:: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 ::
The Court’s Mock Examination of Obamacare
Posted by Edward Cline at 9:33 PM
JUSTICE SCALIA: ….And we’ve held in two cases that something that was reasonably adapted was not proper [the necessary and proper wording of the Commerce Clause] because it violated the sovereignty of the States, which was implicit in the constitutional structure. The argument here is that it may be necessary, but it’s not proper because it violates an equally evident principle in the Constitution, which is that the Federal Government is not supposed to be a government that has all powers; that it’s supposed to be a government of limited powers. And that’s what all this questioning has been about. What – what is left? If the government can do this, what else can it not do? [pp. 26-27]
JUSTICE SCALIA: An equally evident constitutional principle is the principle that the Federal Government is a government of enumerated powers and that the vast majority of the powers remain in the States and do not belong to the Federal Government…. [pp. 27-28]
Justice Antonin Scalia enunciated those most relevant but less than scintillating words during exchanges between the Court and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli in the second day of the Supreme Court’s review of the constitutionality – or its unconstitutionality – of the the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) of 2010, nicknamed “Obamacare.” Most of the balance of the back-and-forth between the justices and Verrilli was in the way of bean-counting: the justices would identify specific beans, and Verrilli would deny they were beans, or claim that they might be beans, depending on one’s perspective.
Not once during the exchanges did the term individual rights escape the mouths of any of the parties. It was all about what was and wasn’t a market and whether or not the government could compel individuals to enter a market created by the government for the express purpose of regulating it. The “necessity” of health care or health insurance reform was conceded by the justices, but not deemed strictly “proper” under the aegis of Obamacare. At issue was not the government’s coercive power, but its lawful power of coercion.
Reading the entire transcript of the exchanges, without listening to them, one gets the impression that the justices were only slightly less blinkered than was Verrilli. They seemed to be focused on whether or not a smörgasbord was a smörgasbord because one or two bean casseroles were missing. Definitions of beans and smörgasbords were disputed.
Politico reported that the Left was not happy with Verrilli’s defense of Obamacare:
“Solicitor General Don Verrilli seemed to struggle more than Paul Clement, attorney for the states… Over and over again, [conservative Justices] asked for a limiting principle – a reason to think approving the mandate wouldn’t lead to unlimited federal power. Verrilli struggled to answer the question and, at times, seemed unsure of whether to call upon the Commerce Clause or Necessary and Proper Clause as justification,” noted Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic in a piece titled “”Day 2 at the Court: Well, that Could Have Gone Better.”
At issue was the compulsory "mandate" that everyone must "buy" health insurance or pay a penalty for not buying it. The Solicitor General couldn't decide whether that penalty was a tax or a penalty. He was derided by two of the justices for not being able to make up his mind, which he still hasn't. The exchanges on this subject were humorous, at least to the auditors of the session. The government's case is shot full of holes on Constitutional issues centering chiefly on the power of the Congress to "regulate" commerce.
The term regulate meant something completely different to the Founders; it meant the power of Congress to stop states from interfering with commerce between the states, such as taxing goods coming across state lines and not taxing similar goods produced within a state, thus giving the untaxed producers an edge (the international version of that policy is the “protective tariff”). To the Progressives and other socialists, however, it means the power to control commerce, in this instance, to force people to buy insurance and thus participate in the resultant but nonetheless pseudo-commerce.
But then the Court’s position – at least the positions of the conservative members of it – is also shot full of holes. To judge by the nature and content of the best questions put to Verrilli, there is no reason to feel confident or encouraged that the Court will strike down the entirety of Obamacare. It may declare the individual mandate unconstitutional on purely rationalistic grounds, and leave the rest of the law in place. But it is the coercive and confiscatory nature of the law that is its core. Listening to the Court question the constitutional validity of Obamacare is much like watching someone hunting for a place to fit a piece into a jigsaw puzzle, or looking for round holes for square pegs.
A great deal of verbiage was spent on the nature of the penalty for not buying health insurance, and whether or not it was a tax – that is, a revenue-raising device – or simply punishment for not buying the insurance. Verrilli denied that it was a tax. Yet the Court seemed to think it was one, because it would be collected by the IRS. Verrilli expressed hope that not much pseudo-revenue would be raised by impounding an individual’s income, that the workability of the whole law depended on the pseudo-voluntary compliance with it by Americans and would succeed.
It may be that the conservatives realize that to declare Obamacare unconstitutional because it exceeds the enumerated powers of Congress by violating individual rights, the Court would need to also declare unconstitutional the income tax, the Federal Reserve, Social Security, Medicare, and a host of other kinds of legislation – all of which violate individual rights by direct or indirect coercion or force, or by direct or indirect confiscation. It would mean a wholesale challenging of the doctrine of altruism and collectivism, on which all such legislation is based.
Clearly, such a crucial task is beyond the ken and scope of the current Supreme Court.
The only justice who did not question the Solicitor General was Clarence Thomas. There is hope that he can educate the other conservative justices on the matter of individual rights.
But rather than dwell on the Court’s philosophical and moral shortcomings, several articles have been written that outline “necessary and proper” arguments that the Court ought to have made in reply to Verrilli’s hesitant and eclectic assertions about the imperative nature of Obamacare.
The Institute for Justice has filed an amicus brief which possibly the justices have read. It states that a compulsory contract such as is proposed by Obamacare is not a contract, because a contract is a voluntary affair entered into by two or more parties sans coercion. Compulsory participation has nothing to do with contracts, and whether or not non-participation can be "penalized" or "taxed" is irrelevant. It is still compulsion. George Will, in his nationally syndicated article, “Obamacare’s Contract Problem,” discussed the Institute’s argument:
Hitherto, most attention has been given to whether Congress, under its constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce, may coerce individuals into engaging in commerce by buying health insurance. Now the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm, has focused on this fact: The individual mandate is incompatible with centuries of contract law. This is so because a compulsory contract is an oxymoron.
That is, bananas are not a kind of citrus fruit. Oranges cannot be classified as jelly beans. A contract denotes, not merely implies, a voluntary agreement between individuals or private entities, such as corporations or companies. Even should bribery be involved in the creation of a contract, the contract remains a contract.
The brief…says Obamacare is the first time Congress has used its power to regulate commerce to produce a law "from which there is no escape." And "coercing commercial transactions" -- compelling individuals to sign contracts with insurance companies -- "is antithetical to the foundational principle of mutual assent that permeated the common law of contracts at the time of the founding and continues to do so today…."
The Supreme Court in Commerce Clause cases has repeatedly recognized, and Congress has never before ignored, the difference between the regulation and the coercion of commerce. And in its 10th Amendment cases ("The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people") the court has specifically forbidden government to compel contracts.
IJ argues: The 10th Amendment forbids Congress from exercising its commerce power to compel states to enter into contractual relations by effectively forcing states to "buy" radioactive waste. Hence "the power to regulate commerce does not include the power to compel a party to take title to goods or services against its will." And if it is beyond Congress' power to commandeer the states by compelling them to enter into contracts, it must likewise be beyond Congress' power to commandeer individuals by requiring them to purchase insurance. Again, the 10th Amendment declares that any powers not given to the federal government are reserved to the states or to the people.
This is the language that ought to have been used by the Court in its interrogation of Donald Verrilli. The Institute for Justice focuses on individual rights and one’s voluntary, consensual contractual relationships with others. This language, unfortunately, is missing from the Court’s proceedings. Will concludes his article with:
IJ correctly says that if the court were to ratify Congress' disregard for settled contract law, Congress' "power to compel contractual relations would have no logical stopping point." Which is why this case is the last exit ramp on the road to unlimited government.
George Leef, director of research, John W Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in North Carolina, also published an article that reprises several salient constitutional points, “The Constitution, 'Constitutional Law,' and ObamaCare.”
What must be challenged is the premise that the Constitution actually does grant Congress "broad power" over interstate commerce. The fact is that the language of the Constitution itself does not confer such power. Anyone who reads the document in search of a clear statement -- and the drafters were nothing if not clear, careful writers -- that Congress or the executive branch is supposed to have any power at all to dictate to individuals and businesses how they must act when engaged in "interstate commerce" searches in vain.
As noted above, the original meaning of the term “regulate” has been swept under the rug of past Court decisions. It no longer means prohibiting states from taxing or handicapping production and trade between individuals in different states.
At the heart of the current dispute is "the Commerce Clause." Included in Article I, Section 8 under the powers specifically given to Congress, we find this language: "To regulate Commerce with Foreign nations, and among the several States..." Why was that inserted? James Madison later explained that "the Commerce Clause grew out of the abuse of power by the importing states in taxing the non-importing, and was intended as a negative and preventive provision against injustice among the states, rather than as a power to be used for the positive purposes of the general government."
Thus, the purpose of that clause was to remedy a problem that had arisen in the new nation -- namely, that some states were impeding the flow of commerce with laws favoring producers within their borders. To keep commerce "regular" meant that Congress could enact laws to prevent that abuse of power by the states. It was never meant, as Madison wrote, as a grant of power for whatever future Congresses might want to do to control everything relating to people's commercial affairs.
Leef provides the historical context of how the modern meaning of “regulate” came into circulation:
Late in 1936, however, President Roosevelt, angered at a Court that had struck down many of his statist plans for controlling the nation's economy, issued his infamous threat to pack the Supreme Court. That plan met with a great deal of opposition within his own party, but it apparently worked on two members of the Court: Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes and Associate Justice Owen Roberts. When it came to deciding the test case involving FDR's extraordinarily authoritarian National Labor Relations Act in 1937, they switched from supporting the old, correct understanding of the Commerce Clause to supporting the "progressive interpretation" that the clause gave Congress power to enact any law that would somehow "affect" interstate commerce. The funny thing about that decision, Jones & Laughlin Steel, is that the majority never bothered to mention the Court's previous Commerce Clause decisions. It was as if Schechter disappeared into a black hole.
The Court continued along that same line, allowing Congress to do whatever it wanted by calling it "regulation of interstate commerce" until reaching the utterly absurd case Wickard v. Filburn in 1942. Under the Agricultural Adjustment Act, a farmer in Ohio was fined for having grown more wheat than federal regulators permitted him to. He argued that the law was unconstitutional (at least as applied to him) because all of the wheat had been consumed on his own property. None had been sold at all, so there was no commerce, much less "interstate commerce." But, eager to uphold the "progressive" ideal of unlimited federal control over every aspect of the economy, the Court fashioned a remarkable justification. Since the farmer might have purchased some wheat in interstate commerce if he had not illegally grown his own, his conduct therefore could have "affected" the interstate market for wheat, and therefore his action was subject to federal punishment.
Much more verbiage was devoted on March 27 to how an individual who did not purchase health insurance would somehow affect the costs of insurance and cause those costs to rise. To borrow a line of thinking from the Court: I do not consume avocados, never have, never will. But somehow that affects the price of avocados everywhere and I am to blame for the current and probable rise in the price of avocados. So, I must be compelled, under penalty of noncompliance, to buy avocados to help share the cost of avocados with everyone else, in the name of avocado regulation. My former absence from that market, after all, was a detriment to society as a whole.
Now, that is just as remarkable an analogy as that presented by the Court. But it is not an argument, by either the bench or the dock, that addresses the fundamental coercive nature of Obamacare, all 2,700 pages of it.
The rectangle of light in the acres of a farm was the window of the library of Judge Narragansett. He sat at a table and the light of his lamp fell on the copy of an ancient document. He had marked and crossed out the contradictions in its statements that had once been the cause of its destruction. He was now adding a new clause to its pages: "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of production and trade ..."*
In Ayn Rand’s prophetic novel, Atlas Shrugged, Narragansett is a judge who has withdrawn his wisdom from the world in protest of the kind of “wisdom” exhibited by the Supreme Court. What he would actually be writing is an amendment.
Doubtless he would have included the private realm of health insurance. It would have been a no-brainer.
*Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. 1957. New York: Signet 1992. Pp. 1068-1069.
3 Comments ::
:: Sunday, March 25, 2012 ::
Islamic Jihad: Hurry Up or Wait?
Posted by Edward Cline at 12:15 PM
“The difference between the "radicals" and the “moderates" is that the radicals want to engage in genocide even while they are a minority, while the moderates want to wait until they are a majority. The radicals are satisfied with killing a few Hindus, Christians, Jews, here and there. The moderates want to wait and kill millions. Neither are our allies. Both are our murderers.”
So wrote Daniel Greenfield in his Sultan Knish column of March 21st, “The New Nazis,” in response to the murders of a rabbi and three children in Toulouse, France, and to the murders of the French paratroopers by Mohamed Merah. He likens, and not for the first time, Muslim jihadists, their agenda, and their tactics, to those of the German Nazis. He ended his column with:
“The old Nazis marched in at the head of an army. The new Nazis bought a plane ticket. The old Nazis had to get by the French Armed Forces and the Royal Air Force. The new Nazis are welcomed in and anyone who says a word otherwise faces trials and jail sentences. The old Nazis deported Jews to camps. The new Nazis kill them right in the cities. And the killing will not stop until the Muslim occupation of Europe comes to an end.”
Greenfield is right. I would liken Islam to an ideological Black Death that must be faced up to by politicians and intellectuals. There's no such thing as a "benign" Islam. It is a death-worshipping ideology from top to bottom. And the only way to emasculate it is to repudiate it in its entirety.
The Black Death or the Bubonic Plague invaded Europe in the 14th century chiefly through Europe’s seaports. Ship rats carrying the Oriental rat fleas and passengers and crews of merchant vessels already infected by the fleas called on these ports and transmitted the disease to populations. The plague wiped out between 30 to 60% of Europe’s population over the course of two centuries, chiefly because no one knew what caused it or how to fight it. Beginning in 1346, it crept across Europe until by 1353 it had decimated all of Europe including a goodly portion of Russia. The Mideast was also stricken; many vessels calling on Italy, France, and England originated in the Black Sea. It would recede, then return many times over the centuries with diminishing potency, until the last outbreak of it in the early 19th century. The only nation to escape the Black Death’s first wave was Poland, which had no seaports, and Iceland, which had relatively little contact with Europe.
The Black Death was not welcome to Renaissance civilization. Political and religious leaders did not rationalize away its presence or its causes. They may have prayed for relief, or called it God’s vengeance, or perhaps blamed it on witches, but whatever they said, was said in ignorance of the causes. Suddenly, the plague was there and city streets filled up with the dead and diseased.
And today, just as suddenly, Europeans have noticed that their city streets were filling up with the living, walking, and arse-lifting dead, an invasion of them by invitation of their governments and often by the citizens themselves. The living dead wish to be accommodated in all things, which means gutting the cultures they migrated to and transforming them into replicas of the cultures they left behind.
I make no bones about my hatred of Islam. It isn’t the Rotary Club, or the Moonies, or any other harmless cult. Islam is as much a collectivist ideology as are socialism and communism and Nazism, and like those secular brands, its primary aim is total domination of their adoptive societies to the point that those societies become wholly Islamic. To submit to Islam is to voluntarily lobotomize oneself in favor of a ghostly authority and an iconic “prophet” who was basically a thug and a killer. Muslims submit to it, and expect all those around them to submit to it, or to defer to them.
Islam is the Black Death of modern times. It completes with secular totalitarianism. Its carriers are Muslims, who arrived by countless planeloads at the invitation and encouragement of western governments and proceeded to procreate and begin a process of insulation. At first these governments believed that Muslims would assimilate into the cultures they were migrating to, as though they were Christians of one sect settling into a country dominated by Christians of another sect. However, they were not Catholics settling in Lutheran Germany, or Episcopalians starting over in Catholic Italy.
There is no middle ground. There is no “reforming” Islam. Just as there is no “reforming” Nazism, or Maoism, or Stalinism. Islam is not a “buffet” religion; there is no picking and choosing which of its imperatives to adhere to, and which to disregard. The creed demands one’s full allegiance and obedience in every aspect of one’s private and public life, all one’s waking hours. That many Muslims do not live “by the book” is irrelevant. It’s their creed in whose name violent jihadists commit atrocities, and stealth or cultural jihadists corrode or corrupt Western social and judicial norms like bagworms consuming a tree’s bark, which means the death of the tree. The “silent majority” of Muslims dare not or care not to speak against the actions of their more zealous religious colleagues.
"Radical" and "moderate" Muslims aren't about to “reform” Islam to make it “tolerant” of other creeds or more palatable to their adoptive cultures. So that task must be accomplished by those who will be its ultimate victims, either as dhimmis, or corpses. The penicillins of multiculturalism, “diversity,” “tolerance,” “sensitivity,” moral relativism and plain political expediency are what have allowed the plague to kill so many and make significant inroads in Western civilization. It's time those who value that civilization to adopt the same "in your face" tactic as the violent and stealth jihadists have adopted. That will mean identifying Islam as a killer ideology. Period.
In his review of Abigail R. Esman’ Radical State on Family Security Matters, Patrick Donleavy noted:
“It would seem that the very strength of Holland’s democracy and tolerance became an Achilles' heel when it came to dealing with Muslim immigrants arriving from non-democratic, Islamic fundamentalist regimes.” [Italics mine]
The problem is that the Netherlands, like the U.S., has “democracy.” Democracy is mob rule. Should the Muslims achieve an electoral majority there, or even a significant minority – then The Netherlands is finished. As will be any other European nation that boasts both “democracy” and a Muslim population whose adults don't believe in condoms or contraceptives or self-restraint. Their “planned parenthood” strategy is to breed like rabbits with the aim of swamping indigenous populations with their numbers.
The antidote to “democracy” is a republican, limited government that upholds and respects individual rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness, all concepts antithetical to Islam and any other species of collectivism. This is what the Founders intended. They abhorred democracy. Democracy means that the majority can nullify one's rights and seize one's life and property, and abridge one's happiness at will. This is what successive American administrations have been doing under the guidance of the Democratic Party, abetted by a politically bankrupt Republican Party. So, until Europe discovers the principle of individual rights, it is doomed to thrash about combating Islam without knowing what political system would make it impossible to conquer Europe. Banning burqas in France isn't going to prevent such a conquest.
The Economist ran a story on Mohamed Merah that is typical of mainstream media reporting of the killings. Unlike many other publications, It actually employed the term “Muslim” but with cautious qualification to underplay the Islamic motivation in the killings: Merah was segregated from his Muslim calling and branded as a “lone wolf”:
Yet the number of Frenchmen returning from al-Qaeda camps with such high-level training is only “in single digits” reckons François Heisbourg, of the French Institute for Strategic Research. Isolated French Muslims, radicalized in Islamist training camps, have been foiled trying to mount terror attacks in France before.
Once the candidates resume their campaigns, Mr Sarkozy may emerge strengthened. Having flown straight to Toulouse after the school shootings, he has done a skilful job of being statesmanlike and solemn, yet in touch with the national mood. His Socialist rival, François Hollande, has also sounded the right note, but from the shadows. Marine Le Pen, the far-right National Front candidate, may also benefit. She spoke out this week against confusing Muslims with fundamentalists, and denounced those who had at first accused her of being implicated for having fuelled racial divisions in France. “Putting real problems on the table in no way justifies the spread of Islamic fundamentalism,” she declared. The real issue, she added, was that such fundamentalism in France had been “underestimated”. [Italics mine]
Even Marine Le Pen, who is campaigning against Sarkozy on an anti-immigration and nationalist plank, found it politick to temper her words by claiming that Muslims shouldn’t be confused with Islamic fundamentalists. Which misses the point that Islam is inherently radical and can’t be divorced from its inherent fundamentalist tenets. That is, Merah’s motivations can’t be excised from Islam. What is already radical cannot be radicalized. One may as well deny that spaghetti is a form of pasta.
Merah wasn’t a “lone wolf” sociopath like Andre Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer. Merah was not acting out an episode of Sesame Street, but rather the imperatives of the Koran. He went to Afghanistan for jihadist training. His brother was a probable accomplice in securing Merah the weapons he used and stockpiled in his apartment. And the further the French authorities delve into Merah’s background and actions, the more they will find links to the “leaderless jihadist” network and Islam.
The Associated Press also commits the same error. Rewritten to excise any mention of Muslims and Islam, the original Associated Press article read:
PARIS - Authorities investigating France's deadly shooting rampage have released the mother of the Islamist fanatic blamed for the killings but were questioning his older brother to determine whether he served as an accomplice, officials said Saturday.
Police are trying to determine whether 23-year-old Mohamed Merah had any help in carrying out the execution-style murders of seven people that have shocked France and refocused attention on the threat of radical Muslim terrorists. Police say there is evidence to suggest that his brother worked as an assistant. [Italics mine]
The usage of the terms “Islamist fanatic” and “radical Muslim terrorists” is an instance of denial that a Muslim’s criminal action has anything to do with Islam. “Islamic fundamentalism” is a redundancy. One’s life is not jeopardized by “fanatical” Catholics or imperiled by “Mormon fundamentalism” because one isn’t asked by fanatical Catholics or Mormon fundamentalists to defer to their beliefs or even respect them. But such deference (and submission) is routinely required of non-Musims by Muslims and organizations such as CAIR, the ICNA, the MSA, and other Islamic front organizations.
I was reminded of an early episode of Star Trek, in which Captain Kirk and his crew land on a planet governed by 1930’s period gangsters, whose “bible” is a history of 20th century organized crime and whose customs and practices are followed to the letter by the society. It was an amusing episode written around an incredible premise.
And that reminiscence caused me to recall the ending of Francis Ford Coppola’s first Godfather movie. While Michael Corleone, acting as godfather of a son of a gang member he has had executed (his sister Connie’s husband), is attending the solemn baptism of his godson, on his orders rival gangsters are violently wiped out across the country.
That powerful, cascading sequence of scenes may be taken as the essence of Islam. There is no fundamental difference between Michael Corleone’s loyalty to the tribe and his concept of “family honor” and demands for respect, and that boasted of by Muslims. That is what panicked politicians and “moderate” Muslims must grasp here and in Europe before any progress can be made against the war declared and waged against the West by Islam. No compromise is possible between Islam and its utter and complete repudiation.
This is a philosophical conflict, and not merely a “religious” or political one. Islam’s spokesmen seem to know or sense this. Our “protectors” do not. The Mohamed Merah’s of Islam are in a hurry. The “moderates” are counseling patience.
We are their enemies. We are targeted for destruction or subjugation by both groups. Whether one views the Islamic incursions as a form of the Black Death, or as the corrupting influence of gangster government, the West must identify its enemy before it can be successfully opposed.
8 Comments ::
:: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 ::
Posted by Edward Cline at 8:38 PM
Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses, a chaotic and bewildering novel which earned him a permanent death fatwa by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in February 1989, will attend a literary conference in New Delhi, India in March, in defiance of Islamic naysayers. We can credit him with the defiance, but not his oeuvre with literary worth. I signed a petition in 1989 that opposed the fatwa and called on Western governments to uphold freedom of speech, a petition inspired by Khomeini’s death sentence on Rushdie and on anyone who dared defend him or promote his book.
Out of curiosity, I tried reading The Satanic Verses, and one-quarter into it was unable and unwilling to finish it. I would liken it to a fantasy tale centered around the ribald adventures of believers in the merged worlds of the Rosicrucians and Yale’s Skull and Bones secret society.
If it hadn’t been for Khomeini’s fatwa, as someone has noted elsewhere, Rushdie’s novel would be gathering dust in second-hand bookstores, and Rushdie himself perhaps would be writing for The Daily Telegraph or the Guardian to earn a living.
So, what were those “Satanic Verses” that got the turbaned tyrants of Iran incensed? What is Sura 53 all about? It has to do with that obsession of inadequate and repressed Muslims everywhere: women! No wonder they’re raped, and beaten, and disfigured, and reduced to fractions and invisibility! Allah was the original male chauvinist pig. But, never mind The Satanic Verses. Here is a less obtuse accounting of what really happened in seventh century Mecca.
Once upon a time Allah had three daughters. You heard right. Not one, but three daughters, and they were all as powerful as he. As goddesses, they were worshipped by Arabs before Mohammad put an end to that pagan polytheism. Their names were al-Lät, al-Uzza, and Manät. They were okay, said the Angel Gabriel to him in his sleep, or in his dreams, or in his ear. “They are the Sorority of Serenity Now! Sirens of the Belly-Dance. Top-drawer cunning vixens! Make offerings to them in their temples, and your wishes will be granted!”
That was the original Sura, as reported by early Islamic scholars. Mohammad of course was dictating the Koran and speaking as though in a trance (reciting what he was hearing, so to speak, or so he claimed), and his scribe hurriedly scratched it all down on parchment rescued from the looted Alexandrian Library, bleached of any blasphemy. Mohammad, the Billy Sunday of his day, had decided that the Meccans he was trying to convert to Islam liked variety in their deities. Why not keep some sexy seductresses, and add some spice to the creed?
At least, that’s what he thought he thought, as he was listening to “the voice.” Mohammad was of two minds: he was hearing voices, while his subconscious worked overtime to see how he could take advantage of what he was hearing.
Then he had a change of mind. Or Gabriel came to him again one night, chewed him out, and changed it for him. Gabriel peered over the scribe’s shoulder and read the latest Sura. He exploded.
“You fool! You dunderhead! That wasn’t me whispering in your ear last night! That was…Shaytan! I was in the Crab Nebula last night on other business, so I never told you that Allah had three daughters! I got a proper tongue-lashing from Allah this morning, thanks to your date-addled brain, you mewling kid of a camel, you spawn of a Jewess!”
Mohammad looked hurt and humiliated. He muttered under his breath, “Oops!”
Gabriel paced back and forth furiously, shaking his finger at Mohammad. “Now, listen up, chowder head! There is only one God, and his name is Allah! No goddesses! No daughters! No sons, either! Tell your scribe to cross out that Sura, and replace it with, ‘Are men’s children to be boys and Allah’s to be girls? How unfair!’ That’s how it should read! Those are Allah’s very words!”
Now, Mohammad wanted to establish a new religion, and be exalted for what remained of eternity as its infallible founder. Still, he found it a curiously awkward means to spread the Word, and the Word was Allah’s. A rather roundabout way of revealing that Word to mortals he could not imagine, he would think in his most private moments. Allah speaks it to this snooty Angel, and the Angel whispers it to him, and he recites it to this bent-over, aging scribe. Not very time efficient.
Mohammad blinked in confusion. “But, oh, my Winged Whispering Wonder! What about al-Lät, and al-Uzza, and Manät? Do they not exist? Temples have been built for them, the yokels here have worshipped them for ages. Are we to have no variety in our worship? Allah is fine, as the Main Moon Man, but…people say it gets old, just worshipping one god. Why not a family of them?” He paused, and had a thought. “And if they are his daughters, who was their mother? We are missing a goddess, it would seem.”
“What Shaytan told you was blasphemy!” shouted Gabriel. “There are no other gods! Only Allah! All other gods are figments of men’s imaginations! Unreal! Without temporal or spiritual substance! Shape up, Mohammad, or Allah will choose another Prophet, and leave you to run with the dogs!”
Mohammad looked quizzical. He blurted, “Is Allah androgynous? Is he…without gender?”
Gabriel was stunned by this statement. Mohammad was illiterate. Where could he have picked up those words? But, he stepped up to Mohammad and slapped him silly, and so hard that the lice in the Prophet’s beard jumped ship, and Mohammad’s cheek was red for a day and a night. “How dare you question Allah’s manhood, you filthy jammal! You pile of dog chur!”
But Gabriel otherwise did not answer the question. He remained in the tent long enough to make sure that Mohammad instructed the scribe to make the change. He could not instruct the scribe himself, because he was visible only to Mohammad, and could only be heard by the Prophet. Mohammad explained to the scribe that he got it wrong the first time, because of accumulated wax in his ear.
The scribe, of course, was accustomed to Mohammad talking to himself, or at least to the unseen and unheard Angel Gabriel. He sort of believed in the existence of the Angel, because, often as he scratched away on the parchment, he felt a cold presence weighing on his shoulders and breathing down his neck.
We are assuming that Gabriel was of the masculine suasion. The Bible tells us so.
Before he went poof and vanished, the Angel Gabriel pulled from inside his robes a long, curved object. “Here,” he said. “With this you will conquer Arabia, if all else fails.” He handed it to Mohammad.
The Prophet gasped and took the object. Holding the bejeweled and intricately tooled leather scabbard in one hand, with the other he drew out a curved sword. The blade was shiny and beaten to razor sharpness. It was the most wicked looking weapon he had ever seen. His hand fit perfectly inside the guard, grip, and pommel. He hefted it once or twice. It had an admirable balance. “Milord!” he exclaimed. “What workmanship! What is it called?”
“It is a scimitar,” answered Gabriel, ignoring the open-mouthed amazement of the scribe, to whom the weapon had appeared miraculously in Mohammad’s hands without cause. “It is a better tool for conversion than the spears and flat swords your companions carry.” He paused and looked sly. “What does its form remind you of, Mohammad?”
The Prophet’s sight was fixed on the gleaming metal. His mind was dazzled. He shook his head.
“Allah is the Moon God, and that is the shape of the quarter moon. Henceforth, that will be your symbol, and your pulpit, so to speak. Sew that symbol to your banners. Now, get to work! Pack up everything here and move to Medina! There you may plot without distraction.” With that, the Angel Gabriel said, “ma'a as-salaama,” and went poof.
“Thank Allah for me,” said Mohammad to the empty air.
So, Sura 53:19-20 were emended to deny the reality of Allah’s daughters. These are verses 21-22.
Of course, this embarrassing and compromising episode was reported over a century after Mohammad’s alleged death (his existence being alleged anyway) by Ibn Ishaq and al-Tabari. They had cell phone camera video evidence of the confrontation and correction – recorded by an anonymous witness, who may have been Baal – but that evidence was lost during the turmoil of the Islamic conquest of the Arabian Peninsula.
As everyone knows, Islam was so far ahead of its time. Lost also are volumes on quantum mechanics, heart transplants, the discovery of Uranus and Neptune, various heliocentric theories, a tantalizing treatise on electricity, a dissertation on agricultural irrigation, not to mention the entire oeuvre of Abdul ibn-Knish, including his Córdoban comedies. Western scholars argue that ibn-Knish was the Noël Coward of his day, to judge by the pitifully few fragments of his plays that are preserved in the Vatican Library. It is thought by experts that the Angel Samantha served as ibn-Knish’s muse, going by the name of Elvira.
In the Unexpurgated Koran, only one copy of which has survived and which is secured in a booby-trapped vault deep beneath the Vatican, another scholar relates that it was the Angel Samantha who whispered the untruths into Mohammad’s ear about Allah’s daughters. In this rare, early copy of the Koran, Suras 53 through 57 have been nicknamed the “Henpecked Allah Verses.”
The Angel Samantha was in due course unceremoniously chucked out of Paradise by Allah, once he learned of her betrayal and her role in advising Mohammad behind Gabriel’s back. As she plummeted to the flaming nether regions in a burqa, she balled up a fist, punched a hole through it, and shouted back, “Oh, who wants to sit at your stinking feet forever singing your praises, you megalomaniac!” It is reputed that she formed a liaison with Shayton and assisted him over the millennia in spurring hostile and often bloody divisions among Muslims. It was, underground scholars aver, she who enticed many Muslims to part from the Sunnis and become Shi’ites, whose original name was “She’s It!” It was quite a radical career change.
Of course, most of the Korans that are regularly burned by Muslims are those containing the uncorrected Sura 53 and other shocking and prurient chapters that were simply edited out of standard, general circulation Korans over the centuries by conscientious Islamic scholars. It explains much, such as why most Muslims are a humorless lot and super-sensitive to any criticism. Muslims are a most repressed people. And the Korans with the corrected Sura 53 underscore Islam’s inherent and wholly creditable misogyny, not to mention the scale of its troubling and murderous psychosis.
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:: Monday, March 19, 2012 ::
The “False Alarm” of the latest Executive Order
Posted by Edward Cline at 1:24 PM
A few nights ago I watched John Frankenheimer’s Seven Days in May (1964). And a few nights before that, his The Manchurian Candidate (1962). I was in a foul, pessimistic mood, given the nature of the presidential election campaign and the vacillating prospects of seeing a changing of the Red Guard in the White House. Both movies, excellent in their direction, casting and theme, dramatized conspiracies to take over the United States government and establish a dictatorship.
Then, on Sunday morning, March 18th, I learned about the National Defense Resources Preparedness Executive Order, signed into law by President Barack H. Obama on March 16th. As some news blogs noted, Friday was a curious time to inform the nation of the NDRP EO, or “EO 12919” (for Executive Order), an EO to which the mainstream media seemed oblivious and un-newsworthy.
I immediately recalled Directive 10-289 from Ayn Rand’s prophetic novel, Atlas Shrugged, in which the Head of State, at the behest of his national economic planner, issues a decree that freezes everyone and everything in place to combat an ongoing, government-caused national “emergency.”
Previously, in December, I had written about the ambiguous language in certain sections of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 (NDAA), language that could authorize the warrantless arrests of American citizens for cocking a snook at the government and treating said citizens as enemy combatants or prisoners of war subject to indefinite detention in conditions less salubrious than those enjoyed by actual enemy combatants now housed in Gitmo. EO 12919 seemed to complement the NDAA. Searching for the text of the EO on the Internet, I saw that it was the subject of scores of blog sites and news outlets, most claiming that it was a move by Obama to take over the government or establish tyranny. In fact, many of them cited Directive 10-289.
I found the full text of the EO on the White House site, and also a critique of it on Hot Air by Ed Morrissey, “’National Defense Resources Preparedness’ executive order: Power grab or mere update?” I read the EO, expecting to find the worst; however, the droll bureaucratic language almost caused me to nod off. It dwelt mostly on shifts of delegated powers among the Cabinet and federal departments to “identify, assess, be prepared, improve, foster cooperation.” Most of the language seemed to be a legitimate mandate for a government charged with defending the country from its enemies.
Then I read Morrissey’s comments. Morrissey justifiably chided everyone for being alarmed by EO 12919. In a thoroughly researched article, he stressed that the EO is merely an amendment to an EO enacted in 1950 during the Korean War and subsequently revised to accommodate technological and policy changes since then.
Again, this is almost identical to EO 12919 from 18 years earlier . Note what this EO specifically orders: identify, assess, be prepared, improve, foster cooperation. None of these items claim authority to seize private property and place them at the personal disposal of Obama. What follows after Section 103 are the directives for implementing these rather analytical tasks, mostly in the form of explicit delegations of presidential authority to Cabinet members and others in the executive branch.
If one takes a look at EO 12919, the big change is in the Cabinet itself. In 1994, we didn’t have a Department of Homeland Security, for instance, and some of these functions would naturally fall to DHS. In EO 12919, the FEMA director had those responsibilities, and the biggest change between the two is the removal of several references to FEMA (ten in all). Otherwise, there aren’t a lot of changes between the two EOs, which looks mainly like boilerplate.
In fact, that’s almost entirely what it is. The original EO dealing with national defense resources preparedness was issued in 1939 (EO 8248) according to the National Archives. It has been superseded a number of times, starting in 1951 by nearly every President through Bill Clinton, and amended twice by George W. Bush.
As Morrissey writes, many “right-wing” bloggers susceptible to conspiracy theories jumped the gun, asserting that EO 12919 was a creature of the current administration. That was my original supposition, as well. Morrissey was seconded in his correction by Doug Mataconis of Outside the Beltway:
Executive Order itself is nothing more than a restatement of policy that has been in place in decades and grants no authority to the President or the Cabinet that they don’t already have under existing law. …
There are, perhaps, some issues worth discussing that this EO raises. The fact that the President of the United States is still exercising authority granted during the Korean War and the height of the Cold War is yet another reflection of how power, once assumed by the Imperial Presidency, is never surrendered.
The fact that an Executive Order like this was released on a Friday afternoon and has been largely ignored by the traditional media is an indication of just how easy it is for politicians to manipulate the news cycle. And the idea that the government has authority like that described in this document, even only in theory, and that most Americans aren’t even aware of it, is a reflection of just how little we know about the things that are done in our name. Those are all legitimate issues, but they go far deeper than this one relatively innocuous Executive Order.
So, the news about EO 12919 is that there is no news.
Still, Mataconis does question the dubious legitimacy of granting the executive branch powers that could easily morph from ensuring that the government has the equipment, funding, and means to deal with “national emergencies” – which remain undefined throughout the document, which could mean a war, or a natural catastrophe – to powers to “manage” any crisis the White House could find handy or even manufacture to excuse an assumption of dictatorial powers.
Furthermore, actions sanctioned by the EO do not require Congressional approval. Precedents include President Bush not asking for a formal declaration of war against Iraq, albeit taking military action, or Bill Clinton’s Bosnian “intervention.” Or even Obama’s Libyan “intervention.” The EO could have been invoked, for all we know, to take over General Motors (“too big to fail”), or be invoked to ensure the survival the Patient Affordable Protection Act should the Supreme Court declare it unconstitutional.
There are two ways that presidents can enact initiatives without congressional approval. Presidents may issue a proclamation, often ceremonial in nature, such as naming a day in honor of someone or something that has contributed to American society. A president may also issue an executive order, which has the full effect of law and is directed to federal agencies that are charged with carrying out the order. Examples include Franklin D. Roosevelt's executive order for the internment of Japanese-Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Harry Truman's integration of the armed forces and Dwight Eisenhower's order to integrate the nation's schools.
Congress cannot directly vote to override an executive order in the way it can a veto. Instead, Congress must pass a bill canceling or changing the order in a manner they see fit. The president will typically veto that bill, and then Congress can try to override the veto of that second bill. The Supreme Court can also declare an executive order to be unconstitutional. Congressional cancellation of an order is extremely rare.
There are many troubling points in EO 12919, one of which is the indeterminate nature of the “national emergencies” that would justify the decree of an EO. Another is the ambiguous statement that:
The head of each agency otherwise delegated functions under this order is delegated the authority of the President under sections 710(b) and (c) of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2160(b), (c), to employ persons of outstanding experience and ability without compensation and to employ experts, consultants, or organizations. [Sec. 502. Consultants]
Which may or may not mean indentured servitude. Time will tell
“Section 702 of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2152,” as well as other Acts, is frequently cited throughout EO 12919. Section 702 here concerns “emergency” powers approved in 2003. But one must wonder if the Founders had intended the government to collect so much information on not only the economy, its industrial and technological base (which the government treats off-handedly as a personal asset), but on the private citizens who make it all possible. I think not.
And how does the federal government usually “foster cooperation,” except by extortion, fraud, bribery, falsehoods, blackmail, and direct physical force? It is not as benign a term as it appears.
Mac Slavo at The Intel Hub also “jumps the gun,” but ends his column with a calmer warning:
When implemented simultaneously with existing laws and Presidential orders, the National Defense Resources Preparedness executive order establishes a clear chain of command and control over all aspects of American life in what can only be described as a police state under martial law.
And that’s the rub. The groundwork for a fascist control of the country is there. It has been carefully laid over decades. And it may be that even the White House knows that it is too early to implement simultaneously all those “emergency” orders and laws, because the reaction by Americans would make the Tea Party phenomenon look like a friendly marital spat.
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:: Thursday, March 15, 2012 ::
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 9:01 PM
Welcome to the March 1st, 2012 edition of the Objectivist Round-Up. This week presents insight and analyses written by authors who are animated by Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand. According to Ayn Rand:
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.
Nicholas Marquiss presents “Ron Paul Lacks the Principles Needed to Defend Freedom” at The Undercurrent, saying: “In this piece written for The Undercurrent, Nicholas Marquiss highlights the failure of Ron Paul to truly grasp and defend individual rights.”
Jon Glatfelter presents “Do We Need Faith to Know Right From Wrong?” at The Undercurrent, saying “Is morality the process of adhering to divine edicts? In this Campus Media Response, Jon Glatfelter argues otherwise.”
Zak Szalewski presents "The Hypocrisy of Islamic States" at The Rational Extremist, saying: "I am an Objectivist and new to the blogging circle."
Jared Rhoads presents “Assorted thoughts on contraception, Bell, physicians, and more” at Center for Objective Health Policy, saying “Here are a few short thoughts and observations on recent events--some health-related and some not.”
Darius Cooper presents “Federal Debt Project” at Practice Good Theory, saying “I show how government debt is projected to grow.”
Ross England presents “Organ Donation: Check the ‘Selfish Bastard’ Box for Me Too” at Think Twice, saying “Some of my thoughts on the wisdom of having organ donor status on your driver’s license.”
Paul Hsieh presents “Free Market Lessons from Contraception Fight” at We Stand FIRM, saying “My latest at PJM discusses 3 lessons we should learn from the political fight over birth control.”
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.
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Ayn Rand Nation: A Celebrity Roast
Posted by Edward Cline at 12:37 PM
Imagine a lecture on the ideas of Ayn Rand – or on those of Immanuel Kant, or John Locke, or Plato, or Aristotle, or on the philosophical system of any major thinker of the past – delivered by Ronald MacDonald in full clown regalia. Pretty ludicrous?
Picture it combined with the rhetorical equivalent of “death by a thousand chortles,” punctuated with spittle-spewing Bronx cheers. Pretty disgusting? Not very amusing?
Then you will have an idea of the nature and purpose of Gary Weiss’s book on Rand and Objectivism, Ayn Rand Nation: The Hidden Struggle for America’s Soul. (St. Martin’s Press, 2012). Weiss presumes to be a kind of modern day Dante Alighieri who will show you the “truth” about Rand and her philosophy. What he actually is, is a pretentious stand-up comedian who’s cadged the words and sentiments of a host of malicious detractors who went before him.
The title itself is misleading. At first glance, it suggests an in-depth study of how Rand’s ideas have permeated the culture, especially in politics, in terms of opposition to federal economic and social policies. But it is no such thing. The book is mocking, sneering screed, two hundred and ninety-nine pages long, penned by a nihilist posing as an “investigative” journalist. Or muckraker. Better copy can be found in any supermarket tabloid.
The first part of the title also is an exercise in calculated tackiness. Roll it off your tongue. “Ayn Rand Nation” slurs into “Alienation.” This is called syllabic autosuggestion, and is meant to worm its way into one’s mind like an aural earwig. If you are susceptible to that kind of psychological manipulation, it might work.
In his Huffington Post column of March 7th, “Why You Shouldn’t Dismiss Ayn Rand,” Weiss claims that his book is about why Ayn Rand’s ideas should be taken seriously. But once one has the book in hand and is read from page one, one will see that it is actually a plea to not take her ideas seriously. It is a long-winded warning, written as an “exposé,” to stay away from Rand’s ideas, lest one be branded as a kook or a cultist or a zombie. Weiss coined several other disparaging names for Rand and Objectivists in this book, which will not be repeated here.
Nor will any of the book’s contents be discussed here. There is not a single page in which Weiss does not employ his disdain and malice. And what would be the point of actually reviewing such a book? It is a hatchet job from beginning to end on Ayn Rand, on Objectivism and Objectivists, and on many of the interviewees, whom I suspect were interviewed under the false pretense of a serious interest in Rand.
A Barnes & Noble ad for Weiss’s book glowingly reads:
Weiss provides a strategy for a renewed national dialogue, an embrace of the nation’s core values that is needed to deal with Rand’s pervasive grip on society.
Yes, that’s right. Weiss wishes people to “deal with” Rand’s allegedly “pervasive grip on society.” If it were true that her ideas had such a “pervasive grip,” the country would not be in as bad a shape it is in. But the ad does identify the fact that Weiss regards Rand as an enemy to “deal with.” The “strategy”? Guffaws unlimited. Snickers by the dozen. Countless calloused elbows and sore ribs.
Publishers Weekly also gave Weiss a pass.
Weiss poses an important question: will we be a country that values human life and dignity, or one that values only the dollar?
There’s a dichotomy? A conflict? Rand wrote there needn’t be one, but neither Publishers Weekly nor Weiss understands this. Well, perhaps Weiss does, which would partly explain why anyone so desperate to derogate Rand and her ideas would stoop to writing a two-hundred and ninety-nine page celebrity roast.
To attempt to refute or rebut anything said in Weiss’s book would merely dignify an insult by elevating it to the level of a philosophical proposition worthy of an answer.
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:: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 ::
The Afghanistan Murders and the Abyss of Altruism
Posted by Edward Cline at 11:09 PM
The military policy of the United States has been governed by altruism since at least World War I, when Herbert Croly, the proto-fascist and Progressive writer, advocated that America involve itself in that war as a “tonic of a serious moral adventure.” The shocking news is that, if an American soldier murdered sixteen Afghani citizens in cold blood, it is a direct consequence of that policy.
The messianic President Wilson could not pass up what he saw as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help remake the world. As historian Arthur Ekirch writes in The Decline of American Liberalism, "The notion of a crusade came naturally to Wilson, the son of a Presbyterian minister, imbued with a stern Calvinist sense of determinism and devotion to duty." He was goaded by a host of Progressive intellectuals, such as John Dewey and Herbert Croley, editor of The New Republic, who wrote that "the American nation needs the tonic of a serious moral adventure."
In terms of a self-sacrificing foreign policy, you can’t get more altruistic than that. It has been the rule of thumb ever since, with only superficial variations on the theme.
To forego any counter-arguments, it is not the purpose of this column to argue for or against why the U.S. involved itself in that war and in World War II, as well. America was already regarded as an enemy by Germany before our entry into either war; it may have become embroiled in those conflicts regardless of the rationality or irrationality of our policy. Speculation on this particular issue is not the subject here.
First, it would be helpful to clarify exactly what I am referring to when I say that our foreign policy has been governed altruism, and it would be especially helpful if we got it from the horse’s mouth, that of French philosopher, Auguste Comte:
Altruism (also called the ethic of altruism, moralistic altruism, and ethical altruism) is an ethical doctrine that holds that individuals have a moral obligation to help, serve, or benefit others, if necessary at the sacrifice of self interest. Auguste Comte’s version of altruism calls for living for the sake of others. One who holds to either of these ethics is known as an "altruist."
The word "altruism" (French, altruisme, from autrui: "other people", derived from Latin alter: "other") was coined by Comte, the French founder of positivism, in order to describe the ethical doctrine he supported. He believed that individuals had a moral obligation to renounce self-interest and live for others. Comte says, in his Catéchisme Positiviste, that:
[The] social point of view cannot tolerate the notion of rights, for such notion rests on individualism. We are born under a load of obligations of every kind, to our predecessors, to our successors, to our contemporaries. After our birth these obligations increase or accumulate, for it is some time before we can return any service.... This ["to live for others"], the definitive formula of human morality, gives a direct sanction exclusively to our instincts of benevolence, the common source of happiness and duty. [Man must serve] Humanity, whose we are entirely."
Two articles were published almost immediately after news of the crime broke, Ralph Peters’s angry article on Family Security Matters (FSM, March 13), Soldiers Murders Afghans – Generals Murder Solders: It was Only a Matter of Time Before One of Our Men Broke Down,” and Daniel Greenfield’s bitter and sardonic Sultan Knish article of March 12, “The Blood Price of Afghanistan.”
By contrast, the MSM reported the killings with an almost palpable tone of glee, a tone of near relief that finally, American troops can be accused of something heinous, and America itself implicated in the crime. CNN decided to quote the dismay of one of the head savages in Afghanistan:
NATO's International Security Assistance Force said the soldier acted alone and turned himself in after opening fire on civilians. U.S. President Barack Obama called the killings "tragic and shocking," and offered his condolences to the Afghan people in a phone call to his counterpart in Kabul, Hamid Karzai, the White House said.
But no condolences offered for the numerous Americans, Canadians, British, and Australians killed in cold blood by Afghans?
But the attack is likely to further more anger at international forces following deadly riots over the burning of Qurans by U.S. troops.
Oh, yes, let’s bring up those Korans with the scrawled Muslim marginal notes that were burned. Let’s fuel the anger by mentioning that subject.
"The Afghan people can withstand a lot of pain," Prince Ali Seraj, the head of the National Coalition for Dialogue with the Tribes of Afghanistan, told CNN. "They can withstand collateral damage. They can withstand night raids. But murder is something that they totally abhor, and when that happens, they really want justice."
Really? The Taliban and other Afghans “abhor” murder? But not honor killings, rape, torture, beheadings, ritual disfigurements, beatings, and whippings, all prescribed or sanctioned by the Koran? All a matter of everyday practice in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Libya…well, you know the map. ABC opined:
In the wake of the Quran burnings, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, visited troops at a base that was attacked last month and urged them not to give in to the impulse for revenge.
The tensions between the two countries had appeared to be easing as recently as Friday, when the two governments signed a memorandum of understanding about the transfer of Afghan detainees to Afghan control -- a key step toward an eventual strategic partnership to govern U.S. forces in the country.
Now, another wave of anti-American hatred could threaten the entire future of the mission, fueling not only anger among the Afghans whom the coalition is supposed to be defending but also encouraging doubts among U.S. political figures that the long and costly war is worth the sacrifice in lives and treasury.
General Allen ought to caution the troops on revenge – but, revenge on whom? Revenge on the politically-correct officer corps that instructs the troops to not fight back, to not show disrespect for the Afghans and their brutal and primitive culture, to not feel resentment for being a mere sitting-ducks “police force” to contain an enemy the policymakers dare not name, to not resent being guinea pigs in an altruistic war to bring “stability” to a part of the world that has never known it and never will?
And the transfer of those Afghan detainees? Did the “memorandum of understanding” lock the Afghan government into a promise to detain the “detainees” in the rottenest prison in the country? Or did the Afghan signers of the memorandum sign it with tongue in cheek?
And, oh, gee, we mustn’t do anything that will unleash another wave of anti-American hatred and murderous anger, like exterminate the Taliban, withhold financial and material aid to a corrupt government, or urinate on Taliban fighters, or even so much as sketch a cartoon of Mohammad in a Koran. No, we, the policymakers and the MSM, will only focus and dwell on American actions, and not Afghan crime, for after all, if we weren’t there, there wouldn’t be any Afghan crime.
Right. Before the Americans arrived, Afghanistan was the playground of the rich and famous, with immaculate beaches, five-star hotels, a friendly and outgoing populace, health spas, ski resorts, and crime statistics so low they put the Amish country to shame.
Ralph Peters’s column netted several score comments from readers of FSM. It resonated with those readers, because he was able to paint a picture of the obscene decrepitude that is Afghanistan, a decrepitude America should never have tried to correct, because it is the natural state of the country.
If there’s a “battle cry” in Afghanistan, it’s “Blame the troops!” Generals out of touch with the ugly, brute reality on the ground down in the Taliban-sympathizing villages respond to every seeming crisis in Afghan-American relations by telling our troops to “respect Afghan culture.”
But generals don’t have a clue about Afghan “culture.” They interact with well-educated, privileged, English-speaking Afghans who know exactly which American buttons to press to keep the tens of billions of dollars in annual aid flowing. The troops, on the other hand, daily encounter villagers who will not warn them about Taliban-planted booby traps or roadside bombs, who obviously want them to leave, who relish the abject squalor in which they live and who appear to value the lives of their animals above those of their women. When our Soldiers and Marines hear, yet again, that they need to “respect Afghan culture,” they must want to puke up their rations.
And that’s the country and populace we are sacrificing blood and treasure to bring “democracy” to a hellhole. But the “democracy” was already there. The squalor and the brute culture is what the Afghans want. They voted for it at an invisible ballot box, the ballot box of stagnation and status quo.
Right now, our troops are being used as props in a campaign year, as pawns by dull-witted generals who just don’t know what else to do, and as cash cows by corrupt Afghan politicians, generals and warlords (all of whom agree that it’s virtuous to rob the Americans blind).
What are our goals? What is our strategy? We’re told, endlessly, that things are improving in Afghanistan, yet, ten years ago, a U.S. Army general, unarmed, could walk the streets of Kabul without risk. Today, there is no city in Afghanistan where a U.S. general could stroll the streets. We may not have a genius for war, but we sure do have a genius for kidding ourselves.
And the moral code that allows us to kid ourselves is: Altruism. After all, altruism can do no harm. It cannot be corrupted. It cannot corrupt.
Altruism took us to Iraq and Afghanistan, and altruism will be the death of us there (and of more U.S. troops). Purists claim that you can't corrupt altruism, that only good can emanate from it. But, there you are. Mr. Peters identifies with justifiable anger just how that can be and has been done. He puts his finger on the cause of such crimes by excoriating the policies that have governed the conduct of American operations in Afghanistan.
Is it really better to give than to receive? Altruism says so. But all the U.S. has received in return for expending American lives and incalculable wealth in that hellhole is hatred, scorn, and death.
It's interesting to note that the advocates of self-sacrifice rarely volunteer to sacrifice themselves, if they have cannon fodder available and the funds to send the cannon fodder in their place. Altruism is eminently corruptible, and the Afghan murder incident is merely the most visible instance of it. The advocates indulge in their altruism by proxy – with other men’s lives. They consider themselves virtuous. In reality, they are a unique species of coward – men who know the consequences of the moral code they expect others to abide by, but refuse to themselves, because they know it means death and dishonor.
That is the dirty little secret of every altruist who has ever championed self-sacrifice. And when someone goes insane and violates that code, they howl in indignation. They disavow any knowledge of its inevitable consequences. They pose and pontificate about that “higher cause” and spit on its victims.
Altruism can also corrupt, and cause one to sacrifice or surrender one’s most cherished values – or to employ force to compel others to surrender them.
Daniel Greenfield’s Sultan Knish article is nearly literary in its explication of that altruist “military” policy.
The alleged attack on Afghans by an American soldier in Kandahar, where 91 soldiers have been murdered last year alone, is already receiving the full outrage treatment. Any outrage over the deaths of those 91 soldiers in the province will be completely absent.
There will be no mention of how many of them died because the Obama Administration decided that the lives of Afghan civilians counted for more than the lives of soldiers. No talk of what it is like to walk past houses with gunmen dressed in civilian clothing inside and if you are fired at from those houses, your orders are to retreat.
No, no POTUS, no MSM anchor or pundit, no Charlie Rose or “Washington Week” host will raise those issues. After all, self-sacrifice demands that our soldiers expose themselves to the whim and malice of their enemies. Isn’t that what soldiering is all about? So, please, don’t bore our liberal/left elite with such stories.
Air strikes are for days gone by. The American soldier in the ISAF is expected to patrol and retreat, to smile and reach out to Afghans while they shoot him in the back. After risking his life to hold back the Taliban, he is expected to take it calmly when his government announces that it is trying to cut a deal with the Taliban. As he waits out the final months until withdrawal, seeing his friends lose their limbs and their lives, knowing that the enemy has won, that he has been betrayed and is being kept senselessly on the front line for no objective except the diplomatic position of a government that hates him, that is taking away his health care, his equipment and his job; how does he feel?
Who knows what motivated the staff sergeant to kill those Afghans? He was a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, with several tours of duty. While his crime was inexcusable, Greenfield here, as well as Ralph Peters, describes the irrational “war-fighting” conditions our soldiers are expected to behave in.
The Panjwai district, where the shootings happened, is the cradle of the Taliban. Smiling civilians plant IED's and children serve as lookouts. Obama's Surge pushed hard into Panjwai and the Taliban pushed back. American soldiers were caught in the middle, dying for a handful of dusty towns where the inhabitants took their presents and shook hands with them, and then shot at them from cover.
That describes very well the surreal environment our troops must endure. Well, there were the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) of yore, with whom university presidents and professors negotiated. And there is the Taliban for a Democratic Society (Taliban from talib, meaning an “army of Islamic students”), with whom our government is negotiating a surrender. Some things never change; only the garb and the ideology. Only this time it is the heirs of the SDS negotiating with the TDS. That fact alone deserves book-length treatment.
Does our military actually expect to have first-class soldiers who are also armed social workers? Does it really expect our soldiers to develop pride, honor, and dignity by instructing them to become sacrificial animals? Does it really expect an altruistic “war-fighting” policy to not inculcate contradictions, contempt, and confusion in the minds of our soldiers – and still expect them to remain steadfastly sane and loyal?
Altruism is not a guide for living, but a prescription for dying. Novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand noted:
What is the moral code of altruism? The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value.
Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others. These are not primaries, but consequences, which, in fact, altruism makes impossible. The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice—which means; self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction—which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good. (“Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World,” Philosophy: Who Needs It, p. 61)
Do not confuse appeasement with tactfulness or generosity. Appeasement is not consideration for the feelings of others, it is consideration for and compliance with the unjust, irrational and evil feelings of others. It is a policy of exempting the emotions of others from moral judgment, and of willingness to sacrifice innocent, virtuous victims to the evil malice of such emotions. (“The Age of Envy,” Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, p. 136)
The appeasement practiced by past presidents and policymakers was horrific enough. The wholesale destruction or surrender of values was inevitable. They thought they were being diplomatic and practical. But the appeasement being practiced by our leadership today – in Iraq, in Afghanistan – is consciously calculated to destroy, and destroy not only our military, but, in the long run, America itself. It represents a deliberate, intentional surrender of values, with full knowledge of the consequences.
Our "war-fighting" policy from the beginning -- just after 9/11 -- has been one governed by altruism.
It was not in our self-interest to "spread democracy” in Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan. It was in our self-interest to eliminate states that sponsor terrorism in our own self-defense. That has not happened. Obama can blame George Bush for inaugurating that policy – although don't expect him to mention that – and Obama can blame himself for perpetuating it. But he won't blame himself. He doesn't give a damn. He hates this country, its freedom (what's left of it), and our military.
Appeasement is altruism in action. And the only destination possible by that policy is an endless, nihilistic abyss.
It is time that Americans called the appeasers and altruists to account for their actions. It is time they were judged in the court of reason.
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