Thursday, October 31, 2013
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
In 2010 Wikileaks founder Julian Assange became the focus of US politicians’ outrage over publications that among other embarrassments, the US military has been engaging in what can be characterized as war crimes.
In July of that Year Army private Bradley Manning was arrested and charged with being the source of the leaked documents to Assange’s organization. Manning, whose conscience was apparently troubled by some of these events as well as being plagued by psychological issues which should have precluded him from any sensitive military assignment was arrested and after 400+ days of brutal torture-like confinement, brought to trial for the whistle-blowing leaks.
In the meantime, during a publicity seminar in Sweden during August of 2010 Assange “unluckily” ran afoul of Swedish authorities for what this writer would characterize as a “groupie tryst gone bad”.
On 11 August 2010, Assange arrived in Sweden on a speaking trip partly arranged by "Miss A", a member of a political party. He had never met her before, but had arranged that he would stay in her apartment while she was out of town. Days later, they reportedly had sex.
Three days later and still in Sweden, Assange met another woman, "Miss W", at another seminar. Again, he went back to her home and again, they are said to have had sex.
The two women then made contact and discussed aspects of the encounter. Both women reportedly said that what started as consensual sex became non-consensual and that Assange had deceived them about the use of condoms [and initially simply that Mr Assange be required to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases].
The complaint by the two women to the Swedish police was initially investigated by Chief Public Prosecutor Eva Finné of Chefsåklagare who, as a result, stated: “I don't think there is reason to suspect that he [Assange] has committed rape." This is the juncture at which one may be excused for beginning to suspect “influence by mysterious/external forces” (as the result of pressure exerted by way of blackmail?). The Swedish national prosecution authority now alleged: “Assange remained suspected of molestation. Police gave no further comment at that time, but continued the investigation.”
On 1 September 2010, Överåklagare (Director of Public Prosecution) Marianne Ny [unexpectedly?] decided to resume the preliminary investigation concerning all of the original allegations.
On 18 August 2010, Assange applied for a work and residence permit in Sweden. On 18 October 2010, his request was denied. He [had]left Sweden on 27 September 2010.
The subsequent complaint resulting in “the investigation of a MISDEMEANOR charge” for Assange’s Extradition from the UK is virtually without precedent, especially when “Assange's British lawyer, Mark Stephens, said "his client offered to be interviewed at the Swedish embassy in London or at Scotland Yard or via video, but that the offer had not been taken up.” Assange went so far as to agree to returning to Sweden for questioning if he could receive diplomatic assurance from that country that he would not be handed over to US authorities.
Predictably the Swedes declined to provide such assurances. Indeed, the reason revealed by a press report in Sweden:
Julian Assange has always been available for questioning in London
When I read the preliminary investigation of Assange's "Sex Crimes" I understand why police and prosecutors did not go to London to question him. If they did it would close the investigation with the clear conclusion: No Crime!
This entire issue must now be viewed in light of the ongoing Snowden revelations of the ubiquitous global capture of private communications by the National Security Agency and the other extra legal actions by so called US “allies” such as the forcing of a Bolivian presidential aircraft to land and be searched in Austria on the suspicion that the whistleblower/fugitive Snowden might be aboard.
The latest brouhaha was based on the fact that the NSA has been spying on senior German and French officials. These German and French officials are fully aware of the spying capacity of the United States government, and especially the NSA. The thought that these revelations are news to foreign leaders is naïve. What is disturbing to the foreign leaders is that their own domestic populations are finding out how subservient the leaders have been to the United States government, and how defenseless all domestic populations really are. It is obvious that if the NSA can spy on Angela Merkel, it can spy on anybody in Germany. [or anywhere else].
Indeed, one (conspiracy theorist) source has speculated that the chief justice of the US Supreme Court may have been blackmailed into his unexpected decision to uphold the clearly unconstitutional ObamaCare outrage.
Welcome one and all to the ubiquitous police state USSA.
In a Third World “banana republic,” the political structure is, let us say, supervised by an armed force: most usually, the country’s military. Thus, when a significant change to the political authority occurs, the “outgoing” power will strain with all its might to retain its grip on the military. We saw a recent example of this in 1990 in Nicaragua, when Violeta Chamorro defeated Daniel Ortega and ousted the Sandinistas from nominal power. But the Sandinistas, by virtue of having ensured that its senior commanders were politically loyal, managed to keep control of the nation’s armed forces, and so was positioned to retake power some years afterward.
Defense: What the president calls "my military" is being cleansed of any officer suspected of disloyalty to or disagreement with the administration on matters of policy or force structure, leaving the compliant and fearful....
We have commented on some of the higher profile cases, such as Gen. Carter Ham. He was relieved as head of U.S. Africa Command after only a year and a half because he disagreed with orders not to mount a rescue mission in response to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi.
Rear Adm. Chuck Gaouette, commander of the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, was relieved in October 2012 for disobeying orders when he sent his group on Sept. 11 to "assist and provide intelligence for" military forces ordered into action by Gen. Ham....
Nine senior commanding generals have been fired by the Obama administration this year, leading to speculation by active and retired members of the military that a purge of its commanders is under way.
Retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely, an outspoken critic of the Obama administration, notes how the White House fails to take action or investigate its own officials but finds it easy to fire military commanders "who have given their lives for their country." Vallely thinks he knows why this purge is happening.
"Obama will not purge a civilian or political appointee because they have bought into Obama's ideology," Vallely said. "The White House protects their own. That's why they stalled on the investigation into Fast and Furious, Benghazi and ObamaCare. He's intentionally weakening and gutting our military, Pentagon and reducing us as a superpower, and anyone in the ranks who disagrees or speaks out is being purged."
Another senior retired general told TheBlaze on the condition of anonymity, because he still provide services to the government and fears possible retribution, that "they're using the opportunity of the shrinkage of the military to get rid of people that don't agree with them or do not toe the party line. Remember, as (former White House chief of staff) Rahm Emanuel said, never waste a crisis."
If that doesn’t stir the hair on the back of your neck, Gentle Reader, check your pulse: you may have died and not noticed.
The United States military has never been subjected to the sort of political conditioning that characterizes the militaries of other lands. The American soldier-to-be takes the following oath of service as a requirement of admission:
"I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."
There’s a certain tension in there, in that “the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me” could well be in opposition to the Constitution’s requirements. However, that would place those who emit such orders in the category of domestic enemies to the Constitution. As a new soldier is expected to have read and understood the Constitution -- don’t quibble; time was you couldn’t get past eighth grade without having demonstrated that -- his right to ignore anti-Constitutional orders would seem well protected.
Recent events suggest that that protection is being weakened. It’s been reported that cadets at West Point have been asked “Would you fire upon American citizens if ordered to do so?” and that questionnaires bearing that question have been circulated among National Guardsmen in several states. Whether any particular actions have followed those questions is not known.
It was once true that America’s military could not subjugate its citizens, because the citizenry was too well armed. Unfortunately, that time was long ago. Our armed forces are equipped today with weapons and technologies that would enable it to impose its commanders’ will upon any portion of the country, no matter how large, though admittedly at a great cost in lives. Thus, our protection from such oppression lies entirely in our servicemen’s unwillingness to embrace such a mission.
That unwillingness appears to be under attack.
Time was, our military, like our civilian population, was overwhelmingly Christian. More, the top command believed it wholesome and necessary to reinforce that influence, by strongly encouraging religious observance and by providing the chaplains’ corps. Christianity was thus an important bond uniting the armed forces to the larger nation.
But Christianity among our servicemen is also under attack:
[Retired Lieutenant General Jerry Boykin] said the concern over an erosion on religious freedom in the military is legitimate because “open hostility” against Christians is well documented and getting worse in the Armed Forces.
Boykin claimed “the administration would be very happy” if the vestiges of Christianity” were removed from the military.
One of Boykin’s greatest disappointments is the absence of high-ranking military officers willing to stand up for their forces and their rights.
“There has not been enough courage demonstrated by the senior leaders. I’d like to see the senior leaders in our military show some leadership, show some courage on this kind of issue.”
If the pattern of religious hostility persists, Boykin says young people and their families will simply decide military service is not worth the assault on their values. [Emphasis added]
Give that emphasized sentence some hard thought. If the United States military is shorn of commanders and servicemen unwilling to be used against the civilian population, our last defenses will have been stripped away. Let the top commanders become “politically reliable” toadies of the Administration, and all the pieces for a final coup against the Constitution and Americans’ rights will be in place.
Long ago, I wrote of an imaginary counter-coup against an administration determined to impose its will on America through the armed forces. That little story drew a lot of praise: praise which carried an undercurrent of conviction that our men at arms really could be relied upon to refuse orders to be used against their civilian brethren. Americans take great pride in our military for several reasons, but its fidelity to the rights of Americans and the ideals of Americanism is surely among them.
If that condition is sufficiently undermined, there could be terrible consequences. It would begin with a purge -- a blood purge -- of whatever remnant of good and true men might remain in our military. Should that ever occur, you may rest assured, Gentle Reader, that it would be only the beginning.
A term in the military always begins with regimentation: the instilling in the new recruit of the disciplines that will make him a useful and reliable fighting man. This is perfectly understandable, within limits. But that regimentation must not go beyond military utility to utility as an ethically empty, reflexively compliant political tool. Yet that’s where the Administration appears determined to go.
If there is a firm barrier against such ultra-regimentation, it lies in our servicemen’s Christian faith. But no such barrier is infinitely firm. As the citation above demonstrates, it’s being assaulted as we speak. Whether it will withstand that assault is unknowable at this time.
However, we must stop short of recommending an intensified campaign of Christian outreach among our soldiers specifically for its practical value. A faith accepted (or imposed) for utilitarian reasons is a weak and vulnerable faith, for there will always be appeals to “utilities” that the faith excludes as ethically unacceptable. Make those attractive enough, and such a “faith” will dissipate as if it had never been. As C. S. Lewis put it:
Men or nations who think they can revive the Faith in order to make a good society might just as well think they can use the stairs of Heaven as a short cut to the nearest chemist's shop. [C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters]
Faith must always be sincere to be true. It must not be adopted because it “leads to better outcomes.” Yet in Christian faith lies a great secret of liberation, best expressed by the great Gilbert Keith Chesterton:
The truth is, of course, that the curtness of the Commandments is an evidence, not of the gloom and narrowness of a religion, but, on the contrary, of its liberality and humanity. It is shorter to state the things forbidden than the things permitted; precisely because most things are permitted, and only a few things are forbidden.
The soldier of sincere faith will therefore know that the regimentations required of him by his term of service are temporary things imposed for a specific and limited purpose. They cannot overturn the far briefer and infinitely more intense ethical structure proclaimed by Christ.
No, we cannot and must not promulgate Christianity among our servicemen for its utility. But we can entice young Americans into it for far better reasons, such that those who elect a term of military service will bring it with them at a depth that no regimentation can extinguish. The protection it provides against having their guns turned against us is, as weapons analysts like to say, merely spinoff.
Food for thought.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
It’s all out in the open now. Not even the Main Stream Media is willing to continue the cover-up:
Four sources deeply involved in the Affordable Care Act tell NBC NEWS that 50 to 75 percent of the 14 million consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a “cancellation” letter or the equivalent over the next year because their existing policies don’t meet the standards mandated by the new health care law. One expert predicts that number could reach as high as 80 percent. And all say that many of those forced to buy pricier new policies will experience “sticker shock.”
None of this should come as a shock to the Obama administration. The law states that policies in effect as of March 23, 2010 will be “grandfathered,” meaning consumers can keep those policies even though they don’t meet requirements of the new health care law. But the Department of Health and Human Services then wrote regulations that narrowed that provision, by saying that if any part of a policy was significantly changed since that date -- the deductible, co-pay, or benefits, for example -- the policy would not be grandfathered.
Buried in Obamacare regulations from July 2010 is an estimate that because of normal turnover in the individual insurance market, “40 to 67 percent” of customers will not be able to keep their policy. And because many policies will have been changed since the key date, “the percentage of individual market policies losing grandfather status in a given year exceeds the 40 to 67 percent range.”
That means the administration knew that more than 40 to 67 percent of those in the individual market would not be able to keep their plans, even if they liked them. Yet President Obama, who had promised in 2009, “if you like your health plan, you will be able to keep your health plan,” was still saying in 2012, “If [you] already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance.”
“This says that when they made the promise, they knew half the people in this market outright couldn’t keep what they had and then they wrote the rules so that others couldn’t make it either,” said Robert Laszewski, of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, a consultant who works for health industry firms. Laszewski estimates that 80 percent of those in the individual market will not be able to keep their current policies and will have to buy insurance that meets requirements of the new law, which generally requires a richer package of benefits than most policies today.
But will the White House admit to its deception, even indirectly? Not a chance:
Today, White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked about the president’s promise that consumers would be able to keep their health care. “What the president said and what everybody said all along is that there are going to be changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act to create minimum standards of coverage, minimum services that every insurance plan has to provide,” Carney said. “So it's true that there are existing healthcare plans on the individual market that don't meet those minimum standards and therefore do not qualify for the Affordable Care Act.”
Color me unsurprised.
There is no need in human life so great as that men should trust one another and should trust their government, should believe in promises, and should keep promises in order that future promises may be believed in and in order that confident cooperation may be possible. Good faith -- personal, national, and international -- is the first prerequisite of decent living, of the steady going on of industry, of governmental financial strength, and of international peace. -- Benjamin M. Anderson, Economics and the Public Welfare: A Financial and Economic History of the United States, 1914 -- 1946
I may have cited the statement above, penned by one of the Twentieth Century’s foremost economic analysts, as many as a hundred times. I can find no fault with it except the one fingered by Leo Tolstoy:
In order to obtain and hold power, a man must love it. Thus the effort to get it is not likely to be coupled with goodness, but with the opposite qualities of pride, cunning, and cruelty.
Barack Hussein Obama’s entire adult life has been devoted to the quest for power. He is not satisfied with a president’s Constitutionally delegated authority; he wants the unbounded decretal power of an absolute monarch. He believes he deserves it. Such a man is unlikely to regard us hoi polloi with benevolence, or even respect. Even if Tolstoy’s logic were faulty, in Obama’s case the evidence speaks unambiguously.
The very worst cases of power-lust involve men in love with their images of themselves as Great Men: that element of Mankind destined to shape history by insight, effort, and will. Obama is clearly such a man (“You know, I actually believe my own bullshit.... I think I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.”). In his imagination, History alone can judge him; his contemporaries are not qualified to do so. That places him above all common standards and beyond all ethical constraints: such rules are for the “little people.”
Other evidence scattered over the Obamunist Interregnum makes it clear that the “little people” includes the potentates of other nations. Unfortunately, whatever Obama might think of his deceptive skills, he and his hirelings have failed to becloud those men and women. In consequence, America’s traditional allies no longer trust us, while our adversaries hold us in ever-deepening contempt.
Jimmy Carter, though a total failure as a president, was nevertheless an honest man. To the best of my ability to determine, he never even shaded the truth in any way. More, he was greatly upset when he discovered that the Soviet ambassador had lied to his face concerning the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, even though most high officials would regard such deceits as merely “diplomacy.” In that regard, Carter was in accord with the American tradition of honesty and candid dealing. Indeed, his unabashed honesty might have been the asset that won him the White House.
Morally and ethically, Barack Hussein Obama is the diametric opposite of Jimmy Carter. He prefers to lie, in part because it pleases him to “put one over” on the groundlings, and in part because his agenda is better served by lies than by truths. But as a certain Robert A. Heinlein has told us:
A thousand truths do not mark a man as a truth-teller, but a single lie marks him as a damned liar....Lying to other people is your business, but I tell you this: once a man gets a reputation as a liar, he might as well be struck dumb, for people do not listen to the wind.
At this point in his inglorious career, the only people who will continue to repose confidence in any statement from Obama, or from any of his henchmen, will be those who, like him, believe that deceit is indispensable to the success of their hate-filled, wholly destructive agenda. Decent Americans will assume that he’s lying at all times and on all subjects.
The damage Obama has done will not be confined to him and his lieutenants, nor even to the Democratic Party. By his actions, including his employment of subordinate prevaricators such as Hillary Clinton and Kathleen Sebelius and “spokesmen” such as Jay Carney, he has called into question whether public officials should ever be trusted. Whether it will ever again be possible for a decent American to believe any statement made by an official above the level of a Town Clerk remains to be seen.
Monday, October 28, 2013
It looks like it's going to be one of those days, so I'll limit myself to a few quick observations, triggered by this item cited at Common Sense And Wonder:
A black box in your car? Some see a source of tax revenue
WASHINGTON — As America's road planners struggle to find the cash to mend a crumbling highway system, many are beginning to see a solution in a little black box that fits neatly by the dashboard of your car.
The devices, which track every mile a motorist drives and transmit that information to bureaucrats, are at the center of a controversial attempt in Washington and state planning offices to overhaul the outdated system for funding America's major roads.
The usually dull arena of highway planning has suddenly spawned intense debate and colorful alliances. Libertarians have joined environmental groups in lobbying to allow government to use the little boxes to keep track of the miles you drive, and possibly where you drive them — then use the information to draw up a tax bill.
The tea party is aghast. The American Civil Liberties Union is deeply concerned, too, raising a variety of privacy issues....
"This really is a must for our nation. It is not a matter of something we might choose to do," said Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the Southern California Assn. of Governments, which is planning for the state to start tracking miles driven by every California motorist by 2025. "There is going to be a change in how we pay these taxes. The technology is there to do it."...
The concept is not a universal hit.
In Nevada, where about 50 volunteers' cars were equipped with the devices not long ago, drivers were uneasy about the government being able to monitor their every move.
"Concerns about Big Brother and those sorts of things were a major problem," said Alauddin Khan, who directs strategic and performance management at the Nevada Department of Transportation. "It was not something people wanted."
As the trial got underway, the ACLU of Nevada warned on its website: "It would be fairly easy to turn these devices into full-fledged tracking devices.... There is no need to build an enormous, unwieldy technological infrastructure that will inevitably be expanded to keep records of individuals' everyday comings and goings."...
Some transportation planners, though, wonder if all the talk about paying by the mile is just a giant distraction. At the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in the San Francisco Bay Area, officials say Congress could very simply deal with the bankrupt Highway Trust Fund by raising gas taxes. An extra one-time or annual levy could be imposed on drivers of hybrids and others whose vehicles don't use much gas, so they pay their fair share.
"There is no need for radical surgery when all you need to do is take an aspirin," said Randy Rentschler, the commission's director of legislation and public affairs. "If we do this, hundreds of millions of drivers will be concerned about their privacy and a host of other things."
First, let's acknowledge something history says quite plainly: No tax ever goes away. It is next to impossible to believe that Washington and the states will renounce gasoline taxes in favor of this mileage-based tax. I haven't seen a tax disappear in my 60-plus years, and I doubt this one would be the mind-shattering precedent. So what we're discussing is overwhelmingly more likely to be an additional tax than a replacement for the gasoline tax.
Second, a mandatory technology that's capable of tracking a vehicle's miles traveled will inevitably be capable of determining its location and velocity -- and that capacity will be used by the Powers That Be. The advocates of such devices might be able to fool an Obama voter about this, but they can't fool a Certified Galactic Intellect who just happens to be a very senior engineer with long experience in such things.
Third, in reports on the public sector, I've been seeing more and more names that resemble these (from the above):
- Hasan Ikhrata
- Alauddin Khan
If you're familiar with the history of Ottoman Turkey's Janissaries, you know that the Ottomans made it their policy never to send a particular unit of such troops to duty among people of "their own kind" -- e.g., their own tribe, or their own religion. The idea was, of course, to avoid the emergence of a sympathy between occupiers and occupied that might inhibit the troops against following harsh orders from their commanders. The Soviets did much the same thing in their years in power.
Call me a bigot if you like, but when I see a report about possible developments in public policy containing names that suggest heritages hostile to freedom, I begin to wonder whether our political class is striving to create a Janissary corps among American bureaucrats. The motivation would be exactly the same as that of the Soviets and the Ottomans.
Enjoy your Monday, if I haven't ruined it already.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.
As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
[Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy, 4:1-8. Emphasis added, as Paul was hopeless at HTML.]
Few metaphors possess resonance to equal those of Saint Paul in the last of his letters that have passed down to us. We who so glibly speak of the importance of fighting the good fight have nothing before us to compare to the labors of Paul of Tarsus. His travels at a time when the fastest conveyances were powered by wind or the muscles of men or animals; his struggles to find and install prelates capable of continuing his work in the places he visited; his repeated clashes with the law, both Judaic and Roman; and his eventual execution throw any First World Christian’s troubles into the shade.
Yet he was a difficult man: mercurial, demanding, and impatient with others. He imported into Christian doctrine many elements from Exodus and Leviticus that Christ Himself had not mentioned even in passing. When he erred, as he often did in his haste to be off on his next self-chosen mission, he would not apologize, and the mess he made was left to others to repair. For some years after his death, the predominant reaction, even among the clerics he chose personally, was relief that they wouldn’t have to put up with him any longer. Decades would pass before his writings became an indispensable portion of the Christian canon.
Second Timothy is in large part Paul’s attempt to justify himself in anticipation of his death. His “fight,” his “race,” and his enduring faith are the pillars of his defense against the many who found fault in him. If that fails to be perfectly convincing, nevertheless it carries an important instruction to those of us who tend to whine about our difficulties and recoil from contests where victory is unlikely.
A more recent writer, Steven Brust, put it this way:
“Sire, only the fates know the final outcome of the battle, but surely there is glory in knowing one has not surrendered, and surely there is comfort in knowing one is not alone.”
We mortals tend to seek glory in temporal accomplishments and the acclaim they garner. We who live under the veil of time naturally compare our achievements to those of the great that have gone before us, and strive to exceed them. It orients us in a fashion that must surely amuse God, for all things must pass, all achievements must be surpassed, and all prizes must eventually crumble unto dust, as we ourselves are fated to do.
Mortal man is denied all eternal prizes but one. That prize does not demand that we defeat any mortal adversary. It does not require that we surpass anyone’s prior record. It is not awarded according to the volume of other mortals’ cheers. All it takes to gain the eternal prize – the nearness of God in everlasting bliss – is that we not surrender.
Surrender is, of course, the consequence of despair. He who has despaired has forsaken hope. When hope departs, faith invariably accompanies it.
Yet mortal life is filled with surrenders. The journey from the cradle to the grave involves so many surrenders that life can seem to be nothing but a course in how to surrender gracefully and efficiently. The old are more aware of this than the young, being increasingly conscious of the inevitable final surrender, after which all accounts must be reckoned up and all balances paid in full.
But just as mortal contests and prizes are not eternal ones, our surrenders of mortal things – our youth; our strength and health; our physical attractiveness; our potency; our independence; and our mortal lives – are not the dark and terrible Surrender that would reave us irrevocably of the hope of nearness to God. Job was compelled to surrender all the tokens of mortal success, and all else in which he had taken pleasure, but denied the Adversary’s beckoning even so:
I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. [Job 19:25]
It is inevitable that we focus, most of the time, upon temporal matters rather than eternal ones. God does not begrudge us this. He made us what we are, and would not have us another way. Only a few can devote themselves wholly to the eternal things. The rest must remain at the cranks that keep the world turning, growing ever wearier from the effort.
But He is just. He asks nothing of us beyond our strength. Indeed, all He has ever asked is summarized in two Commandments:
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ [Matthew 22:34-40]
There is the fight we must fight, the race we must finish: to love God, and to treat with our equals in His sight in the spirit of love, to the ends of our lives. Being fallible, we will sometimes fail, but as long as we acknowledge our failures and are appropriately contrite for them, we have not surrendered. In this inhere the entirety of the Christian faith and the engine that propels all true charity.
May God bless and keep you all.
Saturday, October 26, 2013
A long time ago back at Eternity Road, in connection with the "McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act," I wrote:
In his fine 1967 book The American Tradition, Dr. Clarence Carson noted that liberal opinion about freedom had settled on a rather stunted view: that free speech plus a voting mechanism provided all the freedom the nation could ever require. Of course, that view leaves everything else to be legislated, regulated, and taxed to the hilt -- an electorally ratified totalitarianism in which everything not compulsory is forbidden -- but that's all right because we're still free to complain about it....
Should our legislators ever presume to pass a law criminalizing "hate speech," and should a case under such a law reach the Supreme Court, would the Justices uphold the law, taking refuge once more in "international opinion"? Given recent developments, it's hard to be confident that they wouldn't.
Liberal attachment to free speech and open elections has always been shaky. Herbert Marcuse's famous essay "Repressive Tolerance" has beckoned to them from the ideological darkness for forty years. Considering how far they'll go to overturn an election in which they came out second best, just how much would it surprise anyone were they to use "evolving standards," "living document" and "clear and present danger" themes to attack what remains of the right of free expression guaranteed by the First Amendment? And given the demonstrated proclivities of supposedly conservative Republican legislators, who want to retain their power and perquisites quite as much as their liberal Democratic counterparts, how much resistance to the notion could we expect the GOP to mount?
Well, concerning that final question, now we know:
Last month during a town hall meeting in Phoenix, AZ, with Senator John McCain (R-AZ), a Marine by the name of Blaine Cooper voiced his disdain for the Senator, along with other Congressional leaders, and Barack Obama, in a patriotic and impassioned speech. Cooper stated that the aforementioned guilty parties have turned their back on the American people, values, and core beliefs, even so far as aiding terrorists. While McCain stood there grinning like an idiot and posturing like an impatient five year old, Cooper went on to state that while representatives like McCain were elected by their constituents to protect them from the enemy, they have, in fact, become the enemy.
To finish off this truly admirable speech, Cooper said that if he were elected to office, he would try McCain and others for treason against the United States of America. With the exception of McCain grinning like the elitist RINO that he is and a few liberal trolls giving the thumbs down and booing, several of the town hall members erupted in applause at Cooper's speech. The Senator responded to Cooper’s speech with the same condescending demeanor he displayed during the possible Syrian intervention.
While his town hall speech in Phoenix is earning him widespread support and recognition among Conservatives, the Leftist regime we are all ruled under has certainly kept its eye on Cooper. According to Police State USA, Cooper was contacted by local police and interrogated by the FBI for remarks made on Facebook referring to the federal government as being a "police state." During his 45 minute interrogation with the FBI regarding his "questionable" Facebook comments, they informed him that the alternative to him not coming down to the local police station was for them to raid his home. In addition, the FBI pulled up a file of every known Facebook post Cooper has made, as well as information about his wife and parents.
So, what the FBI does to address comments about them operating as a police state -- is to act like a police state! Makes perfect sense. Luckily for Cooper, once he was deemed not a "threat," he was released. Who gave the directive to investigate Blaine Cooper? And why?
But of course.
I keep saying it louder and louder, but it sometimes seems that no one is listening:
Your rights are insignificant,
If not antithetical to that desire.
Indeed, the whole of the federal machine is behind the consolidation of total power in Washington. This morning's news could hardly provide more evidence:
- Using a disconnected warrant, Maryland state police seized a reporter's notes on corruption in the Department of Homeland Security.
- A prominent Democrat Congressman has called for Obama to usurp the power of the border from Congress.
- Yet another Congressional Democrat has called Republican opposition to the Affordable Care Act sedition. He's echoing or being echoed by numerous "private citizens," several major Websites, and a cable-TV news outlet.
- Forget voting our way out of our current mess: the Census Bureau has just announced that we're outnumbered.
Does any Gentle Reader of Liberty's Torch think any of that was coincidental?
It's all out in the open now, Gentle Reader. The forces of totalitarianism are advancing swiftly. The Democrats are the mobile army in the field; with a few honorable exceptions, the Republicans provide the mere appearance of an opposition. The two groups share a single agenda: more power for each and for all.
Partisan commentators who claim that we should support all Republican candidates unquestioningly as the only hope for the defense of freedom are either unable to admit that the GOP has sold its soul for a piece of the action, or are in on the game. There are a few nonpartisan commentators clear-eyed enough to see what's happening before us all, but their influence pales before that of the heavily promoted partisans. At any rate, what with there now being more recipients of government largesse than non-recipients, and the treasuries of the state governments having become dependent upon revenue from the federal coffers, the vote has been effectively neutered.
What, then, must we do?
It's a grim question for a Saturday morning in October. Only three paths forward remain:
I don't much like any of them. Indeed, I'm too old and infirm to fight. Fleeing to some chaotic Third World refuge seems to me to be just a form of surrender. But just sitting here and continuing to orate is like asking to become the next Blaine Cooper. I have no smallest doubt that his experience is merely better publicized than many others.
What, then, must I do?
I write fiction as well as these op-ed essays. My most popular stories are about heroes of freedom and justice and a uniquely, completely free society. In aggregate, they've sold about 100,000 copies. Their readers write to me from all the corners of the globe, mainly to express their yearning for persons like my protagonists and to ask if I know of anyone like that in real life. I can't tell them that this or that public figure was the model for Louis Redmond, or Christine D'Alessandro, or Armand or Althea Morelon. I can only commiserate with them.
At least such stories provide a temporary escape, and a vision of something better. But such visions are of the fantastic. There's nothing like them in the here and now; should the United States fall into open, outright totalitarianism, no one alive today will live to see anything like them.
Free speech is being squelched by intimidation.
The vote has been rendered ineffective by government largesse.
We're steadily being deprived of the chance of success by force of arms.
The masks are off.
The walls are closing in.
Someone please tell me differently.
I'll be waiting patiently.
Friday, October 25, 2013
I've been writing for the Web since 1997, and over those years have sporadically attracted a fair amount of attention, both positive and negative. In keeping with the old Air Force adage that "if you're taking flak, you’re over the target," I've generally placed more significance on the negative feedback I've received.
Nothing I've written at Liberty's Torch has attracted as much vitriol as this piece.
It's fairly easy to see why. No woman wants to hear that her half of the human race is innately inferior, even if it's second-hand and with only the most indirect expression of approbation. As it happens, the approbation was for the cited writers' fearlessness, not their opinions per se. To make absolutely certain this point is not missed, here are my personal convictions on the subject:
I am adamant that women are the lesser sex; that men are the creators and maintainers of the skeleton and sinews of Western Civilization, without whom women's lives would be Hell on Earth; that men have an obligation to protect and provide for their wives, and that mothers have an obligation to protect and nurture their children; that women's gender-specific strengths pertain to a far smaller range of undertakings than the feminist activists claim; and that attempts to dismiss any of the above will inevitably bring about mass misery, social dissolution, and overall chaos. Put any label on those statements you might care to apply to them, ladies. That's easy enough. Convincing me that any of them is false will be much harder.
You can't say I tried to hide any of that, now can you, ladies? But what matters most about those observations is what I've inferred from them:
- The overwhelming preponderance of happy American women are married and have adopted a traditional wife / mother / homemaker style of life.
- The strongest and least stressed marriages are those in which "traditional" male and female roles obtain.
- The unhappiest women are found among the careerists who have completely renounced marriage and motherhood in favor of work for wages.
- Many unhappily married women, though perhaps not a majority thereof, are unhappy specifically about having to work for wages.
- Far too many men of a "conservative" bent take the above prescriptively: that is, as a command that the only proper place for a woman is in a traditional married woman's role.
I haven't tried to hide any of that, either.
Ultimately, the whole of the "war between the sexes" reduces to contentions about their natures: in particular, whether they have any such things. In such arguments lie some of the grandest ironies in all of human discourse.
If there is a Nature -- that is, a set of immutable laws that determine the gross facts about how matter and energy behave and interact -- it follows almost tautologically that patterns will arise from Nature's laws that will distinguish groups of entities from one another. Men's practice of conceiving categories whose members possess specific characteristics arises from those patterns. This insight, which is the basis of Aristotle's approach to definition, is the highest single achievement of human philosophy.
Any number of persons have sought to undermine this approach to abstract reasoning. Some have attempted a subjectivist approach in the manner of George Berkeley. Others chisel at the edges: having noted that the categories we define in an Aristotelian fashion exclude certain outliers who nevertheless belong in them, they maintain that such exceptions invalidate the category altogether.
There is an obvious tension between any sort of abstraction and the natural world upon which we wish to use it. Abstractions and the definitions that create them are inherently binary: either you're "in" or you're "out." Nature is not binary, at least, not above the level of the quanta: what she produces varies continuously along innumerable axes, some of which have no self-evident bounds. Thus, rather than cavil at the gray zones around our categories, which reflect that tension, we should accept it, while maintaining that though we must remain wary about the margins around them, our abstractions remain useful nonetheless.
Allow me to skip over about twenty-four centuries of conceptual refinement: Honesty compels us to allow that our categorical notions about the sexes are inherently statistical. They address the distribution of critical characteristics between the sexes, and the variances those distributions display. Those distributions allow for leading and trailing "tails" under which outliers will be found.
Yes, there are six-foot-tall female weightlifters and five-foot-tall male weaklings.
Yes, there are innately aggressive and daring women and innately timid, retiring men.
Yes, there are a few female mathematicians and composers of symphonies...a very few.
But these are exceptions to the larger patterns that characterize the sexes: their natures.
Once we have acknowledged the statistical character of natures, other allowances automatically follow. She who is an exception will behave exceptionally, and will not be harmed thereby. However, she who is an example of the larger pattern arising from women's nature, but who strains to behave as the exceptions do, is extremely likely to be harmed. At minimum she'll be unhappy, and she'll make those involved with her unhappy in proportion to her importance to them.
There's a lot of such unhappiness about just now. American women have been thoroughly propagandized about "equality," "female strength," and "having it all." The consequences have been dire. Those who succeed in resisting the cant, and making their own choices according to their own needs and desires, are often vilified as "gender traitors:" the most vicious and destructive element of the propaganda.
None of this is to be taken prescriptively. As I wrote here:
It doesn't matter that the path to happiness for most women seems to be that of marriage and traditional wifely and motherly pursuits. Indeed, it wouldn't matter if one could "prove" that that's the only path to female happiness. No good can come from either the de Beauvoirean / Hirshmanesque command to women to "get out there and prepare to become a ruler" or the authoritarian-paternalistic command to "stick to your kids, your home, and your kitchen." There must be free choice.
Some women would best relate to life, men, and society by adopting a traditional "wifestyle;" others, upon whom God has bestowed other gifts and insights, would do best to follow another path. If our experiences since the inception of the "Women's Lib" movement are at all indicative, there are more women of the first sort than of the second, perhaps far more. That doesn't confer authority over such decisions upon anyone.
If freedom means anything, it means the right to pursue happiness according to your own notions and priorities, whether you have two X chromosomes or only one.
The besetting sin of sexual ideologues of both sorts is to deny the nature of Mankind itself: the rational creature animated by volitional consciousness and thus deserving of freedom in all things that neither coerce nor defraud others of his kind. Such ideologues are too anxious to condemn those who defy their prescriptions. As human freedom is a lesser priority to them -- if, indeed, it's a priority at all -- its exclusion from the subject comes naturally.
Species' natures define the species, in the abstract sense discussed above. When we observe significant changes to a species that substantially invalidate the definition, we declare and define a new species. That's the way of nature-based taxonomy: you don't insist that the creature fit the definition, but shape the definition to describe the creature, as inclusively as possible.
However, while a species's nature persists, it can be quite useful in making predictions and evaluations. Indeed, an evaluation of a creature must proceed from the nature of its species. We don't judge a Newfoundland by the standard appropriate to a Hairless Chihuahua.
BUT... let it be agreed upon at once that every evaluation, no matter how firmly based in an appropriate standard, also reflects the priorities of the evaluator -- and these are always at least partly subjective. They cannot be otherwise, for priorities are always comparative: matters of greater and lesser import. Greater and lesser import to whom? Why, to the evaluator! Who else?
Therefore, when I state that I find women to be the lesser sex -- there it is again, ladies, just in case you missed it the first time -- I'm expressing an evaluation of a species' nature, as I understand it, according to my own priorities. I place a higher value on men's typical attributes than on those typical of women. Others are free to apply their own priorities and to reach different evaluations. Given the highly personal nature of such things, I will not quibble with them.
No doubt the women who wrote en masse to castigate me for daring to have such values would like to see me "re-educated." Ain't gonna happen, chickies. I've got Aristotle in my corner. Who've you got?
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Author Peter Schweizer was on Hannity, Tuesday night to talk about his explosive new book Extortion.
He talked about the mind-blowing corruption and political extortion that is rampant in DC, these days on both sides of the aisle but noting that it comes from the top. He compared the Regime to “the squeegee man that used to be in NYC – they’d walk up to your car and say I want to clean your windshield – they’ve got a cloth in one hand and a brick in the other, and you’ve got to pay them or the brick’s coming through the windshield”….
He said that’s a huge problem at the DOJ. “Eric Holder is the basically the Squeegee guy holding the brick. There are companies that are being told that they are subject to DOJ investigation, criminal and civil, and then these companies are solicited for political donations to the Obama Campaign (in 2012) and now to political committees and there is statistical evidence in the book that literally, you cut your chance of going to jail in half if you make a contribution.”
He said, “the other thing they’re doing is after the 2010 midterm elections, when they had that stunning defeat in Congress, the Obama Department of Justice targeted the industries that financed the tea party candidates that got elected.”
Literally days after President Obama made that famous statement “we’re going to punish our political opponents,”[the Holder DOJ sent out an industry sweep letter to companies in the oil and gas sector which said you are subject to criminal investigation and you'd better share and cooperate....it was a clear intimidation tactic being used."
Remember what happened to Gallup when they released some polls that weren't pleasing to Obama, last year? All of a sudden, they were the subject of a DOJ investigation into their poll methodology..."Punish your enemies..."
Schweizer's Squeegee guy analogy is close to perfect. The sole countermeasure to the brick-wielding Squeegee guy is a driver with a gun in his hand, loaded, cocked, and aimed straight at the miscreant's face. That's enough to cause any but the craziest such extemporaneous extortionist to back away with an insincere apology. However, when the Squeegee guy is the federal Department of Justice, no gun is large enough to be adequately threatening.
And of course, Obama, Holder, and their partners in political extortion know that full well.
The egotist regards himself as above those around him. The supreme egotist -- the megalomaniacal narcissist type of which Barack Hussein Obama is today's best example -- regards himself as above all else in the universe. Two sorts of creatures believe, emotionally if not intellectually, that their deaths would bring the universe to an end. The solipsist is one sort; the megalomaniacal narcissist is the other.
Thus it's no great stretch to conclude that the megalomaniacal narcissist regards himself as above the laws. More precisely, he views the laws, whatever they might be, in the same light as all else that exists: tools to be used for his purposes, if possible; encumbrances to be swept aside, if not.
The Obama / Holder DOJ is in perfect accord with that view. From its first days in power it's acted as if the laws were merely mechanisms to be used solely against those it disapproves. The New Black Panther atrocity, the Fast and Furious scandal, the refusal to investigate or prosecute vote fraud, the obscene posturing over the Trayvon Martin affair, the attempt to enforce portions of the Voting Rights Act nullified by the Supreme Court, and other scandals put it beyond reasonable dispute.
This is the sort of governmental misconduct for which the Second Amendment was written. Nothing else could possibly correct it. The Department of Justice surely won't be investigating or prosecuting itself. Neither will Obama take a personal hand in the matter, as long as Holder and his DOJ subordinates continue their faithful service to the Obamunist agenda. Holder's a good Hessian; he knows which side of the bread is buttered.
What, then, must we do?
Schweizer's revelations are the most consequential disclosures ever presented to the American public. They document the ultimate manifestation of corruption among the powerful. There is no way to dismiss them, nor to trivialize them, without simultaneously dismissing the foundation of Americans' respect for the law: the premise that the law is above all persons, and applies to all equally.
However, you may rest assured that the Obamunists are already plotting to take Schweizer down. If they cannot somehow discredit his investigation as deceitful, invalid, or compromised by bias, they'll go after him personally. He will be defamed. His character will be impugned in the most shocking ways imaginable. Cleverly contrived evidence of his dissolution and corruption -- PhotoShopped pictures showing him "in bed with a dead girl or a live boy" -- will shortly be presented to the electorate.
It's conceivable that Schweizer will experience crimes of violence and invasion. His home might be invaded. He could be assaulted on the street. More subtly, he might be approached by extortionists wielding "evidence" of his duplicity. He'd better watch his back. The same goes for his loved ones.
Remember what Obama's henchmen and handmaidens in the media did to Sarah Palin in 2008? Schweizer should expect treatment still rougher. I hope and pray he's braced for it.
Nice Deb adds a swift but piercing evaluation to Schweizer's revelations:
My God, Hannity's right, we're living in a Banana Republic.
With a megalomaniacal narcissist at the top, decreeing who may buy, sell, or consume the bananas, when and where and at what prices, entirely at his pleasure. There follows an inevitable question, both Deb's and mine:
When are people going to wise up??
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Mike Hash, who directs the Office of Health reform at the Department of Health and Human Services, will brief House Democrats Wednesday about implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
The closed-door session, which will start at 8:50 a.m., marks the first time the administration will have briefed members of Congress on the online enrollment system since its troubled rollout on Oct. 1....
House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) office is crying foul that House Republicans aren't included in the briefing. It is asking that the same briefing be provided to the GOP.
Imagine the reactions from the press were a Republican Administration to treat its Democrat adversaries in the same fashion. Quoth Sara Noble at the Independent Sentinel:
John Boehner and Republicans in Congress are being punished by a dictatorial President with a get-even mentality and will be kept out of the loop as a result. They will not be given information about the website problems.
We have never had a president like this who completely ignores the opposition party and half the people in the nation....
Mr. Obama will only deal with the Democrats in Congress and he barely deals with them.
There was an unimaginable scene as the president strolled into a meeting of other leaders, only to find there literally was not a seat for him at the table. He quickly said he would "sit by my friend Lula," Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Reporters summoned to a quick photo op of the session witnessed an unusually chaotic scene for a diplomatic setting.
Mr. Obama was heard raising his voice as he asked, "Mr. Premier, are you ready to see me? Are you ready?"
The question was aimed at Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.
There was an uncharacteristic edge to Mr. Obama's voice as he addressed the Chinese leader....
When Mr. Obama arrived for that meeting, he found the Chinese leader conferring with his counterparts from Brazil, India and South Africa.
A senior official denied that the president and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton crashed the meeting. The official explained Mr. Obama merely showed up at the appointed time to confer with Wen and found the other leaders there too.
Top Obama aides learned of the meeting only moments before the president arrived.
It appears that the other potentates at that meeting actively wished to exclude Obama, but he would have none of it:
Barack Obama is not used to being the guy not invited to a party. At the Copenhagen global warming conference, however, he found that not everyone wanted to hang with him. Our president can't take a hint.
After Mr. Obama's bilateral meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, the Chinese began sending lower-level functionaries to the multilateral meetings. A frustrated Mr. Obama pressed for another bilateral meeting, which was scheduled for Friday at 6:15 p.m. Other leaders of the countries known as the "BASIC" bloc were harder to pin down.
The Obama team tried to schedule a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and was told he was at the airport readying to leave. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva also was unavailable. South African President Jacob Zuma said there was no point meeting without India and Brazil. Then the Chinese pushed the bilateral meeting back to 7 p.m.
"We were told they were at the airport," a senior administration official said. "We were told delegations were split up. We were told they weren't going to meet." So imagine Mr. Obama's surprise when he arrived for the bilateral powwow and found all four leaders in the room already in deep discussion. "Are you ready for me?" he said with an "uncharacteristic edge" to his voice, according to a CBS News report.
"We weren't crashing a meeting," an Obama flack later explained defensively. "We were going for our bilateral meeting." But that didn't stop him from walking in where he wasn't invited. Clearly, Mr. Obama learned a few things from his own White House party crashers.
There was no chair at the table for Mr. Obama so he announced he would sit next to his "friend Lula," whose staff had to scramble to make room for the president and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. On Monday, Mr. da Silva used his weekly radio program to rebuke the United States for its stance at Copenhagen.
After Mr. Obama arrived, the BASIC group was basically held hostage. They had tried politely to keep Mr. Obama at arms length, but since he showed up, decorum mandated that they find a way to save face.
The pattern should be clear by now. Indeed, it should have become clear long ago.
The megalomaniacal narcissist is the supreme egotist. He's the least stable, and therefore the least tolerable, of all psychotics. His ego, its assertion, and its defense dwarf everything else in the universe. ("If there's anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now." -- from Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy) It forbids him to imagine a state of affairs in which he would be wrong, especially wrong at someone else's expense, and would therefore be morally obligated to apologize and make amends. No one with a lot of nice furniture or fragile knickknacks would knowingly admit a megalomaniacal narcissist to his home.
Megalomania plus narcissism gives rise to rage in the face of opposition or persistent difficulties. Obama hasn't yet descended to the nadir of such behavior:
"You don't oppose Kimba. That's treason. For that he has your whole family murdered." [From Norman Jewison's script for The Dogs of War.]
...but I occasionally wonder, given his "jokes" about having the IRS audit his political enemies, just how far he is from adopting a few less overtly violent measures for the suppression of his opposition: perhaps on the level of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
Obama's inability to concede the serious faults in his "signature legislative achievement," his refusal to take into account any of the positions or statements of his political adversaries, his enduring hostility toward Fox News for daring to employ editorialists who question his policies, and his repeated use and encouragement of the foulest terms of denunciation for the GOP have made it perfectly clear: the "most powerful man in the world," who cannot abide being omitted from a meeting of other national "leaders," is a megalomaniacal narcissist, an egotist of the highest degree. And he has three more years to run roughshod over the United States of America.
Anyone know of a nice high mountaintop I could fortify?
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Many if not most readers of Liberty’s Torch will already be familiar with the phrase battlespace preparation. It refers to the attempt to establish certain propositions as beyond question, essentially making them into postulates for an impending political argument. Some such effort is dedicated to establishing explicit public policies as necessary beyond dispute. The rest is distributed over a broad range of subjects, including premises about rights, valid and invalid interpretations of the Constitution, and the characters and backgrounds of significant public figures.
I like the phrase, but though it has broad application, it doesn’t quite cover the phenomenon that’s on my mind this morning: the conditioning of the public to react in a particular non-rational way to suggestions that point in certain preferred or dispreferred directions. Non-rational reactions, by definition, have nothing to do with reason. They’re visceral in nature, proceeding from physiological mechanisms that can occlude the reason. Despite that, we tend to refer to the source of such reactions as one’s mindset.
An example of mindset engineering pertinent to political discussion would be how we’ve been conditioned to react against any suggestion that the State isn’t really necessary. It no longer matters what facts or reasoning are marshaled toward that thesis, because as soon as a listener notices that your argument is heading in that direction, his gut will cast up a near-to-impenetrable wall against it. Why? He’s been conditioned into that reaction by decades, even centuries, of hectoring to the effect that anyone who advocates the abolition of the State is either too silly to take seriously or too dangerous to tolerate.
(An aside: I can argue the inevitability of the State as well as anyone. I can argue the inevitability of anarchy equally well. Both arrangements are inevitable, because both are inherently unstable. But that’s a subject for a three-volume novel.)
Today’s tirade focuses on a bit of mindset engineering of comparable gravity.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) quietly dropped a bomb in its October Fiscal Monitor Report. Titled “Taxing Times,” the report paints a dire picture for advanced economies with high debts that fail to aggressively “mobilize domestic revenue.” It goes on to build a case for drastic measures and recommends a series of escalating income and consumption tax increases culminating in the direct confiscation of assets.
Yes, you read that right. But don’t take it from me. The report itself says:“The sharp deterioration of the public finances in many countries has revived interest in a “capital levy”— a one-off tax on private wealth—as an exceptional measure to restore debt sustainability. The appeal is that such a tax, if it is implemented before avoidance is possible and there is a belief that it will never be repeated, does not distort behavior (and may be seen by some as fair). … The conditions for success are strong, but also need to be weighed against the risks of the alternatives, which include repudiating public debt or inflating it away. … The tax rates needed to bring down public debt to precrisis levels, moreover, are sizable: reducing debt ratios to end-2007 levels would require (for a sample of 15 euro area countries) a tax rate of about 10 percent on households with positive net wealth....
“Financial wealth is mobile, and so, ultimately, are people.… There may be a case for taxing different forms of wealth differently according to their mobility … Substantial progress likely requires enhanced international cooperation to make it harder for the very well-off to evade taxation by placing funds elsewhere.
“A revenue-maximizing approach to taxing the rich effectively puts a weight of zero on their well-being—contentious, to say the least. What then if some weight is indeed attached to the well-being of the richest? Figure 19 provides a way to think about the trade-off between equity and efficiency considerations in setting the top marginal rate in that case. … If one attaches less weight to those with the highest incomes, the vote would be to increase the top marginal rate.”
The article’s author, Bill Frezza, makes several indisputable observations about this proposal, but one stands out above the rest:
If ever there were a roadmap for prompting massive capital flight and emigration of productive citizens toward capitalism’s nascent frontiers in Asia, this is it.
They who saunter casually about the halls of power, both here and in Europe, might be evil – indeed, I’d give odds on it – but they’re not stupid. They know full well that what Frezza said above is absolutely correct. The next question is inevitable: If they know it, why have they mused publicly about plans that would trigger it?
Give that a moment’s thought while I refill my mug.
One of the lines of thought we’ve been conditioned away from considering seriously is that of political conspiracy, particularly as it applies to persons who officially wield power. Conspiracy has been made almost as unspeakable a word as nigger. The mere suggestion that elements of the United States federal government might be conspiring to fasten a totalitarian, social-fascist regime upon our necks is enough to get you snorted out of most social circles as a hairy-eyed kook.
Cui bono? the old Latin scholar asks. Who benefits from having made the consideration of that possibility so viscerally frightening that virtually no one will entertain it?
Don’t all answer at once, now.
The IMF report above, if publicized – and you can bet the rent that Forbes won’t be the only organ to cite it – is nearly certain to intensify the ongoing flight of liquid capital from the economies of the West. As capital departs our shores, our economic malaise will deepen. Jobs will grow scarcer. Loans will get even harder to obtain. The overall mobility of goods and services will shrink, as it always does when its essential lubricant – money – is in short supply. Our anemic 1% to 2% growth rates of the Obama years will dwindle still further, perhaps into the negative numbers.
That will put enormous pressure on the American welfare state and the ability of the federal government to fund it: a perfect justification for exactly the sort of confiscatory policies and capital controls delineated in the IMF report.
The IMF is a creature of the Western governments. Its policies are determined and ratified by consultation among highly placed persons from the major states of the West, including the United States. That all such governments have been swiftly tightening down on all economic and fiscal matters for decades is hardly in dispute. Until recently, Westerners’ attachment to property rights retarded them from the ultimate assertion of “eminent domain” over our bank accounts.
But now they can point to Cyprus. Shortly they’ll have Greece as well.
And we upon whom their crosshairs rest are absolutely inhibited against even thinking the word conspiracy.
In Catherine Drinker Bowen’s marvelous narration of the Constitutional Convention, Miracle At Philadelphia, she records delegate Gouverneur Morris’s statement to the Convention that “Men don’t unite for life or liberty...they unite for the protection of property.” Indeed, the desire to protect Americans’ property rights was so strongly and sincerely felt by the Conventioneers that they all but forbade direct federal taxation, by mandating that it be uniform across all persons and places:
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States; [Article I, Section 8]
In such a scheme the major impetus toward direct taxation, the redistribution of wealth, would be impossible, thus greatly reducing the desirability of such taxes. It wasn’t until the Sixteenth Amendment:
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
...that direct taxation of property in the possession of individuals became a regular feature of these United States.
The merits and demerits of direct taxation have been voluminously discussed in other fora. My point here is that we avoided all such taxes for more than a century, because they were regarded as an infringement on property rights. But Americans’ attachment to property rights – at least, to the property rights of other Americans – has been weakening over the decades. Today it’s about even money that a randomly selected American can’t even articulate the concept. Don’t bother asking him for the reason behind that clause from Article I, Section 8.
Redistributive policies founded on the income tax have thus set the stage for an assertion that the State has first claim on all wealth, in the name of the “common good.” A small sovereignty in the eastern Mediterranean has already acted on that premise. Another will soon follow. And the IMF, and the governments that support it, are looking on with unconcealed avidity.
Does the word conspiracy come any more easily to your mind, Gentle Reader?
Please reflect on that IMF report and the labyrinth of approvals its publication required. Then please reread this emission from a few days ago. Please reflect on the phenomena of “ObamaPhones,” and no-exclusions medical insurance, and 99 weeks of unemployment insurance payments, and the removal of most restrictions on welfare eligibility, and on author/commentator Matt Bracken’s pithy evaluation of the scene developing before our eyes:
It looks like Obama plans to crash the economy and instigate massive food riots in November. This will be blamed, naturally, on the Evil White Racist Tea Party Republicans. American Pravda, (ABCNNBCBS, the NYT, the WaPo, the LAT) will dutifully serve as Obama’s microphone for this scapegoating....
Last Saturday’s hours-long EBT “glitch” led to mass panic and near riots in 17 states. Was that just a “warning” from the regime to the GOP to extend his infinite debt ceiling pronto, “or else?” If the EBT system is shut down for even three days, every supermarket will be looted, and riots will sweep our cities that will make 1968 look like a picnic. This is not an accident, this is deliberate.
We’ve seen this kind of deliberate provocation before: Reichstag Fire, anyone? I’m beginning to feel like it’s Berlin, 1933, and my name is Goldstein. And the new “Berlin Zeitung” will be the NYT and the Washington Post.
If you can come up with a non-conspiratorial reason our government is behaving thus, to say nothing of the governments of Europe, I’d very much like to hear it. For the nonce, I’m going to whisper “Conspiracy...conspiracy...conspiracy” to myself throughout the day. Just to see if I can decondition my guts out of reflexively convulsing at the sound of the word, of course.