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:: Monday, December 31, 2012 ::

A Cline Chrestomathy 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 7:27 AM

Nothing will replace physical books. Ever. There is a certain satisfaction to be had and valued in seeing the physical, existential, three-dimensional form of a book – one's own or someone else's – in having it on hand without needing to click a mouse or scroll through screen pages. Perhaps the entire contents of the Library of Congress and the British Museum can be combined and fitted into a special thumbnail drive and be made accessible to one and all, everywhere, anywhere, and at any time.

But otherwise, a book's contents exist in the ethereal realm of chips and circuitry. One can't reach out and touch it, flip through its pages, and say, "There it is. A lifetime of work," and heft its two or three pounds in one's hand. All Kindle and other forms of e-books are based on the chief format of a book, with covers and pages. But an e-book is much like an ideal woman; an abstraction hovering in one's mind, not entirely real and dependent on electric power that hasn’t been knocked out by a storm or a power company's incompetence. The real ideal woman is three-dimensional and, well, real. There's a morale-boosting difference between a having a pin-up of Rita Hayworth and Rita Hayworth sitting across the club table from you with a come-hither look and her unseen foot teasing one's leg beneath the table. Substitute Lauren Bacall or Carole Lombard, if you wish.

The publishing world tends to be culturally and esthetically autistic. Its communication skills are miniscule or non-existent, it is rigidly myopic in its practices and planning, and is about as detached from the world as any random political party or bureaucracy. It has been so for decades, nay, centuries. As a rule, it passes over what it ought to publish and promotes the marginal, the forgettable, and the transient. "It's what the public wants," is its oft-repeated excuse and rationalization for its behavior, wishing to forget and hoping the book-buying public doesn’t remember that much of what it publishes winds up on bookstores' remainder tables with drastically marked-down prices to help reduce its taxable inventory. Its claim to omniscience is the stuff of satire.

Speaking of inventory, book publishing was mortally wounded by the Thor Power Tool Company decision of the Supreme Court in 1979, which, among other things, ruled that a company's inventory can be taxed according to the IRS's whim and discretion and byzantine guidelines. We won’t go into the mental gymnastics of tax code accounting here. Be it said that an inventory is an asset – power tools, auto parts, books, components for McDonald's movie promotion toys, off-the-rack fashions in Wal-Mart or Sachs Fifth Avenue, or gold and ivory bracelets in Tiffany's, it matters not the entity – and whether or not it can be "written down" or reported as depreciated or subjected to other feats of mental legerdemain, it is still taxable. Companies work to keep their taxable inventories as low as possible. Not all are successful, especially not publishing companies. Thus, year-end sales and remainder tables. Enough said on that subject.

A physical book is immediate, tangible proof that a thought existed and was put into communicative form. It is evidence and the end product of mental effort. It can be complimentary, or damning. It can be a Victor Hugo novel or a biography of Patrick Henry or a Saul Alinsky how-to book about making communistic revolution and tyranny. One can weigh a thumbnail drive in one's hand, or wear it on a key-chain, or stash it in a music box, but not see its contents. But one can weigh a book in one's hand, and its contents are readily available. Do not, however, mistake this ode to physical books as a screed against technology. Technology enabled me to publish many books overlooked or rejected by autistic publishers. It enabled me to make them real and accessible to me and anyone else.

I have recently self-published three collections of my political and cultural columns. These are apart from the Sparrowhawk historical novels, the two detective novel series, and one suspense novel series. When the first title of the Sparrowhawk series debuted in 2001, it was a moment of triumph after decades of being rebuffed by the best minds in the publishing world, including editors and agents. I am being generous when I say "best." One day that year, as I sat contemplating the burgeoning envelopes that contained about thirty years of rejection notices and other correspondence to editors and agents, I wondered why I kept them. I wondered with muted bitterness about the thousands of dollars spent on copies of manuscripts that were never read and postage sent and self-addressed return stamped envelopes that were never used by the addressees. Many of those companies no longer existed as independent companies (such as Scribner) and many of those editors and agents had died and were forgotten. I outlasted them. They no longer mattered. I discarded the envelopes. Their contents have long since been mulched and have, as Robert Heinlein might have put it, pushed up several generations of daisies.

Perfect Crime Books exhibited its discretion and discrimination by publishing my Chess Hanrahan detective series (With Distinction, First Prize, Presence of Mind, and Honors Due). My own Patrick Henry Press imprint has published a Roaring Twenties detective series set in San Francisco (China Basin, The Head of Athena, The Daedâlus Conspiracy, and The Chameleon), and the Merritt Fury suspense series (Whisper the Guns, We Three Kings, and Run From Judgment). All are available as print books or on Kindle.

The columns have all appeared here on Rule of Reason and on other weblogs, and many were "reprinted" in dozens of other weblogs or "webzines" as far away as Russia, India, and Israel. The titles of the collections have naval warfare themes. They are Running Out My Guns in the War of Ideas, Broadsides in the War of Ideas, and Corsairs and Freebooters (subtitled, respectively, A Collection of Advices, A Collection of Observations, and A Collection of Pungent Remarks). For a long time, they were available under different covers on Kindle (and also on Barnes & Noble's Nook, but some legal matter of exclusivity claimed by Amazon obliged me to take them down from Nook). Now they are also available as hold-in-your-hand, page-turning books, thin, light-weight, easy to hold, non-daunting, and able to be perused by light bulb or candlelight. They represent a selection from nearly five hundred columns or essays and a fraction of the nearly one million words I have expended since finishing Sparrowhawk in 2005.

They also contain articles and reviews which appeared in other publications long before I began writing regular columns, such as the Journal of Information Ethics, The Social Critic, the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, two editions of McGraw-Hill's Civilization textbook, and the Journal of Colonial Williamsburg.

All in all, ninety-three appeals to reason and rationality are available under three covers, addressing such subjects as Islam, our political conundrum (with two special sections devoted exclusively to the rise, investiture, and nihilism of President Barack Obama), the progress of "Progressivism," the state of the culture, the Clintons, the Bushes, and the phenomena of movie remakes. The collections also feature book and movie reviews.

I may put together a fourth collection, depending on the state of the economy this coming year and on the response to the existing collections. Whether or not these collections represent my best, is for the reader to judge.

Happy New Year, and, if possible, calm seas and a prosperous voyage to all in this world of turmoil.

:: Permalink | 8 Comments ::

 

:: Friday, December 21, 2012 ::

Gun Control Means a Disarmed Public 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 8:36 PM

As I noted in my earlier column, "Come Out With Your Hands Up!"on the occasion of the Sandy Hook school massacre and the howling of the Left for gun controls:

The calls for stricter controls on automatic and semi–automatic weapons sound more like the baying of a wolf pack as it closes in on hapless gun–owners and the Second Amendment right to own and bear arms than it does outrage over the crime.

"Preventive" or "preemptive" law is the legal offspring of Positive Law, which, simply put, is legislation passed to correct perceived social wrongs or inequities. Positive law nullifies natural law, which, in today's and yesteryear's context, is based on the requirements for an individual to live as an independent, rational being. The Constitution is based on natural law. The United States has absorbed many tons of positive law in the way of welfare state legislation that has made the Constitution nearly superfluous. Natural law has been under assault for over a century.

Positive law presumes that men cannot be trusted to handle a butter knife – never mind a gun – without harming themselves or others. But if a man murdered or maimed another with a butter knife, then, in today's disintegrating culture, in which mob rule and demagoguery trump individual rights, there would an outcry against the legal sale and possession of metal butter knives.

A British correspondent, John Webb*, has seconded these and other points I make in that column, and provides us with further elucidation on the historical, practical, and political background of not only America's Second Amendment, but the British philosophical and political origins of that thinking. I have reprinted his comments with minor editorial and punctuation changes.

John Webb writes:

I cannot really be bothered to write anything new on gun control and the ridiculous stupidity of the media. It's a sickening spectacle to be sure. My position, which dates from 2007, remains unchanged. I'll make just a few comments in no particular order. They are not by any means intended to be water–tight arguments, just casual observations jotted down as they occur to me.

  1. The government wants to ban private gun ownership on the grounds of public safety. Since when did public safety become a proper goal of government? On how many objects and humans actions might the government legislate under the pretext of possible injury to a third party? Form your own list.
     
  2. Even if you argue the case on the basis of 'domestic tranquility' some of the most violent nations in history have also been the freest – you couldn't find a more bellicose bunch of nutters than the ancient Greeks, not to mention the peaceful years of the Soviet Russia, Hitler's orderly pre–war Germany or any number of tribal societies, some of which don't even have a word for 'theft' let alone 'murder.' If it's safety you desire – there's nothing more tranquil than a concentration camp, except, perhaps, a graveyard.

    Remember that line of Harry Lime's from the 1949 film, The Third Man? I know this argument is unfair but I'm sympathetic to its long–term perspective. The plethora of contemporary moral panics to which we're subjected mean absolutely nothing to me.

    "In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed – they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love and five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock!"
     
  3. If firearms are in general circulation don't armed crooks have a tactical advantage over the armed law–abiding? They may benefit from the element of surprise. But their behavior often gives them away before they draw their weapons – scoping for security cameras, unobstructed getaway routes, the location of their accomplices, etc. Plus, most crooks are idiots – they are incompetent at everything, including gun use – they buy the wrong ammo, forget the safety catches, don't maintain their guns, they accidentally shoot themselves. And all short–term tactical advantages disappear as soon as an alert is sounded – if the people are armed.
     
  4. Wouldn't a ban decrease the availability of arms to criminals? No. Banning guns increases their availability to the criminal classes, thereby making criminals more of a threat than they should be, which in turn generates fear in their victims and potential victims, and fear is anti–mind. Criminals do not heed – and, indeed, scoff at – all species of legislation, especially gun controls.

    In a free society everyone should be able to own guns except those with a criminal record. In such circumstances the law supports, and encourages the honest and the 'societal' advantage of an armed public, and advantage which rests with the law–abiding. Ban guns and the situation is reversed. Now the law–abiding are at a disadvantage against gun–toting criminals and more dependent for their protection on the diligence of government officials. And that diligence is too often found wanting, especially because government officials cannot predict the commissions of crimes. Crimes happen regardless of the diligence of the authorities.

    True, when guns are banned the general supply of guns falls locally, but among the criminal classes the supply of guns subsequently increases – not only do serious criminals merely stash their firearms along with the rest of their loot, but petty criminals, too, get in on the act encouraged by the artificially inflated profits of a "new" illicit trade. As long as Afghan peasants can afford a Kalashnikov it is likely that there will exist sufficient economic margins to make it worthwhile for petty criminals to smuggle and horde weapons for use as illicit currency.

    Unless the UK government can abolish all guns everywhere on the planet simultaneously it is unlikely that any domestic legislation will remove firearms from the hands of UK criminals. I doubt that the UK government will ever be able to achieve this 'noble' aim given its failure to eradicate illicit drugs from convicts securely ensconced within the not insubstantial walls of UK prisons (and U.S. prisons).
     
  5. Speaking of drugs – the same principle applies to all goods of simple manufacture. Prohibition doesn't work – it merely empowers the criminal classes to the detriment of all. The idea that all social ills, real or imagined, can be solved by the sweep of a legislator's pen is a popular, modern delusion.

    American Prohibition sired the creation and growth of organized crime. American regulations, including the criminalization of drug use, sired the creation and growth of drug cartels. Joseph Kennedy Sr. founded his family's political dynasty on smuggled Canadian and British alcohol. Cigarette taxes and regulations have fostered the growth of criminal gangs smuggling cigarettes from low tax states to high tax states – gangs often composed of Muslims raising money for their jihadist masters.
     
  6. Neither will Draconian laws against possession reduce criminality – but it will fill the prisons with harmless dupes, women, and children coerced by gangsters to transport and secrete weaponry intended for criminal purposes.
     
  7. Though it is true that in society we do surrender our right to self–defense to the government, we do so only partially, but not in entirety. On many, if not most occasions, no government official will be present to prevent a crime, especially a crime against the person. In the absence of an armed populace (or a state–appointed bodyguard) the potential for ambitious politicians to use the fear of crime to advance their own powers and interests is exacerbated – 24-hour surveillance, ID cards, paid informants, retinal scans, and etc.
     
  8. Even today the government recognizes some right to self–defense but what does 'the right to self–defense' mean in practice? What does 'the right to self–defense' mean for an unarmed woman in the face of a male attacker? In purely physical terms most men are endowed with a muscular strength that puts women at a serious disadvantage during a physical confrontation. Firearms – the product of the mind – negate that unchosen genetic disadvantage. A firearm is just a tool, a tool of the mind; Should the mindful be deprived of the tools of the mindful? How many tools would exist if their use were restricted to the mindless by the mindless? Would you ban the ownership of pointed sticks? If not, who should decide who gets the licenses and permits to use pointed sticks? If you want a big government, that's a good way to get one.
     
  9. Which leads us to the political aspect. If this country stands for anything it stands for the recognition of the idea that individuals have rights, especially the rights to life, liberty, and property. The social and historical context for the development and "implementation" of these ideas is, to the best of my knowledge, unique to this island and its former colonies. France and Spain, however, produced some great heroes of liberalism but they signally failed to implement any coherent liberal tradition independently of this country. Why?

    Politically, a number of reasons occur to me – but four stand out:

    a) The absence of a standing army.
    b) The early separation of church and state (since the 12th century).
    c) The subjection of political authority to the rule of law (since the 11th century, at least).
    d) A consistent affirmation of the right of rebellion (since 12th century).

    According to some historians, particularly by David Hume, it seems that these principles matured by accident often contrary to intent and independently of philosophy. I disagree with that thesis, but it would take too long for me to justify that position. It is, however, worth remembering that these principles did not go unchallenged by ambitious monarchs and they were not secured without cost – as Wat Tyler, Jack Cade, Robin Hood, the Parliamentarians, the Regicides of Charles I, Algernon Sydney, and The Immortal Seven (Five Whigs and two Tories who put their estates – and necks – on the line by inviting William of Orange to take the throne from the Papist James II), thereby facilitating and enabling the Glorious Revolution. and many, many others would readily attest.

    In the light of their experience, what might the future hold now that we are disarmed, and have an army of police officers eager to enforce the dubious whims of our political masters (e.g., the regulation of the use of mobile phones today – who knows what tomorrow)? What might the future hold now that we have a growing band of enthusiastic religionists anxious to foist their vision of the New Jerusalem courtesy of an army of professional activists funded by their tax–exempt re–branded charities – many of today's seemingly secular charities have religious origins, and still others aspire to the Papacy "Wildlife groups axe David Bellamy as global warming 'heretic'," was one classic headline I remember from last year.

    What might the future hold now that the government routinely exempts itself from its own laws – the European Union's nonexistent accounts, Mandelson's mortgage, bribes to the Saudis, Jack Straw's child–molesting brother and drug–pushing son, Blunkett's nannies, the sale of Knighthoods, exemption from pension taxes etc.

    And what sort of rebellion might be organized if Tony Blair's great–grandson becomes President of the United States of Europe and declares Pol Pot a visionary? Will our great–grandchildren thank us for their lack of arms?

    Tom Paine once observed that a nation's constitution, ultimately, is its people who must exercise vigilance, identify tyranny, make their judgment and put their lives and estates in jeopardy in defense of their rights.

    What force does that living 'constitution' have now that it is disarmed? (This is a reference to the liberal perception of especially the U.S. Constitution as a "charter" that can be modified or amended to conform to the exigencies and circumstances of the modern world – in short, a document governed by no absolute principles.)

    The long English tradition of an armed public and disarmed state has been turned on its head. Is this a good idea?
     
  10. Gun prohibition also sends out the wrong metaphysical message. On every occasion that I have had the chance to seriously question collectivists about the wisdom of their infantile policies, exposing their policies for the nonsense that they are, sooner or later, they always revert to the same old mantra: the people are sinful, guilty and foolish, unreliable and untrustworthy, incapable of managing their own welfare, not sufficiently 'evolved' to be left to their own decisions. Is this a principle that we should affirm by agreeing with gun controls –the people cannot be trusted?
     
  11. The right to bear arms is written into our own Bill of Rights of 1689. If we allow such a fundamental right to be infringed then it sets a precedent for abolishing other fundamental rights (this is already happening.)
     
  12. By siding in favor of gun controls we also side with some of history's blackest villains, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot.
     
  13. By siding in favor of gun controls we also side against some of freedoms postulated by our greatest advocates:
     
  14. Edward Coke (1552– 1634.) "And yet in some cases a man may not only use force and arms, but assemble company also. As any may assemble his friends and neighbours, to keep his house against those that come to rob, or kill him, or to offer him violence in it....for a man's house is his castle, and a person's own house is his ultimate refuge; for where shall a man be safe, if it be not in his house? And in this sense it truly said that the laws permit the taking up of arms against armed persons." Institutes of the Laws of England, 1628.

    John Locke (1632– 1704.) "The people "have a right to defend themselves and recover by force what by unlawful force is taken from them ...." Thus, the people never give absolute power to the legislator, for they would not "have disarmed themselves, and armed him, to make prey of them when he pleases." SecondTreatise on Civil Government, 1690.

    Algernon Sydney (1623–1683.) "...swords were given to men that none might be slaves, but such as know not how to use them." Discourses Concerning Civil Government, 1698.

    William Blackstone (1723–1780.) "In the three preceding articles we have taken a short view of the principal absolute rights (personal security, personal liberty, private property) which appertain to every Englishman. But in vain would these rights be declared, ascertained, and protected by the dead letter of the laws, if the constitution had provided no other method to secure their actual enjoyment. It has therefore established certain other auxiliary subordinate rights of the subject, which serve principally as outworks or barriers to protect and maintain inviolate the three great and primary rights, of personal security, personal liberty, and private property...To vindicate (the three primary rights), when actually violated or attacked, the subjects of England are entitled, in the first place, to the regular administration and free course of justice in the courts of law; next, to the right of petitioning the king and parliament for redress of grievances; and, lastly, to the right of having and using arms for self–preservation and defense." Commentaries on theLaws of England, 1765.
Thomas Jefferson had something to say about guns and an armed citizenry:

"The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government."

"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms in his own lands." (On an early draft of the Constitution)

"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes . . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man." Thomas Jefferson, quoting Cesare Beccaria in On Crimes and Punishment, 1764.

Americans should treat the current assault on their right to own and bear arms as perilous as the current assault on the First Amendment and their freedom of speech. The power to physically disarm the citizen is the companion power to disarm his mind.

Gun control advocates ultimately and necessarily must and will advocate speech control, to render Americans defenseless in body and mind.

*John Webb is Former Chairman of The United Kingdom Objectivist Association (UKOA) at www.ukoa.org.uk.

:: Permalink | 11 Comments ::

 

:: Monday, December 17, 2012 ::

Come Out With Your Hands Up! 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 1:26 PM

The massacre of twenty-six individuals at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14th by mentally unstable (and reportedly autistic) Adam Lanza has again pushed the buttons of anti-gun and gun control advocates. Senator Diane Feinstein has promised to introduce more stringent gun sale regulation in Congress the first day of its new session in 2013, while President Barack Obama, exploiting the photo and sound-byte opportunities, went to Newtown to shed his crocodile tears and alluded to "meaningful action" to ban all guns.

The calls for stricter controls on automatic and semi-automatic weapons sound more like the baying of a wolf pack as it closes in on hapless gun-owners and the Second Amendment right to own and bear arms than it does outrage over the crime.

But, what are gun laws, those that permit, and those that prohibit? Such laws are intended to "prevent" individuals from going on shooting sprees.

"Preventive" or "preemptive" law is the legal offspring of Positive Law, which, simply put, is legislation passed to correct perceived social wrongs or inequities. Positive law nullifies natural law, which, in today's and yesteryear's context, is based on the requirements for an individual to live as an independent, rational being. The Constitution is based on natural law. The United States has absorbed many tons of positive law in the way of welfare state legislation that has made the Constitution nearly superfluous. Natural law has been under assault for over a century.

Positive law presumes that men cannot be trusted to handle a butter knife – never mind a gun – without harming themselves or others. But if a man murdered or maimed another with a butter knife, then, in today's disintegrating culture, in which mob rule and demagoguery trump individual rights, there would an outcry against the legal sale and possession of metal butter knives.

Metal butter knives would be replaced by legal mandate with plastic knives – until someone successfully murdered with a plastic knife. Plastic knives would be substituted with paper clips, or credit cards.

Sound ludicrous? Or familiar? Take a look at the warnings one can find on toy packaging, or on Styrofoam coffee cups, or even automobile advertising. These are legal devices adopted to forestall the enactment of positive laws against producers – not that they will protect them against the draconian imposition of, say, EPA regulations.

The only consequence of a butter knife law would be that, because he was not able to easily procure a butter knife with which to attack others, the killer would settle for a tire iron, or an ice pick, or a machete. Virtually any hand-held thing can be used as a weapon. Even a book, or a pair of scissors, or nail clippers. Guns are merely a more efficient means to kill.

Positive law is the law of the welfare state, of assuaging the feelings, envy, and fears of the perceived dispossessed, of providing for assumed entitlements, of subsidizing bitter failures and losers. Positive law is focused on victims and the "needy," not on individual rights. According to positive law, natural rights are an illusion or are offensive; instead, entitlements and government-granted dispensations are "rights."

The Second Amendment has been interpreted by liberal judges and leftist writers as an antiquated proviso no longer applicable in our "modern," "progressive," and "complex" society. But the Second Amendment was intended to be a safeguard against an intrusive, force-initiating government. That was its chief role. In the Founders' day – and for over a century after it – using a firearm against marauding Indians or bands of criminals was taken for granted as the unquestionable natural right of citizens. Let us examine the wording of the Amendment that was ratified by the states and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

What is a "well regulated militia"? It can mean two things: A force of armed citizens directed by a state that wishes to remain free; or private militias consisting of armed citizens who wish their state to remain free.

What means "being necessary"? It means that citizens must retain the power of retaliatory force, or otherwise remain helpless against initiated force.

What means "the security of a free state"? A secure free state is one that has won its independence from an invader or from an overbearing, over-reaching central government. (In America today, there are no such "free states," they have all become de facto departments of the federal government.) But, suppose the free state has been taken over by statists? Then retaliatory force is necessary to return the state to the status of a free one.

What is the "right of the people"? It is the natural right of individuals or organizations of them to defend and preserve their natural rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness in a free state. See the Declaration of Independence.

What means "to keep and bear arms"? It means the right of private citizens to own arms and to use them, when necessary, to defend one's other liberties against the initiated force of criminals, of gangs of outlaws, or of governments.

What means "shall not be infringed"? This clause does not pertain to criminals. Criminals, unless they are creatures of the state brought into being by fiat laws and prohibitions (such as drug cartels), do not systematically "infringe" on one's rights. It means that only governments can systematically infringe on one's liberties, including the right to keep and bear arms, by arbitrary, fiat law.

That is the plain, simple, and literal interpretation of the Second Amendment from the perspective of recognizing and defending the sanctity of individual rights.

Individual rights, however, are now viewed, if not with suspicion, then with outright hostility. This is the inevitable consequence of a welfare state. One man's right intrudes on another's "welfare," and in a welfare state committed to preserving and expanding the number of things it allows or dispenses in terms of welfare, genuine natural rights are gradually and incrementally violated, nullified and obliterated.

AWR Hawkins, in his Breitbart Big Government article on the Second Amendment of December 15th, "The 2nd Amendment is Hard to Change, as Our FoundersIntended," stressed the fact that under the Constitution, a movement to repeal any amendment must originate with the people, not with the government.

The move to propose or repeal can begin with the American people, with a majority of the populations in two thirds of the 50 states voting for the amendment or its repeal. However, even if the people do this, the push to propose or repeal still has to garner two/thirds House, two/thirds Senate, and two/thirds of all 50 state legislatures.

Opposing this safeguard against mob rule and government force is the argument presented by the current champion of mob rule and government force, a man who likes to govern by executive edict and decree: Barack Obama. Speaking at his "let no massacre go to waste" moment in Newtown, Obama growled, in between quivering vowels and syllables,

"We can't tolerate this anymore….These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change….In the coming weeks I'll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens … in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this," he said.

Obama offered no specifics as to what type action he might take or legislation he might seek to address these incidences of violence.

Tragedies? Not mass murder? Tragedies are accidents, or errors of knowledge or action committed by good people. Mass murder is conscious and deliberate. Lanza didn't go to the Sandy Hook school to commit a "tragedy." However, Obama's use of the term "tragedy" serves a useful, collectivist purpose: it connotes a dysfunctional society responsible for the actions of individuals. You, a faceless cipher in society, are responsible for the "tragedy," and so must endorse stricter gun controls laws, if not a total ban on the private possession of all firearms, whatever their make or caliber. You must help prevent and end these "tragedies." If you continue to shout about your Second Amendment rights, you must be as unstable and disturbed as Adam Lanza and can't be trusted with owning a gun, and will be responsible in ex parte for the next "tragedy." Get it?

"This is our first task, caring for our children. It's our first job. If we don't get that right, we don't get anything right. That's how, as a society, we will be judged," Obama asked. "And by that measure, can we truly say that, as a nation, we're meeting our obligations?"

The president added: "I've been reflecting on this the past few days, and if we're honest with ourselves, the answer's no. We're not doing enough. And we will have to change."

In short, you must change. You must submit to the wishes of the White House and Congress and Senator Feinstein and Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, and all the rest of the wolves, and surrender the right to defend yourself against….? Well, that culprit goes unnamed. They're not suggesting against the likes of the Adam Lanza's of the world. You must deliver yourself to the mercies of every random nut case who finds a gun and count on the authorities to arrive in time to "prevent" your death. But, then, someone name me a time when the authorities did arrive in time to prevent a single killing in a school, office, or factory.

Obama's true and frank position on the Constitution was revealed in 2001, during a radio interview.

… [T]he Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical. It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, at least as it's been interpreted and Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can't do to you. Says what the Federal government can't do to you, but doesn't say what the Federal government or State government must do on your behalf, and that hasn't shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was, um, because the civil rights movement became so court focused I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that."

In short, the courts are too slow and cumbersome and tied to procedural niceties to effect any populist legislation. Obama and Congress and his passel of czars are ready and willing to effect "meaningful" change on their own and bypass the courts, in terms of "political and community organizing and activities on the ground" that can create voting blocs that will bring about "redistributive change."

But the Second Amendment can't be "redistributed." It can only be excoriated, scuttled, and scrapped. Then we will live in a "just" society in which mass school killings will have been "prevented" – until the next one. Individuals with criminal intent will by nature flout any and every law to get what they want. That is what being criminal is all about.

And there will be more such killings, regardless. Commenting on the Sandy Hook school massacre and the cultural sickness that is guaranteed to produce another, Robert LeChevalier noted:

It's too terrible to dwell on the concrete details, which have become far too commonplace. I only note that it was inevitable, and more is on the way.

It's a terrible fact that when the philosophy of a culture becomes utterly irrational, it infects everything. People become utterly irrational when they come to embrace utterly irrational ideas. I've remarked multiple times that the Left has become borderline psychotic, and I mean it….

The effect of irrational ideas infects everyone who subscribes to them. What makes the Left's ideas so pernicious, especially those of the so-called "post-modern" Left, who are something of the apotheosis of worship in the Cult of Unreason, is the insidious nature of the un-integrated, unreal ideas they advocate -- ideas developed ultimately with no regard for reality, but not merely no regard -- open, defiant contempt for reality. The ideas they uphold are utterly unintegrated from any rational context by intention, with a brooding leitmotif of loathing for any kind of order to existence, and for any kind of human existence….

The effect of irrational ideas has to ripple down through a culture. Putting aside the vocational aspects, our schools today are dedicated to one proposition: destroying the minds of children. The most successful products of our schools now grow up warped and disfigured mentally, in possession of some knowledge here and there -- table scraps for emaciated minds -- but largely shriveled mentally, their cortical folds flattened and disfigured by rabid commitments to random eclectic notions bearing no connection at all to reality.

Adam Lanza was a product of modern education. And anyone who has tried to engage a young person in critical thinking is usually astounded by how brainwashed, lobotomized and conformist such people are. They have been turned into the ventriloquist dummies of the Left. It is fruitless to have intelligent conversations, or even "national debates" with them. Their only worlds are in their Ipads, TV screens, and video games. Reality doesn’t interest them. Reality is what they want it to be. Teacher said so. They are lost.

Only one politician spoke intelligently on the issue of citizens carrying arms: Texas Representative Louie Gohmert. He was interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox News on December 16th:

The segment with Gohmert began with footage of Eric Holder saying we need to discuss who we are as a nation, talk about the freedom and rights we have, and how they can be used in a responsible way. In other words, he wants to talk about gun control. Rep. Gohmert’s response, which brought up Fast and Furious, was priceless:

“Well I think coming from him that’s really important to note coming from a man who’s in a department that forced the sale of guns to people that would bring about the death of people like Brian Terry and there should be national outrage about Mexicans, our neighbors, 200 or more that have been killed by the guns his department have forced to be sold, so he’s right. And Sen. Durbin is right but the conversation we’ve got to have has got to have everybody open-minded. I mean, we all react emotionally that’s why we’ve all shed tears…”

That was a slap in the faces of Attorney General Holder and Obama. If Obama were truly concerned about "tragedies," he would have fired Holder long ago and recommended to Congress that he be criminally charged with aiding and abetting murder and massacres. But, that won’t happen.

Wallace then brought up the Aurora movie theater massacre and Gohmert making the argument in its aftermath for more people to carry weapons to prevent a similar situation from happening. Wallace asks: “Do we really want folks in movie theaters, and shopping malls, and schools, armed?

Gohmert responds: “Once we have this actually open dialogue about the situation you find out…every mass killing of more than three people in recent history has been in a place where guns were prohibited, except for one. They choose this place. They know no one will be armed. You know, having been a judge, having reviewed photographs of these horrific scenes and knowing that children have these defensive wounds, gun shots through their arms and hands as they try to protect themselves and hearing the heroic stories of the principal lunging trying to protect…Chris, I wish to God she had had an M4 in her office locked up so when she heard gun fire she pulls it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands, but she takes him out, takes his head off before he could kill those precious kids.”

Doubtless Gohmert will be getting a lot of hate mail and hate calls for suggesting that the principal, who died charging Lanza with her bare hands, should've been armed with a gun that would have ended Lanza's real-life Dungeons and Dragons elimination game before more children were murdered.

Then the obligatory question by the media: Why do people need semi-automatic weapons? Wallace says these are weapons created for law enforcement, for the military, but why does the average person need these “weapons of mass destruction”?

Gohmert: "Well, for the reason that George Washington said: A free people should be an armed people. It ensures against the tyranny of the government if they know that the biggest army is the American people, then you don’t have the tyranny that came from King George…."

The White House has set up a "petition" that has received tens of thousands of signatures from people who want him or Congress to "engage" them in "preventing" further "tragedies" by making the Second Amendment a dead letter. They all believe in "preventative" or "preemptive" law. Or Positive Law.

Or the law of an executive and government with unlimited powers to disarm the public for the "public good." If they get their way, they will have taken one more step closer to authoritarian government, which is but a rung below totalitarian government.

The republic? Neither Obama, nor Congress, nor a big swath of the people, want to keep it.

:: Permalink | 7 Comments ::

 

:: Saturday, December 15, 2012 ::

The Finances of Hypocrisy 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 8:51 AM

Bill Gates is liquidating his billions to "do good" – "dedicated to improving lives here and around the world" – and also to avoid an annual tax bill that could match the GNP of Luxembourg or perhaps Switzerland. His foundation website boasts the egalitarian motto: "All Lives Have Equal Value."

Do they? Doubtless, Bill Gates believes they do. But is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation merely a super-sized tax dodge? All tax dodges are altruist in nature. And hypocritical. Our tax code enforces altruism by granting deductions for charity and exempting nonprofit enterprises. It encourages dishonesty and – what is worse than tax evasion – moral evasion, and ultimately moral corruption.

Much has been written by critics since the beginning of 2009 and President Barack Obama's reign about the hypocrisy of members of his allies in the Left/Liberal Establishment. Particular focus has been on wealthy politicians and the champions of left/liberal causes, such as movie stars and professional talking heads, who advocate financial discipline and lower expectations for Americans but who don’t themselves wish to practice what they preach.

This barrage of accusations has largely fallen on deaf ears. Virtually the only thing that will guarantee the permanent potting and retirement of a liberal is a sex scandal, à la former North Carolina Senator John Edwards or former New York governor Eliot Spitzer. A charge of criminal behavior and gross malfeasance of public funds and just plain blatant corruption sometimes works, but not always. New York congressman Charles Rangel is a case in point. He was "censured" by the House in 2010 but still maintains his corrupt ways and lifestyle, and grins at you from his House web page with the amiability of a card shark.

Hurling a charge of hypocrisy at a liberal hypocrite is about as effective as throwing a spitball at the back of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie sporting a flak jacket. It is a fruitless, impotent act because the target is by nature inured against charges of verisimilitude, dissimulation, venality, and double standards. Morality, honesty, integrity, and legally gained wealth – these virtues, the hypocrite avers, are for others, not for him. He is of the elite and must have some freedom of action and viable options and financial security and comfort so he has the leisure time to concoct his utopian fiscal and social plans for everyone else, and then propose them with the religious fervor of a ragged desert anchorite.

Charges of hypocrisy have never made hypocrites blush in embarrassment. When such charges are made public, a hypocrite's first concern is his public image, not the falseness and fraudulence of his private and public character. Such charges only move his ilk to erect even higher opaque barriers to exposure and to dig deeper labyrinths of secrecy.

As a rule, liberals and advocates of confiscatory taxation seek to conserve and protect their nest eggs from the very tax and fiscal policies they propose for everyone else. They can afford the tax lawyers and CPA firms which most middle income individuals can only dream of employing. Liberals such as John Kerry and any random Kennedy patronize the services of law firms and CPA firms with a dozen names between them to fix their books. All others must patronize a strip mall's Jackson Hewitt or H&R Block.

Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid are prime examples. Well, Reid is perhaps the poorest politician, declaring at least $5 million. Representing Nevada, perhaps he's lost too much in the Las Vegas slots and craps tables. Pelosi, however, is married to money, and is worth at least $35 million. Whether that figure means her personal assets or assets combined with her husband's holdings, isn't quite clear. They own a lot of real estate in San Francisco.

Nancy Pelosi fought like the Botox harpy she is for Obamacare. Obamacare was for the little people, not for her. Little people are individuals who are worth at least $250,000, but no more. She and her House colleagues are all exempted from all its mandates, more or less for life. Her Congressional salary and her personal fortune will ensure her the best medical care and insurance coverage money can buy. Everyone else must settle for less, or for rationed care, or for even nothing. Pelosi, now 73 years old, needn't worry that her name will someday come up for review by an Obamacare death panel when she is beyond Botox treatments and needs a walker or a wheelchair to get around.

Massachusetts Senator John "Swift Boat" Kerry, who poses as a man of the people looking out for the people, was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and a European pedigree, and all his life apparently kept himself as far away as possible from the people. He is the classic liberal elitist who finagled and married his way to the top of the social and political establishment. A few years ago he was worth about $194 million. His second wife since 1995, Teresa Heinz Kerry, is worth much more than that, having inherited wealth exceeding $500 million from her first husband, Pennsylvania Republican Senator John Heinz, who died in a helicopter accident. Yes, this is the same Heinz of the ketchup and sauce company. Teresa Kerry is a career do-gooder with her manicured fingers in every conceivable altruist cause.

Texas Representative Michael McCaul is not a household name, but he is wealthier than John Kerry, worth at least $294 million. His wife, Linda, is the daughter of Clear Channel Communications chairman Lowry Mays, and the sister of Clear Channel CEO Mark Mays, and is worth about $500 million. Michael is worth about $294 million because his wife's family gave it to him.

Barack Obama must settle for collecting a mere $400,000 a year in presidential salary, a pittance compared with other politicians' income. But he has been compensated handsomely by his book sales.

When Barack Obama first entered the White House, his net worth was $1.3 million. Four years later that net worth has grown to 800% to $11.8 million....

Barack’s wallet began to expand after his much praised keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that marked his explosion onto the national conscience. As Obama’s profile rose, so did sales of his 1995 book “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance”. In 2005, the Obama’s income grew from around $200,000 to a combined $1.7 million! In 2006 the Obamas reported income of $916,000. Barack’s second book “Audacity of Hope”, released in October 2006, was a massive hit, selling millions of copies and rocketing the Obama’s income to $4.2 million in 2007! Their income continued to swell in the following years thanks to Barack’s 2008 successful campaign and election.

Of course, these books were ghost-written, and the ghost, very likely Obama's meet-and-greet master, Bill Ayers, has ever since been muttering, sotto voce, "You didn't write them." When he leaves office, Obama will emulate fellow statist Bill Clinton and become a globe-trotting raconteur and amass an even greater fortune from speaking fees and videos and more books. These socialists really like their money.

What follows is a list of the best known politicians and their net worth:

#1: Michael Bloomberg's Net Worth – $19.5 Billion

#2: Michael McCaul's Net Worth – $294 Million

#3: Mitt Romney's Net worth – $250 Million

#4: Darrell Issa's Net Worth – $220 Million

#5: Jane Harman's Net Worth – $200 Million

#6: John Kerry's – $194 Million

#7: Jared Polis's Net Worth – $160 Million

#8: Bill and Hillary Clinton's Net Worth – $101.5 Million

#9: Rick Scott Net Worth's – $103 Million

#10: Jay Rockefeller Net Worth's – $86 Million

#11: Mark Warner's Net Worth – $76 Million

#12: Frank Lautenberg's Net Worth – $55 Million

#13: Richard Blumenthal's Net Worth – $53 Million

#14: Dianne Feinstein's Net Worth – $45 Million

#15: Vern Buchanan's Net Worth – $45 Million

Outside of politics – at least, not as politicians – leftist activist, Pentecostal preacher, and race-hustler Al Sharpton is worth $5 million. Jesse Jackson, a Baptist minister, leftist activist, and race-hustler is worth about $10 million. Both Sharpton and Jackson inserted themselves into the George Zimmerman/ Trayvon Martin issue somewhat prematurely, charging Zimmerman with "racism," unaware that Zimmerman is nearly as Hispanic as was Pancho Villa, but of greater moral stature. So did Obama, who opined publically that Martin a kind of "ideal" son he didn’t have. But one thinks now that he'd rather everyone forget that blurb because Martin, it has come to light, was merely a young punk with a chip on his shoulder, looking for trouble. But, then, that could just as well describe Barack Obama.

Leftist and anti-war activist Jane Fonda is worth an estimated $120 million, but her ex-husband, the manic depressive broadcasting mogul Ted Turner, is worth about $2 billion. Turner is also the largest land-owner in the U.S. Leftist web mistress Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post was worth some $35 million until she sold the Post in 2011 to AOL for $315 million. Arianna married Michael Huffington, of the Huffington energy family, who helped her found the Post, but was divorced from him in 1997.

Wealthy, individual supporters of Obama's nihilistic socialist agenda – an agenda that envisions the diminution of America as a political, military, and financial power – come in many sizes and stripes. The Associated Press lists five of Obama's biggest individual donors to his 2012 reelection campaign: Fred Eychaner, founder of Newsweb Corporation, $3.57 million; James Simons, founder of Renaissance Technologies, $3.5 million; Jeffrey Katzenberg, a Hollywood film producer and CEO of Dreamworks Animation, $3.07 million; Irwin Jacobs, founder of Qualcomm, $2.122 million; and Jon Stryker, philanthropist, $2.066 million.

So what? one may ask. The paradox is that after witnessing Obama's performance during his first term of office, these individuals wished to see four more years of it. It means that they endorse his destructive policies. They may not call them destructive – progressive, yes, socialist or communist, never, it would be the height of tactlessness – but nevertheless they are destructive, consciously, deliberately destructive. They don’t seem to mind that the destruction is visited on everyone else. Their ignorance of the consequences of Obama's policies is but a ruse that disguises their shared malice for America, one they share with Obama.

Corporate donors to Obama's first run for president in 2008, through their PACs, included many of the companies that needed bailing out of their sub-prime mortgage swindles via TARP and other Obama-inspired instances of federal fiscal prodigality. Topping the list was the University of California, at $1,648,685. Next was Goldman Sachs, at $1,013,091. Then came Harvard University at $878.164, and Microsoft at $852,167. Google donated $814,540.

Google, for example, this election cycle wanted more of the same, too. That is, it endorses taxing the rich, increased government spending, and "spreading the wealth" around a lot – so long as it isn't Google's, or Microsoft's, or Harvard's wealth. Daniel Greenfield reveals a little about Google's relationship with Obama:

Google’s creepy ex-CEO Eric Schmidt was a major Obama donor and campaign advisor, and was even considered for a Cabinet post. Schmidt was on Obama’s transition board and is a member of his Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

So naturally when Obama talks about making the rich pay, he doesn’t mean his friends at Google who moved 80 percent of their pre-tax profits into a shell company in Bermuda.

Read the linked Bloomberg article here. When it comes to paying their "fair share of taxes" to support the programs they endorse, companies like Google are paragons of hypocrisy. Their money is so special it must be preserved offshore. Other people's money is not so special – tax havens and loopholes ought to be closed to them so that there is no escape – and seized to support a mixed economy of taxes and regulations and "social justice" which Google would not otherwise survive were it not for those evil tax havens and loopholes.

Nonprofits, the really big ones, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, with net assets of $238.1 million, also squirrel away money in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. Matthew Vadum reports on other nonprofits with visions of an egalitarian, socialist U.S.

SPLC’s robust balance sheet dwarfs those of other big leftist groups. For example, the highly influential Center for American Progress, founded by Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta, discloses net assets of just $36.6 million, or less than one-sixth of SPLC’s bank ledger.

In 2011 FrontPage interviewed author Peter Schweizer about the gulf between the words and actions of the banner bearers of the Left, that is, about the dichotomy between the Left's ideas and what leftists do about them in the way of preserving their wealth.

FrontPage: Why do you think people are drawn to leftist ideals and what kind of people are they? Self-contempt appears to be a common ingredient, no?

Schweizer: Yes, self-contempt is a big part of it. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great German pastor who stood up to Hitler, wrote a book about “cheap grace.” Liberals are guilty of cheap grace in the political sense. They feel guilty and their form of penance is embracing the destructive ideas of the progressive faith. But it’s cheap grace because as I show it the book, they don’t actually change the way they live. I think that the religious comparison makes sense because in many respects the modern day left represents a religious movement. They are motivated by a sense of sin, guilt, and the need for salvation and absolution in the political sense. Socialism offers salvation to them. Of course, they don’t actually plan to live like socialists.

No, they don’t. But I beg to differ with Schweizer's summary conclusions. The issue isn't as simple as mere hypocrisy, or liberal guilt, of finding that "old time Progressive religion," or even of self-contempt. Those are just minor moral misdemeanors sitting in the shadow of a worse capital crime.

There is an operative evil at work in every one of the instances cited above. That evil is: Knowing that the ideas one supports are unworkable and destructive – ideas premised on the morality of altruism – and, knowing the certain consequences of those ideas, wishing and acting to escape them. This is tantamount to championing the old medical practice of bleeding a person to purge his body of mysterious "humors," but then demanding that one personally, secretly be hooked up to an IV for transfusions of healthy blood. Call it the ethics of moral schizoids, but that would be generous diagnosis of what passes for the moral high ground in leftists.

As did members of the Nazi elite who secreted their wealth and ill-gotten gains from Germany into Swiss bank accounts – in implicit votes of no confidence in the economic policies of their Führer – American statists take advantage of every chance to preserve their money from the scorched earth policies of a succession of administrations, most recently those of Barack Obama.

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:: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 ::

Turn Left at Hollywood & Vine 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 3:29 PM

Reading Ben Shapiro's Front Page article, "Hollywood Hates Corporations, LovesCorporate Cash" (December 5th) caused me to reflect again on the esthetic, political, and moral gulf between the films of yesteryear and of today. What underscored the reflection was a recent watching of Director/Producer Sam Wood's For Whom the Bell Tolls, one of my favorite movies. I decided it was time to revisit the role of Hollywood and its decline into the agitprop business

What? That vehicle of communist propaganda is one of my favorite movies? Released in 1943, it may or may not have been propaganda of any kind. I doubt it. Sam Wood was a conservative. So was Gary Cooper, who plays Robert Jordan, the demolition expert working for the Republican side, which, historically, was supported by the Soviet Union. The film may have been intended to be a kind of cinematic "pep talk" for American audiences during World War II. I do not know, nor do I care.

I first saw the film in the Thalia, a small, moldy, slightly odiferous, "revival" movie house off Broadway in upper Manhattan in New York years ago in the 1970's. The tatterdemalion carpeting was so worn and decrepit that if exposed to the sun, I imagined it would have sprouted mushrooms, or perhaps disintegrated. The cloth on the commodious seats was threadbare, but no one went to the Thalia to judge its comforts and amenities. It boasted a loge about half the size of the front section of seats. This was where the smokers sat, and I am certain that not all the smoke that wafted past the screen emanated exclusively from cigarettes. It certainly did from mine.

I cannot remember the décor of the place, except that it was not gaudy rococo, but "Art Moderne," which I barely noticed because the place was always so dark. I spent a lot of time in the Thalia, because it featured films that were far more interesting than what was running in regular movie houses. As a rule, the audiences were courteous and quiet – and adult. Most of the films shown were made before my time, or at least while I was growing up, before the Left "occupied" Hollywood in earnest. I spent countless evenings and Saturday afternoons in the Thalia, giving myself an education in cinematography, direction, dialogue, plotting, and story-telling. I still have some of the Thalia's movie schedules.

The politics of For Whom the Bell Tolls, however, were invisible to anyone who knew anything about the Spanish Civil War, and at the time I knew little about it. They are invisible now. So it was not a political film or an instance of expensive propaganda. I've seen many of that kind of film. The Republican guerilla group Jordan joins in the mountains not once yells "All power to the proletariat" in Spanish or English or voices any other Communist slogans. They never say why they are Republicans and fight the Nationalists. But you know that they feel very strongly about it, and the Spanish are noted for their emotional ardor. In the film, that emotion is strong, credible, and almost palpable.

There are no tell-tale ideological price tags fluttering from any of the characters in the film, either, not even from the Nationalists, or Franco's Fascists, who were supported by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Other than a brief, forgettable statement by Cooper's Jordan later in the film in answer to a character's question about why he, an American, is fighting on the Republican side, there is no ideological or political discourse at all. If it weren't for the spoken Spanish, and the mentions of Barcelona and Madrid, the story could have been set during any 20th century civil war. The film is nearly generic in its historical setting.

The film is based on Ernest Hemingway's novel, which I read shortly after seeing the film only to note which parts of it made it to the screen. Most of them did, but were essentialized for scripting purposes. I have not read it since and do not plan to. Hemingway was never one of my favorite writers. Later I read up on the Spanish Civil War. A well-made, gripping movie with an historical theme rarely failed to move me to study the period. Movies had been a large part of my education.

It is noteworthy that Hemingway did not like the film, precisely because the film did not include the leftist political content of his novel. Had it been worked into the shooting script, the film would have been far less a success than it was, and then he might have whined about the poor box office and dismissed the movie-going public as a herd of tasteless and ignorant philistines.

I could go on here about the incomparable all-star cast. There is the tiresome, shifty scoundrel, Pablo, leader-presumptive of the guerillas, played by Akim Tamiroff; Pilar, the true head of the gang, an earthy, headstrong woman, but strangely benevolent, played by Katina Paxinou; Rafael the merry, impish gypsy, played by Mikhail Rasumny; and Anselmo, Jordan's aged and loyal guide, played by Vladimir Sokoloff.

(One trivial note about the film I can't pass up: Duncan Renaldo, who was Romanian, and who briefly appears as a rather foolish Nationalist officer, later went on to star in the TV series, "The Cisco Kid," one of my favorite childhood shows.)

But the performance that for me is the most endearing, the most captivating, and the most enthralling, is Ingrid Bergman's, as Maria. I have not always liked Bergman's films or her roles, but I have always liked her. I loved her in this role. Her performance makes the rest of the story nearly irrelevant. The Spanish Civil War setting and the relationships depicted among the other characters seemed to be mere excuses to showcase Bergman at her best.

And her best was to portray a young woman who was forced to watch her parents and townsmen shot by the Nationalists, then to have her head shaved, and finally raped in her father's office. She is rescued from a prisoners' train blown up Republican guerillas, and taken to the mountain hideaway. There she earns her keep by cooking. Pilar becomes her protective confidante. Bergman portrays a tragic character, yet one who has remained undefiled.

When Robert Jordan (Cooper) appears at the hideaway with his instructions to blow up an important bridge, Maria's face lights up. One doesn’t yet know her past and when one does, it doesn’t seem to matter. For Bergman manages to convey element of hero worship – and hero desire – I cannot recall seeing in the face of any other actress in cinema, and I have watched thousands of movies. At least, it does not appear in such an undiluted form. She even bests Alida Valli, the actress who plays Kira, the equally passionate and convincing heroine of the 1942 Italian film version of Ayn Rand's We the Living. Whether the film is in color or in black-and-white is irrelevant. That unsullied, uncorrupted element is there and nearly overwhelms Gary Cooper's response to it.

Cooper does his best to convey a reciprocation of emotion and value, but his character and masculinity are wooden, almost two-dimensional. Together they are convincing, but stiff and tentative. I would say "tolerable." Cooper looks the role – he looks and acts and speaks like the kind of man Maria ought to fall in love with – but he can't match Bergman's performance.

Bergman projects in Maria an irrepressibly ecstatic and clean sexuality, and an unconditional devotion to Jordan. Jordan twice calls it "shameless," and Maria admits it, boastfully, almost as though she doesn’t know the meaning of the term. Cooper at times looks uncomfortable in the role of a hero in Maria's eyes, but he manages to sound sincere in his parting words to Maria in the final scenes. They are the desperate, yet convincing words of a man who wants to preserve a value – Maria. And Maria's cries as she is torn away from him are unforgettably heart-rending.

If you're half a man, that is the kind of woman you want to want you.

Then you look at most contemporary actresses – the so-called sex symbols, the Oscar Night figures in their self-consciously outrageous gowns frolicking in what actor George C. Scott called a demeaning "meat parade" – and while one often can see their beauty, their sexuality is vapid, empty, contrived – at best corrupted – and their appeal is only skin-deep. At times, only superficially glamorous. There is no spirituality in their faces, not the spiritual purity one sees in Bergman's Maria. There are very, very few exceptions to that rule, and Hollywood is not making films that have any place for the kind of thing created and projected by Ingrid Bergman in that film.

The Left cannot or will not convincingly project heroes or hero-worshippers. To the Left in Hollywood, individuals do not exist to be happy and to live their own lives, to reach for a plateau of happiness far above the mob and out of reach of OccupyWall Street groundlings. Heroes, says Hollywood, exist to "give back" to society or to act as selfless role models or to pose as cynical, anti-capitalist mentors in incredible "slices of life," such as Brad Pitt in Killing Them Softly, discussed in Ben Shapiro's article. Individuals, says Hollywood, by themselves are just clueless dorks or helpless products of their "class" or "race" or "gender" who can't manage their love lives, their careers, their families, or anything else without screwing it up and needing societal input and analysis.

Hollywood has largely become the agitprop arm of the collectivists, statists, and the anti-freedom trolls in American culture. When the Left triumphed and occupied Hollywood, the bell tolled for Tinsel Town.

It's time for Americans to tell Hollywood that the show is over. It's time for Americans to tell the Left to just leave it all on the cutting room floor.

:: Permalink | 6 Comments ::

 

:: Sunday, December 02, 2012 ::

The Sanity of "Islamophobia" 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 7:05 AM

November was "Islamophobia Awareness" Month. Pat Condell, the indomitable critic of all things mystical and murky, especially of that paragon of tolerance and peaceful coexistence, has recommended that the West designate December as "Hatred and Violence in the Koran" month.

In a Gatestone article on the ubiquity of blasphemy laws in Europe, Soeren Kern, in "Muslims Pressing for Blasphemy Laws in Europe" (November 30th), cites the continued campaign of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to enact stricter laws that would prohibit and punish any speech that "defamed" religion or religious beliefs – particularly, and most importantly to the OIC, anything Islamic.

The OIC, a bloc of 57 Muslim countries, is pressuring Western countries into making it an international crime to criticize Islam or Mohammed – all on [sic] the name of "religious tolerance."

Criticism, of course, can include all forms of speech that call into question the foundations, legitimacy, irrationality, or fraudulency of Islam, from cartoons that mock Mohammad to amateurish videos ("Innocence of Muslims") to scholarly disquisitions. The OIC's disingenuous promotion of "religious tolerance" makes as much sense as if Stalin and Hitler had promoted "political tolerance" in the nations they had overrun. "Tolerance" in this context implies that a tolerable thing is not life- or value-threatening.

But Islam has demonstrated repeatedly over fourteen centuries that it is not tolerant of other religions – because those other religions have threatened its political power. Other religions that compete for men's minds, time and money are, to Islam, intolerable. Islam, all the guff about "interfaith dialogue" to the contrary notwithstanding, is the "one, true" religion. Wherever it has gone, wherever it has planted settlers or immigrants or fifth columnists, Islam must, by its totalitarian nature, become supreme and all-encompassing. We see this happening in Europe. All other beliefs, all other creeds, must defer to it, by hook, crook, or scimitar. All must "submit," which is the literal meaning of the term Islam.

Whether or not the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic organization that promotes the goal of a global caliphate (with a little help from President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton), introduced the term Islamophobia to describe any and all criticism of Islam, is moot here (see Robert Spencer's excellent column on this subject). Anyone branded by Islamic spokesmen or by the Mainstream Media as Islamophobic or an Islamophobe, is someone who genuinely fears Islam and sees it as a threat to his life or his values. This fear is claimed to emanate from madness or bigotry or racial prejudice. Islam, however, and regardless of the "race" of its followers, is a system of theocratic totalitarianism. One can be as "phobic" about it as one would be about Nazism or Communism, for the same reasons.

There is no reconciliation or "middle ground" possible between the two intolerants. One or the other must submit. Islam says so. But Western champions of freedom have yet to say it.

I'm sure that space limitations governed Kern's catalogue of blasphemy, defamation, and anti-freedom of speech laws, together with instances of their enforcement on hapless citizens of various countries. Aside from the Dutch Parliament's repeal of its blasphemy law, one very minor recanting of voluntary self-censorship was recently published by the Associated Press, which has excised the terms "Islamophobia," "Homophobia," and "Ethnic Cleansing" from its Style Guide, and gives one a very slight twinge of hope that the MSM is getting a clue. The first two terms it claimed (with justification) reflect a mental disorder and an "irrational fear," and suggest politically incorrect thought, punishable by law if some action is associated with it.

The Associated Press has nixed "homophobia," "ethnic cleansing," and a number of other terms from its Style Book in recent months.

The online Style Book now says that "-phobia," "an irrational, uncontrollable fear, often a form of mental illness" should not be used "in political or social contexts," including "homophobia" and "Islamophobia." It also calls "ethnic cleansing" a "euphemism," and says the AP "does not use 'ethnic cleansing' on its own. It must be enclosed in quotes, attributed and explained."

"Ethnic cleansing is a euphemism for pretty violent activities, a phobia is a psychiatric or medical term for a severe mental disorder. Those terms have been used quite a bit in the past, and we don't feel that's quite accurate," AP Deputy Standards Editor Dave Minthorn told POLITICO.

The third term is actually a legitimate one, for that is precisely what describes a number of campaigns in remote and recent history. (See the conflicts in Rwanda, Nigeria, and other African nations; the Armenian Holocaust, initiated by the Turks; and etc.). The question remains, however, of how to properly define "ethnic cleansing" or genocide. Does Judaism mean a "race" or a "religion"? Are those concepts inseparably linked, or not? Does the term "Islam" denote a race, or a religion? Does Christianity? I do not think there are enough "cross conversions" of individuals from one religion to another, by members of numerous "racial" groups, that would validate the AP's decision to remove "ethnic cleansing" from its style guide.

After all, if one is a Semite, one is not necessarily Jewish; one could just as well be a Muslim, or an atheist, or a Christian, or a Buddhist. "Semites" are men and so are imbued with the attribute of a volitional consciousness. But Hitler's concept of Judaism was founded on the faulty premise of determinism: if one is Jewish, one is necessarily, intrinsically of a particular "race." Jews can't help being what they are. "Race" is linked to the religion; it is in a Jew's genes (or his "blood") to be "Jewish" and adhere to a particular creed. Appended to this horrendous fallacy was the Nazi assertion that to be Jewish is also to be a corrupting and destructive influence and the bane of all moral men.

The obverse of this policy was that Aryans were intrinsically "superior" physically and mentally but polluted with the "blood" of inferior races. This was just as much a myth as Hitler's Jewish race one, because all during the abbreviated "Thousand Year Reich," it glossed over the historic fact that what is now modern Germany was a kind of Grand Central Station for several thousand years as waves of other races passed through it on tides of conquest and immigration from the four corners of Europe and even from Asia in the form of the Mongols and Huns.

This was Hitler's own irrational "phobia"; it justified in his own mind a campaign of "ethnic cleansing," which was the Holocaust. But even there, Hitler wasn’t consistent. He sent to extermination camps Jews of various nationalities, from Germany, Poland, France, Norway, and so on. Which was the deciding factor in those expulsions to the death camps: the victims' nationality, their religion, or their race? So, the argument could be made that "ethnic cleansing" is not necessarily synonymous with "religious" or "ideological" or even "racial" cleansing, but that equivocation seems to be the rule of thumb today. Why should we or the AP accept Hitler's or Islam's (or Hamas's) murky, undefined notion of "ethnic cleansing" or "genocide"? The concept's definition needs to be refined.

The Oxford English Dictionary has this definition of definition:

No. 6. To state exactly what (a thing) is; to set forth or explain the essential nature of.

No. 6b. To set forth or explain what (a word or expression) means; to declare the signification of.

From the Ayn Rand Lexicon:

A definition is a statement that identifies the nature of the units subsumed under a concept.

With the concept table, for example, the nature of a table is that it is flat, utilitarian furniture with legs and all entities that meet those criteria are identified as tables. It does not specify carved legs or inlaid marble surfaces or how many corners it has, only a table's essential attributes.

To return to the term "phobia" and its recent and indiscriminate employment as a suffix, is there a legitimate reason one may append the term to nouns? Is there such a thing as a "rational" phobia? As a metaphor, yes. But, first, let's examine the term phob or phobe, which is the Greek for "fear." The O.E.D. defines phobia:

Fear, horror, or aversion, especially of a morbid character.

Note the qualifier, morbid, which implies an unreasoning, irrational, or baseless character. The term may be used in the way of an analogy, such as "Anglophobe" or "Russophobe" to describe a person who causelessly fears Britons or Russians. These, too, and their many variants, are legitimate, definable terms. The question is: Are these "phobias" necessarily "morbid," or irrational? Should the term "phobia" be used exclusively in a clinical context, or is it legitimate to append it to any term one wishes?

It all depends on the context of its usage. All knowledge is contextual. If one has ophiophobia, does it include a fear of or revulsion for all snakes, including harmless Garter snakes, or just venomous snakes, such as cobras and rattlesnakes? If it includes all snakes, then one might say the phobia is a candidate for diagnosis. If it excludes all snakes but the venomous ones, then that is a saner phobia, whether or not one is trained in how to deal safely with them.

Is it sane to be "Islamophobic"? Resoundingly, yes, and most especially if one has at least a passing knowledge of Islam's nature and its history of murder, slavery, plunder, and empire building. It means that one is fearful of Islam in and of itself, and also contemptuous of Westerners in and out of government whose policies aim to "reconcile" the irreconcilable systems of Islam and freedom.

Is it sane to have Obamaphobia? Without a doubt. Obama has proven to be as much as nemesis to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness as Islam or any other totalitarian ideology.

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