Roger’s Rules

Roger’s Rules

The Assault of Free Speech, Judicial Overreach Edition (Part 8796)

June 20th, 2015 - 11:15 am

The heavy hand of the judiciary, in the form of a subpoena followed by a gag order, descended upon the great Reason magazine early this month.  The story, thankfully, has been widely covered by the alternative internet press (nary a byte, the last time I looked, from such legacy outlets as the New York Times) beginning with the redoubtable and amusingly named Popehat (which also has a roundup here). The background: the U.S. government, in the person of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, demanded that Reason magazine turn over all the identifying information they had about six people who left hyperbolic Website comments sparked an online story about the conviction of Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht. The object of the commentator’s rage was Judge Katherine Forrest, who, going beyond what the prosecutors asked, sentenced Ulbricht to life in prison.

Now Silk Road, a sort of black-market internet emporium where users could get just about anything they wanted, legal or not, was a dubious enterprise. But the US government’s heavy-handed attack against Reason was disproportionate and ill-conceived. The government claimed to be investigating threats against Judge Forest. It was interested, for example, in the identities of the authors of such comments as these:

  • “Its (sic) judges like these that should be taken out back and shot.”
  • Why waste ammunition? Wood chippers get the message across clearly. Especially if you feed them in feet first.” (Movie buffs will recall a famous scene from Fargo.)
  • “I hope there is a special place in hell reserved for that horrible woman.”
  •  “I’d prefer a hellish place on Earth be reserved for her as well.”

What do you think, Dear Reader, threats? Or typical, if juvenile, letting off of steam on the internet?  I think it’s clearly the latter. And what bothers me much more than such over-the-top comments is the display of naked coercion on the part of the government.

Having been served with a gag order, prohibiting its editors from speaking about or even publicly acknowledging the subpoena, Reason only Thursday managed to get the order lifted.  Yesterday the magazine’s editors Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch published a long and disturbing piece on the episode under the title “How Government Stifled Reason’s Free Speech.” It is very much worth reading. “Reason’s experience needs to be understood in a larger context,” they write.

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Checkpoint, Charlie

June 6th, 2015 - 5:28 am


The British travel writer Alexander Kinglake (1809-1891) once suggested that the legend “Interesting, if true” be inscribed on the lintels of the Churches of England.

That was a mildly amusing mot, not least because of its pertinent application in so many other circumstances. If the doctrines of the Church of England strain one’s credulity, or one’s allegiance, how much greater is the strain exerted on those moral resources by our intercourse with certain other institutions.  Consider, to take just one example, our institutions of so-called higher education.  You know as well as I how thoroughly that “so-called” is merited by sodden, politically correct swamps that our colleges and universities have occupied in recent years.  Those scenes of spurious “micro aggressions” and  “trigger warnings,” of mephiticrievance mongering, sexual inversion, and infantile political posturing: is there any aspect of American society more distaste, more pampered, more epicene?  I doubt it. Kinglake’s wry observation might be justly applied to those portals of inanity, but a friend who recently visited Berlin had an even more appropriate label.  It is this advisory from Checkpoint Charlie, which divided the American from the totalitarian zone of Berlin.


Really, is there any more pertinent sign for most colleges and universities?  Cigarettes manufacturers are required to ornament their wares with all manner of alarming advisories, why shouldn’t institutions of higher education face similar requirements?  After all, the noxious atmosphere they diffuse is perhaps even more dangerous than cigarette smoke, which harms only the body.  A college education threatens to eat away at a student’s soul and capacity for a healthy, robust, adult emotional life.  “You Are Leaving the American Sector.”  For many, perhaps most colleges and universities today, that about sums it up.

Towards the beginning of Edgar Allan Poe’s macabre romance “The Fall of the House of Usher,” the unnamed narrator describes his first sight of that gloomy old pile. Among other eldritch features, he noticed  “a barely perceptible fissure, which, extending from the roof of the building in front, made its way down the wall in a zigzag direction, until it became lost in the sullen waters of the tarn” below the house.

Careful observers will have noted analogous fissures in what, for lack of a better term, I will call the “progressive consensus.” “Progressive” is not quite right, because there is no progress—if by progress you mean movement from a given point to something better. But “progressive” is preferable to that other favored verbal specimen of evasiveness, “liberal.” As the word’s etymology suggests, “liberal” has to do with liberty, with freedom, and there is no mainstream ideology in modern Western democracies that is more inimical to freedom than “liberalism.” If you doubt that, try starting a business or uttering a “non-progressive” sentiment on college, running a bakery, hobby shop, or jeweler’s. It is a curiosity of our times that many words now signify more or less the opposite of what they originally meant.  This is not, of course, an entirely new development. “Sanctimonious” once meant “holy.” Now it means “pretending to be holy, while actually being venal.” Just so, “liberal” once meant “on the side of freedom.” Now it generally means “pretending to be on the side of freedom while actually working to enforce conformity and intolerance.” Again, a quick look at life on almost any college campus today will illustrate the truth of this assertion.

The interesting, the hopeful, development is that House-of-Usher-like fissures seem to be penetrating the adamantine carapace of that “liberal” consensus.  You can infer that partly from the increasingly surreal quality of what goes on under the aegis of so-called progressive ideology. The level of hysteria is a good index of the extent of their desperation. Consider this bulletin, just sent to me this morning by a friend,  from the Board of Trustees of Bryn Mawr College outlining their new “inclusive” guidelines for undergraduate admission:

After months [Months!] of study and consultation, the Board of Trustees of Bryn Mawr College voted at its Feb. 7 meeting to accept the recommendation of its board working group charged with reviewing the College’s mission with regard to transgender, non-binary [!] and gender nonconforming applicants.
Specifically, the board-accepted recommendation . . . more clearly articulates the eligible undergraduate applicant pool. In addition to those applicants who were assigned female at birth, the applicant pool will be inclusive of transwomen and of intersex individuals who live and identify as women at the time of application. Intersex individuals who do not identify as male are also eligible for admission [Whew!]. Those assigned female at birth who have taken medical or legal steps to identify as male are not eligible for admission [Too bad!].
In cases where an applicant’s gender identity is not clearly reflected in their application materials, the College may request additional information, which could include verifiable legal or medical steps taken to affirm gender. In evaluating such additional information, the College fully intends to be as flexible and inclusive as possible [Who would doubt it?].

You might think I am making this up.  I wondered at first whether it came from The Onion.  But no, the link to the Bryn Mawr site seems legit.  I submit that the correct word for this new policy is not “inclusive” but “insane”—“sad” and “pathetic,” too, no doubt, especially for the creatures it is intended to cater to, but definitely “insane.” Any parents who were thinking of sending their delicately brought up progeny—especially the ones that were “assigned female at birth,” or, in ordinary language, are girls—any parents, I say, who were contemplating Bryn Mawr will want to ponder carefully the implications of this extraordinary directive.

I do not discount the element of cynicism in this trendy new policy. Heck, even the president of the United States is on the transexual bandwagon, having mentioned this specious new category of victims in his State of the Union speech. What new opportunities for padding the administration the new policy offers! You may have a dozen deans of diversity, but how many administrators looking into the “legal or medical steps taken to affirm gender” do most campuses have? It is an opportunity for growth at a time when many colleges are facing cutbacks. And what’s to prevent an enterprising chap from applying as a woman and then deciding that “she” is a lesbian? But beyond the opportunities for fraud, emotional grandstanding,  spurious claims of victimhood, and outright hucksterism,  there is something else fueling this pathological bilge. The truth is, our nation’s higher educational establishment really has entered definitively upon that realm of “polymorphous perversity” and “primary narcissism” that the Sixties guru Herbert Marcuse extolled in his crack-pot countercultural bible Eros and Civilization. Is that what you want to spend $60K or more per annum financing, a celebration of perversity?

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Kierkegaard and ‘Trigger Warnings’

May 26th, 2015 - 12:47 pm

“The Rotation Method” is one of the most amusing sections of Kierkegaard’s early classic Either/Or. The second most famous melancholy Dane has some good advice for dealing with irritating absurdity: cultivate arbitrariness when confronted with flagrant examples of  it.

There is someone whose conversation you find insufferable. Circumstances often throw you together. What to do? Kierkegaard’s narrator has some useful advice:

I discovered that he perspired copiously when talking. I saw the pearls of sweat gather on his brow, unite to form a stream, glide down his nose, and hang at the extreme point of his nose in a drop-shaped body.

Presto! What had been unbearably tiresome was suddenly transformed into an entertainment. Now, instead of avoiding that bore, you seek him and egg him on, waiting with breath bated for the drop-shaped pendant to form.

There is much about contemporary academia that can be profitably approached armed with the Rotation Method. Consider, to take one recent example, “Our identities matter in Core classrooms”. It’s a sad little effusion by Kai Johnson, Tanika Lynch, Elizabeth Monroe, and Tracey Wang in The Columbia Spectator, the chief student newspaper of that once-great university. Columbia still has a vestige of its famous Great Books “core curriculum” program, and one of the monuments of Western literature that students had the opportunity to read this year was Ovid’s Metamorphoses. This was a problem for Mesdames Johnson, Lynch, Monroe, and Wang.

As they report, a student had gone before the university’s — wait, the sweat is beginning to coalesce — Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board on Literature (yes, really) to complain that reading Ovid made her feel bad.

To appreciate the formation of that little pear-shaped opalescence, however, you have to get the story in their own inimitable words:

During the week spent on Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” the class was instructed to read the myths of Persephone and Daphne, both of which include vivid depictions of rape and sexual assault. As a survivor of sexual assault, the student described being triggered while reading such detailed accounts of rape throughout the work. However, the student said her professor focused on the beauty of the language and the splendor of the imagery when lecturing on the text. As a result, the student completely disengaged from the class discussion as a means of self-preservation. She did not feel safe in the class. When she approached her professor after class, the student said she was essentially dismissed, and her concerns were ignored.

Time was I would feel alternately embarrassed and angry reading this tripe — embarrassed for these privileged twits, who are sufficiently ungracious and self-absorbed to fritter away the opportunity of a serious education on such exhibitions of romper-room feminist histrionics, angry that their bleatings should find a home at a serious university. I have since learned better. The proper response to such drivel is delectation, not debate or dialectic. Really, if you step back and contemplate it as a prodigy of fatuousness, what these skirling young scholars have to say is quite deliciously funny. Attend:

Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” is a fixture of Lit Hum, but like so many texts in the Western canon, it contains triggering and offensive material that marginalizes student identities in the classroom. These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression, can be difficult to read and discuss as a survivor, a person of color, or a student from a low-income background.

This cringe-making epistle has been treated to some small portion of the contempt and ridicule it deserves, both in the comments to the online version of the piece and elsewhere (here, for example). But the cri-de-coeur raises questions as well as offers diversion. For example, do you suppose the parents of these young ladies wonder, just a little bit, about the wisdom of shelling out tens of thousands of dollars to purchase a college education for their delicately brought-up progeny only to have them behave like this while postponing their maternity? As I say, there was a time when I would have posed such questions. Now I am just grateful for the display of unalloyed fatuousness: the bulbous globule of rancid fluid poised precariously on the snout of this insufferable pretension. Really, the hilarity is nearly endless:

[A]nother student who attended the forum shared that her Lit Hum professor gave her class the opportunity to choose their own text to add to their syllabus for the year. When she suggested the class read a Toni Morrison text, another student declared that texts by authors of the African Diaspora are a staple in most high school English classes, and therefore they did not need to reread them. Toni Morrison is a writer of both the African Diaspora and the Western world, and her novels — aside from being some of the most intellectually and emotionally compelling writing in the last century — should be valued as founding texts of the Western canon.

The student’s remark regarding Toni Morrison was not merely insensitive, but also revealing of larger ideological divides. This would have been an opportune moment for the professor to intervene.

In a sane world, a professor in a course devoted to great books of the Western canon would have intervened to point out that Toni Morrison is, among all the admittedly stiff competition for the title, probably the most overrated novelist of the last thirty years. Her works may deserve a place on the curriculum of a course in sociology, one that examines how race or some other external characteristic can substitute for merit in the cultural metabolism of decaying liberal democracies. But if it is a choice between  Dostoyevsky , say, or Jane Austen or Henry James or Anthony Trollope or Dickens, Thomas Mann or any of 100 other serious novelists and Toni Morrison, well, you get the picture.

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Memorial Day Notes

May 25th, 2015 - 9:09 am

We are up visiting friends in the Northwest corner of Connecticut for Memorial Day.  Yesterday was one of those rare brilliant days suffused with robust sun, mild breezes, glittering greens, and heady scents. At dawn, the thermometer read a brisk 47, but by late morning it was into the 70s.  I went to visit another friend up the street who with his wife is an avid collector of contemporary art and who maintains a swank private exhibition space. From time to time, they organize shows drawn from their collection and invite sundry friends and acquaintances for an afternoon of art and conviviality. The next of these jamborees is scheduled for a couple weeks hence, but as I was here now I was given an advance look around. 

My taste in art differs markedly from that of my friends, but the overall tenor of their latest assembly is quite remarkable, indeed moving.  The inspiration for the exhibition is a letter from 1942, written in German, and addressed to “Lidi Sara Israel.”  It was from the Nazi government occupying Luxembourg announcing “for the record” in echt Deutsch fashion the seizure and confiscation of her possessions. Thanks for the heads up!

The woman in question happened to be my friend’s mother. Hers was a story with a happy ending. Many others were not so fortunate. A copy of the Nazis’ courtesy notification occupies a quiet spot in the first room of the exhibition. Other objects include various WWII recruitment and propaganda posters, a skeletal representation, built to scale, of the Fat Man atomic bomb by Robert Morris, and a lithograph by Sigmar Polke of the infamous Nazi exhibition of Entartete Kunst—they organized one final showing of “degenerate art” before consigning  Kandinsky,  Max Beckmann, Klee, Mondrian, and all the rest to Nazi oblivion. There are other haunting pictures from the WWII section of the exhibition, including a terrifying  painting by the Norwegian artist Vebjorn Sand depicting a celebratory, glasses-raised moment at the conclusion  of the Wannsee Conference in 1942.  The raucous group of senior apparatchiks had something to celebrate.  They had just organized the administration of a huge and logistically complex government undertaking, the extermination of European Jewry. Sand’s painting, appropriately, is called Corpses I.

The exhibition is a sort of illustrated autobiography: signal world events from World War II, through the civil rights movement in the U.S., to 9/11 and its longaftermath. I am not at all sure my friends intended the exhibition to accompany the little town’s  Memorial Day festivities, but  it offered a thoughtful introduction. It was the usual thing.  Brief fly-over by — I think — F16s), parade with vintage cars,  trucks, and tractors, interspersed with veterans, boy scouts, local police and firemen, etc.  The best-decorated bike of boy and girl were awarded commemorative coin sets, and former Senator James L. Buckley delivered a brief address which, unlike most such effusions, was much more than a congeries of clichés. Buckley was not afraid to speak of, and praise, American exceptionalism, an idea that has been in bad odor among the beautiful people at least since Barack Obama took office and told us that he believe in American exceptionalism in the same sense that a Greek would believe in Greek exceptionalism, a Brit in British exceptionalism, etc.  We may leave aside the tantalizing suggestion that Obama has been doing everything possible to make America exceptional in the Greek sense. In fact, as Buckley noted, America emerged form the Second World War as the most powerful, prosperous, generous, and free  country the world has ever seen.

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Free Speech: Yea or Nay?

May 23rd, 2015 - 6:58 am

You might think that my title is merely rhetorical: “Of course we in the West are  in favor of free speech.”  Do you think so?  Writing in The New Criterion a few years ago, Anthony Daniels had this to say about the prospects for free speech in Britain:

The huge change in British society, from a free and orderly but very unequal society to a highly regulated but disorderly and rather more equal society, came about because the ruling political passions and desiderata, particularly among the ever-more important intelligentsia, changed from freedom and equality before the law to equality of outcome and physical well-being and comfort. If freedom failed to result in the latter, so much the worse for freedom: very few people in Britain now give a fig for it. The loss of their double-glazing would mean more to them than the loss of their right to say what they like.

“The loss of their double-glazing would mean more to them than the loss of their right to say what they like.”  Ouch.

Or perhaps I should say “hurrah”? Over at National Review Online, Charles C. W. Cooke has some depressing news, the burden of which is summed up in his headline: “Majority of Democrats, 37 Percent of Republicans Want to Repeal First Amendment.” Yes, that’s right folks, give us our double-glazing, free speech be damned.

Actually, at issue in the poll that Cooke cites was not physical comfort but the psychological variety. “[M]any Americans support making it a criminal offense to make public statements which would stir up hatred against particular groups of people.” There is a political divide here—51%  of Democrats support criminalizing hate speech, while only (only?) 37% of Republicans do.  Also, more blacks support criminalizing “hate speech” than do whites.

But those divisions, while interesting (and predictable) enough, skirt the main issue, which is the phantasmagoric nature of the alleged tort, i.e., “hate speech.” As I have noted elsewhere (here, for example, and here), “hate speech” is a made-up offensive. The scare quotes are necessary because the phrase is simply periphrasis for “speech I don’t like.”  Should that be actionable? To judge by the fetid atmosphere on many college campuses today, where infantilization is the rule and “trigger warnings” and campaigns against “micro-aggression” are the means, you might be tempted to conclude that the answer should be “Yes, it should be actionable.”

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Jacob Collins at Adelson Galleries

April 29th, 2015 - 6:17 am

The other day, I went with a friend to tour the new Whitney Museum of American Art, a neo-totalitarian edifice designed by the world’s second worst celebrity architect, Renzo Piano (the worst of course is the awful Frank Gehry).  I’ll have more to say about the Whitney elsewhere. Here I want to note a certain irony about the Musuem’s name. It says “Whitney Museum of American Art.”  Really, though, once you proceed beyond the 1950s, it should be called “The Whitney Museum of Failed Art” or, possibly, “The Whitney Museum of Pretentious Rubbish Masquerading as Art.” I do not want to indulge too much in preterition here (and I will pass over the fact that Mark Antony is a drunken, sexually deviant lowlife . . .), but I am not going to talk about that either, except to note that the Whitney would have a much better claim to its title if it include work by artists such as Jacob Collins, an amazingly accomplished painter whose new show at the Adelson Galleries in New York is as brilliant and aesthetically accomplished as the Whitney is a disaster.

The English geneticist J.B.S. Haldane, though an incorrigible commie pinko, was a tart and brilliant observer of life’s panoply. “My own suspicion,” he  wrote, “is  that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.”

Haldane was thinking primarily of the natural world, where oddity, like Falstaff’s dishonesty, is “gross as a mountain, open, palpable.”  But irremediable oddity intrudes in the intellectual and cultural world as well. How strange, for example, that I should have been reading Irving Kristol’s 1984 essay “Reflections of a Neoconservative” the same day that I visited the Adelson Galleries to see the extraordinary exhibition of Jacob Collins’s new paintings and drawings.

Perhaps, Kristol wrote, we were living “in one of those historic conjunctures when inherited categories of thought, dominant for some two hundred years now,  have lost their creative vitality.”   A perception—or maybe it was only an assumption—of some such global loss stood behind the great modernist upsurge in culture. We had to have Picasso or Duchamp (say) because no one who was anyone still found anything worth looking at in Ingres (say) or Veronese. The curious thing, though, was the rapidity with which all those rebellions against “inherited categories of thought” became themselves  dominant categories of thought, just as imperious and conventional as the conventions they had sought to replace.

A burgeoning perception of that development has begun to challenge the challengers and unsettle the unsettlers. The salubrious result has been a simultaneous erosion and recovery: an erosion of those angst-ridden challenges to tradition and a recovery—at least, the beginnings of a recovery—of precisely those canons of thought, feeling, and practice which just yesterday had been consigned to the dust bin of cultural history. Many of us, I suspect, will find ourselves coming to the same conclusions Kristol did: “that Jane Austen is a greater novelist than Proust or Joyce; that Raphael is a greater  painter then Picasso; that T. S. Eliot’s later, Christian poetry is much superior to his earlier; that C. S. Lewis is a finer  literary and cultural critic than Edmund Wilson; that Aristotle is more worthy of careful study than Marx; that Adam Smith makes a lot more economic sense than any economist since; that . . .”  well, you get the picture.

I thought about Kristol’s observations as I made my way through the Adelson Galleries and savored thepictures Jacob Collins had assembled for this exhibition. Regular readers of National Review will recall my enthusiasm for an earlier exhibition of Collins’s work. “Collins,” I wrote in 2007,  “is part of a small but growing band of artists who are revolutionizing art by reinvigorating, reinhabiting the aesthetic canons and plastic techniques pioneered in the Renaissance and promulgated in the studios of the Beaux Arts. . . . What we are witnessing here is the formation of a powerful aesthetic-moral current, one that promises to sweep away a great deal of quasi-artistic rubbish and transform large precincts of public taste.”

The embryo transformation I discerned is still underway and, alas, it has a long way to go, as anyone who looks around at the contemporary art world will acknowledge. But as this exhibition demonstrates, Jacob Collins has gone from strength to strength. Now in his early fifties, Collins has long been a fructifying force in contemporary art, both through his pedagogy (he has founded and presided over at least two art schools) and his practice. The label that is usually pinned on artists like Collins is “Classical Realism,” which is accurate enough, as far as it goes, which, the closer you look at his work, isn’t very far. Throughout his career, Collins has displayed astonishing technical prowess—that’s the “realism”—and his immersion in the Beaux Arts masters and the masters they studied is patent, which accounts for “classical.”  

But there is something ghettoizing about the term “classical realism” and the force and maturity of his new work renders it a pointlessly diminishing epithet. “Classical Realism” was a name someone proposed to describe those (mostly) young artists who set out to reinhabit certain traditional forms of painting and sculpture. Often, their ambition exceeded their accomplishment: you could see what they were trying to do, but you couldn’t help but register the distance between effort and success.

There is none of that hesitation in Collins’s new work. Here is work in which technical achievement and consummate taste unite in art that transcends the taxonomic labels of art-speak.  This exhibition comprises a wide range of work: nudes, portraits, landscapes,  and still lifes.  Collins brings equal mastery to all.

Collins is a brilliant portraitist, but the current exhibition is devoted mostly to still lifes with a few landscapes thrown in for good measure. There is some extraordinary work here.  The show is up until May 30 and is very much worth a visit.  Here are a few highlights:

p-h A04 exbannerhorizontal A03



Which is real, which is a parody?

Stumped?  The first is a parody, the second two are real, all too real.  But who can reliably distinguish between satire and reality these days?

How about this: crude joke, what James Carville (he was speaking about scandals at the Clinton Piggy Bank, er, Foundation) called “diddly squat,” or non-diddly squat corruption on a sickening scale:

  • Bill Clinton travelsto Kazakhstan, meets his friend Frank Giustra who wants to buy uranium mines there.
  • Clinton gives a press conference with Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev and extols the leader’s human rights record and democratic progress, even though he had just received 91% of the vote in an allegedly rigged election.
  • A couple of days later, Kazakhstan gives Giustra the uranium concessions he requested.
  • Giustra then donates $31 million to the Clinton Foundation with a promise of $100 million more to follow.

Ricochet has the whole story here.

No, it is impossible to distinguish between parody and fact any longer, because, as Mark Steyn points out, our entire political apparatus is thoroughly corrupt. Eric Holder may not yet have signed up with JPMorgan Chase.  But it’s early days yet, and who would be willing to bet that his seat at the DOJ won’t be cold before he picks up a super lucrative spot at a 1) huge law firm or 2) financial institution?

Steyn is right: the biggest issue facing our political world right now is corruption. Jay Cost, in A Republic No More: Big Government and the Rise of Political Corruption, provides some historical perspective on the issue.  In “Oligarchs for Hillary!,” Steyn shows just how bad the corruption has become. “The corruption nauseates me,” Steyn writes, “and, if it doesn’t nauseate the candidates, then that explains a lot about why nothing happens on any of those other matters [all the other policy items that are amiss in the Republic].”

We have a “justice” department that prosecutes a senator who made the mistake of crossing the President (Menendez) but declines to do anything about a tax collector who treats American taxpayers differently on the basis of how they vote (Lerner). We have a revenue agency that regards itself as the paramilitary wing of the ruling party. We have replaced equality before the law with a hierarchy of privilege, so that no-name ambassadors can be fired for breaking federal record-keeping requirements by a department whose boss outsources her federal records to her own server and then mass-deletes them with no more thought than when she’s parking her van in the handicapped space. We have a federal police agency in which 26 out of its 28 hair analysts gave false testimony favorable to the prosecution. We have a cabinet officer who managed to get more firepower deployed to toss her designated scapegoat videomaker into the county jail than she assigned to the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi. We have a president who rules by decree on everything from immigration to health care—and a legislature of castrati too craven to object.

Feeling scared yet?  Pause to savor the Clintons’ role in all this more fully, Steyn is right: Hillary is “the most openly corrupt candidate of the modern era.” Even the New York Times is responding to the stench. Writing about Peter Schweitzer’s new book Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, the Times reports the allegation that:

“Foreign entities who made payments to the Clinton Foundation and to Mr. Clinton through high speaking fees received favors from Mrs. Clinton’s State Department in return.”

“We will see a pattern of financial transactions involving the Clintons that occurred contemporaneous with favorable U.S. policy decisions benefiting those providing the funds,” Mr. Schweizer writes.

His examples include a free-trade agreement in Colombia that benefited a major foundation donor’s natural resource investments in the South American nation, development projects in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake in 2010, and more than $1 million in payments to Mr. Clinton by a Canadian bank and major shareholder in the Keystone XL oil pipeline around the time the project was being debated in the State Department…
“During Hillary’s years of public service, the Clintons have conducted or facilitated hundreds of large transactions” with foreign governments and individuals, he writes. “Some of these transactions have put millions in their own pockets.”

Is this OK?  Is it “Diddly-squat”?  I admit that it is a sort of joke, but the joke is firmly on us.

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Is Ed Miliband Insane?

April 26th, 2015 - 4:27 pm

Here’s a question for Ed Miliband, the socialist leader of the Labour Party in Britain and eager aspirant to the premiership of the Britain that, were he elected, would certianly no longer be Great: would he arrest his predecessor, Tony Blair? I think he might have to. After all, Tony Blair just went on record to warn that the world must unite to “defeat Muslim extremism.” Isn’t that, Dear Reader, a patent example of Islamophobia? As the heavy Dragoons declare in Patience: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

Let’s leave to one side the fact that Islamophobia is a fantasy tort: a “phobia,” as your dictionary will tell you, is an irrational fear or loathing of something that in the normal course of things is not fearsome or worthy of loathing.  But how about Muslim extremism? I know, I know, the people currently in charge of this country are all in the running for the “see no evil” award when it comes to our Koran-toting, scimitar-wielding brethren. Muslims run aircraft into the World Trade Center, and we’re told that Islam is the religion of peace. Muslims bomb a night club in Bali, a train in Madrid, the underground in London, a marathon in Boston: no Muslims here, only “violent extremists.” A couple of deranged Muslims raid the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, leaving a dozen people dead while informing the world that “the prophet has been avenged,” and a colleague across town kills four people in a Jewish supermarket.

Need I go on? I easily could, you know.  But there is some radical disconnect between the “violent extremist” crowd, adamant about not uttering the talisman “Muslim,” and reality. “Islamophobia” is a made-up crime, but if the label is going around, then I am a proud Islamophobe: I fear and loathe Muslim extremism and think civilized countries should do everything they can to stamp it out. Tony Blair is 100% right that “the world has not yet fully come to terms with the scale of the radical Islamist problem or the need to deal with it.” Quite right!

But here’s the question: if (heaven forfend) Ed Miliband actually moves into Number 10, will he arrest Tony Blair? For he has just gone on record saying that he wants to make “Islamophobia” a crime. Yes, that’s right.  Not only does Ed Miliband want to expropriate wealth from the productive class, he wants to make an attitude a crime. “We are going to make it an aggravated crime. We are going to make sure it is marked on people’s records with the police to make sure they root out Islamophobia as a hate crime,” Miliband told Ahmed J Versi, the editor of The Muslim News.

In the normal course of things, this frightening (and insane) declaration would assure that Ed Miliband would end his career declaiming from a soap box at Speakers’ Corner.  But these are not normal times, and I have a terrible inkling that the Brits might just be silly enough to elect this enemy of their civilization.  I hope I am wrong.

Jihad in Catalonia

April 25th, 2015 - 9:02 am

While Barack Obama is busy telling Americans that Islam has been “woven into the fabric” of America since its founding, police in Spain have just arrested eleven members of a jihadist cell that, woven into the fabric of Spain, was plotting to bring ISIS-style beheadings to a western city near you.

As Soeren Kern notes in an important and depressing post at the Gatestone Institute web site, police have accused the cell of planning to bomb various public and private buildings in and around Barcelona and of—this is especially nice—plotting to kidnap and behead a random person. I’m not sure that the Muslim presence in Spain has gotten the attention it deserves here, but as Kern points out Catalonia not only has the largest Muslim population in Spain, it also has the largest concentration of radical Islamists in Europe. “The cell’s primary objective,” Kern reports, “was to show that terrorist attacks such as those perpetrated by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria could be carried out in the West.”

Prosecutors allege that, among other plots, the group was planning to kidnap a random member of the public, dress their victim in an orange jump suit, and then film him or her being beheaded. The group also allegedly planned to kidnap for ransom the female branch manager of Banco Sabadell, a local Catalan bank, as a way to finance their terrorist activities.

Among those arrested is Antonio Sáez Martínez, a Spaniard who converted to Islam after marrying a Muslim woman. A police raid on Álvarez’s house uncovered a large cache of radical Islamic literature, how-to guides for terrorists, and many weapons, including grenades, military firearms, ammunition, and sharpshooter rifle scopes. His targets included police and military installations, as well as the Catalan Parliament building. Martínez, Kern observes, “is an acquaintance of a Spanish neo-Nazi ideologue named Diego José Frías Álvarez. The two are said to share a mutual hatred of Jews and allegedly discussed bombing Jewish targets in Barcelona, including synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses.”

While Martínez was busy dreaming of blowing things up, other radical Muslims in Spain are taking a longer view. Abdelwahab Houzi, a local jihadist preacher, has this chilling bit of advice: “Muslims should vote for pro-independence parties, as they need our votes. But what they do not know is that, once they allow us to vote, we will all vote for Islamic parties because we do not believe in left and right. This will make us win local councils and as we begin to accumulate power in the Catalan autonomous region, Islam will begin to be implemented.”

Do you doubt it?