Tuesday, August 31, 2010
South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint is working to put together a bloc of radical small-government colleagues who could wield disproportionate power—especially if they enjoy the mandate of a "wave" election victory.
- "Religious Tyranny Is the Worst Form of Tyranny"
- The Test of Tolerance
- The DeMint Caucus
- Day of Reckoning
- "Government of the Employees, by the Employees, and for the Employees"
Top News Stories
Commentary by Robert Tracinski
1. Long Live the Bush Doctrine
When General Petraeus says that the Taliban's momentum has been "reversed"—well, I listen to him. I also listen to him when he says that there will not be a precipitous withdrawal of US troops next summer, despite what President Obama has implied. (Note that another general has now openly criticized the withdrawal deadline.)
On the other hand, the job in Afghanistan remains dauntingly difficult, largely due to the equivocal stance of the country's dominating neighbor, Pakistan, which fights Taliban forces when they threaten the Pakistani government, then turns around and supports Afghan Taliban in order to gain some alleged "strategic depth"—i.e., somewhere to retreat to and fight from the hills—in support of their own jihad against India.
(A lot can be understood, by the way, by pulling out an atlas and looking at a regional map. Notice how little distance there is between New Delhi, Islamabad, and Kabul. And note how perilously close Islamabad is to the disputed, India-held province of Kashmir. The Pakistani leadership is desperately insecure because they are wedged into a little patch of land next to a giant, powerful rival—and they are too fanatical to accept that their best option is to make a peaceful accommodation and join India in the mutually beneficial bonds of commerce.)
Thus, the New York Times reports on Pakistani duplicity in arresting a Taliban leader—in order to prevent him from ordering his men to lay down their arms against the Afghan government. And the Washington Post publishes the main item below: an op-ed by Afghanistan's National Security Advisor accusing Pakistan of being a state sponsor of terrorism.
If only we had some principle that said that supporting terrorists makes you responsible for their actions. Except that we do: the Bush Doctrine. Too bad no one wants to act on that any more.
But the example of Iraq also shows that an insurgency can be beaten even if it enjoys the sympathy or sponsorship of a powerful neighbor—and I suspect Iran's more-or-less open support for the Iraqi insurgents was way more important that Pakistan's hidden, duplicitous support for the Taliban. So a combination of good counter-insurgency tactics and increased pressure on Pakistan—presuming that the Obama administration can manage to put pressure on anyone—may well be enough to keep the momentum reversed against the Taliban.
"Pakistan is the Afghan War's Real Aggressor," Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Washington Post, August 23
There is ongoing domestic and international confusion in identifying Afghanistan's friends and foes. The Afghan people are wholeheartedly grateful to the international community for its sacrifices in blood and treasure. Unfortunately, the military-intelligence establishment of one of our neighbors still regards Afghanistan as its sphere of influence. While faced with a growing domestic terrorist threat, Pakistan continues to provide sanctuary and support to the Quetta Shura, the Haqqani network, the Hekmatyar group and al-Qaeda. And while the documents recently disclosed by WikiLeaks contained information that was neither new nor surprising, they did make public further evidence of the close relations among the Taliban, al-Qaeda and Pakistani intelligence.
The international community is present in Afghanistan to dismantle these international terrorist networks. Yet the focus on this fundamental task has progressively eroded and has been compounded by another strategic failure: the mistaken embrace of "strategic partners" who have, in fact, been nurturing terrorism....
It is my firm conviction that securing our people, districts and towns from terrorists; institutionalizing the rule of law; and fighting corruption are necessary steps toward building a strong and responsive state. But that is not enough. No domestic measure will fully address the threat of international terrorism, its global totalitarian ideology, or its regional support networks. Dismantling the terrorist infrastructure is a central component of our anti-terror strategy, and this requires confronting the state that still sees terrorism as a strategic asset and foreign policy tool.
To be clear, Afghanistan opposes the expansion of conflicts into other countries and opposes unwarranted military interventions in the internal affairs of sovereign nations. But global efforts to counter terrorism will not succeed until and unless there is clarity on who our friends and foes are....
The Afghan people are no longer ready to pay the price for the international community's miscalculation and naivety. The aggressor understands only one language: that of force and determination. Afghanistan, along with the United States and many other nations, is a victim of terrorism. The international community must establish a clear alliance among such victims. We cannot mobilize the Afghan people with uncertainty, confusion or appeasement of those who sponsor terrorism.
2. "Religious Tyranny Is the Worst Form of Tyranny"
Iran is also a bit of a player in supporting the Taliban, but its reach is far stronger and more dangerous to the West, stretching from Persia down to the Mediterranean. Take some time to check out Michael Totten's very good interview with Jonathan Spyer about Iran's totalitarian outpost in Southern Lebanon, which sums up with this grim overview:
A perfect storm is brewing in the Middle East. We're experiencing the convergence of two historical phenomena. The first is the rise of Iran, which we've already talked about. We have an ambitious ideological elite committed to radical Islam and the expansion of power. Second, in country after country in the Middle East, various forms of radical Islam are becoming the most popular and vivid forms of political expression. We have Hamas among the Palestinians, Hezbollah among the Shia of Lebanon, the Islamic Action Front in Jordan, and the Muslim Brothers in Egypt.
We have an ideological wave from below with a powerful and potentially nuclear-armed sponsor on top. That's the picture I'd want to place in the minds of the people in Washington. It's the key regional dynamic through which most smaller processes have to be understood.
Alas, instead, the people in Washington—at least the people currently in charge—have apparently talked Israel down from an attack on Iran's nuclear program.
But the Iranian regime is weak, because as many storms as it creates outside its own border, it cannot protect itself from the storms raging within. Last year's "Green Revolution" is still simmering, and the regime is still suffering the consequences of a catastrophic loss of moral legitimacy—with the opposition leader openly declaring that "religious tyranny is the worst form of tyranny."
"Cracks in the Iranian Monolith," Michael Ledeen, Wall Street Journal, August 24
In late July, Mohammad Ali Jaffari, commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, the regime's Praetorian Guard, admitted publicly that many top officers were supporters of the opposition Green Movement. Shortly thereafter, according to official government announcements, some 250 officers suddenly resigned. In the past weeks, several journalists from the Guards' FARS news agency have defected, some to France and others to the United States....
That opposition is fed by enduring social and economic crises. Unemployment last month reached 15% and is as high as 45% in some regions. In Tehran, health officials warned pregnant women and mothers of young children not to drink the water. Electrical failures are widespread. Taxi drivers have been striking around the country this summer, some because of the long lines at gas stations and others because of a shortage of compressed natural gas. The sanctions seem to be having an effect....
These various debacles have strengthened the Green Movement, and opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi continue to launch serious verbal attacks on the regime.... Mr. Mousavi himself said that the Islamic Republic has become worse than the shah's regime, because "religious tyranny is the worst form of tyranny."
Challenges to the regime now come even from prisoners. When Mr. Ahmadinejad challenged Barack Obama to a debate this month, a Green Movement website reported with grim admiration that five journalists in Tehran's infamous Evin Prison had invited Mr. Ahmadinejad to come to jail and debate them.
3. The Test of Tolerance
The evidence keeps building that Faisal Abdul Rauf, the imam behind the "Ground Zero Mosque" project, is demanding a tolerance that he himself would not grant.
The most recent revelation: in 2006, he denounced the Danish cartoons of Mohammed as "insensitive" to Islam. Or just last year, Rauf advised President Obama to grant the legitimacy of the principle behind Iran's clerical dictatorship, as revealed below by Christopher Hitchens, who advocates turning the tables and making this controversy a test of Islam's "tolerance," too.
Rauf supports censorship of others—but then goes on to claim the protection of religious freedom for himself. But I agree with Hitchens that Rauf is entitled to claim it—the Republicans themselves passed a law a few years backing specifically banning local governments from using building permits or zoning laws to block the construction of places of worship. And Rauf won't be the first to benefit from the contradiction of a sympathizer of tyranny relying on American freedoms. We let them do it, because it is the price of maintaining our own freedoms.
For all of the overwrought analogies used to argue against the mosque—a Shinto shrine at Pearl Harbor, and that sort of thing—there is a pretty exact historical analogy for the status of Imam Rauf. He is like a Communist sympathizer during the Cold War. He is not and never has been a member of the Communist Party—or, in today's context, he is not an actual member of a terrorist organization, nor is he an agent of an enemy regime (at least, not that anyone has so far been able to prove). He's just peddling sympathy for the enemy and making excuses for the Islamists' latest atrocities—as many leftist American intellectuals did during the Cold War, under the protection of the First Amendment.
But as with Cold War pinkos, the First Amendment does not protect him from being investigated or publicly unmasked as an Islamist sympathizer. And it does not protect him from being placed on any kind of private blacklist. In that vein, a story in The Politico reveals a particularly relevant fact:
The Cordoba Initiative hasn't yet begun fundraising for its $100 million goal. The group's latest fundraising report with the state attorney general's office, from 2008, shows exactly $18,255—not enough even for a down payment on the half of the site the group has yet to purchase.
So this is what the fuss is about? A project that has reached 0.018% of its fund-raising target? I'm starting to think that the whole controversy is a cynical ploy by Rauf to get free publicity, which he will use to get foreign Muslims and self-loathing American leftists to donate funds that he couldn't have raised any other way.
The Politico also points out that the project doesn't yet have an architect or an engineer. I have no doubt Rauf will now find a leftist architect who will do the project just to stick it to those right-wing troglodytes. But then again, the thick-necked troglodytes are the one who will actually have to build the thing, and New York's "hardhats"—its construction workers—are vowing not to touch the project. If they're smart (and they're a lot smarter than the left gives them credit for), they will widen the boycott, refusing to work on the projects of anyone who designs or funds the center.
That's precisely the kind of private pressure that is legitimate, and badly needed, to block the mosque.
"A Test of Tolerance," Christopher Hitchens, Slate, August 23
From the beginning, though, I pointed out that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf was no great bargain and that his Cordoba Initiative was full of euphemisms about Islamic jihad and Islamic theocracy. I mentioned his sinister belief that the United States was partially responsible for the assault on the World Trade Center and his refusal to take a position on the racist Hamas dictatorship in Gaza. The more one reads through his statements, the more alarming it gets. For example, here is Rauf's editorial on the upheaval that followed the brutal hijacking of the Iranian elections in 2009. Regarding President Obama, he advised that:
"He should say his administration respects many of the guiding principles of the 1979 revolution—to establish a government that expresses the will of the people; a just government, based on the idea of Vilayet-i-faquih, that establishes the rule of law."
Roughly translated, Vilayet-i-faquih is the special term promulgated by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to describe the idea that all of Iranian society is under the permanent stewardship (sometimes rendered as guardianship) of the mullahs....
I do not find myself reassured by the fact that Imam Rauf publicly endorses the most extreme and repressive version of Muslim theocracy....
Emboldened by the crass nature of the opposition to the center, its defenders have started to talk as if it represented no problem at all and as if the question were solely one of religious tolerance. It would be nice if this were true. But tolerance is one of the first and most awkward questions raised by any examination of Islamism. We are wrong to talk as if the only subject was that of terrorism. As Western Europe has already found to its cost, local Muslim leaders have a habit, once they feel strong enough, of making demands of the most intolerant kind. Sometimes it will be calls for censorship of anything "offensive" to Islam. Sometimes it will be demands for sexual segregation in schools and swimming pools. The script is becoming a very familiar one. And those who make such demands are of course usually quite careful to avoid any association with violence. They merely hint that, if their demands are not taken seriously, there just might be a teeny smidgeon of violence from some other unnamed quarter ....
This is why the fake term Islamophobia is so dangerous: It insinuates that any reservations about Islam must ipso facto be "phobic." A phobia is an irrational fear or dislike. Islamic preaching very often manifests precisely this feature, which is why suspicion of it is by no means irrational....
Let us by all means make the "Ground Zero" debate a test of tolerance. But this will be a one-way street unless it is to be a test of Muslim tolerance as well.
4. The DeMint Caucus
Several readers asked if I could link to video of Virginia Congressman Tom Perriello's meeting with the Charlottesville tea party group. I did find a podcast, and the question I asked of Perriello should be about four or five questions into the Q&A—probably about 20 minutes in.
There has been a lot of political action around the country, and I have some primary results to get caught up on. First, I should mention that the only outright Objectivist candidate that I know of, Stephen Bailey, won his primary to run in Colorado's second district. He's facing a well-funding incumbent, so you might want to consider sending a donation.
The overall pattern is that it continues to be a rough year for establishment incumbents in the Republican Party. In Florida's race for governor, it was the insurgent challenger who won, and the real fireworks are in Alaska, where a Sarah Palin-backed challenger may have finally wrested a Senate seat out of the hands of the Murkowski family.
This is important, because the Senate is where the real action is going to be when the new Congress convenes next January. The House is almost certain to switch to Republican control, and there will likely be a significant group of relatively radical Republicans to push a small-government agenda. But at best, the Senate will barely have a Republican majority, and Senate Republicans have been the most cautious, liberal, sedate stalwarts of the party establishment.
(This has to do with how they are elected. Members of the House represent smaller, gerrymandered districts where a large majority often leans to the right or to the left, allowing their representative to take more radical stands. Senators represent whole states, and even in right-leaning states, the ideological majorities are not as strong. So despite the Founders' intentions, Senators are actually more inclined to blow with the prevailing wind than their colleagues in the House.)
That's why the story below is so important. South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint is one of the few really fire-breathing pro-free-marketers in the Senate—and he is working to put together an expanded Senate bloc of radical small-government colleagues, backing candidates like Rand Paul in Kentucky and Ron Johnson in Wisconsin (both Objectivist sympathizers, by the way).
I've seen this trend building, and the effect could be enormous. I described it some time ago as a potential "Atlas Shrugged Caucus," but it's really going to be the Jim DeMint Caucus. A really intransigent bloc of five or six votes in the Senate, with a proven and dynamic leader, could be the key swing vote needed to get anything done—and its members would wield disproportionate power, especially if they enjoy the mandate of a "wave" election victory.
"A Senator and His 'Disciples'," Steve Moore, Wall Street Journal, August 28
"I'd rather lose with Pat Toomey than win with Arlen Specter any day." That's South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint defending his Senate Conservatives Fund, a new PAC that has taken Washington by storm.
The fund-raising group has already helped eight underdog Reaganite candidates win Republican Senate primaries this year....
Mr. DeMint's mission is to bring more Jim DeMints to the Senate—that is, people with an unfailing antagonism to big government....
Mr. DeMint savors his PAC's most recent victory in Colorado, where $141,000 in radio ads and direct contributions helped Ken Buck defeat Jane Norton, the choice of Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn. Mr. DeMint grouses that Mr. Buck was never even presented to his colleagues as a "viable alternative, which seemed unfair." He adds, only half-kiddingly, that what did in Ms. Norton was that she was "endorsed by 25 Republican senators, which made her the establishment candidate." These days, that's the kiss of death.
Other victors helped by Mr. DeMint include Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mr. Toomey of Pennsylvania and Mike Lee of Utah (but only after incumbent Sen. Robert Bennett was knocked out at the Utah GOP convention)....
How many Republicans can be counted on to follow him into these budget battles? "Well, there's Coburn, who has got the courage to go out and make a scene on the floor or to stand up in a conference meeting and stand up to the appropriators. We don't have anyone else." Hence the PAC....
So what should the Republicans' top priority be if they take back the House, the Senate or both this year? "You need to start by putting a cap on spending."...
He warns: "This may be our last chance with voters, because if we're given the majority...and don't reform Washington, everybody is going to say, 'What's wrong with these guys? We need a third party.'"
5. Day of Reckoning
It is increasingly looking as if November 2 won't just be an election day. It will be a Day of Reckoning for those who pushed for a government takeover of the American economy.
The Politico reports that as the election looms, more and more Democrats are getting the sense that the ship is sinking.
Charles Krauthammer dissects the left's ugly defense mechanism for coping with rejection:
It is a measure of the corruption of liberal thought and the collapse of its self-confidence that, finding itself so widely repudiated, it resorts reflexively to the cheapest race-baiting (in a colorful variety of forms). Indeed, how can one reason with a nation of pitchfork-wielding mobs brimming with "antipathy toward people who aren't like them"—blacks, Hispanics, gays and Muslims—a nation that is, as Michelle Obama once put it succinctly, "just downright mean"?
The Democrats are going to get beaten badly in November. Not just because the economy is ailing. And not just because Obama over-read his mandate in governing too far left. But because a comeuppance is due the arrogant elites whose undisguised contempt for the great unwashed prevents them from conceding a modicum of serious thought to those who dare oppose them.
This same contempt for the governed is manifested in the attempt by some Democrats to put fake "Tea Party" candidates on the ballot in order to confuse the voters—a move that is already being investigated and may result in a criminal probe in Michigan.
Elsewhere, there are reports that leftists are turning against one another now that they don't have hatred of George W. Bush to unite them. And others are turning toward Bush, with Democratic Party hack Peter Beinart joining the group calling for Bush to save them on the Ground Zero Mosque—and actually writing the words, "I pine for George W. Bush."
Or consider this delicious bit of irony. After her embarrassing "Michelle Antoinette" luxury getaway to Spain, Michelle Obama is trying to rehabilitate her reputation by appearing with Laura Bush.
The article below indicates another under-appreciated side of the potential wave on November 2: huge Republican victories in state-level races, which will put numerous statehouses in Republican hands during a year when congressional district lines will be redrawn. By drawing those lines to maximize the number of right-leaning districts, Republicans could add at least a dozen seats to future majorities.
"2010 Elections: Big Potential for Republican Governor, Redistricting Wins," Lou Cannon, Politics Daily, August 22
No one knows what the future holds, but with less than 80 days to go before the 2010 midterms, Democrats are scrambling to hold the House and keep Senate losses to a minimum. Charlie Cook, an independent political analyst, expects Republicans to gain between 35 and 45 House seats in November, more probably in the upper range of this forecast. They need 39 to retake the House.
Whether or not the GOP accomplishes this objective, Republicans are poised to make huge gains in statehouses. Democrats now hold 26 of the 50 governorships, with 37 of them on the ballot this year. Stuart Rothenberg, another independent analyst, anticipates that Republicans will pick up eight new governorships, giving them control of 32. Below the radar screens of these elections, Republicans are also optimistic about gaining seats in the 88 legislative chambers (of a total of 99) for which there are elections this year. These legislative elections will determine which party holds the upper hand in the 2011 congressional and legislative reapportionments that will be based on the 2010 census. Several legislative bodies are closely balanced, among them the Texas House, which Republicans control by a two-seat margin. Texas is the largest prize in the redistricting sweepstakes; it will gain four additional House seats (for a total of 36) because of population increases.
Republicans are favored to hold the Texas House and are in no apparent danger of losing any other legislative body they now control. Democrats, in contrast, are playing defense in attempting to hold onto at least a dozen chambers. "It looks dark for the Democrats," says Tim Storey, a political analyst for the National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL).... Republicans stand to gain some 500 legislative seats, most of which were lost in the two previous elections. Especially crucial in terms of congressional redistricting are the New York Senate, the Ohio House and the Pennsylvania House, all of which shifted narrowly to the Democrats in the 2008 election. Republicans also have opportunities to win control of the Alabama Senate and House (controlled by Democrats since the 1870s), the Indiana House and both the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly.
All this is true as far as it goes, but the temporal political fortunes of presidents are not necessarily portents of permanent change. "If Republicans gain 500 legislative seats, it will be a big victory for them, but they'll just be back to even," observes NSCL analyst Storey.... For better or for worse, our country is pretty evenly divided.
6. "Government of the Employees, by the Employees, and for the Employees"
Republican control on the state level matters because it is not just the federal government that has thrown itself into a permanent fiscal crisis. Many of the big, left-leaning states have long since been turned into mechanisms for looting by government employees, and they are up to their necks in unsustainable debt and insatiably growing pension obligations.
No state is in worse shape than California, and in the main link below, Arnold Schwarzenegger describes the scope of the looting and sums up the system in a pithy phrase: "government of the employees, by the employees, and for the employees." While you check out that article, please also take time to look at a good overview of California's destruction by the left, where "During the second half of the 20th century, the state shifted from an older progressivism, which emphasized infrastructure investment and business growth, to a newer version, which views the private sector much the way the Huns viewed a city—as something to be sacked and plundered."
Unfortunately, Governor Schwarzenegger hasn't done much to solve that problem, though in this op-ed he vows to get tough. Meanwhile, New Jersey governor Chris Christie actually has taken on the public employees' unions. According to an admiring profile in BusinessWeek:
What earned Christie national fame wasn't the magnitude of the cuts but the way in which he picked a fight with public-employee unions. When he announced this spring that he was skipping the pension fund contribution, he made it a symbolic act, too, vowing not to put more money into the system until the legislature agreed to reforms necessary for long-term solvency. Christie also pressured teachers, who don't work for him, to agree to contribute 1.5 percent of their pay toward their health-care benefits. He warned them that if they didn't go along, he would campaign against passage of school budgets in their districts. Most teachers refused to contribute, Christie did as he had promised, and voters rejected a record 59 percent of school budgets. At the end of June, the Democratic-controlled state senate and assembly passed Christie's budget almost unchanged from his proposal.
If more Republicans can get elected on the state level—and then break the power of this neo-aristocracy of corrupt government employees—then perhaps they can demonstrate to the public that they actually deserve to be re-elected.
As former Speaker of the State Assembly and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown pointed out earlier this year in the San Francisco Chronicle, roughly 80 cents of every government dollar in California goes to employee compensation and benefits. Those costs have been rising fast....
Much bigger increases in employee costs are on the horizon. Thanks to huge unfunded pension and retirement health-care promises granted by past governments, and also to deceptive pension-fund accounting that understated liabilities and overstated future investment returns, California is now saddled with $550 billion of retirement debt....
At the same time that government-employee costs have been climbing, the private-sector workers whose taxes pay for them have been hurting. Since 2007, one million private jobs have been lost in California. Median incomes of workers in the state's private sector have stagnated for more than a decade. To make matters worse, the retirement accounts of those workers in California have declined. The average 401(k) is down nationally nearly 20% since 2007. Meanwhile, the defined benefit retirement plans of government employees—for which private-sector workers are on the hook—have risen in value.
It's as if Sacramento legislators don't want a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but a government of the employees, by the employees, and for the employees.
Monday, August 30, 2010
In 333 BC, while wintering at Gordium, Alexander the Great attempted to untie the knot. When he could not find the end to the knot to unbind it, he sliced it in half with a stroke of his sword, producing the required ends (the so-called “Alexandrian solution”). That night there was a violent thunderstorm. The prophets took this as a sign that Zeus was pleased and would grant Alexander many victories. Once Alexander had sliced the knot with a sword-stroke, his biographers claimed in retrospect that an oracle further prophesied that the one to untie the knot would become the king of Asia. --Wikipedia
My point is that the opposition could spend countless years attempting to untie the “Gordian Knot” of the ruling Leftist Establishment, or by using the terrible swift sword of revolution destroy it in one fell swoop.
SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS!
Sunday, August 29, 2010
I will be leaving Salt Lake City, Utah by Greyhound bus, as no passenger railroad connections exist between Utah and Montana anymore, although you would think with the billions the Feds have poured into passenger railroad service, a comfortable half filled passenger train would be running north to Montana. But alas! Only the crowded and uncomfortable Greyhound bus is public ground transportation north from Salt Lake City.
My final destination is Bozeman, Montana where fall has already started to fall, and it's not even September! It looks like Anchorage, Alaska style weather ahead where it snows in late September. Perhaps the cold weather accounts for the fact that Montana is least populated per square mile state in the lower 48. I have my winter gear already purchased and used last winter in Utah. It would appear I'll have use of it very soon - the temperature dropped last night in Bozeman to 38 degrees Fahrenheit.
I'm staying for a week (at least) in a hostel about a mile from the bus station near Main Street. I checked the map last night and Main Street is just about all there is to Bozeman. This is a small Western town with a population in low thousands with Wi-Fi and the Internet. I doubt these days they have gun fights on Main Street at High Noon, although the hostel I'm staying did host Hollywood cowboy Gary Cooper many years ago. The best I can hope for is walking into a saloon where all the cowboys look up from their whiskey as I walk to the bar and order a beer. At this point Black Bart will walk over to me and say with a sneer, "You be a sheep man, Stranger? I smell SHEEP on you!"
This is the romantic in me thinking of things long gone. The reality is that the West in America is not that much different than the East. The only thing that changes is the weather and the scenery. Americans have become a pretty much standard copy even if they are a mixture of all the races, religions and cultures in the world. The only thing that really divides us is our politics. In politics, Americans are a nation divided and a Second American Civil War perhaps the end result of this division.
Think Progress tried really, really hard to cover the Restoring Honor rally with photographers and videographers. I don't think it is a stretch to think that Think Progress was hoping beyond hope that it would find a sign or something else that would permit it to portray the rally as racist.
Apparently, Think Progress drew some really bad cards, because the focus of its video and photo coverage is a rather pathetic attempt to claim that the rally really was a "political rally":
Political Rally Or Not? We Report, You DecideBut not to mind, Think Progress also had photos of t-shirts like this one (unfortunately, TP gave no link as to where to order one):
For months, Glenn Beck has breathlessly insisted that today’s “Restoring Honor” rally was a completely non-political event. ThinkProgress attended the event and documented what we saw. Decide for yourself if Beck’s rally was non-political:
Come on Think Progress. Is that the best you got?
With all your money, you could do better! How about a little bluff? Raise the ante and at least pretend you have good cards. A headline like this would have been a good bluff:
"Racists Hide Racism At Racist Rally"All is fair in love and the card game. At least take some of your race cards from a different rally, and play them here.
It never stopped you before.
Update: Link for T-Shirts, h/t Brian at Red Dog Report.
Saturday Night Card Game
Let's Play "If a Tea Party Supporter Had Said That"
Still Waiting For Apologies
And here in the US we are paying for extremist imams (like Rauf) and their wives to go on Middle Eastern junkets to raise money for Islamic supremacist Ground Zero mosques. Sick.Photo: Ground Zero mosque
Italy: Islam denied income tax revenue
Rome, 27 August (AKI) - Mosques in Italy will not receive a share of income tax revenue the Italian government allocates to religious faiths each year. Hindu and Buddhist temples, Greek Orthodox churches and Jehovah's Witnesses will be eligible for the funds, according to a bill approved by the Italian cabinet in May and still must be approved by parliament.
Until now, the government had earmarked 8 percent of income tax revenue for Italy's established churches. The great majority of these funds go to the Catholic Church, although if they wish, individual tax payers may elect to give the money to charities and cultural projects instead.
The head of COREIS, one of Italy's largest Muslim groups, Yahya Pallavicini, said he was bitter that Islam had been denied the revenue from Italian income tax.
"Work should be begun on legally recognising those moderate Muslims who have for years shown themselves to be reliable interlocutors who are free of and fundamentalist ideology," he said.
Islam is not an established religion in Italy and there is only one official mosque in the country, Rome's Grand Mosque. Politicians from the ruling coalition cite radical imams, polygamy and failure to uphold women's rights by Muslims immigrants as obstacles to recognising Islam as an official religion in Italy.
Until now, only the Catholic Church, Judaism and other established churches including Lutherans, Evangelists, Waldensians and 7th-day Adventists have received the income tax revenue from the Itallain government.
Thursday night, I witnessed an unusual sight: a Democratic incumbent speaking to a local Tea Party group. Tom Perriello, the congressman for Virginia's fifth district, spoke to a monthly meeting of our local Charlottesville group, the Jefferson Area Tea Party.
I almost had to give Perriello credit for courage, for having the guts to venture into the lion's den while other Democratic congressmen are scrambling to evade their constituents. Almost. But when I saw Perriello at work, I realized that this wasn't the courage of a principled leader who is willing to go forthrightly into the enemy's camp and defend his principles. It's the brazenness of a practiced card-sharp who is confident he can shuffle the deck fast enough to fool the suckers.
But I took the opportunity to ask the congressman one simple question that, in my mind, cuts through to the core issue, reveals the real radicalism of Democrats' attack on liberty, and exposes the myth of the moderate Democrat.
Perriello's whole method was not to answer our questions or address the ideological differences between us. His method was to evade our questions and defuse any sense of confrontation, to mollify us with soothing sounds while disguising his real intentions. I found myself chuckling part-way through his opening presentation when I realized how crudely, childishly obvious his method is. The formula is to emphasize areas of seeming agreement with his audience—even with a Tea Party audience—but always to keep his answers vague, general, up in the clouds. After all, if he was forced to get down to specifics, the illusion would vanish.
For example, his opening statement stressed his opposition to the TARP bank bailouts. He expanded this with some populist Main-Street-versus-Wall-Street rhetoric and then ended with a hint at pseudo-patriotic protectionism, talking about keeping jobs in the US and the need for an economy that "making things" again. Notice how he hit some notes that are calculated to resonate with the Tea Partiers: no corporate handouts, more American jobs, and an appeal to patriotism. But if you ask "what did he say specifically," he mentioned only one actual policy: "closing a tax loophole for companies that ship jobs overseas." "Closing a tax loophole" is a code phrase for "raising taxes." Leave it to a Democrat to look at a struggling economy and the long-term strangulation of American manufacturing, and to fall back on the only solution he can think of: whose taxes can we raise?
But of course, if he had just said "my solution to the economy is to raise taxes," that would have given the game away. So the rest of his presentation was there as protective camouflage to hide his actual, concrete meaning.
Then I got a chance to ask my question. For obvious reasons, I've been working for a long time on the art of asking questions to politicians. The main challenge is to keep them from floating off into the safe zone of vague generalities and instead to pin them down to concrete, specific reality. In other words, a good question has to be a short-circuit Perriello's whole methodology.
Here was my question. (I'm writing this from memory; the exact wording, as I asked it to Perriello, may have been slightly different.) "You hear us talk a lot at Tea Party events about the Constitution, and the reason is that we view the Constitution as granting limited power to government. But part of what started this movement is that we look at the Democratic Congress, and they don't seem to think that there are any limits to their power. I could cite recent quotes here from Charlie Rangel or from Pete Stark, but basically their interpretation of the Constitution is that they have the power to do anything they like to us, so long as they say it's for the 'general welfare,' which is no limitation on anything. So my question for you is: what limits does the Constitution place on the power of Congress—and can you name anything that Congress has done, since Democrats have held a majority, that you think goes beyond those limits?
Note what this question is designed to do. Perriello's method of blowing smoke is to stick to generalities and never contribute anything specific or commit to a positive statement on the big issues. So the point is to ask him a question that requires him to contribute something specific, to offer us a concrete product of his own thinking. If he is allowed to speak in empty generalities, he could tell us that, sure, he thinks there are limits on government. But ask him to name, from his own thinking, real examples of specific legislation, and you're likely to get a much more revealing answer.
And that's precisely what we got. As I expected, he confirmed that there are limits on the power of Congress—in theory. But even there, he talked in terms of the authority of federal government versus state governments, and the division of power between the legislative and executive branches. But he made no mention of the essential issue, the one that has the Tea Parties up in arms: the government versus the people. The limits imposed on government by the rights of the people were not even on his radar screen.
And as for the specifics, Perriello paused for a moment and confessed that no, nothing came to mind. He couldn't think of a single thing—not one piece of legislation—that the Democrats had proposed in the past four years that might go beyond constitutional limits.
Bear in mind the recent frenzy of legislative activity. Perriello's fellow Democrats voted overwhelmingly for TARP, which disbursed massive borrowed funds for no specific use and with virtually no direct control by Congress. (And despite his anti-TARP rhetoric, Perriello has voted lockstep with Democratic leaders on the big items of their agenda, from cap-and-trade to the health care bill. Do you really believe he would have held out on TARP?) Then there was the giant stimulus bill. There was the health care bill which imposes massive new controls on health care, dictating whether we buy insurance, what we buy, what it must cover, what it costs. There is the cap-and-trade takeover of the entire energy industry, dictating what we can drive and how much we will have to pay to heat our homes. There is "card-check" legislation that would eliminate the secret ballot for union elections. And there was the DISCLOSE Act, an attempt to impose controls on political speech that specially targeted opponents of the Democratic agenda.
And I don't think Perriello was trying to evade the question. I don't think that he realized there was some legislation that was iffy, and he was trying to avoid mentioning it. He really seemed to be trying to come up with an example, and he genuinely drew a blank. But this is not how you would react if you were actually in the habit of thinking about the constitutionality of legislation. If you were in the habit of asking, about every bill that comes up: where is the authority in the Constitution for this bill?—then you would have that knowledge stored away as an important fact about any particular piece of legislation. Even if you didn't think any proposal violated the Constitution, you would at least be prepared to talk about why it was constitutional.
Perriello's response is the reaction of someone who clearly doesn't spend a lot of time thinking about the Constitution. It doesn't figure in as a consideration in drafting, debating, and voting for legislation.
This fits with his response to an earlier question from a tea partier who asked about the state lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of ObamaCare. He did the usual tap-dance: he was glad, he said, that those suits had been filed, but he was confident they would be rejected in the courts, and this was the way the question should be settled, by arguing it out before the courts. But he just asserted that the law would be found to be constitutional, providing no argument for why that is so. That is the typical method of this Congress. It's not their job to think about the Constitution. Their job is to charge full steam ahead, grabbing as much power for government as they can, and finding out later how much the Supreme Court will allow them to get away with. It is the policy of leaders for whom the Constitution is not a moral law to be taken seriously, but an annoying roadblock to be overrun.
Since we're in Thomas Jefferson country here in Charlottesville, it's appropriate to contrast this attitude to that of Thomas Jefferson, who rejected the idea that guarding the Constitution was a task to be outsourced to the courts. Instead, he held that each branch of government had the responsibility to enforce constitutional discipline on itself. He took this so seriously that he almost decided against the Louisiana Purchase on the grounds that the Constitution gave him no explicit authority to acquire new lands for the United States. He went ahead with the purchase on the grounds that it was an emergency—he didn't know how long the French would be willing to sell—and he then asked Congress to pass a constitutional amendment authorizing his action after the fact. Since it was already a moot issue, and because the purchase had overwhelming support, Congress didn't bother. But has one ever seen such solicitous concern for constitutional limits from our current leaders?
All of this highlights the reason why, for all of his glib political skills, Perriello didn't win any friends Thursday night. Perriello's method is intended to make him look like a reasonable "moderate." But there is a reason he votes with the Democratic leadership on all of the really important pieces of legislation, and that is because he accepts the Democrats' radicalism on one central issue: their view of the unlimited power of government and their contempt for constitutional restraints.
The public is learning that the "moderate Democrat" is a myth. It's a myth because the actual choice is between two radical alternatives: limited government, or unlimited government. If you side with unlimited government, as Perriello does, then the flood gates burst open, and it doesn't matter whether you support every little bit of the left's agenda: you have let that agenda loose in the world by denying the constitutional limits that were intended to restrain the government from taking our precious liberty.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
RONBO COMMENTS: I missed this fire fight by about thirty minutes. I had just finished an early dinner with a friend at the Bayou restaurant about 3:00 p.m. near where the bullets were fired less than an hour later. I did not observe anyone dressed in a combat uniform with a weapon, or anything out of the ordinary, but as we got into my date's car on State Street, I do remember having an odd feeling that something bad was going to happen soon and told her of my dread. About four P.M. we heard on Fox News about the shooting at my apartment in South Salt Lake City.
Fortunately, such a serious incident of this nature is not typical of veterans, even those who saw combat. In fact, the vast majority of veterans, combat or non-combat, many of whom are above average in intelligence, hard working and physically fit do quite well in civilian life.
However, there are many veterans who suffered from mental illness and severe personality disorders before they entered the service by hiding these problems from view. In effect these troubled people enlist under a false flag. This tiny minority of veterans accounts for many crimes addressed by law enforcement inside and outside the military. It is a sad fact that stressful military service, especially combat, pushes these marginal men and women over the edge.
This we have seen in Salt Lake City on an otherwise beautiful warm sunny day under a clear blue sky.
By Matthew D. LaPlante, Sheena McFarland and Lindsay Whitehurst
The Salt Lake TribuneUpdated Aug 28, 2010 03:30PM
On Saturday some half a million plus patriots descended upon Washington D.C. to call for the restoration of American values and to honor those brave men and women who are serving this nation in the military. I have been receiving multiple links about the Restoring Honor rally held on 8-28-10 all day from a variety of people. Our own Conclub blogger MoK was in attendance and I hope that we will hear a first person report once she returns and has a chance to fill us in.
It was a fairly bold and risky move to hold the rally on the anniversary, and indeed at the same location, as the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “I Have A Dream” speech. But in the end the publicity was great, the inclusion of Dr. Aveda King (the niece of Martin Luther King) was brilliant, the raising of over $5 1/2 million dollars in scholarship money for the children of slain soldiers was noble, and the as usual well-behaved and peaceful crowd in the hundreds of thousands showed the nation that the activists on the Right are far from the racist crazies that the media and the Left have been furiously attempting to portray them as. Instead, they are dedicated American patriots who care deeply about their nation and its future.
All three hours and 28 minutes of the rally can be viewed at – Restoring Honor Rally