My annual Passover post, updated for 2014

An antisemitic Jew I know, rather than seeing the Passover ceremony as the celebration of freedom (the world’s first and for a long time only successful slave revolt), and of justice and morality (the Ten Commandments), derides the whole ceremony as the unconscionable and immoral celebration of the genocide of the Egyptian people. What troubles him so much is the fact that, after each plague, when Pharaoh seems about to soften and let the Jews go, God hardens Pharaoh’s heart, leading to the necessity of yet another plague, culminating in the death of the first born.  God, he says, is a serial killer, because he unilaterally escalated a situation to the point where thousands had to die.

Some people have tried to explain away this part of the Passover narrative by saying that it is simply dramatic license, meant to increase the tension and danger of the Jew’s escape from Egypt. After all, if it had been easy, it wouldn’t have been much of a story. No one will get spiritually or intellectually excited if Moses asks, “Hey, Pharaoh, can we go?” and Pharaoh answers “Sure.” That’s a narrative without much punch or heroism, and God’s involvement is minimal or, at least, unexciting. Narrative tension, according to this explanation, demands an escalating series of plagues, with the audience on tenterhooks as to whether those pesky Jewish slaves will actually be able to make a break for it.

This reasoning is silly. There’s a much more profound purpose behind God’s approach to the ten plagues, and that is to remind us of the tyrant’s capacity for tolerating others’ suffering, as long as his power remains in place.

What Pharaoh discovered with the first nine plagues is that life can go on, at least for the ruler, despite an increase in the burdens placed upon his people. A blood-filled Nile River may, at first, have seemed appalling, but the red receded and life went on. Pharaoh still held together his government. The same held true for each subsequent plague, whether lice or boils or wild animals or frogs, or whatever: there was surely consternation at Pharaoh’s court, which led Pharaoh to think about freeing the pesky Jewish slaves, but once life returned to normal, Pharaoh’s tyrannical instincts again kicked in.  As long as Pharaoh could maintain his power base, he was okay with the incremental decimation visited upon those he ruled.

Sheltered in his lavish palace, Pharaoh might worry about the risk to him from a populace starving and frightened, but that possible risk was immediately irrelevant as long as that same populace still proved willing to fear and worship him. The people’s suffering, ultimately, was irrelevant to his power over the land and his ability to maintain that power. It was only when the price became too high to Pharaoh personally — when Pharaoh’s laborers, and money men, and soldiers, and slaves, and courtiers, and perhaps even his own family members died — that Pharaoh was convinced, even temporarily, that his own survival required that he alter his evil ways.

Human nature hasn’t changed much in 3,000 years. Think, for example, of both the Nazis and the Japanese at the end of WWII. For the Nazis, it was apparent by December 1944 (the Battle of the Bulge) that the war was over. Hitler, however, was a megalomaniac in the pharaonic mold, and his high command, either from fear of Hitler’s reprisal or because its members were caught in the grip of their own insanity, would not gainsay him. Rather than surrendering, the Nazi high command was willing to see Germany country overrun and her Aryan citizens killed. Only when the death toll became too high, when  it was apparent that nothing could be salvaged from the ashes, and when the guns were aimed directly at their own heads, did the German high command surrender.

The same held true for the Japanese. Truman did not decide to drop the bomb just for the hell of it. Even the fact that it would impress the Soviets was an insufficient reason for doing so. What swayed Truman was the fact that his advisers told him (credibly as it turned out) that the Japanese Bushido culture would not allow Japan to surrender even when surrender had become the only reasonable option. Instead, the military warned Truman that, although the Americans would inevitably win the war, if Truman didn’t take drastic action, victory would take another year, and cost up to 100,000 American lives and at least that many Japanese lives (including Japanese civilians).

Truman therefore had two choices: another year of war, with the loss of 100,000 Americans and many more than 100,000 Japanese; or an immediate end to the war, with no more American casualties and at least 100,000 Japanese casualties. Put that way, the choice was a no-brainer. The outcome would be the same for the Japanese, but Truman would save the lives of more than 100,000 Americans, British, Australians and Dutch. (One of those Dutch, incidentally, was my Mom, who was on the verge of starving to death in a Japanese concentration camp.) The Japanese high command was Pharaoh. No amount of smaller plagues could stop the command from its chosen path. Only a large plague would swiftly lead to the inevitable conclusion.

But what about the innocent lives lost as a result of Pharaoh’s, the Nazi’s, and the Japanese high command’s intransigence? As the Japanese tale shows only too well, the innocents were always going to die, with the only question being whether they would die quickly or slowly. The same holds true for ordinary Germans (among whom was my dear cousin from the goyishe side of my family), whom the Nazis had long ago designated as cannon fodder to support their intensely evil regime.

The German and Japanese examples make manifest the problem with an evil regime. If you’re unlucky enough to live under that regime, whether or not you support it, you’re going to be cannon fodder. Pharaoh will let you die of plagues, and the Nazi and Japanese leadership will let you be bombed and burned — as long as they can retain their power.

I wrote the above words several years ago during Iran’s green revolution, when Iranian citizens took to the streets to rebel against their brutish, oppressive regime.  Aided in part by our own President Obama’s tight-lipped silence, the mullahs were unmoved by their own people’s suffering.  As long as the mullahs could retain power, their people’s suffering was irrelevant and, indeed, had to increased to reinforce the idea that the only return on rebellion is pain, not freedom.

Iran may be quiet now (although people are pushing at the regime more and more, not by suffering, but through joy, which is anathema to sharia’s overwrought puritanism), but we have so many other examples of tyrannical leaders who are willing to preside over a growing mountain of bodies as long as the leadership remains isolated from the physical and emotional consequences of its action.  Syria’s Assad doesn’t care that more than 100,000 of his people have died or that polio is killing a generation.  He still lives in his palace.  North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un will commit any atrocities against his own people provided that he can retain his power.  They are the modern-day Pharaohs.

Even here at home, one can argue in less apocalyptic tones that our president, who is one of the wealthiest men in America, doesn’t care that his actions have ensured the longest recession since the Carter years, the highest unemployment since the Carter years, the most unstable world in terms of national security since the Carter years or even the 1930s, the most serious divisiveness amongst the American people since the Civil War, etc.   Sheltered in the White House, listening to the adulation of the glitterati in Hollywood and the New York/D.C. media, he is unaffected by the plagues affecting ordinary Americans.  And as long as he is unaffected, he will harden his heart to the cries of his people begging for relief from perpetually failed economic policies, weak national leadership, porous borders, socialized medicine, militarized government agencies, etc.  If Obama seems as if he doesn’t care about the people’s suffering . . . it’s because he doesn’t.

When power doesn’t reside in the people, but resides, instead, in a single group that is insulated from all but the most terrible strikes, small plagues are utterly useless. These small plagues, no matter how much they affect the ordinary citizen, do not affect the decision-making process in which a tyrant engages. The only thing that will move the tyrant is to destroy his power base. Everything else is theater.

With that, I’d like to wish all of you a Happy Passover. Whether Jewish or not, I hope that the Pesach celebration serves as an occasion for all of us to remember that, though the price may sometimes be high, both for slave and master, our goal as just and moral human beings must be freedom. So please join with me in saying, as all Jews do at this time of year, “Next Year in Jerusalem.”

Today marks the anniversary of two wars and one battle in which brave people fought for freedom

Hundreds of interesting things have happened on this day over the centuries.  Three, however, deserve our attention because, if we were smart, we’d be girding our loins for war right now.

In 1775, Americans fought the Battles at Lexington and Concord.

In 1861, Abraham Lincoln ordered the blockade of Confederate ports, effectively beginning the Civil War.

In 1943, starved, diseased, demoralized Jews rose up against the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto in one of the most heroically fought battles in WWII (or maybe ever).  Leon Uris wrote a stirring description of this heroic, tragic uprising in Mila 18.

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Perfection versus liberty — lessons from Singapore

Singapore's clean sidewalks

Singapore’s clean sidewalks

Do you remember, back in 1994, the big uproar that ensued when an American teenager was arrested in Singapore for vandalizing property?  In Singapore, the penalty for that crime was caning, which was a new concept to Americans.  Reading about the case now, it’s pretty clear that Michael Fay was a garden-variety delinquent.  Had he committed his acts of vandalism in America, we would instantly have accepted that he would get sent into the juvenile justice system, and we would have seen the door close behind thinking “that serves him right.”  It was the caning concept that shocked us so much, especially because the media kept emphasizing that Singapore caned people who spit on the sidewalk or who chewed gum in public.  I don’t think I’m the only one who came away believing that Fay was going to get 100 lashes for chewing gum.  Eventually, Singapore acceded to President Clinton’s request for clemency, so that Fay got only four lashes.

Thinking about it, four lashes for a vandalism spree is a much lesser punishment than putting a young man in our decrepit, violence- and crime-ridden juvenile justice system, which is essentially an incubator in which young criminals, often after suffering severe physical and sexual abuse at the hands of fellow juvenile prisoners, learn how to be adult criminals.  The Singapore system also has the virtue — unless the American State Department gets involved — of being a fairly quick punishment, with the trajectory being crime, followed by a lashing, and then freedom.  That’s quite different from the American juvenile justice system that steals years from young people’s lives.

Even though I’m arguing that quick, corporal punishment for serious crimes is not worse than, but just different from, our American justice system, that doesn’t mean I’d want us to be like Singapore.  The problem I have with Singapore, aside from its sometimes draconian corporal punishment, is that it aims for absolute societal perfection.  Singapore is that weird and unique totalitarian state that isn’t driven by socialism or militarism or even one person’s elevation to supremacy.  Instead, Singapore aims to be the tidiest, cleanest, best organized nation in the world.  That’s quite a goal.

Sometimes, it seems that there’s a virtue to the Singapore model:  sidewalks are clean and everything functions “just so,” as the British used to say.  Using swift, painful punishment, Singapore has achieved a certain perfection, one that has resulted in an organized and extremely tidy society.  But it’s also a very sterile society, one that values conformism over individualism and the innovation and creativity that flow personal liberty.  In other words, perfection is an extremely superficial construct, measured by clean sidewalks, rather than a dynamic citizenry.

One of the things that separates me from my friends on the Left (and I used to count myself among their number) is my recognition that government cannot create perfection.  In places such as Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, North Korea, or China the quest for “perfection” led only to an ever-growing stack of tortured and dead bodies.  Even in Singapore, though, which has not thrown itself into the moral maelstrom of collectivism, all one ends up with is a sterile simulacrum of perfection.  Why?  Because there is no such thing, or perhaps almost no such thing as human perfection.  It’s true that,using instruments, tools, and the power of our minds,  we can draw a perfect circle or make a perfectly airtight seal on something.  What we cannot do, without destroying the ineffable wonder of human liberty, is to legislate human perfection.  Our greatness comes from our deviations from the norm, not our slavery to a subjective vision of the perfect society.

A Frenchman rallies our troops

For a bleak look at America’s future as the “New France” and a ray of sunshine called hope, a Frenchman comes a-blowing the clarion call to resistance against the Progressive barbarian Left. The key take-away:

“Once again, you don’t need a lecture from this Frenchman, but it seems to me that some of you, in the emotion of that unexpected electoral defeat, forgot this simple fact: America is always outnumbered.

This unique nation, founded not on feudal or religious fault lines but on a radical philosophy of individual freedom isn’t the norm in this world: it is an anomaly. If you needed a quick and simple reminder on the basis for American exceptionalism, there you go.

America is always outnumbered and, until the rest of the world sees the guiding light and builds shining cities on America’s model—if that day ever comes—America will always be outnumbered.

Yet it doesn’t matter: America’s strength isn’t in numbers, it’s in her soul.

Hear this final prophecy America: only one man can kill the Republic, and it isn’t Barack Obama. The one man who will kill your Republic is the one man who will last give up and renounce it.

Don’t you dare be that man.”

http://www.thedissidentfrogman.com/blog/link/the-frogmans-prophecies/

Vive la Resistance!

The most fervent believers in a free society are those who lived behind the Iron Curtain

Case in point:

Here’s the biographical information Peterffy included with the video, which he plans to spend several million dollars running in swing states:

Thomas Peterffy grew up in socialist Hungary. Despite the fact that he could not speak English when he immigrated to the United States in 1956, Thomas fulfilled the American dream. With hard work and dedication, he started a business that today employs thousands of people. In the 1970s, Thomas bought a seat on the American Stock Exchange. He played a key role in developing the electronic trading of securities and is the founder of Interactive Brokers, an online discount brokerage firm with offices all over the world.

What’s in a name? As Reagan understood, whether from the Left or the Right, tyranny is tyranny.

Max Boot reminds conservatives that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, at least not when it comes to crowing about the Leftist habit of embracing dictators.  Over the decades, conservatives have done more than their fair share of dancing with bad guys:

It occurred to me, re-reading the item I penned yesterday on Western elites who kowtow to dictators such as Bashar al-Assad, Fidel Castro, Ho Chi Minh, and Mao Zedong, that the examples I chose were primarily from the left. That is not to suggest the right should get off the hook. During the years, plenty of right-wingers have fallen prey to the charms of “friendly” dictators such as Chiang Kai-shek, Francisco Franco, Augusto Pinochet, the Shah of Iran, Ferdinand Marcos, P.W. Botha, the Saudi royals, and Hosni Mubarak. (Botha admittedly, was elected, but by an electorate comprising only a small minority of the South African population.) Along the way these conservatives have made the same kind of unconvincing attempts to explain away their heroes’ human rights abuses as liberals routinely make for left-wing dictators. Even the genocidal Slobodan Milosevic had a few lick-spittles in a small corner of the American right.

Boot is right when he says that Americans of all stripes have trumpeted one tyranny or another because, at a few fixed points (or on all points) the dictatorship’s policies intersect with this or that American political belief.  Boot gets closer to the core problem when he writes the first sentence immediately following the above paragraph:

Of course, some dictators are hard to categorize ideologically….

And that’s where people make their mistake — trying to fit dictators into one or another ideological box, whether Left or Right, Military or Cult of Personality.  In fact, all dictators fit neatly into a “One Size Fits All” dictator box — they take away individual freedom and use fear to control.  That’s it.  An individual leader or leadership collective might start off trumpeting Marxist slogans or anti-Marxist slogans, or may, as time goes by, dress up the dictatorship with such slogans, but the end results is always the same:  overwhelming government control at the expense of individual liberties.

Once one strips away the ideological trappings and focuses on the practical realities of a dictatorship, it becomes easier to figure out what to do.  “What to do” invariably boils down to two choices:  castigate the dictatorship entirely, or embrace it as the lesser of two evils.

The latter analysis is where most people have a moral collapse.  What people should be saying is, “Yes, it’s a dictatorship that will have to be addressed somewhere down the line, but now it’s better than the alternative (anarchy or greater repression or genocide or whatever).”  The problem is that most decent people find it very hard to accept that they can tolerate evil, even when they are rightly convinced that the evil they embrace is actually the lesser evil.

In order to square themselves away with their pesky conscience, people will start excusing the dictator:  “He made the trains run on time.”  “He reestablished national pride.”  “He stabilized the economy.”  These may all be entirely valid points about a given dictator but they become morally invalid, if they’re followed by the qualifier that “so he’s not such a bad guy.” Once having made that statement, people are committing the big lie as to their own sense of decency.  What’s worse is that, once you’ve lied to yourself, it’s very hard to let go of that lie.  It becomes a part of ones ego and self-definition.  That’s why one finds good people in America supporting horrifically bad governments abroad.

The test — always — should be “What is the state of individual freedom in that country?”  (Incidentally, anarchy is not individual freedom, because it puts each individual at the mercy of any other individual’s or group’s unconstrained exercise of raw power.)  If it’s high, embrace that country with open arms.  If it’s low, ask the next question:  “Is the alternative to this low state of individual freedom worse?”  If yes, one can justify supporting the tyranny provided that one never loses sight of its essential tyrannical nature, and never stops working to increase freedom with destroying the county along the way.

Whatever you do, don’t get caught up in labels such as “Left,” “Right,” “Military,” “Personality,” etc.  Those all obfuscate the core issue of individual liberty.

Sometimes, of course, there are no good choices.  Egypt went from repressively Military to repressively Muslim.  Even as to that, though, America did have a vested interest in the former, since the latter, while no better for the Egyptian people (and perhaps worse), is worse for America.  I don’t envy the diplomats tasked with making nice to Mubarak, but at least they could justify their work by claiming, rightly, that the Muslim extremist alternative was infinitely more dangerous for America’s interests.  Real Politik is never a pretty thing and, as Reagan better than anyone understood, if you make Real Politik your God, you’ve abandoned your moral compass just as surely as if you wholeheartedly embraced a dictatorship in the first place.

So, it seems appropriate to remember here that today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of one of the most important political speeches ever made by an American politician — Reagan’s famous “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” speech.  Reagan, you see, never lost sight of the fact that the short-term choice may be between one ugly government and another, but that the long-term goal must always be individual freedom:

Lynch mobs and hit lists

You already know how I feel about the George Zimmerman – Trayvon Martin affair and the Obama Administration and its lap dog-media sycophants ginning up a lynching party to “get” Zimmerman and a few random white people to fill the role pending trial. Zimmerman’s guilt has already been decided in the media’s public square.

Now, via the Wall Street Journal‘s inestimable Kimberly Strassel, comes news that Administration is, in the words of Washington beltway attorney Ted Olson, putting up the names of major Romney donors on “wanted posters” in government offices, releasing their names to the public, and libeling their reputations.

“The message from the man who controls the Justice Department (which can indict you), the SEC (which can fine you), and the IRS (which can audit you), is clear: You made a mistake donating that money”, writes Strassel.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304723304577368280604524916.html?mod=WSJ_article_comments#articleTabs%3Darticle

I don’t know if you can access this article without a subscription, but Strassel’s “The President Has a List: Barack Obama attempts to intimidate contributors to Mitt Romney’s campaign” article in today’s WSJ points out a litany of presidential abuses of power by the Obama regime, including:

  • Making individual citizens the object of his vitriol.
  • Personal attacks on corporations and industry segments.
  • Legal assaults on constitutional rights of free speech by corporations.
Add to that list the looting of American taxpayers through government policy-driven largesse to Democrat crony capitalists and political insiders. For an excellent review on one way how this is done, I highly recommend reading entrepreneur Jerome J. Schmitt’s excellent insights in today’s American Thinker:

We continue our slouch into the serfdom of Liberal Fascism. Sad to say, I suspect that the large segments of the population that are not cheering these developments are either yawning in general ennui or too glued to the mindless drivel of videoworld to realize how our /their wealth and freedoms are irrevocably slip, slip, slipping away.

How dare a private organization spend its money the way it wants to? Liberals opine about ObamaCare and the Susan G. Komen Foundation

In the past week, two decisions came out regarding the way in which private organizations spend their money.  The first decision was the Obama administration’s announcement that businesses in America must provide their employees with insurance that covers birth control, sterilization, and abortifacients.  The only exception was for businesses that had no employees other than those dedicated to a core religious mission (i.e., a convent that doesn’t employ any janitorial or gardening staff, but only nuns, who serve in all capacities, both religious and non-religious).

One year from now, by government diktat, religious organizations that are doctrinally opposed to any forms of birth control, abortion, or sterilization must nevertheless fund these activities.  This will affect every religiously run school, health care center, or other charity in America, of which there are many.  It will also affect most parishes, to the extent that the only employees aren’t priests and nuns.

The other decision that hit the news regarding the way in which private entities can spend their money came, not from the government, but from an actual private entity.  The Susan G. Komen foundation, which is dedicated to finding a cure for breast cancer, announced that it will cut its ties to Planned Parenthood.  As an aside, Susan G. Komen is privately funded; Planned Parenthood, of course, receives substantial monies from the government.

Komen claimed that it cut funding because Planned Parenthood is running afoul of Congress, a problem that makes it impossible for Komen, under its charter, to provide funding.  Planned Parenthood claims that Komen, under the leadership of one of Sarah Palin’s friends, is punishing Planned Parenthood for providing abortions and abortion counseling.

In the conservative world view, those stories are bass ackward.  When it comes to the Church, the government should not be telling religious institutions to spend their money on activities antithetical to their core doctrines.  And with regard to business, conservatives believe that private foundations have the perfect right to withhold funds from organizations that engage in activities they find offensive.  It’s very different in liberal land.

My insight into liberal land comes through my “real me” Facebook account.  Because I’ve spent most of my life in the Bay Area, I’d say that roughly 90% of my Facebook friends are liberal leaning.  I therefore get to see what energizes them (and why), as well as what they ignore completely.

I can tell you that what my friends ignored completely was the Obama administration’s assault on religious freedom.  Not a single person I know commented upon the fact that the Catholic Church is outraged, and on the move, because of the requirement that it fund birth control and abortions.  As far as my friends were concerned, this was a non-issue.

Liberal pundits are equally unable to see why this matters.  Megan McArdle hones in on the liberal argument supporting the administration’s mandate, which is that if religious institutions are going to go into business (i.e., healthcare or education, both of which are activities in which they’ve engaged for millennia), they need to play by big boy rules, which translates to bowing down to government diktats that touch upon doctrinal issues.  If they don’t want to play by those rules, they shouldn’t be doing anything more than administering the sacrament:

[From the liberal viewpoint] the regulations seem to have nothing to do with whether the Catholic hospitals or other charities take public money; rather, it’s the fact that they provide services to the public, rather than having an explicitly religious mission.

I’ve seen several versions of Kevin’s complaint on the interwebs, and everyone makes it seems to assume that we’re doing the Catholic Church a big old favor by allowing them to provide health care and other social services to a needy public.  Why, we’re really coddling them, and it’s about time they started acting a little grateful for everything we’ve done for them!

McArdle shreds this argument with a little real world logic:

In the universe where I live, some of the best charity care is provided by religious groups–in part because they have extremely strong fundraising capabilities, in part because they often have access to an extremely deep and motivated pool of volunteers, and in part because they are often able to generate significant returns to scale and longevity. And of course, the comparative discretion and decentralization of private charity, religious or secular, makes it much more effective in many (not all ways) than government entitlements.

In this world, I had been under the impression that we were providing Catholic charities with federal funds mostly because this was the most cost-effective way of delivering services to needy groups.

Simply put, the religious organizations that run charitable programs are doing the government a favor, not vice versa.  Nevertheless, the Obama government has just decided to bite the hand that feeds it — not that my Facebook friends care.

What my Facebook friends do care about, deeply, is Komen’s decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood.  They are outraged and are furiously sharing Facebook links from Planned Parenthood and other pro-Choice advocacy groups that find it morally wrong that a private entity, offended by Planned Parenthood’s approach to a core moral issue, might have rethought its charitable outreach.  Some examples:

Tell the board of Susan G. Komen: Don’t throw Planned Parenthood under the bus!
act.credoaction.com
The Republican plan to defund Planned Parenthood is working — but if we take action now we may be able to stop the latest attack on women’s right to health care. It was just announced that Susan G. Komen for a Cure will no longer fund free or low-cost breast cancer screenings for millions of women.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure: Don’t Succumb to Right Wing Attacks. Restore Planned Parenthood Relatio
signon.org
I just signed a petition to Nancy G. Brinker, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Susan G. Komen for the Cure: Stand firm for women and restore your relationship with Planned Parenthood immediately.

Women’s lives vs. politics
pol.moveon.org
Susan G. Komen for the Cure just bowed to anti-choice pressure and eliminated breast health funding for Planned Parenthood, even though this means thousands of women could be denied the screening and early detection that saves lives. Tell them to put women’s lives ahead of politics.

Most of my Facebook friends, in posting these links, announce that they’ll never give money to Komen again, but are at that very minute cutting a check to Planned Parenthood.  In other words, they understand how the marketplace works; they just don’t like it.

What I especially love about all the comments I’ve seen is the moralizing:  “Breast cancer isn’t pro-choice or anti-choice.”  “It’s immoral to stop funding breast cancer research.”  “How can Komen put politics ahead of morality?”  In making these arguments, my friends are oblivious to two pertinent points.

First of all, Komen isn’t stopping its funding for breast cancer research.  It’s simply finding a new partner with which to work, either because its current partner is corrupt and in trouble with Congress (the official Komen line) or because its current partner engages in acts that the Komen organization finds morally wrong.  By making breast cancer screening available through a morally corrupt entity, Komen understands that it is essentially funding that corruption, a nuance that eludes the liberals.

Second, it’s the Komen Foundation’s own money.  Last I heard, and despite the Obama administration’s most recent assault on the Church, in America people (and corporations) have a Constitutional right to spend their money (or not spend their money) as they please.

People should think long and hard about the pairing of the ObamaCare/Catholic Church battle, and the Planned Parenthood/Komen battle, because these two fights perfectly represent two sides of the same coin:  namely, the liberal belief that there is nothing, including the Constitution, to stop the government and the liberal elites from dictating how individuals and private entities should spend their money.

Cultural blindness and freedom

Was it a surprise to you that Egypt went Islamist?  It wasn’t to me.

Was it a surprise to you that Libya went Islamist?  It wasn’t to me.

Was it a surprise to you that Tunisia went Islamist?  It wasn’t to me.

Has it been a surprise to you over the last decade that Iraq hasn’t bloomed into the Middle Eastern equivalent of small town America?  It hasn’t been for me.

If any of the above surprised you, my guess is that you worked for the Bush administration or are working for the Obama administration.  The first group naively believed that, if you gave people the vote, they would vote for freedom, not repression.  As for the second group, I don’t know if they shared that same naiveté, or if they’re truly bad people.

Anyone who has been paying attention to the Middle East has understood that, for many citizens in those benighted nations, Islamist government promises purity in lieu of deep, violent corruption.  The people there don’t understand the notion of freedom, but they’re very much alive to hypocrisy — and their Imams have been promising that this is the one thing they won’t get under an Islamist government.  Islam will bring them the peace of total submission to God’s rules, rather than the instability and terror of individual tyranny.

For people who have spent decades on the receiving end of arbitrary and capricious pseudo-Western governments, all the while hearing that their faith will provide honesty and peace, the outcome of elections was a no-brainer.  Lacking the one and a half centuries of self-governance that America had before she even embarked upon her Constitutional experiment, the notion of freedom and individual rights has no resonance.  Sure, some understand it, but for most freedom simply means not being bossed around by a Mubarak or Saddam or Gaddafi.

Mark Steyn ranks with me as being one of the un-surprised — and he recognizes how our blindness abroad leads to threats at home.

I’ll add too that relentless PC multiculturalism, which lauds every culture but our own, is de-programming the love of freedom bred into American DNA, and is therefore probably the greatest internal threat we face.

 

The problem with introducing freedom into industrial societies — or the tyranny of fossil fuels

Two things happened on November 26, two entirely unrelated things, that nevertheless ended up merging into a single thought in my mind:  In the modern world, fossil fuels equal liberty.  If you cannot assure the people the former, forget about trying to foist upon them the latter.  Let me walk you through my thought processes.

The first thing that impinged onto my awareness was a conversation I had with a most delightful 85-year-old Jewish man who, except for WWII and the Israeli War of Independence, has always lived and worked in South Africa.  During a wide-ranging conversation, I asked him what the situation was like today in post-apartheid South Africa. “Horrible,” he said, “just horrible.”  According to him, the moment Nelson Mandela left office, the new ANC government began to be as racist as the old apartheid government, only with the benefits flowing to the blacks, this time, not the whites.  It’s not Zimbabwe, yet, but he sees it coming.

What was most fascinating to me was this man’s claim that the black people are deeply unhappy with the status quo.  Yes, ostensibly they have civil rights that were denied them under the old regime.  The problem, though, is that the country is so horribly mismanaged under the current government that, while they have civil rights, they lack electricity, clean water, food and transportation.  The blacks he speaks to therefore look back longingly on apartheid.  While their lives then were demeaning and economically marginal, the old government was stable and efficient.  Excepting those who lived in the most abysmal poverty, apartheid-era blacks could rely on what we in the modern era consider to be the basics for sustaining life:  not just the bare minimum of food and water, but also electricity, reliable long-distance transportation, and plumbing — all of which are dependent upon a modern fossil fuel economy.

The second thing that happened on November 26 was that Danny Lemieux put up a post commenting on Bruce Bawer’s Thanksgiving article examining the possibly naive American notion that all people crave freedom.  Danny had this to say:

I believe that I can understand the pull of serfdom for many people. Just think of all of the difficult life decisions that are taken away from the individual serf: as wards of the state, they don’t have to worry about where they will get their food (of course, they can forget about shopping at Whole Foods as well), whether they will meet their financial needs (albeit at a subsistence level), understanding politics, moral values, education, finding a job…etc. It is, in other words, regression to the mind of a child. They can simply exist for the moment of the day: no responsibilities but, also, no hope. Like vegetables, if you think about it.

I agree with Danny (and Bruce Bawer), but I I’d like to add to what both say, by dragging in fossil fuels.

What may have made the extraordinary American experiment in individual liberty possible was that it happened right at the start of the industrial era, before people’s expectations were raised by the industrial and post-industrial era.  At the end of the 18th century, people’s material expectations were limited by the technology of the time (electricity was a lightening bolt; clean water was the creek behind your house; transportation could be found in the bones and muscles reaching from your hips down to your feet).  Fortunately for America’s future, she was rich, not only in space, but in the natural resources that would become so necessary in the next two centuries, including fossil fuel and the drive to put that fossil fuel to work.  Put another way, at the moment our nation was born, our material expectations were low, but the possibilities proved to be almost endless.  The exquisite historic timing that brought together our new freedoms and the nascent industrial revolution made the American miracle possible.

Nowadays, the source of all physical comfort is fossil fuel.  Except for those people who still live a virtually stone age existence (whether in Indian, Africa, Latin America or Asia), every single person in the world benefits from fossil fuels.  They give us light, water treatment plants for clean water, food in the fields and in the marketplace, transportation, clothing, housing, every bit of our technology, everything.   Nothing in our modern world would be possible without them.  Fossil fuels drove Hitler’s maniacal push to the Soviet Union and ended the Japanese ability to fight a war.  (If you’re interested in more on oil’s central role in WWII, check out The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power.)  No wonder the global warmists, with their anti-Western mindset, are so determined to destroy fossil fuel.

In a modern world, one that premised upon expectations of fossil fuel’s blessings (an abundance of food, clean water, ready transportation, technical, etc.), giving people freedom without meeting those expectations — which are, by now, the minimal expectations for creature comfort — is doomed to failure.  It is no longer enough to couple free speech with a horse, a plow, and some seeds.  Nor will people be excited about freedom of worship if they have only a small flame to light the night-time darkness.  Today, America’s famous four freedoms will satisfy people only if they are coupled with the riches flowing from modern energy.

What all this means in practical terms is that, if you invade Iraq and destroy a tyrant, but simultaneously knock out the power supply, you will not have a happy population.  Post-industrial people would rather have tyranny and electricity (and the food, water, transportation and other things flowing from that electricity), than freedom in a world limited to stone age energy sources.  Proverbs 15:17 therefore got it wrong.  As you recall, that proverb says “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.”  Our modern experience with trying to bring people to the American model shows that most would say, “Better a stalled ox and a well-lighted barn where tyranny is, than starvation and the darkness of night where freedom lives.”

 

Dissin’ Liberty

Bruce Bawer, American expat extraordinaire, posted an especially insightful post over this weekend, in which he notes that the peculiarly American assumption that all people want to be free just may be a tad naive.

He cites Jewish writer Tuvia Tenenbom’s (“I Sleep in Hitler’s Room”) observation, upon traversing the former East Germany, that most of the people Tenenbom encountered longed for the “good times” living under the East German dictatorship. In the Middle East, we see peoples offered the light of freedom only to turn further toward the darkness. As Bawer points out, we should know that not all people want to be free: after all, the masses that marched in support of the Nazis and Communists hardly marched for the cause of freedom. Read it all…Bawer makes excellent points in support of his thesis.

We, as a nation, have existed on the premise that all people (like our forefathers) want to be free. This (false?) premise has driven much of American foreign policy. It may also blind us to what is really going on in our own country with regard to the Liberal/Left, the Democrat party and the OWS movement.

I believe that I can understand the pull of serfdom for many people. Just think of all of the difficult life decisions that are taken away from the individual serf: as wards of the state, they don’t have to worry about where they will get their food (of course, they can forget about shopping at Whole Foods as well), whether they will meet their financial needs (albeit at a subsistence level), understanding politics, moral values, education, finding a job…etc. It is, in other words, regression to the mind of a child. They can simply exist for the moment of the day: no responsibilities but, also, no hope. Like vegetables, if you think about it.

So, what do you think? Is what is happening today a defining struggle between those of us that want to be free and those that seek a return to childhood? Is it as simple as this? Because, if it is, then we really are witnessing the final death struggle of the American Republic.

Slouching into slavery

What the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protestors don’t realize (yet) is that they have been suckered into becoming the agents of their own enslavement.

Orwell had it so right in defining the Left because he was a man of the Left. The term “Orwellian” now refers to the Left’s use of terms to mean the direct opposite of the intention of an idea or act (“war is peace”, for example). Orwell also noted the need for the State to invent enemies as a means of deflecting attention away from its own actions. It’s all about deflection away from true agendas.

Let me explain. Granted that the OWS movement is defined by many grievances, one underlying theme of  the OWS protests is the onerous debt assumed by students. I have sympathy for this because, as many commentators have already pointed out, these students were sold a bill of goods. The idea was that, whether qualified or motivated or not, kids could simply participate in the university experience, supported with “generous” (i.e., taxpayer-funded) government aid, and exit with a paper degree and guaranteed, high-paying job bereft of drudgery. This is the siren song that led to the inevitable crash upon the rocks of debt slavery.

Universities, those bastions of entitlement, have made out like bandits, taking the students money in exchange for worthless promises and worthless degrees. The government financed this process using “free” taxpayers’ monies and, in the end, developed a class of dependents that will spend the rest of their lives working their way out of indentured servitude at the behest their government masters (the Golden Rule is those that own the gold, rule!). For, as these students are slowly realizing, government debt and dependency is forever…there is no escaping their obligations.

It used to be that students could tap loans from private lending institutions that assumed the risk of a student borrower’s success or failure. If the student went bankrupt, the bank suffered. That is how capitalism and free markets should work. Not so with Liberal government. When the Obama administration took over these lending services, it took away failure as an option. Today, neither students nor their parents can escape their student debt obligations and the total student debt outstanding has been estimated to approach $1.0 trillion.

Many of these OWS students are now answerable to their government masters for the foreseeable future and during their most formative years… a period when they should be free to work toward satisfying careers, saving to purchase their own homes, preparing to raise families and, eventually, achieving financial independence. Instead, as long as the government holds their debt, it can now dictate how these students will lead their lives in service to their government’s regime goals (as in, “we will forgive x-amount of your debt if you “agree” to work in only certain prescribed professions or government-approved public works programs under certain given conditions dictated by us, your master) Or, let’s try the Chicago Way: “as long as we hold your debt, you will only believe certain things, work for certain causes, and vote in certain ways” . Their indentured servitude has taken away their freedom to think, to act and to build their own futures. Even more sadly, for many of these students, their expensive college educations amounted to little more than indoctrination whereby to accept these circumstances as a good thing: witness the large number whose goal in life is simply to work for “non-profits”.

The especially egregious aspect of this is that it is poorer students that have so been hooked into government dependency. But then, that has pretty much been par for the course for Liberal government, hasn’t it? Government did this before, with poor blacks and the War on Poverty. Government programs enslave the poor through indentured dependency.  Rich or talented kids don’t have to worry about this: they have parents, scholarships or trust funds to ensure that they never become indentured government debt pawns. The especially pathetic part of these events is that these indebted students and graduates have been led to believe, through Orwellian deflection, that the agents of their servitude are banks, conservatism, political and economic liberty, and capitalism – the very agents that could yet free them – rather than the government and academia that shackled them.

I suspect that, deep down in their hearts, many of the OWS protestors are slowly coming to realize their predicament. They’ve been had. Eventually, I expect, they will come to learn the truth about their servitude. I hope that they will still have the strength to resist.

I think that it is safe to say that slavery, not democracy, has been a defining condition for the great majority of human history. This may not be a point stressed in the Orwellian halls of academia that groomed this new government slave class at these students’ own expense, but it is a historical truism, none the less. It would truly be sad if what we are observing at the various OWS rallies around the country and world is simply an age-old historical evil reasserting itself in modern drag. What we are now seeing as the product of the college experience is the emergence of two classes: a wealthy, highly educated ruling class and a subservient, dependent, servant class that got suckered into paying the Liberal/Left ruling class to deprive it of intellectual and economic choices under the Orwellian guise of “freedom”. The Liberal/Left has done a bang-up job of severely crippling a generation of our children. I would be hard-pressed to conceive of  a more gross corruption of the American ideal.

I hope that I am wrong. What do you think?

 

By George! I think she’s got it

Don Surber draws our attention to a Wall Street protestor who has a sign that actually makes sense:  “Debt = Slavery.”  Of course, we know that this Leftist dingbat, when she speaks of debt, is talking about the large credit card bill she doesn’t want to pay, and the mortgage she thinks it’s so unfair the bank would impose on the property in which she wants to live for free.  But unwittingly, as Surber explains at greater length, she’s absolutely right:  government debt does make us slaves.

I’m in the process of reading Mark Blitz’s Conserving Liberty (they sent me — me! — a review copy), and his point, as the title indicates is, freedom (or liberty), not from banks, but from GOVERNMENT!  A debt-ridden government, armed with all the power of the state, holds its citizens in chains.  I’ll tell you more about the book as I go along or when I’ve finished it.  Blitz is not a scintillating writer, but he’s a thoughtful and interesting one.  It makes for slightly slower reader, but I’m not bored.

Geert Wilders’ speech in Tennessee deserves the widest possible distribution *UPDATED*

Everyone should read this speech. Everyone. While the media swooned about Obama’s Cairo speech (in which he lauded veiling women and ignored thousands of years of Jewish ties to Israel), and Obama’s race speech (in which he insulted white people), and Obama’s recent immigration speech (in which he demonized people who fear the risks to American security and economic well-being from an open border), this speech is the really important one. It goes to fundamental issues of freedom.  So, send this to your friends, whether you post it at your blog, facebook it, tweet it, email it, snail mail it, or read it aloud to them over the phone.

Speech by Geert Wilders, Cornerstone Church, Nashville, 12 May 2011

Dear friends from Tennessee. I am very happy to be in your midst today. I am happy and proud to be in this impressive church.

My friends, I am here to speak words of truth and freedom.

Do you know why America is in a better state than Europe? Because you enjoy more freedom than Europeans.

And do you know why Americans enjoy more freedom than Europeans? Because you are still allowed to tell the truth.

In Europe and Canada people are dragged to court for telling the truth about islam.

I, too, have been dragged to court. I am an elected member of the house of representatives in the Netherlands. I am currently standing in court like a common criminal for saying that islam is a dangerous totalitarian ideology rather than a religion.

The court case is still pending, but I risk a jail sentence of 16 months.

Last week, my friend Lars Hedegaard, a journalist from Denmark, was fined because in a private conservation, which was recorded without his knowing, he had criticised the way women are treated in islamic societies.

Recently, another friend, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, a human rights activist from Austria, was fined because she had criticised islam’s founder Muhammad. She had said that Muhammad was a pedophile because he had married a 6-year old girl and raped her when she was 9.

Unfortunately, there are many similar cases.

I am especially happy to be in your midst because here I can say what I want to say without having to fear that I will be dragged to court upon leaving this church.

My dear American friends, you cannot imagine how we envy your First Amendment. The day when America follows the example of Europe and Canada and introduces so-called “hate speech crimes” which is only used to punish people who are critical of islam, that day America will have lost its freedom.

My friends, let us hope that this never happens.

Last week, we celebrated Liberation Day in the Netherlands. We celebrated the liberation from the Nazi occupation in 1945. Many American soldiers, including many young Tennesseans, played a decisive role in the liberation of the Netherlands from nazi tyranny. We are immensely grateful for that. Young Americans gave their lives so that the Dutch might be free. I assure you: The Dutch people will never forget this.

Unfortunately, however, the Europe which your fathers and grandfathers fought and died for is not the Europe we are living in today.

I travel the world to tell people what Europe has become. I wish I could take you all on a visit to my country and show you what Europe has become. It has changed beyond recognition as a result of mass immigration. And not just any mass immigration, but mass immigration driven by the dangerous force of islam.

My friends, I am sorry. I am here today with an unpleasant message. I am here with a warning. I am here with a battle cry: “Wake up, Christians of Tennessee. Islam is at your gate.” Do not make the mistake which Europe made. Do not allow islam to gain a foothold here.

Islam is dangerous. Islam wants to establish a state on earth, ruled by islamic sharia law. Islam aims for the submission, whether by persuasion, intimidation or violence, of all non-Muslims, including Christians.

The results can be seen in Europe.

Islam is an ideology of conquest. It uses two methods to achieve this goal: the first method is the sword. Do you know what figures on the flag of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a country where Christian churches are banned and Christians are not even allowed to wear a tiny crucifix? There is a huge sword on that flag, just below the Islamic creed. The message is clear. Without the sword islam would not have been able to spread its creed.

The second method is immigration. Islam’s founder Muhammad himself taught his followers how to conquer through immigration when they moved from Mecca to Medina. This phenomenon of conquest through immigration is called al-Hijra. My learned friend Sam Solomon has written a perfect book about it.

I had a copy of Sam’s book sent to all the members of the Dutch Parliament. But most of them are worse than Saint-Thomas in the Bible. Thomas did not believe what he had not seen. Most politicians refuse to believe the things they see before their very eyes.

In Europe we have been experiencing al-Hijra for over 30 years now. Many of our cities have changed beyond recognition. “In each one of our cities” wrote the well-known Italian author Oriana Fallaci shortly before her death in 2006, “there is a second city, a state within the state, a government within the government. A Muslim city, a city ruled by the Koran.” – end of quote.

How did the Europeans get into this situation? It is partly our own fault because we have foolishly adopted the concept of cultural relativism, which manifests itself in the ideology of multiculturalism.

Cultural relativism advocates that all cultures are equal. However, cultures wither away and die if people no longer believe that its values are better than those of another culture.

Islam is spreading like wildfire wherever people lack the guts to say that their values are better than the Islamic values.

Islam is spreading like wildfire because the Koran explicitly tells Muslims that they are “the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind” and that non-Muslims are “the worst of creatures.”

Islam is spreading like wildfire everywhere in the West where political, academic, cultural and media elites lack the guts to proudly proclaim, as I believe we all should proclaim:

Our Judeo-Christian Western culture is far better and far superior to the islamic culture. We must be proud to say so!

Multiculturalism is a disaster. Almost everyone acknowledges this today, but few dare say why. Let me tell you why: Multiculturalism made us tolerate the intolerant, and now intolerance is annihilating tolerance.

We should, in the name of tolerance, claim the right not to tolerate the intolerant. Let us no longer be afraid and politically correct, let us be brave and bold. Let us tell the truth about islam.

Before I continue I want to make clear that I do not have a problem with people. I always make a distinction between the people and the ideology, between Muslims and islam.

Indeed, I have no problems with Muslims, but I do have a problem with the totalitarian Islamic ideology of hate and violence. The fact that there are many so-called moderate Muslims, does not imply that there exists a moderate islam. A moderate islam doen not exist and will never exist.

And because there is no such thing as a moderate islam, the islamization of our free Western societies is an enormous danger.

Only two weeks ago, the British press revealed how the so-called “London Taliban” is threatening to kill women who do not wear veils in the London borough of Tower Hamlets.

In some neighbourhoods Islamic regulations are already being enforced, also on non-Muslims. Women’s rights are being trampled. We are confronted with headscarves and burqa’s, polygamy, female genital mutilation, honor-killings where men murder their wives, daughters or sisters because they do not behave in accordance with Islamic rules.

Polls show that the influence of those Muslims who live according to islam’s aggressive requirements is growing, especially among young people.

Among 15-year-old German Muslims, 40 percent consider islam more important than democracy.

Among Muslim university students in Britain, 40 percent support sharia. One in three of those students considers it legitimate to kill in the name of islam.

Christians are asked to follow the example of Jesus. Muslims are ordered to follow the example of Muhammad. That is why islam is dangerous. While Christianity preaches love, islam preached hatred and practizes violence. Hatred and violence for everyone who is not a Muslim.

Muhammad personally participated in the ethnic cleansing of Medina, where half the population once was Jewish. Muhammad helped to chop off their heads. On his deathbed, he ordered his followers to cleanse Arabia of all Jews and Christians.

To this very day, Christian symbols are prohibited in Saudi-Arabia. If you wear a cross in Saudi Arabia, they sent you to jail.

And now, Europe is beginning to look like Arabia.

Just today, a poll revealed that in Brussels, the capital of the European Union, half the islamic youths are anti-semitic. It is dangerous for Jews to walk the streets in Brussels.

If you wear a cross or a kippah in certain urban areas in Europe today, you risk being beaten up. In the capital of my own country, Amsterdam, a tram driver was forced to remove his crucifix from sight, while his Muslim colleagues are allowed to wear the veil.

In June 2008, the Christian church authorities in the Danish town of Arhus decided to pay so-called “protection money” to islamic so-called “security guards” who assure that church goers are not harassed by islamic youths.

On March 31st, 2010, Muslims entered the Roman Catholic cathedral of Cordoba, Spain, and attacked the guards with knives. They claimed the cathedral was theirs.

Last month, the bishops of Sweden sent out a letter to priests advising them to avoid converting asylum seekers from islamic countries to Christianity, because the converts would risk losing their lives.

In the Netherlands, the city authorities in Amsterdam register polygamous marriages. The authorities in Rotterdam serve only halal meals in municipal cafeterias. Theaters provide separate seats for women who are not allowed to sit next to men. Municipal swimming pools have separate swimming hours for men and women, Muslim lawyers do not have to stand when the judges enter court rooms.

Meanwhile Jews are no longer safe on our streets. In Amsterdam, the city of Anne Frank, Jews are again being harassed in the streets. Even political leaders acknowledged that life has become unsafe for Jews in Holland. Do you know what they said? They advised Jews to emigrate. Jews are already running for Israel. But I say: Jews must not leave, violent Muslims must leave!

What is needed, my friends, is a spirit of resistance.

I repeat: What we need is a spirit of resistance.

Why? Because resistance to evil is our moral duty. This resistance begins with expressing our solidarity to Christians, Jews, indeed, to all people worldwide, who are the victims of islam. There are millions of them.

We can see what islam has in store for us if we watch the fate of the Christians in the islamic world, such as the Copts in Egypt, the Maronites in Lebanon, the Assyrians in Iraq, and Christians elsewhere.

Almost every day, churches are arsoned and Christians are assassinated in islamic countries.

In a report on the persecution of Christians in the world, Archbishop Twal of Jerusalem, wrote recently– I quote: “In the Middle East to be Christian means accepting that you must make a great sacrifice. All too often and in many places, Christians suffer various threats. On some occasions, their homes and churches are burnt, and people are killed. How many atrocities must we endure before somebody somewhere comes to our aid?” – end of quote.

Indeed, how many atrocities before we come to their aid?

Rivers of tears are flowing from the Middle East, where there is only one safe haven for Christians. You know where that is. The only place in the Middle East where Christians are safe is Israel.

That is why Israel deserves our support. Israel is a safe haven for everyone, whatever their belief and opinions. Israel is a beacon of light in a region of total darkness. Israel is fighting our fight.

The jihad against Israel is a jihad against all of us. If Israel falls, we, too, will feel the consequences. If Jerusalem falls, Athens, Rome, Amsterdam and Nashville will fall. Therefore, we all are Israel. We should always support Israel!

Today, we are confronted with political unrest in the Arab countries. The Arab peoples long for freedom. However, the ideology and culture of islam is so deeply entrenched in these countries that real freedom is simply impossible as long as islam remains dominant.

A recent poll in post-revolution Egypt found that 85 percent of Egyptians are convinced that islam’s influence on politics is good, 82 percent believe that adulterers should be stoned, 84 percent want the death penalty for apostates. The press refers to the events in the Arab world today as the Arab spring. I call it the Arab winter.

Islam and freedom, islam and democracy are not compatible.

The death of Osama bin Laden last week was a victory for the free world, but we will be confronted with Islamic terrorism as long as islam exists, because islam’s founder Muhammad himself was a terrorist, worse than Bin Laden.

And here is another truth: The rise of islam means the rise of sharia law in our judicial systems. In Europe we already have sharia wills, sharia schools, sharia banks. Britain even has sharia courts.

In my own country, the Netherlands, sharia is being applied by the courts in cases relating to divorce, child custody, inheritance, and property ownership. Women are always the victims of this because sharia discriminates women.

This is a disgrace. This is not the way we should treat women.

My friends, I told you that we have just remembered Liberation Day to commemorate the young Americans and all the heroes who offered their lives to free the Netherlands from nazi tyranny. It would be an insult to them if we Europeans would give up that precious freedom for another totalitarian ideology called Islam.

That is the goal for which my party and I work day after day. And we are having success.

In the Netherlands, we are successfully starting to roll back islam. The current Dutch government is a minority government which can only survive with the backing of my party, the Party for Freedom.

We have 24 seats of the 150 seats in parliament and we support the government, in return for measures to prohibit certain aspects of sharia law.

We have achieved that the Netherlands will soon ban the burka and the niqaab.

We will also restrict immigration from non-Western countries by up to 50% in the next four years. We are not going to allow islam to steal our country from us. It was the land of our fathers, it is our land now, our values are based on Christianity, Judaism and Humanism and we will pass this on to our children with all the freedoms that the previous generations have fought for.

Let those who want to rob us from our freedoms, stay in their own countries. We do not need them. If you want to wear a burqa, stay in Saudi-Arabia. If you want four wives, stay in Iran. If you want to live in a country where the islamic ideology is dominant, stay in Pakistan, if you don’t want to assimilate in our society, stay in Somalia. But don’t come over here.

We are also going to strip criminals who have a double nationality – for instance Dutch and Moroccan, and who repeatedly commit serious crimes, of their Dutch nationality. We will send them packing, back to their homeland.

My friends, what the Party for Freedom has achieved, shows that it can be done. We can fight the islamization of our societies.

Dear friends, here is my warning. Make no mistake: Islam is also coming for America. In fact, it is already here. America is facing a stealth jihad, the islamic attempt to introduce sharia law bit by bit. Last March, a judge in Tampa, Florida, ruled that a lawsuit against a mosque and involving the control of 2.4 million dollars, should proceed under Islamic law.

My friends, be aware that this is only the beginning. This is also how it started in Europe. If things continue like this, you will soon have the same problems as we are currently facing.

Leaders who talk about immigration without mentioning islam are blind. They ignore the most important problem Europe and America are facing. I have a message for them: it’s islam stupid!

My friends, fortunately, not all politicians are irresponsible. Here, in Tennessee, brave politicians want to pass legislation which gives the state the power to declare organisations as terrorist groups and allowing material supporters of terrorism to be prosecuted. I applaud them for that. They are true heroes.

Yesterday and today, I met some of those brave legislators. They told me that Tennessee in particular is a target of islam. Help them win their battle.

They need your support.

While Tennessee is in the frontline, similar legislative initiatives are also being taken in the states of Oklahoma, Wyoming, South Carolina, Texas, Florida, Missouri, Arizona, Indiana. It is encouraging to see that so many politicians are willing to resist islam.

This gives us hope and courage. I am not a pessimist. We can still turn the tide – even in Europe – if we act today.

There are five things which we must do.

First, we must defend freedom of speech.

Freedom is the source of human creativity and development. People and nations wither away without the freedom to question what is presented to them as the truth.

Without freedom of speech we risk becoming slaves. Frederick Douglass, the 19th century black American politician, the son of a slave, said – I quote – “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.”

I have already told you about my court case. This legal charade will not, however, prevent me from saying the truth. Never. I will speak out, even if they drag me before 500 courts and threaten to jail me for a thousand years.

The fact that we are being treated as criminals for telling the truth must not deter us. We are doomed if we remain silent or let ourselves be silenced. Let us not forget, this is our first and most important obligation: defend the right to speak the truth.

Second, we must end cultural relativism and political correctness. We must repeat it over and over again, especially to our children: Our Western culture based on Christianity and Judaism is superior to the islamic culture. Our laws are superior to sharia. Our judeo-christian values are better than islam’s totalitarian rules.

And because they are superior and better, we must defend them. We must fight for our own identity, or else we will lose it. We need to be warriors for the good, because the good is worth fighting for. Neutrality in the face of evil is evil.

Third, we must stop the islamization of our countries. More islam means less freedom. There is enough islam in the West already. We must stop immigration from non-Western countries, which are mostly islamic countries. We must expel criminal immigrants. We must forbid the construction of new hate palaces called mosques.

We must also close down all islamic schools because educating children in a spirit of hate is one of the worst things imaginable. We must introduce anti-sharia legislation everywhere in the free world. Enough is enough.

Fourth, we must take pride in our nations again. We must cherish and preserve the culture and identity of our country. Preserving our own culture and identity is the best antidote against islamization.

And fifth, last but certainly not least, we must elect wise and courageous leaders who are brave enough to address the problems which are facing us, including the threat of islam.

Politicians who have the courage to speak the truth about islam.

Politicians who dare to denounce the devastating results of the multicultural society.

Politicians who – without political correctness – say: enough is enough.

You and I, Americans and Europeans, we belong to a common Western culture. We share the ideas and ideals of our common Judeo-Christian heritage. In order to pass this heritage on to our children and grandchildren, we must stand together, side by side, in our struggle against Islamic barbarism.

That, my friends, is why I am here. I am here to forge an alliance. Our international freedom alliance. We must stand together for the Judeo-Christian West.

We will not allow islam to overrun Israel and Europe, the cradle of the judeo-Christian civilization.

My friends, we will stand together.

We will stand firm.

We will not submit. Never. Not in Israel, not in Europe, not in America. Nowhere.

We will survive.

We will stop islam.

We will defend our freedoms.

We will remain free.

Thank you.

UPDATE:  In the first comment to this post, Charles Martel made an excellent point in response to Wilders suggestion that America shut down Islamic schools and mosques:  we have a First Amendment.  The problem is that Islam wears two hats.  One is a religious hat, which falls under the First Amendment; the other is a social/political hat, which doesn’t.  Making the distinction, though, is a problem.  What do you do about a school or mosque that offers both prayers and jihad?

Anyway, a useful complement to the above speech is the video that the audience watched before hearing Wilders speak.  It reminds us that, when it comes to religion and the First Amendment, Islam is sui generis.  I’m not proposing a solution by the way; just identifying a problem:

Defining our terms when we speak about Egypt

A lot of people keep talking about a desire for a “democratic” Egypt.  I hate to say it but, with the word “democratic” as the starting point, that’s not a very useful discussion.  The dictionary definition of a “democracy” is as follows:

government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.

In other words, a democracy is one in which every citizen or, at least, every adult citizen, or possibly every adult citizen who isn’t a felon or insane, gets to vote, either directly for the legislation itself or for a representative who will handle the legislative end of government.

Calling for a democracy in Egypt sounds great in theory, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned in the last fifty years, having the right to vote isn’t necessarily a good thing for the citizens.  Those of us who came of age during the Cold War vividly remember the Soviet Union sneering that it had a much stronger democracy than the American people because (i) more people turned out to vote (about 90% versus our 60-ish%); and (ii) because socialism meant that there was a direct relationship between people and government, without the necessity (or, in socialist terms, evil) of capitalist, corporate intermediaries.

The dirty little secret was that the votes in socialist nations were shams.  All candidates came from the same pot, and a vote for Candidate A was precisely the same as a vote for Candidate B.  People voted not because they had a meaningful choice that would result in differing forms of governance, but because they would get in trouble for not voting.

The Soviet example demonstrates that a democracy without freedom is meaningless.  But just as “democracy” is a fluid term, so too is “freedom.”

Some use the term “freedom” in the colloquial sense of being free from something negative:  freedom from hunger, freedom from poverty, freedom from fear. I would argue that this notion of freedom is a socialist definition, because it has the government promise to provide for the people’s physical needs.

For example, under the “government will provide for all wants” school of freedom, the promise is that you will not be hungry because the government will give you food.  Of course, in order to make good on that promise, the government must force people to harvest the land, whether they have the interest or the ability.  The government will also bend its bureaucratic might (a might usually untethered to functional knowledge) to decide what crops will be grown, how they will be grown and, assuming there is a harvest, how the food will be collected and disseminated.

Under this scenario, which we saw replayed repeatedly throughout the 20th century in Communist lands, because people who are coerced into a task tend to do it badly and because bureaucratic guidance can be worse than no guidance at all, the ultimate harvest is often . . . well, minimal.  Nevertheless, you can be assured that your friendly socialist government will share out the small amount of available food amongst its citizens.

There you have one form of freedom:  government-provided freedom from hunger or, at least, freedom from total starvation . . . or possibly, the government will earnestly tell you that none of the myriad emaciated corpses it’s burying actually starved to death.  And you, as a good citizen of this type of “free” country,” will politely ignore the gun that encourages you to believe this bizarre fiction.

The other form of freedom, the one that so many of us effortlessly conflate with democracy, is the type that leaves the citizens of a nation with the maximum available choices over their destiny.  In order for the free society to function, freedom shouldn’t equal anarchy.  In a healthy, free society, you don’t get to kill, rape, steal, vandalize, and assault with impunity.  Functional democratic freedom envisions a society that has the smallest possible number of equally applied rules for all citizens.  Examples of that are rules holding that none of us get to murder at will, that we all stop at red lights, and that legal sex is consensual sex amongst adults.

There’s always the risk, of course, that the rules will mushroom, not only because this is the nature of government, but because ordinary people want a certain predictability in society, and predictability can be had only in the presence of myriad rules.   The more rules you have, the less individual freedom you have.

Indeed, right now, many of us feel that America has too many rules.  However, as the last two elections showed, we’re still falling on the side of freedom.  The candidates presented to us reflected genuinely different approaches to government in America and, if you managed to avoid the New Black Panthers standing at the polling place doors, you, as a citizen, got to go into the voting booth and, in private, express your preference as between those real choices.  Unsurprisingly, after four years of heavy-handed, freedom-limiting legislative activity, joined by two years of equally heavy-handed executive activity, the majority of Americans voted for the representatives who promised to get the government to retreat.

Now that’s freedom!

That freedom, the maximum number of individual choices exercised in a stable society with the minimum number of rules to ensure honesty, functionality, safety and stability, is also the type of government I wish for the Egyptian people.  To call for “democracy,” when that “democracy” seems to be the right to vote for Radical Muslim Brotherhood Candidate A or Radical Muslim Brotherhood Candidate B — both of whom will cheerfully lock your women in their homes, hang your gays, murder your Christians and start an apocalyptic war with the Jewish neighbor next door — is not a helpful way to free the people of Egypt from the chains that have bound them for so long.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

Winston Churchill — freedom fighter *UPDATED*

Yesterday I staged an imaginary Obama/Churchill match-up.  Today I want to add a little commentary.

As you had probably already figured out, I greatly admire Churchill.  I understand that he was a difficult person (often); that he could be nasty; that he was more willing to let his own people die in the fight than we would now consider acceptable; and that he made some bad decisions over his long career.  Offsetting all that, though, was that he was a LEADER.  He loved his country unabashedly, and had a deep and clear-cut commitment to its ultimate victory over Nazi totalitarianism.

Today, we see as inevitable, not only the Allied victory in WWII, but the fact that there would be free countries that would stand against the Nazis to begin with.  Back in the 1930s, though, there were many, especially in Churchill’s England, who wanted to make common cause with the Nazis.  This was an easy idea to hold.  From the middle and upper class viewpoint, Germany was not just another Western culture, but was actually the ne plus ultra of western civilization.

Germany was lovely to look at (those Rhine castles and medieval towns), was an academic leader (producing some of the greatest scientists in the world), and was a cultural leader (Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner, Goethe, Schiller).  On top of that, it had such well-managed people, who kept their streets clean and their trains running on time.  The Germans and the Brits even shared the same antisemitism, although it took the latter another 70 years to reach Nazi levels of virulence.

Sure, there had been that hiccup in civility from 1914-1918, but that was the belligerent Kaiser’s fault.  From a cultural point of view, many people in England, especially at the level of the ruling class, considered Germany “one of us.”

It was Churchill who understood that there was one insurmountable difference between the two countries, one that could not be glossed over by superficial similarities or by worship for Germany’s architectural, academic or cultural  beauties:  Freedom.  Churchill understood freedom, and he was able to articulate that understanding in a way few men at any time ever could.

At this point in my writing, I was also about to add that Churchill was able to articulate the idea of freedom in a way that even our current president can’t, despite his being sold to us as America’s greatest orator evah, but I stopped myself.  That merely compares their oratorical skills, while assuming that they share the same values.

The real difference between Churchill and Obama is that the latter does not understand freedom in the same way that Americans do — or at least the way that those Americans raised to revere the Constitution do.  Obama, like any other socialist leader, whether in the Soviet Union, or Nazi Germany, or or modern Europe, or UC Berkeley, or even Orwell’s fictional England, believes that true freedom lies only in total subordination to the state.  That of course explains why he is comfortable with Islam, despite the fact that, unlike the Germans and the England in the 1930s, there are few comforting similarities between the Islamic culture and ours:  as does Obama, Islam also believe in complete subordination to the state.]

UPDATEAndrew Klavan’s short post seems like an appropriate coda to any ruminations about liberty.

Ageless principles from Ronald Reagan

This is Ronald Reagan’s 1964 “Time for Choosing” speech.  What’s fascinating about it is that, while some of the details are dated, the overarching principles are as fresh today as they were almost 50 years ago.  That’s because freedom is an ageless concept, and that’s what Ronald Reagan is articulating.  As we watch our Federal government increasingly erase our individual liberties, we should pay ever more attention to Ronald Reagan’s understanding of the relationship between a free American and his (or her) federal government:

Is Barack Obama anti-American? *UPDATED*

A couple of weeks ago, I included in a post the statement that Barack Obama is anti-American.  A dear and respected friend suggested that I was exaggerating.  Obama may have a different vision of or goal for America, he said, but that’s scarcely the same as being anti-American.  I’ve been thinking that over for a while and, after a lot of mental give and take about what it means to be “anti-” anything, have now decided that Barack Obama is indeed anti-American.

Everything has a fundamental essence, a quality that makes it uniquely itself.  Take an orange, for example.  It’s not only citrus fruit, it’s an orange colored citrus fruit.  Horticulturists can alter its size, its texture, it’s sweetness, and the purity of its orange color, but it still remains an orange because that color is its definition.  Change the color, however, and suddenly, you have the un-orange, the anti-orange.  You have something completely different that no longer contains within it the essence of the original fruit.  Lose the essence and you lose the orange.

America has an essence too, and that essence is liberty.  America since its inception has been defined by liberty, both the liberty of the individual and the liberty of the nation.  Individual liberty means that Americans should be subject to minimal government constraints.  The state exists to serve the individual (commerce, transportation, security), not to control the individual.  That’s why the Bill of Rights focuses so closely on individual freedoms:  the freedom to speak, the freedom to write, the freedom to worship, the freedom to defend oneself with arms, the freedom from searches and seizures, etc.  Liberty also extends to the nation.  Both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are replete with examples of the Founders’ absolute obsession with national sovereignty.  Just recently, we’ve been reminded of the fact that the Founders didn’t even want the appearance of impropriety and the risk of influence, since they specifically prohibited foreign emoluments for our presidents.

Despite blunders of enormous magnitude (slavery, the treatment of Native Americans, and the imprisonment of American Japanese), Americans have, for the most part, taken these freedoms with the utmost seriousness.  We are a nation “of the people, by the people and for the people.”  We have not allowed ourselves to be ruled by tyrannies, dictators or bureaucracies.  We like our taxes low and our freedoms high.  In the past 100 years, when we fight wars, we do not fight wars to conquer other people, we fight wars to free other people from tyrannies.  Those on the Left who sneer at our “imperialist ventures” implicitly side with Hitler, with the North Koreans, with the Communist North Vietnamese, and with Saddam Hussein (mass murderer of his own people).  While ordinary Americans shed blood so that others on foreign shores can live free, the Left cheers on those who would deny their own citizens (or the citizens of conquered nations) the same freedoms we unthinkingly enjoy.

All the freedoms I’ve discussed can very quickly be distilled into a single essence, an American essence:  American individuals are free from control by and fear of their own government, and the American nation is free from control by other nations.

Barack Obama is anti-American because he wants to change this American essence.  His domestic policy is directed at increasing government control in every area, which decreases individual liberty.  Here’s an incomplete bullet-point list of his anti-liberty goals on the home front:

  • He wants to remove any last vestiges of the marketplace from individuals’ control over their own health care, and put the government entirely in charge.
  • He’s willing to give government control over American businesses (i.e., Bank takeover ands Government Motors).
  • His administration, while on record as opposing the Fairness Doctrine, is aggressively exploring a backdoor regulatory scheme that would have precisely the same practical effect as the Fairness Doctrine:  it would impose government restrictions on content, rather than allowing the market (that means us, the consumers) to control content.
  • His FCC wants to control the internet, which is a humming beehive of free speech, much of it critical of Obama.
  • Although he’s mostly erased the record, his dream is to create a civilian national security force, subordinate to the administration, which would be larger than the American military.  The military, please note, is controlled by the Constitution and has traditionally existed as a separate entity from any government.
  • He wants to take away the right to bear arms.  He’ll pay lip service to supporting the Second Amendment, but his fundamental goal is to use government to remove arms from individuals.  I’ve never held a gun in my life, but I know that the Founders understood that, for individuals, their single biggest defense against an overreaching government, is the right to arm themselves.  Statists never allow their citizens to bear arms.  Indeed, the first thing the Nazis did was ban guns in citizen’s hands.
  • He wants to redistribute wealth.  Without money, people have no choices.  The more money the government siphons to itself, the fewer choices we, as individuals have, which makes us increasingly subordinate to the government.

Of course, not all these Obama dreams will become reality.  As I noted above, Obama has been trying to delete evidence that he ever dreamt about a huge civilian security force at his beck and call.  And with other dreams (for example, the Second Amendment) he’s doing a fancy dance by which he tries to hide his authoritarian impulses.  But it doesn’t matter.  This post isn’t about what Obama will actually do.  It’s about what he wants to do, what his desires are vis a vis the American people — and it’s very clear that his desire is antithetical to the American essence.  He wants to limit or destroy individual liberties.

Politically, too, Obama’s impulses are all antithetical to liberty.  Again, some examples:

  • He has turned against the only democratic nation in the Middle East (that would be Israel), in favor of the bloodied tyrannical theocracies on her borders.
  • By reversing his pledge to keep a missile defense system in place in Poland and the Czech Republic, he has favored Iran’s Muslim tyranny over these democratic nations only so recently freed from Communism.
  • Figuratively and literally, he bows to dictators (Saudis, Venezuelans, Russians, Iranians, Cubans).  They ask, he gives.  In other words, contrary to America’s hundred year history of siding with the people against their tyrants, he sides with the tyrants against their people.
  • In Honduras, he sided with the delusional Zelaya against the people and the Constitution.
  • In Iran, when the people took to the streets, he sided with the megalomaniac theocracy, against the people.
  • In his much-heralded speech to the Muslim world, in addition to grounding Israel’s right to exist solely on a Holocaust the Muslim world denies, he repeatedly and noisily trumpeted the right of Muslim men to control Muslim women, a trope he reiterated in subsequent speeches.  This goes beyond the idiocy of multiculturalism and actively supports the subordination of an eighth of the world’s population.  (If 1/4 of the world is Muslim, and half of those Muslims are women….)
  • In his speeches, he assures the tyrannies of the world that America is abandoning her century old role of America’s policeman.  They are freed from any constraint.
  • By joining the farce that is the U.N. Human Rights Council, he is lending America’s imprimatur to the most violently anti-Semitic, authoritarian, dictatorial, anti-American political body in the world.
  • As part of his belief in the increasingly discredited notion of climate change, he stands ready to cede American sovereignty to a U.N. body that can control American wealth distribution and police the American body politic.

With the exception of the last item, and unlike the list regarding Obama’s domestic goals, the above bullet-points are not made up of things Obama merely wishes he can do.  They are composed of things Obama has already done.  He has subordinated America.  America is no longer the symbol of liberty around the world.  She’s just another nation and, worse, one whose leader, by temperament and political belief, has more reverence for dictatorships than democracies.  In other words, when he deals with the world outside America’s borders, he has again denied America’s essence, which is as the symbol of and standard-bearer for freedom.

If every one of Obama’s desires and actions is antithetical to America’s core essence, then it is reasonable to say that he is anti-American.  He’s not merely making little changes around the edges, smoothing away rough spots, augmenting existing traits, or getting rid of ugly cankers.  Instead, both at home and abroad, he’s trying to destroy America’s essence, that commitment to liberty that makes her unique in this world, and that makes her uniquely American.

Given Obama’s authoritarian, anti-liberty (and, therefore, anti-American) impulses, Obama’s periodic, TelePrompter-generated professions of love for this country ring untrue.  Just as we disbelieve statements of love from the man who beats his wife to a pulp because he’s trying to “improve” her so that she can achieve some impossible standard that would re-make her in the beater’s own mind, so too are we entirely justified in disbelieving Obama’s lukewarm affirmatives, when his behavior continuously shows a profound disdain for America and her core values.

UPDATE:  Well, that didn’t take long.  Within an hour of my having written the above, I learn that the same Obama administration that took days before voicing lukewarm support for the Iranian people under the thumb of a tyrannical theocracy, took mere minutes to condemn a bombing that killed the military wing of that same dictatorship.  Obama’s every impulse is hostile to liberty.

Only I can own me! — by guest blogger Danny Lemieux

This clip of today’s Sotomayor hearings may just have hit upon the most important constitutional question that faces us all as we confront our devolution into the Obamatopian State.

In this segment, Senator Tom Coburn (R., OK) asks Judge Sotomayor whether she agrees that Americans have a basic right to self defense. The ensuing silence is deafening. It is enlightening in that it reveals her not only to be mendacious but clueless: asking herself whether the Constitution grants Americans a right to self-defense, the judge could not even answer her own question. She said that she could not think of such a Constitutional right.

Now, granted, Judge Sotomayor has a difficult job. She needs to communicate answers which sound rational, reasonable and wise while obfuscating what she truly believes. Not everyone is adept at such two-track thinking and thus, the wheels turn slowly. The net effect is somewhat akin to a cell phone call fading in and out of range as the caller ducks behind rhetorical hills. So let me help her out by pointing to one of the underlying foundations of our Constitution as enumerated in the Declaration of Independence . . . you know, the one that refers to a God-given right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

My life is my own. It was given to me by God, or so says the Declaration of Independence. Supposedly, the State can make no claim upon my life . . . at least this is what I presume to be the underlying principle of the 13th Amendment banning slavery or involuntary servitude. Yet, this is exactly what the State does when it professes to dictates if, when, how and under what circumstances I am allowed to preserve (or end, for that matter) my life. It asserts a right over my life that could only exist if my life was subject to the whims of the State. At that point, I would not be a free citizen.

Just for the record, I will refuse ever to cede that right to the State, even on pain of death. I was born free and I fully plan to die free. I will never accept the right of the State to dictate if, when and whether I must sacrifice my life to another. This is a big part of what makes me an American.

Other countries don’t accept this and it’s not just barbaric backwaters like North Korea and Iran. British or Canadian passports, for example, quite explicitly (even proudly) proclaim their members to be “subjects” of another human being, Her Majesty the Queen. Although there is talk about redefining British subjects as “Citizens of the EU”, the words EU and “free” hardly go together, do they. Citizens of the EU quite explicitly do NOT have a right to self-defense.

Now, in fairness, the 13th Amendment does not preclude voluntary servitude and I suspect that this is where many of my fellow citizens on the Democrat /Left long to go. They want to abdicate their freedoms under the delusion that a benevolent master will relieve the burdens and responsibilities of freedom from their shoulders in the coming Obamatopia. To them, I say you’re welcome to it: just find a way to finance it yourselves and then get out the way of those of us that insist on staying free men and free women. After all, making claims on my labor without my consent also violates the 13th Amendment. Perhaps we really are devolving into a two-tier society: one of citizens, the other of serfs.

The Declaration of Independence and . . . chickens?!

John Trumbulls Declaration of Independence

John Trumbull's Declaration of Independence

On July 4, 1776, American citizens made their Declaration of Independence known to the world.  Although the bulk of the document is a catalog of very specific grievances against George III, the document is remembered for its stirring beginning, describing “unalienable” rights inherent in all human beings, as well as describing a government’s role in ensuring those rights:

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

The enunciation of those core rights — “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” — was an almost staggering statement in 1776, when most of the world labored under the rule of despots.

In the 21st century, however, we tend to be rather blase about those same rights.  We can no longer envision a world in which citizens had no say in the government, although their (heavy) taxes supported it; in which people were constrained to work in jobs by government diktat; and in which ultimate power rested in the government, not the people.  Our representative democracy, coupled with the enormous freedoms of our daily lives, seem so natural, as if preordained.  The result of this unthinking acceptance of these rights is that many of us are not even grateful for the blessings they confer, viewing the rights more as burdens, than benefits.

Why do I say this last?  Because more and more people resent the fact that one has to work for the basic freedoms the Founders risked their lives to institute.  Sometimes one has to fight and die for them.  In a life wrapped in comforts (heated and air conditioned homes and cars, endless supplies of food, gadgets for every purpose), we’ve come to the point where we resent even the necessity of working hard and, perhaps, suffering a little to ensure those blessings in our lives.

“But,” I hear you ask, “what about those chickens?  Where do chickens come into this?”

Before any feathers get ruffled, let me explain that the chickens I’m thinking of have nothing to do with cowardice.  Instead, I’m thinking of the way in which chickens are raised in this country — factory farming versus free range (or cage free).

Factory farmed chickens do not live a good chicken life, and this despite the fact (or, perhaps, because of the fact) that all their basic needs are fulfilled.  They are provided with all the food they need, which many might think is a good thing.  They are protected from all dangers during the short chicken lives which, again, many might think is a good thing.  They are doused with antibiotics to ensure their health.  They need not fear any chicken hawks or foxes.  Indeed, so protected are they that their beaks and claws are cut off to make sure they don’t injure either themselves or others.  They even have private housing, one home per bird, if you consider housing decent when it is a teeny cage in which they cannot move.  These chickens exist and are fully cared for, not to fulfill their own chicken destinies, but to enrich the farmer and feed the consumer.

If one were to apply a political-systems label to the factory farmed chickens, one would have to say that they live in a totalitarian state.  While their basic needs are fulfilled (food, shelter and even health care), they have no freedom.  Each of their liberties is constrained for the benefit of the state.  They live, but they live without chicken joy.

Cage free (or free range chickens) live under a very different philosophy.  Although they ultimately benefit the farmer and the consumer (with eggs and chicken flesh), the fact remains that, during their lives, they are allowed to fulfill their real destinies as chickens.  They wander around, they scratch the ground, they flap their wings.  They are fed, but they have to fight with the other chickens for access to the feed.  They have access to shelter but, when the hawk comes, it’s their decision (and ability) to seek it.  They are not stripped of their beaks and claws because they need those to live a chicken life.  The farmer is responsible for protecting them against predators but, given the chicken’s freedom, it’s not always possible.  Their lives are a bit riskier but, for chickens, infinitely more fulfilling.

Applying a political-systems label to the free range chickens is a bit more difficult, because they have freedom but (being chickens) no representation.  Nevertheless, I’d say that their lives are more akin to the type of democracy the Founders envisioned, because they are given the means to live their lives to the fullest extent but, beyond that, they are subject to minimal farmer control.  It is true that they are taxed (the farmer gets their eggs) and that their lives ultimately enrich the state (once they hit the chicken pot), but they are free in chicken terms.

What is so interesting to consider this July 4, half way through the first year of the first (and, one hopes, last) term of President Barack Obama, is what kind of chicken-farmer-in-chief he is turning out to be.  Given his propensity for arugula-eating and Whole Food shopping, one would think that he would want to give the American people at least the same benefits he extends to his free range chickens:  A fairly safe environment within which free range Americans can live their lives as they see fit.

All signs, though, are that President Obama is trying to turn the American people into caged birds.  He wants us neatly boxed up, with the government/farmer dictating every aspect of our lives, right down to ensuring that we are unable to feed, house and defend ourselves without full government/farmer control.  As with caged bird chickens, the American citizen lives to serve the American state not (as the Founders demanded) vice versa.

The whole foodies constantly remind us that this totalitarian regime is bad news for chickens.  I would argue that it’s also bad news for Americans.

So this year, as you go to your fairs, watch your parades, have your barbeques, and delight in fire works, think about what the Declaration of Independence really means, and ask yourself this question:  Do I want my government to give me more rights than the average chicken?  If your answer is yes, spend the next year working hard to effect a change in the 2010 elections, and an Obama ouster in the 2012 elections.

Freedom, but from what?

More than twenty years ago, I attended a speech that famed legal scholar Arthur Miller gave, in which he decried the fact that the zone of privacy surrounding ordinary citizens was shrinking rapidly with the dawn of the computer age. What he pointed out then is even more true today: unless you step entirely off the matrix, every time you engage in any type of commercial transaction, whether it’s using your ATM or credit card to buy a latte, using your cell phone to call your mother, or buying an airplane ticket, your transaction creates a record that a corporation owns and that the government can find. Theoretically (and in actual fact if the authorities are after you with the right warrants), someone can put those transactions together and create a comprehensive picture of every detail of your life.

I walked out of Miller’s talk knowing that he was correct and yet curiously unimpressed. I could not then and cannot now work myself into a lather knowing that some clerk in Dubuque or Bombay can have access to information about my grocery shopping habits or the number of times I called my mother. Of more concern to me has always been what people who know me might think of me if they could pry into the small details of my life. While I may be unmoved by the Dubuque or Bombay clerk knowing about my grocery list, I’d find it very unpleasant if my next door neighbor, colleague or classmate were to learn too many of the details of my life. In other words, for me, privacy is local.

In the years since I first heard Miller’s speech, I’ve often had reason to think about his thesis and about my response and I’ve come to the conclusion that I haven’t changed my viewpoint since then. Indeed, my blog is a perfect example of that fact. I’m more forthcoming with you, my readers, than I am with my immediate neighbors because I won’t run into you on the street. If I’m grumpy, I grouse on my blog, whereas I make an effort to present a cheerful face to my neighbors. If my kids are driving me up a wall, I wail in cyberspace, but make light hearted jokes to the parents I see during the day. And of course, I talk politics on my blog in a way that I never would to the flesh-and-blood people around me who believe that conservatives aren’t just misguided, but are evil. Privacy is therefore often on my mind insofar as it relates to me.

The privacy issues I’ve discussed above can, of course, be reframed as the flip side of freedom: freedom from oversight and intrusion. And in our world, there are three basic categories of people or institutions that infringe on that freedom: individuals, corporations, and the government.

Traditionally, individuals infringing on your freedom from oversight and intrusion have been the nosy next door neighbors who physically peer into your world. (For purposes of this discussion, I’m going to ignore the Peeping Toms or stalkers, who are committing out-and-out criminal acts — that is, acts that can be characterized as visual assaults.) Corporations, as I noted above, have become an increasing infringer on that same freedom. As Miller argued so long ago, the computer records they keep mean that, with a push of a button, corporations (especially banks and credit card companies) can create a comprehensive record about you.

Whether it’s a nosy neighbor or a data collecting computer, we are usually willing to put up with the infringement on our freedom because of the benefits that come with those intrusions or, at most, we place small, almost symbolic barriers in the way. As to our neighbors, we may determine that their help with the children is the price we pay for their knowing how messy our house is. Alternatively, we may close the windows when we argue or draw the curtains when we let our hair down. And as for the corporations, most of us have long ago sold our soul to that Devil, recognizing that the convenience of credit card purchases or the discounts from our grocery store’s “Club Card” are more than worth the information those Dubuque or Bombay drones (and their computers) are collecting about us. Any barriers we attempt are likely to be minimal, such as refusing to give our phone numbers to the blank eyed clerk at the local store (after having first paid with our credit card, of course). Certainly that is my world view, and one I’ve consistently held to for decades, as I believe most other Americans have.

But when it comes to the government, our relaxed attitude to these assaults on privacy suddenly vanishes, and we see ever escalating levels of paranoia about our right to freedom from oversight and intrusion. The government, after all, is huge; it has the ability to engage in spying and data gathering at an unparalleled level; and, worst of all, it has punitive powers that even the most gossipy, vindictive neighbor or the most aggressive corporation lack. And as we’ve seen, most notably in East Germany, but also in other Communist and totalitarian countries, when the government gets into the business of invading our privacy — removing all those safeguards to freedom from oversight and intrusion — individual freedom is effectively at an end.

Most of us, of course, recognize that there is practical, personal information that we keep private from others, but that the government does get to see. For example, because the government needs to be funded (a concept separate from whether we believe it’s doing the right things with those funds), we all regularly provide it with all of our financial information, something we’d be loath to let our friends and neighbors peruse. Because the government is charged with the business of running our criminal justice system, we long ago agreed as a society that it could keep data about people’s criminal habits, as well as their fingerprints. (DNA, of course, has been a more touchy subject.) Because we all pay into Social Security (whether or not we think it’s an appropriate program in the 21st Century, as opposed to the 1930s) and we all want to get at least some of that money back, we allow the government to maintain our Social Security number, which ties into just about everything, for better or for worse.

So far, I think everyone from both sides of the political spectrum would agree with my general conclusions, above, about the dangers of government infringement into its citizens’ privacy, as well as about the basic intrusions we concede are the government’s right. What’s interesting, however, is the ideological divide between conservatives and liberals when it comes to just about any other aspects of government involvement in our day to day lives.

Liberals trust the government to manage the day to day details of their lives. The most striking example of this, of course, is the current debate about health care. And the most extreme statement of this belief that government should be trusted to take care of our bodies came from John Edwards when he announced that, “Damn it! When I’m President, I’ll force everyone to go to the doctor, whether they want to or not.” Okay, I’m exaggerating, but not by much. What he really said was:

“It [his mandatory health care plan] requires that everybody be covered. It requires that everybody get preventive care,” he told a crowd sitting in lawn chairs in front of the Cedar County Courthouse. “If you are going to be in the system, you can’t choose not to go to the doctor for 20 years. You have to go in and be checked and make sure that you are OK.”

Wow, that’s some serious government oversight. You wonder if the lovely Edwards has thought through the kind of enforcement this policy will require. Will Stasi-style health police knock on citizens’ doors and demand evidence that they saw their doctor recently? Doubtful. What will really happen is that Stasi-style health police will carefully study the records of every American citizen, diligently checking to make sure every good American visited his or her doctor and, oh, just incidentally, getting access to every detail of each citizen’s medical records to make sure they were real visits and not just feints to mislead the health police. But that’s okay in the world of John Edwards because it’s for our own good.

Hillary Clinton, of course, isn’t that far behind, although she’s smart enough to have framed her ideas to sound more moderate. Although she claims the plan is “not government run,” she nevertheless intends to have the government oversee a program that insures 47 million people, with a cool $110,000,000,000 annual price tag. If a program that costly doesn’t have oversight it should; and once it does, you’ve got government deeply involved in the health care business. (And we won’t even touch the fact that at least some of these millions of uninsured are people who could afford insurance but for their own private reasons have opted not to get it or who are merely temporarily between insurance.)

(By the way, please understand that I would like to see more people insured. However, I most certainly do not want Hillary and her friends managing that program. And as I always say, if you want to see what it looks like when government gets in the health care business, just look at Walter Reed, our “gift” to those who have sacrificed the most for us.)

Liberals also would like government to have increasing oversight in other areas of day-to-day life, such as their desire for more and more oversight for American business; their preference that government tell us what to do with our savings (hence the deep commitment to Social Security); their craving for government control over schools (hence the strong opposition to vouchers); and their abiding belief, the 1960s through the 1990s notwithstanding, that intense government interference can control poverty.

The common thread binding the liberals’ willingness to relinquish control of their health care decisions, economy, education and business to the government is a manifest belief that the government’s collective wisdom trumps the intelligence of the ordinary person. The government, made up of experts and policy wonks, must be better at taking care of people than people can be trusted to take care of themselves. (People, of course, being defined here as the Wal-Mart shopping, NASCAR loving, country-music listening masses.) And the surprising thing is that liberals cling to this belief, not only despite government’s repeated management failures over the decades, such as the failed War on Poverty or the failed care at Walter Reed, but also despite the fact that they are convinced that the administration now in charge of the government is the most evil thing since . . . well, since Satan!

Conservatives, of course, have the complete opposite view when it comes to government micromanage of just about anything. Conservatives want to be free from government micromanagement, something Fred Thompson neatly summed up here:

In 1994 when I first ran [for Senate], I advocated the same common sense conservative positions that I hold today. They are based upon what I believe to be sound conservative First Principles – reflecting the nature of man and the wisdom of the ages. They are based upon the conviction that our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution are not outdated documents that have outlived their usefulness. It is a recognition that our basic rights come from God and not from government. That government should have its power divided, not only at the federal level but between the federal government and the states. Federalism is the belief that not every problem should have a federal solution. Essentially it’s about freedom. A government that is big enough to do everything for us is powerful enough to do anything to us.

“These principles lead me to believe in lower taxes, which foster growth and leave more power in the hands of the people. They also respect free markets, private property, and fair competition. They honor the sanctity of life – the great truth every life matters, and no person is beneath the protection of the law. These principles made our country great and we should rededicate ourselves to them, not abandon them.

In other words, conservatives do not want the government telling them how to run their businesses, how to educate their children, how to invest their money, how to allocate resources for their needs (such as insurance), what kind of property they can buy, what medical care they can seek, etc. To conservatives, those are private decisions that ought to be free from government diktats. Conservatives believe individuals are better equipped to make these decisions for themselves, with an eye to their own particular circumstances, and accept as a price of freedom the inevitable fact that some individuals may make bad decisions.

(An aside here about the beneficial flexibility that comes with allowing people on the ground to make decisions. Some crosswalks are being installed near my house. It is a huge job, because it doesn’t simply involve drawing lines on the street to mark where people will cross and cars should stop. Instead, because of ADA requirements, all new crosswalks must have curb ramps installed, which involves destroying the four existing corner curbs and pouring new concrete ramps at each corner. Ramps are a great thing, not only for the handicapped, but also for women with strollers. But you see, in our neighborhood, there are existing ramps within 10 feet of each of the corners being destroyed and rebuilt. Admittedly, these ramps are driveways, but they’re still ramps, and they provide easy access to the new crosswalks, especially since the streets are wide and the traffic flow very low.

If the ADA rule had simply said that people in wheelchairs need to have easy or reasonable access to the crosswalks, and then allowed the people on the ground to review the situation, these driveways would have been more than adequate, and saved a heck of a lot of tax payer money. Since people who love government don’t trust individuals, though, and put their faith instead in government rules, we now have two ramps per corner, for a total eight ramps near the new crosswalks. And now back to our regularly scheduled ranting….)

There is one area, however, in which conservatives do want the government around, and this area falls within the traditional purview of government, so much so that the Founders would easily have recognized it: security. Because conservatives believe that it is the government’s job to protect them against external enemies and, even more so, against external enemies who are trying to infiltrate our internal structures, we tend to be more sanguine about government programs aimed at catching those who wish to harm us. We also seem to take a longer view, recognizing that the country has always recovered from the limitations on freedom our government has imposed during times of war, whether we’re talking Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, the drastic wartime powers Wilson assumed during WWI, or the ill considered decision to imprison anyone who was Japanese or of Japanese ancestry during WWII. In each case, when the threat ended, America’s Constitution and her basic commitment to freedom was sufficiently resilient to come back from these assaults on liberty.

Liberals, on the other hand, who are willing to hand over to the government so many aspects of their private lives, are loath to surrender their security to the government. Instead, when it comes to security, they look at the same government they trust to examine their bodies, make their health care decisions, educate their children, rescue their poor, and control their businesses, and suddenly start ranting that it is out to get them, whether to destroy their buildings and their citizens, listen to their phone calls, or read the same library books they do. They demonstrate a bizarre love-hate relationship with the government, that sees them on the one hand practically handing it their first born, while on the other hand having paranoid nightmares about wiretapping.

Frankly, I’m at a loss to explain this inconsistency. Whether you agree with their viewpoint regarding freedom and privacy, when it comes to government, conservatives at least are consistent — they want the government out of their lives as much as possible, except for the one thing the government does best, which is securing the nation as a whole.

(I’ve developed a rather inexplicable fascination with Patrick Ruffini’s 2008 Presidential Wire. Getting a high score there doesn’t increase my traffic, but I still find it very gratifying. So, if you think this post is worthy of a high score at the Wire, please click **here**.)

UPDATE:  Hillary continues to make my point about liberals’ willingness to bring the government into your day-to-day life, this time envisioning a situation in which you’re required to show a prospective employer that you have GovInsur as one of the conditions of employment.  And just who is going to enforce that and what kind of weird employment black market is going to develop?