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A turning point?

December 19th, 2014 - 5:58 am

I was pleased to see that President Obama announced today that there would be a public screening of The Interview at the White House on Christmas day. It took guts to stand up to the cyber bullies, whoever they are, who have terrorized the cry babies in Hollywood and sown fear among the rancid celebrities of the preening class. Many commentators on my side of the aisle were surprised at Obama’s forthright condemnation of this brazen act of cyber terrorism and his new-found resolve to stand up to America’s enemies. I was pleased, too, to see that he has replaced Susan Rice with John Bolton as National Security advisor and is setting up a cyber defense task force headed by General Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and the NSA. It has taken a while, but at last Barack Obama seems to understand the gravity of the many threats America faces on the international front and I am pleased that he has been so candid about putting American interests first.

Just kidding, of course. There will be no public screening of The Interview  at the White House on Christmas, and if there were, you can bet last devalued dollar that neither John Bolton nor General Hayden would not have received a ticket.

No, the real question people be asking themselves is this: No that the President is seeking to “normalize” relations with the Communist hell hole of Cuba, is there any totalitarian enemy of the United States that he has not sought to cozy up to?

Russia? check. Hillary hit the reset button years ago, remember?

Iran? absolutely: what more could Obama do to assure that Iran becomes a nuclear power?

China? Obama made a special trip there to  agree that the United States to hamstring its economy by adopting emissions standards that China wouldn’t have to adopt for decades.

And on it goes. Someone told me last night that Obama was hoping to normalize relations with the Taliban, but (as far as I know) that turns out to be an unfair rumor.  He is only hoping to normalize relations with the PLO while at the same time punish Israel, which has the temerity to make everyone else in the Middle East look bad by being the region’s one liberal democracy and, moreover, by being more technologically innovative than any of its neighbors.

But here’s a question I really cannot answer: how far can Obama go before he gets some real pushback. Yesterday it was Cuba (when, Senator Feinstein, are you going to issue Cuba’s “torture report”?). A few days ago we discovered that Obama invented a new word for “ukase”: it’s “memoranda.”  “President Obama,” USA Today reported, “has issued a form of executive action known as the presidential memorandum more often than any other president in history—using it to take unilateral action even as he has signed fewer executive orders.” Who knew? But wait, isn’t “unilateral action” exactly the sort of thing the Constitution was designed to impede? Well, yes, but we should know by now far Obama regards the Constitution as a check on his power.

Still, it would be good to know how far the American people are willing to let Obama go.  We know that establishment time-servers like John (you-can-do-any-thing-you-like-Obama-and-I’ll-only-pretend-to-object) Boehner are too deeply implicated in the status quo to offer any serious push back. What about the rest of our elected officials? The longer they’ve been in Congress, the more securely are their lips sewn to the teat of public largess and bureaucratic privilege. It was just this eventuality that folks like James Madison and Alexander Hamilton sought to prevent, but we’ve had more than two hundred years of lawyerly hermeneutical ingenuity chip, chip, chipping away at Constitutional safeguards to rely on those fusty old ideas of checks and balances and those “auxiliary precautions” that Madison spoke of in Federalist 51. (“In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men,” Madison wrote, “the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”  How are we doing on that score?)

It’s not every day that you get to have a ringside seat at the birth of despotism.  The entertainment value is likely to be quite high, though I predict the story will no have a happy ending.

 

Chalk One Up for the Pint-Sized Despot

December 18th, 2014 - 5:52 am

Anyone who doesn’t believe that the preposterous can easily cohabit with the malevolent need only contemplate the phenomenon of the pint-sized Kim Jong Un. Team America made hilarious fun of his father, and I was looking forward to The Interview to continue the story. But it looks like I am going to have to wait a while. Sony Pictures Entertainment, in a stunning display of the stuff Hollywood is made of, pulled the movie in the face of blustering threats and the release of embarrassing confidential emails from actors, directors, movie executives and other paragons of coddled self-importance. Variety has the story:

With theater chains defecting en masse, Sony Pictures Entertainment has pulled the planned Christmas Day release of “The Interview.”

U.S. officials have reportedly linked a massive cyber attack against Sony to North Korea, which is at the center of the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy.

“We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public,” Sony said in a statement. “We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”

The funniest part of that little expostulation comes towards the end: “We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression.”  No they don’t. Instead of standing up for the filmmakers, to say nothing of standing up to the cyberterrorists, Sony caved, as did the movie theaters who cancelled their orders for the film. Yet another reason fewer and fewer people are going to the movies these days.

I’ve heard it suggested that Netflix or some other streaming service make the movie available. I hope Sony will look into that.

In the meantime, it is worth reflecting on this episode.  You can be sure that terrorists and other bullies are doing so.  And here’s a question: what finally made Sony decide on its path of cowardice and capitulation? Was it the defection of the theaters?  Was it genuine worry about reprisals from the brats of North Korea?  Or was it concern about the possibility of more embarrassing email leaks — who knows what indiscreet thing Executive X said about Actor Y, or what Director A thinks about Producer B? Probably all three items played a role, but I’d wager the last was the most important.

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Yet more Drudge juxtaposition genius

November 24th, 2014 - 5:57 am

Today’s installment is not about immigration but Iran.  You remember Iran: that was the country that Obama came to office pledging to deny nuclear weapons. How’s that working out? Just ponder this collage:

UPDATE: Nuclear talks fail…

Pessimism grows…

MAG: How the White House caved…

REPORTS: Iranian Negotiator ‘Frequently Shouts’ at Kerry, Western Officials…

Here’s a question: Is there anything that Obama has done right? 

More genius juxtaposition from Matt Drudge

November 22nd, 2014 - 10:29 am

Here’s one cluster of links on Drudge’s home page today:

O-WHIPPED: REPUBLICANS LEAVE TOWN WITHOUT IMMIGRATION BLOCK…

 Obama Mocks…

 Blasts Boehner…

Last Tuesday, Obama crossed a Rubicon, ostentatiously demonstrating his Caesarian contempt for the law by effectively granting amnesty to 5 million illegal aliens (those the president calls “undocumented immigrants”). He brazenly circumvented Congress and traduced the Constitution (violating along the way his oath to “faithfully execute” the laws).

What will the Republican establishment do about this upsurge of tyranny? On the evidence so far, not much. They will whine. They will bluster.  They will file toothless lawsuits that are guaranteed to go nowhere and achieve nothing.  They will temporize, prevaricate, and tell the people who elected them that they are working within the system to save the system.  In other words, they will act like thoroughly modern American politicians. “The devilish genius of this form of tyranny,” as the commentator Michael Ledeen has pointed out, “is that it looks and even acts democratic.  We still elect our representatives, and they still ask us for our support. . . . We act out democratic skits while submitting to an oppressive central power that we ourselves have chosen.”

Over at NRO, Andrew McCarthy has provided a brilliant anatomy of the president’s Alinskyite modus operandi. Saul Alisnky, the community-organizer radical, wrote the playbook on subverting societies based on a bourgeois commitment to the rule of law, individual liberty, and limited government. As McCarthy points out, his strategy was a “toxic brew of thoroughgoing deceit and brass-knuckles extortion (‘direct action’) [that] has become a part of mainstream politics,” leaching out from the radical, revolutionary fringe and installing itself at the center of our political life. Obama is a prize student of the Alinskyite swindle.  He has a sixth sense of (as Gertrude Stein put it in another context) just how far to go in going too far. Last Tuesday, he granted amnesty, by executive fiat and in defiance of the Congress, to 5 million criminals.  Over the last six years, as McCarthy mournfully points out, we watched as the president and his coterie repeatedly lied to the American people about all manner of critical issues. “We’ve endured,” McCarthy writes,

six years of “If you like your health-care plan, you can keep your health-care plan,” “How dare you call Obamacare a tax,” “The video did it in Benghazi,” “Of course we’d never let guns walk to Mexican gangs,” “Workplace violence,” “Kinetic military action,” “The IRS harassment is outrageous and intolerable,” and “not a smidgeon of corruption” from “the most transparent administration in history.” Yet what so astonished the commentariat about Obama’s decree of amnesty for illegal aliens was the sheer audacity of hoax.

The sad, the frightening truth about Alinskyites is that they “guage the extent of their authority not by the limits of law but by the potential of raw power constrained only by political expediency.”

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Now what?

November 21st, 2014 - 6:11 am

So last night Barack Obama crossed a Rubicon.  His speech was officially billed as a speech about immigration “reform.” Obama began by saying that our immigration system was “broken, and everybody knows it.” In fact, what “everybody knows” is that the speech was all about extending executive power, trespassing upon the prerogatives guaranteed to Congress by the Constitution in order to further transform the presidency into a law-decreeing — as well as a law-executing — power.

There were one or two comic moments in the speech. My favorite was the trope about taxes. We’re going to take all those millions of “undocumented immigrants” — in plain English, “illegal aliens” —  out of the “shadows” so they can get “right with the law” and start paying taxes.

Ha, ha, ha!  What a card! All those millions of sub-literate welfare-sponging criminals (they are here illegally, remember?): how eager they all are to line up and start being productive, tax-paying members of society.  I’m surprised the president was able to suppress a laugh.

There is a cartoon making the rounds:

Reporter to Obama: why are you planning to grant amnesty to millions of illegals?
Obama: Because they will do the jobs Americans don’t want to do.
Reporter: Like what?
Obama: Voting Democratic.

Now, Obama didn’t exactly grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens.  He just said that henceforth the government wasn’t going to do anything about enforcing the law.  Worried about being deported? Relax.  “All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.” Another rich one!

The president’s speech was an interesting tapestry of half-truths, hypocritical tugs on the heart strings (“Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms”?), and outright lies (“Most Americans support the types of reforms I’ve talked about tonight”).  Mark Krikorian, among others, has ably dissected the speech.

But back to the Rubicon.  When Caesar took his army across that river in 49BC, he knew that he was starting a war. He brought home his dictatorial ambitions to the “Senātus Populusque Rōmānus” and they weren’t going to stand for it. The result was civil war.

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A ‘Particularly Dangerous Moment’

November 20th, 2014 - 4:47 am

That’s what the liberal law professor Jonathan Turley said about the executive order on immigration that Obama is planning to announce. If Obama extends amnesty to the millions of illegal aliens in the country, Turley warned, he would be “tearing at the very fabric of the Constitution.”

Peter Wehner made a similar point. Obama, he writes in Commentary, is “about to commit an act of Constitutional infamy.”  It is, Wehner says, “a stain that will stay with him.”

Strong words.  But they are echoed on both sides of the aisle across the country. “In a broad test of his executive powers,” AP reported, “President Barack Obama declared Wednesday he will sidestep Congress and order his own federal action on immigration — in measures that could spare from deportation as many as 5 million people illegally in the U.S. and set up one of the most pitched partisan confrontations of his presidency.”

“Sidestep Congress” and “order his own federal action on immigration.”

Have you got that? “Sidestep Congress” and “order his own federal action on immigration.”

In other words, Barack Obama is just about to underscore his lawlessness and utter disregard for the Constitution by brazenly circumventing the Constitution and the will of the people.  What will the upshot be? Senator Tom Coburn, a normally circumspect and statesmanlike lawmaker, warned that widespread anarchy and even violence are possible. Obama, he said, is acting like “an autocratic leader that’s going to disregard what the Constitution says and make law anyway.”

“Sidestep Congress” and “order his own federal action on immigration.” It’s not every day that you get to have a ringside seat at the birth of tyranny.  Tune in tonight and you might have that dubious privilege.

“Sidestep Congress” and “order his own federal action on immigration.” Over at Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds asked the $64,000 question: “So what’s the country going to do about it?”

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Watching the Democrats Commit Suicide

November 19th, 2014 - 7:48 am

So the Senate Democrats just defeated the $8 billion Keystone XL pipeline by 1 vote. Sitting duck Mary Landrieu — the soon-to-be former senator from Louisiana — begged her Democratic colleagues to vote for the energy-and-job-creating project but, no, the Fauxcahontas Elizabeth Warren “Green” wing of the party chose leftist sanctimoniousness over practicality.

Here’s the thing about energy: we need as much of it as we can get as cheaply as possible. Are you worried about “the environment,” “peak oil,” etc.? Then you should be an aivd supporter of fracking, the Keystone pipeline, and any other means of extracting fossil fuels from the bounty of the Earth. Why? Because what the United States needs is cheap, abundant energy, period (as the president might say). The reason is that if you want to help the downtrodden, save the environment, preserve the wetlands, and make the world safe for unbearable gasbags like Elizabeth Warren, then you need money. And to get money you need energy, lots and lots of energy.  Let’s say you are interested in developing viable alternatives to carbon-based fuels: how would you do it?  By basic research and an accumulation of engineering experiments.

What is the indispensable prerequisite for undertaking those tasks wholeheartedly? Money, wealth, prosperity. Without those golden keys, there is no research to speak of and little in the way of experimentation. The liberal (i.e., the wacko) wing of the Democratic Party doesn’t seem to understand that.

Or maybe it does understand it but chooses to ignore it. After all, a lack of resources does not hamper Elizabeth Warren’s movements. It merely hurts the people she pretends to serve. Air Force records show that Barack Obama charged the taxpayers $1,539,402.10 for his Labor Day travels for “fundraising, personal business, and politicking.” As Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton put it, “This Labor Day back-and-forth shows President Obama seems to confuse Air Force One with Uber.”

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Why This Election Matters

November 3rd, 2014 - 8:45 am

We’ve come a long way since 2009.  Back then, Barack Obama was crowing,  “Elections have consequences, and at the end of the day, I won.” 

Now, a day before the 2014 midterms, there’s no crowing from the Dems, only a sullen susurration of rage. It’s no longer possible to blame George W. Bush for the party’s impending dégringolade (though there continue to be pathetic efforts to do just that).

Someone is to blame, you can be sure that point will eventually be established. But in the meantime the Democratic grievance machine has shifted gears. Everyone’s still affronted. There’s still a “war on women” — at least on women who stay at home and take care of their children: quoth Obama, “That’s not a choice we want Americans to make.”  (Wow. Just wow.)

And there’s still “climate change” — or is there? The award-winning meteorologist John Coleman, founder of the Weather Channel, just sent an  open letter  to UCLA that begins:

There is no significant man-made global warming at this time, there has been none in the past and there is no reason to fear any in the future. Efforts to prove the theory that carbon dioxide is a significant “greenhouse” gas and pollutant causing significant warming or weather effects have failed. There has been no warming over 18 years.

Uh oh. The great thing about the Green Philosophy, of course, is that you can never be green enough. As a strategy to promote moral smugness among liberals and scapegoating of the productive segments of the economy, the whole green apparatus is a godsend.  It has the additional advantage of being international in scope. Not only can you employ it against domestic entities, but it can also be used to justify redistribution on an international scale. So people like Colemen, along with the 9,000 other scientists who endorse his contentions, must be ignored — demonized first as tools of the evil Koch brothers, then ignored.

But that’s not going to happen. Environmentalism, as the philosopher Harvey Mansfield observed a couple of decades ago, may be “school prayer for liberals.” But reality still counts for something, and in the clash between possible prosperity and certain immiseration, the former will always win out — unless, nota bene, it is prevented by the coercive power of the state.

What else has changed?  Obama came to office promising a “reset” with Russia.  How is that working out? (Ask yourself this: Who owns Crimea?)

ISIS — formerly known as “al Qaeda in Iraq” — was only a “jay vee” threat according Obama last January, a little while after he bragged that he had “decimated” al Qaeda. How’s that working out?

Obama has said that his is the “most transparent administration ever.”  Care to comment on that? He also said — and said repeatedly while campaigning for Obamacare — that “if you like your health care plan [doctor, etc.], you can keep your health care plan [doctor, etc.], period.”

I could go on in this vein for quite a while.  But let’s leave the president’s various economies with the truth, his failed policies, his miserable performance as commander in chief, his alarming success in “fundamentally transforming the United States of America” — let’s leave all that to one side and ask, now that we’re at the final midterm election of his reign, what will be the significance of the elections tomorrow?  Many key races are close, too close to call.  But everyone, Republicans gleefully, Democrats with other emotions, recognizes that there has been a marked change in the Zeitgeist.  Republicans are almost certain to do well. Will they do well enough to overcome what has come to be called “the margin of corruption?”  We don’t know. Chatter from the Democratic side of the aisle suggests that they fear so, expect so. How will they react?

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Dem Panic According to the New York Times

October 22nd, 2014 - 6:34 pm

You don’t need to be a genius to know that Democrats are worried about the midterm elections.  But it does take a little ingenuity to come up with this explanation for what the New York Times rightly called “The Democratic Panic.” 

You or I might think that the Dems are panicked because almost every poll shows that the Republicans will pick up at least 7 and possibly as many as 9 Senate seats on November 4. This will put the Republicans comfortably in control of the Senate, which, since they will doubtless also extend their majority in the House, will put one or two road blocks in the way of Obama’s promise to “fundamentally transform the United States of America.”

I do not say that Republican control of the Congress will prevent Obama from further realizing his dreams of transforming the United States into a socialist utopia where everything that is not mandatory is prohibited and the country’s innovative spirit is finally quenched by staggering debt, mindless regulation, and all the assorted enervations that Tocqueville aggregated under the memorable phrase “Democratic Despotism.”

No, Obama has shown sufficient contempt for Congress, as well as ostentatious disregard for the law, that Congress will have a hard time providing that check on abuse of power by the executive that so worried the Framers of the Constitution. If the president simply ignores Congress and governs by fiat — having taken care to pack the courts and civil service with apparatchiks sympathetic to his statist ambitions — then there is not much the Congress can do unless it is willing to confront the president directly and call him to account.  The spineless John Boehner has shown just how likely that contingency is.  Barack Obama flagrantly disobeys the law. John Boehner threatens to sue the president. Ha ha ha. With what Justice Department were you planning to do that, Mr. Speaker?

But I digress. It’s pretty clear, I say, why the Democrats are panicking. They are panicking because all signs point to a “shellacking” at the polls that will make the 2010 shellacking look like a walk in the park. That’s the simple explanation. It also happens to be the true one.

Want to read something funny?  Here’s how our former paper of records explains it:

The panicky Democratic flight away from President Obama — and from some of the party’s most important positions — is not a surprise. Mr. Obama remains highly unpopular among white voters, particularly in Southern states where candidates like Ms. Nunn, Ms. Grimes and several others are struggling to establish leads. But one of the reasons for his unpopularity is that nervous members of his own party have done a poor job of defending his policies over the nearly six years of his presidency, allowing a Republican narrative of failure to take hold.

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Why Sam Harris Is Wrong about Islam

October 19th, 2014 - 12:56 pm

No doubt many of my readers know about the encounter about Islam between Ben Affleck, the Hollywood actor, and Sam Harris, the “New Atheist” writer and neuroscientist, on Bill Maher’s show. 

I do not know Ben Affleck’s work as an actor, so I don’t know whether he is commonly cast in comic roles. He was pretty funny, in a slightly deranged sort of way, on Bill Maher’s show, but perhaps that is his usual modus operandi.

I propose to leave the substance — if “substance” is the correct word — of Mr. Affleck’s effusions to one side.  His performance did make me wonder anew about the odd place of “celebrities” in our culture. Why, I have often wondered, does any thinking person care what Barbra Streisand (for example) has to say about . . . well, about anything not intimately concerned with pop singing? And yet clearly they do, since it’s a rare month that passes without the news that the chanteuse has weighed in about some matter of political controversy. I’m not sure exactly which subjects I would be prepared to take Ben Affleck seriously on; Islam is certainly not one of them.

This is not, to say, however, that I am prepared to take Sam Harris seriously about Islam either.  As the Canadian and (more to the point) former Muslim writer Ali Sina points out in a brilliant article for the Jerusalem Post, the fact that Ben Affleck is wrong about Islam  ”does not mean Harris is right.” Indeed.

Harris is widely considered a critic of Islam.  In his debate with Ben Affleck, however, he simply recycled a well-meaning but pernicious myth about the followers of Muhammed. “Hundreds of millions of Muslims are nominal Muslims,” Harris cheerfully reported, where by “nominal” he meant that they “don’t take their faith seriously,” “don’t want to kill apostates,” and “are horrified by ISIS [Islamic State].”  These are the people, he concluded, “we need to defend,” to “prop them up and let them reform their faith.”

How often have you heard this? I hear it all the time, as often from conservatives as from liberals.  The trouble is, as Ali Sina points out, “reforming Islam the way he envisions it is an illusion.”

Why? Harris’s argument — you’ve heard it a hundred times — is basically this: Christianity was once intolerant. There were the Crusades, for instance, but think also of such episodes as the siege of Béziers, a Cathar stronghold, in the early 13th century. Here were Catholics besieging an heretical sect of their own people.  When asked by a soldier how they could distinguish the good guys from the bad, Arnaud Amaury, a Cistercian abbot who was helping to lead the fight, advised “Tuez-les tous! Dieu reconnaîtra les siens”: “Kill them all! God will know his own.”

But look at Christianity today. It’s all bake sales, bingo, and transgender-awareness retreats.  Maybe the same thing will happen to Islam.

Not likely, as Ali Sina points out. “Even though at one time the religion associated with Jesus had become violent and intolerant,” he notes, “there is nothing violent and intolerant in his teachings. The Crusades were the response of Christendom to jihad, and the Inquisition was the copycat of mihnah, a practice started by Caliph Ma’mun, which means ‘inquisition.’ They have no basis in the teaching of Christ.”

Let’s contrast the example and the teaching of Christ with the example and teaching of Mohammed. Christ is often denominated “the Prince of Peace.” He said things like “suffer the little children” to come to him.  And Mohammed? “He raided villages and towns,” Ali Sina points out,  and

massacred unarmed men, beheaded his captives, raped their women and sold them as slaves. His successors, the so-called “rightly guided Caliphs” and their successors did the same. These are the very things the Wahhabis advocate and Islamic State is doing.

As for Mohammed and little children, there is of course the story of Aisha, the youngest of Mohammed’s wives. She was married to Muhammad at the age of “six or seven”  but she stayed in her parents’ home until the age of “nine or ten.”

Yes, there are people who describe themselves as Muslim “reformers.” They do not want to go back to the original teachings of Muhammed — they look slightingly upon massacring unarmed men, shrink back from beheading folks, and want to have nothing to do with raping women or encouraging slavery.

But they also, Ali Sina points out, want to “acknowledge the legitimacy of Muhammad as a prophet of God.”

How do they manage that trick? “How,” Ali Sina asks, “can we tell people Muhammad was a true prophet, but don’t believe him – that his message was from God, but don’t follow it? Furthermore, isn’t it what the majority of Muslims already doing? Most Muslims don’t practice the violent parts of the Koran. As long as Islam is accepted as a true religion there will always be a minority who will want to practice it fully and honestly.”

Item: Yusra Hussein is a 15-year-old British Muslim of Somali origin. One day she just disappeared. The next thing her parents knew, there she was a “jihadi bride” who had gone to fight with Islamic State. “If it can happen to Yusra,” her aunt said, “it can happen to anyone. She was just a normal, young girl. She was a home girl. There was no anger, no frustration. We had no idea.”

Depressed yet?

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