Roger’s Rules

Roger’s Rules

Moral Idiocy on Parade

August 23rd, 2014 - 8:00 am

Connoisseurs of obtuse moral idiocy have long cherished The New York Times. Is there any other  contemporary organ of opinion that so reliably combines the odor of sanctimoniousness with a seamless adherence to “progressive,” left-leaning orthodoxy? It’s not just the positions espoused by our former paper of record: it’s the combination of those echt correct opinions with the aura of smug self-satisfaction that makes the paper such a remarkable source of nausea-inducing pontification.

Today’s paper provides a particularly egregious example on its op-ed page (I mean the one at the back of the first section, not the one the Times has taken to running on its front page). The column in question is called “The Problem With ‘Evil’.”  It’s by Michael J. Boyle, an Associate Professor at La Salle University. Really, it is something special — though I should perhaps add that by “special” I do not mean “commendatory” but rather depressingly singular, as when educationists denominate the academically or intellectually deficient portion of the class as one of “special needs.”

Associate Professor Boyle’s column is about the world’s response to the beheading of the Sunni-loving jihadist James Foley by ISIS barbarians. That’s not how Associate Professor Boyle puts.  On the contrary, the burden of his column — as those knowing scare quotes around the word “evil” suggest — is to chastise us imperfectly enlightened folks from the use of “moralistic language” when we describe the knife-wielding pastimes of ISIS.

Not that Associate Professor Boyle is a fan of ISIS. He is on board with the “global condemnation of the insurgent group and its horrific tactics.” But he is alarmed that some of those who condemn separating Mr. Foley’s head from the rest of him should resort to the “moralistic language once used to describe Al Qaeda in the panicked days after the 9/11 attacks.” Got that? Those bad “panicked days” of yore, back when our reason was occluded, made us “moralistic” in our use of language.  You remember: before 9/11 no one, near enough, had ever heard of al Qaeda. On September 12, 2001, most people — not people like Associate Professor Boyle, of course — would have described al Qaeda as an evil organization whose members were savage, theocratic barbarians that the civilized world should exterminate eftsoons and right speedily. Is that “moralistic”? Or merely, considering the existential threat posed by al Qaeda, commendably moral, as well as, let’s face it, justifiably pragmatic?

If you think that, you are, according to Associate Professor Boyle, insufficiently sensitive and imperfectly enlightened.  What’s the worst thing a contemporary academic can say about someone?  Yes, you got it. That “moralistic language” — you know, the impulse to describe ISIS as “evil” — is “an eerie echo” of  . . . of who? Yes! It’s an “eerie echo” of “President George W. Bush’s description of the global war on terrorism as a campaign against ‘evildoers,’ . . .” Have you ever heard anything so outrageous!  Imagine, calling the chaps who steered airliners into buildings tall and squat for fun and profit as “evildoers.”  Have you ever heard anything so un-nuanced, so politically incorrect, so unbefitting an Associate Professor, or even a Distinguished Full Professor with a named chair?

In fact, while Associate Professor Boyle invoked President Bush the way a priest might invoke Satan, the “eerie echo” extended beyond President Bush to President Obama and, John Kerry, and even David Cameron. Yes, really:

In an eerie echo of President George W. Bush’s description of the global war on terrorism as a campaign against “evildoers,” President Obama described ISIS as a “cancer” spreading across the Middle East that had “no place in the 21st century.” Secretary of State John Kerry condemned ISIS as the face of a “savage” and “valueless evil,” while Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, called the group “barbaric.”

What would you call it? My own feeling is that the rhetoric employed by all of the above was measured and correct.  But Associate Professor Boyle inhabits a more rarefied moral universe. Hark: “Indeed, condemning the black-clad, masked militants as purely ‘evil’ is seductive [“seductive,” eh?], for it conveys a moral clarity and separates ourselves and our tactics from the enemy and theirs.”

Now let’s pause over this sentence. Note, for example, the adverb “purely”: where did that come from? I suspect most people would cavil over “purely evil” because those masked men, unlike the Lone Ranger, are also political fanatics, grandstanding narcissists, crazed theocratic throwbacks, and a dozen other things. Note, too, Associate Professor Boyle’s use of the word “seductive.” If we are seduced into calling something “purely evil” (or even just evil) that suggests something illegitimate. Lydia Bennet was seduced by Wickham: she was not really (well, not wholly) to blame. Finally, note the implication of moral equivalence by litotes. That “moral clarity” that separates us from the knife wielding followers of a barbaric religion: no Associate Professor worth his salt believes in such “moral clarity,” for that would be to affirm that we really are different from, and better than, the sorts of people who enjoy sawing people’s heads off.

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A Sixties Time Warp

August 21st, 2014 - 5:44 am

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 8.44.05 AM

As Scott Johnson over at Powerline has noted, the Sixties seems to be making a comeback on the world stage. Consider Barack Obama’s pathetic response to the violence and racial posturing in Ferguson. “It was,” Johnson writes, “a statement full of the reigning leftist clichés, even retrieving the “anger” of “looting” and “carrying guns” from the dustbin of the sixties. Frantz Fanon must be making a comeback among the White House speechwriters. What next? Perhaps R.D. Laing and The Politics of Experience. You know, reality is crazy, man, and mental illness is a path to transcendence.

People looking for additional examples do not have far to seek. A friend just sent me a link to the program for the 2014 People’s Social Forum in Ottawa (that’s “Forum social des peuples” up where the language police reign): “Build together, win together! The future is Ours!” (“Ensemble pour gagner, l’avenir est à nous!”)

I confess that I am still of two minds about whether this is an elaborate hoax, à la the Sokal Affair, perhaps. What do you think? There’s the “indigenous friendship centre at the forum,” the “legal assistance” hot line prominently displayed in case ( I assume) you have immigration problems, and there’s the “people of colour Welcoming space.” Then there’s the “Dismantling Oppression” sidebar:

All participants in the Peoples Social ForumC are dedicated to sharing an op- pression– free space for dialogue and debate. Participants commit to open dialogue and communication in a respectful environment, free of all forms of harassment. Any acts of oppression weaken and divide us and cannot be tolerated.

Hoax? Or normal life on campus?

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Lord Elgin in Detroit

August 17th, 2014 - 7:18 am

Where is Lord Elgin when you need him? In the early 19th century, Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, was serving as British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. Exercising fiduciary responsibility for the cultural patrimony of the West was not high on the Muslims’ list of priorities. In Athens, the art and architecture of the Acropolis was mouldering.  One typical practice was burning classical sculptures to obtain lime for building. Horrified, Elgin connived with local authorities to get export permits to remove some surviving treasures, including the famous Parthenon friezes, and have them transported to Britain. He spent about £70,000 of his own money to rescue the marbles, an immense sum. In 1816, Parliament voted to purchase the friezes, which depict the battle between the the Centaurs and the Lapiths, an allegory of the perennial battle between culture and barbarism. Although controversy has dogged Elgin’s actions from the beginning, the truth is that had the Parthenon marbles been left on the Acropolis, it is likely that they would not have survived the ravages of neglect, vandalism, and pollution.  Elgin’s bold act of enlightened cultural imperialism saved a priceless bit of classical art from the maw of cultural primitivism.

The latest news out of Detroit put me in mind of Lord Elgin.  In 1960, Detroit was the most prosperous city in the United States, which means that it was one of the most prosperous cities in the world.  What happened to Detroit provides an answer for those wishing to know how long it takes to ruin a great city: the answer is one generation. In What Doomed Detroit, Kevin Williamson chronicles the swift and definitive fall of that once-great city. In 1960, Detroit was Motor City: home to the dynamic U.S. auto industry, which was providing wheels for the world. By 2013, Detroit was bankrupt. On July 18  of that year, the city filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, estimated at between $18-$20 billion.

What happened? In a word, Democrats. If you want another word, try unions. Together, they ruined the city.  “Detroit,” Williamson notes,  was “like many similar cities:”

The concentration of poverty and related social dysfunction in its inner city, in no small part a legacy of the explosion of the city’s black population during the Great Migration, which saw Detroit’s black population soar from 6,000 in 1910 to 120,000 in 1929, and from 1.2 percent of the population in 1910 to about 30 percent of the population by [1961]. It is one of the great ironies of American history that wherever black Americans go, from the Jim Crow South to the great industrial cities, they are persecuted by the Democratic party, and then help to entrench the power of that party.

So here we are: one basket case of a city and a huge pile of debt, thanks to the “progressive” policies of cynical Democrats. There’s not much of value left in Detroit. Perhaps its greatest asset is the Detroit Institute of Arts. The museum is not a private institution. It is owned by the city. And, nota bene, its collection has been valued at $4.6 billion.

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Obama in Oz

August 11th, 2014 - 4:20 am

Actually, he wasn’t there in propria persona.  But during a whirlwind trip that included a conference on the First World War in Melbourne, an outing with some deep thinkers on the Great Ocean Road, the Blue Mountains, and Sydney, I did my best to channel the former community organizer.

At a dinner hosted by the great Quadrant magazine (where I met the great Richard Fernandez, he of the Belmont Club), the only remaining journal of that suite of literary-political organs created by the enlightened patronage of Congress for Cultural Freedom after World War II, I was asked to talk about the Community Organizer in Chief, with particular emphasis on his foreign policy.  My perspective was essentially that articulated by former Vice-President Dick Cheney, who in a radio interview yesterday, described Obama as “a failure as a president.” Cheney cited some of the scandals that have beset the no-hope-and-small-change administration — those involving the Veterans Administration, for example, and the IRS — but “even worse,” Cheney said, was what Obama has been doing to America’s defense capabilities.  “They’re dramatically cutting back the defense budget, year after year after year,” he said. “That’s a terrible precedent to set because it’s going to cripple us in future years. When you make decisions about the defense budget, and especially when you’re cutting back on it, you are crippling your successors as president.”

Crippling successors, of course, is precisely what Obama is trying to do.  It’s all part of his strategy of fundamentally transforming the Untied States of America.  The crowds went wild when Obama first promised to undertake that transformation, lo, these many years ago. Not many people are cheering now.  That, more or less, was the burden of my remarks in Sydney.  You can read the talk on line at the Quadrant web site. The good news: enlightened leadership, such as that provided by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper or Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott (despite his craven capitulation to the race-blackmail industry), can undo many of the disasters Obama is bequeathing us. Will his successors be able to undo the harm done to the US military? It’s too early to tell.  I suspect, however, that the nation’s instinct for self-preservation will sooner or later reassert itself.  Let’s hope it is sooner.

Also read:

The Country of the Blind



I am sitting in Sydney Airport this foggy morning waiting for the first of four (yes, 4) planes to take me back to New York.  The front page of The Australian, the country’s best newspaper, is mostly devoted to a warning from a former army chief: “We’ll fight Islam for 100 years.”  Thumbing through the paper, I stumble upon a story with this headline “Don’t single us out with laws, say Muslims.”

Young Muslims feel unfairly targeted by the government’s new suite of anti -terror laws, under suspicion for visiting and supporting family that remain in countries racked by war and radicalism.

“Targeted,” eh?

One such young Aussie Muslim reports that she feels “picked on a bit too much.”

For an explanation of why this should be, you need only turn to one of the stories tied to that front-page banner about fighting Islam for 100 years. I am thinking in particular of the story about Mohamed Elomar, a “promising young boxer on a scholarship” (natch) who decided that he prefer beheading infidels to boxing them.

Actually, I don’t know whether Elomar did the beheading, only that there are pictures of him grinning and holding a couple of freshly human heads, one in each hand.

The story wonders “how a regular suburban kid put his faith in a killer cult.”  I think I can answer that in one word: Islam.  The ideology of Islam is murderous.  It attracts lost young men, and to a lesser degree women, because it fills the void of their lives with a transcendent, though malign, purpose.

When I was speaking in Melbourne a few days ago, one starry-eyed interlocutor assured the audience that he was against extremism in any form: Islamic extremism, yes, but also Christian and Buddhist extremism.  There were a few titters at that. When’s the last time you ran intro a Buddhist extremist? Or, come to that, when’s the last time you ran into a murderous Christian?

It’s too bad that that young Aussie Muslim feels “targeted” by anti-terror laws.  But until Islam grows up and abandons its infatuation with violence and mayhem, singling out Muslims for special scrutiny is not only justified, it is eminently necessary.

Thoughts on ‘Smart Diplomacy™’

August 7th, 2014 - 3:32 pm

Here are some names to think about: Libya. Iran. Gaza. Syria. Ukraine. Russia.

What do you think about when you ponder those places?

I think about what a disaster Barack Obama’s foreign policy has been. Obama came to office promising to hit the “reset button” with respect to Russia and now he is Putin’s fool. Libya, poor Libya: Obama went in and removed the world’s only transvestite dictator, and now what? Gadaffi was a comic if malevolent madman, but he was, at the end, a U.S. ally. Barack Obama has trouble distinguishing between allies and enemies.  So he engineered Gaddafi’s ouster.  What then?  The outrage of Benghazi and, now, chaos in Libya. Good going, Barack.

Everyone is waiting for Iran to acquire the nuclear weapons Obama campaigned to prevent. While waiting for that feature presentation, we have another preview in a country I didn’t mention: Iraq.  Whatever you think about our invasion in Iraq under George Bush, at least he left the country with a recognizable form of government under the watchful eye of the U.S. military.

Obama withdrew our forces and, as could have been predicted, the country promptly fell prey to those Muslim fanatics that Obama went to Cairo to court shortly after he was elected.

When Obama left Iraq, he assured the world that “we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq.” Yes, he really said that.

How are things looking in Iraq now? Yesterday, the New York Times reported that Muslim fanatics (my word: the Times preferred “rebels”) captured the country’s largest dam. ISIS, Iraq’s lovable Islamic thugs, have captured the country’s largest Christian town and are busy exterminating Christians. “Even Ghengis Khan didn’t do this,” said one observer.

Women, she said, were being sold as sexual slaves. Children, she said, were dying. Someone, she said, must take notice. “We are being slaughtered!” she sobbed, her voice raw and worn out, as seen on this parliamentary video. “We are being exterminated! An entire religion is being exterminated from the face of the Earth. In the name of humanity, save us!”

Not to worry. Barack Obama has inaugurated a “new beginning” with Islam, which is not our enemy. He has “decimated” al Qaeda, remember?

Meanwhile, Russian bombers penetrated U.S. airspace “at least” 16 times in 10 days. Yes, there’s lots of “Smart Diplomacy™” around today.  The only question is how the U.S. and the rest of the world will fare until we can get rid of the malevolent clown in the White House.

Last night, at a semi-secure, undisclosed location in Sydney, I had occasion to address a tonic group of serious thinkers who congregate periodically under the aegis of Quadrant magazine, which is by far Australia’s best cultural review.

My topic was “Fundamentally Transforming the United States of America.” But my remarks, I may venture to say, were not as dour as my title might suggest.  For while a good bit of my talk was devoted to cataloging some of the many depredations conducted by President Obama & Co. against the freedom, security, and prosperity of America. I also noted that the metabolism of transformation, even “fundamental transformation,” works in both directions.  Obama and his junta really are conducting open warfare against the Constitution and the rule of law (this just in: New Jersey cop: “If Obama doesn’t follow the Constitution, we don’t have to either”). But elsewhere in the world the virus of political correctness and socialistically-inclined torpor has been successfully rebuffed.  The dynamo that is Canada under Stephen Harper is one example.  Australia under Tony Abbott is another.

Both men have done an enormous amount in a very short time to revitalize their countries, demonstrating that the parable of Lazarus has an institutional as well as a personal application.  Obama has been a sort of institutional wrecking ball on legs, but now that a light gleams, however faintly, at the end of the tunnel of his disastrous tenure, we should take heart from the examples of our Anglosphere neighbors to the north and across the Pacific. We can hope that the instinct for self-preservation will at last trump the desire to bathe in the glow of politically correct self-admiration.  (“An Englishman’s mind works best,” said one wit, “when it is almost too late.”)

That said, I do want to register a demurral about Tony Abbott.  One of the topics of conversation last night was his retreat from efforts to overturn section 18C of Australia’s “Racial Discrimination Act.” According to one of my dinner companions, the act provides for legal penalties if someone from a recognized minority or victim group feels offended by something said or written. Gosh. (What if I feel offended by people who promulgate such nonsense? Am I entitled to an apology and compensation?)

One prominent case involved a politically mature journalist and television commentator called Andrew Bolt.  Mr. Bolt, who seems to have developed a habit of speaking frankly about contentious issues, has an admirable record of ticking off the delicate plants, redress mongers, and searchers-after-monetary-judgments with bracing regularity.  His most recent supposed tort, the thing that sent him afoul of section 18C of The Act (majuscules, please!) was his observation a couple of years back that it had become fashionable among hip-aspiring whites to ape black fashions in clothes, speech, and demeanor. “The articles,” Wikipedia reports, “suggested it was fashionable for ‘fair-skinned people’ of diverse ancestry to choose Aboriginal racial identity for the purposes of political and career clout.”

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From Apathy to Dependence

August 5th, 2014 - 4:04 pm

I am writing from beautiful, dynamic Sydney, Australia, whose 4.5 million polyglot inhabitants are enjoying the no-nonsense good government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who recently signaled his refreshing sanity by abolishing the country’s stupid “carbon tax,” aka, its tax on prosperity. There’s no hope that Barack Obama will ever proceed from his Romper Room of moralistic environmentalism to that state of enlightenment, but then we will not have Obama with us that much longer. May we hope that, at last, the American people are waking up to the economic nightmare that decades of fiscal incontinence have prepared for the country.  Again, I offer free and for nothing the idea of a grassroots organization whose high purpose is summed up in its title ThrowTheBumsOut.Org

There are many aspects to this tsunami of of fiscal irresponsibility. One element, which gets intermittent attention in the news, is the monster of pension debt threatening to devour our livelihoods. “Yes, yes, yes,” I hear you saying. “But what does that really mean?”

There are a few folks — more and more, I am happy to say — who are out in the trenches bringing the sorry news back to us voters.  One, which I have written about before in this space, is the great OpenTheBooks project out of Illinois.  Another, which I just found out about this morning, is TransparentCalifornia.

California is an interesting state. Big. Populous. Dynamic. And ridden with debt. Even California’s perennial governor, Jerry “Governor Moonbeam” Brown, acknowledged the problem when he came to office and decried the state’s “wall of debt,” the nearly $25 billion debt the state faces. Governor Brown promised to fix things, but in fact the state’s current liabilities are only the tip of the problem. As a recent piece in the San Jose Mercury News noted, if you look behind that $25 billion wall:

You’ll see a $330 billion skyline of other liabilities threatening the state’s financial health. It includes $80 billion needed to cover teachers’ pensions and $64 billion to pay for state workers’ health care in retirement — two particularly troublesome liabilities because the state isn’t even making the minimum payments on them.

Let’s stop to contemplate that: $80 billion to cover teachers’ pensions and $64 billion for health care.  How did that happen?  In brief, the unions helped elect politicians who in turn made promises they couldn’t keep to the unions, who in turn helped re-elect the politicians, who in turn repaid that favor with even more generous tax-payer-funded subsidies, and so on ad, not infinitum, for that cannot happen, but certainly ad nauseam.

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The Gods of the Copybook Headings

August 3rd, 2014 - 2:38 pm

Do you remember Rudyard Kipling’s great poem “The Gods of the Copybook Headings”? The whole thing is very much worth reading. Today’s headlines, however bring this  powerful stanza to mind:

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.

“They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.”  Sound familiar?

Meanwhile, the U.S. army, because of the Obama administration’s military cuts, is cashiering 550 majors.  Some are getting the news while on duty in Afghanistan. And that’s after 1200 captains got the news that their services were no longer required by the army.

A couple more data points from this morning’s headlines, courtesy of the Drudge Report:

And so on.

Also out today is a report from an independent panel appointed by the Pentagon and Congress warning that “President Obama’s strategy for sizing the armed services is too weak for today’s global threats.”  The shrinking US armed forces, the report cautioned, is a “serious strategic misstep on the part of the United States,” “inadequate given the future strategic and operational environment.”

It is still August 3rd in the United States as I write, but in Melbourne, Australia, where I am at the moment, it is the morning of August 4, the centenary of Britain’s entry in WWI. There are many events planned to commemorate that awesome moment. At first, the war was greeted by many heedless people on both sides with jubilation. “We’ll be home by Christmas,” etc., etc.

Then came the slaughter of the first battle of the Marne in September. Altogether, that little outing cost more than 500,000 casualties in about a week. Four years later, much of Europe lay in ruins, tens of millions were dead, three empires had vanished from the face of the earth, and European civilization as it had been known lay devastated, never to recover.

“The story of the human race,” Winston Churchill wrote at the end of his 3-volume history of the Great War, “is war. Except for brief and precarious interludes there has never been peace in the world.” Wise men acknowledge that truth and behave accordingly.  We do not have wise men leading us in Washington.  The preposterous folly that is the Obama administration — its arrant lawlessness, its race baiting, its spectacular maladministration — looks more and more like a dangerous prelude to disaster.  There are plenty of voices speaking up to call attention to this malignant burlesque.  Mostly, they fall on deaf ears.  Let’s hope that people awaken from their dogmatic slumbers before the rest of Kipling’s poem has a chance to come true.


A lesson from Down Under

August 2nd, 2014 - 3:06 pm

I write from an idyllic spot on the Great Ocean Road, a couple hours outside Melbourne on the way to Adelaide. A vast expanse of spotless ocean opens out below me, and there’s nary a ship or illegal-immigrant-bearing boat in sight.  That’s been happening mostly up by Christmas Island, an Australia territory in the Indian Ocean. Hordes of indigents from Sri Lanka, India, and elsewhere had been crowding  on to something that floats and making their way to Christmas Island, if not the Australian mainland itself, and, once ashore, seeking out the nearest welfare agency for their first check. It was not dissimilar to what’s been happening on the Southern border of the United States, except, alas, there is no great body of water to impede those eager welfare seekers slipping into the U.S. 

The Aussies, under the enlightened leadership of Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, seem to be well on the way to solving the problem. The key is way they call “off shore processing.”  The key is nabbing the chaps before they set foot onto your sovereign territory.  Do not, I heard Prime Minister Abbott say on television last night, do not get on a boat and try to come here illegally. It won’t work.

Just like President Obama, right?  Strong leadership from a man who has his own country’s vital interests at heart . . . (just kidding).

Tony Abbott’s scheme relies on the Republic of Nauru. Nauru has been much in the news here lately. It’s a tiny island in the South Pacific, about 8 square miles in size and sporting fewer than 10,000 inhabitants.  It also, through special arrangement with the Australian government, serves as a sort of way station where illegals are docketed before, if all goes well, they are sent back whence they came.

Why doesn’t the United States find a U.S. equivalent to Nauru?  I first thought of Guantanamo Bay, our resort for terrorists on Cuba.  President Obama has pretty well emptied that of high-value prisoners, exchanging them for army deserters and the like. But perhaps Guantanamo Bay is not the right spot.  I also thought of Guam. Notwithstanding Congressman Hank Johnson, we can be reasonably sure that that small island will not tip over (as Congressman Johnson, D., of course,  GA., feared). Guam might work.  But the best place would be an independent principality in the Caribbean, some island republic not too far from Central America that we could pay to take the many welfare seekers who are pouring across our southern border.  I’m told it’s working out pretty well for the Aussies.  We should give it a shot.