Friday, June 26, 2009
I will reply that we are the new Sons of Liberty. We’re all over the place. You will recall that the Sons of Liberty, for about ten years leading up to Concord and Bunker Hill, communicated with each other all over the colonies through committees of correspondence, trading intelligence, ideas, strategies, and progress reports. The new committees are facilitated by the Internet. Fundamentally, there is no difference between their functions, except the element of time. It might have taken two weeks for correspondence from Boston and Sam Adams to reach Richmond and Richard Henry Lee. Now, it takes mere seconds for anyone‘s communications to reach a hundred times the number of addressees.
Another chief difference is that the committees of yore were guided in their policies and actions by many of the Founders, who acted as intellectual workmen. Today, many of the movers behind the Tea Parties are acting in the same capacity. They are not especially intellectuals, but they will come around eventually, out of necessity, in order to present arguments, and not just stage ad hoc demonstrations of anger and disgust. Objectivists are making their presence known at the Tea Parties, and they are attracting lots of attention, especially from protestors looking for moral and intellectual guidance and not more of the “same old, same old.”
Here’s another parallel: In the Founders’ time, before the Declaration, opposition to Crown policies was expressed by a number of groups. Call them 18th century “libertarians,” religious based groups, conservatives, and the like. But by the time of Bunker Hill and the second Continental Congress, most of them were agreed on the fundamentals of why the colonies should separate from the Crown. We are in the same situation today. Religious groups, libertarians, conservatives, and other groups opposed to Obama and the Democratic Congress’s policies are all vying for attention and trying to dominate especially the Tea Parties. But Objectivism is the only philosophy that offers a consistently rational politics. None of the other forces do.
If Yaron Brook and ARI don’t exhaust themselves with speeches and appearances, in time Objectivism will come to dominate the political thinking. All the other groups are capable of compromise, whereas Objectivism is not. This stops the rationalizers and compromisers cold, and they have nothing to say, nothing to add, nothing to refute. You’ve heard especially Yaron on TV and on the radio expound the philosophy of individual rights and handily discard or rebut objections and reservations about the necessity of a consistent policy of individual rights, that is, a moral philosophy based on the nature of man, and not on religion or utilitarianism (capitalism and freedom promote the greatest good for the greatest number, etc.). He doesn’t give an inch. He doesn’t concede the fallacies of any of his opponents.
I agree with you that many Americans are now emerging tentatively from what Jack Frake and Hugh Kenrick might have called their “Plato’s caves.” Some are blinking, others are shutting their eyes or sidling back into the caves. They don’t matter. And some are bravely moving ahead. But it is we, the new Sons of Liberty, who never inhabited those caves, who are the point men in this conflict. Objectivists are now running and contributing to dozens of “committees of correspondence” today.
Remember also that all throughout the pre-Revolutionary period and during the war itself, the population here remained roughly divided in thirds: one-third loyalist, one-third neutral dross, and one-third that fought for independence or supported it. You cite the overwhelming number of people in the “masses.” The “masses” don’t count. Look what happened in Iran. For days hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the streets and had running fights with the mullahs’ armed thugs and their “thought police,” but the numbers of the protestors didn’t matter. They probably outnumbered the thugs. They were moved not by radical ideas, but by emotions. Their protests had to peter out. They have only a vague glimmering of “freedom” and worse yet some notion of “democracy,” which they associate with freedom. Well, “majority rule,” or those who support Ahmadinejad, spoke, and that was “democracy.” I haven’t observed any evidence, through the news, that anyone there has grasped that. (And I think that the U.S.’s Voice of America broadcasts to Iran and other countries ruled by dictatorships do more harm than good, because in a mealy mouthed way, they also promote “democracy”; this is the confused confusing already confused minds.)
Of course, victory for us isn’t guaranteed. It wasn’t guaranteed for the Founders, either. How it will all end, and when, is an open question. If Obama and the Democrats move to their final folly, which is censorship (and we know they very much would like to silence any and all moral opposition), then we may see actual rebellion against government force, and that may or may not be a good thing, given the state of the culture. It could backfire, as some Objectivists elsewhere have noted, and only provoke the government to impose even more stringent controls, and possibly result in the arrest of the most outspoken and rational critics. The statists are too close to their final goal, a “democratic” dictatorship in which everyone exists in support of and for the sake of the state, to concede rationality in any quarter or on any issue. If that end can only be achieved by becoming bestial, they’ll have nothing to lose and won’t hesitate to bloody a few heads (and that may be their undoing -- or not).
One thing we should not doubt -- and I noted this in “Obama contra Churchill” and in past commentaries -- is that if they cannot exercise complete political power over the country, they would rather see it die or descend into anarchy. That’s their death premise. No one should underestimate their viciousness. The obvious glee with which they legislate our freedom away will be matched by their bottomless malice for any resistance. Fundamentally, it’s as much “either/or” for the statists as it is for the advocates of a philosophy of reason, who act on the life premise. You can see it in their faces and hear it in their words. Their capacity for evil is sustained only by the confusion and mixed premises of their current and future victims. Atlas Shrugged dramatized that in no uncertain terms.
A major problem is the state of the American spirit. Generations of dumbing-down and educational indoctrination can’t be undone during a single repressive administration (which is how the Obama administration can only be characterized). Perhaps Americans will wake up quickly to their peril, perhaps not. They must be taught the value of freedom. Many do not even know what it is, and many don’t put a value on it. Where the Founders had the advantage of the spread of Enlightenment ideas, and a population receptive to them, we have the disadvantage of the decline of those ideas, and a population largely indifferent to or ignorant of them. This is quite an obstacle.
All we can do for now is keep on arguing, talking, writing, and protesting, to get as many people on our side as possible. To paraphrase Rand, by fighting for our future, we are living it now. For the moment, this is all that is within our power to do.
Long Live Lady Liberty!
Thursday, June 25, 2009
My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.So without any further delay (and in no particular order), here's this week's round-up:
"About the Author," Atlas Shrugged, Appendix.
Andy Clarkson presents On WBT With Pete Kaliner Last Night posted at The Charlotte Capitalist, saying, "Was on WBT-AM 1110/99.3 FM in Charlotte "The Colossus of The South" asking the question why there has been no moral condemnation of the Flint, Michigan policies to buy, tear down and"green over" private property. Principles vs. pragmatism."
Lucy Hugel presents National Service: An Immoral Ideal posted at The Undercurrent, saying, "This spring the President signed into law The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, much of which specifically targets young adults. This legislation means more than just spending a summer in a soup kitchen or a year in a South American village, although these are not small matters..."
JStotts presents Objectivism and Sexuality posted at Erosophia, saying, "Overview of the speech I recently gave to the Ohio Objectivist Society on the Objectivist theory of sexuality as understood through its underlying operations. Instructions for how to obtain the full version of the speech are in the post."
Ryan Krause presents Fighting Back by Opting Out (Or Going Galt, If the Term Appeals to You) posted at The Money Speech, saying, "What some capitalists are NOT doing to deal with encroaching government."
Daniel presents One Question, One Answer with Burgess Laughlin posted at The Nearby Pen, saying, "Burgess Laughlin answers the question 'If a biography is a selective account of someone's life according to the author's judgments about what is important, what makes for a good (or bad) biography?'"
Gus Van Horn presents Second-Hander posted at Gus Van Horn, saying, "The Atlantic has published a glowing eulogy of William F. Buckley by Garry Wills which I highly recommend -- but with one proviso..."
C. August presents A Blind, Indifferent Juggernaut posted at Titanic Deck Chairs, saying, "I discuss what appears to be the recent acceleration of tyranny and how Americans are (or aren't) dealing with it in light of how tyranny was dealt with in the Founding Era. Some commenters offer an interesting historical perspective as well."
Rational Jenn presents A Little Bit About My Day posted at Rational Jenn, saying, "Helping the kids through the steps of solving their own conflicts--rather than solving their problems for them--gives them good chances to practice Objectivist virtues. Even though the process sure takes a long time!"
Miranda Barzey presents Mia Michaels is Anti-Life posted at Ramen & Rand, saying, "So You Think You Can Dance choreographer Mia Michaels is brilliant in her craft, but her sense of life is horrible. Looking through her work there is evidence of her malevolent idea of life."
Doug Reich presents To Know Capitalism Is to Love Capitalism posted at The Rational Capitalist, saying, "Modern writers implicitly define capitalism by non-essentials with the consequence that capitalism is often regarded to be something approximating its antithesis. Properly defining the concept of capitalism is half the battle."
Peter Cresswell presents If this is ‘not so bad,’ then what have you got for afters? posted at Not PC, saying, "When one of your country's parliamentarians quotes Ayn Rand at the head of a speech on the recession -- the very parliamentarian who once cut a swathe through New Zealand's big government -- in a speech that counsels facing up to reality -- it's appropriate to take heed, don't you think? And to celebrate the power of good ideas to capture the mainstream, however tentatively."
Edward Cline presents Obama contra Churchill posted at The Rule of Reason, saying, "The joke may be on President Barack Obama. One of his first “house cleaning” chores was to order the removal from the White House Oval Office of the bust of Winston Churchill, a temporary gift from Britain in the wake of 9/11, and to replace it in that same spot with one of Abraham Lincoln. After all, didn’t Lincoln oversee a calamitous Civil War to free the slaves? One wonders just how well versed Obama is in the speeches of one of his political heroes."
Brian Phillips presents What Can One Do? posted at Houston Property Rights, saying, "In response to a question regarding what one person can do to spread rational ideas, Ayn Rand once said: “Speak on any scale open to you, large or small--to your friends, your associates, your professional organizations, or any legitimate public forum. You can never tell when your words will reach the right mind at the right time.” A friend recently demonstrated this in a simple, but effective way."
That concludes this edition of the round-up. Submit your blog article to the next edition of Objectivist round-up using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races -- that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people, and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And in as much as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”*
That is just one of many revealing quotations from Lincoln’s written record on the issue of slavery. The evidence has been available to scholars for decades. Napolitano’s book dissects Lincoln’s role in empowering the federal government to override the Constitution and to consciously misinterpret especially the commerce and general welfare clauses in it to excuse its intervention in the economy and to reduce the scope of individual liberty. (See also Napolitano’s remarks on the Department of Homeland Security memo of April 7.)
Lincoln’s chief motivation for prosecuting the Civil War was to preserve the Union, not to free the slaves. The obvious evil of slavery is not the subject here. We have little to thank Lincoln for. He endorsed the country’s first income tax and the first military draft, and suspended habeas corpus. These were precedent-setting exercises of government power to confiscate wealth and life, in pursuit of a “noble cause,” emulated later by his successors in office and certainly countenanced by Congress in pursuit of causes arguably less “noble.”
Countless other Americans at the time desired to abolish slavery and enlisted in the army and navy for that reason, or were involved in the abolitionist movement, but Lincoln’s motivation was highly ambivalent. The myth surrounding Lincoln, one that has been propagated in textbooks for over a century, that he regarded slavery as a moral abomination and fought a war to eradicate it, is no less a myth than the one surrounding Franklin D. Roosevelt, that he saved the country from the alleged excesses of unregulated capitalism. Of course, Obama also admires FDR.
Does Obama value Lincoln for the slavery issue, or for Lincoln’s wholesale violations of the Constitution and the ensuing, steady diminution of freedom? If he reveres Lincoln as an emancipator, then he is a posturing fool. If he reveres him as a symbol of a successful usurpation of Constitutional limitations in the guise of “liberation,” then he is slyer than most critics have credited him for being.
On the other hand, Obama might have chucked Churchill out because he was a reproach, in that he spoke eloquently against dictators and men who pursued power for the sake of power and had a more contentious political career. Perhaps Obama is better versed in Churchill’s speeches than he is in Lincoln’s. Or, it may have something to do with Churchill’s suppression of the Mau Mau terrorism in colonial Kenya, when Obama’s grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, was jailed on suspicion of being a Mau Mau subversive. Which, if true, suggests that Obama approves of terrorism and can boast of having a terrorist sympathizer for a relative.
One can even score Churchill for his early praise of Hitler and Mussolini long before World War II. He repudiated and withdrew that praise when he grasped the nature of their tyrannies. Obama’s praise is silent. For example, under the pretence of not wanting to “meddle” in the Iranian election turmoil, his remarks have been tepid and reluctant. How can he criticize an authoritarian soul-mate, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for having won a rigged election? He and the Democratic Congress have a demonstrable affinity for fascism and are gathering to themselves unprecedented political power over virtually every aspect of American life. Everything -- the truth behind the Lincoln and FDR myths and the myth that Obama loves this country and is only trying to save it by emulating his predecessors -- is buried beneath the excelsior of irrelevancies and inconsequentials.
(The bust itself, by Sir Jacob Epstein, is an artistic malignity. Churchill’s features are barely discernible through a leprous percolation of bumps and swellings, leading one to imagine the work was rescued just in time from a blaze, damaged but still intact. But it is doubtful that Obama’s esthetic sense was so offended by the bust that he decided to rid the Oval Office of it.)
In his “The Lights are Going Out” speech of October, 1938, broadcast to the United States, in which he discusses the triumphs of Hitler in Europe, and the victories of fascist Italy and Spain, Churchill had this to say about dictators:
“You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police. On all sides they are guarded by masses of armed men, cannons, airplanes, fortifications, and the like -- they boast and vaunt themselves before the world, yet in their hearts there is unspoken fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts: words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home -- all the more powerful because forbidden -- terrify them. A little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest of potentates are thrown into panic. They make frantic efforts to bar out thoughts and words; they are afraid of the workings of the human mind. Cannons, airplanes, they can manufacture in large quantities; but how are they to quell the natural promptings of human nature, which after all these centuries of trial and progress has inherited a whole armory of potent and indestructible knowledge?”**
In the “A Hush over Europe,“ August 1939 speech, also broadcast to the U.S., he noted:
“One thing has struck me as very strange, and that is the resurgence of the one-man power after all these centuries of experience and progress. It is curious how the English-speaking peoples have always had this horror of one-man power. They are quite ready to follow a leader for a time, as long as he is serviceable to them; but the idea of handing themselves over, lock, stock and barrel, body and soul, to one man, and worshipping him as if he were an idol -- that has always been odious to the whole theme and nature of our civilization. The architects of the American Constitution were as careful as those who shaped the British Constitution to guard against the whole life and fortunes, and all the laws and freedom of the nation, being placed in the hands of a tyrant.” [Italics mine.]
Obama’s Cairo speech was his “Munich” gesture. The West, he said, is not at war with Islam. The difference between Neville Chamberlain’s capitulation and Obama’s, however, is that Chamberlain believed that Hitler’s words, promises and signature on a sheet of paper would bring “peace in our time.” It is unlikely he saw no radical distinction between Britain and totalitarian Nazi Germany. He simply and disastrously believed that evil was good at its word, that it saw no benefit in war, and that it had exhausted its ambition for conquest and expropriation.
Obama clearly makes no such distinction, nor will he ever make it. Individual rights, liberty, freedom, the rule of law, the sanctity of contract, private property, freedom of speech -- these he is dedicated to trampling and extinguishing, so he could see no difference between them and the abject selflessness required of and demanded by Islam. He is envious of anyone who holds absolute power elsewhere in the world -- King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, to name a few -- and has a vested interest in Americans “handing themselves over, lock, stock and barrel, body and soul, to one man, and worshipping him as if he were an idol.” Has he not managed to achieve that goal among his supporters and the news media?
Those to whom he should show respect, he slights. Those whom he should slight, he gushes over and establishes a grinning rapport with. Those whom he should be wary of -- such as the growing portion of the electorate that was never enamored of his alleged charisma and never dazzled by his populist rhetoric, together with those of his supporters who are having second thoughts about him -- he is oblivious to, or told by his staff and advisors are merely disaffected with his programs and policies and can be ignored.
The worst one can say about Churchill is that his record is spotty on the issue of totalitarians. He was not in a commanding position when FDR made Stalin and Soviet Russia allies to fight Nazi Germany. Speaking in 1921, Churchill had this to say about Lenin, whom he was never tempted to praise, and the totalitarian slaughter being revealed in the West:
“He was told that private property existed as the reward of human toil and thrift. He did not believe it. He killed many thousands of people with whom he disagreed, and caused the deaths of many thousands more, in order to find out the truth of that proposition before he came to the conclusion that they were right and he was wrong….Monsieur Lenin then turned his attention to the currency, and, seeing machines making bank notes, he had a flash of pure Communistic genius. He thought that all he had to do to solve the social problem was to keep the machine going as fast as possible. He thought he had thus found a way of making everybody rich, and paying every workman several thousands a year. He destroyed the currency of Russia….He has not yet started on the Ten Commandments -- ‘Thou shall not steal,’ and ‘Thou shall do no murder’….As we watch this terrible panorama of Russian misery, let us abstract a moral which should be a guidance and an aid. Russia cannot save herself by her exertion, but she may at least save other nations by her example. The lesson from Russia, writ in glaring letters, is the utter failure of this Socialist and Communistic theory, and the ruin which it brings to those subjected to its cruel yoke.”
The lesson has not been lost on Obama and the Democratic Congress. It is precisely that yoke they are fitting over the necks of Americans. Hopefully, they will be voted out of power in the next general election, or perhaps checkmated in the next round of Congressional contests. But one may be sure of this: that should that happen, he and Congress will do as much damage to this country as they can before vacating the halls and committee rooms of power. Even after the votes have been counted and the winner has been announced, they will try to take what is left of the country with them. The legislation they are hastily writing and enacting now is intended for perpetuity. It will take some kind of revolution to cause its permanent repeal, and the repeal of all such legislation that preceded it.
In her novel Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand dramatized the workings of the death premise. This point cannot be over-emphasized. If they cannot live to exercise their power, if they cannot reap the benefits of usurpation, if they cannot take satisfaction in the spectacle of men blindly taking orders and in forcing the recalcitrant to act against their will, they will want the country to die. That is, as well and after all, the jihadist way. Obama and his allies wish Americans to submit, or else perish as a free people. In that respect, they share the goals and means of the Islamists.
Which returns us to 9/11, and Tony Blair presenting President Bush with the Churchill bust, which Obama understandably did not want.
*Dredd Scott’s Revenge: A Legal History of Race and Freedom in America, by Judge Andrew Napolitano. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009. P. 89.
**All Churchill quotations are from Never Give In! The Best of Winston Churchill’s Speeches, selected by his grandson, Winston S. Churchill. New York: Hyperion, 2003.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Not even FDR was brazen enough to co-opt a broadcaster to shill for the New Deal.
No one in the Reichstag -- excuse me, in Congress -- is protesting this blatantly bogus “reality show” except in the most wimpish manner. Republican National Committee chief of staff Ken McKay, according to Drudge, “fired off a complaint to the head of ABC News.” The text of his letter is really just a complaint that the Republicans have not been invited to participate in the “debate.”
“Today, the RNC requested an opportunity to add our Party’s views to those of the President’s to ensure that all sides of the health care reform debate are presented. Our request was rejected.”
Drudge reported that ABC News Senior Vice President Kerry Smith replied to the RNC, claiming it contained “false premises.”
“ABC News prides itself on covering all sides of important issues and asking direct questions of all newsmakers -- of all political persuasions -- even when others have taken a more partisan approach and even in the face of criticism from extremes on both ends of the political spectrum. ABC News is looking for the most thoughtful and diverse voices on this issue. ABC News alone will select those who will be in the audience asking questions of the president….ABC News will have complete editorial control. To suggest otherwise is quite unfair to both our journalists and our audience.”
Kerry Smith’s rebuttal must be taken with a hefty dose of sea salt. She is as much a liar as Obama when he states he doesn’t want to run a car company, or the banking industry, or any American business. “Thoughtful and diverse voices” are the last thing she and Obama want to hear. Note the disparagement of any political opposition that is to be excluded as a “partisan approach,” and the dismissal of “criticism from extremes on both ends of the political spectrum” as a kind of unnecessarily divisive “polarization.” There is no such thing as an objectively verifiable truth, according to Smith, just a comfortable, non-judgmental middle ground amenable to the wishes of an administration willing to initiate force in its quest to “do good.”
Given the leftist bias of ABC News (and of its rivals, CBS and NBC), one can guess the composition of the audience and predict the kinds of prearranged questions that will be asked Obama. Sure, ABC News will “select” the audience and have “complete editorial control,” but not without every person and virtually every word first being vetted by chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and press secretary Robert Gibbs and whoever else on Obama’s staff is responsible for scripts. This kind of circus will not be put on without an enormous amount of preparation, and every precaution will be taken to prevent any untoward “dialogue” between Obama and any of the dupes in the audience. The June 24th broadcast will have all the spontaneity of a White House press conference. Furthermore, ABC News has always broadcast from one extreme end of the political spectrum, that of total government control over everything. It is immaterial, however, which network was chosen to be Obama’s stalking horse. They are all equally culpable.
The denial for “equal time” should have come as no surprise. The Republicans, because they abandoned individual rights and reason, can only suggest a watered-down version of socialized health care. They will not oppose the idea of socialized medicine. Why should Obama and Congress settle for less when they have demonstrated they can go the limit with no fundamental opposition?
Did ABC deny the request? Yes. On its own initiative? Doubtful. Neither Obama nor his allies in Congress want to hear any other “views“ on socialized medicine. Therefore, any request for “equal time” is unwelcome. Rational arguments against socialized medicine and health care would only prove to be distractions, or worse, illuminating. The arrangement is a preview of the reinstatement of the “Fairness Doctrine” under another label, a doctrine whose very nature guarantees the suppression of dissent for as long as the government controls the airwaves and has the power to dictate the content and character of speech. Obama and the Democrats want to enact that doctrine without it being called censorship. If ABC wishes to continue to be the favored network, it will take orders. Apparently, that will be voluntarily.
There must be more behind ABC’s anointment than just a “deal.” One can imagine the bidding war for Obama’s favor between ABC, CBS and NBC; one cannot help but wonder what promises ABC made to the White House for this show and for all future “town halls.“ One can even speculate on the reasons behind the choice of Gibson as the “moderator” of the forthcoming broadcast. CBS anchor Katie Couric has little or no verisimilitude. Anchor Brian Williams of NBC is even more abrasively sanctimonious and authoritarian than is Gibson. One can only suppose it was decided that Gibson’s features are less annoying and patronizing. Image is everything. They don’t want to bore or frighten the kiddies.
Drudge reports that the arrangement has “ignited an ethical firestorm.” But this development represents more than an issue of ethics. It represents a paucity of moral courage, which I do not believe ABC News ever knew the meaning of or was ever bothered by, coupled with a blind avarice for high ratings. Most importantly, ABC News endorses the government’s rapidly expanding control of not only the economy but of virtually every aspect of the lives of this country’s citizens. But the fact remains that all three news anchors and their co-anchors report the government’s wishes as the metaphysically given. “It is raining outside.” “You will be fined by the government for not enrolling in its health care program.” Period.
The print press is no less guilty. Frank Rich, for example, in his New York Times article of June 14, “The Obama Haters’ Silent Enablers,“ was moved to smear any verbal opposition to the Obama agenda as goading “violent extremists.” This position is in complete agreement with the DHS memo of April (discussed in “A Cavalcade of Collectivism,” April 17), which lumped together all opposition, rational, semi-rational and irrational, as phenomena to be monitored and possibly stymied by the authorities, and insinuates that it is this kind of “free speech” that provokes assassins and civil unrest. To judge by the frenetic tone of his op-ed, Rich would likely welcome an Obama and Congressional version of Hitler’s 1933 Enabling Act, one that would suppress all “provocative” speech.
One cannot doubt the news media’s complicity in bringing fascism to this country. It is a complicity whose root is not some vast ignorance of what was being done. Ignorance of the law of identity is no excuse for breaking it; in an individual, reality will correct such ignorance. But there is no possible excuse, either, for a news organization that poses as politically sophisticated. It acts with full knowledge of the fraud and deception perpetrated by the Democrats on the country ever since Obama announced his candidacy for the presidency.
The accession of ABC News as a de facto department of the Obama administration ought to serve as convincing evidence of that complicity.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
There is no Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) School of Individualism and Laissez-Faire Studies at any university, so where else is a retired congressman to go? To The Woodrow Wilson School, named after the president who, more than any of his predecessors in office, set the United States on its course to the welfare state and fascism by signing the income tax act, the federal reserve act, and a host of other government interventionist legislation, and got the country into a European war whose issues and terms were beyond his power to set. As president, he was an unqualified failure. As a humanitarian, he was a great success. Americans owe him a debt of boundless ingratitude.
“The endowment is a federal agency with a budget of $155 million that gives grants to support research, education, preservation and public programs in the humanities.”
Leach is one of those men who wishes to see America organized and collectively committed to furthering a more “humane” society. According to the Times article, he is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, vice chairman of the Century Foundation, and has been a board member of the Social Sciences Research Council and of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Like Wilson, who spent much of his life in “public service,” Leach “served” the public for thirty years in Congress, and of course, expects everyone else to serve with the same ardor, as well. And if Americans won’t voluntarily serve, he wants to ensure that they involuntarily serve by having the NEH direct their taxes to causes and programs they may or may not approve or even have heard of. A satirist could not have invented a more copasetic surname for the nominee. It is almost as good as Ayn Rand’s Wesley Mouch, the economic dictator in Atlas Shrugged, or Sheridan’s Mr. Puff or Mrs. Malaprop in The Critic and The Rivals.
What is interesting about the article, however, besides the presumptuous assertions by both Leach and the article’s author that the nation needs a humanities czar to promote and exercise federal powers not anywhere enumerated in the Constitution, are some of Leach’s statements about words. These statements underscore just how disconnected he and the political leadership are from reality.
When Leach was interviewed for the article, he revealed a clue to that disconnection:
“He suggested that the National Endowment for the Humanities could depoliticize terms that have been co-opted by interest groups. ‘There are words bandied about that are being misused -- words like socialism, words like communism, words like fascism,’ he said.” [Italics mine.]
Perhaps those “interest groups” do not want to be looted and enslaved by communism, socialism, or fascism. Those “words” mean what they stand for. They cannot be “depoliticized.” They did not just pop into existence without any referents or any attached definitions and then were arbitrarily “co-opted” by those interest groups, who appended their own portentous meanings to them. Why would Leach think that they could have other than their established and recognized political meanings? The answer is in the paragraph that follows his charge of “misuse”:
“I think America is going to have to think through whether it wants to uplift the political dialogue or advance an approach that divides and, frankly, can lead to violence. I think this is a time to reflect vibrant differentnesses with greater decency. And that is an enormous challenge.” [Italics mine; “differentnesses“ is Leach’s neologism, not a misspelling, and may be his genteel euphemism for “diversity.”]
The imposition on a country of communism, socialism or fascism has always been accompanied by violence between the imposers and men opposed to those political systems. The approach that “divides” and leads to violence has always been the one adopted by the initiators of force. Does Leach believe that if those terms are defanged or stripped of their concrete, political denotations, that is, of their definitions, they can be used safely without concern that the populace will begin to riot or rebel, if someone perchance names or identifies the system? Given the dumbing down of Americans over the course of several generations, he may be justified in thinking that it is possible. Witness how the liberals have gotten away with dropping the label “liberals” and prefer now to be identified as “progressives,” confident that no one will be curious enough to read the political and educational history of the country from the end of the 19th century through the first decade of the 20th. What the term “Progressivism” meant was a program of incremental socialism.
But the terms communism, socialism, and fascism still retain their denotative powers among those whose minds have not been turned into mush by their education.
Note that Leach’s disparaging reference to “interest groups” presumably excludes his own interest groups, that is, the ones that wish the government to “uplift the political dialogue” by reflecting “differentnesses with greater decency.” Earlier he referred to the current administration as a “unique, uplifting presidency.” These favored “interest groups” will not turn “violent,” except to spend money coerced from taxpayers on what they deem to be “uplifting” and “different.”
Note also that Leach did not say he wants to see these terms abolished or banished as politically incorrect speech. Rather, he wants them to connote “positive” things. Since he does not have the power to discard the terms or erase them from men‘s minds, he seeks to subject them to a cosmetic makeover.
Announcing his pick to head the NEH, Obama stated:
“I am confident that with Jim as its head, the National Endowment for the Humanities will continue on its vital mission of supporting the humanities and giving the American public access to the rich resources of our culture.”
However, a far more culturally significant individual wrote about definitions, words and their proper usage over forty years ago, Ayn Rand.
“A definition is a statement that identifies the nature of the units subsumed under a concept.
“It is often said that definitions state the meaning of words. This is true, but it is not exact. A word is merely a visual-auditory symbol used to represent a concept; a word has no meaning other than that of the concept it symbolizes, and the meaning of a concept consists of its units. It is not words, but concepts that man defines -- by specifying their referents.
“The purpose of a definition is to distinguish a concept from all other concepts and thus to keep its units differentiated from all other existents.”*
So, according to Leach, the units subsumed under the concepts of communism, socialism and fascism should be toyed with like the letters on Scrabble tiles to mean anything the chairman of the moment of the NEH wishes them to mean. Imagine the possibilities: Communism could mean “a universal system of joyous penury,” socialism “a design for responsible frugality,” and fascism “to follow my leader to glorious pauperism.”**
The implications in Leach’s statement invite the obvious parallels to George Orwell’s three inverted, totalitarian maxims in Nineteen Eighty-Four: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”
One is naturally tempted to wonder who or what prompted Leach to make such a bizarre statement. Obama and his staff cannot help but know that, all over the Internet, but certainly not in the mainstream media, he and his cohorts are being linked to or associated with communism, socialism and fascism. It may be coincidence, or happenstance.
Or it may be, as the villain in Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger remarked, “enemy action” in the most unlikely of battlefields: the dictionary.
*From Introduction of Objectivist Epistemology, by Ayn Rand (1966-1967). New York: Meridian-Penguin, 1990, eds. Harry Binswanger and Leonard Peikoff. P. 40.
**With thanks to the title of Terence Rattigan’s unproduced 1938 play, Follow My Leader, a satire on Hitler and Nazi Germany, which he co-wrote with Tony Goldschmidt. “As the Munich crisis loomed and the British government shilly-shallied about standing up to Hitler, Rattigan and Goldschmidt wanted to rush their play into immediate production. However, their script got no further than the Lord Chamberlain’s office. He banned it outright as likely to give offence to a friendly country.” From Terence Rattigan: The Man and His Work, by Michael Darlow and Gillian Hodson. London: Quartet Books, 1979. P. 97.
Saturday, June 06, 2009
On minor errors, Daniel Pipes, the prominent authority on Islam, noted that:
“Barack Obama’s mention of ’seven million American Muslims’ in the course of his rambling and complex six-thousand-word address to the Muslim world from Cairo symbolizes the whole message….Study after study has found that demographic figure about three times too high. But Islamist organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations [CAIR] and the Islamic Society of North America [ISNA] relentlessly promote the notion of seven or even ten million American Muslims. Obama’s accepting their version amounts to a giveaway, a cheap way to win the approbation of Islamists who so widely influence Muslim opinion.”
In short, Obama was soap-boxing for an American voting bloc. But it would be profitable to first dismiss his assertion that America and Islam are “not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead they overlap and share common principles, principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings,” an assertion he echoes throughout the rest of his speech whose theme could only be called, to second Pipes’ appraisal, “sucking up to the Muslims.”
America and Islam are not only “exclusive,” but political and philosophical antipodes. America stands for individual rights, freedom of thought and speech, objective justice, progress, and the liberty to live and conduct one’s life without encountering or resorting to force. Islam has never stood for those things, which are in fact objects of its scorn and hostility. Islam is a political/religious ideology that does not tolerate intellectual or religious freedom and which requires of its adherents complete and unquestioning submission to the words and wishes of a ghost and its marauding prophet. Its concept of justice is barbaric and tribal. Very little of that brutal “justice” as it is practiced in Muslim countries makes headlines in the West; but then again, such murders, mutilations, “honor” killings and the like also occur in the West and the U.S., but do not attract any news coverage, because that would be construed as “stereotyping” Islam and Muslims.
There is no “dignity” to be observed in seeing a single person prostrate himself in obeisance to Mecca, while the spectacle of hundreds performing the same submission is obscene. (It could be humorous; I oft times hope that some comedy group would be brave enough to satirize Islam and Muslims, just as the Monty Python group satirized Christianity.) There is no “dignity” to be observed in Muslim women forced to wear drab, de-sexing traditional garb. Muslims would probably agree with the latter evaluation. What is there in Islam or any of its practitioners to “respect”?
Islam, after the Catholic Church, was the most intolerant creed in history and in existence now. One is either a Muslim, a conquered kaffir or dhimmi -- or dead. Islamists believe in progress only if there is something to loot and that can be had without violating the primitive precepts of the Koran -- such as camels, slaves, oil fields, or foreign property -- but Islam itself is not by its nature a genesis of progress, nor can it ever be. A moral code that requires the voluntary or enforced stunting or compartmentalization of the mind is not going to invent air-conditioning or nuclear power plants or open heart surgery. It can appropriate the products of a free mind, but never originate them. That makes it a preeminently parasitical ideology.
Islam’s chief source of moral authority is the Koran, which, like the Torah and the Bible, is a hodge-podge of fanciful, disparate, and unintegrated casuistic imperatives and fables of questionable moral import. Moreover, it encourages and sanctions holy war or jihad against non-believers and their conquest by force or taqiya or deception. There is no theological “subtext” in its exhortations to kill or enslave Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims “wherever you find them”; these and similarly belligerent injunctions throughout the Koran are not euphemistic commands to “love thy neighbor“ and “cast not the first stone.” They are to be taken literally. The “violent extremists” Obama inveighed against in his speech are only practicing the core tenets of Islam; as I have remarked in past commentaries, remove those tenets from Islam, and what would be left would not be Islam, but a creed as insipid and pacific as that of the Amish.
Yet, the fundamental, anti-mind, anti-philosophy, and anti-moral character of the Koran was selectively overlooked, allowing Obama to quote from it three times during his speech. Those taken-out-of-context nuggets were lifted from a mountain of contaminated verbal slag. But, then, Obama and his aides are not particularly finicky about where they find “wisdom.” Look at the composition of his White House staff and the character of his appointees.
In one section of his speech, Obama delivers a series of compliments to “Islam” which are in fact calumnies against the West, in which he credits Islam with technological and medical achievements. But the Arabs who largely rediscovered Greek and Roman thought and science a millennia ago were exceptions to the rule of Islam. “Tolerant” Islam snuffed out the Arab Enlightenment. For an excellent refutation of Obama’s assertion that the West owes Islam any kind of cultural debt, see Andy Clarkson’s “The United States of America and Islam have nothing fundamental in common.”
As ideas, America and Islam are mutually exclusive and fundamentally incompatible. There is no reconciliation possible between freedom and servitude, between reason and faith, between progress and stagnation, between the sanctity of property and legalized theft, between individual rights and societies policed by priestly castes. As with reason versus any other faith or religion, it is a matter of “either-or.” Obama repeated what he said in Ankara, Turkey in April, that the United States “is not and never will be at war with Islam.” That may be true, however, Islam has been and is certainly now at war with the U.S. and with the West. Obama refuses to acknowledge that reality, because, politically, psychologically, and morally, he would be at home in any Muslim society. One can easily imagine him rising through the echelons of such a society to become a power in it or over it.
“I know that Islam has always been a part of America’s story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second president, John Adams, wrote ‘The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.’ And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States.”
He knows no such thing. One cannot imagine how a collection of undifferentiated manqués can “enrich” any nation. Look at what is happening to Britain and Europe. True, Islam has “always” been a part of America’s story in that Muslim pirates preyed on American merchant vessels and Muslim monarchs seized American oil fields. In fact, well into the first quarter of the 19th century, Muslims raided European port towns from Iceland to Ireland to Britain to France and Spain, and in the Mediterranean, for slaves. And, with all due respect to John Adams, he never had to deal personally with Muslims. If he had ever gone to Morocco or Algiers or any other part of the world in which Islam held sway, he might have agreed with Winston Churchill’s evaluation a century later of how pathetic and miserable the life of a Muslim was.
Furthermore, given all the research facilities in Washington available to Obama and his speech-writers, one wonders where they find this “history.” The treaty of 1786 with Morocco, which implicitly recognized the United States, was secured with what can only be called a bribe of gifts worth $10,000 to the Emperor of Morocco. Had it not been paid, it would have been piracy as usual, in competition with the potentates of Tripoli, Algiers, and Tunis to seize American merchant vessels and hold the crews for ransom.
France was the first nation to recognize the United States as an independent nation, when it assisted the Revolution with money, troops, and naval support. Britain necessarily recognized the U.S. when it agreed in 1782 to negotiate a treaty with the “13 U.S.,” signed in Paris in 1783 and ratified by Congress in 1784. Next to recognize the U.S. was the Netherlands. For a summary account of American relations with the Barbary States, see the Avalon Project at Yale Law School.
See also my commentaries, Barbary Pirates: Old and New, on Rule of Reason, from August 2007; The Janus Face of Islam from September 2006; or Our Islamic Nemesis, Then and Now from August 2006 for further discussions of the impossibility of “peace” with Islam, a political/religious ideology fundamentally and necessarily driven to conquest by the same psychopathic forces that drove Nazism, with which Islamic leaders sympathized then and probably still do, although they are keeping that under their headdresses. The paramilitary organizations of Hamas and Hezbollah have adopted the Nazi military parade style; their mass salutes are merely closed-fist versions of the Nazi “sieg heil.”
The latter subject is not one much known in this country. Muslim hatred of the Jews in the Middle East predates World War I. Amin el-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, was especially eager to exterminate Jews in Palestine and personally discussed the project with Hitler. Saudi Arabia was another pro-Nazi sympathizer. In point of fact, I cannot recall a single Middle Eastern, 20th century dictator or strongman who at one time or another had not expressed admiration for the Nazis, except, perhaps, the Shah of Iran (the son, 1919-1980). For a revealing account of how the Nazis planned to exploit the Arab “liberation movement” by assigning special military units to the region to direct the Middle Eastern branch of the Holocaust, see Klaus-Michael Mallmann and Martin Cuppers’ “’Elimination of the Jewish National Home in Palestine‘: The Einsatzkommando of the Panzer Army Africa, 1942.” These units were modeled on the ones that directed the massacres of Jews in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Russia, or aided in rounding them up for transport to the death camps.
Before flying to Cairo, Obama stopped in Saudi Arabia to “consult” with King Abdullah, the creature he bowed to at the London summit. Saudi Arabia and its repressive Wahhabist monarchy are ample proof that Islam can only appropriate the products of free minds, not originate or create them, in this instance, having seized Western created oil fields and investing the loot from them in the West. And, one must question Obama’s apparent fascination with the Saudis. Is it rooted in power-envy, or an obsession founded on pragmatism?
“Saudi Arabia and the United States have a near 60-year-old relationship based on guaranteeing oil supplies in return for U.S. protection for the Saudi monarchy.”
The “relationship” can only be characterized as extortionate, one made possible by American willingness to prop up a medieval oligarchy by prohibiting the development of oil deposits in the U.S. One can bet that the Saudis have an army of well-paid lobbyists in Washington who ensure that an “environmentally conscious” Congress perpetuates that extortion.
It is a significant clue to how receptive the 3,000 guests at Cairo University who listened to Obama were to the idea of coexisting with Jews and Israel when they remained silent and unresponsive when he touched on anti-Semitism, the Holocaust and Buchenwald. As one ABC correspondent remarked, “You could’ve heard a pin drop.” But each statement of capitulation and compromise earned him applause. Every Islamist knows that a “two-state” solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is but a formula for bringing about the destruction of Israel. Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and their policymakers do not know it. Or perhaps they do, but are counting on “empathy” to prevent it from happening.
All this is aside from the manner in which Obama began his address to the Muslim world.
“We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world, tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation but also conflict and religious wars.”
You can’t get more Marxist-Hegelian than that. America and Islam are thesis and antithesis struggling against each other in what must ultimately result in a tension-releasing starburst of collectivist union -- of pure communism, or socialism, or fascism, or a global caliphate, or whatever facilitates “global amity” and animates our “collective conscience.” This belief in the mystical powers of “coexistence and cooperation” and wishing they would work, of course, is stressed by Obama in his assertion that “Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.” That assertion must have provoked disgust in the defenders of the West, and laughter among Islamists.
What is Obama’s solution? What rain dance of his is expected to promote the climax of those impersonal “historical forces”? Not ideas. Not principles. Not the assertion of reason and rights. But “dialogue.” That is, compromise and give-and-take. It cannot mean anything else but have-not Muslims negotiating what they will take from the haves, and Islamists looting the carcass of Israel. It also means, as Obama stated, pouring more billions of dollars into the corrupt cesspool economies of Pakistan and Afghanistan and other areas of Islamist hegemony. “Humanity” and Immanuel Kant will it; Obama is dutifully unmindful of the deleterious consequences to the West. Or, perhaps not.
There is so much more in Obama’s Cairo speech that could be dissected. All his verbiage about freedom of religion, freedom of speech, “human rights” and “democracy“ is just one pre-packaged, mandatory shibboleth undercut by his demonstrable penchant for statism. In summary, however, his speech was one which George W. Bush himself could have delivered. It simply reaffirmed the evasive, non-judgmental, accommodating policies of the Bush years and broadened their scope.
It was a defining act of submission.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
The press corps of President Barack Obama’s White House are not a true press corps. The majority of its members have betrayed their vocation and attend these rigged press conferences as a formality. The events seem to be more dumb-show and noise for groundlings than opportunities for news-gathering. One gets the sense that the White House would rather just dispense with the formality. The corps may as well be animated mannequins; they rise on cue to ask pre-screened questions of the press secretary or president; the latter will have prepared answers to those questions, the former is a skilled fog-making machine. Teleprompter or no teleprompter, nothing could be phonier than give-and-take spontaneity that may as well be rehearsed.
Former President George W. Bush at least had a modicum of honesty and, during his infrequent press conferences, faced a largely hostile press corps and did not do well. His advisors kept him off-stage as much as possible and let his press secretary run interference. But now the news media have largely become a collective shill for Obama’s policies, allies who give him a free pass for his contradictions and flip-flop policies, and who can be trusted to pass on to the public the latest official ukase. If any one of them decides not to play ball, presumably he will be put on a press conference “do not recognize” list.
Robert Gibbs, 38, a career political creature, has been Obama’s press secretary since January, and has worked for Obama before, during and after the latter’s Senate days. It should come as no surprise that he was also press spokesman for Senator John Kerry and other Democratic politicians. While he is no Joseph Goebbels, the maniacal propaganda chief of Nazi Germany whose obfuscations, deceptions, and lies were dutifully repeated as news by an unfree press, Gibbs performs much the same role for a press that chooses to be unfree. As Goebbels did, as the “public image” managers of tyrants in the past have done, he helped to create the myth of infallibility and the populist persona of Barack Obama, and now is responsible for preserving them. In that unconscionable fraud he is aided by a largely obliging news media.
But cracks are appearing in the façade of Obama’s “open presidency.” They are becoming more and more evident in Gibbs. On May 27, in response to a blog statement by Newt Gingrich that Judge Sonia Sotomayor, Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, ought to withdraw from consideration or be withdrawn because of racist and feminist remarks she made, Gibbs said something that was in the spirit of Goebbels. Responding to the Republicans’ opposition to Sotomayor, one based on her past affiliations, her less than stellar record of understanding the Constitution or even being cognizant of it, her apparent hostility to white males, and the media-generated myth that she is the daughter of immigrants (who, being Puerto Ricans, were actually U.S. citizens) who rose by her own efforts against tremendous odds (but, like Obama, probably the beneficiary of affirmative action or racial, gender, or “diversity” quota policies). Gibbs said, in the innocuous, undramatic tone of a garage mechanic recommending a certain grade of engine oil:
“I think it is probably important for anybody involved in this debate to be exceedingly careful with the way in which they’ve decided to describe different aspects of this impending confirmation.”
Briefly, there is no “aspect“ of Sotomayor‘s character or record which should be open to description, identification or debate. If anyone breaks that rule, Gibbs implied, the offending party will be smeared as a racist, bigot, and misogynist. Gibbs and chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel are in charge of the White House machinery that can manufacture a backlash of outrage. Ask Sotomayor legitimate questions at your own risk. Her confirmation hearing will be a “debate” in name only. Besides, her confirmation is “impending,” in the cards, a sure thing, so why bother dredging up inconvenient truths about her?
When you watch Gibbs fielding questions from the press corps, you do not have the sense that you are observing evil incarnate. You do not see a Goebbels-like maniac. What you see is a person who very likely never once placed a value on truth or honesty. You see a non-entity whose existence is assured by his willingness to obfuscate, deceive, lie and juggle banalities commensurate with his character and task. You see a human face that reflects little else but calculation of how best to say nothing that could be interpreted as an absolute, a nondescript face with blank, evasive eyes and a self-effacing manner that expects and gets the cooperation of his auditors in putting one over on themselves and on the whole country.
Whether Gibbs’ warning to the Republicans not to press too hard on Sotomayor’s qualifications to sit on the Supreme Court was a conscious flouting of the First Amendment -- he should know that even Senators have First Amendment rights that should not be threatened or abridged by a mere press secretary or anyone else, let alone by a president -- or was an impromptu rebuke that was insensible to that Amendment, is irrelevant. What matters is that, for a moment, in a handful of incautious but revealing words, the mask of respect for anyone’s right to freedom of speech was dropped. His warning was aimed not just at Senators, Internet bloggers and Newt Gingrich, but at the press and the news media. It was an all-encompassing growl of disapproval of any questioning of the alleged wisdom of his employer and of resentment for any questioning of his own assertions.
In the real world, the one beyond the White House and Congress, one would not give anyone like Gibbs or his assertions a second thought. His ilk are many, mean, and small. But threats emanating from the representative of a man who is consciously wreaking destruction on this country, who is contemptuous of the Constitution, individual rights, private property, and freedom of speech, should not be taken as a matter of routine. This is not the first time Obama‘s gofers have warned individuals away from speaking out on certain issues and facts. Gibbs’ statements are uttered with the tacit approval of the president. Neither the president, nor Gibbs, nor anyone else on the White House staff, wishes anyone to think and speak with any gravity about Sotomayor or to trouble her with inopportune questions, which, under oath, she must answer with possibly damaging truths, during Senate confirmation hearings or in any other setting. They are all prepared to take retaliatory measures if anyone does.
What remains to be seen is whether or not any member of the Senate committee will be brave enough to take his First Amendment rights seriously enough to pose a single inopportune question, one that may suggest why Obama is so ideologically comfortable with her.
Gibbs’ admonitory “advice” to critics of Sotomayor is an order not to think. A prohibition of thought necessarily extends to a prohibition from action, in this instance, to voluntarily refrain from asking questions lest the White House become “exceedingly“ nasty. After all, why bother thinking about a matter when one is proscribed from acting on it? It is a blatant and unforgivable attack on the mind. Further, Sotomayor’s silence on Gibbs’ mealy-mouth diktat speaks volumes about her own position on the issue of the First Amendment; she does not seem to be aware that Gibbs violated it, or perhaps she is hoping that no one has noticed.
But then, this has been the constant leitmotif of Obama’s conduct in office.