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

12/10/2009 (6:49 pm)

The Coming Permanent Oligarchy

obamablackboard

It’s not every day that Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake and I even appear to agree on anything, so we should mark this occasion somehow.

Jane posted an email that she sent to subscribers to FDL’s Action Memos regarding her opinion that President Obama has utterly failed to address the pressing needs of health care reform, opting instead to satisfy the desires of huge corporations and cronies. And I agree, that’s exactly what he’s done, and the bill is a failure. Read:

When Barack Obama announced his health care plan in 2007, he said insurance premiums for a family of 4 would be cut by $2500. This plan will see premiums increase $1000 each year.

Obama said “coverage without cost containment will only shift our burdens, not relieve them.” This plan does nothing to meaningfully contain spiraling health care costs.

Obama said “it’s time to let the drug and insurance industries know that while they’ll get a seat at the table, they don’t get to buy every chair.” This plan includes a deal between the White House and PhRMA that guarantees there will be no negotiation for Medicare prescription drug prices.

Obama said he’d go after the drug companies who “sell the same exact drugs here in America for double the price of what they charge in Europe and Canada.” But the White House deal not only doesn’t do that, it bans the reimportation of cheaper drugs from Canada.

What does this deal do? It forces Americans to buy the products of large corporations, then the IRS penalizes them if they refuse.

Now, Jane’s object was to get people to sign a petition demanding a true public option. This, of course, I won’t support, because the public option is nothing but a Trojan Horse to produce a full-blown, government-run health system, which will bankrupt the nation, shrink the US health system to 2nd-world size, and leave even more Americans without health care.

But I find it encouraging that Ms. Hamsher at least may be beginning to realize that she’s been a useful idiot in the construction of an oligarchy that includes the largest corporate players, along with the unions and permanent, “Democratic” party oligarchs like The One.

I was surprised at first by Obama’s willingness to include the most powerful corporations in his power grab, but I should not have been. Remember the image of Obama teaching an ACORN class that I scared up during the campaign, the one that appears at the top of this column? He was lecturing on power relationships. I’ve never attended any of his classes, but based on what I know of Saul Alinsky and the tactics of community organizers, I can imagine that he’s actually teaching how the greed of various players can be tapped to get them to cooperate in schemes that you might think they’d avoid like the plague.

This seems to be a powerful part of Mr. Obama’s power strategy. He’s been negotiating with the largest corporate players all along, not to get them to agree to their own demolition, but to ensure monopoly power for them within the new, permanent power regime. In return, they apparently promise to support his power grab, and they fail to engage their marketing muscle into the sort of publicity that might defeat the administration’s proposals in public.

Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner noted from the right what Jane Hamsher noted from the left: that Obama’s commitment seems to be to a permanent power position for the largest players:

But this facade of Democrats-versus-industry is crumbling now that the final bill is being crafted. The measure still contains the insurers’ grand prize, the individual mandate — a federal requirement that every individual buy sufficiently comprehensive health insurance.

By late Tuesday, all signs pointed to Democratic abandonment of the one major “reform” policy that the insurers’ hated: a government-run insurer, known as the “public option.” Sen. Joe Lieberman said that in Senate negotiations, Obama didn’t even bring up the public option as a bargaining point, which shows it’s not a White House priority.

Liberal and moderate Democrats early this week were lining up behind an alternative “public option” that is not public at all, but just another government program to funnel Americans into private health insurance. As the Associated Press put it, “instead of Medicare-for-the-masses, it would be Blue Cross Blue Shield or Kaiser Permanente, albeit with a government seal of approval.”

And the drug makers? They cut their deal with the White House early. Obama promised not to go after their government favors such as the ban on reimportation of drugs and high Medicare payments and, in exchange, the drug makers offered $150 million in “Harry & Louise” ads rallying the public behind “reform” together with some discounts for Medicare patients.

Even outside of this deal between White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and top drug lobbyist Billy Tauzin, the drug companies stand to profit from Obama’s plan, which subsidizes prescription drug purchases and will likely mandate prescription drug insurance.

The heads of the largest corporations are not stupid men. I’m sure they realize that President Obama is not their friend. However, I’m sure they also see that economic liberty is no longer part of the landscape, and they see their best available deal as becoming corporate partners to Big Brother. If democracy will not protect their right to engage in business freely, they will serve whatever master permits them the best return for the longest time, regardless of the ism represented by that master. They may favor liberty personally, but their corporations will not become martyrs.

In addition to striking deals with the largest corporations, the Obama administration has also been extremely friendly to unions, and in particular the Service Employees International Union (SEIU.) SEIU President Andy Stern was the most frequent visitor to the White House during the Obama administration’s first 6 months, and the SEIU perpetuates President Obama’s intention to incorporate ACORN into American government somehow. Administration policy has rolled back union disclosure guidelines, slashed budget for the union watchdog arm of the Dept of Labor, and written pro-union guidelines into the stimulus bill and the auto industry bailout. Union representatives (and other major contributors to Obama’s perpetual campaign) continue to get seated at the head of the table at official White House functions. And one of the most obvious beneficiaries of national health care reform would be those unions whose retiree pension plans are approaching bankruptcy.

So the Obama administration is no better for progressives, ultimately, than it is for conservatives. We were wrong to assert that Obama is a pure socialist. He’s far more cynical than that, and seems to be operating more along the lines of the Soviet Communist Party, which was anything but communist. He apparently intends to establish an oligarchy of mutual interest, merging the common aims of the unions, the largest businesses, and the heads of the Democratic party. And have no doubt: we know by the persistent stacking of the deck that he fully intends for this oligarchy to become permanent.

A final word to ardent capitalists and free marketeers: huge corporations are not your friend, and never have been. The market thrives on competition, and the largest players tend to operate anti-competitively. The real losers in the coming permanent oligarchy will be small businessmen, whose insignificance is being guaranteed by the new rules favoring the largest players. And, of course, those citizens whose personal fortunes might have been secured by engaging in successful small businesses are the losers as well, as are those hourly wage-earners those businesses might have hired. In fact, the entire economy will shrink as a result of the oligarchic power of the largest players. But Obama will have formed his power circle, and that’s what matters. The good of The One is the good of the nation. Don’t you know that?

11/22/2009 (5:21 pm)

Email From the Emporer's Tailors

Thursday we saw a flood of private email from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at East Anglia University in the UK dumped into the public view, (dis)courtesy of an unnamed hacker. The CRU, and specifically a scientist there named Dr. Phil Jones, is apparently at the hub of communication between scientists who have been defending the thesis, touted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC,) that human activity is severely altering the climate. Emails were directed to and from the authors of the original Mann Hockey Stick study (Mann, Bradley, and Hughes) and to and from the authors of the Yamal tree ring series (Osborn and Briffa) that were embarrassed so recently when the release of their raw data made it seem likely that they cherry-picked their data to manufacture the appearance of a late-20th-century upward temperature swing.

The publisher of the hacked emails observed:

We feel that climate science is, in the current situation, too important to be kept under wraps.

We hereby release a random selection of correspondence, code, and documents

There’s dirt here for both sides. Hacking is criminal, and I deplore it. I am deeply disappointed in several of the climate skeptic web sites for having posted examples from the stolen emails; they should have been kept private. I have not linked to the sites that have published the emails, nor will I. I sincerely hope that the police catch the individual(s) who stole the emails and published them, and I hope they are prosecuted and punished.

At the same time, the progress of climate science has been crippled by the practice of these very scientists of publishing their results without making their data available to the public for the sake of peer review. At the very least, this practice saddles the scientists with the appearance that they have something to hide. If the research had been performed in a transparent fashion, with appropriate publication of data and welcoming critical review, it seems unlikely that any hacker would have bothered with their emails — or that any part of the public would read them so eagerly.

ipcc_steamrollerHaving said that, it’s impossible at this point for the horse simply to be returned to the barn, so I’ve read a few of the emails, and I’ve read some analyses of them by skeptics who have browsed more or less the entire set. I’ve also read RealClimate.org’s denunciation of the whole affair, in which they basically say “See, there’s no smoking gun, no worldwide conspiracy, no Soros-funded monstrosity, no plot to erase the Medieval Warm Period, basically nothing to see.”

I’m sure RealClimate wishes this were true, but it’s not. The emails show a remarkably smug group of partisans who were clear about what results they wanted the public to see, who were willing to manipulate the peer-review and publication process in such a way as to exclude any serious alternative points of view, who were willing to delete email rather than comply with Freedom of Information requests in the UK (they have a law there similar to ours), and so forth. Most emphatically, what emerges is elitism — an attitude that says that a few people know how everybody else ought to live, and the rest need to be told how and made to shut up.

Of course, at its best, the process of science is far from… well, a science. It’s messy. It’s inexact. The results are frequently debatable. There are lots of different ways to view a data set, and they don’t all support the same conclusions. Hostility and competition are common. So, any set of emails among any set of researchers might expose discussions regarding how small adjustments to techniques might produce different outcomes.

But that’s just it. What’s evident here is a pattern. They want the outcomes they’re angling toward. These outcomes comport well with their politics and their attitudes. The question becomes, which is leading, and which is following? As Dr. Roy Spencer observed, some in the field work very hard to make sure their responses to research are fair and objective, because it is so very easy to fall into partisanship:

The defense posted at RealClimate.org actually reinforces my point. Do the IPCC scientists assume that this is how all climate scientists behave? If it really was how the rest of us behave, why would our eyebrows be raised up to our hairlines as we read the e-mails?

If all of this sounds incompatible with the process of scientific investigation, it shouldn’t. One of the biggest misconceptions the public has about science is that research is a straightforward process of making measurements, and then seeing whether the data support hypothesis A or B. The truth is that the interpretation of data is seldom that simple.

There are all kinds of subjective decisions that must be made along the way, and the scientist must remain vigilant that he or she is not making those decisions based upon preconceived notions. Data are almost always dirty, with errors of various kinds. Which data will be ignored? Which data will be emphasized? How will the data be processed to tease out the signal we think we see?

Hopefully, the scientist is more interested in discovering how nature really works, rather than twisting the data to support some other agenda. It took me years to develop the discipline to question every research result I got. It is really easy to be wrong in this business, and very difficult to be right.

Skepticism really is at the core of scientific progress. I’m willing to admit that I could be wrong about all my views on manmade global warming. Can the IPCC scientists admit the same thing?

It takes discipline to approach scientific data without letting preconceptions dictate the outcomes, and it appears that the authors of the now-public emails lack that discipline. The boys at Power Line attend to specific emails with lawyerly precision, and decide “Politics, not science.” Ed Morrissey at Hot Air says the same. I’m inclined to agree.

The scientific basis of the IPCC’s claim of anthropogenic climate change has been called into question. Economy-altering decisions are being made on the basis of a process with no appropriate peer accountability; this must stop. The IPCC process must become totally transparent; publication of papers without publication of the data on which the paper rests cannot be accepted.

polarbearThe sad thing about the affair is that nothing that has been revealed is the least bit surprising to those of us who have been skeptical all along. It’s been plain from the outset that the goals of this effort were political rather than scientific. And let’s be candid; how can anybody expect real science to trump sycophancy when there’s a river of financial gravy running through every government-funded research lab in the world, and all one has to do to get on the gravy boat is to make one’s findings comport well with the Official Government Narrative? The leftist talk about a few thousand dollars of “Corporate Social Responsibility” donations from oil companies (who are far from being the only companies making such donations) has always been laughable; the donors have no connection to the researchers in such instances, whereas the influence of government expectations on the allocation of tens of billions of research dollars is direct and obvious.

Progressives routinely hijack science to make the case for their next aberrant social experiment, playing with the numbers improperly in order to give their social experiments a scientific patina. They’ve done it with DDT, with homosexuality, with smoking, with domestic violence, with child-rearing, with abortion, and with any number of other topics. Their goal is always to make individuals among the general public think they’re being “unscientific” if they disagree with progressive dogma. They hit the Million-Dollar-Jackpot with climate change, and have been angling full-tilt toward global progressive governance since they managed to convince a sizable percentage of the public that giving away their liberties to progressive Science Gods is the only way to prevent a global disaster. It never made sense, and it makes even less sense today. The emails make it appear that some scientists who are true believers in the progressive agenda, can no longer distinguish the difference between a search for truth and the pursuit of their partisan political goals.

10/14/2009 (2:34 pm)

Progressivism, the Religion

I’m in the first chapter of Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, and I’m delighted to find that he’s accurately identified the religious character of American progressivism.

The one thing that unites these [variously fascist] movements is that they were all, in their own ways, totalitarian. But what do we mean when we say something is totalitarian? The word has certainly taken on an understandably sinister connotation in the last half century. Thanks to work by Hannah Arendt, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and others, it’s become a catchall for brutal, soul-killing, Orwellian regimes. But that’s not how the word was originally used or intended. Mussolini himself coined the term to describe a society where everybody belonged, where everyone was taken care of, where everything was inside the state and nothing was outside; where truly no child was left behind.

Again, it is my argument that American liberalism is a totalitarian political religion, but not necessarily an Orwellian one. It is nice, not brutal. Nannying, not bullying. But it is definitely totalitarian — or “holistic,” if you prefer — in that liberalism today sees no realm of human life that is beyond political significance, from what you eat to what you smoke to what you say. Sex is political. Food is political. Sports, entertainment, your inner motives and outer appearance, all have political salience for liberal fascists. Liberals place their faith in priestly experts who know better, who plan, exhort, badger, and scold. They try to use science to discredit traditional notions of religion and faith, but they speak the language of pluralism and spirituality to defend “nontraditional” beliefs. Just as with classical fascism, liberal fascists speak of a “Third Way” between right and left where all good things go together and all hard choices are “false choices.”

The idea that there are no hard choices — that is, choices between competing goods — is religious and totalitarian because it assumes that all good things are fundamentally compatible. The conservative or classical liberal vision understands that life is unfair, that man is flawed, and that the only perfect society, the only real utopia, waits for us in the next life.

I’ve been saying for decades that the current version of what we call “liberalism,” which its adherents are calling “progressivism,” feels like a religion, and its adherents exhibit all the characteristics of True Believers. These Believers take as axioms — as dogma, really — the inherent virtue of radical egalitarianism, multiculturalism, and moral relativism, dismiss all other views of truth as hopelessly backward, and ultimately celebrate the ascendancy of the enlightened apex of human development, namely themselves.

Understanding that progressivism is a religion explains lots of things. It explains why progressives consider holding their political position the apex of moral virtue, and holding contrary positions, the depths of moral vice. It explains why progressives are impervious to reasons, statistics, or sound arguments that do not support their point of view. It explains why they feel perfectly justified in controlling even the smallest decisions of the populace. It explains why they feel no compunction of conscience while breaking every conceivable law or rule of civil behavior in the pursuit of power. It explains the fervor with which they pursue political power. It explains everything: they’re True Believers.

I produced a decent definition of “religion” in my post on Darwin Day this year:

…“theism” is not a useful definition of religion: there are major, recognized world religions that contain both many gods (Hinduism, Shintoism, Buddhism) and no gods (Confucianism and Taoism.) A better definition of religion would be “a dogmatic set of cohesive ideas purporting to explain the nature and purpose of the universe, and from that to derive how Man should live.”

Progressivism is nothing if not dogmatic; you can’t even raise questions about their presuppositions without getting scoffed at. They definitely have ideas regarding the nature of the universe, and they not only have derived from those ideas how Man should live, but consider themselves the rightful executors of the power to make them live that way. Oh, yes, progressivism is a religion, alright, and a highly coercive one at that.

Some will object that they can’t be religious because they do not believe in God. I’ve had that conversation with atheists of various stripes; they want me to get it through my head that Atheism is not belief, but the absence of belief. That’s like saying that on a sunny, warm day we are not experiencing weather, but the absence of weather. If the topic is “What is the universe, and how should we live in it,” the answer may or may not include God, but all answers to that question are addressing the same topic. The answer that says “We must work together under one Government to create a world without racism, sexism, homophobia, or unfairness” is as much religion as the answer that says “Fear God, and keep His commandments, for such is the whole duty of man.”

1apunchAs with all True Believers, their cognitive dissonance runs deep. They can hurl the most incredibly vicious racial epithets at black conservatives like Sowell, Thomas, and Rice (remember Clarence Thomas as a lawn jockey?), and then claim that conservatism is the source of all racism without the slightest awareness of the irony. They slur conservative women with utter, unrestrained viciousness (Katherine Harris “applies makeup with a trowel” and Michelle Malkin is “a mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick”) but consider conservatism the bastion of sexist hate and suppression of women. They ruminate about conservative talk show hosts “blowing up like a blimp” and fabricate out of thin air racist quotes to accuse their opponents, but wonder how conservatives can be so mean-spirited. They cannot even watch Sarah Palin on TV without screaming curses at her, and regard capitalists and conservatives as evil incarnate, but lecture us about tolerance and getting past our differences. Because they are The Good Ones, it is simply not possible that they could do evil; because their beliefs are the very definition of tolerance, open-mindedness, and multicultural harmony, what they do simply cannot ever be considered intolerant, bigoted, or vicious.

Adherents engage in a pretense of intellectual discussion among themselves because Reason sits high in their panoply of gods; but it is pretense only, and impervious to serious engagement from outside its own circle of self-congratulation. Ask any conservative what it takes to get a progressive to engage them in reasonable conversation; every one of us who has tried can count on one hand the number of times we have succeeded in getting a cogent, polite response to a sincere intellectual challenge. I’ve been trying for at least 25 years, and still know only a handful of progressives who can talk politics with me without hurling insults. Conservatives can play drinking games betting on how many words it will take before the progressive resorts to sneering: my record is four words. I’m not kidding; a friend asked me “Why Iraq?” and he interrupted with a sneer after “What was intended was…” When Rush Limbaugh gets a call from an acknowledged liberal, he times how long it takes before he gets called a derogatory name; it’s invariably less than 2 minutes. Ask any conservative how many times he’s been called “Nazi,” “fascist,” “racist,” or various shades of “imbecile” simply for offering a contrary idea to one held by a progressive. In my experience, there is no connection between the idea offered and the accusatory response; “fascist” is a definition. To the progressive, intelligent conversation begins with “are you a believer?” If the answer is “no,” then it’s simply an article of faith that what follows is “fascist,” “sexist,” “racist,” or “greed,” and can have no merit.

And then, there are the Christian progressives. These are becoming increasingly common, as the shaming and fault-finding directed by the culture at large toward Christians for remaining faithful to an “outdated” sect take their toll. Increasingly, devout Christians are succumbing to the lie that using other peoples’ tax money to engage the government in programs for the poor is somehow a Christian act. Theft is never Christian; and the notion that the government can force righteousness on a people is as demonic a notion as ever infected a Christian mind. More to the point, though, the dogmatic assumptions of progressivism are biblically unsound; man cannot be perfected through political activism, it is no virtue to make all outcomes equal regardless of performance, and showing love to people of different races and cultures does not imply that all practices are of equal moral worth. By committing to the progressive Utopian vision, no matter how well-intentioned or filled with Christian-sounding endorsements, Christians are serving among the legions of a foreign god.

One must remember when engaging progressives that one is most likely engaging what I would call a Brittle Fundamentalist. Brittle Fundamentalists can only see the world in black and white; they can accept no grays. Consequently, they will resist with intense fervor any effort to move them from serving the goals of progressivism, and simply disbelieve any fact you produce that does not fit their picture of the world. But, like all Brittle Fundamentalists, there is a breaking point; if the preponderance of the facts from a trusted source at any time forces them to acknowledge that they’ve been wrong on any subject, the entire house of cards can collapse in a matter of days. They can quickly become conservatives if they ever permit themselves, even once, to let a contrary thought in. Their faith is inflexible, and that makes it breakable.

The fact that Western civilization has been overtaken by a non-Christian — I should say an anti-Christian — religion, it is clearer than ever that the path to saving Western civilization is not political, but religious. The culture will not be turned by winning a series of elections; the culture will be turned by religious revival, and by nothing else.

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.

10/05/2009 (2:20 am)

Another Liberal Policy Goes Bankrupt

The “Broken Windows” theory that brought New York City back from the dead in the 1990s has recently been proved again in Los Angeles, as the LAPD instituted a similar policy to bring Skid Row back from anarchy. Heather MacDonald provided a useful case study in the failure of homeless-advocate ideology in the most recent City Journal, explaining at length how the homeless themselves were victimized by criminals empowered by stock liberal policies regarding the poor, and how they have benefited from simple law enforcement as a curative to these policies.

For 25 years, Skid Row constituted a real-world experiment in the application of homeless-advocate ideology. The squalor that engulfed the 50-block district just east of downtown Los Angeles was the direct outgrowth of advocates’ claims that the homeless should be exempt from the rules of ordinary society. The result was not a reign of peace and love among society’s underdogs, but rather brutal predation and depravity. Occupants of the filthy tents and lean-tos that covered every inch of sidewalk in the area pimped each other out and stole from, stabbed, and occasionally killed one another. Gangs and pushers from South Central and East Los Angeles operated with impunity under cover of the chaos that reigned on the streets.

The intrepid small wholesalers and warehouse owners who tried to keep the area’s once vigorous commercial trade alive removed feces, condoms, and hypodermic needles from the entrance to their properties every morning. Elderly residents of the local Single Room Occupancy hotels were imprisoned in their tiny apartments, terrified to go outside.

In 2006, Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton announced a full-scale attack on Skid Row anarchy. His Safer City Initiative (SCI) would be a demonstration project, he said, for Broken Windows theory, which holds that tolerance for low-level forms of crime and disorder allows more serious crime to fester. When the police started enforcing jaywalking, public urination, and public camping laws, thousands of warrant absconders and violent parolees on the lam lost their refuge. Order gradually returned to the streets.

The homeless themselves were the Safer City Initiative’s most immediate beneficiaries. As the lawlessness in the encampments was pushed back, deaths from drug overdoses, untreated disease, and other non-homicidal causes of mortality diminished as well, falling 36 percent in just three years. Skid Row’s violent crime—the victims of which were almost always other vagrants—decreased 45 percent from the first nine months of 2006, before SCI began, to the first nine months of 2009. The lean-tos faded away as their inhabitants discovered that they could no longer smoke weed and crack in them all day without disturbance.

The LAPD program was vigorously resisted by homeless advocates in LA in conjunction with the ACLU, accompanied by obligatory accusations of racism and lack of concern for the poor. MacDonald goes into great detail about a double homicide that occurred this summer at a shelter run and defended by one of these advocates, citing the instance as proof that homeless advocacy has gone bankrupt as a means of helping the poor.

Almost invariably, liberal policies harm those most that they aim to help. Instances of this include welfare, which robbed several generations of poor people of dignity and enslaved them to the government dole; legal abortion, into which the majority of women who receive them feel they have been pressured or coerced by self-interested family; and radical environmentalism, which routinely prevents the poorest from improving their lot through the sort of industry that becomes the basis for environmental awareness and improvement. This effect occurs so regularly that I’m forced to imagine that most liberals are more interested in appearing compassionate than they are in actually helping the poor; a lot more leftist voting is caused by a desire among the morally weak to lord their superiority over others, than is caused by real concern.

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?

09/19/2009 (7:04 pm)

ACORN in a Nutshell (Updated)

1obacornlog003Puns aside, I was shocked and a little amazed when a commenter on a recent thread insisted that the only criminal behavior exhibited by ACORN has been from a handful of employees going overboard in collecting voter registrations. It appears that the mainstream press has succeeded in misleading at least one seemingly intelligent Democrat into ignoring a veritable flood of damning evidence. It’s not the first time.

I’ve said for years, and believe it to be profoundly true, that the proper definition of “Democrat” is “an American voter who still believes that what he reads in major newspapers and hears on television news programs is accurate.” Once a person has learned that the press is systematically lying to them in order to make them support their agenda, which is written for them by the Democratic party, they tend to find alternative sources for the truth — after which, it’s pretty difficult to remain a good Democrat.

So, for all you Democrats out there, and for Republicans and Libertarians who have not been keeping up with the evidence, here are a handful of pithy links that will apprise you of the fuller picture of the organization calling itself the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.

Notice that it is an association: there are actually more than 300 separate organizations in the network, all carefully organized in such a way as to defeat any efforts to penetrate the maze and understand how they interact. It’s actually a deliberately structured shell game that enables a group of people who describe themselves in their own internal documents as “central and indispensable to the Progressive enterprise of gaining and using political power” to present themselves to the IRS and the Federal Election Commission as a non-profit enterprise engaged in non-partisan efforts to register voters and obtain housing loans.

ACORN, in short, is a criminal enterprise.

Here are the opening paragraphs from the Staff Report of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issued July 23, 2009, entitled “Is ACORN Intentionally Structured as a Criminal Enterprise?”

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) has repeatedly and deliberately engaged in systemic fraud. Both structurally and operationally, ACORN hides behind a paper wall of nonprofit corporate protections to conceal a criminal conspiracy on the part of its directors, to launder federal money in order to pursue a partisan political agenda and to manipulate the American electorate.

Emerging accounts of widespread deceit and corruption raise the need for a criminal investigation of ACORN. By intentionally blurring the legal distinctions between 361 tax-exempt and non-exempt entities, ACORN diverts taxpayer and tax-exempt monies into partisan political activities. Since 1994, more than $53 million in federal funds have been pumped into ACORN, and under the Obama administration, ACORN stands to receive a whopping $8.5 billion in available stimulus funds.

Operationally, ACORN is a shell game played in 120 cities, 43 states and the District of Columbia through a complex structure designed to conceal illegal activities, to use taxpayer and tax-exempt dollars for partisan political purposes, and to distract investigators. Structurally, ACORN is a chess game in which senior management is shielded from accountability by multiple layers of volunteers and compensated employees who serve as pawns to take the fall for every bad act.

The report, which is 88 pages long, goes on to document how ACORN has failed in its fiduciary responsibility to contributors and employees, violated IRS regulations, violated its own corporate charter, engaged in activities forbidden to not-for-profit enterprises, and engaged in voter registration fraud, embezzlement, and organizational mismanagement. You can read the report here. If you don’t want to wade through 88 pages, you can read the release from the Republicans on the House Oversight Committee here.

By the way, notice, at the end of the quote block, above, that designating a few employees to take the fall for the criminal behavior of the entire organization is actually a strategy.

Here’s a link to an article discussing a plea agreement made by a senior ACORN employee at the national level, in response to an indictment brought in Las Vegas, NV, indicating a nationwide conspiracy by directors of ACORN to engage in widespread voter registration fraud and illegal remuneration of registration workers.

Here’s a link to an article documenting that the instructions for the quota system that produced the “handful” of violations is actually in ACORN’s instruction manual that gets used nationwide. The author of this article is a former ACORN employee, and is not a Republican.

Here’s a link to an article citing previous ACORN involvement in union-related embezzlement and fraud.

Here is a discussion of ACORN’s corporation shakedown process, which I regard as a clear violation of the RICO statute.

ACORN was in fact begun as a spin-off from the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO). The NWRO was created deliberately to overload the welfare system in an attempt to bring capitalism to its knees and instigate a revolution; that was the stated intent of the founders. ACORN’s conduct in voter registration makes an astonishing parallel; they don’t seem to be attempting to stuff the ballot box, but they do seem to be attempting to overload the system in such a way as to make it unworkable. The recent sting operation reported by Big Government blog reveals that they also do what they can to game the system for the benefit of illegals of various sorts. And, the core operation of the organization is itself a huge fraud: by creating a false front of voter registration and home loan counseling organizations, they obtain federal funds and tax exemption, which they then put to partisan, political purposes in a systematic fashion.

ACORN/Obama fusion image borrowed from Michelle Malkin. Ms. Malkin gives Photoshop credit to Leo Alberti, so I will, too.


UPDATE: I knew when I posted this that there would be lots of links that added bits of information, and I determined in advance that I was content with the sketchy details I’d provided. However, one reader added a link to the Cloward-Piven strategy put into play by the National Welfare Rights Organization, which was the organization from which ACORN spun off. This, I think, is crucial information regarding the organization, so I’m going to add the link here.

Read about the Cloward-Piven strategy at Smart Girl Politics (and your monitor will look like a gift for a baby shower, but that’s what you get for visiting a site called “Smart Girl Politics.” :) )

I’m also adding the link to my own article that explains President Obama’s connection to ACORN, for anyone that has not read it.

09/16/2009 (9:57 pm)

The Audacity of Hos

Jon Stewart of The Daily Show occasionally marks himself as an equal-opportunity insulter, something valuable and rare in these days of partisan-only news. Today, he’s taking on the ACORN scandal that major news media have simply blacked out. Listen:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
The Audacity of Hos
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Healthcare Protests

The piece that nearly everybody is missing about this incident is that the President used to work for this organization and help train its members. The picture I used with my article about Obama’s middle years with ACORN and the New Party, reproduced at the bottom of this post, shows him teaching the power dynamics of self-interest in the community, a topic he also apparently taught to ACORN volunteers. All web-based content documenting this association was pulled after the McCain campaign and conservative bloggers started drawing attention to it (as was normal for any web-based information shedding light on Obama’s radical past,) but if he really did train volunteers for ACORN, and if the organization really is this lawless, we have every reason to believe that the President regards with contempt the laws of the land he leads. I have seen nothing in his conduct of the tasks of the office of President to make me certain that this is not so.

We may hope that appropriate attention will finally be paid to the criminal enterprise of ACORN, to which a number of conservatives have been attempting to draw attention for several years. It’s hard to imagine a more partisan organization, and it is clear that their intent in nearly every enterprise is to render society unworkable by undermining laws. It is a complete shame that such an organization has been permitted to continue to milk the public treasury by pretending to be non-profit and non-partisan, and a genuine scandal that the President directed $800,000 of his campaign funds to this band of criminals, and then directed literally billions of dollars of public money toward them in the form of contracts, stimulus funding, and education funding.

Michelle Malkin characteristically has the best coverage today of the ACORN scandal, and has the best links concerning their ongoing criminal ventures as well.

obamablackboard

08/07/2009 (4:17 pm)

And the Thugs Come Out to Fight

streetbattle1

“If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.” So said candidate Obama; it may be the only campaign promise he’s keeping. Discussing strategy in the wake of an unexpected wave of anger facing Representatives in their home districts, which they delusionally believe to be organized by Republicans, the White House staff is advising Senate Democrats that they intend to “punch back twice as hard.” Only, is that how we want the President of all Americans to govern?

I reported yesterday that the unions were planning to bring their thugs into the town hall meetings. Gateway Pundit reported early this morning that a conservative handing out Gadsden flags (“Don’t Tread on Me”) was assaulted and beaten by six men wearing SEIU t-shirts. SEIU is the Service Employees International Union; Michelle Malkin today has the portion from her new book Culture of Corruption pertaining to SEIU posted on her blog. Gateway Pundit has since posted a letter from the victim’s attorney describing the incident. Six men were arrested, but the victim had to go to the Emergency Room. Rep. Russ Carnahan (D, MO), outside of whose meeting the incident took place, blamed the victim as a “disruptive force.”

There was also a scuffle at a Tampa, FL town hall meeting yesterday. So far I have heard nothing about who fought with whom or who started it, but a video from a Fox affiliate in Tampa, via Hot Air, paints a pretty clear picture: the Democrats, who genuinely believe there could not possibly be this many sincere people who are angry about their bill, locked opponents out of the hall, but let their own hand-picked attendees in through the side door. I’m having trouble with shockwave videos that I’ll resolve soon, but in the meantime, clicking on the image, below, will take you to the Hot Air post with the video. It’s definitely worth the 3:50 it will take to watch.

yborcityriot

And then we have the orchestrated Progressive attempts to paint the entire set of incidents as organized disruption. Some of them are pretty annoying; a commenter here on my own blog posted a link to Rachel Maddow’s hilariously wrong, 5-minute diatribe about a web site called Recess Rally, claiming that it proved that the anger at the town hall meetings was manufactured by wealthy Republican activists, and advising that we need to “follow the money.” Only, Recess Rally is nothing but a call to attend rallies on August 22 at various Representatives’ offices. It has nothing to do with current town hall meetings. This is obvious to anyone who bothers to visit the site.

The Weekly Standard blog cites another attempt, a Think Progress meme that’s been picked up and rebroadcast by the DNC, about a tiny activist group in Connecticut called Right Principles that apparently sent some of its own members to a town hall meeting with instructions on how to get the Representative out of his script. The group has a facebook page sporting 23 members, and a Twitter account with 5 followers; the founder is an Independent, and has never voted for a Republican in a national election; there’s even a video of the meeting showing how mild and respectful they were. And the DNC’s national ad posts one of their internal memos prominently, with a voice-over saying the town meeting tactics are “straight from the playbook of high-level Republican political operatives.” Hilarious. And utterly false. But it’s been repeated by ABC News, the Washington Post, CBS, the New York Times, and CNN as instance of a national outfit organizing mobs.

There’s also been a flurry of incidents reported by Michigan Republicans about the Michigan Democratic party teaching interns to write fictitious letters to local commissioners from imaginary constituents, pretending to be in desperate need of health care, as a means of turning sentiment in favor of health care reform. The Michigan Democratic party wrote a formal apology, blaming the incident on isolated individuals within the organization, and the Republican party accepted their apology; but this is not the first time we’ve heard staged complaints from Democratic operatives.

“If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.” Can you imagine President Bush II, President Bush I, President Reagan, President Carter, or President Ford saying such a thing about fellow citizens? I can easily imagine President Clinton saying it, but not publicly; he was an angry and vindictive man, but he knew the importance of a friendly facade. President Obama made this public, and seems to be carrying it out. He regards fellow American citizens as enemies to be defeated. How can he govern the whole nation?

I warned about the difficult times that might be ahead for freedom of speech if the Progressives got hold of the reins of government. They seem to be upon us quickly. Protect your liberties, and don’t be surprised if you’re faced with outright lies or real violence, ’cause that’s who they are.

08/07/2009 (2:34 pm)

"We've Hired Skilled, Grassroots Organizers…"

The title of this piece is a quotation from a post today at MoveOn.org, where they’re gathering funds to hire grassroots organizers. Michelle Malkin has the original text posted, although now it’s morphed into this (the emphasis is theirs):

All across the country, right-wing extremists are disrupting congressional town hall meetings with venomous attacks on President Obama’s plans for health care and clean energy. If these are the only voices our senators and representatives hear over the recess, we’ll have a hard time passing health care reform and clean energy legislation. We’ve got a plan to fight back. We blew through our first goal of $250,000, so we’ve set a new goal that will let us deploy even more organizers and more technology.

I’m scratching my head, here. Where does one hire a grassroots organizer? I thought grassroots organizers were all… I dunno… grassroots. Volunteers. Ordinary folks, rather than paid political organizers.

Sounds like an astroturf campaign to me. I’m just sayin’.

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