Archive for the 'Civil Liberties' Category
Posted by David Foster on 15th April 2015 (All posts by David Foster)
Sarah Hoyt, a science fiction writer and a thought-provoking blogger, has a long post called the architecture of fear. One of the things she talks about in this post is an incident from several years ago, where on a mailing list for writers she:
…dared question the insanity of a well-respected pro who said that George Bush (personally) had raised the price of stamps to ruin her (personally) in her efforts to sell used books through Amazon.
There are levels of insanity I can’t tolerate and couldn’t even while in the political closet. So I pointed out the sheer insanity of this, the inefficiencies of the post office and probable causes for it.
The list went silent. I figured tons of people were cussing me behind my back (this was when GB’s name was after all like invoking the devil.)
So, I shrugged, figured I’d be kicked out of the list and went for a walk. When I came back my email was full of “Oh, thank you, for saying…” ALL OF IT IN PRIVATE MESSAGES. The senders ranged from raw beginners to established pros, but no one would challenge this lady’s illusions to her face. Only me.
Sarah’s story uncannily parallels another story, this one told by long-time IBM CEO Tom Watson Jr and dating from the early 1950s.
There was a moment when I truly thought IBM was going to lose its shot at defense work because of the kind of window blinds I had in my office.
These were vertical blinds, which were not common at the time. An engineer who was in Watson’s office for a meeting made a sketch of the blinds, and inadvertently left it in his shirt pocket when he took the shirt to the dry cleaner. The laundry man thought the paper looked suspicious, and sent it to McCarthy. Pretty soon, a group of investigators came and said to the engineer, “We’ve identified this as a plan for a radar antenna, and want to hear about it. We want to be perfectly fair. But we know it is a radar antenna and the shirt it was found in belongs to you.”
The engineer explained about the vertical blinds, and the investigation team then asked to see Watson. The chief executive officer of IBM showed them the blinds and demonstrated the way they worked.
They looked them over very carefully and then left. I thought I had contained it, but I wasn’t sure, and I was scared. We were working on SAGE (the computerized air defense system–ed) and it would have been a hell of a way to lose our security clearance.
Shortly after the incident with the vertical blinds, Watson was invited to a lunch at Lehman Brothers, along with about 20 other high-ranking businesspeople. During the lunch, he mentioned his concerns about McCarthyism
Of the twenty-odd people present, I was the only one who took that position. That didn’t bother me. What bothered me was that the following week I got letters from several people who had been there, and they all had a similar message: “I didn’t want to commit myself in public, but I certainly agreed with everything you said.
(Watson’s story is from his excellent autobiography, Father, Son, &
Co, which I reviewed here
Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, USA | 12 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 13th April 2015 (All posts by David Foster)
Peter Thiel is interviewed by Tyler Cowen, in a conversation that ranges from why there is stagnation “in the world of atoms and not of bits” to the dangers of conformity to what he looks for when choosing people to why company names matter.
Evaporative cooling of group beliefs. Why a group’s beliefs tend to become stronger rather than weaker when strong evidence against those beliefs makes its appearance.
More academic insanity: the language police at the University of Michigan.
Why Sam Sinai became a computer scientist instead of a doctor
A National Archives official, in an e-mail comment that the people were not supposed to see: “We live in constant fear of upsetting the White House”
Why a pact with Iran throws Arab liberals under the bus (“liberals” used here in the archaic and largely obsolete sense of “people who believe in liberty”)
Garry Trudeau (he wrote a cartoon called Doonesbury–is it really still being published?) gives his thoughts on the Charlie Hebdo murders perpetrated in the name of Islam–by accusing the cartoonists of “hate speech” and denouncing “free speech absolutism.”
The secret Republicans of Silicon Valley
Baseball, the stock market, and the dangers of following the herd
Antoine de St-Exupery’s original watercolors for The Little Prince
Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Business, Civil Liberties, Human Behavior, Islam, Markets and Trading, Society, Sports, Tech, USA | 12 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 6th April 2015 (All posts by David Foster)
(Inasmuch as the spirit of the Grand Inquisitor is stirring in the land, I thought it would be appropriate to rerun this post from last year)
It seems that Jesus Christ returned to earth, sometime during the sixteenth century…at least, this is the premise of the parable that Ivan relates to Alyosha, in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov. The city to which Christ came was Seville, where on the previous day before almost a hundred heretics had been burnt by the cardinal, the Grand Inquisitor, “in a magnificent auto da fe, in the presence of the king, the court, the knights, the cardinals, the most charming ladies of the court, and the whole population of Seville. He came softly, unobserved, and yet, strange to say, everyone recognised Him.”
But the Grand Inquisitor observes the way in which people are being irresistibly drawn to Jesus, and causes him to be arrested and taken away.
The crowd instantly bows down to the earth, like one man, before the old Inquisitor. He blesses the people in silence and passes on. The guards lead their prisoner to the close, gloomy vaulted prison- in the ancient palace of the Holy Inquisition and shut him in it. The day passes and is followed by the dark, burning, ‘breathless’ night of Seville. The air is ‘fragrant with laurel and lemon.’ In the pitch darkness the iron door of the prison is suddenly opened and the Grand Inquisitor himself comes in with a light in his hand. He is alone; the door is closed at once behind him. He stands in the doorway and for a minute or two gazes into His face. At last he goes up slowly, sets the light on the table and speaks.
“‘Is it Thou? Thou?’ but receiving no answer, he adds at once. ‘Don’t answer, be silent. What canst Thou say, indeed? I know too well what Thou wouldst say. And Thou hast no right to add anything to what Thou hadst said of old. Why, then, art Thou come to hinder us?
The Grand Inquisitor explains to Jesus why his presence is not desired and why he must burn. Excerpts below:
So long as man remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find someone to worship. But man seeks to worship what is established beyond dispute, so that all men would agree at once to worship it. For these pitiful creatures are concerned not only to find what one or the other can worship, but to find community of worship is the chief misery of every man individually and of all humanity from the beginning of time. For the sake of common worship they’ve slain each other with the sword. They have set up gods and challenged one another, “Put away your gods and come and worship ours, or we will kill you and your gods!” And so it will be to the end of the world, even when gods disappear from the earth; they will fall down before idols just the same. Thou didst know, Thou couldst not but have known, this fundamental secret of human nature, but Thou didst reject the one infallible banner which was offered Thee to make all men bow down to Thee alone- the banner of earthly bread; and Thou hast rejected it for the sake of freedom and the bread of Heaven. Behold what Thou didst further. And all again in the name of freedom! I tell Thee that man is tormented by no greater anxiety than to find someone quickly to whom he can hand over that gift of freedom with which the ill-fated creature is born. But only one who can appease their conscience can take over their freedom. In bread there was offered Thee an invincible banner; give bread, and man will worship thee, for nothing is more certain than bread. But if someone else gains possession of his conscience- Oh! then he will cast away Thy bread and follow after him who has ensnared his conscience. In that Thou wast right. For the secret of man’s being is not only to live but to have something to live for. Without a stable conception of the object of life, man would not consent to go on living, and would rather destroy himself than remain on earth, though he had bread in abundance. That is true. But what happened? Instead of taking men’s freedom from them, Thou didst make it greater than ever! Didst Thou forget that man prefers peace, and even death, to freedom of choice in the knowledge of good and evil? Nothing is more seductive for man than his freedom of conscience, but nothing is a greater cause of suffering. And behold, instead of giving a firm foundation for setting the conscience of man at rest for ever, Thou didst choose all that is exceptional, vague and enigmatic; Thou didst choose what was utterly beyond the strength of men, acting as though Thou didst not love them at all- Thou who didst come to give Thy life for them! Instead of taking possession of men’s freedom, Thou didst increase it, and burdened the spiritual kingdom of mankind with its sufferings for ever.
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Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Christianity, Civil Liberties, Human Behavior, Political Philosophy, Russia | 2 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 2nd April 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
The new war on religious people (of whom I not one) takes on a new urgency as Huffington Post detects a new threat to the republic.
Pence and his state have faced significant national backlash since he signed RFRA last week. The governors of Connecticut and Washington have imposed bans on state-funded travel to Indiana, and several events scheduled to be held in the state have been canceled. Organizers of Gen Con, which has been called the largest gaming convention in the country, are considering moving the gathering from Indiana as well.
Nearby cities like Chicago are capitalizing on the controversy, with Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) trying to lure Indiana-based businesses into his city.
UPDATE: 1:52 p.m. — White House press secretary Josh Earnest responded to Pence’s comments Tuesday, saying the Indiana law has backfired because it goes against most people’s values.
No, it is against the left’s values. The institutional left. The hysteria extends beyond the usual left and may involve a few weak willed Republicans like those who pressured Arizona governor Jan Brewer to veto a similar bill a year or so ago. Fortunately, Arizona has a new and presumably more firm governor.
Narrowly speaking, that is, the left’s hatred of RFRA is about preserving the authority of the cake police—government agencies determined to coerce bakeries, photo studios, florists and other small businesses to participate in same-sex weddings even if the owners have eccentric conscientious objections.
Whether Indiana’s RFRA would protect such objectors is an open question: The law only sets forth the standard by which state judges would adjudicate their claims. Further, as the Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights group, notes, the Hoosier State has no state laws prohibiting private entities from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. (It does have same-sex marriage, pursuant to a federal court ruling.) There are also no such antidiscrimination laws at the federal level. Thus under current law, only certain cities and counties in Indiana even have a cake police.
The “cake police” are, of course a term of art from James Taranto to describe the opportunistic left who enforce the gay rights agenda on unsuspecting Christians.
“As Michael Paulson noted in a recent story in The Times, judges have been hearing complaints about a florist or baker or photographer refusing to serve customers having same-sex weddings. They’ve been siding so far with the gay couples.” That is, the judges have been rejecting small-business men’s conscientious objections and compelling them to do business with gay-wedding planners. Bruni approves.
Without harboring animus toward gays or sharing the eccentric baker’s social and religious views, one may reasonably ask: If a baker is uncomfortable baking a cake for you, why call the cake police? Why not just find another baker who’s happy to have your business?
This, of course, is far too simple.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Blegs, Business, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Elections, Internet, Leftism, Media, Morality and Philosphy, Political Philosophy, Religion | 23 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 5th March 2015 (All posts by David Foster)
Here’s a Maryland couple who got in trouble with the Government because they let their children–a 10-year-old and a 6-year-old–walk home from the park by themselves. They (the parents) were found responsible for “unsubstantiated child neglect”–whatever that means….it sounds pretty Kafkaesque.
There are at least two issues here: out-of-control discretion by an administrative agency, whether granted to them by bad legislative drafting, or simply grabbed…and, even more fundamentally, a society which has responded to one of the safest environments in human history by becoming fear-ridden and safety-obsessed.
I am reminded, and not for the first time, of a passage in Walter Miller’s great novel A Canticle for Leibowitz:
To minimize suffering and to maximize security were natural and proper ends of society and Caesar. But then they became the only ends, somehow, and the only basis of law—a perversion. Inevitably, then, in seeking only them, we found only their opposites: maximum suffering and minimum security.
Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Human Behavior, Society, USA | 10 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 3rd March 2015 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
I read of this particular school-administered survey the other morning on one of the news websites which form my morning reading, in lieu of the local newspaper – which I gave up some years ago upon realizing two things; practically every non-local story they printed I had already read on-line through various sources some days before appearing on the (rapidly diminishing) pages of the San Antonio Express News, and when it came to opinion columnists and cartoonists, most of the local offerings were … pathetic. Seriously – when I could read the best and most incisive opinion bloggers like Wretchard at Belmont Club and Victor Davis Hanson – why would I bother to read a dead-tree version of whatever lame establishment national columnist had offered a cheap rate to the SA Express-News?
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Posted in Academia, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Customer Service | 9 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 24th February 2015 (All posts by David Foster)
43% of Democrats believe that the President should have the right to ignore court rulings if they are standing in the way of actions he feels are important for the country. Only 35% of Dems disagree, the remainder being undecided.
This from a Rasumssen poll of likely voters, which also shows that 81% of Republicans disagree with the President having the power to ignore the courts.
Today’s Democratic Party is an enemy of American self-government, and it appears that a lot of the party’s supporters want to it be this way.
See also my related posts:
The Democratic Party and the drive for unlimited government power
When law yields to absolute power
Posted in Civil Liberties, Law, USA | 12 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 1st February 2015 (All posts by David Foster)
…not just an irritant anymore, but now a serious threat to American society.
Jonathan Chait tells the story of Omar Mahmood, a student at the University of Michigan, who dared to publish a column satirizing (rather gently, I think) those people who go around being offended at everything. He has been demonized, was fired from his job at the Michigan Daily, and his apartment was vandalized. Chait notes that at a growing number of campuses, professors attach “trigger warnings” to texts that may upset the oh-so-sensitive students…and that the insistence on “protecting” people from ideas that may upset them has resulted in movements to ban speakers such as Condi Rice (Rutgers), Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Brandeis), and IMF director Christine Lagarde (Smith).
Stuart Schneiderman describes how Political Correctness can influence national politics, noting that “When Obama became president, political debate was no longer about ideas. In social media and universities those who opposed Obama were slandered and defamed…Now, with the candidacy of Hillary Clinton looming, the debate will no longer concern Mrs. Clinton’s thin resume and barely visible accomplishments, but about the sexism of those who oppose her.”
And here is Frederik deBoer, a self-defined leftist (who does not much like Jonathan Chait), writing about the ways he has seen Political Correctness at work and the impact it has had on individuals:
I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 19-year-old white woman—smart, well-meaning, passionate—literally run crying from a classroom because she was so ruthlessly brow-beaten for using the word “disabled.” Not repeatedly. Not with malice. Not because of privilege. She used the word once and was excoriated for it. She never came back. I watched that happen.
I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 20-year-old black man, a track athlete who tried to fit organizing meetings around classes and his ridiculous practice schedule (for which he received a scholarship worth a quarter of tuition), be told not to return to those meetings because he said he thought there were such a thing as innate gender differences. He wasn’t a homophobe, or transphobic, or a misogynist. It turns out that 20-year-olds from rural South Carolina aren’t born with an innate understanding of the intersectionality playbook. But those were the terms deployed against him, those and worse. So that was it; he was gone.
I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 33-year-old Hispanic man, an Iraq war veteran who had served three tours and had become an outspoken critic of our presence there, be lectured about patriarchy by an affluent 22-year-old white liberal arts college student, because he had said that other vets have to “man up” and speak out about the war. Because apparently we have to pretend that we don’t know how metaphorical language works or else we’re bad people. I watched his eyes glaze over as this woman with $300 shoes berated him. I saw that. Myself.
Frederik deBoer, writer of the above, objects to this kind of Political Correctness at least in part because it drives people out of leftist politics. He says “I want a left that can win, and there’s no way I can have that when the actually-existing left sheds potential allies at an impossible rate. But the prohibition against ever telling anyone to be friendlier and more forgiving is so powerful and calcified it’s a permanent feature of today’s progressivism.”
(Some of us think that the control of speech is an inherent feature of ideologies of the type represented by today’s “progressivism.”)
And here are a bunch of idiotic “Social Justice Warriors” (ie, aggressive wielders of the Political Correctness sabre) raging on Twitter about the US Army’s use of the term “chink”…in the context of a discussion of Special Operations, the specific sentence which resulted in so much fury being “Chinks in special ops’ digital and physical armor pose challenges, experts say.”
I’m reminded of something I read many years ago: a university professor came under virulent attack by a group of radical feminists because he had used the term “bang for the buck.” This phrase originated, of course, in the field of weapons systems procurement and refers to getting the most military capability for the money. But the attackers decided that the term referred to some kind of discount prostitution business and hence that its use was “degrading to women.”
It has long been said that American universities are “islands of tyranny in a sea of freedom.” But it was inevitable that the habits of groupthink and submission to the loudest voices that were inculcated in these institutions would seep out into the broader society and begin to poison political dialog in many contexts–and this process is now well underway.
Tying this post to my last post, Conformity Kills: if a person spends his college years learning to carefully avoid speaking his mind on all matter of politics, social organization, human nature, relationships between the sexes, and many other subjects–what are the chances that he will be willing to speak him mind in a career context where the stakes are high–even if those stakes involve matters of life and death?
Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, USA | 10 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 15th January 2015 (All posts by David Foster)
Was it a meaningful coming-together in resistance to radical Islamicist violence and in support of free expression and Western civilization?
Or was it a meaningless feel-good event, along the lines of the old “sending our love down the well” vignette on South Park?
Claire Berlinski, who was there, tends toward the first view.
The blogger known as The Diplomad–a long-time US Foreign Service officer–tends toward the second.
These are both very astute observers and analysts. Read them both, and comment.
Posted in Civil Liberties, France, Islam, Terrorism | 27 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 13th January 2015 (All posts by David Foster)
Obama White House wants to persuade/encourage/pressure media to drop coverage that might upset jihadis or potential jihadis
Last Thursday, I mentioned the administration’s 2012 criticism of Charlie Hedbo’s decision to publish “offensive” cartoons. Comes now presidential spokesman Josh Earnest, defending that administration position and asserting that there will be more such presidential critiques directed toward noncompliant media in the future.
This reminds me of something. Oh, yes…
In the late 1930s, Winston Churchill spoke of the “unendurable..sense of our country falling into the power, into the orbit and influence of Nazi Germany, and of our existence becoming dependent upon their good will or pleasure…In a very few years, perhaps in a very few months, we shall be confronted with demands” which “may affect the surrender of territory or the surrender of liberty.” A “policy of submission” would entail “restrictions” upon freedom of speech and the press. “Indeed, I hear it said sometimes now that we cannot allow the Nazi system of dictatorship to be criticized by ordinary, common English politicians.” (excerpt is from The Last Lion: Alone, by William Manchester.)
Churchill’s concern was not just a theoretical one. Following the German takeover of Czechoslovakia, photographs were available showing the plight of Czech Jews, dispossessed by the Nazis and wandering the roads of eastern Europe. Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The Times, refused to run any of them: it wouldn’t help the victims, he told his staff, and if they were published, Hitler would be offended. (same source as above.)
Obama’s desire to ensure that the media avoids antagonizing jihadis is of a piece with Chamberlain and Dawson’s desire to avoid antagonizing the Nazis.
And I’m reminded of something else Churchill said. In March 1938, he spoke of Britain and its allies descending incontinently, recklessly, the staircase which leads to a dark gulf. It is a fine broad staircase at the beginning, but, after a bit, the carpet ends. A little further on there are only flagstones, and, a little further on still, these break beneath your feet.
Posted in Book Notes, Britain, Civil Liberties, Germany, History, Islam, National Security, Obama, Terrorism | 26 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 8th January 2015 (All posts by David Foster)
Yesterday, Claire Berlinski reported from Paris
Obama, of course, “condemned” the attack. It’s important to remember, however, his administration’s response to earlier threats against the magazine Charlie Hebdo:
In other words, we don’t question the right of something like this to be published; we just question the judgment behind the decision to publish it. And I think that that’s our view about the video that was produced in this country and has caused so much offense in the Muslim world.
The quoted statement basically implies that people should use “judgment” to avoid saying or publishing anything that will offend Muslims. The video referred to is of course the one that the Obama administration blamed for the Benghazi attacks, going so far as to purchase newspaper ads to denounce the video. And Hillary Clinton, who was Obama’s secretary of state, told the father of one of the murdered Americans (Tyrone Woods) that “we’re going to have that person arrested and prosecuted that did the video.” Not “we’re going to destroy those terrorists,” but rather, they’re going to destroy a filmmaker. The Obama administration’s statements have acted not only to normalize that “thug’s veto” over all expressions of opinion, but even to put United States government power behind the thug’s veto.
Time Magazine posted an article titled “5 Facts That Explain the Charlie Hebdo attack.” Can you guess what they were, and which one they left out? (Link) And numerous publications are censoring the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.
The staff of a humor magazine demonstrated far more courage than either Western governments or the bulk of Western media in standing up for Enlightenment values. I’m reminded once again of a passage in Sebastian Haffner’s memoir. Haffner was working in the Prussian Supreme Court, the Kammergericht, when the Nazi thugs came to the Court, demanded to know who was Jewish and who was not, and established totalitarian control over what had previously been an actual judicial process.
As I left the Kammergericht it stood there, grey, cool and calm as ever, set back from the street in its distinguished setting. There was nothing to show that, as an institution, it had just collapsed.
That evening, Haffner went with his girlfriend to a nightclub called the Katakombe. The master of ceremonies was a comic actor and satirical cabaret performer named Werner Fink:
His act remained full of harmless amiability in a country where these qualities were on the liquidation list. This harmless amiability hid a kernel of real, indomitable courage. He dared to speak openly about the reality of the Nazis, and that in the middle of Germany. His patter contained references to concentration camps, the raids on people’s homes, the general fear and general lies. He spoke of these things with infinitely quiet mockery, melancholy, and sadness. Listening to him was extraordinarily comforting.
In the morning, the Prussian Kammergericht, with its tradition of hundreds of years, had ignobly capitulated before the Nazis. In the same evening, a small troop of artistes, with no tradition to back them up, demonstrated the courage to speak forbidden thoughts. “The Kammergericht had fallen but the Katakombe stood upright.”
CNN, MSNBC, Time Magazine, the White House, the Elysee Palace, 10 Downing Street may have all demonstrated a lack of resolution in the face of Islamist threats and violence, but at least Charlie Hebdo has stood upright.
Posted in Civil Liberties, France, Germany, Islam, Obama, Terrorism | 40 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 21st December 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
1) If a report in The Chronicle of Higher Education (excerpted here) is correct, then Rensselaer Polytechnic president Shirley Jackson seems a little…imperious…in her approach to her job.
Having created the very model of an undemocratic, corporate university, President Jackson is appropriately imperious. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, she has a series of rules that are clear to everyone. These include: 1) Only she is authorized to set the temperature in conference rooms; 2) Cabinet members all rise when she enters the room; 3) If food is served at a meeting, vice presidents clear her plate; and 4) She is always to be publicly introduced as “The Honorable Shirley Ann Jackson.” Falling into rages on occasion, she publicly abuses her staff and frequently remarks: “You know, I could fire you all.” In 2011, RPI’s Student Senate passed a resolution criticizing her “abrasive style,” “top-down leadership,” and the climate of “fear” she had instilled among administrators and staff. It even called upon RPI’s board of trustees to consider Jackson’s removal from office. But, once again, the board merely rallied in her defense.
2) Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, blocked the nomination of Lt General Susan Helms to head the Air Force Space Command, leading to Helms’ subsequent retirement from the service. McCaskill assailed Helms’ 2012 decision to grant clemency to an officer serving at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., who had been convicted of aggravated sexual assault.
Helms used her judgment and her command authority to prevent what she apparently viewed as an injustice, based on her review of evidence in the case. McCaskill said that the clemency decision “sent a damaging message to survivors of sexual assault who are seeking justice in the military justice system.” Apparently, McCaskill cares much more about “sending messages” than about justice to individuals. The message that she has sent to all American military commanders is this: Do not ever extend clemency in a matter where an individual has been accused of an offense which is of particular concern to the Democratic Party, or your career will be immediately destroyed.
If a governor pardons someone accused of witchcraft, then the governor himself must be a witch. That seems to be the level of McCaskill’s thinking here.
Much more about the case at this link.
3) Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a very courageous woman who was raised as a Muslim and has been attempting, in the face of many threats, to warn the western world about the danger of Islamic extremism. At an event in Washington, Joe Biden informed her that “ISIS had nothing to do with Islam.” Hirsi Ali disagreed. To which Slow Joe responded “Let me tell you one or two things about Islam.”
4) Speaking of Muslims…Omar Mahmood, a Muslim conservative who is a student at the University of Michigan, wrote a satire on political correctness, mocking the current vogue for claiming “microaggressions.” He was denounced by students of the “progressive” persuasion…”people attacked his dorm room door, egging it and leaving copies of his satirical article with notes on the backs including “Shut the f— up!” and “You scum embarrass us” and “DO YOU EVEN GO HERE?! LEAVE!!” along with various others, including an image of a creature with horns and another one of him with his eyes crossed out.” Mahmood was also fired from the student newspaper. He says that “the political environment on campus is radically left-wing and intolerant,” noting that:
“Almost all student clubs have ‘social justice’ wings… some use violent rhetoric, shameless rhetoric, to promote their ideology, and call it ‘liberation.’ They call it ‘tolerance’ and ‘equality’ and ‘creating a safe space’ — which is all very ironic.”
The students who reacted to Mahmood’s satire in this way are not worthy of being university students, or for that matter American citizens, and the administrators of this university should be ashamed of themselves for allowing such a climate to develop. They won’t be, though.
Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Islam, Law, Leftism, Military Affairs | 13 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 18th December 2014 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Obama has announced that he will not only end the trade embargo with Cuba but establish full diplomatic relations.
President Obama, as he has shown all year, isn’t about to go quietly into the lame-duck night, even with Republicans ready to take full power down the street. With the stunning announcement Wednesday that the United States is set to normalize relations with Cuba, the president is closing his self-termed “Year of Action” with a thunderclap.
In doing so, Obama is serving notice to new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that a sitting president trumps a Congress divided both along party lines and within them. The shift comes about a month after the last time the president thrust his stick into the GOP’s eye, when Obama announced he was unilaterally providing widespread deportation relief to as many as 5 million illegal immigrants.
I have no objection to ending the embargo, which has been mostly symbolic for years.
Diplomatic relations is another matter.
Even the Argentine Pope is involved apparently. Certainly, there is no reason why the Pope should recognize real democracy and freedom after a lifetime in Argentina.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Americas, Announcements, Civil Liberties, Cuba, Leftism, Obama, Politics | 18 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 14th December 2014 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
The country is going through one of the increasingly common episodes of hysteria in modern times. In the 17th century, there was the period of The Salem Witch Trials.
From June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft; dozens languished in jail for months without trials until the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts subsided.
The episode was begun by what sounds like hysterical symptoms occurring in the daughter of the new minister. Before it was over, a number of people of the village of Salem had been accused of witchcraft and 19 were executed and five others had died.
Suspected witches were examined for certain marks, called “witch marks,” where witches’ “familiars” could nurse. The hysteria ended as quickly as it began. By the end of 1692, it was over and all surviving accused were released.
The period of the hearings in America after World War II, in which many were accused of being communists, the so-called “McCarthy period,” is often compared to this era and a left wing playwright, Arthur Miller, wrote a play called “The Crucible,” which made the connection between the Salem trials and Senator McCarthy’s accusations the theme.
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Posted in Academia, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Education, Feminism, Leftism, Military Affairs, Politics, The Press | 20 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 29th November 2014 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
The Grand Jury gas returned a “no bill” in the case of the Policeman Darren Wilson and the riots have erupted as anticipated. We still have silly demonstrations around the country. Even interrupting Christmas tree lighting.Why ?
I have been following this all along, and even see some merit in some of the resentments of the black residents. That does not excuse rioting, of course.
We know a lot more about what happened now and it does still not explain why this continues today. A lot of what is happening just doesn’t make sense.
Here is one possible explanation.
SO WHY ALL THE FERGUSON HOOPLA? Last time the Dems and Sharpton made a big deal of a shooting, it was the Trayvon Martin case, hyped to keep up black turnout for 2012. But now there’s not an election. So why Ferguson, and why now? Polling indicates that most people aren’t all that sympathetic, and protests that tie up Interstates, etc. aren’t going to attract swing voters.
So why now ?
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Elections, Immigration, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Obama, Politics | 34 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 28th November 2014 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
And yet there are signals of personal defeat which are like red lamps on broken roads, to these we must pay heed. I grew anxious when a man’s speech began to betray him; when he was full of windy talk of what the Boche had done in the new sector the battalion was taking over, of some new gas. It was always about something which was going to happen; the wretched fellow must have known the mess would muzzle him if it could, but he seemed driven by some inner force to chatter incessantly of every calamity that could conceivably come to pass. It was as if he had come to terms with the devil himself, that if he could make others as windy, his life would be spared. How full of apprehension the fellow was; death came to him daily in a hundred shapes. This was fear in its infancy. It was a bad sign, for when a man talked like that, his self-respect was going, and the battle was already half lost. It was just a matter of time. Such a man did the battalion no good for the disease was infectious; I was glad to get him away.
– Lord Moran, The Anatomy of Courage
[Readers needing background may refer to the earlier members of this series, Don’t Panic: Against the Spirit of the Age; Don’t Panic: A Continuing Series; Don’t Panic: A Continuing Series – Ebola or Black Heva?; and Don’t Panic: A Continuing Series – Ebola Realities and the True Test.]
Not everyone is helpful in what Strauss and Howe call a Crisis Era. This is not a matter of ability or resources, but of attitude. I have recently encountered numerous highly intelligent, capable, and often firmly upper-middle class men who at the slightest provocation vehemently insist that the United States is doomed. This year alone, they have predicted at least three of the last zero national calamities. Repeatedly failed scenarios make no impression on them. Some of these people are actually planning to run and hide somewhere. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Environment, History, Human Behavior, Immigration, International Affairs, Leftism, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Predictions, Quotations, Society, Terrorism, USA, War and Peace | 7 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 22nd November 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
(I should have included this post in my Theme roundup on totalitarianism and the fully politicized society. It’s important enough, I think–especially in our current circumstances–to be worth putting up as a stand-alone rerun post.)
Almost five years ago, I reviewed the important and well-written memoirs of Sebastian Haffner, who grew up in Germany between the wars. I think the state of affairs in America today makes it appropriate to re-post some excerpts from the review and from the book.
In 1933, when Hitler became Chancellor, Haffner was working as a junior lawyer (refendar) in the Prussian High Court, the Kammergericht. He was comforted by the continuity of the legal process:
The newspapers might report that the constitution was in ruins. Here every paragraph of the Civil Code was still valid and was mulled over and analyzed as carefully as ever…The Chancellor could daily utter the vilest abuse against the Jews; there was nonetheless still a Jewish Kammergerichtsrat (high court judge) and member of our senate who continued to give his astute and careful judgments, and these judgments had the full weight of the law and could set the entire apparatus of the state in motion for their enforcement–even if the highest office-holder of that state daily called their author a ‘parasite’, a ‘subhuman’ or a ‘plague’.
In spring of that year, Haffner attended Berlin’s Carnival–an event at which one would find a girlfriend or boyfriend for the night and exchange phone numbers in the morning…”By then you usually know whether it is the start of something that you would like to take further, or whether you have just earned yourself a hangover.” He had a hard time getting in the Carnival mood, however:
All at once I had a strange, dizzy feeling. I felt as though I was inescapably imprisoned with all these young people in a giant ship that was rolling and pitching. We were dancing on its lowest, narrowest deck, while on the bridge it was being decided to flood that deck and drown every last one of us.
Though it was not really relevant to current events, my father’s immense experience of the period from 1870 to 1933 was deployed to calm me down and sober me up. He treated my heated emotions with gentle irony…It took me quite a while to realize that my youthful excitability was right and my father’s wealth of experience was wrong; that there are things that cannot be dealt with by calm skepticism.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Biography, Book Notes, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Germany, History, Law, USA | 6 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 20th November 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
As Jonathan pointed out here, one problem with the blog format is that worthwhile posts tend to fade into the background over time, even when they might be of continuing value. One approach I’d like to try is Theme roundups, in which I’ll select a number of previous posts on a common topic or set of related topics, and link them with brief introductory sentences or paragraphs. At least initially, I’ll focus on my own posts.
The posts in this first “theme” roundup focus on the nature of the politically-dominated society, ranging from the effects of extreme political correctness in America and Europe today to the nature of life under absolutist totalitarianism.
Stasiland. Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, author Anna Funder traveled to the previous East Germany to interview both those who had lived under Communist oppression and the perpetrators of that oppression.
The Nature of Dictatorships. Thoughts from Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, maker of the excellent film The Lives of Others, which is set in Communist East Germany.
Prefiguring the Hacker…and the American Surveillance Society. A 1953 science fiction story, Sam Hall.
Eric Hoffer on the destruction of individualism. “Even in the freest society power is charged with the impulse to turn men into precise, predictable automata. When watching men of power in action it must be always kept in mind that, whether they know it or not, their main purpose is the elimination or neutralization of the independent individual – the independent voter, consumer, worker, owner, thinker – and that every device they employ aims at turning man into a manipulatable ‘animated instrument,’ which is Aristotle’s definition of a slave.”
Bitter Waters. A Stalin-era Soviet factory manager writes about his experiences. Describing the chaos into which the Russian lumber industry had been thrown by Soviet central planning: “Such is the immutable law. The forceful subordination of life’s variety into a single mold will be avenged by that variety’s becoming nothing but chaos and disorder.”
Rose Wilder Lane. The author and political thinker describes a debate she had with a Russian village leader, back in 1919 when she was still a Communist, about the centrally planned society. “It is too big – he said – too big. At the top, it is too small. It will not work. In Moscow there are only men, and man is not God. A man has only a man’s head, and one hundred heads together do not make one great big head. No. Only God can know Russia.”
The mentality of the totalitarian revolutionary. Thoughts from the Russian writer of Dr Zhivago, Boris Pasternak.
Life in the fully politicized society. Michelle Obama explains what Barack Obama wants to make you do, Sebastian Haffner writes about those 1920s and 1930s Germans who needed to have “the entire content of their lives…all the raw material for their deeper emotions” delivered gratis by the public sphere, and Ayn Rand paints a vivid picture (based on personal experience) of the dreariness of living in a society in which everything is political.
Life in the fully politicized society, continued. Even Maureen Dowd may be finding limits as to how much politicization of art she wants to see.
The bitter wastes of politicized America. “The best way to hold a large group of people together is to make them feel as if everyone else is out to get them. The most effective political adhesives are distilled from hatred and distrust. People who disagree with your agenda are “attacking” you or “robbing” you…When the government controls everything, there is no constructive relief valve for all this pent-up tension. It all boils down to a “historic” election once every couple of years, upon whose outcome everything depends. They’re all going to be “historic” elections from now on. That’s not a good thing.”
“But would you want your daughter to marry one?” Americans increasingly say they would be displeased if their son or daughter were to marry a supporter of the opposing political party.
Deconstructing a Nazi death sentence. The text of the justification for the sentence passed on three members of the White Rose resistance group provides useful insight into the totalitarian mind. (The link to the transcript in the post doesn’t work anymore; use this instead)
Defying Hitler. This important and well-written (but mis-titled) memoir deals mainly with the social environment in Germany prior to the Nazi takeover, but the latter part of the book demonstrates what life was like under a new totalitarianism that was rapidly tightening its grip. The section about the author’s father–who was given the choice of either endorsing political opinions he did not share or losing his pension and being reduced to destitution, along with his family–is painful to read and is unpleasantly reminiscent of certain recent events in America today.
The party of paranoia, racial obsession, and totalitarian thinking. Link to a post by Daniel Greenfield, aka Sultan Knish, in which he explains the nature of today’s Democratic Party.
Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Europe, Germany, History, Leftism, Politics, Russia, Society, USA | 15 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 18th November 2014 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
I have to say this about the sh*tstorm over what is being irreverently termed shirtgate – it’s the final and ultimate straw in moving me away from ever calling myself a feminist again … at least, not in mixed company. Ah, well – a pity that the term has been so debased in the last few decades. Much as the memory of very real repression and denial of rights in the persons-of-color/African-American/Black community has been diminished, overlaid, generally abused and waved like a bloody shirt by cynical operators (to the detriment of the real-life community of color/African-American/Black-whatever they wish to be called this decade), so has the very real struggle for substantive legal, economic, economic and social rights for women also been debased and trivialized. Just as the current so-called champions of civil rights seem to use the concept as an all-purpose cover for deflecting any useful discussion of the impact of welfare, the trivialization of marriage, and glorification of the thug-life-style in the persons-of-color/African-American/Black community, the professional and very loud capital F-feminists seem to prefer a theatrical gesture over any substantial discussion of the real needs and concerns – and even the careers of ordinary women. Women whom it must be said, are usually capable, confident, tough, and love the men in their lives – fathers, brothers, husbands and sons.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Civil Liberties, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Diversions, Feminism, Human Behavior, Just Unbelievable, Personal Finance, Society, Space, Tech, That's NOT Funny | 66 Comments »
Posted by Trent Telenko on 18th November 2014 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
The most important issue is missing from debate over the coming Obama administration’s “Executive Amnesty for illegal immigrants.” If such an action is taken without even an attempt at impeachment, we will mark that day as the day the U.S. Constitution was murdered.
Certainly some Constitutional forms will hold on another decade or two, but the relevance of Congress to federal policy making, Constitutional branch separation of powers generally, and ultimately the rule of law will be gone. Future generations of Americans will mark the Constitution as a dead letter from that day. Our American birth right to the rule of law and ordered liberty under the Constitution will have been traded for a blatant pursuit of power by any means necessary. Ultimately such power only comes from the barrel of a gun, and here only one side has guns.
That President Obama is dissolving the Constitution for a faster influx of non-white voters so he can dissolve the current declining white majority polity shows a deep love of power, and a deep hatred of any past or current American cultural institutions, that gets in the way of his power.
This isn’t new. Leftists in America have been heading down this road since before the Cold War between America and the Soviet Union started in the 1940’s.
What is new, and the real test here, is acquiescence of the opposition party (Republican) elected elites to this turn of events. They have preemptively surrendered the only real counter to this Executive usurpation of the Legislative power, impeachment of the President, for purported fear of a voter backlash and loss of their new majority in Congress.
The coming failure of the Republican Congress to do their Constitutional duty means the Republican Party is led by the same sort of narrow partisans who lead the Democratic Party, i.e., men more concerned with their fleeting power than their duty, America or freedom. Why should any of the American people obey the law when their elected officials openly defy it and their Constitutional obligations? Their elected representatives in Congress would replace the rule of law with the rule of men for the sake of their own power.
It may be that impeachment of President Obama for his proposed unconstitutional mass amnesty of illegal immigrants costs the Republican Party its new majority in Congress. Not even trying is simply the short road to hell. “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing” – John Stuart Mill. Failure by the GOP Congressional majority to even try to impeach President Obama here would be a clear and overwhelmingly powerful message to the Tea Party and others on the Right that only violence, and not the ballot box, is the answer to Executive tyranny.
For while Democrats and current Republican leaders may not remember, the following words are the cultural DNA of the American people, and it only took 1/3 of them to win the Revolution and drive out a Superpower:
“…And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
Posted in Anti-Americanism, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Conservatism, History, Immigration, Miscellaneous, Morality and Philosphy, North America, Politics, Predictions, Uncategorized, USA | 75 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 2nd November 2014 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
[Readers needing background may refer to the earlier members of this series, Don’t Panic: Against the Spirit of the Age, and Don’t Panic: A Continuing Series.]
Time is running out, the man explains, speaking calmly and confidently, in the manner of a university professor. A deadly disease, spread by primitive tribespeople through dead bodies, will kill vast numbers of Americans unless the Federal government uses its powers to stop it.
The man is Russell Eugene Weston Jr., a paranoid schizophrenic who murdered two policemen inside the Capitol building in the summer of 1998. He has been institutionalized ever since.
As I write this, the most widely-read individual blog in the English-speaking world, written by a genuine university professor, is infested with (invariably pseudonymous) commenters not readily distinguishable from Weston; we can only hope that none of them will act on their impulses as he did. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Bioethics, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events, Ebola, Elections, Health Care, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Libertarianism, Medicine, Politics, Science, Systems Analysis, Terrorism, Tradeoffs, USA | 8 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 28th October 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
Spare a thought for the stay at home voter
Empty eyes gaze at strange beauty shows
And a parade of the gray suited grafters
A choice of cancer or polio
–The Rolling Stones, 1968
I think quite a few people, including many conservatives/libertarians, are intending to sit this one out. It’s an understandable sentiment–the “strange beauty shows” have not gotten any more substantive since 1968, quite the contrary, and the “gray suited grafters” have as a class become even graft-ier. And there is plenty wrong with the institutional Republican Party…too much crony capitalism at the expense of the real free market, too much go-along-to-get-along behavior, too many lame candidates, too much incompetence in political marketing.
Nevertheless, I think it is of extreme importance for everyone who truly cares about the future of this country–and who understands the harm being done by Barack Obama and the “progressive” movement that he represents–to vote, and in almost all cases to vote for the Republican candidate.
Because what is facing us right now is not “a choice of cancer or polio.” It is a choice between a chronic disease which is unpleasant, but may eventually be curable, and an accute disease that will kill or permanently cripple the patient in short order.
Free speech is under severe attack by the American Left. There have been moves to have the FCC and/or the FEC regulate Internet expressions of opinion, further entrenching the monopolistic position of the establishment media…and even traditional media companies are finding considerable hostility from the Obama administration should they step the least little bit out of line. “Political correctness” dominates many if not most university campuses. People in the private sector have been driven out of their jobs because of their personal political opinions. The administrative and police power of the State is being used against political opponent; see for example the IRS case and the use of SWAT teams to invade the homes of Scott Walker supporters on highly questionable grounds–actions which, George Will argues convincingly, are politically motivated by a desire to intimidate Walker supporters and defeat him in the upcoming election. Direct violence or threats of violence by Leftists and their supporters, directed at purveyors of non-Left-approved opinions, also appears to be on the upswing; see for example the hundreds of death threats directed against a black Chicago pastor who had the audacity to endorse a Republican candidate for Illinois governor.
Perhaps most disturbing of all are the intrusions into the computers used by former CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkisson and the evidence that government agencies may have played a role in this–including the planting of false evidence against Ms Attkisson. I do not think we can consider this verified at the present time-and may never know for sure who was behind this operation–but it is certainly consistent with the “progressive” pattern.
My point is that the window for deflecting the “progressive” takeover of American politics and institutions is rapidly closing. Intrusions on free expression, and enablement of voting corruption, are likely to make it increasingly almost impossible to change directions in the future. A Republican majority in the Senate, and a maintained or increased Republican majority in the House, together with a goodly number of Republican governorships, will not solve these problems, but will offer a far better chance of bringing them under control than will the alternative.
There are also very serious threats facing the United States and its allies on the international front: especially, the prospective Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons. There is every reason to believe that Obama intends to reach a deal which lifts sanctions without seriously dismantling Iran’s uranium-enrichment capabilities. The likelihood of this happening is definitely increased or decreased by any increase or decrease in the political power of the Democratic Party.
I urge you most seriously to vote–to vote Republican (unless there is an alternative candidate who can really win, not just “make a statement”)–and to contribute money directly to your preferred candidates…you may not be able to match the very large contributions being made by Hollywood types and other wealthy Democrats and entities such as the teachers’ unions, but every bit helps. Voting and contributing now helps ensure that you will have a meaningful opportunity to vote, contribute, and engage in political discourse in future elections.
Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Elections, Leftism, Obama, Politics, USA | 28 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 11th October 2014 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Roger L Simon has an interesting column on the consequences of a GOP win this fall.
Barack Obama is a man unaccustomed to losing. Life has been exceptionally kind to him, sailing, as he did, through balmy Oahu sunsets, college, law school and career on into the presidency with scarcely a bump. He has been a protected man beyond any in recent memory, feted and praised virtually everywhere he went until the last couple of years. Even now, despite catastrophe after catastrophe, there are acolytes who continue to celebrate him, paying tens of thousands merely to have their photographs taken with him.
When such cosseted people are forced to confront failure, they typically do not do so with grace.
Obama’s style of governing seems to be quite unusual for modern presidents. He does not have a circle of “Wise Men” as most presidents have done, including Bill Clinton, who had Robert Rubin advising him on economics and the bond market.
Obama, instead, relys on a small circle of advisors with little or no experience in national affairs.
Insider books by Robert Gates, Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta have appeared in rapid succession, implying or directly alleging that the president lives in a bubble, unwilling to listen to advice. He frequently threatens to — and sometimes does — go around the Congress to get his way via, often unconstitutional, executive fiat. We all know that he lies, constantly.
His closest advisor appears to be Valerie Jarrett who has no policy experience and who seems to be a Chicago insider.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Elections, Human Behavior, Iraq, Leftism, Middle East, National Security, Obama, Politics | 9 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 21st September 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
Some great spiderweb pictures
Glacier National Park pictures from D L Sly, who writes at Villainous Company
High school principal bans Chik-fil-A at Booster Club events. She justifies her decision on grounds of “inclusivity and diversity.” Well, I guess that could be one translation of the German term Gleichschaltung.
SWAT team raid on barbershop rebuked by appeals court
Wishful science: “if there’s little incentive to publish negative results, whatever reigning paradigm is operating in a given field will be very resistant to change”
Years ago, Arthur Koestler asserted that human beings are basically crazy and that maybe it would be possible to develop a sanity-improving drug and put it in everyone’s drinking water. I was reminded of Koestler’s suggestion by this: Should we all take a bit of lithium?
Avoiding managerial groupthink with the right kind of diversity
People succeed where systems fail
Arguing with Leftists: How narratives trump everything
Making subway cars in Yonkers: a photo essay
Posted in Business, Civil Liberties, Education, Human Behavior, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Management, Photos | 6 Comments »