit.

Bin Laden, who was on the list, could immediately see who was compromised. He also could start figuring out how American intelligence had learned its information and anticipate what our future moves were likely to be.

Leftists historically love to use courtroom rules as a vehicle to produce documentary evidence regarding government “misbehavior” as they perceive it. This was the motivation behind the dozens of lawsuits filed against phone companies for cooperating with the Bush administration in eavesdropping on possible terrorists, as I discussed here more than a year ago.

Is there documentary evidence that leftists desire to be made public related to Kalid Sheik Mohamed? Oh, you betcha. They’re already investigating the CIA, but you can be sure that KSM’s attorneys are going to bring up the manner of his interrogation in order to invalidate his confession. What will follow will be a public trial of the Bush administration’s interrogation policy, carried out in the pages of the New York Times by reporters already known to be hostile to the Bush administration. Also, I’m willing to bet that the choice of venue was influenced by the Justice Department’s knowledge of the judicial habits of the panel of judges in that district; they’re expecting liberal interpretations of evidence rules requiring government disclosure. Count on it.

Is that the goal? To be sure, trying KSM and the other 9/11 plotters as criminals has been the misguided aim of the ACLU and other hard leftists for years. They claim to be defending the rule of law. The ideologically-driven selectivity of their idea of the rule of law notwithstanding, I accept this as at least a plausible goal of some of the less-well-informed dupes of the neo-Marxist left.

However, the better-educated of these folks harbor ulterior motives. If they attempted publicly to try Bush administration officials, they would surely trigger violent reactions, fueled by accusations of attempting to criminalize policy differences. They do want to criminalize those policy differences, as I discussed here and here, but I think they also fear the repercussions. So, they’ve chosen a less direct route; they’ll try the 9/11 plotters, but in a forum that allows those plotters to turn the trial into a trial of the Bush administration. That way, they can pretend they’re defending the rule of law while continuing to vilify the good men who protected us from terrorist attack from 2001 through 2008.

Never believe what leftists say about their intentions, especially when their defense is so utterly lame in the face of easily predictable questions.

10/23/2009 (10:45 am)

Toleration and the Crown

Earlier this week Kenneth Feinberg, unelected agent of King Obama tasked with managing the executive compensation of subjects of the Crown, announced severe cuts in pay for highly paid employees at those companies that have still failed to pay back money forced on them by the King. At the same time, the Federal Reserve, a board appointed by the King and ruling with no authority except that obtained by its power to lend funds to banks, announced plans to review and approve the compensation plans of member banks, even those who received no funds from the King.

Before the rise to power of King Obama, compensation for employees of publicly-held companies was determined by the owners of those companies, expressing themselves through their boards of directors. The concept of private property, which is the cornerstone of a self-governing republic, demanded that only those who owned the company could speak to its practices, allowing only those laws that were necessary to protect the peace and safety of the American people an additional voice. Of course, the number, power, and intrusiveness of laws “necessary to protect the peace and safety” have multiplied like aggressive, carnivorous rabbits, eating more and more of the nation’s substance as they overran free trade. But still, there were limits.

But the government became part-owners of those companies by lending to them, an action not contemplated by the authors of the Constitution from which administrations prior to the Obama administration drew their legitimacy by obeying its strictures. And I have seen no effort on the part of the Crown to limit its intrusion into the operations of these companies based on a fair evaluation of the numbers of shares they hold in each; no, it seems that when a firm accepts a dollar of public money for any reason, that firm becomes a wholly-owned subsidiary of the US Treasury Dept., and must obey its every command.

And by similar measure, Congress created the Federal Reserve in 1914, exercising authority it did not possess and forcing banks to become members. Now the Federal Reserve is exercising authority not specified by Congressional act, claiming the power to approve or disapprove the compensation structure of banks that were coerced to become members.

This brings to mind a vital distinction that was made in the century prior to the establishment of the American republic. It was in the years of Queen Elizabeth I, I believe, when the British Crown decided to extend its toleration to religious dissidents, choosing not to prosecute those Catholics and Protestants who refused to join the Church of England. Implied, and clearly understood by all, was the claim that Crown had every right to demand obedience, that it could, at any moment it chose, revoke that benign toleration and arrest and prosecute those dissidents. The fact that subjects of the Crown exercised liberties did not mean they were free; it only meant that for the time being, the Crown chose to grant them liberty. They were still subjects of the Crown. This same concept of toleration covered every other aspect of subjects’ liberties in England; they were free because the Crown granted them liberty, but the power to grant or revoke liberty remained with the Crown.

When the American republic was established, it instituted a new and revolutionary concept for the first time in the planet’s history: namely, that the government had no powers at all other than those specifically granted by the people. Religious liberty, economic liberty, political liberty — the government did not grant them, they inhered to the people. What belonged (and still belongs) to the English people only by toleration from the Crown, belongs to the American people by birthright. At least, it did before King Obama.

Simply by claiming that he has the right, Obama has made himself King over America. It is he who holds all rights, and he who grants, or tolerates, the liberties of the people. He reserves for himself the power to revoke liberties wherever and whenever he chooses, limited only by Congressional cooperation. Rights no longer inhere to the people; now they are all held by the President, and we all live by his benign toleration, just like subjects of the Crown.

There are plenty of valid objections to these ham-fisted measures to limit executive compensation. I predicted months ago (here and here) that top executives would flee from companies subject to pay restrictions, and this is already taking place as the smartest people in the industry anticipate the inevitable and find safer havens from which to earn what the market says they are worth. I also noted (here) that partisanship inevitably affects measures controlled by the government, and sure enough, the compensation caps are not going to affect the King’s favorites at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, who were permitted to repay their TARP loans (not all recipients of the King’s largess were so lucky.) In all his major policy moves, King Obama picks winners and losers from among the largest firms — and the winners are always supporters. Curious. And finally, it is crucial to remember that the Fed, which is claiming urgency to control compensation because that’s what caused the meltdown a year ago, is itself the body most directly at fault for the meltdown, having created the housing bubble by its aggressively low interest rates in the wake of multiple shocks to the economy in 2001.

The real objection, though, is that President Obama (he’s not really King… yet) is busily erasing the core distinction between American liberty and the monarchies that preceded it — he asserts, by bold action completely devoid of Constitutional empowerment, that the liberties of a free people exist only by his toleration. He grants us liberty to continue free trade in some small measure — for now. By his actions, he indicates that he reserves for himself the power to revoke those liberties at will. We, the people, do not own those liberties; King Obama does.

Many individuals in the nation applaud these limits on executive compensation, exclaiming that such levels of pay are “obscene,” that they are “unjust,” that the fact that even the poor in America live at a standard unheard of through most of the world through most of history does not justify the extraordinary wealth of the most productive and effective among us. They should look to themselves; for if the Crown can tell executives how much they are entitled to make, then the Crown can also tell anybody how much they are entitled to make. Tyrants obtain the power they desire by setting precedents against the unpopular, and then taking the power granted against the unpopular and using it against everybody else. The super-rich have become unpopular here in America, and by controlling their pay, Obama is establishing his Sovereign Right to control the pay of all. He wants the right for a reason, and you can be sure it is not to prevent riches; he’s not limited his own pay, nor the pay of his “Czars,” has he? Most likely, his goal is to prevent riches among his opponents, and to give himself the power to reward his supporters. That appears to be the one, guiding principle under which this King operates.

We are so screwed…

10/16/2009 (9:10 am)

Life Under "D"

I was bemused this morning while scanning the Drudge Report at the number of headlines that remind us all what life is like when the Democrats rule the roost. It ain’t pretty.

U.S. troop funds diverted to pet projects
Study finds $2.6 billion taken from guns and ammunition

Senators diverted $2.6 billion in funds in a defense spending bill to pet projects largely at the expense of accounts that pay for fuel, ammunition and training for U.S. troops, including those fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to an analysis.

This reminds us of two important facts about Democrats: 1) They hate the military. They’ve expanded every aspect of American government so far except the Defense Department. Here, they’re using Defense as a piggy bank for pet projects. 2) You can’t pay attention to what they say, only to what they do. To listen to them, Afghanistan was the Right war, the Must-Win war, and they were the True Patriots who loved our soldiers. All lies. There exists no necessary relationship, in the minds of Democrats, between what they say and what they intend; they’ll say whatever they think you want to hear, then do whatever they feel like doing. They are liars.

Harry Reid Suggests Health Care to Cost $2 Trillion

Oops. I guess saving half a trillion reining in fraud and inefficiency in Medicare won’t pay for the national health care proposal after all, will it? (And, let’s face it, if they actually knew how to save that money by improving Medicare, they’d have done it already, wouldn’t they?) Seriously, what reason does any sane person have to believe the cost projections produced by Congressional Democrats, ever? When have they ever been anything but grossly wrong on the low side? Ever?

Elect Democrats, inflate the deficit. Works every time. Only, this time, it will demolish the currency, too. Not to mention turning our medical care system into Cuba’s. Wheee!

Deal may return Zelaya to power in Hondouras… Developing…

The one instance in the Western Hemisphere where a liberal republic executed its laws properly and defended themselves against a lawless neo-Marxist coup, and we backed the wrong side. Whatever they say, Democrats feel stronger sympathy toward World Socialism than they do toward American liberty. Seriously.

Foreclosures: ‘Worst three months of all time’
Despite signs of broader economic recovery, number of foreclosure filings hit a record high in the third quarter – a sign the plague is still spreading.

The President told us it was necessary, unavoidable, that we had to swell the deficit to unheard-of size in order to stimulate the economy and stop the wave of foreclosures. He told us it was so urgent that we had to pass it in the middle of the night, before anybody had even read the bill. And then, he told us that his recovery package was “… a major step in the fulfillment of his election promise of helping millions of Americans troubled by foreclosure.”

It didn’t work. Democrats’ economic plans never work — because they do not understand economics, and they think government spending is good for an economy. Even though Japan tried exactly this strategy in a similar situation in the 90s, and it did nothing. Even though the US tried this strategy in a similar situation in the 30s, and it did nothing. Even though the currency is on the brink of collapse. Government spending, to Democrats, is like bleeding to an 18th-century physician. The patient died the last 30 times, but it’s still the right thing to do. Real experience doesn’t count, we have to do what is consistent with Democratic theory because Democrats are the Smart Ones™.

Plus, this…

Obama says he’s looking at any way to create jobs

Didn’t he insist that he was the only candidate who knew how to do that? Why doesn’t the fact that he’s still using the same language a year later, all his attempts so far having failed, surprise me?

And just out of curiosity… has he considered getting the government the hell out of the economy’s way and letting free markets stimulate innovation, while looking at “any way to create jobs?” Why do I think that hasn’t come up?

How about this one:

Limbaugh dropped from group seeking to buy Rams…
Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh blames others for dropping his Rams ownership bid

So Rush Limbaugh won’t get to buy into the St. Louis Rams after all. Big deal, right? Except, in order to accomplish this, Democrats politicized sports and assassinated the character of a private citizen, inventing racist quotes out of thin air in an irruption of vitriol and gibbering rage, like demons reacting to holy water, simply because they don’t like the man. Character assassination is just about the only thing Democrats do well. They do it well because they have lots of practice. Just ask Rush. And Clarence Thomas. And Sarah Palin. And George W. Bush. And Carrie Prejean. And Robert Bork. And Newt Gingrich. And Linda Tripp. And Katherine Harris. And the list goes on, and on, and on…

Meanwhile, Democrats caution us how mean-spirited conservatives are. Pardon me while I spit.

By the way, notice the subheading, which was written by Yahoo News. It’s a lovely little demonstration of how Democrats take responsibility for the filth they launch at others. Notice how it’s implied that somehow, it’s only Limbaugh’s deficient personal character that leads him to “blame others” for his being removed from the group buying the Rams. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the flood of lies produced by Democratic media hounds. No. It’s Limbaugh’s own fault, but he lacks the character to admit it. Find it in the dictionary under “projection.”

And then there’s this, the creepiest part of all:

LEAKED MEMO: ‘ORGANICALLY’ PRODUCE NETWORK TV TO PROMOTE GOVERNMENT ‘SERVICE’ AGENDA…

Wow. The entertainment and news industry in league with the White House. What happened to “the watchdog of liberty” and “speaking truth to power?” Suddenly, instead of a free, independent press, we have Brave New World, or 1984 and the Ministry of Truth. And we are not free to pursue life, liberty, and happiness; we have a moral obligation to serve Obama. This is how Democrats interpret the American experiment in government. Did you like “War is Peace?” How about “Liberty is Serving Obama?”

There’s more, but I’ve depressed myself enough. Even this last headline is not sufficient to lift my spirits:

Fox News Poll: 43 Percent Would Vote To Re-Elect President Obama
If the election were held today, 43 percent of American voters would back Barack Obama for president, according to a new Fox News poll.

It’s taken less than a year for voters to remember why they handed the government to Republicans ‘way back in 1994. Give Democrats control, and it’s like you’ve turned a valve on a fireplug leading from hell, and you’re pouring raw evil into the streets. Nothing good comes from it; they promise that everything will get better, and everything gets worse. But because they control, they get to direct what wealth hasn’t been sapped out of the system yet into the hands of their crony buddies, while they remove your liberties, smear their opponents, and turn the Land of the Free into a Socialist Worker’s Paradise.

Those numbers will continue to drop, but what of it? Will the wave of Republican, Libertarian, and Unaffiliated legislators that replace the Democrats in the coming elections have the courage to reverse this flood? Will they systematically list, then systematically repeal, every step of this full-tilt flight into Stalinism? Do they have the guts to do it while the wholly-owned subsidiary of World Socialism, the American Press, screeches in our ears how they’re making war on the poor and needy and re-instituting Hitler’s Third Reich?

We are SO screwed…

10/08/2009 (10:08 am)

Iran, and a Blast From the Past

The Wall Street Journal brings up an interesting point from the past today regarding Iran’s imminent nuclear capability, and it bears on a great deal of history from the Bush years.

Back in December of 2007, a gathering of government intel professionals produced a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) claiming “with high confidence” that Iran had ceased its nuclear development as of 2003. That this was not true is evident now. What the Journal reports is that the intelligence community was already well aware of the recently-announced uranium enrichment facilities and weapons design efforts at the time the NIE was published. This demonstrates that the NIE was published as propaganda; they knew it was false, but it served a political purpose, so they published it anyhow. I reported this at the time, and confirmed it with evidence later.

The purpose it seems to have served is to cripple the US’ response to the threat of a nuclear Iran. The Bush administration may have been planning air strikes back in 2007 to address the budding threat; the NIE was the culmination of political infighting within the Executive branch to stop the administration’s unilateral response to the Iranian threat, and more or less signaled the President’s capitulation to his internal adversaries. Scott Horton, the reliably loony leftist at Harper’s, reported this at the time in an article that errs by assuming that the NIE was the truth and that it was Cheney et al that were operating on false information (an assertion we now know to have been 180 degrees off the mark, something that sensible people would have expected even then.)

The propagandistic NIE was merely the last shot in the long-standing revolt by leftists within the US intelligence community against the Bush administration — a revolt that was only a hair shy of being a full-blown attempt at a coup d’etat. Leftist rogues within the intelligence community were actively undermining Bush administration policies, and executing plots with the sole intent of discrediting the President. I’m convinced that the entire Joe Wilson-Valerie Plame affair was one of these — an operation planned and executed by rogues within the CIA to discredit the President. I wrote about the revolt at the time, in the early days of this blog (you can review my thoughts by clicking on the Intelligence Community topic under my topical index, at the bottom of the sidebar.)

History has done us the favor of sorting out the truth quickly, but we should not miss the lesson. The lesson is not just that the NIE was wrong. The lesson is that the intelligence community was deliberately manipulating reports throughout the Bush years with the intent of discrediting the administration and crippling its policies. We should apply this knowledge to whatever we now take for granted from the Bush years that came to us by way of the intelligence community — like the claim that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Almost a year ago, Jeff Lewis at the American Thinker produced an essay explaining the cost of leftist power-seeking in the form of crippling our response to nuclear proliferation:

George W. Bush has been crucified for five long years in the media, by the feckless, hysterical and cowardly Europeans, by the United Nations, and of course by the Democratic Party, because he took the only sane action possible in the face of the apparent WMD threat from Saddam. Because presidents don’t have the luxury of Monday morning quarterbacking. They cannot wait for metaphysical certainty about threats to national survival and international peace. There is no such thing as metaphysical certainty in these matters; presidents must act on incomplete intelligence, knowing full well that their domestic enemies will try to destroy them for trying to save the peace.

But that is water under the bridge by now. What’s not past, but rather a clear and present threat to civilization are the consequences of the unbelievable recklessness of the International Left — including the Democrats, the Europeans, the UN, and the former communist powers. Because of their screaming opposition to the Bush administration’s rational actions against Saddam, we are now rendered helpless against two even more dangerous challenges. With Saddam there was genuine doubt about his nuclear program; the notion that he had a viable program was just the safest guess to make in the face of his policy of deliberate ambiguity. In the case of Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong Il there’s no guessing any more. They have nukes and missiles, or will have within a year.

The entire anti-proliferation effort has therefore been sabotaged and probably ruined by the Left. For what reason? There can be only one rational reason: A lust for power, even at the expense of national and international safety and peace. But the Left has irrational reasons as well, including an unfathomable hatred for adulthood in the face of mortal danger. Like the Cold War, this is a battle between the adolescent rage of the Left and the realistic adult decision-making of the mainstream — a mainstream which is now tenuously maintained only by conservatives in the West.

And now, in the face of a growing Iranian threat, our Peerless Messianic Leader has eliminated the planned missile shield aimed at protecting Europe from an Iranian nuclear threat, in exchange for assistance in managing that threat from Russia, which arguably supplied Iran with the means to produce nuclear weapons in the first place.

David Horowitz has argued for years that there exists an unspoken alliance between radical Islam and radical Socialism. It becomes plausible to assert that radical elements in the US — read “progressives,” and include the President — have more policy goals in common with Iran than they have with conservatives in America, and would prefer a nuclear Iran to a Middle East with stable republics like Israel and a free Iraq. Might this explain President Obama’s fecklessness regarding the Taliban in Afghanistan? Can we trust the President to act in the international community with America’s best interests at heart, or is he serving a wider agenda?

For my part, I think it is long past time to revive treason as a crime suitable for legitimate prosecution. Perpetrators of active disinformation campaigns aimed at undermining actual governmental policy should be prosecuted seriously, with decades-long prison terms at a minimum for active attempts at crippling lawful policy. It is one thing to oppose policy publicly, and to argue against it; it is another thing entirely to undermine that policy actively. Congress should pass laws to that effect, with clear exceptions made for active defense of the US Constitution against unlawful acts by the Executive branch.

09/21/2009 (7:54 pm)

And Since We're Talking About Public Funding For Partisan Activism…

090921-yosi2…Andrew Breitbart’s next bombshell is going to fit right in. Patterico, Q and O, and Power LIne — just to name a few — are all picking up Breitbart’s hints that a major scandal will break tomorrow, involving the Obama administration using the National Endowment for the Arts to encourage artists to produce art arguing for Obama administration policies that are currently being debated. Meanwhile, Breitbart’s Big Hollywood site offers its own “Pregame Report,” supplying the background against which their story is expected to appear (if you’re going to read only one story, this is the one to read.)

The basic story is already about a month old: early in August, the National Endowment for the Arts invited a number of public artists, producers, promoters, movers, shakers, and apparently at least one public relations firm with astroturfing experience, to participate in a conference call to discuss how they could all cooperate with the President’s initiatives. One of the participants on the call, a Los Angeles filmmaker and consultant named Patrick Courrielche, felt the conference call was unusual and improper — the NEA’s charter is to facilitate the development of new and under-funded artists, not to engage in propaganda for the sitting government — so he wrote about it on Breitbart’s Hollywood expose’ blog, Big Hollywood. This led to a completely unbelievable denial from Yosi Sargent, the Director of the Office of Communications for the NEA, that he had sent out the invitations to the conference call — invitations under his credential and with his signature. Yosi has since vanished from the post, without explanation. Just a few days ago, George F. Will launched an essay denouncing the practice, and decrying the Obama administration’s turning artists into lobbyists; and today, we’re seeing a flurry of reports setting the stage for a new expose`.

Courrielche explained the call:

On Thursday August 6th, I was invited by the National Endowment for the Arts to attend a conference call scheduled for Monday August 10th hosted by the NEA, the White House Office of Public Engagement, and United We Serve. The call would include “a group of artists, producers, promoters, organizers, influencers, marketers, taste-makers, leaders or just plain cool people to join together and work together to promote a more civically engaged America and celebrate how the arts can be used for a positive change.”

Backed by the full weight of President Barack Obama’s call to service and the institutional weight of the NEA, the conference call was billed as an opportunity for those in the art community to inspire service in four key categories, and at the top of the list were “health care” and “energy and environment.” The service was to be attached to the President’s United We Serve campaign, a nationwide federal initiative to make service a way of life for all Americans.

We were encouraged to bring the same sense of enthusiasm to these “focus areas” as we had brought to Obama’s presidential campaign, and we were encouraged to create art and art initiatives that brought awareness to these issues. Throughout the conversation, we were reminded of our ability as artists and art professionals to “shape the lives” of those around us. The now famous Obama “Hope” poster, created by artist Shepard Fairey and promoted by many of those on the phone call, and will.i.am’s “Yes We Can” song and music video were presented as shining examples of our group’s clear role in the election.

Civic engagement — to partisan politics, at the behest of the President. A Presidential call to “positive change” — meaning a strictly partisan agenda. National service — to the man in the White House, and to his policies. Not service to the nation; not service to Liberty, nor to Democracy, nor to Mom, Apple Pie, and The Girl He Left Behind. “I pledge to serve Obama.” Something in us tells us that this is just wrong.

I’m just having a heck of a time grasping exactly what that is. What is the difference, I ask myself, between Obama calling for “an attitude of service” in this fashion, and, say, Ronald Reagan taking his cause to the airwaves to win the support of the people? Why do I find the latter profoundly American and satisfying, and the former, foreign and chilling?

When I said, two days ago, that ACORN’s core mission is a fraud, what I meant was that ACORN pretends to be non-partisan and non-profit so that it can use tax dollars to pursue a partisan agenda. This is against the law for a good reason. American politics has always attempted to create a firm barrier between governing and campaigning, with the understanding that allowing government to use public funds to engage in partisan campaigns is a form of tyranny — it forces taxpayers to spend their money for campaigns to which they have not agreed. Governors may put into practice whatever policies they can persuade the legislature to support and the courts to approve, and do it with public funds, but campaigning is to be done on the candidate’s own dime.

It has always concerned us, furthermore, that a government with the power to engage in propaganda could manipulate the public in such a way as to retain power and take away liberty. Free artists, advertisers, and writers are always welcome to participate in the public arena, of course, but we draw the line at government involvement. Presidents, Senators, Representatives, Department Secretaries, National Security Advisors — these are all expected to use their public platforms and their newsworthiness to advocate their particular policies in public, but they are most emphatically not encouraged to buy advertising to make that case, using public funds. There are laws against these things.

Both Yosi Sargent and Patrick Courrielche raised the image of government using art, TV, movies, images, media to shape the public mind. Courrielche correctly invoked Noam Chomsky’s term, “manufacturing consent.” We have a government based on the consent of the governed, and we value the free, public processes by which citizens are encouraged to find facts and make up their own minds. We deplore the trends that encourage citizens to make those crucial decisions on the basis of 10-second sound bites. What are we to say of a government-run, taxpayer-funded effort to manufacture consent for its policies? How can a people remain free when the government has the power to manufacture the basis for its own legitimacy?

For this reason, the fact that Armstrong Williams was paid by the Bush administration to talk up No Child Left Behind was troubling. Far too few conservatives raised objections to this — I plead guilty myself, here, I did not write about it but I recall making excuses — but if it was not frankly illegal, it was certainly a breach of an important barrier in the American psyche. We knew it was unacceptable. Fortunately, Williams also knew it was, and vowed never to do it again.

rockvote82The complicity of the American news business with the Obama administration is a little bit different, but even more problematic. While advocacy for or against a particular policy or set of policies is expected, the people in question are expected to maintain a certain distance; they are not to become part of the political machine of the government. If they want to advocate in favor of a government policy with which they happen to agree, fine; that’s protected. But to take instructions from the government regarding what to report, or how, or when?

This is why President Bill Clinton’s use of media shills to front his policies was so disturbing. Cokie Roberts and Brian Williams are supposed to be independent of the government, that’s what makes them valuable. If they abandon both profit motive and professional commitments to Truth and Objectivity, and become instead servants of the government, or worse, servants of the man leading the government, the press can serve no useful purpose in a free society; it becomes merely a tool of tyranny. And of course, that is why the wholesale commitment of entire news organizations to the service of the Obama administration has been so frightening. The networks doing this deserve far worse than the mere obscurity they will obtain.

I do not believe I have ever heard, before the Obama administration, effort devoted to a partisan cause referred to as “public service,” except in the general sense that citizenship calls for active participation. For the administration to call “service” that which serves their partisan campaign, but to call “mob rule,” or “naziism,” or “hysteria,” or “hate,” that which opposes it, is to move a step closer to outlawing their opposition. It’s bad enough, but still acceptable within our system, when partisans of either side brand their opponents “evil,” and their own causes “good;” but Obama’s nomenclature makes it official. And it is this official branding of the opposition as “evil” that makes Obama’s exercise a rebuttal of democratic society. By doing so, Obama says “I do not choose to participate in the American system; I choose to end that system.”

Immediately I can hear partisans of the left demanding that I denounce the Bush administration for calling its critics irresponsible, in order to be fair. I will not. It is possible to debate and disagree with a policy without doing so in a manner that empowers the enemies of our armed forces engaged in battle. Some Democrats did this, and deserved no criticism, but many others crossed a bright, red line (not to mention violating the law) by publishing classified material and then broadcasting it around the world in such a way as to empower the men who were killing American soldiers. Worse than that, some Democrats deliberately engaged in activity to undercut the policy of duly elected officials, and to ruin the reputations of those elected officials in a clear attempt to foil their policies; this is one tiny step short of a coup d’etat. These are activities that go beyond what is permissible even in a free society. This is not legitimate advocacy.

Nor is the Obama NEA initiative legitimate advocacy. It is the death of a free society if it is permitted.

Patrick Corrielche ended his article with this excerpt from the conference call, along with his reaction:

And if you think that my fear regarding the arts becoming a tool of the state is still unfounded, I leave you with a few statements made by the NEA to the art community participants on the conference call. “This is just the beginning. This is the first telephone call of a brand new conversation. We are just now learning how to really bring this community together to speak with the government. What that looks like legally?…bare (sic) with us as we learn the language so that we can speak to each other safely… “

Is the hair on your arms standing up yet?

07/29/2009 (2:09 pm)

Committed to Energy Independence?

centrifugeThe Obama administration added to the suspicion that it may intentionally be crippling the US economy by denying a critical loan guarantee to a major nuclear energy project, reports KnoxNews.com.

Campaign rhetoric for decades from both sides of the aisle has touted the importance of energy independence for American economic security. Recent moves by the Obama administration to suppress development of coal and natural gas resources, and moves by the Congress to suppress domestic offshore oil development, have been rationalized as necessary for the environmental health of the planet, despite their requiring the nation to rely more heavily on foreign imports of energy products.

However, concern for the planet can hardly explain this move: the Department of Energy has denied a loan guarantee to USEC, Inc., which has been developing new refinement technology for nuclear fuel at Oak Ridge, TN. USEC, the only American nuclear enrichment company, was set to construct an enrichment plant after 6 years of testing and development to verify the feasibility of new, more efficient enrichment technology. The project depended on a number of factors, including confirmation of the technological advances, which promise to refine uranium in a manner that reduces the electricity usage of the process by 95%. It’s folding now, not because the technology does not work, but because the Department of Energy, after 7 years supporting the project, simply refuses to endorse it.

According to Knoxnews.com:

The Department of Energy has denied USEC Inc.’s application for a $2 billion loan guarantee, and the company has started “demobilizing” the American Centrifuge Project, which currently employs about 450 at its Oak Ridge manufacturing site…

USEC Chief Executive Officer John K.Welch, after learning that DOE would not grant the loan guarantee, made this statement today:

“We are shocked and disappointed by DOE’s decision. The American Centrifuge met the original intent of the loan guarantee program in that it would have used an innovative, but proven, technology, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and created thousands of immediate jobs across the United States.

“Our application has been pending for a year, and we have addressed any concerns the department raised. Technically, we operated the American Centrifuge technology in a lead cascade for approximately 235,000 machine hours. Financially, we have invested $1.5 billion dollars in the project and offered $1 billion of additional corporate support. It is unclear how DOE expects to find innovative technologies that assume zero risk, but the American Centrifuge clearly meets the energy security and climate change goals of the Obama administration.”

Individual projects may fail for all sorts of reasons; there can be unexpected budget overruns, manufacturing delays, unexpected market collapses, political stalling, even personal disputes that get in the way. However, at a time when energy needs are a central focus, when the government is deliberately spending hundreds of billions of dollars to stimulate the creation of jobs, and when the country is deliberately crippling its ability to produce fossil fuels, for the DOE to simply and quietly shut down a key component of a viable nuclear energy strategy without an explanation is… unfathomable.

Might the Obama administration genuinely intend to cripple the US economically? They at least had a plausible rebuttal to that claim when shutting down fossil fuel development — not that the rebuttal makes scientific sense, but it was at least plausible. But this? I cannot explain it other than to say, they genuinely do not want the US to produce its own energy. Why not?

I’m not a fan of energy independence, as a strategy. The US does not need to be completely independent of the rest of the world for energy any more than it needs to be independent for steel, bauxite, shirts, computers, or any other single product; the economy is global. However, the US economy is suffering from a $700 billion balance-of-payments deficit (we import that much more than we export), and every bit of energy we produce internally reduces that and creates American jobs. Furthermore, the US stands to suffer serious spot shortages of electricity as fossil fuels lose market share (thanks to economically destructive carbon rationing and senseless Congressional limits on development) until alternative sources of electricity are ready to make up the attendant shortfall in the nation’s power needs — which will be decades from now. Developing nuclear power is a key to surviving that transition period. Shutting down this project makes no sense.

The 450 jobs that will vanish as the American Centrifuge Project closes up shop is just the tip of the iceberg. How, precisely, does the DOE propose that the US obtain the necessary refined uranium for new nuclear power plants? And how does the Obama administration explain shutting down this project in the light of their commitment to energy independence?

We are so screwed…

07/25/2009 (3:00 pm)

The Holocaust Begins

buchenwald16

I argued back in February that the weakened life ethic produced by abortion and by the selfishness of the Boomer generation, a decade of economic hardship, and the coming collapse of Social Security, will combine to produce mass killing of the elderly, first as “voluntary” euthanasia and later (but not much later) becoming a lot less voluntary. Several events in the advocacy of President Obama’s national health care scheme are vindicating my prediction.

The current House resolution for health care reform, H.R. 3200, contains a clause entitled “Advance care planning consultation” (Section 1233) requiring senior citizens to meet with a health professional every five years to discuss living wills and limits on measures to be taken when life-threatening conditions occur. Why a state-employed health professional? Why not a private attorney? Why is it required by the state? The clear answer is that with the state paying for medical care, ending life sooner reduces expenses for the national system. Patient’s rights advocates correctly note that the measure is likely to pressure seniors into making life-limiting legal decisions they might not otherwise make. In fact, that’s the point of the consultations.

Erick Erickson from RedState also circulated an email message on Friday reporting an overheard conversation between an aide to Rep. Paul Tonko (D, NY) and an alleged lobbyist regarding the House health care bill. The conversation included the observation that “probably the best part of the bill is the increase in Hospice care which will solve the prolonging of life issue.” Hospice care, as opposed to hospital care, limits access to life-extending technological procedures. To claim that hospice care “solves the prolonging of life issue” suggests that a national health plan will cover hospice care but not hospital care for certain, life-threatening illnesses, with the result that patients will be required by the state to die quietly rather than prolong their lives.

It’s really been pretty obvious that that’s where we’re heading from the discussions of health care “rationing” that we’ve been hearing. Erick at RedState.com listed several prominent progressives who have publicly advanced the weird survival calculus that supports consciously weighing dollar cost against survival odds; Peter Singer wrote just 10 days ago advocating a specific scheme, accompanied by an incredible flood of disingenuous rationalizations supporting the ethics of such a scheme.

They argue that since the calculation is taking place already, there is no reason the state should not engage in it. What they omit is the fact that whatever such calculations take place today, take place in the mind of the person whose survival is on the line, or among that person’s responsible family members. It is one thing for an individual to decide that his own wealth should be saved for his children rather than spent prolonging his life; it is another thing entirely for the state to make that assessment. The former is self-sacrifice; the latter is murder.

The moves to limit care for the elderly give the lie to the entire premise for national health care. Advocates for Obama’s plan argue that the reason for a national program is that some individuals cannot obtain care. Their solution does not provide care for more people, it simply shifts the right to decide who gets care from the market to the government. Just as many people will be denied care, but executive-branch bureaucrats get to decide which ones. I cannot see this as an improvement.

The holocaust has been predictable for decades. We’re just now beginning to see the pieces of it come together. As can be predicted by anybody familiar with 20th century history, wherever Marxian notions appear, mass deaths are likely to follow.

We are so screwed…

07/13/2009 (6:22 pm)

Angling For Global Governance

“We’re got to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing — in terms of economic policy and environmental policy.” Colorado Senator Tim Worth, 1990

It is increasingly clear that world leaders are using climate change and the world-wide economic crisis to move nations toward world governance. In his speech last week comparing the climate change battle to WWII, Gore noted that the awareness of human-caused climate change will help to bring about global governance. This mirrors a declaration made back in 2000 by France’s President at the time, Jacques Chirac, before the UN Convention on Climate Change at the Hague. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper echoed their sentiment at the G8 Summit last week, among a huge pile of socialist disinformation demanding ongoing government intervention. Listen:

Harper seems to favor an international financial regulatory system in which individual nations respond to an international review board, and he seems to expect that that review board will have, as one of its goals, the normalization of the world’s economic behavior. He claims, incredibly, “This will not interfere with national sovereignty,” but imagining international regulation that changes global economic balances without interfering with sovereignty is like imagining taking a shower without getting wet. It is also true that the claim that we need economic systems operating in a manner that is transparent, in the light of the Obama administration’s handling of the TARP funds, is nothing better than a very bad joke; but the real issue here is international redistribution of wealth and control of economic behavior.

The fact that power-hungry politicians at the G8 Summit and at UN meetings have used climate change as a wedge issue to increase their power does not necessarily mean that the scientists are wrong who claim that humans are warming the planet, but it does make it doubly important to examine their claims under a powerful microscope, and it makes it essential that we oppose the politicians with sound political moves, not just scientific discussion. It happens that I, along with a growing number of scientists, do see the evidence pointing less and less toward human-caused warming, and more and more toward natural variations in the earth’s climate. However, it also happens that the politicians driving this movement do not care a whit about facts, so long as they obtain the power. Opposing them on scientific grounds only helps insofar as the science helps oppose them on political grounds.

The common thread between Gore’s call for governance and Harper’s is anti-capitalism. It has been the case since global climate change became an issue in the early 1990s that the incipient tyrants of World Socialism have been using climate change as one of their favorite issues to produce global governance; the recent economic crisis immediately became further ammunition in the same quest. To Harper, as to Gore and Chirac, everything is about abolishing independent business behavior. If a problem occurs in the economy, capitalism is the culprit. If the globe warms up, capitalism is the culprit. If the globe cools down, capitalism is the culprit. If a tyrant oppresses his people in the middle east, capitalism is the culprit. If anybody dares to object to their agenda of global governance, capitalism is the culprit. The pattern is clear; whatever the malady, the cause is capitalism, and the cure is for the nations of the world to give more power to them.

Who are they? They are so-called “progressives.” The point of abolishing capitalism is to permit the unitary establishment of their new, global religion, of which they are the undisputed priests. They, and they alone, know what we, the unenlightened, must do to Save the Planet, Prevent Economic Chaos, and Bring World Peace.

They imagine that because their religious system does not contain any specific deity (other than themselves) that it is somehow exempt from the excesses we all have come to expect from the application of religion to political dominion. They are deluded; all the worst excesses will follow the institution of their system, which is as much a faith-based system as any that has ever been touted. CS Lewis famously observed, in his essay The Abolition of Man that no tyranny is so oppressive as that instituted for our own good. Tyranny instituted for the good of the tyrant will rest while the tyrant is satisfied; tyranny instituted to cure us of our “wrong” thinking takes no vacations. Liberty, being the soul’s right to breathe, is what produces hope for improvement; the first and greatest victim of the coming universal tyranny will be, ironically, hope.

Beyond the simple but crucial matter of tyranny, however, it is also the case that governance based on wrong ideas produces destructive results. Lyndon Johnson’s wrong-headed War on Poverty was not a disaster merely because it wasted some $6 trillion dollars (although that was a disaster) but because it enslaved millions, even entire generations of poor people, to the government dole. The sexual revolution was not just a disaster because it produced a lot of behavior some of us consider immoral but because millions of people are suffering venereal diseases, poverty, and/or relational mayhem as a consequence of that behavior. Rampant environmentalism already is causing starvation among the world’s poor as wrong-headed ethanol policies distort the world’s grain prices, and taxes on carbon designed to discourage the burning of fossil fuels will sink billions of people into grinding poverty around the world. The tyrants will not care, they’ll have their power, but the institution of global governance under “progressives” will produce immense suffering.

If governments instituted among men derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, I want to make it clear that no global government of any kind will ever hold just power over me; I do not consent, and I will not consent. And since an unjust law is no law at all, I declare now that no law arising from such a government has any authority over my behavior. Free men and women everywhere need to take a pledge of independence, and need actively to withhold their consent from such government. It will become necessary to form a free government that recognizes no international authority to manage its economy.

06/26/2009 (10:35 am)

Cap and Trade: Even Worse Than You Thought

According to NRO on Wednesday and the New York Times yesterday, the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill may contain a clause that forces the President to impose stiff tariffs on imports from any nation that does not restrict carbon emissions the way we do.

captrade062609A stiff tax on carbon emissions in the US will encourage producers to move their facilities to nations that have friendlier policies toward producers. In order to prevent the exodus of still more of America’s productive capacity, the bill’s authors reportedly added language that requires the President to impose carbon tariffs on carbon-intensive imports from countries that fail to institute emission-reduction measures that are at least 80% as costly as ours.

So, not only will cap-and-trade oppressively and regressively tax the American people into poverty, it will initiate trade wars with China and India, who are not about to stifle their own, new-found prosperity to mollify preening environmental busybodies.

Of course, the tariff measure, which certainly will not work, constitutes the Democrats’ admission that they know perfectly well that a US cap-and-trade measure will increase rather than reduce global carbon, by shifting production to less efficient producers overseas.

Apart from the sheer insanity of willfully demolishing our own productivity over environmental concerns that have already fallen into scientific disrepute, the hypocrisy of the measure takes one’s breath away. Leftists have been lecturing us for decades about how arrogant it is of America to dictate moral behavior to the rest of the world (meaning, how dare we defend liberty?) The moment they took office, they sent their shame-faced emissaries to bow and plead forgiveness from every foreign court — and now, within 6 months, they are proposing ham-fisted tariffs to force foreign governments into engaging in radical environmentalism, which everybody recognizes as a leisure game for the rich.

We should force Democrats to state the matter plainly. They have no objection to America dictating morals to the rest of the world, to the entire universe, or even to God Himself, so long as the morals being enforced are theirs. Their objection is not to arrogance, but simply to America deigning to defend virtues to which they, the Originators of All Things Blissful and Harmonious, do not agree. How dare we disagree with them!

John Hinderaker at PowerLine reports that in order to secure the necessary votes to pass the measure, Speaker Pelosi has struck deals with farm state Democrats to add protections for ethanol. Thus, it gets even better; to crushing the economy and initiating a world-wide trade war, we now add starving the poor of Africa! No price too high to save the planet from .07 degrees of warming (their estimate, and not a scientifically sound one). Just so long as Nancy gets her taxpayer-funded private jet, and Barry and Michelle, their wagyu beef.

Hinderaker also notes that we don’t know for sure whether this measure made it to the final bill, because, typical of governance by Democrats, the Speaker is eager to pass this legislation before anybody has a chance to read the whole thing. No, I’m not kidding.

Q and O offers a good set of supporting links, and Volokh astutely draws parallels to Smoot-Hawley from the Depression years.

And for a little gallows humor, here’s South Park writers Matt and Trey explaining their “Smug Alert” episode about preening enviros. In the episode, all the characters close their eyes when they explain how they’re saving the environment; Matt and Trey insist that people really do this in San Fransisco and LA. Unbelievable. Multiple F-bomb warning, but the stench of the enviro’s self-satisfaction is truly more obscene than the language here.

We are SO screwed…

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