Unexamined Premises

Unexamined Premises

One size fits all

Big Brother knows what’s good for you

The idea that “liberals” (or “Progressives,” as they now call themselves) are in any way “liberal” has been making me laugh for nearly half a century. Aside from their personal libertinism in matters of sexuality — as Nora Ephron wrote of her former husband, Carl Bernstein, in her roman-a-clef, Heartburn, “he was capable of having sex with a Venetian blind” — which is entirely a product of their own sense of self-involvement, there is nothing “liberal” about them at all. Even as a college student, I could see that their passion for various causes, many of them either illusory or imaginary, always had to end with the blunt fist of the government in your face. And this from people who, back in the day, were protesting against a government run by a president (Johnson) of their own party!

What we’ve seen since, with the ascendancy of the Baby Boomers, is precisely that form of totalitarian “liberalism” in action. More laws, more rules, more regulations, more punishment, more, more, more. Nothing, it seems, can be left to the judgment of ordinary citizens. Everything must be either prescribed or proscribed. As Philip K. Howard wrote the other day at the Daily Beast:

Law is essential to freedom because it safeguards citizens against misconduct and abuse. By drawing boundaries against wrongful conduct, law provides a protective zone of freedom within those boundaries. Companies can’t pollute; businesses can’t cheat; people must honor contracts. On this open field of freedom, people can act spontaneously without undue defensiveness.

Modern law goes a giant step backwards—it often bars people from doing what’s right. Law’s proper role is now seen as instructing people how to make daily choices. Instead of providing the framework for freedom, law has replaced it, creating a legal minefield rather than an open field for free choice.

Howard’s subject is the trammeling of former norms of human behavior — specifically, Good Samaritanism — by a million petty regulations whose purpose ostensibly is to protect, but whose effect instead is to harm:

Every year the rulebooks get thicker. After all, writing regulations is what many regulators do. Did something go wrong? Write a rule. Did someone find a loophole? Clarify it with another rule. Is there an ambiguity? Write a regulation. Lawmaking by legislatures is also a one-way ratchet—Legislators get credit for passing laws, not pruning them. Should unlicensed people be able to give manicures? Pass a law.

Law is good, we assume, so more law is better. The theory is that humans make mistakes and disagree, and therefore it’s good to have rules. Our dream society lies just over the horizon, once lawmakers and regulators figure out how to make the intricate pieces fit together.

In our headlong quest for a legally perfect society, we don’t take the time to take stock of what‘s been created so far. But pause for a second, and look back at what these generations of regulators and lawmakers have created. What you see is a massive, well-intentioned, legal junk pile.

Let’s stop right there: who says all this law has been “well-intentioned”? I would argue the precise opposite. None of this law has been well-intentioned, except by useful idiots, once you get past the surface of the law in question (“the Kiddie Protection Act of blah blah blah”) and look at the intent, which is always to curtail individual freedom and increase the power of the state. And the power of the state always can and must end with a man with a gun arriving on your doorstep and forcing you to his will.

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The Revenge President

The Revenge President

The men behind Obama took a calculated gamble in 2008 that the nation was ready for the first post-American president, a man with no meaningful cultural roots in the nation he would profess to lead.  They relied on the intrinsic good-heartedness of the electorate to show their lack of prejudice in voting for a man with an exotic Arabic/Muslim name only seven years after the atrocity of Sept. 11. They counted on the innate good will of the American people, judged that the time was right for a black president, and then went out and found the only half-black candidate who had absolutely nothing to do with the black American experience and ran him as an avatar of black America.

And they won, twice, both times against half-hearted Republican candidates with no skin in the game, married to interchangeable blonde wives — one a half-crazy former prisoner of war/political accommodationist and the other a Mormon whose religious faith was guaranteed to lose him some much-needed votes. If they had tried to throw both elections, they could not have done a better job, both of them refusing to go after Obama head-on, and neither of them apparently realizing the danger he posed to the republic. Neither could fathom a new kind of Democrat candidate, one who observed the surface appearances of  a traditional candidacy, but who was brimming with new, extra-Constitutional ideas about how to effect his political program. 

Shortly before his first election, the president promised a “fundamental transformation” of the United States of America, and it is instructive to note the tone in which he made that pledge. Listen, please; it only takes a few seconds:

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Note the finger-pointing. Check out the saturnine look on his face. America was warned, early on, that beneath the smiling facade of Barack Hussein Obama was a very angry man. The smile and the shoeshine got him elected but since that day he has waged unremitting war on the country as founded, pillorying the nation, putting it in the dock, and making us all atone for its sins. Obama’s is a presidency-as-payback, and the “transformation” is meant to ensure that it is permanently hobbled. The animus positively radiates from him.

“Why?” is a question best left to shrinks and historians. But for those of us dealing with the consequences, what matters most is, “What next?” Freed of the need to fool the public one more time, and having buried what’s left of the Democratic Party in the rubble of two off-year elections, Obama is hell-bent on, according to PoliticoOperation Revenge

We’ll take a look at it after the jump:

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The Pope Is Catholic, Not an American Politician

December 23rd, 2014 - 2:41 pm
Pope in Rome, not in Washington

Pope in Rome, not in Washington

Almost from the beginning of his papacy, there has been a lot of nonsense written about Pope Francis. On the Left, there has been much wishful thinking about how the former Cardinal Bergoglio is really a man of progressive sympathies, while on the Right, there is a deep suspicion that the first Jesuit pope is basically a “liberation theologian” who is not a particular fan of capitalism and may in fact be a sneak commie symp. Much of what the pope is said to have said turns out to be either a mistranslation or completely imaginary, the result of having reporters either ignorant of Catholicism or openly hostile to it reporting or commenting on the pope and the Church. So who is he?

To quote the old joke, “Is the Pope Catholic?” You bet he is. To look at him any other way is simply wrong,

Yet now that President Obama has effected his instantly controversial opening to Cuba, the pope is coming in for more critical scrutiny. Having worked behind the scenes with the president and the Castro regime, the pope is viewed even more hostilely by some on the right, who seem to feel that the pontiff’s first allegiance ought to be to conservative political principles rather than to the world’s more than one billion Catholics and the tenets of their shared faith.

This particular pope, an Italian born in Argentina, gave his game away by taking the name “Francis” upon his accession to the chair of St. Peter. As it happened, I was on the air live with Hugh Hewitt from his Orange County, Calif., studio when the election was announced, and my first articulated thought (which turned out to be correct) was that the new pope had taken the name of Francis in honor of St. Francis himself, and that this signaled that his papacy would be concerned with Franciscan virtues: humility, self-abnegation, poverty and love for his fellow man; in other words, the spiritual realm. It would not be concerned with politics as we Americans understand them, which is why from time to time the pontiff’s remarks about capitalism, misinterpreted, have set off alarms bells.

Cuba, like most of Latin America, is a nominally Catholic country, and despite the imposition of a typical Caudillo system wearing Marxist drag, it’s still a land of great faith. Francis’s duty is to his flock, not to the American or Cuban governments. For him to criticize some of the predatory and unscrupulous aspects of international capitalism is perfectly justified; he need not compare it to communism and then declare it, on balance, better. That is the job of a political leader; and to call it “moral relativism” is simply ridiculous.

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‘Publish and Be Damned’

December 18th, 2014 - 3:19 pm
Keep telling yourself, 'It's only a movie'

Keep telling yourself, ‘It’s only a movie’

That was the famous reaction of the Duke of Wellington in 1824 to a blackmailer named Stockdale, who was about to publish the memoirs of one of Wellington’s mistresses, Harriette Wilson, a London courtesan who had more or less slept with everybody who was anybody in Regency London. Stockdale was fishing around the Iron Duke, hoping to snag a little cash settlement to keep the Wellington name out of what turned out to be Wilson’s laundry list of Famous Men I Have Slept With. As The Independent put it:

London society was thrilled and scandalised. Half the aristocracy was named in the book, and painted in a most unflattering light. The memoirs went through 31 editions in one year; excerpts were pirated and sold as illustrated broadsheets and French and German editions quickly appeared to delight the gossips of the Continent.

Stockdale, the impresario, and Wilson, the scarlet woman, were said to have made pounds 10,000 from the enterprise, but their good fortune did not last. Stockdale was soon ruined by libel suits, while Harriette was down on her luck again within a few years, and died in obscurity.

Meanwhile, of course, the Wellington name has lived on.

Although Wellington’s answer to Stockdale’s blackmail letter does not survive in his own hand, there is no reason to doubt he used those famous words. But his stance was less bold than they suggest, for he also threatened to sue ‘if such trash is published’.

The threat was ignored but the Duke did not issue a writ, perhaps because others got there before him, or perhaps because there was too much truth in what Wilson wrote. Either way, his reputation did not suffer and he was not forced to resign for reasons of security or hypocrisy or anything else. On the contrary, he remained the nation’s hero and went on to become prime minister.

Sony Pictures and its embattled leader, Amy Pascal, should have stolen a march on the hero of Waterloo and done exactly the same thing to the (apparently) North Korean hackers who stole the studio’s emails and financial secrets and threatened violence against any theater showing the ill-fated comedy, The Interview, which was scheduled to open on Christmas Day (ha ha) and has now been shelved indefinitely. The only way to deal with a blackmailer is to tell him to go to hell; otherwise, the threats will never end. But, in order to avoid some temporary embarrassment, accede to his demands and a lifetime of misery will follow. There is, shocking to say, no honor among thieves.

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Brothers from another mother

Brothers from another mother

It’s basically a sham, a false-flag operation with the hapless Dianne Feinstein as the designed drop-box, designed to make the Bush administration look bad, the Democrats look “moral” (stop laughing) and the White House look innocent (no, really, stop laughing). For proof, you need look no further than this glowing tale of the bond between two men as lovingly depicted by the Chief Stenographers of the Obama administration, the New York Times:

Just hours before he publicly responded last week to the Senate Intelligence Committee report accusing the Central Intelligence Agency of torture and deceit, John O. Brennan, the C.I.A.’s director, stopped by the White House to meet with President Obama.

Ostensibly, he was there for an intelligence briefing. But the messages delivered later that day by the White House and Mr. Brennan were synchronized, even down to similar wording, and the larger import of the well-timed visit was hardly a classified secret: After six years of partnership, the president was standing by the embattled spy chief even as fellow Democrats called for his resignation.

That’s not to say there was no friction between the West Wing and the C.I.A.’s Langley, Va., headquarters after the release of the scorching report… Some who considered Mr. Brennan the president’s heat shield against the agency when he worked in the White House now worry that since being appointed director, he has “gone native,” as they put it.

But in the 67 years since the C.I.A. was founded, few presidents have had as close a bond with their intelligence chiefs as Mr. Obama has forged with Mr. Brennan. It is a relationship that has shaped the policy and politics of the debate over the nation’s war with terrorist organizations, as well as the agency’s own struggle to balance security and liberty. And the result is a president who denounces torture but not the people accused of inflicting it.

In other words, good old having-it-both-ways Barry, forever running against the status quo as if he had not been charge of it for the past six years. Meanwhile, pointing out that the careerist Brennan, a beloved figure of fun in the intelligence community whose name is a punchline, has “gone native” is an interesting choice of phrase.  In fact, that’s one way to put it; it’s certainly not the first time Brennan has been accused of  it. One thing he and his boss in the White House seem to share is a, shall we say, fondness for Islam and Arab culture:

Mr. Brennan, 59, who spent much of his career as an Arabic-speaking C.I.A. officer, has been a central figure in Mr. Obama’s world since the beginning of his presidency. Built like a linebacker, with a hardened face, close-cropped retreating hair and an intense gaze, Mr. Brennan looks the part of a grim counterterrorism agent. More than one Obama aide compared him to a grizzled city cop, and all of them testified to his herculean work ethic. 

A native of North Bergen, N.J., Mr. Brennan attended Fordham University, spent time in Indonesia and Egypt and earned a master’s degree in Middle East studies at the University of Texas at Austin before answering a newspaper ad for the C.I.A. He rose through the ranks to become station chief in Saudi Arabia and a favorite of George J. Tenet, then the C.I.A. director, who made him his chief of staff and later the agency’s deputy executive director.

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Government or Organized Crime? You Be the Judge

December 10th, 2014 - 8:39 pm

Compare and contrast…

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With this…

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The Agency snuggles up to Dianne Feinstein

The Agency snuggles up to Dianne Feinstein

Just in time for Grubergate, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has decided to horn in on the show with the release of the Senate’s report on the “enhanced interrogation techniques” of the Bush administration.  Those would be the same techniques that eventually led to the discovery and killing of Osama bin Laden, but never mind. Today of all days, the Ugly Truth must be told, in all its media-ready glory.

Still, stop and ask yourself why. Why now?  Who cares? The vast majority of Americans will lose not one wink of sleep over the fates of the prisoners in Guantanamo or those stashed away in rendition prisons in various dark and savage corners of the world. They’re getting what’s coming to them. They asked for it.

Then think about Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and its famous Rule No. 4: “Make the enemy live up to his own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.” To the Obama administration and most of the surviving Democrats in Congress, the “enemy,” of course, is conservatives and Republicans, not radical Islam. (Hillary Clinton recently said in a speech that, based on her crackerjack stint as secretary of state, the U.S. needs to “respect” and “empathize with” our “enemies,” by whom she meant our Islamic friends we just haven’t met yet. )

What the Democrats are doing is classic Alinskyism, posturing as the defenders of the American Way and hoping like hell that nobody remembers that rendition prisons began under the Clinton administration. But let the ACLU tell it:

Beginning in the early 1990s and continuing to this day, the Central Intelligence Agency, together with other U.S. government agencies, has utilized an intelligence-gathering program involving the transfer of foreign nationals suspected of involvement in terrorism to detention and interrogation in countries where — in the CIA’s view — federal and international legal safeguards do not apply. Suspects are detained and interrogated either by U.S. personnel at U.S.-run detention facilities outside U.S. sovereign territory or, alternatively, are handed over to the custody of foreign agents for interrogation. In both instances, interrogation methods are employed that do not comport with federal and internationally recognized standards.

“This program is commonly known as ‘extraordinary rendition,’” the ACLU added.

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Boo hoo

Boo hoo

I realize life is too short to read everything the Crazy Left disgorges from its white-hot core of resentful hatred, but Michael Tomasky’s latest rant at the Daily Beast is just too good to miss, especially if you are a) sane, b) an American and c) live in the Deep South. Reacting to Mary Landrieu’s crushing defeat in the Louisiana senate runoff on Saturday, Tomasky rushed to his computer and penned this instant classic:

I don’t remember a much sadder sight in domestic politics in my lifetime than that of Mary Landrieu schlumpfing around these last few weeks trying to save a Senate seat that was obviously lost. It was like witnessing the last two weeks of the life of a blind and toothless dog you knew the vet was just itching to destroy. I know that sounds mean about her, but I don’t intend it that way. She did what she could and had, as far as I know, an honorable career. I do, however, intend it to sound mean about the reactionary, prejudice-infested place she comes from. A toothless dog is a figure of sympathy. A vet who takes pleasure in gassing it is not.

And that is what Louisiana, and almost the entire South, has become. The victims of the particular form of euthanasia it enforces with such glee are tolerance, compassion, civic decency, trans-racial community, the crucial secular values on which this country was founded… I could keep this list going. But I think you get the idea. Practically the whole region has rejected nearly everything that’s good about this country and has become just one big nuclear waste site of choleric, and extremely racialized, resentment. A fact made even sadder because on the whole they’re such nice people! (I truly mean that.)

With Landrieu’s departure, the Democrats will have no more senators from the Deep South, and I say good. Forget about it. Forget about the whole fetid place. Write it off. Let the GOP have it and run it and turn it into Free-Market Jesus Paradise. The Democrats don’t need it anyway.

And there you have it, the Narrative in full cry. Southerners — white Southerners — are crazed racists (for voting against a white candidate), nutcase Christians (for following their faith) and stump-toothed hillbillies who shop at Wal-Mart (for following their economic self-interest). In other words, they’re not a bit like Northeastern or West Coast liberals, and whose idea was it to give them the vote, anyway? Tomasky concludes his crying jag like this:

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In Praise of ISIS’s Moral Clarity

October 29th, 2014 - 12:15 pm
The Gathering

The gathering… storm

The ongoing collapse of President Obama’s Middle Eastern foreign policy may, in fact, have a silver lining in ISIS, the so-called Islamic State, now gestating in what is left of the fictional country of “Iraq” and the only slightly less fictional country of “Syria.” Whether by accident born of ignorance and indolence, or design born of cultural affinity, Obama’s thorough trashing of the post-Bush order in Iraq (and, soon enough, in Afghanistan, where the last Marines left on Sunday), has done the world a signal favor that ought to be appreciated and acted upon: it has destroyed the Sykes-Picot Agreement that stood for nearly a century, and bequeathed the modern world so much trouble.

It has also awakened part of the senescent West to the raw barbarism of radical Islam: not simply the beheadings, the rapes and the murders, but the cultural destruction that inevitably follows in the wake of Mohammedan conquest. Say what you will about the Moonies, the Scientologists and the Amish — none of them wants to burn down art galleries and opera houses. But totalitarian Islam does. The Taliban’s demolition of the Bamayan Buddhas in March of 2001 should have served as a warning for the horror that were to come just six months later; now, the ancient Christian communities (which long predate the invention of Islam) have been scattered, along with the priceless cultural artifacts of Mesopotamian civilization. But that is what you get when an alien ideology takes control.

One would think this behavior is self-evidently indefensible, but of course in the burgeoning western suicide cult that is liberal Europe and America, it’s merely hideously fascinating and, at root, justifiable; after all, if we don’t have it coming, who does? As ISIS spreads across what we used to call the “cradle of civilization,” a glance at a map ought to alert everyone to the danger:

Any resemblance to cancer is purely coincidental

Any resemblance to cancer is purely coincidental

At the moment, ISIS is heading east, beating up on the Kurds and doing their best to roll up the Shi’a-led puppet government of “Iraq” and itching for its ultimate confrontation with Shi’ite Iran. But look to the north and west (as the Kurds already know), where the rapidly Islamicizing Turkey (Ataturk and his forcibly secular state are a fading memory) offers a ripe target for the restoration of the Caliphate and payback for the humiliation Ataturk visited upon them:

Atatürk’s attacks on Islam were not limited to the government, however. Everyday life for Turks was also dictated by Atatürk’s secular ideas:

  • Traditional Islamic forms of headdress such as turbans and the fez were outlawed in favor of Western-style hats.
  • The hijaab for women was ridiculed as a “ridiculous object” and banned in public buildings.
  • The calendar was officially changed, from the traditional Islamic calendar, based on the hijrah – Prophet Muhammad ﷺ’s flight to Madinah – to the Gregorian calendar, based on the birth of Jesus Christ.
  • In 1932, the adhan – the Muslim call to prayer – was outlawed in Arabic. Instead, it was rewritten using Turkish words and forced upon the country’s thousands of mosques.
  • Friday was no longer considered part of the weekend. Instead, Turkey was forced to follow European norms of Saturday and Sunday being days off from work.

After all of these changes, the Grand National Assembly gave up the charade in 1928 and deleted the clause in the constitution that declared Islam as the official state religion. Islam had been replaced with Atatürk’s secular ideologies.

That was then and this is now. Lately the ISIS advance has slowed and should they fail to take Baghdad — and the half-hearted U.S. response is not going to deter them; only Shi’ite resistance can do that — the savages of ISIS may well turn their attention to softer targets in Syria and even Turkey; and from Turkey, the soft underbelly of Europe — Greece, Muslim Albania and the former Muslim provinces of Bulgaria and parts of Hungary — are just a short boat ride away. When you have revanchism on your mind, expansion or extinction are the only choices:

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Ars gratia artis

Ars gratia artis

There’s always been a strain of intolerant yahooism running through segments of the modern conservative movement, an ignorance and suspicion of the fine arts in all their forms. It’s bad enough when it comes from the populist, talk-radio side of the right wing; it’s worse when it comes from the allegedly more sophisticated side of the movement. But so it has.

Tonight in New York City, the Metropolitan Opera will stage the John Adams-Alice Goodman opera The Death of Klinghoffer, first performed back in 1991 in Brussels under tight security for fear of Muslim backlash (this was a decade before 9/11, remember) and widely produced elsewhere since. This evening, as the audiences file into Lincoln Center, there will also be tight security — but this time the protests come largely from the other side.

The wheelchair protest is planned, the ex-governor continues to speak of his disgust, and those attending the Metropolitan Opera’s latest production Monday will find a first in their programs: A letter denouncing what they’re about to see. This is the swirl of controversy surrounding the Met’s premiere of “The Death of Klinghoffer,” the John Adams opera that is based on the brutal murder in 1985 of Leon Klinghoffer, an elderly Jewish tourist shot by Palestinian terrorists and pushed into the sea from the deck of the cruise ship Achille Lauro.

The controversy, which has sparked protests at Lincoln Center, a letter-writing campaign and the cancellation of the Met’s broadcasts of the opera, seems to have left everybody involved unhappy. “Ignorance is always frustrating,” said Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, complaining this week about the critics, who he believes have been too aggressive in their attempts to block the production.

“It’s unfortunate and it’s wrong,” former New York governor George Pataki said of the Met’s decision to program “The Death of Klinghoffer.” “Just the title says it all. Klinghoffer didn’t die. He was murdered.” And Adams said that the Met’s decision to cancel the movie theater simulcasts and radio broadcasts of “Klinghoffer” was “radical” and “damaging in every way.”

The New York Times noted this morning:

Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, who said that he had received threats related to the opera and that some cast members had been harassed online, addressed the performers and musicians at Friday’s final dress rehearsal to tell them about enhanced security measures. “We just want to take every precaution so that everybody is safe and secure on Monday,” he said.

Although the opera, and the Met’s decision to stage it, is being attacked by a number of religious and political figures, both are being praised by some artistic figures. “Klinghoffer” has been performed earlier in New York at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Juilliard School.

“It is not only permissible for the Met to do this piece — it’s required for the Met to do the piece,” Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public Theater, said in an interview. “It is a powerful and important opera. It tackles an issue that, as we are seeing now, is radioactive in our culture. And precisely because of its radioactivity, that’s why it needs to be tackled.”

At issue is not the quality of the work, but the perception that by depicting the murder of a wheelchair-bound American Jew on board an Italian cruise ship by a group of Palestinian terrorists — and by giving the terrorists their say — the opera is somehow endorsing both murder and Jew hatred. It’s like arguing that because Shakespeare gives Iago many of the best lines in Othello — and because Verdi gives the villain the most memorable aria in his operatic version, Otello —  Shakespeare and Verdi are personally endorsing blasphemy. Similarly, in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, we first meet the lecherous Don in the act of raping Donna Anna, and later he gets dragged down to Hell completely unrepentant; this does not mean that Mozart and da Ponte are celebrating rape.

The problem lies with the opera’s historical-political subject matter. Those who know next to nothing about opera seem to think this is proof of a political argument, forgetting that opera is often about real-life political events, sometimes disguised for censorship reasons (Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera) and sometimes not (Verdi’s Don Carlos, based on the historical play by Schiller). Further, Klinghoffer is not even the first politically themed opera by its creative team — that honor went to Nixon in China, which discomfited its leftist critics with a sympathetic portrayal of the title character, old Tricky Dick himself.

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