Shutting Us Up (reprise)

German Officer:  What did you say to her? Would you kindly repeat it to me?

French Officer:  What I said is none of your business.

German Officer:  Then I will make it my business.

        —Hans Heinrich von Twardowski as the German Officer, and Alberto Morin as the French Officer in Casablanca

 

I want to follow up on a post from last month with a question:

When did we get so afraid of speech?

Attorneys for the City of Houston have subpoenaed local pastors for copies of sermons touching on the topics of homosexuality, gender identity (whatever that is), or Houston Mayor Annise Parker (who, not coincidentally, is openly lesbian).  At issue is a new city “anti-discrimination” ordinance aimed at a ludicrous level of politically-correct hyper-inclusiveness that, among other things, allows men to use women’s restrooms because they “feel like” women (I’ve previously dealt with the insanity of these kinds of laws here).  Apparently there is a lawsuit challenging the ordinance, filed after the city refused a referendum despite a petition collecting nearly triple the number of signatures necessary to place the measure on the ballot.

It is not my task here to debate the merits of the ordinance.  Nor is this about my views on gay rights, same-sex marriage, or even homosexuality in general.  This is about government bullying and censorship in the name of political correctness.

In Texas we allow broad discovery in litigation, even of non-parties, but the information sought must be at least reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of evidence that would be admissible at trial.  To be admissible at trial, the evidence must have a tendency to make some fact of consequence to the determination of the matter more or less probable.  The pastors under subpoena are not parties to the lawsuit; they are neither the ones pressing the legal challenge to the ordinance, nor—obviously—are they the ones responsible for drafting or passing it.  It is difficult to see how anything one of them said from the pulpit makes any fact of consequence in deciding the ordinance’s validity more or less probable.  Curiously, the subpoenas don’t even appear to seek—or at least are not even limited to—sermons dealing with the anti-discrimination ordinance at issue.  Instead, they seek information on sermons dealing with homosexuality in general, or dealing with Mayor Parker personally.  Which begs the obvious question:

Why are the sermons being subpoenaed at all?

One suspects it has everything to do with the fact that the pastors being targeted have been vocal critics of the Parker administration and the anti-discrimination ordinance, which for obvious reasons has been something of a pet agenda item for her.  And that’s a serious problem.

The First Amendment reads in its entirety:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

By virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment and the incorporation doctrine, these guarantees restrict not only Congress, but also the States (and, by extension, local governments).  And the idea is pretty simple, really: people in the United States should be able to practice their religion and to speak out against the government without fear of government reprisal.  This concept is the very foundation of what our republic was supposed to be all about, and if you think about it, to the extent any of these pastors said anything having any bearing at all on the ordinance in question, they were engaging in First Amendment activity on multiple levels.  They were in church, exercising their religion. They were before their congregations, thus (presumably) peaceably assembled.  And not only were they engaging in speech, but they were engaging in speech articulating a grievance against the government.  With apologies to Larry Flynt, this is the very essence of what the First Amendment was designed to protect.

Yet their reward for speaking out is to be met by a phalanx of government lawyers, and heaven knows nothing good happens once lawyers start showing up.  All because those in power did not like what these people had to say.

The increasing weaponization of the mechanisms of government to intimidate opposition into silence is chilling, to say the least.  In the last century, dictatorships quashed dissent through the brute force of the KGB or the Stasi.  But state censorship of opposition doesn’t have to be so crude as midnight disappearances to the Gulags in order to be effective.  IRS denies or delays tax-exempt status for Tea Party groups, thus denuding them of the funding necessary to get their message out effectively.  Logan Clements produced a film critical of FUBARCare, and found himself immediately the subject of a tax audit.  The same Department of Justice that refused to prosecute the New Black Panthers when they were caught on tape intimidating voters brought felony campaign finance charges against Dinesh D’Souza after he released an anti-Obama film heading into the 2012 election season.

What do you suppose things like this do to the willingness of ordinary citizens to raise their voices and be heard?

In 2003 then-Senator Hillary Clinton famously squealed that she was “sick and tired” of people being labeled as unpatriotic when they dared to question the Bush administration.  These days, however, it’s not a question of dissenters being labeled unpatriotic, or even racist or homophobic (or maybe worst of all, “denier”).  We’re way past name-calling.  Now, anyone who might dare speak up has to wonder if they’re going to get a call from the IRS.  Or if a process server is going to knock on the door to invite them to a government-sponsored expose of every document in their file cabinet.  Or if they’re going to be arrested and threatened with five-to-ten in a federal penitentiary for jaywalking.

This is not how it’s supposed to be in this country.  We’re supposed to have active engagement by ordinary citizens in the issues of the day.  We’re supposed to disagree, and to be able to voice that disagreement, at times loudly.  As Michael Douglas said as President Andrew Shepard in The American President,

“America is advanced citizenship.  You gotta want it bad, ‘cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, ‘You want free speech?  Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.’”

But we seem to be losing that.  Fast.  Those whose hands grip the levers of power are so consumed with maintaining that grip that they now trod over the most fundamental tenets of our political society to ensure that they never even have to engage in (let alone win) the debate.  It’s becoming increasingly dangerous to speak.  Maybe not physically dangerous, and maybe not even dangerous in a go-to-jail sense—although one increasingly wonders—but it doesn’t have to be.  Just responding to a subpoena can be financially crippling to most, and there’s no insurance to cover it.  For many, the fiscal risk alone is more than they can chance.  Better to keep quiet and not attract the state’s attention.

If we don’t speak out now, if we don’t take that risk, who will be there to speak when they come to muzzle the last of us?

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Saving Us From Nothing

“What are you doing, Dave?”

        —Douglas Rain as the voice of HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey

 

I suppose nothing should surprise me anymore.

I read last week that the Department of Homeland Security is getting into the business of fighting “climate change.”  Not EPA. Not NOAA.  Homeland Security.  You know, the federal agency created in response to terrorism that has all the guns and armored vehicles, and whose stated “vital mission” is “to secure the nation from the many threats we face.”

Under the guise of ensuring “disaster resiliency,” DHS has started conducting studies on the resilience of infrastructure such as roads and the electrical grid, and how to protect against what it claims are rising sea levels and saltwater intrusion.  Apparently, all of this stems from a heightened awareness in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, as though Sandy was in fact caused by “climate change.”  I can only assume from that chain of logic that there were no major hurricanes prior to the 1930s when evil mankind started to bake the planet.

Tell that to the 8,000 or so people killed by the Category 4 hurricane that struck Galveston, Texas on September 8, 1900 (Sandy, by contrast, was a Category 2 storm when it made landfall in the northeastern U.S.).

I’ll get to the “climate change” thing in a bit.  Let’s first just think for a minute about this.  DHS is worrying about polar ice caps and sea levels at a time when the border is so porous that investigative reporter James O’Keefe—the guy who brought down the ACORN scam—was able to wade across from Mexico, unmolested, while dressed as Osama bin Laden.  And if you think that’s not a significant issue, consider that the government is in the process of putting up a massive residence hall to house thousands of illegals on a 50 acre tract outside of San Antonio.  Or if strain on infrastructure is a concern, how about the 85,000 students speaking 85 languages other than English now crowding Las Vegas schools?  Or the fact that in Nashville—not exactly right on the border—the school population is now 20% Hispanic.  And because we’re not deporting the few people who do get caught and some 70% of them don’t show up for their immigration hearing, 40,000+ people a year are disappearing into this country even after DHS had them in custody. That, of course, is on top of the nearly a million a year we don’t catch.

The fact is that the immigrant population, legal and illegal, is at an all-time high, and DHS is doing essentially nothing to control it.  And before you start on me with the predictably ridiculous cry of racism, or the we’re a nation of immigrants tripe, I’m not against immigration or immigrants. What I’m against is uncontrolled immigration.  We have no idea who is coming into this country.  300,000 people in the last 3 years have come here from predominantly Muslim countries.  If even 10% of them accept some or all of the violent tendencies of the militant Islamists and sharia law—and as I’ve demonstrated before, that percentage has the potential, if not likelihood, to be considerably higher—we’re talking a group roughly the same size as the entire ISIS fighting force that’s sympathetic to a worldview that wants to impose sharia law and kill—literally—everyone who disagrees, and they’re already here inside the U.S.

And DHS does nothing, choosing instead to play around with barometers and weathervanes.

Not only is DHS essentially ignoring its most basic security function, but it’s diverting its attention and resources to a man-made climate change fantasy that is so politicized and bogus that even the founder of Greenpeace had to resign and distance himself from it.  Aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan does an excellent deconstruction of the data (to get all his slides and then some, look here), and it is interesting because he focuses less on cause/effect and the fraud and conflicts of interest (although he gets into those), and more on the magnitude of the observations in a historical context, even if you accept the alarmists’ data at face value (for detail on why you shouldn’t, watch here).  Among his points are these nuggets:

  1. Recent CO2 increases are insignificant, and not necessarily bad.

The “climate change” panic focuses on CO2 emissions.  Why?  Because if CO2 emissions are endangering the planet, then Government can regulate and tax all human activity, including breathing.  Rutan points out, however, that if you take a longer view of history than the 100 – 200 years typical of alarmists’ “analysis,” we are in fact in a period of relatively low CO2 levels.  During the age of dinosaurs, atmospheric CO2 levels were 6 – 8 times what they are today, and not only was the planet not catastrophically overheating, but it was immensely more fertile and covered in foliage than it is now.  Higher CO2 is better for plant growth and life in general.

Furthermore, the levels that have the alarmists all in a tizzy are miniscule.  The CO2 limit for confined spaces according to OSHA is 0.5%.  The average CO2 level over the time life has evolved on this planet has been about 0.3%. The level of increase the alarmists want you to be afraid of is something like 0.04%.

And because it’s only man-made CO2 that we can control, it’s worth noting that greenhouse gases make up only 2% of the atmosphere, and only 3.6% of that 2%  is CO2; 96.4% of greenhouse gases are something other than CO2 (mostly water vapor—you know, the stuff that turns into rain).  Of that 3.6% that is CO2, only 3.4% is caused by humans.  So man-made CO2 comprises a grand total of 0.12% of all greenhouse gas; 99.88% of all greenhouse gas is something other than human-emitted CO2, despite Al Gore’s mansions, private jet, and SUV.

  1. Any recent warming is neither unusual, nor a significant threat.

Rutan takes a similar tack when he looks at the data for temperature.  Alarmists focus on the last 100 – 200 years to argue that there’s a sudden and dangerous spike over the last century after what they suggest was an otherwise stable global thermometer since the dawn of time.  But as Rutan points out, even if you accept the alarmists’ data, that claim needs some broader context.

First, consider that the seasonal temperature fluctuation on earth (hottest summer day vs. coldest winter night) is about 200 degrees.  The average U.S. city experiences temperature changes of over 100 degrees over the course of a given year, and 25 – 30 degrees or more on any given day. In other words, the temperature changes fairly dramatically all the time.  The alarmists are all worried over temperatures that they “project” will rise about 3 degrees globally over the next 100 years.

Even if we assume that’s going to happen, this is not unusual behavior for the planet, and it long predates Man, much less planes, trains, and automobiles.  The fact is we are in a temperature trough relative to the last 2 million years.  But even focusing just on that trough over the last half-million years, according to Rutan we find that every 85,000 years or so we get a temperature spike; the rest of that time was ice age.  Over the last 11,000 years—pre-dating civilization, so you can’t blame it on Man—the earth has been in one of those ice age recoveries, but it is the longest, most stable, and coolest of those non-ice age periods.  And even within that “spike,” we are nowhere near the hottest time in history, the history of Man, or even in recorded history.  The earth was significantly hotter during the time of Moses, the time of the Egyptians, and the time of the Romans than it is today.  Yet it, and we, are still here.

This is what your Department of Homeland Security is spending its time and your money on.  It’s not securing the border, and it’s not deporting people who cross it illegally, even as ISIS is actively saying it plans to initiate attacks within the U.S.  Instead, it’s chasing rainbows in an attempt to protect you against nothing.

So I have two questions for you to ask yourself:

One, what do you think they’re really doing?

Two, do you feel safe?

**************************************

EDITOR’S NOTE:  This marks the 250th installment of Chasing Jefferson.  In my wildest dreams I never thought we’d get this far.  Thank you so much to all of you who have stuck with me and given me so much encouragement.

Shutting Us Up

You’d better watch what you say

You’d better watch what you do to me

        —Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Good Love Is Hard To Find

 

Do you ever look around you and ask yourself, “What the hell is happening to us?”  I’ve found myself in that boat lately after a string of stories I’ve been seeing.

Wednesday, a group of students from the Penn State chapter of the Young America’s Foundation were outside the student union building handing out free copies of the United States Constitution.  They were doing so in one of the campus’ handful of specially-designated “free speech zones,” which in itself begs the question why—on Constitution Day, no less—they had to confine themselves to a specially-designated area to exercise their right to freedom of expression guaranteed in the very Constitution they were trying to distribute.  Worse, not only were they at a university—a place where almost by definition the whole idea is to marinate in a free exchange of ideas—but they were at a state university, meaning they were on public property.

The students were then confronted by university officials, who told them they could stand there and distribute their materials, but because they hadn’t reserved a space in advance—undoubtedly requiring a fee (read: free speech tax)—they had to take down their display table (which, of course, was allowing them to attract the attention of interested people without the uncomfortable exercise of personally confronting everyone whether they like it or not).  And if they didn’t comply, the official was going to call the cops.  The reason?  It “violates the policy.”  Nothing about the students being disruptive, destructive, or inciting violence—just mindless, jackbooted enforcement of “the policy.”

You WILL comply, and you will do so because I say so.  

Now, you know the people behind these kinds of policies are the same people who were taking over university administration buildings and rioting with police when they were exercising their freedom of speech in the 1960s.  Apparently anything goes when they’re the ones doing the talking, but mention a conservative idea like the Constitution—the modern Progressive Left never talks in Constitutional terms anymore—and you’d better jump through their policy hoops or shut up.

Think that’s insane?  Read on.

At Arkansas State, a football player and student manager were killed over the summer in separate incidents.  The team sought to honor the pair—both of whom were known to have been Christians—with a small sticker on the back of their helmets depicting a cross bearing the two students’ initials.  Predictably, an atheist got bent out of shape enough to bitch, and the university punted (a decision later reversed, but only after a conservative legal foundation threatened to sue the school, and only on the stipulation that the players voluntarily wear the sticker and pay for it themselves).

How juvenile and self-absorbed do you have to be to complain about a sticker a bunch of 19-year-old kids employ to help grieve over their dead friends at an event nobody forced you to attend?

Last week, principal Val Wyatt told the football booster club at Ventura High School in California that they would be forbidden from selling 200 sandwiches donated by a local Chick-fil-A.  The original reason given was that the principal was working to keep the school free of marketing by vendors attempting to reap a profit.  Profits?!?! Horrors!  But as Todd Starnes points out FoxNews.com, the Chick-fil-A shop donated the sandwiches; it wasn’t going to make a dime.  The principal conceded that her real motivation—supported by the district superintendent—was that she didn’t like Chick-fil-A’s position on gay rights:

“With their political stance on gay rights and because the students of Ventura High School and their parents would be at the event, I didn’t want them on campus.”

Trouble is, as Starnes also notes, Chick-fil-A as a corporate entity—bear in mind even that is separate from the local franchise owner who was actually donating the sandwiches—doesn’t have a position on gay rights.  And if what she’s really referring to is company president Dan Cathy’s now-infamously mis-paraphrased remarks in a 2012 interview in which he was asked about his personal views on same-sex marriage, all he said was he supported the Biblical definition of the family unit.  He didn’t slander or demean homosexuals. [As an aside, I’m not even sure you can characterize his statements as affirmatively opposing gay marriage or any other “gay rights.”  Saying you support traditional marriage is not the same thing as saying you oppose legislation permitting Ken to marry Steve (or marry Steve and Rick, or marry Mr. Tinkles the cat), and it’s worth noting that many of these same people on the Progressive Left support abortion at the top of their lungs yet will tell you that they do not condone abortion in their personal lives.]  But it was enough to deny the kids on the Ventura High football team the benefit of a charitable donation large enough to have bought brand-new state-of-the-art helmets for every kid on the team.

I wonder what Principal Wyatt will have to say to the parents of the first kid with a life-altering brain injury.

But wait. There’s more.

Last month at the College of Coastal Georgia, physics professor Dr. Leon Gardner handed out a syllabus that informed his students if they responded to someone’s sneeze by saying “bless you”—a common courtesy dating to before the Middle Ages, and maybe even to before the time of Christ—it would result in up to a 15% grade reduction. 15%.  That’s turning a B into a C-.  The rule was later rescinded after a massive public outcry, but the idea that it would even occur to someone to enact it in the first place speaks volumes.

At Ramay Junior High in Fayetteville, 8th grader Chloe Rubiano came to school last month wearing a t-shirt that said “Virginity Rocks.”  A laudable sentiment in a 13-year-old, don’t you think?  But at a school where girls are pregnant and guidance counselors distribute condoms, apparently the concept of virginity is too disruptive and sexually-charged to be permitted in public.  So she was forced to change into a gym shirt or be sent home.

This is where we are with our schools.  You can’t distribute the Constitution—even in a designated “free speech zone” on public property—without being slapped with a hyper-technical violation of bureaucratic “policy.”  You can’t mourn a dead teammate by putting a sticker on your football helmet.  You can’t support the local high school football team by selling sandwiches donated by a franchisee of a corporation whose president says he’s happy he’s still married to his first wife and that she’s a she.  You can’t say “bless you” if someone sneezes.  Your 8th grader can’t support virginity, at least not out loud.  Updating a post from several years ago, the 9th Circuit full panel has upheld rulings that an American high school can ban students from wearing American flags because they might incite Hispanic students to violence.   And as I’ve covered previously, your 5th grader can’t read his bible in class during “free” reading time, and if you protest too loudly about your 14-year-old being assigned porn as required reading you go to freaking jail.

Meanwhile . . .

At Clemson University, students and faculty are being required to answer a survey that asks, among other things, how many times they’ve had sex in the last 3 months, and with how many people.  Failure to do so is a violation of the Student Code of Conduct.  Supposedly this is part of some kind of sensitivity training the federal government is requiring under Title IX—and if so, it’s a good example of why the federal government shouldn’t be funding state universities in the first place—but one struggles to see the connection.  I’ll let that speak for itself.

In a world where even dozens of purported “Catholic” universities—including Notre Dame—have sponsored productions of The Vagina Monologues in recent years, and public schools make graphically illustrated sex ed books available to middle school kids, I suppose this shouldn’t be that surprising.  But this is where our cow-towing to political correctness has gotten us.  Sane, rational speech that happens not to fit with the Progressive narrative is banned, while perverted and hyper-sexualized expression, behavior, and intrusions are perfectly acceptable.

I understand that the First Amendment does not mean you can say anything, anytime, anywhere.  And I get it that schools need to be able to maintain a certain degree of order, particularly inside classrooms, to be able to fulfill their primary mission of teaching.  But this persistent and two-faced attack on conservative expression is out of control.

If the Progressive Left gets to control—by force—what we can say and where we can say it, particularly in our schools, then it’s over.  We have to fight back.  We have to push back against this sort of PC-fascism and reclaim our unalienable rights guaranteed to us under the First Amendment.  All of us.  If we don’t start doing it soon, there may be little left we have to say about it.

 

Size Matters

 

Agent:     Stop, Ma’am, or I will be forced to treat you as a threat.

Victoria: Where, exactly, is the threat?

        —Thomas Mitchell as the Lone Agent and Helen Mirren as Victoria in RED

 

I hate to have to keep talking about the Islamists, and you may be wondering why I’ve been devoting so much time in this space to a handful of crackpots severing the occasional head in a desert on the other side of the planet.  If that were it, I wouldn’t.  But when you examine the thing you begin to see that there’s lot more to it, and it is in fact a serious threat not just to Western journalists, but to Western existence.

We are told that the issue isn’t with Muslims in general, and that violent extremism is confined to a very tiny minority.  We are told that this is a regional problem, something to be contained and managed.  But, as Andrew McCarthy pointed out in an excellent piece in National Review Online, we have to come to grips with the fact that this is not a matter of small separate clashes with ISIS in Iraq, Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Taliban in Afghanistan, Boko Haram in Sudan, or al Qaeda wherever the hell they are.  There is no meaningful distinction between these groups, and we have to understand that rather than discrete, isolated conflicts, these are in fact multiple fronts in a single war being waged by a group that, whatever their internal differences, is united in ideological purpose: eradication of Western civilization and the establishment of a unified global caliphate.

To understand why this is so serious, let’s explore some numbers.

I have previously discussed data on global Muslim attitudes collected by the Pew Research Center.  In a report published last year, we saw that in most places surveyed, substantial-to-overwhelming majorities of Muslims favor making sharia the law of the land.  In many places, more than half not only want sharia, but they want it applied to non-Muslims as well as Muslims.  Some places surveyed showed majorities approaching a staggering 90% favor extreme penalties like beating and amputation for theft, stoning for adultery, and death for apostasy.  Significant numbers view suicide bombing and other violence as at least sometimes OK to defend Islam: Palestinian Territories 40%; Afghanistan 39%; Egypt 29%; Bangladesh 26%; Malaysia 18%; Jordan & Turkey 15%; Pakistan 13%.  Even in the U.S., that number is 20%.

Although perhaps not the majority viewpoint, this data suggests there is a large chunk of the global Muslim population that holds attitudes consistent with, if not sympathetic to, the ideology of the “extreme” Islamists.  And that’s even before we realize that Pew excluded many of the, let’s say, more enthusiastically Islamic countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Algeria, and Yemen.  I wonder why?  Of course it’s only conjecture on my part, but my guess is a survey including those countries would tilt the scales just a bit further towards a more ISIS-like set of beliefs.

What does this mean for an ideologically-based war against Western civilization?

Of the 1.6 billion Muslims on the planet today, there is some subset that to some degree or another supports the ideology and even the tactics of Islamist groups like ISIS.  It is difficult to quantify that number, in no small part because fear of persecution or adherence to the Islamic doctrine of taqiyya (which permits a Muslim to lie in order to protect Islam or other Muslims) may skew the results away from what might be called “extremism.”   I think the Pew data suggest a considerably higher number, but let’s say for discussion purposes it’s 10%.  That means the Islamist “population,” if you will, numbers 160 million people and growing.

Let me put that number in perspective.

The population of Nazi Germany in 1939 was about 70 million, or less than half the size of our discussion assumption of today’s Islamist population.  The combined population of Germany, Italy, and Japan at the outbreak of World War II was 186 million, or just a little bigger than the Islamist population today.  In more modern terms, according to The Economist 2013 Pocket World in Figures, an Islamist population of 160 million is larger than Russia (140 million) and just a little smaller than the combined present populations of Germany, France, and the U.K. (about 207 million), and large and growing chunks of all four are Muslim in their own right.

This is not something we can just dismiss.  Now, you might argue that the comparison to the Axis powers is inappropriate because the Islamists do not hold the same technological parity with the West that the Axis did, and you’d have a bit of a point.  I would counter, however, that the decisive difference any technology gap might make against the Islamists is rapidly shrinking as Iran moves ever closer to going nuclear, and as we continue to supply the Islamists with sophisticated weaponry, whether by giving F-16s to an Egypt that may or may not be able to shake off the Muslim Brotherhood, giving armored personnel carriers and RPGs to an Iraqi army that abandons them as they flee before advancing ISIS forces, or by abandoning materiel ourselves because we deem it too expensive to ship back as we withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan.

But there are also a pair of practical differences that to a large extent render the technology issue irrelevant in assessing the Islamist threat.  One is a matter of geography, or more to the point, lack thereof.  In World War II, you knew where—in an existential sense—the enemy was.  To fight the Germans, you had to go to Europe and push them back to Germany.  But the Islamists—and I think this is a lot of why we find it so hard to perceive this as a single war with multiple fronts instead of several isolated and unrelated skirmishes—know no geopolitical identity.  They are not bound by nationality, but by ideology, which means it is impossible to know where they are—again, in an existential sense—in order to fight them.  They are both everywhere and nowhere, and the ramifications of that are frightening, because it means they are not just in Gaza and Raqqa, but they’re also in our own backyard.

The second is a matter of psychology (or psychosis).  War is always brutal; there are always atrocities, and innocents are always killed.  But your basic German soldier in World War II did not want to die, and he didn’t really want to kill you.  Chances are he had no interest in whether Hitler conquered Europe or the world, and what he wanted most was just to go home to his farm.  The Islamists, however, are an essentially all-volunteer force of true believers.  If they’re fighting, it’s likely because they want to be there, and they want to advance the agenda of jihad towards a global caliphate that swallows Western civilization.  More importantly, they really, honestly, in-their-heart-of-hearts-down-to-their-DNA don’t care who gets killed in the process.  If it kills you, that’s fine.  If it kills them, that’s equally fine; what’s even better is if they can get themselves killed while in the process of killing you.  They don’t even care if their own children get killed—the internet is filled with videos of elementary age kids extolling the virtues of martydom.

Repeat after me, class: They.  Do.  Not.  Care.

This is the nature of the threat we face; it’s real, and it’s bigger than we imagine.  Whether we like it or not, this is an enemy that wants to destroy us, whether by conversion or the sword.  It is an enemy you cannot identify on a map; you can’t march into its capital city and claim victory.  It is an enemy that wears no uniforms; it draws no distinction on our side or its own between soldiers and civilians.  And it is an enemy that places no value on human life, not even their own; this means there is no compromise to be reached, because we have nothing they want except our submission or death.

You cannot negotiate with such an enemy.  Nor can you contain it.  Nor is it enough to (temporarily) “degrade” it, whatever that means.

You have to kill it.  It’s the only thing they understand.

 

Hither, Dither, and Yon

Borodin:    Captain, I would never disagree with you in front of the men, you know that.  But in this case, Viktor is right: it would have been better if you had *not* informed Moscow.

Ramius:     Oh, Vasili, Moscow is not the worry, nor the entire Soviet Navy.  I know their tactics.  I have the advantage.  No, the worry is the Americans.  We meet the right sort, this will work.  We meet some “buckaroo”. . .

        —Sam Neill as First Officer Vasili Borodin, and Sean Connery as Captain Marko Ramius in The Hunt For Red October

 

I have complained many times in this space about this President’s lack of visibility and more-than-curious refusal to address the nation on serious crises.  I’m beginning to re-think that, and maybe it’s better sometimes if he’d just keep his mouth shut.

On Thursday Obama broke from his usual pattern and actually gave a press conference to address the situation with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.  During those remarks, the President said, “I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. We don’t have a strategy yet.”

What?

This is troubling on a number of different levels.  First, if you don’t yet have a strategy, why on earth are you holding a presser to announce that fact to the world, including ISIS?  As we’ll discuss in a moment, this is not an isolated incident for this, er, Commander-in-Chief.

Second, how is it that the President has no strategy for dealing with ISIS?  The group has been part of the anti-Assad uprising in Syria for years.  Although he cavalierly dismissed them as the “JV” back in January of this year, the intelligence community has been warning about them since about that same time.  And it’s been all over mainstream Western news for months that ISIS was taking vast territories from a badly overmatched Iraqi army.  On June 9, ISIS captured the key Iraqi city of Mosul.  Yet nearly three months later, the Obama administration still doesn’t have a plan for dealing with them?

This comes on the heels of Obama in effect announcing that he doesn’t yet have a plan for dealing with increased Russian aggression in Ukraine.  There he went a step further by announcing what his plans would not be, explicitly taking any military response off the table.  I am not suggesting that military intervention necessarily is the appropriate response to the situation in Ukraine, but why on earth would you say out loud that it’s not an option?  By doing that, Vladimir Putin now knows the worst risk he faces is economic sanctions, and with winter approaching a Europe that depends on Russian gas he knows the U.S. is not likely to get significant European support for much beyond what is already in place.

And this is not new for the Obama administration.

Recall March 2012, when Obama—thinking he was off-mic—told then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that after the election he would have “more flexibility” regarding U.S. missile defense systems in Europe.  Translation: he told the Russians that if they would just be patient, he would be able and willing to give them what they want.

If publicly telling your adversaries that you’re taking options off the table is bad, the reverse—publicly making threats you are not willing to carry out—may be worse.  Rewind to August 2012, when the President told the world that the use of chemical or biological weapons in the Syrian conflict would be a “red line” for the U.S. as far as military intervention.  Fast-forward to August 2013, when alleged evidence that the Assad regime was using such weapons against civilians prompted calls for action, and Obama denied he said what he said, and then he did nothing.

As not quite an aside, this is essentially the same thing he did with respect to Benghazi, when he promised to bring those responsible for the attacks to justice, and has done basically nothing since. He is now in the process of doing precisely the same thing with respect to the murder of journalist James Foley.  Yet while on his recent vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, he found time to work in eight rounds of golf, raising his total to 35 rounds this year, and 192 rounds since he took office.  It is also worth noting that while ISIS and the Russians have been on the march and the administration did not have a plan, the Commander-in-Chief had time to attend over 40 fundraisers this year; that’s over eighty in his second term, nearly three times Bush 43’s second term tally.  Obama’s total of nearly 400 is second only to Bill Clinton.

Time and again, the President has publicly shot off his mouth about strategies and plans—or the lack thereof—with respect to foreign policy matters.  He has absolutely no grasp of the concept of playing it close to the vest when dealing with adversaries.  Sun Tzu, writing some 2,500 years ago, emphasized the importance of information, particularly about the capabilities and intentions of your opponent, in deciding conflicts; Obama seems to have missed that one.

This administration lives in a state of total denial regarding the threat from our enemies. In point of fact, the administration has expressly denied that ISIS is at war with the U.S., despite the fact that ISIS has expressly and repeatedly said that it is.  Instead of acknowledging the reality and dealing with it for what it is, the Obama administration steadfastly refuses to take them at their word, and has consistently attempted to deal with ISIS and other Islamists as civilian criminals, rather than soldiers at war.  Further, FreeBeacon.com reports that the latest FBI domestic threat assessment refuses to include Islamist jihadis among those threats, focusing instead on things like anti-government militia groups, black separatists, and both sides of the abortion debate.  The FreeBeacon piece notes that the FBI is advised on domestic terror threats by operatives of al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood.

This childish game of insisting it won’t be so as long as we refuse to name it is dangerous.  You may choose not to defend yourself, but you have no choice about being in a fight if the other guy wants to fight.  When you broadcast your every move to the world, ignore what your adversaries tell you are their intentions, and on top of that allow those same adversaries to advise you on how to respond to threats, your ability to defend yourself even if you wanted to is reduced to nil.

Perhaps we could do with a little less talking, and a little more doing.

No Laughing Matter

“You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”

        —Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride

 

Robin Williams was funny.

Say what you will about some of his politics, but the guy was funny.  Yes, Jumanji was pretty much a stinker, and yes, his manic tendency to race off-script down random rabbit trails could make him hard to watch in an interview sometimes.  But that simply showed us that for all his comic genius, he was all-too-human.  His was a rare entertaining talent, and he will be sorely missed.

One thing I’ve never heard him accused of, however, is being a racist.

Until now.

Apparently—I had to read this in a news report, because I don’t watch narcissistic award shows—Billy Crystal did a tribute piece at the Emmys in which he featured some clips of Williams doing stand-up.  In one of the clips, Williams—in his trademark ad-lib style—borrowed a scarf from an audience member, wrapped it around his head like a niqab (the article refers to it as a hijab, but Williams uses it to cover his whole face, which I understand is a niqab) and said in falsetto, “Welcome to Iran.  Please help me.”

And the Twittersphere went nuts, complaining that the bit was racist, that the show was racist for using it, or that it was insulting to Williams’ memory to make him look like a racist.

Basically, it was racist.

Huh?

I suppose I should expect this kind of lack of thought from people who not only sit down to watch the Emmys, but then feel compelled to get on Twitter to comment about the show.  But let’s take a look at this.

First, the bit had nothing to do with race.  Nothing.  “Racism” is the practice of racial discrimination; that is, drawing distinctions or being demeaning towards a group of people based on their race.  Williams was doing neither.

The niqab or hijab is not associated with any particular race, but with the religious/political doctrine called “Islam.”  In particular it is associated with the fundamentalist variety of Islam focused on sharia law.  That has nothing to do with race.  The Muslims in Saudi Arabia and Egypt are largely Arab, but those in Iran—the subject of Williams’ ad-lib—are not.  They’re Persian.  Women in all three places can be found behind head/face covering.  Ditto Turkey, where the Muslims are neither Arab nor Persian, but, well Turks.  In the Sudan, they’re black.  In the Russian Caucasus, it comes as no surprise that the Caucasians are white.  In Thailand they’re Thai, and in Indonesia they’re Indonesian.  In all of these places the sort of head covering Williams was mimicking ranges from common to required by law (as in Iran), and it’s all due to the ideas of Islam, which is not a race.

Repeat after me, class: It’s not about race.

Second, Williams was not mocking or demeaning the niqab/hijab or Muslims.  He was drawing attention to serious human rights issues that plague women under Islamic rule.  Now, apologists will tell you that the head cover is a symbol of chastity and modesty, but particularly in those places where its use is mandatory—as in required not by religious observance, but by national law, and enforced by modesty police (I kid you not)—it is also symbolic of the oppression that in many ways treats women as second-class, if not semi-slaves, and this was Williams’ point.

I touched on this in the last post, but consider that in fundamentalist Islamic societies, women cannot serve as witnesses in the prosecution of a man (or men) she accuses of raping her; only men are competent to testify, and she’d better come up with four of them who agree with her.  Otherwise, not only does the accused go free, but her accusation is now an admission of adultery, for which she may be executed, sometimes by stoning or beating.

Speaking of beating, under sharia, wife-beating is expressly condoned, the rationale being that the woman is to be subservient and obedient to her husband, who is her master.   Further on marital relations, the husband is allowed to take up to four wives, any of whom he may divorce—leaving her penniless and un-marryable—simply by saying “I divorce you” three times; vice-versa is not true for the wife in either case.  By the way, Islam also condones pedophilia; Mohammed—who is to be imitated in every way as the perfect model of human behavior—married one of his wives, Aisha, when she was six, and consummated the marriage when she was nine.  More recently, a Saudi cleric issued a fatwa in 2011 permitting marriage to girls as young as one.

If you’re a woman, not only must you wear that head cover, but many places you can’t go outside, even in broad daylight, without a male relative as an escort.  Nor are you permitted to drive a car.  Some places you can’t even go to school; that’s what the charming gentlemen of Boko Haram have been trying to enforce by kidnapping hundreds of girls in Nigeria.  And while we’re at it, although not really part of Islamic doctrine as such, we ought to take brief notice of the practice of “honor killings” and acid attacks prevalent in Islamic societies—usually committed by a close male relative—when Muslim girls refuse arranged marriages or simply become too Westernized.

This is what Robin Williams was trying to highlight when he donned the niqab, took on the character of an Iranian woman, and pled “Help me.”

Is that what you call “racism”?

That question highlights a much broader issue in that this loaded pejorative “racism” is thrown around so lightly these days it has ceased to have any meaning beyond “I don’t like what you did/said/thought.”  Particularly for the Progressive Left—and I’ll bet you dollars-to-donuts 100% of those who took the trouble to Tweet about an Emmys piece are big-time Leftys—“racism” has become the automatic charge for everything with which they disagree.

Don’t want U.S. judges applying foreign law to Americans in American courts?  You’re a racist.

Support requiring voters have sufficient I.D. to prove they are who they say they are (you know, the same thing most states require for you to collect welfare)?  You’re a racist.

Support tighter border security to prevent ISIS—or whatever they call themselves this week—from slipping in to start bombing American cities or spreading Ebola?  Guess what: you’re a big, fat racist.

Advocate eliminating the welfare regime that has destroyed the black family and trapped millions in an endless cycle of dependency and poverty?  Well, that’s because you’re a racist.

Think it’s a good idea to have school vouchers that not only force competition, but give impoverished black parents a means to send their kids somewhere other than the rat/gang/drug-infested hell-hole that is their local public school?  That makes you not only a racist, but anti-teacher, to boot.

Think affirmative action, alternative ethnic curricula, reduced admission standards, and modified grading scales treat minorities as inherently inferior and incapable, and set them up for failure by artificially inserting them into schools and jobs for which they would not otherwise qualify?  Then your name is Dr. Thomas Sowell, and you’re a racist even though you’re black.

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King fought against real racism: fire hoses and police dogs, separate lunch counters, back-of-the-bus, and lynching.  He dreamed of a day when people would be judged not by the color of their skin, but on the content of their character.  Today’s Progressive Left has hijacked and weaponized that movement, and perverted Dr. King’s dream into a world where people are judged not by the content of their ideas, but by how their ideas can be misrepresented and then demonized as “racism” without further debate.

And that’s not funny.

Actions Speak

What are words for?

When no one listens, what are words for?

When no one listens, there’s no use talking at all

        —Missing Persons, What Are Words For?

 

I see that once again we have a cease-fire in Gaza that will ultimately prove temporary, and with crises burning there, in Iraq, in Syria, and in Ukraine, the President who as candidate pledged to forego vacations as part of the sacrifice inherent in the office is heading back for his annual half-month respite on Martha’s Vineyard.

Some things never change.

Quite so, actually.  Much of my recent delay in posting is I’ve been trying to work through some thoughts on the Gaza situation, and I keep coming back to the idea that in fact in that context some things don’t change, and there is a broader lesson to be learned.

And it has everything to do with Islam.

Rusty, you know that Hamas and other groups like it are just an extremist minority, and that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful.

So I keep hearing from the PC-crowd.  Indeed, every U.S. President since George H.W. Bush (as well as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown) has told us that Islam is a “religion of peace.”  But if the radical jihadists are a tiny extremist minority, and there hundreds of millions in the vast peace-loving majority, I have one question:

Where are they?

Let’s consider some facts.

Wikipedia lists 45 armed conflicts currently ongoing around the world.  Islamists are involved on at least one side (sometimes both) in 28 of those conflicts (most of the rest involve communist revolutions).  In other words, although Muslims make up less than a quarter of the global population, roughly two-thirds of all the war on the planet today consists of Islamists either (a) trying to establish an Islamist state by force (e.g., Afghanistan, Gaza), (b) trying to enforce Islamic law against non-Muslims (e.g., anti-Christian violence in Egypt), or (c) fighting with each other over who has the “correct” version of Islam (e.g., Syria, Iraq).

This is not new.

After moving from Mecca to Medina—prior to which time he had gained fewer than 100 converts to his new religion—Muhammad was essentially a pirate and warlord.  In 630 A.D. he attacked and conquered Mecca, and went on to force almost the entire Arabian Peninsula to convert to Islam or at least submit to Islamic law.

After his death, Muhammad’s armies continued to spread Islamic rule—not by evangelism and thoughtful conversion, but by the sword—throughout the Fertile Crescent, across North Africa, and around the Mediterranean.  Islamists conquered all of the Spanish peninsula and penetrated into southern France by the end of 8th Century, where they remained for 700 years.  They pushed eastward into what are today Afghanistan and Pakistan.  In 1453 they took Christian Constantinople (today Istanbul), and conquered all of what is now Turkey.  In 1529 and again in 1683 Islamist armies nearly captured Vienna, in the heart of Europe. They pushed across India during the 12th to 18th Centuries.  The late 19th and entire 20th Centuries saw Islamists slaughter millions of non-Muslim Armenians, constant bloodshed between Sunnis and Shiites fighting over the “truest” version of Islam, and the never-ending quest to drive the Jews of Israel into the Mediterranean.  Even today, Islamists are fighting not only in the Middle East, but across much of Africa, Indonesia, and the Caucasus.

The so-called “religion of peace” has been engaged in wars of religious conquest literally from its very beginning; wars that have continued non-stop for 1,400 years.  They have fought and killed Christians.  Jews.  Buddhists.  Hindus.  Zoro-Astrians.  African tribesmen.  At some point, the apologists claiming that those waging jihad are only an extremist fringe have to answer some questions:

How do you explain a 1,400 year track record of non-stop violence if they are only a tiny minority?

How is it that these are extremists who are perverting the true religion, when these wars of religious conquest trace all the way back to Muhammad himself, and were continued by his original direct followers?

These questions become extremely important once we are willing to acknowledge the motivation driving the jihadists.  This is not about American “imperialism” and decadence; Islamist violence and conquest was going on for 1,000 years before this country was founded, and the majority of it today is taking place against people other than the West.  No, what this is all about for the Islamist—and has been since the days of Muhammad himself—is forced conquest of the entire planet for Allah, or more specifically, for Islam.

This goal continues today.  A 1982 Muslim Brotherhood manifesto on a “worldwide strategy for Islamic policy” states among its objectives “to establish an Islamic State,” by infiltrating and influencing media and the government to push the Islamic agenda both informationally and legally.  Following up on this, a 1988 Muslim Brotherhood document applying this manifesto to North America in the same manner said:

“The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house . . . so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”

Understand that Islam is not just a religion, and thus Islamist conquest does not mean religious conversion to the worship of Allah (or at least does not mean that exclusively).  Placards at Islamist protests proclaim “Islam is a Perfect System for All Mankind,” “Death to Those Who Insult Islam,” or “Islam Will Dominate the World”—it’s always about Islam (or Muhammad), never about Allah.  Islam does not distinguish between matters of worship and matters of civil politics and legal governance.  Religion and law are one and the same, and you see this in the full imposition of sharia law in a number of heavy Muslim-majority countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, just to name a few.  This alone begs the question just how “extremist” the Islamists really are within the broader Muslim community.

Rusty, it’s not like anyone is going to invade and conquer the U.S. to impose sharia law here.  And besides, we have the Constitution.

Oh, really?

It doesn’t always take a violent conquest.  Consider the situation in Europe.  We’ve discussed this before, but the overall population of Europe, exclusive of immigration, is in decline. Non-Muslim fertility rates in Europe are almost uniformly below the 2.1 per female necessary for a culture to sustain itself.  In places like the U.K., France, Norway, and Finland, the non-Muslim fertility rate hovers at about 1.8, while the Muslim fertility rate is north of 3; in other words, Muslims in those countries are having 60% more babies than non-Muslims.  Some researchers believe the U.K. will become a Muslim-majority nation within 35 years.

The situation isn’t much better here.  The fertility rate for Muslims is between 2.6 and 2.8, while the overall U.S. fertility rate (including Muslims, meaning that the non-Muslim rate is actually even lower) is about 1.9.  This disparity and its implications for our demographics raises serious questions about just how extreme the Islamists’ attitudes and drivers really are.

We’ve covered this before.  In 2011 the Pew Research Center found that roughly 1 in 5 U.S. Muslims believe that violence in defense of Islam could be justifiable in some circumstances, and agree that there is at least a fair amount of support for “extremism”; 20% is no mere fringe minority.  Half identify themselves as “Muslim-first.”

Globally, the vast majority of Muslims believe that sharia should be the law of the land.  A 2012 study—commissioned by WND, so take it with a bit of a grain of salt—suggests that as many as 40% of U.S. Muslims share that belief, even to the point of trumping the Constitution.  Muslim groups have virulently opposed proposed legislation in states such as Michigan and Oklahoma aimed at precluding the application of foreign law over U.S. and state law, arguing that it is racist and “anti-sharia,” even though the proposed measures never mention sharia by name.  Why would these Muslims care enough to oppose these laws as “anti-sharia” unless they were in fact intending to apply sharia law?

Rusty, sharia is just a code of conduct, no different than a WWJD bracelet.  It’s just a cultural difference, and you’re being a racist Islamophobe.

Oh, OK.

Under sharia, non-Muslims are not technically required to convert (although this allowance is often more honored in the breach than the observance), but must accept second-class dhimmi status that denies them many rights and privileges reserved for Muslims, and must pay a special tax called the jizyah.  I will not attempt to catalogue all the evils of sharia, but just to give you a flavor, under sharia law:

  • A woman who is raped must produce four male witnesses (and if she cannot,her accusation is an admission that she is guilty of adultery, which subjects her to death by stoning);
  • Amputation remains a viable form of punishment for crimes such as theft;
  • Merely insulting Islam, the Qu’ran, or Muhammed is a capital offense;
  • A man is entitled to beat any of his up to four wives.

In sharia countries, women cannot drive, and often cannot even attend school.  Nor may they appear in public without a male relative.  Homosexuals . . . well, they are commonly hanged on construction cranes.  And if you can stomach it, go see how many internet videos you can find showing the beheadings of non-believers, then get back to me on the “cultural difference” debate.

The first steps are already here, consistent with the strategies of infiltration, influence, and propaganda set forth in the Muslim Brotherood’s 1982 and 1988 strategic memoranda.  The UN is considering resolutions that would effectively criminalize criticism of Islam. Similar measures are being proposed in the U.S. that would categorize such behavior as a “hate crime.”

It may not be by the scimitar—although 1,400 years of history suggests that if it is, that’s fine with the Islamists—but make no mistake: Islam, and more to the point, sharia, is coming to a statehouse near you.

And you’re not going to like it.

For further information, check out this well-done video by Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, a Muslim anti-Islamist activist.

Isn’t It Ironic

 

It’s like rain on your wedding day

It’s a free ride, when you’ve already paid

It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take

Who would’ve thought . . . it figures

        —Alanis Morissette, Ironic

 

WARNING: THIS PIECE HAS STRONG LANGUAGE; PARENTAL DISCRETION IS ADVISED

i∙ron∙ic  (ī ränˊik) adj.  1 meaning the contrary of what is expressed  2 using irony 3 opposite to what is or might be expected  Also i∙ronˊi∙cal—i∙ronˊi∙cal∙ly adv.

Just some quick observations today (in no particular order) for your consideration about the often curious positions the Federal government and the Progressive Left that runs it take these days.  I’m sorry, I haven’t linked to everything . . . time’s a bit short, I’m not getting along with my new laptop, and most of this is relatively undisputed common knowledge, even if not loudly reported in the media.

The Obama administration gave up five Taliban generals to spring an alleged Army deserter imprisoned in Afghanistan (actually Pakistan, but who’s counting?).  And so dire was Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl’s medical condition, there was no time to consult with Congress as required by federal law (thus justifying Obama’s unilateral enactment of an “urgent need” exception to the legislation passed by Congress).  Somehow just six weeks later he’s healthy enough to return to active duty.  Yet that same administration hasn’t lifted a finger to free a Marine rotting in a Mexican jail for making a wrong turn.

A photo I.D. is required to see the U.S. Treasury building, a facility each of us owns.   But the Left in Congress screams RACISM and the Department of Justice files a lawsuit any time a State has the audacity to require that same I.D. simply to ensure that people showing up to vote are in fact who they say they are . . .

. . . Yet it drops charges against New Black Panthers caught on tape intimidating voters at a polling place.

I’m just sayin’ . . .

That same Department of Justice—which reports to the President—also sues States to prevent them from enforcing existing federal border laws.  They say that’s an exclusive job for the federal government, and none of the states’ business.  But then when the feds fail to discharge that responsibility—and indeed the administration adopts a policy of almost total tolerance—the President comes asking the States for their help to house the all-too-predictable flood of illegals.

Speaking of the border crisis, the Progressive Left sees in it a grand and indeed holy humanitarian opportunity to serve God’s children.  Yes, that does tug at the heartstrings, doesn’t it?  Until you remember that these same people crying over Guatemalan and Salvadoran 19 year old “children” who are very much alive, have said absolutely nothing about the 50 million American babies lawfully killed in the U.S. since 1972 by conspiracies between their mothers, their mothers’ doctors, and the Progressive Left other than to complain that State statutes restricting the practice to the first six months of pregnancy are somehow a “war on women.”

While we’re at it, um, Your Holiness, I’ll wait here while you have a chat with Archbishop Cordileone (Archdiocese of San Francisco, Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) home diocese) about the ramifications of a parishioner publicly advocating a position so emphatically not consistent with the Church’s most fundamental moral tenet, because I know the Church is concerned about the sanctity of human life and wants those taking the sacraments to be “in communion” with the Church . . .

. . . I’m still waiting . . .

Yeah, still waiting . . . I mean, I think they still teach about Henry VIII being excommunicated over a divorce,don’t they, and he hadn’t even killed anybody, at least not at that point . . .

Shall I just move on, since the Church has no credibility any more on this issue when the second most public and powerful female on the planet consistently claims to be Catholic yet consistently declares herself  against human life and there is exactly zero reaction from the Church of which she laughably claims to be a part? . . .

OK

The Obama administration’s spy and security apparatus is tapping your phones, watching your email and internet traffic, and sending drones to shove GPS tracer chips up your backside while you sleep (okay, I mostly made the last one up—I hope).  Yet it has spent the last six years avoiding any substantive engagement with the press, and has fought tooth and nail to provide any information to Congress or to the American people about what it’s doing.

While it was shielding—or destroying—documents and stonewalling Congress, the administration also put up a fence to keep veterans and everyone else from accessing monuments on the National Mall.  And it maintains a fence patrolled by armed K-9 units to keep U.S. citizens away from the White House.  By the way, both facilities are owned by the American people, the very people being kept out.  Yet the Obama administration specially opened the National Mall for a pro-illegal-immigration rally, and steadfastly refuses to fully deploy a fence to help secure the Southern border. This, despite the 95% decrease in illegal border crossings in San Diego (recognized even by NPR) once the fence there was complete.

Obama and the Left crammed through Congress a sweeping takeover of some 1/6 of the economy with the passage of FUBARCare.  They passed that monstrosity over the loud objections of a significant majority of Americans in part on the promise that its requirement that people purchase a product whether they like it or not was not a tax.  Then having jammed it down the American peoples’ throats, they then defended the supposed constitutionality of that legislation before the Supreme Court on the basis that it was in fact . . . a tax.

The Obama administration funneled billions of dollars of taxpayer money to campaign donors via bad “loans” to dubious “green energy” startups like Solyndra, yielding little except sophomorish “aw shucks” jokes that “shovel-ready” wasn’t as shovel-ready as they thought.  Meanwhile it used the IRS—you know, the agency that collects that tax money in the first place—as a political weapon against Conservative groups.

And then lied about it.  And then covered it up.

The administration screams bloody murder that law-abiding citizens—presumably that’s you—need to be deprived of their Constitutionally-guaranteed right to keep and bear arms.  But that same administration shipped huge numbers of military grade guns—guns you are in fact already prohibited from owning in the U.S.—to the chronically homicidal Mexican drug cartels, resulting in hundreds of dead Mexicans and at least two dead Americans.

And then lied about it.  And then covered it up.

While it was busy arming Mexican drug lords with one hand, the administration with the other was deploying armed federal agents to “monitor” peaceful Tea Party rallies.   Yet when the “occupy” demonstrations spent weeks disrupting commerce, vandalizing private property, crapping on police cars, trafficking in illegal and dangerous drugs, and committing rapes, the administration and Progressive Left did, well, nothing—except cheer them on. 

Speaking of rape and cheering them on, the Progressive-controlled Democrat Party has been pushing the mantra of the Right’s “war on women” for several years.  Yet the keynote speaker at their 2012 national convention was serial cheater and sexual abuser Bill Clinton.

Are you kidding me? You’re going to accuse me of waging a war on women just because I don’t want to pay for your abortion, and you’re going to invite Bill-I-seduced-a-20-year-old-intern-to-blow-me-in-the-oval-office-and-then-I-ruin-her-life-on-national-TV-Clinton to headline your convention?

I don’t normally use this language in this space—In my private life, those who know me know better, so sue me—but there’s really no other way to put it: your government-of-the-people-by-the-people’s reaction to you is: fuck you.

That’s your federal government these days in the hands of the Progressive Left, where everything is doublespeak, and who wins and who loses has everything to do with who you are.  And have you noticed who’s always on the losing end, even if it means flipping prior logic on its head?

Isn’t it ironic? Yeah, I really do think.

The Root of Money

Money, it’s a gas

Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash

         —Pink Floyd, Money

 

Have you ever asked yourself what money is?  I mean, what is it, really?

It’s not what you think, and you’re not going to like the truth.

As children (at least those of us who grew up before the ubiquitous use of credit and debit cards), we at some point gain an awareness of money as the metal coins and green paper rectangles our grandparents sometimes gave us to stick in our piggy banks.  But that’s not really “money”; that’s “cash,” or “currency,” which are only symbols or representations of money, but are not money in themselves.

In Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, copper baron Francisco d’Anconia gives an extended lecture on the nature of money as a means of exchange:

Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them.  Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. 

Conceptually, this is an excellent theoretical description of what money was supposed to be.  And in a system in which money is in fact a representation of value, Miss Rand’s instruction above would be accurate.  Unfortunately, that’s not the world in which we live.

If we were ever in a world where money represented actual value, I long ago accepted the fact that that was lost in 1933 when the U.S. government effectively severed the dollar from, and criminalized private ownership of, gold.  At that point, money ceased to be tied to any intrinsic value, and instead derived its worth merely from the say-so of the government. In other words, money no longer represented value, but represented nothing.

I’ve come to learn that it’s even worse than that. To understand this, you have to understand where money really comes from.

If you’re like me, you’ve believed that the problem with “fiat” money—money with no backing commodity—is that the government can and will devalue it by printing more cash.  While it’s true that the government does that, and it’s bad, that’s only a small fraction of the amount of money that “exists.”  The vast majority—95% or more—of money isn’t created by Treasury printing presses, or even by the government at all.

OK, Rusty, where does money come from?

Almost all money in existence is actually created by private banks, and “exists” only in the form of accounting entries of bank credit.  Here’s how it works.

Most of us are under the impression that what banks do is collect money from their depositors, and loan that money out to borrowers.  But because of the practice called “fractional reserve banking,” that’s not in fact how banks operate.  Under fractional reserve banking, banks need only actually hold a small portion of real assets—say, 10%—relative to the amount of loans they can grant.  So a bank with assets of $1 million in assets can make $9 million in loans, thus creating $9 million in “money” in the process.

Consider this example.  Barry goes to BankAmerica for a loan of $10,000.  Barry signs the loan contract, thus indebting himself to BankAmerica. BankAmerica does not then reach into a depositor’s safe deposit box and hand Barry $10,000 in cash.  Instead, it simply types $10,000 into a computer showing the data for Barry’s account.  Voila! $10,000 in money is created based on nothing but Barry’s debt to a bank.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Barry uses the $10,000 to buy a car from Bill, who deposits the money into his account at Citibank.  Under a 10% fractional reserve requirement, Citibank then sets aside $1,000, and now has $9,000 to give a home loan to Hillary, if she can qualify.  Citibank makes a computer entry of $9,000 in Hillary’s account, thus creating an additional $9,000 of money—remember, Bill still has the original $10,000—and she then writes a $9,000 check to Joe.  Joe deposits the $9,000 with Chase, which sets aside a reserve of $900, and then has $8,100 to loan to Paul, just because he likes debt.  Chase makes a computer entry of $8,100 in Paul’s account, thus creating an additional $8,100 of money; Bill still has the original $10,000, and Joe still has the secondary $9,000.

Thus far in our example, the banks have created $27,100 in money.  This process will repeat itself over and over, each time the bank retaining 10% and creating new money by loaning the remaining 90%. Ultimately, from Barry’s original debt of $10,000, the banks will create $100,000 in new money.  And every dime of it based on nothing but debt.

Some 95% of all money is created in this fashion: by private banks from debt.  Worse, what do you suppose the banks do with the 10% of assets they have to hold as reserves?  Most of it they invest in government bonds—debt.  Those bonds count as assets for purposes of the reserve requirement, thus enabling the bank to make even more loans, creating even more money out of debt.

So what the bankers have done is cleverly fashioned an industry where collect interest by loaning money they . . . do . . . not . . . have.

The ugly truth is, the money in your bank account isn’t based on value.  It’s not even based on nothing.  It’s based on debt—less than nothing.

But here’s the real punch line.  When BankAmerica makes its loan to Barry, it only creates the $10,000 it typed into his account.  It does not create the additional interest Barry has to pay back on top of the principal.  And that’s true on down the line as successive banks made subsequent loans and created additional debt-money.   This leaves us with a sobering mathematical reality:

There isn’t, and can never be, enough money in existence for everyone to be able to pay back everything owed to the banks. 

Necessarily, inherently, inevitably, some people will not be able to obtain enough money to repay all they owe the bank in both principal and interest.  At that point, the bank forecloses—the bank gets that person’s stuff.  Some will say that’s a bad deal for the bank, because the bank will then have to sell it at a loss, but at a loss of what?  All the bank is out is the remaining unpaid amount of principal, which was money the bank never had in the first place.  The bank makes less than it would had the borrower repaid the loan, but the bank still ends up with more money than it had before it made the loan.  And because essentially all money is based on debt owed to the banks with interest, over a long enough time horizon all the money and all the stuff ends up in the hands of the banks.

Even those who can manage to repay their debt are on the losing end of this proposition.  As the banks create more and more debt-money, the purchasing power of all money diminishes.  Since the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913 the U.S. dollar has lost over 90% of its purchasing power.  Your ability to acquire goods and services is diminishing just as surely as if someone were physically taking dollars from you.  All by this fractional reserve system managed by the Federal Reserve, which—contrary to deliberately-deceived common belief—is in fact not a branch of the government, but an organization made up of private banks.

This doesn’t happen in a system where money is based on a value—like gold—and can only be created by the sovereign—as the Constitution requires.  But that’s not where we are.  Money is no longer based on value, and the sovereign has ceded the power of creating money to the private banks, which then create money based on debt owed to themselves through a system created and governed by themselves.

Give you one guess as to who, at the end of the day, gets to pass “Go” and collect $200, and who doesn’t.

Hillary’s Kabuki Theatre

 

Roy:          Swear to God, Doc, this guy is *not* who you think he is.

Clint:        It’s a well-known fact that if a camera’s not on him, he treats old people and children like dirt.

Earl:         And dogs.

Roy:          Yeah, don’t forget the dogs.

        —Kevin Costner as Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy, Lou Myers as Clint, and Dennis Burkley as Earl in Tin Cup

 

It seems that former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has a new book out titled Hard Choices, a supposed memoir of her time in the State Department.

How convenient.

Critics have complained that there’s nothing new there, and one suspects that’s true when you note that even the title is, er, “recycled” from Cyrus Vance’s memoir of his time in the same post under Jimmy Carter.

Really?  You not only couldn’t even come up with an original title, and had to steal one from Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of State?

I haven’t read Mrs. Clinton’s book, and won’t, but what I’ve seen and read about it raises some issues it’s timely to consider.

Mrs. Clinton—in the kind of thing that gets eaten up by folks who get their news from People magazine, Stephen Colbert, and The View, and then vote in unfortunate numbers—makes the very personal and pastoral claim to have written the book herself, longhand.  To which I say, to employ a sophisticated legal term of art:

Bullcrap.

First, I find it difficult to believe that someone in her position wrote a 600 page book themself, and indeed with a little digging we find that she in the small print in fact credits a number of former State Department staffers and a President Clinton speechwriter with assistance.  Second, I don’t buy for a minute that in the 21st Century, after five years in the most techno-savvy administration in history, she wrote anything longhand.

Pandering to her populist base, she also claims to have written the book in her “little farmhouse in Chappaqua.”  Have you seen her “little farmhouse”?  Puhleez.

Rusty, why so skeptical?

Well, friend, it’s because Mrs. Clinton has, and continues to display, a certain pathological tendency to—let’s be kind for the moment—embellish things, particularly when they have to do with coloring her political narrative.  Take her comments about the “little farmhouse.”  The daughter of a Chicago business owner and graduate of Wellesley and Yale would desperately like you to believe that she’s one of the common folk; that she’s of ordinary stock; that she feels your pain.  In that same interview, she elaborated on taking lucrative speaking fees, explaining that she and President Clinton had nothing when they entered the White House in 1993, and when they left in 2001 they were so “dead broke” and “in debt” they couldn’t get mortgages for houses:

“We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt.  We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea’s [ahem, Stanford] education.  You know, it was not easy.”  (insert mine)

Don’t cry for me, Argentina/ The truth is, I never left you 

Taking her statements at face value for a second—come on, you can do it—what does it tell you about basic management skills that after her career as a partner in the most prestigious law firm in Arkansas, and eight years rent- and expense-free with a $400,000 a year Presidential salary, plus royalties and advances from the five—count ‘em, five—books they published between them during that time, she and her husband were broke?

But the real point here is her claims of ordinary brokeness like she’s been living on the set of Good Times all her life are, of course, poppycock.  She claims they had nothing when they entered the White House; but Bill Clinton told the FEC during the 1992 campaign that they had a net worth of between $350,000 and $1 million.  That’s not Bill Gates’ neighborhood, but for a couple in their mid-40s in 1993, that was hardly nothing.  She says when they left the White House they were broke; but in 2000 they reported income of over $400,000, and Hillary’s Senate campaign reported assets of between $781,000 and $1.8 million.  And those mortgages she couldn’t get for those houses?  Notice she had to say that in the plural.  Those houses, by the way, cost $1.7 million (Chappaqua, New York, September 1999), and $2.85 million (D.C., January 2000), respectively.

Yeah, tell that to a single mom in a rat-infested rent-controlled Harlem slum while you’re trying to convince her how in touch you are with her poverty.

[As an aside, if they had the millions of dollars in debt she claims they did when they left the White House, it’s worth noting that the reason for that was the legal bills incurred, in a more than ironic continuation of today’s theme, as a result of her husband’s habit of lying under oath, a habit that got him disbarred.]

I don’t begrudge the Clintons their financial success (although I might question how they got there); as of 2009, they claimed a net worth of between $10 million and $50 million, and her husband has made more than $100 million in speaking fees since leaving office. Yet she tries to posture herself as the ever-relating champion of the middle class instead of the elite Ivy League blue-blood 0.1% person she is.  And this shameless pretending, for political purposes, to be something she’s not is not an isolated incident with her.

Recall the 2008 campaign.  In an effort to use her time as First Lady as some sort of substantive credential—I will, however, give it more credit than a life spent as a “community organizer”—to burnish her image as a tough, battle-hardened foreign policy veteran, then-Senator Clinton recounted in some detail a harrowing story of making an emergency strategic landing under sniper fire in Bosnia.  Trouble is, while she had in fact been to Bosnia, the parts about the corkscrew landing and sniper fire were flat made up.  When caught in the lie, she explained she was tired.

Don’t we all hallucinate crash landings and sniper fire when we don’t get enough rest?

That wasn’t the only time on the campaign trail that Mrs. Clinton falsified some part of herself to shade her political image.  There was the speech she gave to a largely black audience in Selma, Alabama in which she quoted a song by gospel singer Rev. James Cleveland, adopting a lousy southern black drawl in the process.  At best this was cheesy political theatre.  At worst, it was effectively a racist donning of “blackface” in an attempt to pander to her audience’s racial identity, rather than reason to their intellect on the substantive issues.

Then there was the long time tale of her mother naming her after Sir Edmund Hillary of Mount Everest fame, “in an effort to inspire greatness.”  How sweet.  Except that previously-unknown Edmund Hillary climbed Everest with Tenzing Norgay in 1953, when young Hillary Rodham—who presumably had already been so named—was a first-grader.

We could recount the questions surrounding her participation in investments in commodities futures and Whitewater.  We could dredge up the ghost of Vince Foster.  But I want to go back even farther, because Mrs. Clinton, nee Rodham, has a long history of lies.

In 1974, Hillary Rodham was hired to work on the House Judiciary Committee’s investigation of Watergate.  Jerry Zeifman was her supervisor, and he says he fired her

“[b]ecause she was a liar . . . She was an unethical, dishonest lawyer.  She conspired to violate the Constitution, the rules of the House, the rules of the committee, and the rules of confidentiality.”

Specifically, according to Zeifman, his contemporaneous diary reflects that Miss Rodham lied to him about not pursuing rules changes after being instructed not to, attempted to advocate for denying President Nixon legal counsel.  More disturbing, when informed that the denial of legal counsel would be contrary to the procedure used with Supreme Court Justice William Douglas in 1970 and that the files on the Douglas impeachment reflecting that precedent were publicly available, Miss Rodham without permission removed those files to a location where they could not be accessed by then public.  In other words, when she learned there were documents contravening some unconstitutional action—denying an accused the right to counsel; see the Sixth Amendment—she wanted to take for political purposes, she hid them.

So, Mrs. Clinton is out with a new self-serving book, which she promotes with demonstrable lies aimed at polishing a false political portrait of herself.  That is, indeed, nothing new.

Of course, what difference, at this point, does it make?