The Empire Strikes Back

My uncle has a country place that no one knows about

He says it used to be a farm before the Motor Law

Now on Sundays I elude the Eyes, and hop the turbine freight

To far outside the wire where my white-haired uncle waits

            —Rush, Red Barchetta


I was walking from the parking garage to my office this morning, and I saw something I’d never seen before:  I was passed by a white SUV sporting a law enforcement blue/red emergency light rack, and labeled “Police” in big bold letters.  That in itself wasn’t unusual, except that it wasn’t a Houston Police vehicle.  Nor was it a Harris County Sheriff’s vehicle, nor that of our state highway patrol.  Hell, it wasn’t even a Texas Ranger.

No, if you read the finer print on the side, you learned that this “Police” was part of something called the “Federal Protective Service,” which apparently emanates from the Department of Homeland Security.

Federal cops.  Armed federal cops.  Patrolling our streets. In broad daylight.

Anyone else seem to recall the inherent dangers in the crown stationing armed patrols in and among the general populace with no specific external threat?

Recall Boston, March 1770, and Kent State University, May 1970.

Now, if there’s some kind of national security threat they’re after, that’s very interesting because no one has said boo about anything specific.  As noted above, we already have several local law enforcement agencies on patrol and protecting us from ordinary day-to-day crime.  Which begs the question: what the hell is this federal police force doing?

Then I open the news and it gets beyond disturbing.  Turns out this armed federal police force was rolled out yesterday to “monitor” Tea Party protests at IRS offices in places like St. Louis, Los Angeles, Fort Wayne, and Florida.  In LA, protesters were actually told they weren’t allowed on federal property.  I’m sorry, I thought the federal government worked for the People, and any property it has it acquired with money it confiscated from the People, which means federal property is the People’s property.

My mistake.

I can see why the government would be concerned.  After all, it’s well known that Tea Party groups are prone to violent riots, rapes, vandalism, crapping on police cars, and generally trashing whatever public venue they use to assemble . . . oh, wait, that was Occupy Wall Street, which the Administration not only didn’t send federal cops to “monitor,” (read: intimidate) but actually openly supported.  Never mind that the IRS already has its own armed agents, presumably those cities, like Houston, have their own state and local law enforcement agencies.

If you can’t see the pattern developing here, then you are being willfully blind.  As I’ve covered previously, DHS has been stockpiling literally billions of rounds of ammunition, along with what the administration and the Left insist are military-only weapons, assault vehicles, body armor, and pre-fab roadway checkpoints.  All with no legitimate explanation. 

This is not an organization equipping itself to detect and prevent or respond to terrorism, but for riot control.  And not only does the Tea Party movement have no history of violence, but the movement at its fundamental core is dedicated to trying to save this country from itself; yet in the irony of ironies, it is against them that DHS is called out.  Yesterday’s deployment makes clear that the government does not intend to use DHS to protect us from outside terror attack, but to protect itself from us.

It doesn’t stop there.

The Tea Party protests were, of course, backlash against the metastasizing scandal of the IRS selectively targeting Tea Party and other groups potentially hostile to the federal government and this administration in particular.  Groups with conservative-sounding names were delayed or denied certification for tax-exempt nonprofit status—effectively preventing these grass-roots organizations from coming into full existence, beginning at exactly the time they were showing signs of making a difference in the 2010 election cycle—while groups with progressive or liberal-sounding names sailed throughSay what you want about how high up the chain responsibility for this goes—although it’s more than interesting that IRS chief Lois Lerner has taken the Fifth and refused to testify to Congress, and the IRS is refusing to comply with Congressional requests for documents—somebody in this Administration elected to use the force of federal government to attempt to intimidate political opponents into silence.

And it doesn’t stop there, either.  Turns out even the sycophant press isn’t safe.

Under the guise of investigating a leak in the interest of national security, the Department of Justice secretly seized phone records at the Associated Press; this after AP held a story at the administration’s request based on security concerns, then ran it after being told the security concern had passed.  The Administration had asked that AP continue to hold the story so that Obama could announce it first, a request the AP declined.  Several reporters at FoxNews have been under DOJ surveillance, and DOJ has been hacking others’ computers.  In other words, the DOJ that didn’t have time to prosecute the New Black Panthers for voter intimidation even though the intimidating activity was caught on tape has been spying on journalists who are either hostile to, or who manage to offend, the Obama Administration.

Maybe these are unrelated, isolated incidents.  Maybe these are inconsequential, coincidental acts by low-level rogue employees.  Maybe I’m wearing a tinfoil hat and Santa Clause isn’t real.   But this chain of events is increasingly displaying a consistent pattern that suggests an extremely dangerous bigger picture: you cross or even question this Administration, and somehow, some way, you are going to feel the instruments of the federal bureaucracy wielded as weapons against you.

  • Start with a President who is ideologically predisposed to view the power and role of the federal government, and the executive branch in particular, as being unlimited.  This President has already repeatedly demonstrated a willingness, even a zeal, for acting by unilateral fiat and ignoring the Constitution.
  • This President comes from the world of Chicago politics, where corruption, intimidation, and even violence have long been a core part of the fabric.  This President won every election he had run prior to entering the White House by using surrogates to smear or intimidate out of the race all opposition.
  • This President ran for office on a campaign of “fundamentally changing America” (notice he was very careful never to say how it would be fundamentally changed).  At the same time, he advocated the creation of an armed security force apart from, but “just as powerful as,” the military.  Once he took office, his Department of Homeland Security began expanding and stockpiling vast amounts of military hardware and munitions; meanwhile he has been dismantling a military whose membership is overwhelmingly opposed to him politically, and pursuing avenues for limiting, if not eliminating, private citizens’ access to weapons.
  • Now the IRS—which now refuses to answer questions or produce documents on the subject—selectively investigates and stalls the creation of groups that politically oppose the President.  When those groups protest after the targeting becomes public, this heavily armed paramilitary branch of DHS is deployed against them.
  • And now the DOJ—which refuses to answer questions or permit an external investigation of itself—secretly engages in surveillance of journalists who are potential enemies of the Adminstration.

The story would seem perfectly natural if it were somewhere else and we changed the name from Obama to Abbas, or Chavez, or Castro.  But this is here, and now, and it’s affecting us.  And that’s scary, particularly from a President that warns young college graduates not to listen to “voices” that warn against the tyranny of our form of self-government.  

But the fear of those of us who shout these warnings isn’t of the tyranny of self-rule—self-rule is what we desperately cling to; it’s of the tyranny of Obama (or whoever) rule to which we object.  And that is the point that’s getting lost. 


Open Border Lunacy

Imagine there’s no countries

It isn’t hard to do

            —John Lennon, Imagine


Apparently MSNBC has some talking head idiot named “Touré”—that’s it, just the one name, like some over-egoist soccer player—they choose to broadcast pontificating on political issues of the day.  I’m not sure what qualifies him for that task, other than he’s evidently a Northeast liberal elitist.  His resume consists of stints as a music critic for Rolling Stone, and teaching the history of hip-hop at the Tisch School of the Arts in New York.  Henry Kissinger, he ain’t.

At least he’s not Chris Matthews.

Yesterday he waded into the immigration debate, overtly advocating open borders as the solution to all the world’s ills.  Let me first point out that as someone living in Southeast Texas, it kills me to listen to the shrill cries for amnesty and open borders from people in places like Boston, New York, and Chicago.  You people don’t have to live with the consequences of an open border; because of geography, you can’t get into those places without getting through customs first—i.e., there’s no border in your neighborhood for illegals to cross.  Come down here with me where federal inaction and overt blocking of state action to make up the difference has left to some degree a de facto open border, and see the refugee camps full of disheveled men hoping a day job will land on them—notice, I didn’t say they were looking for work; I said they were waiting for work to come to them.  Come check out our overcrowded schools bursting at the seams with kids who don’t speak a lick of English.  Come check out the grocery stores that are forced to advertise Se Acceptan WIC—We Accept Food Stamps—so that the non-assimilating illegals can take advantage of our welfare system.  Then let’s talk about open borders.

Touré’s basic premise is that “we already have open borders for large corporations [and] if it’s good for the global corporate rich guys, why isn’t it good for people[.]”  He seems to operate under the impression that (a) immigration by corporations and individual people are the same thing, and (b) corporations can pick up and move to another country at the drop of a hat.  Both assumptions are wrong.

Taking them in reverse, it’s not so simple for the board at GM to just decide to open a plant in, say, China and there it is.  Not so fast.  First you have to ensure that the country you want to do business in isn’t on a State Department sanctioned list.  There are any number of permits that have to be negotiated and obtained from the host country, often requiring the payment of certain, er, “fees.”  Naturally, there will be a few incidental expenses.  Often there are requirements to employ a certain minimum number of host country citizens.  Union agreements have to be worked out.  There’s the not so small task of finding a suitable location, which may require negotiating some kind of a lease arrangement, since foreign concerns often cannot own real property. 

Some businesses are legally barred from moving to some places at all; you think Anheuser-Busch can open a Budweiser brewery in Saudi Arabia?  And ask TransCanada how that whole project to build the Keystone pipeline in the U.S. is going.

No, it’s not so simple for a corporation to pack up and move that we can just say corporations already live in a borderless world.

By the way, notice how Touré always ties “corporations” with “rich” or “fat cats,” as though they have wealth obtained dishonestly at the expense of people, presumably poor people who are being prevented from immigrating here.  There’s always got to be some emotional class-based us-versus-them thing with the Left.

Touré also equates the immigration of people with the immigration of corporations, as though they’re the same thing with the same implications.  They’re not.

First—and this is a big one—corporations don’t vote.  Yes, they are permitted under our First Amendment jurisprudence to express their political interests, which includes the ability to donate money to campaigns.  But they don’t get a ballot.

But Rusty, open borders doesn’t mean citizenship; immigrants aren’t going to be voting.

Uh huh.  Let me tell you something, Sport: down here they have voting parties where they fire up the barbecues, serve up the cervezas, and get everyone they can find to sign absentee ballots.  Don’t tell me non-citizens don’t vote.

Perhaps the bigger point, though, is that corporations are net producers, while the immigrant population you’re talking about when you talk open borders are net consumers.  Touré tries to argue that immigrants are skilled workers and entrepreneurs that benefit the economy, but those highly productive people that want to come here already can and do; existing immigration policy has avenues for them.  The people who need an official open borders policy to come here are the very lowest-skilled, lowest-wage workers.  They don’t pay taxes—contrary to Touré’s argument—but they do consume welfare benefits:  food stamps, subsidized housing, free emergency room medical care for routine treatment.  Meanwhile, they take advantage of publicly-funded infrastructure—like jamming public schools with kids whose English is inadequate for them to keep up, slowing down curriculum for other students, and forcing the diversion of scarce resources to create alternative ESL programs—and other government services, all paid for by somebody else.

Corporations, on the flip side, do pay taxes.  But they don’t consume publicly-funded welfare and government services.  And they employ people—lots of people.  Touré tries to diminish the latter point by contending (citing no source for his figures) that “immigrant-founded ventures”—whatever that means—created over 450,000 jobs in the past decade, as though that qualifies immigrants as an economy-stimulating juggernaut.  Wow, that’s 45,000 jobs a year, which in a country where some 143 million are employed, that immigrant-created job factor is—if I’ve understood the scientific notation on the calculator correctly—comes to 0.00003% annually, plus or minus a zero to the right of the decimal.

Finally, Touré answers the national security issue with the imbecilic argument that it’s not our inability to control the border that threatens our safety, it’s Muslim poverty.  Again, the implicit message is that that poverty is itself our fault—more to the point, it’s the fault of the “corporate fat cats”—and not the result of a culture and society that got left behind some 700 years ago.  For Touré, the solution to Ahmed’s radicalization as well as the world’s economic woes is to throw open the borders so he can stop scratching in the sand in some forsaken hellhole and come flip burgers in America before some crazy Imam starts filling him full of hate.  

Every country on the planet exercises military control over its borders.  It’s among the most fundamental aspects of security.  And Touré’s argument that the 9/11 and (alleged) Boston bombers came here legally doesn’t make a case for throwing the doors wide open; if anything it highlights a porosity in the system that needs to be tightened up.  Further, there’s no telling how many would-be attackers have been stopped.

Fundamentally, though, Touré fails to understand the basic incompatibility between the existence of a welfare state and open borders.  If you pay for it, they will come.  In a country where less than 60% of the population that’s supposed to be here works, where 1 in 5 of the legal residents are on food stamps and some 40 million are on disability, the system is already under tremendous strain.  What would it look like with unlimited access to the global masses?  There’s a limit to what you can squeeze out of the diminishing ranks of the productive in order to fund livelihoods for the unproductive.

Fortunately, this was all on MSNBC, so outside of the monitors for Real Clear Politics, nobody saw this idiocy.

Why Syria?

Jones:             I ought to kill you right now.

Belloq:            Not a very private place for a murder.

Jones:             Well, these Arabs don’t care if we kill each other.  They’re not going to interfere in our business.

            —Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, and Paul Freeman as Rene Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark

I am not a pacifist or an isolationist.  But I’ve been wondering for some time why we are bothering with Syria.

Not that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad makes me all warm and fuzzy, because he doesn’t.  I get it that he’s a dictator, and I agree that to the extent his regime is oppressing or even brutalizing opposition factions among his own people that’s a bad thing.  But there’s a serious question being missed in a lot of the discussion over the civil war currently being waged there, and that is: what business is it of ours?

It’s a mistake we’ve made repeatedly over the last 100 or so years, and we don’t seem to learn.

One could argue that the U.S. had little self-interest in intervening in World War I or in the European theater of World War II.  A German victory in either case was not going to pose a threat to the U.S. or to U.S. interests.  Hitler wasn’t going to invade North America, a German-controlled Europe would still have been open for business, and you could argue that (had Hitler confined his Eastward ambitions) the Nazis would have provided just as good a buffer against the Soviets as did NATO.  To be sure, the Nazis were horrific mass-murderers, but it’s not the United States’ job to police that sort of thing on a global basis.  Nothing in the Constitution gives our federal government a mandate to spend untold amounts of taxpayer money and citizens’ lives trying to protect the citizens of other nations from dictatorial tyranny.

At least the Germans were invading other countries, and there is something to be said for helping to defend your allies when attacked.  But in the latter half of the twentieth century and continuing to the present, we have repeatedly involved ourselves in (and in some instances have instigated) other nations’ civil wars. 

In the 1950s it was Korea.  Ostensibly, that was to prevent the spread of Soviet communist influence, although query what real difference the tiny Asian peninsula would have made to U.S. interests.  I guess we might not have Hyundai and Psy today.  37,000 dead Americans later, we have a 60 year old stalemate, with soldiers permanently monitoring a demilitarized zone established by their great-grandfathers.  We repeated the mistake in Vietnam in the 60s and 70s, with even worse results.  After some 10 years, billions of dollars, and the loss of 58,000 more American lives, we—due to political failings, not military—accomplished none of what we claimed to be trying to achieve.  The communists overran the south, and to this day are the ruling party in Vietnam.  Adding to the disaster, U.S. involvement in the Vietnamese Civil War at least indirectly led to the rise of the charming Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and the communist takeover of Laos.

Small-scale U.S. involvement during the 80s and 90s in civil wars in El Salvador, Bosnia, and Somalia yielded ambiguous results at best, but still begged the question what U.S. interest was at issue justifying the expense of blood and treasure?

Fast-forward to the new millennium.  Bush 43 took us into Afghanistan to hunt down al-Qaeda in what was initially an arguably legitimate response after 9/11.  But the manhunt soon became a quest to oust the ruling Taliban from power—something almost wholly unrelated to the 9/11 attacks—essentially creating from whole cloth a civil war to replace a regime that was irrelevant to U.S. interests.  The “democracy” we have installed there hasn’t exactly resulted in a replacement government that is all that U.S.-friendly.  Meanwhile, we’ve lost 2,200 American lives (and counting); ironically that’s almost as many as were killed in the 9/11 attacks the Afghan war was supposed to avenge, and nearly a quarter of those losses have occurred since the death of the very man we were there to hunt down in the first place.

Bush 43 also took us back into Iraq, originally to eliminate weapons of mass destruction.  But as in Afghanistan, the original purpose morphed into a quest for regime change, once again basically creating a civil war in the interest of democracy.  And, as in Afghanistan, the government we set about removing from power was all but irrelevant; Iraq had been militarily neutralized in the first Gulf War, and wasn’t a serious threat to U.S. interests, nor was Saddam Hussein particularly destabilizing.  He was a bad guy, but he was a known quantity.  After another 4,400 American deaths, we have no WMDs, and an unstable democracy highly vulnerable to infiltration by radical Islamists.

Although Obama has gotten U.S. troops out of Iraq, we inexplicably remain deployed in Afghanistan now two full years after the original objective—getting Osama bin Laden—was achieved.  And Obama has given varying degrees of support to opposition forces in civil unrest/wars in Egypt and Libya as part of the continuing “Arab Spring,” ultimately resulting in the ouster of established governments.  All of this was undertaken in the interest of promoting democracy; but what about the interest of the U.S.?  Hosni Mubarek in Egypt was a stabilizing presence in the region; he was a reliable ally, and was at least able to coexist with Israel.  Moammar Gaddafi was no friend, but his regime hadn’t been a serious threat to anybody since the late 1980s; as with Saddam Hussein, at least he was a known quantity.  Now both have been replaced by unstable “democracies” run by Islamist majorities heavily influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood.

The lesson from all of this experience should be that attempting to export democracy by force rarely if ever works to our benefit.  None of these examples present a case where U.S. interests were clearly advanced, and in several cases our efforts have been demonstrably counter-productive, if not outright failures.

Which brings me back to Syria.

Our track record alone counsels against getting involved there.  But more to the point, I don’t see what interest we have in that fight.  Assad wasn’t threatening the U.S.; he wasn’t really even threatening Israel.  Recent experiences with Egypt, Libya, and Afghanistan demonstrate that replacing a known dictator with an unknown “democratic” government doesn’t necessarily result in a new U.S. friend.  And while you might argue that it’s a humanitarian thing and he was brutalizing his own people, that doesn’t answer the question of whether that’s an appropriate business for the U.S. federal government. 

Moreover, one of the problems with these conflicts is it is often very difficult to figure out who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.  Witness last week’s story about Assad using chemical weapons against the rebel forces; it turns out it may actually have been the rebels who used them.  And it’s been known for some time that the rebel coalition is infiltrated by elements of al-Qaeda.  

Every time we go trying to make some place safe for democracy and turn people who are not historically or culturally predisposed to self-rule into little Americans, it goes bad.  At the very best, it costs us enormous amounts of money and thousands of lives.  Any meaningful attempt to establish a new government requires a long-term U.S. military presence to prop it up, and even then there’s no guarantee that what you get with the new is any better for U.S. interests than what you had with the old; in some instances—like Syria—the potential downside is actually much worse.

The lesson, as always . . . be careful what you wish for.


EDITOR’S NOTE:  Sorry for the absence, but the truth is I’ve been a little tired and needed a break from the fight.