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Works and Days

Explaining Away Obama

November 23rd, 2014 - 5:00 pm

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The only mystery about the last six years is how much lasting damage has been done to the American experiment, at home and abroad. Our federal agencies are now an alphabet soup of incompetence and corruption. How does the IRS ever quite recover? Will the Secret Service always be seen as veritable Keystone Cops? Is the GSA now a reckless party-time organization? Is the EPA institutionalized as a rogue appendage of the radical green movement with a director who dabbles in online pseudonyms? Do we accept that the Justice Department dispenses injustice or that the VA can be a lethal institution for our patriots? Is NASA now a Muslim outreach megaphone as we hire Russia, the loser of the space race, to rocket us into orbit?

Will anyone again ever believe a U.S. red line, step-over line, or deadline? Will Iran ever accept that it should not have a bomb or fear the consequences of trying to get one? Is Iraq (omnis effusus labor) a sort of rescued Eurydice that was abruptly lost on the trek up from the Underworld? Will Afghanistan become Saigon, 1975? How could Putin ever again be worried about offending a U.S. president, or could China or North Korea? Are we now always to be allies of Islamist Turkey and indifferent to its enemies like our once-allied Kurds, Cypriots, Greeks, and Israelis?

Will the economy ever again grow as it should? Will disability, food stamp, and welfare recipients jump back into the workforce should we frack on federal lands, build the Keystone pipeline or quit berating private enterprise?

Every statistic that Obama has produced on Obamacare enrollment, deportation, unemployment and GDP growth is in some ways a lie. Almost everything he has said about granting amnesty was untrue, from his own contradictions to the congressionally sanctioned small amnesties of prior presidents. Almost every time Obama steps to the lectern we expect two things: he will lecture us on our moral failings and what he will say will be abjectly untrue.

I hope we can all recover, but it would require an honest autopsy of a failed presidency. So far, progressives assume that the media and Obama’s whining, blame-gaming and finger pointing can somehow return him back to a 50% approval rate and perhaps even a face-saving legacy. The result is that progressives, the media, and the Obama cohort have promulgated an entire series of excuses for what is a failed tenure like few any in the last century.

Bush Everywhere

George W. Bush is blamed by the administration for all its woes and not mentioned for any of its inheritances that proved salutary. The economy is said to be Bush’s fault, without recognition that Bush assumed the presidency during the Clinton recession. Also, Obama did not enter office during the meltdown of September 2008 but over four months later, when the economy was stabilizing; the recession was officially declared over before Obama’s first six months in office.

Nor do we remember that what caused the Wall Street/Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac implosion was not Bush’s policies per se, but rather all sorts of larger forces. Clintontites (was there a Clintonite who did not cash in with a rich brief tenure at federal mortgage agencies?) milked the system under the guise of liberal caring to expand housing; the Congressional Black Caucus damned the auditors of Franklin Raines and equated worries over unqualified subprime mortgages with racism. The deregulation of the mortgage industry was brought on by both parties in the 1990s.

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Democrat Dilemmas

November 2nd, 2014 - 10:32 pm

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Here is the problem with the old-style Obama strategy of slicing and dicing the electorate into aggrieved minorities and then gluing them back together to achieve a 51% majority. On almost every issue in this election that they should be running on, they simply cannot. And on those that they are running on, they probably should not be.

Let me explain.

We Didn’t Do What We Did

Foreign policy?

Consider the failed Russia “reset,” the bugout from Iraq, the “leading from behind” in Libya, the Benghazi scandal, the Iranian soon-to-be bomb, the smearing of Israel, the special relationship with a thuggish Erdogan, the dissolving Middle East, the eroding NATO, and an ever more bullying China. No Democrat will run on something like, “I fully support the Obama foreign policy initiatives and the brilliant work of Secretaries Clinton and Kerry.” Foreign policy, then, cannot be a campaign issue, in the positive sense of defending the status quo. No Democrat even made the attempt.

How about bigger and competent government?

No Democratic congressman would wish to campaign on, “Obama made government work for you — just look at the new and dynamic IRS, VA, ICE, GSA, NSA, and Secret Service.” “Not a smidgen of corruption” is not a viable campaign theme. No candidate even tried that.

Why don’t Sens. Landrieu, Pryor, and Udall play up their support for the Obama economy?

We did not see a candidate commercial like the following: “I was instrumental in keeping interest rates at zero percent for six years. I made sure that we borrowed another $7 trillion and oversaw the $1 trillion stimulus. We kept GDP above 1% and unemployment below 7%.” Apparently avoiding a depression is not felt to be an economic renaissance, and thus not a winning message.

How about Democratic ads trumpeting new big-ticket government initiatives?

Do any local, state, or national Democrats barnstorm on, “Soon Obamacare really will lower costs, expand coverage, and reduce our deficits in 2015 — just wait and see”? Or  how about, “We almost had cap and trade in 2009; I’ll make sure Obama finishes the job and gets it passed in 2015”? Or perhaps,  “Thanks to my efforts, we stopped all new fracking leases on federal lands”? Bragging on record oil and gas production despite, not because of, Obama is not a rallying cry either.

Maybe immigration could have been a Democratic winning issue?

No Democrat aired a radio spot like, “Those Central American children are just the beginning of what we can accomplish on the border. Let’s keep our borders open and welcome in more of our neighbors.” Democrats privately concluded that subverting immigration law to gain constituents was something to keep quiet on rather than boast about.

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Crimes of Exactly What?

October 26th, 2014 - 6:41 pm

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The recent unfortunate shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and its violent aftermath seem to have had everything and nothing to do with race.  Brown was black and unarmed and the officer white; but it is equally true that the 292-pound Brown likely committed a number of crimes in the minutes before his death. He was high on drugs; he robbed a store and strong-armed the clerk; he was walking down the middle of a road; and he started a physical altercation with policeman Darren Wilson (who tried to question him), inflicting injuries on the officer before being fatally shot. If that were a typical day in the life of an American citizen, then civilization, as we now know it, could no longer exist.

So far, evidence both released and leaked suggests that Brown most likely tried to grab the officer through the police car window, prompting a struggle over his gun — which was fired into the patrol car twice — began to run away, and then was shot as he turned and charged.

There is no evidence so far that Brown was either shot in the back or shot while his hands were up, surrendering to the officer. Legitimate questions, of course, remain about many of these details of the shooting of an unarmed suspect, and eyewitness accounts are conflicted; but so far no forensic evidence suggests an execution-type police shooting.

No matter. Ferguson is supposedly now iconic of white institutionalized racism and police brutality, a teachable civil rights moment, as it were, that is currently being used by Democratic candidates to galvanize the African-American vote against Republican candidates. So much so that everyone from Eric Holder and Barack Obama to Elizabeth Warren and Ruth Bader Ginsburg has described the shooting or its violent aftermath as iconic of some sort of American pathology. It may be a half-century since the civil rights movement in an America that is no longer white/black but a racial melting pot, yet we seem ossified in 1965 amber.

Several days of rioting followed the shooting. Black activists such as Al Sharpton, the New Black Panther Party and Jesse Jackson, as is their wont, have leveraged the Brown shooting to indict America for endemic brutality against people of color, and by extension enhance their own deplorable careers of inciting racial tensions. More post-Ferguson demonstrations followed a subsequent fatal shooting in St. Louis of 18-year old African-American Vonderrit Myers, by a white off-duty policeman employed as a security guard. Yet so far no one has disputed that Myers first fired three rounds at the off-duty policemen and was killed by returning fire. If firing three rounds at an off-duty police officer cannot be considered to warrant a legitimate violent response, but rather must be illustrative of racism, then we are going to have some tough days again. I say that mindful as well that African-Americans statistically commit a vastly greater percentage of relatively rare interracial crimes than do whites against blacks.

The resulting logic is that the rare white-on-black crime must be transcendent and iconic of something, while the far more common black-against-white violence is either irrelevant or in some way the understandable baggage of our racial past. That, too, is not a sustainable 21st century proposition.

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Nothing much the Republicans have done explains why they are on the verge of taking back the Senate and making gains in the House.

Not since the summer of 1974 or October 1980 have we see a presidency in a total meltdown. Abroad, ISIS, Putin, and the bullying Chinese have revealed that the Obama administration is either clueless or has subordinated foreign policy decisions to rank politics — or both. At home we have Ebola. Meanwhile, the list of corrupt, incompetent or politically rogue federal agencies keeps growing — the VA, ICE, the NSA, the IRS, the Secret Service … even the Patent and Trademark Office. Each day we learn yet another story about how corrupt Eric Holder’s Justice Department is — the latest a vendetta against a California timber company.

Allowing flights to Monrovia, Liberia, follows the same sort of script that told us Benghazi was a spontaneous demonstration caused by a right-wing video maker. Susan Rice still goes on Sunday television shows and tells whoppers. Another partisan czar, Ron Klain, knows little about what he is supposed to salvage other than to finesse the politics of disaster — reminding us of Rahm Emanuel’s “never let a serious crisis go to waste.” When Obama’s starts out with “make no mistake about it,” we know something along the lines of the Obamacare falsehoods inevitably follows.

Those not working are at all-time highs. Zero-percent interest rates have impoverished the middle class and enriched the Wall Street elite. Our youth, saddled with $1 trillion in student debt, will have to pay back much of the $18 trillion national debt, more than a third of it piled up by this administration. Unsustainable entitlements will strangle the futures of anyone under thirty.

In reaction, Democratic congressional and Senate candidates choose to orphan themselves from Obama.  Even Jimmy Carter finds Obama wanting. Two former Obama secretaries of defense describe him as vacillating, predicating foreign policy decisions on politics.

Given such a disastrous Democratic landscape, it may be penny-wise for Republicans to eek out a midterm victory to win back the Senate by being against anything Obama is for. But it is a pound-foolish strategy that won’t do anything to stop Hillary Clinton or a Democratic resurgence in 2016.

In a word, the Republicans have several issues that resonate with the middle class, and yet they either cannot or will not cast them in a populist vein.

Take so-called “immigration reform.” Reasonable people can disagree on the specifics of ending illegal immigration, but they cannot claim that illegal immigration has not undercut the working classes’ wages, nearly bankrupted social services in the American Southwest, made a mockery out of federal law, and largely served the elite interests of the Chamber of Commerce and La Raza insiders. The issue cuts across class lines, with the poorer and the middle class opposed to blanket amnesties, while wealthy ethnic elites and corporate interests demagogue for them. Enforcing the border, making legal immigration ethnically blind, predicating immigration eligibility on skills and education, deporting all illegal aliens who have criminal records, no record of employment, and have only recently arrived — while offering a pathway for residence to the law-abiding, working, and those of long residence are all populist positions. And yet elitists like Mark Zuckerberg and ethnic demagogues, who cynically tie immigration with tribal affinities and future political constituencies, somehow have pegged the Republican Party as nativist, xenophobic, and racist for wanting existing laws enforced and immigration to be adjudicated by character and skills not race and ethnicity.

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From Comedy to Farce

October 12th, 2014 - 2:51 pm

It was tragically comical that the commander in chief in just a few weeks could go from referring to ISIS as “jayvee” and a manageable problem to declaring it an existential threat, in the same manner he upgraded the Free Syrian Army from amateurs and a fantasy to our ground linchpin in the new air war. All that tragic comedy was a continuance of his previous untruths, such as the assurance that existing health plans and doctors would not change under the Affordable Care Act or that there was not a smidgeon of corruption at the IRS.

But lately the Obama confusion has descended into the territory not of tragedy or even tragic comedy, but rather of outright farce.

Last week we learned from the Washington Post that an investigator looking into the Secret Service prostitution scandal was ordered by the inspector general “to withhold and alter certain information in the report of investigation because it was potentially embarrassing to the administration.” The “embarrassing” information was the allegation that a member of the White House staff advance team had solicited a prostitute while prepping Obama’s Colombia visit — a fact denied by then-White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in April 2012, when he assured the press that no one from the White House was involved in the scandal that brought down lots of Secret Service and military personnel.

But here is where the farcical kicks in. The squelched investigation was focused on White House staffer Jonathan Dach. And who is Dach? He was at the time a young Yale law student and White House staffer, and is now a State Department activist working on — what else? — “Global Women’s Issues.”

And how did young Jonathan Dach at the ripe age of 25 years land such a prestigious job as a presidential advance man? His father, Leslie Dach, was a lobbyist who gave the Obama campaign $23,900 and was later hired on to work with Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. And, of course, Leslie Dach now has left his job lobbying for Wal-Mart. And where does he work now? For the Obama administration. Promoting what? Obamacare.

Here is the essence of the Obama administration’s abyss between word and deed: in the age of the war on women and the end to lobbyists in government, the feminist young aide is alleged to have solicited a prostitute; the most transparent administration in memory covered that fact up during the reelection campaign; the president who promised to end the revolving door and ban lobbyists from government hired not just a one-percenter lobbyist and donor, but his randy son as well.

Can it get much richer than that? Unfortunately, it can — literally, as we’ll explore on the next page.

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Welcome to Fantasy Island

October 5th, 2014 - 8:17 pm

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Listen to the president and one would think that he was in office during the financial crisis that began on September 15, 2008. For the nth time, Obama reminded the nation on 60 Minutes of the financial meltdown he inherited. That is his usual way of suggesting to the American people that they could hardly hope for normal times after six years of his own governance. In truth, Obama entered office on January 20, 2009 — over four months after the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that precipitated a general financial meltdown.

One would not expect Obama to fault past liberal congressional intervention in the financial sector that in large part forced the issuance of subprime risky mortgages, much less the earlier deregulation of the financial industry under Bill Clinton that helped fueled the rampant speculation. The videos of the sad congressional banter about supposedly insensitive questioning of the duplicitous and corrupt Fannie head Franklin Raines, or the self-important bluster of former Rep. Barney Frank, make a good 10-minute tutorial on the meltdown — namely how Wall Street sharks, hand-in-glove with liberal congressional operatives and Clinton appointees, offered federally “guaranteed” mortgages to those who had no ability to pay them back, fueling a phony real estate boom and overvalued stock market.

Obama might at least admit that when he entered office the panic had largely passed. The tools needed to deal with it that he embraced had months earlier been implemented by someone else. Indeed, Obama was president for just a few months before the recession that began in December 2007 ended in June 2009 — well before the effect of any of the policies, good or bad, could have taken effect.

Our current economic mess — the worst post-recession recovery since World War II, more people out of work than when Obama took office, a steady decline in real family income, massive new debt — is largely a result of his own policies of five consecutive $1 trillion deficits, the Obamacare catastrophe, new burdensome and capricious regulations, near-zero interest rates, and the anti-business psychological climate brought on by constant hectoring of the “you did not build that” and “at a certain point you’ve made enough money” sort.

Obama has a bad habit of claiming credit for good things that he opposed, and for blaming others for the bad things for which he was responsible. By his appointments (do we remember Steven Chu?), by his rhetoric, and by his policies on new federal energy leases, Obama is on record against horizontal drilling and the fracking of natural gas and oil. Yet now he brags that energy prices are dipping, which is the case precisely because the private sector ignored him and went ahead to take risks to develop more gas and oil on largely private lands.

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The Moral Failures of Eric Holder

September 28th, 2014 - 4:06 pm

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Eric Holder’s left many baleful legacies: being censured by the House of Representatives; withholding subpoenaed documents, proving untruthful about a failed gun-walking caper in Mexico; failing to enforce laws on the books, from immigration to the elements of the Affordable Care Act; illegally billing the government for his own private use of a government Gulfstream jet; snooping on Associated Press reporters; giving de facto exemptions to renegade IRS politicos; and trying to create civilian trials for terrorist killers like KSM, one of the architects of the 9/11 attacks. But he will be known mostly for re-teaching Americans to think of race as essential, not incidental, to our characters.

He accomplished that unfortunate legacy in a number of ways. Holder waded into the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown fatal shootings before all the facts were known in a manner no local public prosecutor would dare do so. He claimed that the unpopularity of Barack Obama was due to racial animosity, apparently forgetful that not long ago, in the era of Bush Derangement Syndrome, novels and movies were published and produced fantasizing about the assassination of George W. Bush, who was compared to Nazis and fascists, by everyone from Al Gore to John Glenn. I assume Holder was then quiet about such alarming disparagement of his president; and also I assume that when Obama in 2009 had near 70% approval ratings, for Holder the nation was anything but cowardly.

Of course, Holder infamously called Americans “cowards” for not being as obsessed in the same way with race as he was. He referred to African-Americans as “my people,” a sloppy aside that might have gotten any other attorney general fired for such cheap ethnic chauvinism — except that his own boss had once called for Latinos to punish “our enemies” and on the campaign trail had talked of “typical white person.” Holder chose to drop the New Black Panther case in a way that highlighted racial matters — apparently coming armed with clubs to a voting precinct is hardly unusual — in the same way that he suggested that those states that might require an ID to vote (in the manner we produce IDs to write a check or use a credit card) were racist, in the same way that he suggested that states like Arizona that wanted federal immigration law enforced were acting out of racialist motives.

In other words, in the reprehensible vision of Eric Holder, how we look governs who we are. He either believes in the desirability of such racialist exceptionalism out of cultural and historic ignorance — given the contemporary evidence of where bumper-sticker racial, ethnic and religious jingoism inevitably leads (cf. e.g., Iraq, Rwanda, the Congo, Serbia, Bosnia, etc.) — or he cynically assumes that the more the country is polarized racially, the more elites like himself are called on to adjudicate differences, and thus advance to positions that they might otherwise not have earned either by their prior record or their present display of minimal competence.

I do not say that lightly. Holder, remember, prior to his ascension as attorney general, was largely known for two things, both bad: one, he navigated Bill Clinton’s disgraceful 11th hour pardon of the late felon Mark Rich (Rich was in theory facing a possible 300 years in prison for dozens of felonies [including trading with arch-enemy Iran, then holding U.S. hostages] when he bolted, escaped arrest and fled to Switzerland). Then-Deputy Attorney General Holder sidestepped a number of normal Justice Department procedures and failed to disclose that Rich’s wife (later divorced) had already given or would be likely to give $1 million to the Democratic Party, $100,000 to Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign, and nearly a half-million dollars to the Clinton presidential library. So much for social justice and the deplorable privilege of the elite.

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Versailles in California

September 22nd, 2014 - 12:11 am
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Versailles or San Francisco, it’s good to be the king.

California is run from a sort of Pacific Versailles, an isolated coastal compound of elite rulers physically cut off from its interior peasantry.

To understand how California works — or rather does not work — drive over the I-5 Grapevine and gaze down at the brilliantly engineered artificial Pyramid Lake. Thanks to California water project deliveries, even in a third year of drought its level still fluctuates between 90 to 100% full — ensuring, along with its companion reservoirs, plentiful water for the Los Angeles-area municipalities for the next two years. The far distant watersheds and reservoirs that feed Pyramid Lake are about bone dry.

The same disconnect is true of Crystal Springs Reservoir along the I-280 near San Francisco. The Sierra watershed that supplies the now 90%+full lake is drying up. But San Francisco will have an assured water supply from its manmade reservoirs for some time, even if the drought persists.

Yet most of the policies of the state that have led to cancellations of additional water projects over the last thirty years — or those that have resulted in vast diversions of diminished reservoir water from contracted agricultural use to fish replenishment — are made by Los Angeles and San Francisco area legislators, judges, and public officials.

It would be as simplistic as it is true to say that water policy in California has been set by those who have plentiful water supplies in manmade reservoirs with the highest priorities in claims on far distant snow melts. Water elites pontificate about environmental restrictions on water use to others who do not enjoy a rank so high in the water-allotment queue.

By that I mean at no time did any Los Angeles or San Francisco legislator offer to divert their Pyramid Lake or Crystal Springs allotments to replenish the San Joaquin River for salmon runs or to improve the delta landscape of the 3-inch delta smelt.  Instead I think the mentality could best be summed up as something like, “Unnatural dams and reservoirs are necessary to supply water for elite coastal grandees like us so that we can live in arid, picturesque Pacific communities without aquifers and thereby have the leisure to cut off water for others not so worthy.”

The same paradox is true of public utility policy. There are rarely frosts or scorching 100-degree temperatures from San Diego to Berkeley, the coastal strip where there is little need for air conditioners or for daylong use of central heating. For hoi aristoi, California’s public utilities can be regulated and taxed for all sorts of utopian alternative energy investments in lieu of drawing on massive newly discovered fields of California natural gas to lower generation rates.

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What Exactly Is Comprehensive Immigration Reform?

September 14th, 2014 - 7:56 pm

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Comprehensive immigration reform — rarely has a catchphrase been so widely invoked and yet so little defined. Why?

If proponents of so-called reform detailed exactly what they wanted, American voters would never support their self-interested agendas.

Most Americans insist that existing federal immigration laws be enforced. They are adamant that the border be shut tight to all unlawful entry. And they prefer legal immigration to reflect merit, diversity and ethnically blind criteria.

If those protocols were first established, half the public might also consider a pathway for legal residence for millions of foreign nationals already living in the United States without legal authority — but only if they could prove that they were without criminal records, not on public support, and have resided here for some duration.

Unfortunately those classically liberal ideals are not driving Barack Obama’s promise to grant blanket amnesties through executive order after the midterm elections. His planned gambit is an admission that he has neither public support nor congressional sanction nor the force of settled law nor a logical or ethic argument. The effort is instead fueled by an agenda of perpetual big government and a concern to expand future constituencies, allay the anger of Latino activists, and accommodate wealthy business donors.

Obama has all but suspended enforcement of immigration law as a way to force lawmakers to his point of view. He apparently assumes that no immigration law is closer to what he envisions as comprehensive immigration law than is enforcement of current settled law. If the traffic at the border builds, if chaos ensues, then Obama believes that his opponents will eventually concede. I think the message is something like “either amnesty your way through law or my way through no law.” So far such assumptions have backfired, but we must wait until after the midterm elections for the ultimate verdict on his ploy.

Current illegal immigration, of course, is largely synonymous with unchecked entry from Mexico and Latin America. An unspoken amnesty is extended en masse to those from south of the border. Such laxity does not necessarily extend to the Nigerian doctor who overstays his visa or the South Korean architect whose green card has expired. The great unspoken fact of illegal immigration is that it is utterly anti-diversity and ethnically chauvinistic, outsourcing immigration policy to the Latino-Democratic-employer lobby, and dubbing any who object to such racialist criteria as racist.

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Are the Orcs Winning?

September 7th, 2014 - 6:43 pm
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Fantasy versus reality.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings was sometimes faulted by literary critics for caricaturing the evil orcs as uniformly bad.  All of them were as unpleasant to look as they were deadly to encounter. There is not a single good orc or even a reformed orc in the trilogy. The apparent one-dimensional assumption of men, hobbits, dwarves, and elves is that the only good orc is a dead orc. So the absolutist Tolkien tried to teach us about the enduring nature of absolute good and evil. Apparently he did not think that anything from his contemporary experience might allow him to imagine reforming or rehabilitating such fictive folk.

Tolkien’s literary purpose with orcs was not to explore the many shades of evil or the struggle within oneself to avoid the dark side; he did that well enough in dozens of once good but weak characters who went bad such as the turncoat Saruman the wizard, his sidekick Wormtongue, a few of the hobbits who had ruined the Shire, and, best of all, the multifaceted Gollum. Orcs, on the other hand, are unredeemable. Orcs, goblins, and trolls exist as the tools of the even more sinister in proud towers to destroy civilization, and know nothing other than killing and destruction. Their reward is to feed on the crumbs of what they have ruined.

In the 21st century we are often lectured that such simplistic, one-dimensional evil is long gone. A ubiquitous civilization has so permeated the globe that even the worst sorts must absorb some mitigating popular culture from the Internet, Twitter, and Facebook, as if the sheer speed of transmitting thoughts ensures their moral improvement.

Even where democracy is absent, the “world community” and a “global consciousness” are such that billions supposedly won’t let Attila, Tamerlane, and Genghis Khan reappear in our postmodern lives. To deal with a Major Hasan, Americans cannot cite his environment as the cause, at least not poverty, racism, religious bigotry, nativism, xenophobia, or any of the more popular –isms and-ologies in our politically correct tool box that we customarily use to excuse and contextualize evil behavior. So exasperated, we shrug and call his murdering “workplace violence” — an apparent understandable psychological condition attributable to the boredom and monotony of the bleak, postmodern office.

But then suddenly along comes the limb-lopping, child-snatching, and mutilating Nigerian-based Boko Haram. What conceivable Dark Age atrocity have they omitted? Not suicide bombing, mass murder, or random torture. They are absolutely unapologetic for their barbarity. They are ready to convert or kill preteens as their mood determines for the crime of being Christian. In response, the Nigerian government is powerless, while the United States is reduced to our first lady holding up Twitter hashtags, begging for the release of the latest batch of girls.

Is the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab worse? It likes the idea that it is premodern. In addition to the usual radical Islamic horrors of beheadings, rape, and mutilation, Al-Shabaab even kills protected elephants, perhaps thousands of them, to saw off tusks and fund their killing spree. They seem to make the medieval Taliban look tame in comparison.

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