:: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 ::
Flirting with Tyranny
Posted by Edward Cline at 8:00 PM
The title is intriguing, tempting, and ostensibly relevant in today‘s culture: The Treason of the Clerks (La Trahison des clercs), by 20th century French novelist and critic, Julien Benda. By clerks, Benda meant Medieval scribes, a small class of men who could read and write and understand what others read and wrote. The vast majority of men in that period, including many in the various ruling aristocracies, were illiterate. Roger Kimball, in his New Criterion 1992 article on the relevance of modern intellectuals’ treason, noted:
Benda tells us that he uses the term “clerc” in “the medieval sense,” i.e., to mean “scribe,” someone we would now call a member of the intelligentsia. Academics and journalists, pundits, moralists, and pontificators of all varieties are in this sense clercs.
That is, anyone who occupies a place in what novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand called the “transmission belt” of ideas, philosophical, political, scientific, technological, and esthetic.
The subject of Benda’s critique was the general abandonment in his time by intellectuals of their ideals to take part in what he called the “passions” of the day, that is, to trade their pursuit of the ethereal for the “realism” of the masses. He dwells on class passions and national passions but neglects to define any of his terms. This neglect was portaged into translations of the work. Ages ago I read about half of the Richard Aldington translation of Treason cited by Kimball, and gave up because I could no longer struggle with the absence of definitions of Benda’s key terms. What ideals or ideas was he referring to? No substantive answer was given. One important term he does not define, either, but discusses for pages, is realism. I could only take it to mean a French sense of the “practical” or “pragmatic.” He did not approve of it.
As I construed Benda’s complaint, it was that modern intellectuals sanctioned the rise of especially emotional or populist politics and the demotion or discarding of reason and Enlightenment values in pursuit of those politics. But I got lost in the fog of his polemics, and could only conclude that, notwithstanding the absence of definitions, Benda was on to something important. I imagined him standing outside the forest of trees, warning that he heard menacing growls from deep inside, but could not identify its source.
Kimball wrote of Treason in 1992:
The Treason of the Intellectuals is an energetic hodgepodge of a book. The philosopher Jean-François Revel recently described it as “one of the fussiest pleas on behalf of the necessary independence of intellectuals.” Certainly it is rich, quirky, erudite, digressive, and polemical: more an exclamation than an analysis. Partisan in its claims for disinterestedness, it is ruthless in its defense of intellectual high-mindedness. Yet given the horrific events that unfolded in the decades following its publication, Benda’s unremitting attack on the politicization of the intellect and ethnic separatism cannot but strike us as prescient. And given the continuing echo in our own time of the problems he anatomized, the relevance of his observations to our situation can hardly be doubted. From the savage flowering of ethnic hatreds in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union to the mendacious demands for political correctness and multiculturalism on college campuses across America and Europe, the treason of the intellectuals continues to play out its unedifying drama. Benda spoke of “a cataclysm in the moral notions of those who educate the world.” That cataclysm is erupting in every corner of cultural life today.
I’m happy that Kimball (not one of my favorite cultural observers; his choice of the term pontificators is indicative of his contempt for champions of reason) was able to wrest some meaning from Benda’s work. I found the task of reading it a laborious intellectual chore from which I derived little intellectual reward and only a smidgeon of insight into a larger issue. The harder I dug my mental knife into the work, the duller the blade became. Compared to Treason, tackling Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason was a snap.
There are a few paragraphs in Benda’s work which at least have the sparkle of zircon. To wit, when he discusses the Enlightenment versus the Dark Ages:
I shall go further and say that even if an examination of the past could lead to any valid prediction concerning man's future, that prediction would be the contrary of reassuring. People forget that Hellenic rationalism only really enlightened the world during seven hundred years, that is was then hidden (this a minima verdict will be granted me) for twelve centuries, and has begun to shine again for barely four centuries; so that the longest period of consecutive time in human history on which we can found inductions is, upon the whole, a period of intellectual and moral darkness. Looking at history, we may say in a more synthetic manner that, with the exception of two or three very short, luminous epochs whose light, like that of certain stars, lightens the world long after they are extinct, humanity lives generally in darkness; while literatures live generally in a state of decadence and the organism in disorder. And the disturbing thing is that humanity does not seem to mind these long periods of cave-dwelling.
Academia abounds with the kind of treasonous intellectuals described by Kimball and Benda. So does the field of journalism, or what is thought to be journalism, if The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the mainstream media are taken as measures of pristine journalism. Obama’s cabinet and departmental picks are totalitarians of one stripe or another, immune from close scrutiny and criticism by most pundits and columnists. To criticize Anita Dunn, or Elena Kagan, or Eric Holder, or Cass Sunstein, or Obama himself, or any of their political purposes, is to criticize oneself.
Phyllis Chesler, some years ago in a Front Page article, remarked on such columnists and treason, alluding to these “clerks“ and the treason they commit when they side with the jihadists and Islamists in the name of relativism and multiculturalism:
We have a serious fifth column in our midst, one that has made common cause with Islamists against us, one that has been well funded by Arab oil billionaires for more than forty years. Now, George Soros too, a fifth column General who, for a variety of reasons, has actually been leading the cultural war against the West. They are fools—but they are dangerous fools. Do they think they will be spared because they are so politically correct? Do they think that they would enjoy the same freedom of speech in Mecca or Tehran that they enjoy in the West?
“Humanity” is not the subject here, but rather the infinitesimal but headline-grabbing portion of it that not only does not seem to mind advocating dwelling in caves, but that emerges from them to make absurd statements and announce baffling alliances, through the borrowed mega-bullhorns of the MSM, and to persuade Americans to defer to the wishes of an all-wise führer or an angry Muslim cleric. Some are foolish pundits, others are illiterate troglodytes.
They make a curious company of clerks, ready for the guillotine or firing squad once the totalitarians decide they are no longer needed to sell the country into slavery. They are not the academics and intellectuals who write books that promote irrationalism; they are at the far end of the transmission belt. After all, who today remembers John Rawls and his A Theory of Justice? Or John Dewey and his Democracy and Education?
Thomas Friedman, in his now notorious September 2009 New York Times column, “Our One-Party Democracy,” complained about the “inefficiencies” of a Congress dominated by Democrats -- or what he called a one-party autocracy -- in getting Obama’s socialist agenda legislated.
One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century.
Yes, it certainly has its drawbacks, especially when it obliterates individual rights, which apparently Friedman is opposed to. Or perhaps he wouldn’t miss them because he doesn’t know what they are. It is the first time I have heard of a communist/fascist elite, with the power of life and death over millions, called a “reasonably enlightened group of people.” Friedman believes in socialized health care and cap-and-trade law. So do President Obama and most of Congress. Ergo, Obama should be able to just “impose” his agenda on the country and have it rubber-stamped by the one-party autocracy.
There is Molly Norris, whose dainty sally in freedom of speech, in response to Comedy Central’s capitulation to Islamic threats against the TV show for daring to suggest that it was Mohammed in a bear costume, consisted of innocuous, doodle-like drawings of everyday utilitarian objects she whimsically called Mohammed. However, it launched “a thousand ships and burned to topless towers of Ilium” (to quote Cyrano de Bergerac) by inspiring “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” in defiance of the bottomless, offended sensitivities of Muslims, especially on Facebook.
Hundreds of people drew Mohammed, and gave Muslims nearly limitless choices to concretize their conception of the prophet. But they prefer not to be able to visualize him; given the creed he is credited with creating, I don’t blame them. Instead, they demonstrated against the “blasphemy” and drew from their stockpile of burnable American, British and Danish flags to parade noisily in the streets. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia banned Facebook, and then YouTube. It was “To hell with freedom of speech” and “Kill those who insult Mohammed” all over again.
Norris now regrets having taken her First Amendment right seriously.
Ms Norris says that she had nothing to do with the page even though her name was posted on it. Some media reports implied that she had set up the Facebook campaign.
"I never started a Facebook page; I never set up any place for people to send drawings to and I never received any drawings," she said on her blog.
She apologized for her role in the controversy and said that the content of the page was "offensive to Muslims who did nothing to endanger our right to expression in the first place".
Not exactly a profile in courage. Dhimmitude becomes no one, it neither flatters nor protects anyone from a fatwa. European cartoonists have shown more courage than most American cartoonists; they’re closer to the threat than Americans and must live in hiding lest they share the fate of Theo van Gogh. It has been, after all, European cartoons, and not American, that caused the riots, deaths and destruction.
There is President Obama himself, occasional professor of selective semantics (ObamaSpeak?) who ordered the excision of all references to Islam, Muslims, and jihad from future official security documents on terrorism, lest Muslims be offended by the fact that the overwhelming number of terrorist attacks are committed by…Muslims. Terrorists just drop out of the sky, or causelessly pop into existence like the Borg in “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” causing regrettable death and destruction but with no insidious agenda to assimilate survivors of their mayhem. No need to implicate a religion or its core tenets, is there? It’s only coincidence, isn’t it?
Osman Mirghani, the deputy editor-in-chief of 'Al-Sharq Al-Awsat,' which is owned by a Saudi Arabian company and published in London, wrote an op-ed last week under the headline "Why Didn't Obama Mention Islam?." The Obama administration has broken from the Bush government’s policy of using the term “Islamic terrorism” in official documents and "no longer [is] responding to extremist voices" that call for targeting home countries of terrorists, he explained.
He said the president is carrying out his pledge in his “reaching out to Muslims speech” at Cairo University in June 2008. Regarding Obama's statements on the botched Times Square bombing, the editor praised President Obama for not once referring to prime suspect Faisal Shahzad’s being Muslim and for not “mentioning Islam in discussing the terrorist operation."
Obama has inaugurated a kind of Orwellian thought crime. But neither he nor Attorney General Eric Holder nor Homeland Director Janet Napolitano is likely suffer the fate of Winston Smith in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Smith is “re-educated” by his torturer, O’Brien, to believe that words can mean anything or even be excised from language to effect the non-existence of the entities they identify; having been converted, he is scheduled for eventual execution. They refuse to utter, or are unable without becoming tongue-twisted, to utter “Islamic terrorism” or “radical Islam”; so, for the moment, they are safe from the ungentle ministrations of their Islamic interrogators.
Director Woody Allen demonstrated his non-appreciation of the freedom he has enjoyed to make neurosis-themed movies in America. During an interview at the Cannes Film Festival, he endorsed Thomas Friedman’s conception of bully politics, that dissenters should just excuse themselves and allow Obama to do what he thinks best by decree.
In an interview published by Spanish language newspaper La Vanguardia (that we translated), Allen says “I am pleased with Obama. I think he’s brilliant. The Republican Party should get out of his way and stop trying to hurt him.”
The director said "it would be good…if he could be a dictator for a few years because he could do a lot of good things quickly."
What fearlessness. What nebbish vacuity.
Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s “Hardball” may yet inspire a new reality TV program, “Losing It.” If this country ever has a Minister of Propaganda with power over the press and the Internet, un-charismatic Cass Sunstein may be that man, but Matthews would be his riled-up, psychotic public mouthpiece. Like Friedman and Allen, he loves Obama, but is worried that he isn’t doing enough.
"The President scares me," Matthews said of Obama's response to the Gulf oil spill disaster. "He's been acting a little like a Vatican Observer here. When is he actually going to do something? And I worry; I know he doesn't want to take ownership of it. I know politics. He said the minute he says, 'I'm in charge,' he takes the blame, but somebody has to. It's in our interest." Matthews described the oil spill as "the scariest thing I've ever seen…"
It hasn’t occurred to Matthews that perhaps Obama isn’t interested in taking ownership of a mere oil spill. He has bigger ambitions of ownership, such as the whole economy. But, Matthews, too, agrees with Friedman and Allen that Obama should be allowed to just get things done, and to punish anyone who stands in his way or doesn’t live up to the state’s measure of social responsibility. On his program last week, he had a revealing exchange with his guests.
Apparently former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn isn’t the only Obama admirer with an affinity for Maoist methodology.
On Hardball Monday night, Chris Matthews began a week long rant about the BP oil spill that had him calling for the imprisonment of the whole BP board, possibly their execution, and for the President to nationalize the oil industry.
MATTHEWS: Yes. In China, it‘s a more brutal society—a more brutal society, Kate, but they execute people for this, major industrial leaders that commit crimes like this, failure like this… Why doesn‘t the president go in there and nationalize that industry and get the job done for the people?
Environmental activist writers Abrahm Lustgarten of Propublica and Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones were left gasping for air as Matthews vociferously displayed an appalling ignorance of anything having to do with reality.
Ignorance and reality have never stopped the advocates and practitioners of “enlightened” brutality from taking “necessary actions“ to do “good“ at the point of a gun. Mao, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, bin Laden, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad all had or have their useful idiots, too.
Finally, Sonny Bunch in The Washington Times reports that director Steven Soderbergh is also fearless of the reality he has muted, if not erased, in his “biopic,” Che, which glorifies the life of Cuban Communist revolutionary, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, who murdered countless Cubans and spread the revolution in Latin America. When asked in Toronto to comment on Guevara’s role in creating forced labor camps and punishing anyone perceived to be a threat to Fidel Castro’s regime, Soderbergh demurred.
"I don't know that there's any place for a person like me in the society that he was trying to make," the director said. "I'm the poster child for a lot of the [stuff] that he was trying to eradicate."
Come the “revolution,” he can count on eradication. He knows too much.
His star, Benicio del Toro, who plays Guevara, walked out on an interview when asked questions that threw doubt on Guevara’s sainthood. In another interview, he played the relativist-multiculturalist card:
Once the film was completed, distributed and shown to critics, Benicio had to deal with allegations of sugar-coating Che’s legacy:
“He believed in the death penalty, no doubt. But I remember Che being included in a TV show that showed pictures of terrorists. I was like, ‘Why isn’t Nixon there for the Vietnam War?’ You’d have to put a lot of pictures of other people before you’d put Che’s. [...] We tell stories about Batman, and he was a type of Batman. No one can deny that he was trying to stop man exploiting man, whether he was successful or not.”
I‘ll deny it. I‘ll say that his policy was to exploit his victims until they were dead. “He believed in the death penalty.” What an understatement of ignorance! Or was it evasion? Del Toro claims he “researched” Guevara’s life and read his writings. His sight must have glazed over those sections in which the revolutionary promoted hatred and sanctioned killing.
Tyranny, to many, is a coquettish tease, alluring because those who flirt with it lack any sense of personal self-worth. The “good” to them, altruistic in nature, is any policy that would rob their betters of their pride and independence, and bring them down to the level of being dependents on “enlightened” authority. But there is a limit to such moral depravity. The individuals discussed above have reached that limit. The next stage beyond a confession of it is a further descent into lunacy. That is the ultimate price exacted for flirting with tyranny, and claiming that one could not live without it.
10 Comments ::
:: Saturday, May 22, 2010 ::
Obama: Neither Naïve nor Foolish nor Misguided
Posted by Edward Cline at 11:24 AM
With some minor editing, I sent this letter to Charles Krauthammer, syndicated columnist for the Washington Post and other newspapers, in response to an article severely critical of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. In it, he points out that Obama’s “make nice” policy and obsequious deference to statist regimes are backfiring.
Among other things, Krauthammer questions the friendship of Brazil and Turkey concerning the deal their leaders made with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to supply Iran with enriched uranium. Prominently displayed with the article is a photograph of Ahmadinejad holding up the hands of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
With barely contained contempt, Krauthammer excoriates the “wisdom” of Obama’s foreign policy, which could be said to be compatible with the “wisdom” of his domestic policy. He rightly observes that Obama’s consistent policy of kowtowing to feudal kings, dictators, and authoritarians of various stripes and “joshing” with political thugs (Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico), and of alienating, offending, snubbing, and betraying his allies (Britain, Israel, Colombia), is destined to set up the U.S. for more such flagrant towel-snapping by his alleged admirers and friends among the statists and strongmen.
It is the established rule of bullies to “befriend” the weak and the cowardly, and then humiliate them at every opportunity with expressions of disdain. The behavior can be observed in schoolyards, Congress, and cellblocks. There is lexicon of prison slang for such a weak person, which I will spare the reader of here. But that same criminal evaluation of Obama is evident in the actions of Obama’s compadres in power.
Krauthammer seems unable or reluctant to pass a moral judgment on Obama. He has assembled all the damning evidence, and clearly identified the consequences of Obama’s policies. One can, for a moment, distinguish between Obama’s actions and his character. However, to grasp the nature of what are ostensibly foolish and naïve actions and which defy all logic and reason. Krauthammer is unable to, or refuses to, link the two observable phenomena. If one wishes to grasp the nature of evil, it is necessary to examine the character of its author.
Krauthammer neglects to examine the character of Barack Obama. If he did examine that character, he would conclude that Obama is as much this country’s enemy as Iran, Putin’s Russia, Islamic states, and any other regime that would like to see America bloodied and beaten to its knees in submission.
The Washington Post
Dear Mr. Krauthammer:
I left a comment that your May 21 column Washington Post article, “The fruits of weakness,” could be summed up as, “How’s that Neville Chamberlain policy working for you, Mr. Obama?” You narrated President Obama’s policy of appeasement of our enemies and betrayal of our allies and friends with frankness, exactitude, and obvious controlled outrage. The president’s record to date in his foreign policy reads like a police charge sheet or grand jury indictment of a criminal.
Indeed, you wrote that:
This is not just an America in decline. This is an America in retreat -- accepting, ratifying and declaring its decline, and inviting rising powers to fill the vacuum. Nor is this retreat by inadvertence. This is retreat by design and, indeed, on principle. It's the perfect fulfillment of Obama's adopted Third World narrative of American misdeeds, disrespect and domination from which he has come to redeem us and the world.
I emphasized “by design and, indeed, on principle.” In my mind, and in violent abuse of my commitment to freedom and American liberty, not to mention its good name, Obama’s policies and actions in the foreign policy realm constitute a deliberate, conscious policy of defeating America for her enemies, because her enemies cannot defeat her individually or collectively. This is indeed by “design and on principle.” The logical conclusion is that he has embarked on a policy of destroying this country, of seeing it in ruins. His domestic policy, vis-à-vis that end, is obvious. His every word and action as president is calculated to achieve that end, and include his legislative agenda, his cabinet and regulatory appointees, and his choices for the Supreme Court.
Yet, you write as though Obama were as naïve and foolish as Neville Chamberlain. For all the British prime minister’s weaknesses and flaws, a suicidal pacifism so evident and predictable in his compromising “approach” to Adolf Hitler, Chamberlain actually thought he was saving Britain and Europe from a disastrous war. But he did not also make speeches in Parliament that denigrated his own country, that attacked and mocked the liberties of its citizens, and allow dictators and despots to address Parliament on their own terms. In the latter instance, I am referring to Obama’s alliance with President of Mexico Calderon, who attacked an American state, Arizona, and implicitly called for an end to the sovereignty of the United States, to the applause of the Democratic majority in Congress, an applause that was not mere courtesy shown the chief executive of another country. It was an applause of agreement that comported with Obama's own anti-American stance.
You are a step away from concluding that Obama is a wannabe tyrant who means his own country no good. Something, perhaps the syntax of the accusation, or the sound of it echoing in the chamber of moral judgment, is preventing you from calling him treasonous and evil. You seem to be reluctant to make that final and damning judgment. But, power-lusters in the past as a rule preached the “greatness” of their countries and how that status could be achieved or restored. Can you name me one dictator or emperor from the past who deliberately set out to nettle and deprecate his own country? Obama’s actions are unprecedented in the history of American politics, or in any nation’s politics.
Obama is the vengeance dream of every anti-American “radical” who ever demonstrated against this country over the last half century, a dream come to life as the nightmare it must be. Examine more closely the root motive of his policies, actions, designs, and principles. Obama is neither naïve nor foolish or misguided. His means and ends are conscious, deliberate, and calculated to destroy. He has built a super car bomb in his fiscal policies and his foreign policy, with every hope of seeing them explode with the maximum collateral damage. He is a home-grown terrorist in slow-motion.
Obama is perilously and vastly worse than Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter, or Bill Clinton. It requires honesty and moral integrity, based on the mounting evidence open to all, to reach that conclusion.
1 Comments ::
:: Saturday, May 15, 2010 ::
Kagan the Pragmatist “Societal” Girl
Posted by Edward Cline at 6:32 AM
What is the problem that so many liberal/left MSM pundits and columnists have with identifying the moral, political, and judicial philosophy of President Barack Obama’s latest nominee for the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Elena Kagan? Fox Nation reports that:
In a 1996 paper [in the University of Chicago Law Review] "Private Speech, Public Purpose: The Role of Governmental Motive in First Amendment Doctrine," Kagan argued it may be proper to suppress speech because it is offensive to society or to the government.
That paper asserted First Amendment doctrine is comprised of "motives and … actions infested with them" and she goes so far as to claim that "First Amendment law is best understood and most readily explained as a kind of motive-hunting."
Kagan's name was also on a brief, United States V. Stevens, dug up by the Washington Examiner, stating: "Whether a given category of speech enjoys First Amendment protection depends upon a categorical balancing of the value of the speech against its societal costs."
In short, the government may elect to censor or not to censor, depending on a juggling act between the “value” of speech and its potential “societal costs,” performed by a government official whose decision is completely arbitrary and governed by his “motives,” which a court may or may not decide are “appropriate.” And from where does the government derive its “balancing” powers? Not the Constitution.
Who knows? Kagan may actually respect the First Amendment. In which case, she would gladly approve of the executive branch abridging it by decree, but not Congress.
It is a measure of the recidivist character of the mainstream media that it absolutely refuses to identify the political suasion of Kagan, except to vociferously deny that suasion when it is identified outside the MSM. Instead, the left/liberal pundits and columnists dwell on her feistiness, her devotion to her career, her allegedly indeterminate political leanings, and so forth, in a campaign of ambiguity and puffery. Her suasion is their suasion. Don’t expect the Democrats or their allies in the MSM to ever admit they comprise a collective Freddy Krueger. In the heavily made-up and lavishly garbed image reflected in their mirror, they see Jane Addams.
The MSM chooses to not reach the conclusion because a socialist selected Kagan. She is in line to sit permanently on the Court where she can help mete unconscionable damage to the republic and the freedom of its citizens. They refuse to entertain the question: Why would Obama choose anyone else but a fellow advocate of “hope and change”? The MSM does not accept the designation of Obama and his administration as socialist; they agree with Obama that the term is “vile” and “demonizing.” Ergo, it can’t be true, and anyone who says otherwise is guilty of character assassination.
It would be impractical to discuss all of Kagan’s positions and utterances here without endeavoring to write a book. The New York Times, bless its liberal/left heart, however, has provided a handy reference guide to Kagan’s positions and views, a guide that substantiates any and all charges against the Court nominee that she would be a leftist judicial activist on the bench.
Kagan’s record shouldn’t deceive or confuse anyone. After all, Lenin was also a pragmatist. He and his fellow communists proclaimed the “New Economic Policy” that was intended to rescue the Russian economy from communist depredations. As soon as that relaxation of controls put two or three crumbs of bread on Russian dinner plates instead of one, down came the controls again.
It is easy to identify Kagan’s political suasion because all of her positions are, if not overtly socialist, then pragmatically statist. She is for disarming Americans, she is for “selective” censorship, and she worked with the Clinton administration on the first round of attempted socialized medicine, she probably helped to craft the “master agreement” that put the tobacco companies under a special federal thumb. She is no friend of freedom.
The first step is to accept the premise that Obama would not have nominated anyone who advocated freedom of speech, individual rights, the sanctity of property, and limited government. That’s a given. He would nominate someone amenable to his statist agenda and at the same time present that person as “not radical.” She is a rationalizing pragmatist who also advocates the expansion of executive powers.
Reading her papers on cases and issues (especially the one on government “motivation“), one can’t immediately determine what her philosophy of law is, or where she stands on individual rights or on the Constitution. It’s much like trying to zero in on a target when it keeps moving in concentric circles. But there are key statements in her academic papers, and which she made throughout her career, that can simplify the task. That task is necessary, even though it means reading large chunks of her academic and career statements.
By way of exhibiting her pretzel-like thinking and expository style, try digesting this chunk from her Law Review article, "Private Speech, Public Purpose: The Role of Governmental Motive in First Amendment Doctrine.” In a seemingly endless screed on whether or not government may censor out of perceived or potential causes of “harm” or if it seeks to “advantage” or “disadvantage” the subjects or expressers of speech, she writes:
The narrower (speech-related) principle inheres in the broader; both are aspects, so the argument goes, of the appropriate relationship between the government and individuals within a liberal society.
The second kind of nonconsequentialist account for the prohibition of ideological motive relates more exclusively to expression, emphasizing the place of such activity in a democracy. On this view, the prohibition of ideological motive, and its concomitant principle of equality, lies at the core of the First Amendment because it lies at the core of democratic self-government. The democratic project is one of constant collective self-determination; expressive activity is the vehicle through which a sovereign citizenry engages in this process by mediating diverse views on the appropriate nature of the community. Were the government to limit speech based on its sense of which ideas have merit, it would expropriate an authority not intended for it and negate a critical aspect of self-government. Democracy demands that sovereign citizens, through each generation, retain authority to evaluate competing visions and their adherents-to decide which ideas and officials merit approval. Hence democracy bars the government from restricting speech (as it also bars the government from limiting the franchise) on the ground that such activity will challenge reigning beliefs or incumbent officials. The government must treat all ideas as contingent, because subject to never-ending popular scrutiny. On this view, the prohibition of certain motives again serves as a way to delineate the proper sphere of authority, hereby preventing a democratic state from contravening key principles of self-government and thereby undermining its foundation.
This is as bad as reading Stanley Fish, a professor of law at Florida International University, excoriate the First Amendment with his verbal embroidery, or Laurence Tribe, a confessed plagiarist and professor of law at Harvard, pronounce on the fluxing value of freedom of speech. One of Tribe’s “best” students happened to be Barack Obama. Leftists Tribe and Cass Sunstein, who now heads the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, not only vetted her Law Review article, but are cited numerous times by Kagan throughout as authorities on constitutional interpretation.
Readers may have read of deconstructionism in literature, in which “texts” are explored for their “tensions” and “contradictions,” apart from their literal meaning. The patron saint of this school of literary analysis is Jacques Derrida. Kagan’s paper is an example of deconstructionism in law. Its patron saint is Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., of “shouting fire in a theater” fame. What difference is there between a Holmesian “clear and present” danger in someone’s exercise of freedom of a speech that may lead to a “harm” forbidden by Congress, and the “value of a speech” as opposed to its “societal costs”? Kagan cites Holmes occasionally in her paper, in an appearance of amused dissension. But note 257 of her paper is in tandem with Holmes’ thinking:
As I explain, the distinction between motive-based analysis and effects-based analysis remains all-important for purposes of constructing (and explaining) First Amendment doctrine.
Holmes himself was a judicial “that was then, this is now” pragmatist who was against a strict interpretation of the Constitution.
Holmes declared that the law should develop along with society and that the 14th Amendment did not deny states a right to experiment with social legislation. He also argued for judicial restraint, asserting that the Court should not interpret the Constitution according to its own social philosophy.
As long ago as 1881, Holmes wrote in The Common Law:
"The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience. The felt necessities of the time, the prevalent moral and political theories, intuitions of public policy, avowed or unconscious, and even the prejudices which judges share with their fellow-men, have had a good deal more to do than syllogism in determining the rules by which men should be governed. The law embodies the story of a nation's development through many centuries, and it cannot be dealt with as if it contained only the axioms and corollaries of a book of mathematics.”
Fundamental ideas are out, no longer relevant to the “necessities of the time” or the “prevalent moral and political theories.” Kagan certainly possesses, together with her “gang,” an intuition of public policy, which is unbridled statism.
Kagan is an advocate of “racial and gender” equality (of the legislative kind), and writes that she would be elated if speech that allegedly perpetuated their inequality “disappeared.”
Kagan is in solid with Obama, with the Democrats, and with the “extreme“ left-wing of the Democrats. She taught law at the University of Chicago with Barack Obama, and has been his long-time collaborator and political supporter. Her donations to Obama and his party are public record. It is reported that between 2000 and 2008, Kagan contributed $12,550 to Democrats, more than half of it going to Obama's various campaigns. She contributed to Rahm Emanuel’s run for the Senate.
The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, found (as I was not able to) a copy of Kagan’s senior year Princeton University thesis, "To the Final Conflict: Socialism in New York City, 1900-1933," in which she laments the ineptitude of the Socialist Party in New York politics. An excerpt goes:
"In our own times, a coherent socialist movement is nowhere to be found in the United States. Americans are more likely to speak of a golden past than of a golden future, of capitalism's glories than of socialism's greatness. Conformity overrides dissent; the desire to conserve has overwhelmed the urge to alter. Such a state of affairs cries out for explanation. Why, in a society by no means perfect, has a radical party never attained the status of a major political force? Why, in particular, did the socialist movement never become an alternative to the nation's established parties?"
The story is a sad but also a chastening one for those who, more than half a century after socialism's decline, still wish to change America. Radicals have often succumbed to the devastating bane of sectarianism; it is easier, after all, to fight one's fellows than it is to battle an entrenched and powerful foe. Yet if the history of Local New York shows anything, it is that American radicals cannot afford to become their own worst enemies. In unity lies their only hope."
Michael Goldfarb, author of the article, remarks:
Obviously, one imagines that Kagan's views have evolved significantly over the last three decades, but given Obama's stated aversion to radicalism, it's certainly worth noting the radical roots of the nation's top lawyer.
Obviously, her views have not so much “evolved significantly” as expanded to encompass the whole Alinskyite/Obama policy of “hope” for “change.” They certainly have not mellowed and become less strident. The “socialist radicals” have moved from New York City to Washington. Kagan’s “roots” have only grown deeper, and are part of a vast interlocking root system that includes those of Bill Ayers, David Axelrod, Cass Sunstein….and Barack Obama.
5 Comments ::
:: Thursday, May 13, 2010 ::
A Brief Aside on Power
Posted by Edward Cline at 12:01 PM
In my May 7th commentary, “’Civility’ per Obama,” I noted that:
One can’t question someone’s views or positions without delving into his motives and patriotism. (e.g., “Sir, if you know the idea is patently fraudulent, stupid, and costly, why are you for it?”) (Emphasis mine)
I would like to briefly expand on that comment, for it is important to understand the motivation of those responsible for what can only become a catastrophe for this country. It is important for Americans to grasp it, whether they are for or against ObamaCare or any other law this administration in particular authors and imposes on the country. It is crucial that men understand what moves those who advocate the blatantly demonstrable irrational. If more Americans understood it, perhaps the allure of state-managed existence in any realm would diminish and vanish, and its advocates and supporters be exposed for the monsters they are.
I characterized the words, actions, and attitude of President Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and others in Washington, concerning their desire to have ObamaCare and other statist legislation passed and enacted as law, in resolute disregard for individual rights, Constitutional limitations on executive and Congressional power, and of the proven opposition to their ends, as scabrous arrogance. It is why they are “for it” in the face of all the evidence, available to anyone, that their legislation can only lead to destruction, misery, and impoverishment.
The key to such legislation is the role of compulsion, or force. The arrogance is rooted in the power to compel one to act against one’s values, against one’s own life. The monsters wish to truly GOVERN people, not let them alone. In the past I have criticized the sloppy and dangerous usage of the terms govern and democracy, and will not repeat myself here. But, free men have no need of the monsters. Men who agree that they should be “governed” or “ruled” by them are of no interest to them, either. Novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand wrote in her 1941 pamphlet, “To All Innocent Fifth Columnists“
The Totalitarians do not want your active support. They do not need it. They have their small, compact, well-organized minority, and it is sufficient to carry out their aims. All they want from you is your indifference.
And one’s indifference can complement the indifference of the legislators. Such indifference, as Rand explains, is a silent sanction of their actions and policies.
But free, independent men are truly hated by our "leaders," who are power-lusters first class. "Governing" otherwise free men -- making them think and act in ways free men might not otherwise think or act -- is their chief and principal end. If the element of compulsion or force were not woven into their laws, they would have no interest in such legislation -- they would have no reason to act, no reason to seek office, no reason to persuade their future serfs and slaves that it is in their best interests to become serfs and slaves.
Ellsworth Toohey, in The Fountainhead, in answer to Peter Keating’s question of why Toohey wanted to kill the hero, Howard Roark, answered:
“I don’t want to kill him. I want him in jail. You understand? In jail. In a cell. Behind bars. Locked, stopped, strapped -- and alive. He’ll get up when they tell him to. He’ll eat what they give him. He’ll move when he’s told to move, and stop when he’s told. He’ll walk to the jute mill, when he’s told, and he’ll work as he’s told. They’ll push him, if he doesn’t move fast enough, and they’ll slap his face when they feel like it, and they’ll beat him with rubber hose if he doesn’t obey. And he’ll obey. He’ll take orders. He’ll take orders!”*
That is the fundamental, base, evil motivation of those who wish to employ force, dramatized and expressed by Toohey, who relishes the prospect of seeing Roark -- or anyone like him -- in fetters and not free to live his own life.
You will take orders. You will be locked, stopped, and strapped, and you’ll do as you’re told if you wish to stay alive, whether you are a complacent altruist or intransigent individualist. You will obey, else you will go to jail -- or live in a country that has been transformed into a jail; that is the true meaning of Obama’s slogan, “hope and change,” all of his “audacious” policies and appointments and laws are geared to that aim -- or see your bank accounts cleaned out by the government, or your house seized by it, or your wages garnisheed at the whim of an anonymous bureaucrat.
You will help Obama, Pelosi, Reid et al. make their “ideal” society work, even though they know, but do not tell you, that jails and prisons of whatever size -- whether it is a county jail or a federal prison or a whole country -- are not independent, self-sustaining organizations, which must collapse because production is not their purpose. Witness the campaign of conquest of the Nazis when they became fully-empowered totalitarians. Their purpose is to contain and control -- and to exact obedience from its inmates, regardless of their willingness or recalcitrance, regardless of their economic status or profession, regardless of the expected consequences, which is destruction. For a dramatization of those consequences, see Rand‘s Atlas Shrugged.
That is the long and short of the motivation behind those who would “govern” Americans. It is as important an issue to understand as the fallacy and evil underlying any collectivist system. That motivation is intimately and inexorably linked to the idea of force.
*Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead (1943). New York: Penguin/Plume Centennial Edition, 2005, p. 663.
9 Comments ::
:: Friday, May 07, 2010 ::
“Civility” per Obama
Posted by Edward Cline at 12:10 PM
Some would say it hardly matters at which school President Barack Obama gave his commencement address on May 1st. I agree. Most if not all American universities are top-heavy with every variety of left-wing and collectivist faculty, concentrated in the humanities and dedicated to lobotomizing their students and weeding out the recalcitrant. But while institutions like Harvard are noisily left, other major schools, like the University of Michigan, where Obama spoke, are quietly so. State universities turn out a higher proportion of indoctrinated serfs, obeisant automatons, and committed gauleiters than does Harvard, Yale or Princeton.
Was his speech “over-the-top”? Or an instance of underhanded dissimulation? Or evidence of plain ignorance? What did he mean by “civility,” which he mentioned three times? His speech has been analyzed in several columns. Luria Doan scores him on a dozen instances of hypocrisy and double-talk in “Obama Jumps the Shark In Michigan,” while Frederick Cosby also reports on Obama’s interview with Matt Lauer on NBC’s “Today.” Speaking openly about the Tea Party for the first time, he generously conceded that many of its participants are “legitimately concerned about the deficit,” but was dismissive of others.
So, there’s that segment of it (Tea Party movement) which I think is just dug in ideologically, and that strain has existed in American politics for a long time.
Since the American Revolution? Perhaps he wouldn’t have approved of the uncompromising “tone” of the original patriots. But apparently there’s nothing wrong with this socialist/pragmatist being “ideologically dug-in,” dedicated to “changing” America into a servile, European style nation.
His remarks on “civility” at Michigan were a sly overture to censorship, a trial balloon to see how his audience received it. The audience, with which he enjoyed a disturbing bonhomie, applauded and cheered his words without grasping what they were applauding and cheering.
Now, the second way to keep our democracy healthy is to maintain a basic level of civility in our public debate. (Applause.) These arguments we’re having over government and health care and war and taxes -- these are serious arguments. They should arouse people’s passions, and it’s important for everybody to join in the debate, with all the vigor that the maintenance of a free people requires.
But we can’t expect to solve our problems if all we do is tear each other down. (Applause.) You can disagree with a certain policy without demonizing the person who espouses it. You can question somebody’s views and their judgment without questioning their motives or their patriotism. (Applause.) Throwing around phrases like “socialists” and “Soviet-style takeover” and “fascist” and “right-wing nut” -- (laughter) -- that may grab headlines, but it also has the effect of comparing our government, our political opponents, to authoritarian, even murderous regimes.
“Civility,” noted Obama, requires that opposing parties treat each other with “courtesy and respect.” Why? He gave no reasons. Note that he was brave enough to pronounce the terms “fascists,” “socialists,” and “Soviet-style takeover” -- things he and Congress have been accused of being and doing -- intending to obliterate their significance by pronouncing them and angling for the audience’s response -- laughter -- to help him wipe out that significance. The audience obliged.
All during the period leading up to the passage of ObamaCare, people’s passions were aroused. They were ignored. Everybody tried to join the “debate.” They were shut out in the name of “transparency.” Demonization is not a synonym for the accurate identification of ideas and motivations, which is what the Tea Parties have attempted to communicate over the noise of a hostile and demonizing press and the denigrating statements of Democratic politicians. One can’t question someone’s views or positions without delving into his motives and patriotism. (E.g., “Sir, if you know the idea is patently fraudulent, stupid, and costly, why are you for it?”) Note that three of the four instances of “demonization” are correct identifications of Obama’s demonstrable agenda; certainly not examples of Democratic name-calling.
The problem is that this kind of vilification and over-the-top rhetoric closes the door to the possibility of compromise. It undermines democratic deliberation. It prevents learning –- since, after all, why should we listen to a “fascist,” or a “socialist,” or a “right-wing nut,” or a left-wing nut”? (Laughter.)
The door was closed to compromise, except to anyone willing to compromise his principles to pass a bill that nationalized one-sixth of the American economy and declared that the lives and wealth of Americans are now federal property, to be managed and disposed of at a bureaucrat’s whim. “Democratic deliberation” is merely the triumph of the gang with the loudest mob and best press; the Founders knew that when they established a republic. And, we have been assaulted with the exhortations of fascists and socialists in and out of government for two years now. Note, also, how Obama lumps together “right-wing nuts” and “left-wing nuts,” as though no one could or should discern the difference between someone arguing for limited government and someone advocating unlimited government. This is vilification by equivocation.
He made one salient observation in the course of his address, and it may or may not be based on fact:
But what troubles me is when I hear people say that all of government is inherently bad. One of my favorite signs during the health care debate was somebody who said, “Keep Your Government Hands Out Of My Medicare” -- (laughter) -- which is essentially saying “Keep Government Out Of My Government-Run Health Care Plan.” (Laughter.)
Obama might have been more troubled were the Tea Parties dominated by anti-government anarchists, which they were not. And, I don’t know if such a sign was ever displayed at a Tea Party. If one was, it is telling that he should choose that one to mock, and not any other sign that was non-contradictory, such as “Keep the Change, I’ll keep My Freedom.” That the audience laughed at his punch line is also telling. It would have laughed, also, had he mocked Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty, or give me death!” Obama did not have a “tough room” that rejected his humor, but rather a crowd friendly to him and to his policies.
In his address, Obama called for the abandonment of “over-the-top rhetoric” in political debate. What debate? From his perspective, the expansion of federal power over virtually every aspect of American life, except, perhaps, in weaving AIDS doilies, is a foregone conclusion. He is of the same mentality as those global-warming believers who proclaimed that the “science is settled” and would the deniers please be so kind as to shut up? “Civility,” to Obama and his sycophants in Congress and the MSM, means that the looted victims should just concede defeat, go quietly away and submit to extortion and robbery without much protest. “Drop your written complaints in the customer suggestion box as you go out, please.”
The trump card hidden up Obama's sleeve, behind his notion of “debate,” is force. If he loses the "debate," out will come the mandate.
It would be an error to think that Obama does not understand the First Amendment, which reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
There are six key prohibitions in it one could easily argue he has violated himself, one after the other, or is capable of violating. It would be easy to dismiss his power-lust and desire to empower Congress beyond even the most specious argument for federal authority as simple misunderstanding or plain ignorance. Actions speak louder than words, if the actions complement the words. But there is an obvious disconnect between Obama’s words and his actions to date, a dichotomy which is consciously consistent with his desire to establish the state as the end-all and be-all of American life. He praises freedom, but enacts and sanctions slavery. It’s not a very subtle or skillful instance of rhetorical legerdemain, and more men should call him on it. He has proven that he is a compulsive liar.
What one must come to grips with is his deliberate orchestration of the usurpation of the Constitution with the connivance of a willing Congress. For years, the man taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. At one time, he must have had the Constitution, relevant documents, and case histories memorized. He knows what he is doing. He intends to conquer.
His University of Michigan address is rich with warning. And what I regard as particularly frightening is how Obama was greeted by a member of the crowd. It was reminiscent of the relationship between evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson and her mobs of adorers.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
THE PRESIDENT: I love you back. (Laughter.)
In all fairness, I have observed the same phenomenon between Sarah Palin and her admirers.
Moreover, he would not have been able to get away with it had he any real opposition to his aggressive campaign against American freedom -- that is, opposition by a party that took its name literally and seriously. But, he doesn’t expect much in the way of opposition from the Republicans. He noted only three instances in his address of Republican presidents who advocated government programs, when he could have cited multiple dozens of other instances of “bipartisan“ collaboration in the establishment of the welfare state and federal controls, (He failed to credit George W. Bush with signing into law the expansion of unfunded Medicare prescription drug entitlements.)
Picture Thomas Jefferson in a debate with Obama. The contrast could not be more stark. Posed with constitutional questions from a moderator, Jefferson, who confessed to not being much of a public speaker, still would have been able to answer eloquently, forcefully, credibly, and memorably without the aid of notes, rehearsed answers, or teleprompters. That was the caliber of man and mind that founded the United States.
Obama would have to draw on his meager intellectual resources and the necessity to embellish his answers with dissembling ambiguity to participate in the debate. He would stumble badly. All he would project in the way of certitude is his belief in the welfare state and the authority of government to impose and govern it.
If truth be said, it is a man of Jefferson’s caliber and stature he would like to see ostracized. Men of Jefferson’s mettle are anathemas to him and his allies. I do not think Harvard, Yale, or the University of Michigan are producing them, so he has little to worry about. At least, such men are not going into politics.
However, how has Obama violated the First Amendment? Let us count the ways.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion……
Are an unthinking advocacy of and an unreasoning belief in the welfare state symptoms of a religion? Can the absence of evidence of a supreme deity (whatever its name) be legitimately paired with the absence of evidence of the “truth” of the welfare state? Could welfare statism be treated as a state religion? Has it actually been established?
Benito Mussolini proclaimed: “Fascism is a religion. The twentieth century will be known in history as the century of Fascism.” Would Obama dare contradict Mussolini’s assertion that the “keystone of the Fascist doctrine is its conception of the State, of its essence, its functions, and its aims. For Fascism the State is absolute, individuals and groups relative.” How would he gloss over Mussolini’s dictum, “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state,” in an attempt to make his words sound like a pæan to liberty and homage to the Founders?
Obama’s belief in the welfare state and government power has permitted him to caution, in words dulcified by his humor, but openly and with the approval of 92,000 listeners in the University of Michigan stadium, that criticism and opposition to his agenda are intolerable and that he could be persuaded to do something about it.
The belief in the “rightness” or “truth” of the welfare state is of the same species of belief as that about God or a supreme “intelligent designer.” It is simply a truism, never to be questioned, only accepted on faith as infallible and inspired. The “greatest good for the greatest number,” in a welfare state, however and historically, always proves to be the greatest misery for the greatest number. But, belief in the welfare state is “true faith.” Belief in it is reason- and evidence-proof. Both parties adhere to the belief. Believers simply dismiss reason and the evidence of its destructiveness. It is a genuine “article of faith,” infallible and beyond doubt. The alleged efficacy of the welfare state as a vehicle for “social justice” is a revealed supernatural verity.
Revealed by whom? By the works of Auguste Comte, Karl Marx, Lenin, and countless other humanitarians. Their opposite numbers are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Their vicars on earth can be represented by Stalin, Mao, the Khmer Rouge, and Hitler. What difference should it make to a man if he is slain with a Christian metropolitan, an Islamic scimitar, or by all 906 pages of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 dropped on his head? (That is the official page count.)
…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….
Neither Obama nor Congress has yet prohibited the free exercise of anyone’s religion. If welfare statism can be called a religion, Obama and Congress (and their predecessors) have freely exercised it, and taxed all other denominations to support it. Better informed students of American history think we got away from this kind of thing with the Declaration of Independence.
…or abridging the freedom of speech….
The most recent abridgement of freedom of speech, the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Law, was dealt a serious blow by the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Citizens United case. But the Federal Election Commission has not been dissolved and it retains some power to decide who may and may not exercise speech during election campaigns.
…or of the press….
The traditional press, together with broadcast news, has not needed to be controlled or censored by the government. With few exceptions, and with a variety of passions, the MSM have for decades largely endorsed the federal government’s expansion of power. The new “press” is the Internet, and Cass Sunstein, head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, and others in the Obama administration, are devising rationales and ways to control this new press, lately through the net neutrality scam. They’re still pondering how to suppress speech without calling it censorship.
…or the right of the people peaceably to assemble….
The people peaceably assembled, repeatedly, in countless cities and towns, for over a year. The only incidents of violence were when these assemblies were invaded or infiltrated by those with malicious intent, or with the Saul Alinskyite purpose of discrediting the assemblies. These incidents were instigated at the behest of organizations in alliance with the Democratic Party, which hired proxies to do what it could not do publicly.
…and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Countless emails, letters, faxes, literal petitions, and telephone voice messages from American citizens deluged members of Congress protesting the contents, aim, and scale of ObamaCare. To no avail. State lawsuits are now being filed against the federal government for Congressional over-reach and for violation of states’ rights. Doubtless some of these and private suits will wend their way to the Supreme Court. But, what good is the liberty to petition the government to redress grievances, when an authoritarian regime can ignore the petitions and dismiss the grievances as “racist,” “homophobic,” “Nazi,” or “anti-government”? Or simply because it doesn’t wish to recognize them?
To be sure, “civility” requires courtesy and the premise that issues can be discussed or debated without resorting to ad hominem and ridicule. It does not necessarily imply “respect” for an opponent’s views, but rather disagreement with the fundamentals of those views, and a willingness to attempt persuasion by way of refutation. It also requires an esteem, if not for his views, then at least for an opponent’s honesty, intelligence, and standing in his field.
“Disagreement ” with the positions and arguments of opponents of ObamaCare has been and continues to be delinquent in the actions and statements of Obama and the Democrats. In its place is an elitist, patronizing hubris that does not deign to recognize dissension.
Esteem in civility has not been accorded the Republicans, the Tea Party, and the American electorate at any step in the pursuit of Obama’s and Congress’s legislative agenda. Given all the lies, deceit, machinations, behind-closed-doors deal-making and horse-trading, bribery, billions in pork, scabrous arrogance, ridicule, derogatory statements, vilification, demonization, and brazen disregard for the Constitution and individual rights and a concomitant indifference to the consequences that have marked Obama’s administration and Congress’s behavior, Obama has no right to lecture anyone on the subject of “civility.”
Because “civility,” to him, is just another way to silence his opposition. He may speak loudly and distinctly; he expects the rest of us to mutter, sotto voce, “But, it‘s wrong!”
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