The stupidity of Leftist parody when applied to the iron law of economics

Stephen-ColbertMr. Bookworm likes Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. I don’t but, because they’re nattering away on my television, I often find myself watching them anyway.

Colbert, who will soon be filling David Letterman’s vacant chair, has a shtick. His shtick is that he’s a conservative, so his humor ostensibly attacks conservatives at their own game.

What makes Colbert’s shtick fundamentally unfunny, though, is that he has no understanding of conservative ideas or, indeed, of anything at all. His starting point is a parody image of conservatives — hate women, hate minorities, love the evil rich, want to kill everybody with guns.  That’s not funny.  It’s just crude.

Then, his alleged humor attempts to build on this parody, looking at headlines through the stained, warped filter of his politic animus.  The result is something without any intrinsic humor. It only makes people laugh if they’re inclined to laugh at any insult directed to their political opponents, no wit or insight required.

My premise for this post, therefore, is that it’s not funny when ill-informed people try to parody something that they’ve already reduced to a parody.  Working off this premise, I want to introduce you to a video and, even better, its rebuttal.

The video came about when Funny or Die partnered with Kristen Bell (who is the voice for the redhead in Frozen) does a Mary Poppins parody supporting a hugely increased minimum wage. The video’s production values are wonderful. Kristen Bell has a lovely voice to begin with and does a very good Julie Andrews imitation. The melody is a nice, subtle homage of “Spoonful of Sugar,” without simply being a retread. Really, the whole thing is great, except….

Except that the premise is insanely stupid. It accepts blindly that, if the government forces employers to pay people above market rate, everyone (except the evil, abusive employers, of course) will have more money.

The video makes no effort whatsoever to rebut the fact that the iron laws of economics work no matter what DemProgs desire.  If the government forces employers to pay their employees more than the market will bear, employers will just hire fewer people. The result will be that a few people will have more money, although they’ll be expected to do more work for that money. Many small businesses may stagnate, rather than grow, shrinking further the employment pool.  Ultimately, instead of having lots of people employed for low wages, you’ll just have lots of unemployed.

You know why the video makes no effort to work through these problems, of course.  It doesn’t try because it can’t.  In a battle between the iron laws economics and witless Progressivism, the former always wins.  That leaves the latter with nothing more than superficial cuteness (a parody) justifying its simplistic economic demands (the parody piled on the parody).

The problem for conservatives, of course, is that their ideas, while inevitable, require some intelligence to explain and understand.  And, because they’re complex, they require a little time and space.  A short rebuttal to a well-produced video is hard to do.  Reason’s Remy, though, has taken a stab at simplifying the rebuttal, and he’s done a pretty fine job:

So, if your Facebook friends start touting Bell’s Poppins, feel free to tag them with Remy’s Bert.

Mid afternoon Friday round-up and Open Thread

Victorian posy of pansiesThe lovely thing about summer is that I get to sleep in a little. I like that.

The less than lovely thing about summer is that I am never alone. More than that, if my family is near me, they want me. Sometimes they want me for irritating reasons, such as asking me to do things they’re perfectly capable of doing themselves (e.g., making themselves lunch); sometimes they want me for necessary things that only I can do (e.g., filling out the parent permission form for an activity or dealing with contractors); and sometimes they want me for flattering reasons (“I just want you to sit with me, Mommy.”). No matter the reason, I can’t write when they want me.

Other times, as is the case now, I have little bits and pieces of time within which to write. I’m therefore going to slam stuff out and you’ll just have to excuse the inevitable typos. If I proceed methodically here, I won’t be able to publish this until Monday.

** 1 **

Mitchell Langbert wrote an open letter to his state Senator asking that New York take away tax breaks and financial subsidies for colleges and universities that support the Boycott, Divest, Sanction movement:

I urge New York State to eliminate tax breaks and financial subsidies for colleges and universities that support involvement with the Boycott, Divestiture, and Sanctions movement. Such support is already illegal under Section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code, which prohibits the use of tax-exempt money for political and ideological purposes.

If Langbert is correct in the way he interprets the law, all of us should make a very big deal out of this one, not just in New York, but across America. (Hat tip: JKB.)

** 2 **

So far, Israel is doing very well. Ironically, one can say that she’s doing well because Obama hates her. With past administrations, when the president asked Israel to stop fighting Hamas, even when she was winning, Israel agreed to the request. She did so because all past administrations tacitly or explicitly promised that, if things get really bad, America will have Israel’s back.

Barack Obama, of course, doesn’t have Israel’s back. He’s mostly in Israel’s face, with a shiv aimed at her jugular. The fact that he manifestly dislikes Israel explains why Israel now refuses to listen to his pleas for her to back down. He’s got no carrot to entice her into listening to him, so Israel sneers at John Kerry when he, a Lurch without charm, insists Israel lay down her guns.

Israel is also doing well because Hamas is doing badly. The IDF put out a poster explaining just how badly Hamas is doing:

Hamas hurting

That poster doesn’t even acknowledge the 150 Hamas fighters who surrendered yesterday.

For more on just how well Israel is doing, you can read an American Thinker article that purports to report a conversation with a very highly placed Israeli specialist and Bibi advisor, or read Tom Rogan’s analysis about Israel’s success is splitting Hamas and Fatah.

** 3 **

That same Israeli specialist and advisor has no doubt about the basis for Obama’s hostility to Israel:

As for what is behind Obama’s embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood, he attributes it to the fact that Obama is a Muslim and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Perhaps Obama also sees himself as the Caliph of any future Caliphate.

The other thing the post about the specialist mentions is Qatar’s involvement in funding radical Islam. Qatar also funds lots of soccer. My son loves soccer, and he can’t understand why I won’t let him buy gear from Qatar-funded teams.

** 4 **

Contrary to what the Left says or implies, the war between Israel and Hamas is not a case of powerful white people attacking helpless brown people. In fact, Israel is a multicultural, multiracial, multi-religious society — and all people of good will within that society, regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion, support stamping out the terrorism emanating from Gaza.

** 5 **

CNN’s Erin Burnett isn’t just another pretty face. She’s a really stupid pretty face, something that comes through loud and clear when Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador U.S., takes her to task for her inanely stupid “but what about the children” plea when it comes to the Gazan children that Hamas deliberate dots around weapons’ sites in Gaza.

Regarding Hamas’s tactics, I’m sure its supporters have made the point that the nature of Gaza (a small, urban area) means that Hamas can’t have nice military bases or remote areas where they can stockpile weapons. That’s true.

What’s also true, though, is that there are choices other than schools and hospitals for storing arms and mounting attacks. Moreover, when your enemy goes out of the way to give you advance warning that it plans to demolish the schools and hospitals in which they’ve determined you keep your weapons and fighters, there are choices other than ordering women and children and sick people to stay in those buildings.

There are always choices — and Hamas, when it chooses, always makes the least moral choice.

** 6 **

Meanwhile, as the world’s Muslims and Leftists castigate Israel for daring to defend herself in a more humane way than any other nation in history, most of the world is turning away from Muslim atrocities in Iraq and Syria. There, Muslims slaughter each other and Christians with fury and brutality, and in great numbers. Looking at this inconsistent behavior, one has to ask, If it’s not the oldest hatred that drives the obsessive focus on Israel, what is driving it?

** 7 **

Sultan Knish explains that terrorism is a tactic like any other. Traditional militaries think in terms of conquering land or towns. Terrorists think in terms of conquering minds through abject fear:

This emotional calculus is misleading because it is an immediate response to a set of deaths. However terrorists are not trading an end to violence for a village or a town. They are calculating how many deaths it will take to force Israel to abandon that village or town. And once they have it, they will use it to inflict more terror on another town or village, this time using rockets.

Israelis were convinced that a price in lives had been put on Gaza and that if they withdrew, the killing would end. But Gaza was just the beginning. Not the end. There is never an end.

The goal of a terrorist movement is to change the relative perceptions of strength and the freedom of movement of both sides. Terror tactics create the perception that the winning side is losing. This perception can be so compelling that both sides come to accept it as reality. Terrorists manufacture victories by trapping their enemies in no-win scenarios that wear down their morale.

Described that way, it’s hard to imagine how to defeat this profoundly cruel psychological warfare. Fortunately, though, Sultan Knish says it can be done but it will take political courage. Unfortunately, how often does one find courage in politics?

** 8 **

My back garden is dotted with solar lights. They’re cheap to buy and don’t require any electrical boxes, outlets, or cords in the garden. Buy enough of them, and they’ll illuminate deck stairs just enough so that no one falls or will keep people from wandering off a paved pathway into the dirt. It would take a whole let of them, though, plus a full moon, to allow you to read a book by their light. Solar energy just doesn’t deliver that much power, and that’s the problem with trying to turn it into a viable fossil fuel alternative.

** 9 **

You’ve heard it everywhere else, so you may as well hear it from me too: Jonathan Gruber, an important Obama-care architect, has castigated the Halbig decision for daring to read Obamacare’s language literally and, on that basis, deciding that subsidies only support state-run exchanges. Of course the government meant to include federal exchanges when it talked about subsidies, says Gruber.

A few years ago, though, Gruber was singing a different tune, when he gloated about tying subsidies to state exchanges. His theory then was that it would incentivize states to set up their own exchanges. In a sane world, Gruber would lay to rest the DemProg’s discontent with the Halbig decision, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

** 10 **

Kimberly Strassel says that the Halbig case proves that the IRS, which has become an arm of the Democrat party, cannot be entrusted with Obamacare. It will do anything, including disobeying the law as written, to support the Democrat agenda.  With that in mind, I wouldn’t just remove Obamacare from the IRS’s purview.  I would argue for eliminating it entirely, and starting anew.  (Like that’s going to happen.)

** 11 **

I don’t think Noemi Emery really explains the roots of Hillary’s sense of political and monetary entitlement, but in trying to explain it, she sure paints a picture of a women who believes that the White House and millions of dollars should be hers for the asking.

My take is that Hillary didn’t get to this point because of her Arkansas exile or victimized-wife roles. I believe she’s just your ordinary sociopath, who managed to lever herself into a power path, and now wants more just because she’s the sociopath she is.  In other words, her history didn’t make her a sociopath; the fact that she is a sociopath shaped her history.

** 12 **

Charles Krauthammer has offered a very interesting theory about Obama’s bizarre passivity as the world burns around him: he believes that the arc of history will go his way so that he can just sit back and watch it happen.

If that idea — that bad guys will wither away in any event — sounds familiar, it’s because you heard it from Jimmy Carter about our own American Revolution:

[I]n some ways the Revolutionary War could have been avoided. It was an unnecessary war.

Had the British Parliament been a little more sensitive to the colonial‘s really legitimate complaints and requests the war could have been avoided completely, and of course now we would have been a free country now as is Canada and India and Australia, having gotten our independence in a nonviolent way.

I think in many ways the British were very misled in going to war against America and in trying to enforce their will on people who were quite different from them at the time.

See, if you’re just a little nicer to people on the other side of a quarrel, they’ll fall in line with you. It’s that easy. So if Obama just doesn’t throw America’s weight around, everyone will make nice in the end.  Obama is helped in this theory by the fact that he seems happy to have that arc of history bend to Islam, not the western, Judeo-Christian tradition.

** 13 **

In the 1930s, many decent-ish people in Europe and England supported Hitler’s rise. That’s because initially they saw his fascism as the European antidote to Communism. It somehow never seemed to occur to Europeans, accustomed as they were to autocratic government, that the choice wasn’t binary, between a tyrannical government that destroyed the rich and a tyrannical government that co-opted them. Individual freedom never occurred to them.  That was stupidity, or at least limited thinking, on their part.

These same Europeans stopped being decent-ish but stupid, and became evil, though, when they still supported the Nazis despite the latter’s increasingly insane antisemitism.  That’s another legacy of the European past — it wasn’t just autocratic; it was also antisemitic. European’s embrace of antisemitism into addition to totalitarianism is less forgivable than accepting totalitarianism alone, while the latter is a structural ideology, the former is pure evil.

Fascism and communism may be gone from Europe, and socialism may be dying on the vine there, but the antisemitism lingers on. That oldest hatred seems to be bred into the European DNA. Nor can one just blame the huge Muslim populations in Europe for antisemitism’s resurgence. Just as the Ukrainians and Poles and French, while resenting Nazi invasions, supported Nazi ethnic cleansing, too many of today’s Europeans, while frightened of the Muslims, cheerfully (and almost reflexively) chime in when the cry to “Kill the Jews” rings out.

** 14 **

Mr. Bookworm is convinced that I abandoned him politically when I moved from Democrat to conservative. I keep explaining to him that he abandoned me too, because he’s been moving steadily to the Left. He denies that, since he still rejoices under the name “Democrat.” Hard data, though, seems to support my perception.

** 15 **

A palette-cleanser:

** 16 **

Hamas priorities

This clever twist on a London Underground map makes a powerful point about Hamas’s tunneling under Israel’s borders and into her towns. If Hamas, instead of being impatient and firing rockets, had waited quietly, it’s possible it could have carried out a terrorist attack in Israel that would easily have rivaled 9/11. Thank goodness, I guess, for impatient terrorists.

Gaza underground

Thursday evening round-up and Open Thread

Victorian posy of pansiesSorry for the long silence today. I had a standard-issue medical test done on me this morning and, while I passed with flying colors (I’m such an overachiever), the procedure knocked me off my pins and I’m only now getting back to something akin to normal.

I haven’t yet had the chance to read today’s news (which I think looks sort of like yesterday’s news, right down to yet another air tragedy), but I have a ginormous backlog of links I gathered yesterday that I’d still like to share. So, fasten your seat belts and . . . we’re off!

** 1 **

Just an observation about Israel’s efforts to rout Hamas in Gaza: Many, myself included, think that this is Israel’s moment in Gaza. The ones who are openly supporting her incursion are all Israelis (as opposed to merely some Israelis), most Americans, European heads of state, the EU (!), and citizens of good will the world over. Heck, even the notorious anti-Israel Washington Post has another editorial denouncing Hamas and insisting that it must be disarmed before Israel gives up the fight.

The ones who are tacitly supporting her incursion are heads of state all over the Arab world who, scared by both Iran and ISIS and, as in Egypt’s case, deeply hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood, are keeping silent or even castigating Hamas. The only ones who are opposed to Israel having the chance, once and for all, to destroy one of the world’s most malignant terrorist organizations, are Barack Obama, John Kerry, and the hate-ridden Muslim and hard-Left rioters in European and American citizens.

** 2 **

At the end of my conversation with Sol Giggleweed, I added that, in a comparison between Hamas the Nazis, the Nazis are actually better than Hamas insofar as they revered their own women. My sister added another Nazi virtue that Hamas lacked: the Nazis did not use their own women and children as living, breathing defense systems.

Apropros this reverence for life, check out this Facebook post.

Indeed, even canine life comes in for care (in stark contrast to the Muslim world, which hates dogs and, at least in Pakistan, tortures them for fun):

Israelis care for dogs

 

** 3 **

Arabs, Muslims, and Leftists keep agitating for a return to Israel’s pre-1967 borders. Rhymes with Right agrees in principle, but differs somewhat as to precisely which pre-1967 borders Israel should be returned.

** 4 **

I don’t understand why America’s multiculturalists aren’t more up in arms about ISIS’s blatant disrespect for Christian culture in Iraq. (And yes, I’m being very, very, very sarcastic there.)

** 5 **

Yet another article about the U.S. State Department’s absolutely disgraceful failure to bring over to the U.S. the Afghani interpreters who now sit in the Taliban’s cross hairs.

** 6 **

Yes, it’s true. The University of Wisconsin at Madison is planning to move to race-based grading: Teachers are required to add a separate (and impliedly lower) bell curve for grading for non-whites. You’d think things such as this would bring non-whites to the realization that the Left thinks they’re really stupid.

** 7 **

HBO no longer makes any pretense of hiding its hardcore DemProg credentials. Even its obscene, sex-obsessed vampires are DemProgs so, when they get the opportunity, they apparently used an imaginary Ted Cruz fundraising as the opportunity to engage in some foul-mouthed Republican and women bashing. Ted Cruz and his aide Amanda Carpenter, however, elegantly and easily show why mental midgets shouldn’t tangle with people infinitely smarter than they are.

** 8 **

You know what happens to a socialized manufacturing sector? Nothing. It doesn’t innovate, grow, or create wealth. Instead, as Venezuela has demonstrated for the umpteenth time, socialized manufacturing sectors collapse very badly. (Article is behind a Wall Street Journal pay wall.)

** 9 **

Should you be able to get behind that Wall Street Journal pay wall, you should also read Daniel Henninger’s scathing denunciation of a president who is just too bored, busy, and important to deal with the crises popping up all over the place. He’s not even trying to play crisis whack-a-mole. He’s just walking away and looking for the next fundraising party.

If you can’t get behind that pay wall, you can still read Mark Steyn on Obama’s vanishing act, played across the backdrop of the endless rewind and replay in the Middle East.

** 10 **

Britain is mad at Russia because of the fact that pro-Russian fighters in Ukraine, armed with cutting edge Russian weapons, shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. Of the almost 300 people who died, many were British subjects. Britain is so mad, in fact, that it’s reviving the case of Alexander Litvinenko, a Putin critic who died very painfully in England from polonium poisoning.

** 11 **

One of my tawdry media indulgences is the Daily Mail, which is a combination of sleaze, trash, eccentric wonders, and actual cutting-edge news from all over the world. One of the things I’ve noticed lately in the Daily Mail is the number of young to middle-aged bankers who have been killing themselves or dying of mysterious circumstances. Zero Hedge has noticed too and obviously wondered whether it’s just a coincidence that we’re aware of because of world wide reporting or if something really weird is going on.

** 12 **

Planned Parenthood continues to teach Americans young women about sexual perversion. Says Ed Morrissey:

Planned Parenthood gets millions of dollars for sex education and other programs from the federal government, and the education they provide is exactly what those parents predicted. No 15-year-old needs instruction on how to let herself get handcuffed or tied to trees by her boyfriend as part of rational education about health and sex. If a 15-year-old even hinted that her boyfriend was pressing her to try these kinds of activities, that calls for an intervention, not a how-to for submission. The advice to watch pornos for further sex education threatens to distort the teen’s sexuality for a lifetime, from a healthy expression of love and pleasure in the context of marriage to decades of being someone else’s rag doll for exploitation.

This isn’t education. It’s indoctrination, and the cultivation of Planned Parenthood clients for the next 20 years. Planned Parenthood can continue to offer sex education, but it shouldn’t get tax dollars to do so.

** 13 **

Jonathan Turley, a Barack Obama voter and law professor, has made a name for himself of late by speaking out against the expanding administrative state. He sees the D.C. Circuit’s Halbig decision, which confines Obamacare subsidies to state-established exchanges per the laws explicit language, as a very important one and contrasts it favorably against the 4th Circuits King decision, which ignored the statute’s explicit, unambiguous language in favor of a “well, I think the legislature really wanted to do this” analysis:

At the heart of the conflict is a fundamentally different view of the role not just of federal courts but also of federal agencies. I have long been a critic of the rise of a type of fourth branch within our system. The Framers created a tripartite system based on three equal branches. The interrelation of the branches guarantees that no branch could govern alone and protects individual liberty by from the concentration of power in any one branch.

We now have a massive system of 15 departments, 69 agencies and 383 nonmilitary sub-agencies with almost three million employees. Citizens today are ten times more likely to be the subject of an agency court ruling than a federal court ruling. The vast majority of “laws” in this country are actually regulations promulgated by agencies, which tend to be practically insulated and removed from most citizens.

** 14 **

The government is still doing a fancy dance around Obamacare. Separate from the fact that the administrative branch went all legislative and re-wrote the statute to suit the Democrats’ political purposes, the fact remains that the Exchange’s only measurable success is getting people onto the exchange. Everything else . . . well, not so good.

** 15 **

Hundreds of California taxpayers and professors are upset about the fact that San Francisco State University used taxpayer funds for terrorist outreach. I agree with their anger. I’m only sorry that we don’t live in a country that actually supports the rule of law. Since Hamas is a designated terrorist organization, in a law-abiding country, the federal government would have come down on SFSU and the errand faculty like a ton of federal bricks.

** 16 **

Back in the 1930s, the primary difference between Soviet Communism and German and Italian fascism was that the former nationalized businesses while the latter allowed them to exist (and profit), provided that they subordinated themselves to the government agenda. Jonah Goldberg, in talking about Elizabeth Warren’s efforts to subordinate American business to the federal government DemProg agenda, never mentions 1930s era fascism, but I couldn’t help noticing the structural similarities.

** 17 **

And while we’re speaking of that cozy relationship between business and DemProgs, here’s more on the federal government’s policy of privatizing corporate profits (if they make a profit overseas, they keep it) and socializing their losses (if they lose money, taxpayers suck up the loss).  You don’t need to look overseas, of course.  Obamacare is one big gift to the insurance industry.  That makes it something everyone can hate:  conservatives hate it because it brings health care under federal government control and socializes costs; Leftists hate it because these socialized costs are all funneled into the insurance company’s pockets.

** 18 **

There’s an old saying that, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. When it comes to the Obama White House and its efforts to hide all of its agents’ emails, mails, documents, texts, etc., there’s a new old saying:  Where there’s neither smoke nor fire, there’s a cover-up. The most recent one involves Shirley Sherrod.

** 19 **

Trey Gowdy continues to be IRS Commissioner Koskinen’s worst nightmare:

Gowdy must have been one hotshot trial lawyer.

** 20 **

Andrew Klavan takes a satirical look at one of the real security concerns flowing from the Obama-manufactured border (border? what border?) crisis:

** 21 **

Moral high ground

How Iron Dome works

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Taking cover in a war zone

Carpenter Ants

Ask what you can do for your mother

Watcher’s Council nominations for July 24, 2014

Watcher's Council logoThe Watcher’s Council is voting today. These are the nominations before them. As always, it’s very, very touch to choose:

Council Submissions

Honorable Mentions

Non-Council Submissions

Wednesday afternoon round-up — the Israel edition

Israeli flagI have so many stories on Israel lined up that I’m dedicating this entire open thread to Israel issues. Here goes:

** 1 **

The mainstream media is catching on to the fact that one of the things that’s different about this war is that Israel, instead of the usual approach to war — having tight-lipped military spokesman make inscrutable pronouncements on behalf of the IDF, even as Hamas hogs the air with carefully staged dead bodies and well-coached wailing women — is finally using social media to drive its point home. (Apologies if there’s a pay wall in the way of that article.) The war will not be won on social media; it must be won on the ground. As Israel knows to her cost, though, she can lose the war if she does not garner sufficient world support.

** 2 **

Another thing that the media — in this case, the BBC — is realizing is different about this war is that Israel is united behind it. There’s no left-wing or right-wing. By striking at Israel’s heart, Hamas managed to bring all Israelis together in a common goal, namely destroying Hamas.

** 3 **

If videos are anything to go by, Israel’s young men, the ones who are marching into the booby-trapped rabbit warren of Hamas, are both embracing life and embracing the cause they fight. May God walk with each one of them:

I am reminded of Joshua and the Israelites outside the walls of Jericho.

** 4 **

Before this war, I’d never head the phrase “lone soldier,” although the concept is not new to me. A lone soldier is a person who does not live in Israel, but who travels to Israel to volunteer in her military as she fights for survival. Indeed, I knew an American who, in 1973, traveled to Israel and ended up being in one of the first tanks in the Golan. Nice guy and a very decent human being.

Currently almost 2,000 lone soldiers are serving in the IDF.

The fact that they are not Israelis has not kept these lone soldiers out of the fight. The grandson of Rite Aid’s founder was wounded, although thankfully this brave young man, who walked away from extraordinary riches into great danger, will recover. Sadly, neither Los Angeles native Max Steinberg, 24, and Texan Sean Carmeli, 21, will ever return home.

To die far away from home is a terrible thing, especially for the family and other loved ones left behind. The Israelis, fully cognizant of this tragedy, as well as grateful for the gift of people who donate their bravery, skills, energy, and heart to Israel, have hastened to repay the favor that Steinberg and Carmeli did for them:

With no family members nearby, there were concerns that the lone soldiers’ funerals wouldn’t be well attended, according to the Times of Israel. But 20,000 Israelis came to Carmeli’s funeral on Monday, and 30,000 attended Steinberg’s funeral Wednesday.

Breitbart notes that the large attendance is especially remarkable considering that the constant threat of rocket attacks on Israel makes traveling and gathering in large crowds very risky.

There is something about dying with honor that is just incredibly heart-wrenching. I’m leaking tears all over my keyboard here.

** 5 **

Hamas’s ability to penetrate Iron Dome and land a missile near Lod Airport is a terrible thing. Aside from being a war crime to target a civilian airport, it gave Obama an opportunity, more than two weeks after missiles flew into Israel non-stop, to deal Israel a telling blow: cutting off air-travel to a small nation surrounded by hostile countries.

Nevertheless, John Podhoretz says that, while this was a signal success for Hamas, there are pitfalls for it too:

Yet, while the action might have worked tactically, the targeting of Ben Gurion Airport may prove a strategic calamity for Hamas.

The fact that it was preceded by the shootdown of Flight 17 may have enhanced the terror effect inside Israel, but it also suggests a danger the international community (even the large part of it deeply hostile to Israel’s existence) must reckon with.

If Hamas is rewarded now (with a cease-fire on terms acceptable to it) for having threatened air traffic, the terrorist playbook around the world will have a new and terrifyingly low-cost go-to entry.

** 6 **

I haven’t been nice about Mayor Michael Bloomberg when it comes to soda and guns. I still disagree with him on those things, but he’s earned great admiration from me for ignoring Obama’s and Kerry’s boycott of Lod Airport and for publicly, and boldly, flying there.

** 7 **

Of course, the cost to the whole world of caving to Hamas now won’t deter Obama. Obama’s goal, his primary, overarching goal, is to end the fighting to Israel’s disadvantage. So in addition to rewarding an attack on a civilian airport he is demanding a cease-fire just as Israel begins to get some momentum.

** 8 **

The attack on Lod also ends all pretense of a two-state solution, says Alan Dershowitz (a DemProg who is a wonderful lion in Israel’s defense):

Hamas’ actions in essentially closing down international air traffic into Israel, considerably reduces the prospect of any two-state solution. Israel will now be more reluctant than ever to give up military control over the West Bank, which is even closer to Ben Gurion Airport than is Gaza.

Were Israel to end its military occupation of the West Bank—as distinguished from its civilian settlements deep in the West Bank—it would risk the possibility of a Hamas takeover. That is precisely what happened when Israel removed both its civilian settlements and its military presence in Gaza. Hamas took control, fired thousands of rockets at Israeli civilian targets and have now succeeded in stopping international air traffic into and out of Israel.

** 9 **

While the Germans have been watching the far Right, they ought to have been watching the far Left. That’s because the far Left has joined forces with German Muslims to demand that Jews be gassed. I’d like to think that ordinary Germans, who have been taught for decades that gassing Jews is a bad thing, will not let this go unaddressed.

** 10 **

Compare and contrast: Even as Hamas bombs her cities, tunnels under her homes, and kills her troops, Israel sends Hamas aid in the form of medicines and foods for civilians (or, as Hamas calls them, “future dead bodies for photo ops”). Meanwhile, even as Hamas bombs Israel’s cities, tunnels under her homes, and kills her troops, Barack Obama sends billions of dollars in hard cash to Hamas’s corrupt leadership.

** 11 **

In 2011, Hamas terrorists entered the Fogel home in Israel and murdered a family of five — mother father, an 11-year-old, a 4-year-old, and a 3-month-old. Just to to make very sure their message was clear, the terrorists decapitated the baby.

Hamas has now published photographs of the Fogel family massacre and claimed that they are recent pictures showing an Israeli massacre against a Gaza family. (Be aware that the image is graphic and deeply disturbing.) This is, quite possibly, the most revolting act of propaganda Hamas has ever committed.

** 12 **

David Goldman argues (correctly) that if Israel doesn’t finish the job now against Hamas, things will only get worse. Iron Dome will not be able to protect Lod Airport, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv once Hamas gets precision guided missiles.

The stars are also aligned now: The other Arab and Muslim nations are making no effort to back Hamas. You’ve no doubt noticed that the anti-Israel rallies have been in Paris, London, Germany, and Boston, not Egypt or Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.

Moreover, the Israeli population finally seems to have accepted that, if your enemy says “Kill my child or I’ll kill two or three or all of your children,” then you kill your enemy’s child. There is nothing else one can do. Indeed, I would argue that destroying an enemy that uses its own children as cannon fodder is the kindest thing you can do for those children in the long run.

** 13 **

Israel never forgets, though, how high the cost is to fight a soul-less enemy.  In a small country that values each individual life (as opposed to seeing people as submissive, amorphous blob to be used as the tyrants in power wish), every death is personal. Every person is a father, uncle, son, brother, boyfriend, and friend.

David Lapin

** 14 **

I don’t know if it’s possible for my hatred for the UN to increase. Is there a ceiling on deep, wide, fervent hatred for an utterly corrupt organization that, although funded primarily by America, in fact serves as an outlet for every tin-pot anti-Semitic, anti-American regime in the world? Is there a limit on contempt, disdain, and disgust for a multi-tentacled behemoth that abuses children all over the world, including Palestinian children, into whose schools the UN places weapons that are not only dangerous in and of themselves, but that also make the schools a military target? No, really, I don’t think there is a limit.

Next question:   Will the U.S. finally, finally step in and use its economic heft against the UN?  Sadly, if it hasn’t so far, I doubt it will now.  So much for “he who pays the piper calls the tune.”

** 15 **

I believe that, to the extent Palestinian citizens voted for and support Hamas, knowing that its primary tactics are (a) to hide weapons amongst civilians, especially children, and (b) to then use the resultant dead civilians as a propaganda weapon, are themselves combatants. However, not everyone voted for Hamas, and many who voted may regret their vote. Even inside the Palestinian territories there are people who support Israel.

Those freedom-loving Arabs who live in Israel are fortunate in that they don’t have to hide their sympathies. Still, it’s dangerous to be an Israel-loving Arab in any part of the world, so I can only applaud the 17-year-old Israeli Arab who speaks out so bravely in Israel’s defense.

** 16 **

Howard Stern loses his temper with an anti-Israel caller and unloads about the difference between Israel and the Palestinians. (It’s Howard Stern, so language alert.)

** 17 **

Hamas new missile defense system

Watcher’s Council Winners for July 18, 2014

Watcher's Council logoI didn’t forget to post last week’s Watcher’s Council winners.  I just got distracted.  But it’s wrong of me to deprive you of very useful information, not to mention a second chance to revisit these marvelous articles.  Also, don’t forget to check out the forum, which discusses potential technological breakthroughs in coming years.

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

Sol Giggleweed tries to weigh in on Jon Stewart’s pro-Israel bona fides — and fails spectacularly

Palestinians-Sieg-Heil--620x311Two weeks ago, I introduced you to Sol Giggleweed, a representative of DemProg passion in politics and society. I chanced to meet up with Sol today — or, more accurately, with a real human being whose views march in lockstep with Sol’s, but who doesn’t wish to have his name made public.  He’ll therefore be Sol Giggleweed in perpetuity at this blog. The topic of our very real conversation this morning was Jon Stewart and Hamas.

The conversation Sol and I had was a continuation of an earlier Jon Stewart-inspired discussion we had. It all began last week, when Jon Stewart decided to weigh in on the Israel=Hamas conflict. Stewart’s shtick was the usual “disproportionate force” argument that comes from the anti-Israel crowd: He essentially said that Israel’s warnings to civilians in advance of an attack were a fraud, since the Gazans had nowhere to run in their crowded rabbit warren of a city. Poor Gazans.

I explained a few things to Sol:   (a) Hamas routinely instructs civilians to stay in place in order to create more propaganda moments, which is the major weapon in Hamas’s arsenal; (b) Israel’s citizens had survived more than a thousand rockets in the past two weeks because Israel specifically created an infrastructure to protect them, something Hamas purposely did not do; and (c) contrary to Stewart’s implication about a lack of shelters, Gaza is riddled with perfectly good tunnels that are barred to civilians because the tunnels are for the gun-carriers, not the future telegenic dead bodies.

Sol was unimpressed.  When all was said and done, Sol’s primary argument boiled down to this: Jon Stewart is brilliant, so I believe him, not you, and certainly not the mountains of IDF evidence (videos, photographs, military images, Hamas’s own words, etc.) to the contrary.  There’s got to be some equivalency and nuance there.

I’d forgotten about that conversation, but today Sol contacted me, chortling gleefully about the fact that Jon Stewart, “showed them.”

I not unreasonably inquired, “Jon Stewart showed what to whom?”

“He showed the conservatives like you, the ones that think the IDF is the only voice to listen to. He showed them that they’re wrong.”

Sol then told me to check out this video footage, only the first couple of minutes of which are relevant:

“See,” said Sol. “See, Jon Stewart knows what you guys are saying. He’s aware of you.”

“Yeah, Sol, I see. But what’s your argument?”

“Jon Stewart,” he replied, “is showing that there’s nuance there. Because both sides are mad at him, he’s subtly telling the audience that it’s not clear-cut. Both sides have valid arguments.”

“So you’re saying that there’s an equivalence between Israel, the only free, democratic, pluralist society in the Middle East, and Hamas, an anti-Semitic, misogynistic, homophobic, anti-American, anti-Christian entity that’s so bad even Egypt hates it?  And that this equivalence exists because both sides are willing to argue their cause against anyone who isn’t clearly siding with them?”

“No, I’m not saying that at all. After all, I emailed you that Wall Street Journal article about Hamas tactics. But there are other views than just the one the IDF says. You’re so judgmental and narrow-minded that you won’t listen to anything at all. If it doesn’t come from your right-wing blogosphere, you just dismiss it.  Jon Stewart listens to everything and he’s subtle, not dogmatic.”

Being a closed-minded right-wing wacko, I felt free to ignore Sol’s premise about my closed-mindedness.

“Sol, in many cases, there are nuances and sides. But in some cases, there’s just pure evil and you are complicit with evil if you do not reject them entirely. For example, would you argue that, in the fight between the Allies and the Nazis, there was nuance?”

Sol bridled. “Don’t be stupid. Hamas isn’t the Nazis.”

“Okay, tell me one thing that makes Hamas different from the Nazis.”

“Are you kidding?” Sol smirked. “You want me to compare Hamas to the Nazis?”

“I’m not kidding,” I answered. “I want you to tell me how Hamas is different from the Nazis.”

“Really, you want me to tell you how Hamas is different from the Nazis?”

“Yes, that’s what I’m asking you to do. And I’ve got to take something off the stove top, so you can think about it while I’m doing that. I’ll be back in five minutes.”

Five minutes later, I announced, “I’m back. Now you can tell me what’s different between Hamas and the Nazis.”

“This is stupid. You can write pages about things that are different between Hamas and the Nazis,” a now very ruffled Sol told me.

“I’m not asking for pages. Just tell me one thing.”

“Really? Really! You really want me to tell you one thing that’s different between Hamas and the Nazis?”

“Yeah. And let me clarify. It can’t be something like ‘The Nazis were Germans and Hamas is Arab.’ Or ‘Hamas is Muslim and the Nazis weren’t.’ Or ‘Hamas isn’t engaged in a world war’ (although it would certainly like to be). You have to tell me about one thing that differs in the basic values between those two organizations.”

“That’s easy,” Sol finally replied. “Hamas doesn’t have concentration camps and it didn’t start a world war.”

“Not tactics,” Sol, I sighed. “I was talking about values. You know, principles, like anti-Semitism or homophobia or genocidal desires or the lust for world domination. Things like that.”

Sol snapped, “This conversation is stupid.  Jon Stewart is brilliant and you’re just being dogmatic.” And then he hung up on me.

It was only after our little talk had ended that I realized that there was one difference between Hamas and the Nazis, and that it didn’t reflect well on Hamas: the Nazis revered their women.

Let me say again what I tried to impress upon Sol Giggleweed, a smart man who is so in thrall to moral relativism that he has lost his moral compass: While there are many disputes in which both sides are roughly equal, not necessarily on the battlefield, but at the ideological level (e.g., the equally evil sides in Syria), there are some circumstances in which one side is irredeemably and completely evil, while the other is not. In that battle, we should support the less evil side, even if it is only marginally less evil.

Thankfully, that’s not the case with Israel.  That is, we don’t have to choose between evil and somewhat less evil.  Israel, unlike all other nations in history, is struggling to fight an existential war with a moral standard so exquisite it runs the risk of being self-defeating.

It’s easy to support Israel.  All people of true good will should recognize that, in the fight between, on the one hand, an entity that has less going for it even than the Nazis and, on the other hand, a nation that is incomparable in the care it brings to protecting non-combatants (indeed, it cares much more than the U.S. and Barack “I choose who dies” Obama), there is no room for nuance or relativism. Israel wins hands down, and anyone who takes a contrary position is a moron and a moral midget.

Tuesday mid-day round-up and Open Thread

Victorian posy of pansiesI’m having an existential anxiety day, which has seen me reading compulsively, but scared to write. In my little lizard brain, as long as I just read the news, it’s distant and abstract. It’s the act of processing and disseminating the information that makes it seem all too real, and therefore all too worrisome and depressing. On the other hand, this same brain being what it is, writing also clears my circuits, rather than clogging them up with situations about which I can do little but write. So, here goes:

** 1 **

For years, when it comes to Hamas, Netanyahu has been more talk than action. I don’t actually fault him. He’s spent most of his premiership hampered by the dubious, two-faced friendship Obama has offered him from America, the country that used to be Israel’s staunchest ally. The Obama-created pitfalls made any action against Hamas much riskier than ever before.

More than that, Israel is a country in which every active duty soldier or combat reservist is someone’s father, boyfriend, son, brother, uncle, and friend. The situation is different in America, a place where we support our volunteer troops in the abstract, with many of us not having any meaningful relationship with even one of them. Were it not for my involvement in the Navy League, I would go through every day of my life here in Marin without ever having met a member of our armed forces. This means that, in Israel, every combat death isn’t just a number; instead, it’s truly, deeply personal.

Two things have happened, however, to shift the calculus for Netanyahu.  First, Obama has marginalized himself so completely that Netanyahu no longer heeds him. Congress and the American public support Israel, so Bibi can act with reasonable confidence that snubbing Obama will have no lasting consequences. Second, Hamas is no longer fighting along Israel’s borders. Instead, between rockets and tunnels, the home front is the battle field. This means that, no matter how one slices it, Israelis will die — and if there’s one lesson Jews took away from WWII, it is that they will never again die without a fight.

All of which is why, when I read Ron Lipman’s article asking how far has Netanyahu been provoked, I finally believe that he has been provoked to the point at which he and Israel will fight this one through to its necessary conclusion.

** 2 **

Certainly, if newspaper opinion pieces are anything to go by, many Israelis would prefer to stand and fight than to hide, cower, and die.

** 3 **

In the face of a battle between good and evil, moral equivalence isn’t neutral. Instead, it’s evil too.

Nicholas Kristof, trying to be loftily impartial in the fight between Israel (free, democratic, pluralist, law-abiding, humane, life affirming) and Hamas (death loving, misogynistic, anti-Christian, anti-homosexual, anti-Semitic, slaver), gives succor to evil. Ron Radosh rightly calls Kristof out.

** 4 **

Hamas has guidelines for talking to the Kristoffs of this world. Under these guidelines, everyone who dies is an “innocent civilian.” This kind of propaganda works too. One of the truly well-intentioned, but deeply misguided uber-liberal friends I keep on purpose on Facebook (so that I can see and politely, very politely, challenge him and his friends) is up in arms about Israel using flechettes against Hamas. He cannot accept that this claim, like everything else, is almost certainly false, coming as it does from the sadistic fun house world of Hamas.

For what it’s worth, it certainly seems as if the New York Times is taking those Hamas guidelines to heart.

** 5 **

Here are two strong articles arguing that the people of Gaza, by knowingly electing a terrorist organization and one, moreover, that they knew used civilians as shields and their dead bodies as propaganda weapons, are no longer civilians but are, instead, combatants themselves. Although their job as combatants isn’t to fight, but just to die, they’re still part of the Hamas terrorist army and should be understood as such.

The first article is by Thane Rosenbaum and is behind the WSJ pay wall. Please read it if you can. The second is by Andrew McCarthy and, because it’s at PJ Media, you can read it freely.

** 6 **

If Hamas had put even a fraction of the energy and resources it used to construct tunnels, not a single one of its citizens would have had to have died when Israel responded to its provocations. But of course, if Hamas was interested in its citizens, as opposed to interested in destroying Israel and killing every one of her inhabitants, it wouldn’t be building any tunnels in the first place.

** 7 **

It’s not worth more than a sentence to say that the UN is complicit with Hamas. There, I’ve said it. It’s dog bites man stuff.

** 8 **

David Bernstein applies the right word to the attacks on synagogues in Europe: pogroms.

** 9 **

And here’s yet another excellent article about the fallacy of proportionality in the fight between Israel and Hamas.

** 10 **

** 11 **

Yes, the D.C. Circuit court really did say that it’s not responsible for re-writing a clear passage in Obamacare, even if the passage, as written, guts Obamacare. As a lawyer, I can say definitively that the court is correct. If the passage was ambiguous, the court would have leeway. Given how explicit it is, though, that’s the end of the argument. This is the rule of law writ large — the legislature must be presumed to have meant what it said:

Core of ruling re Obamacare

Per today’s order, the law means that there are no subsidies (nor mandates) for federally created exchanges. The biggest worry now is that Harry Reid, after having destroyed the filibuster in the Senate, will rush hard-Left judges on the D.C. Circuit appellate panel to resurrect the subsidies under federally-created exchanges.

You can read a more detailed analysis of the ruling here. Please note the first sentence: “A federal appellate court dealt a severe blow to Obamacare today, and in so doing scored a victory for the rule of law, the separation of powers, and the idea that words matter.” To which I say, exactly!

Likewise, Heritage legal analysis Elizabeth Slattery also discusses the ramifications of the Court’s decision, should it stand.

The White House, of course, has no room in its world for the Rule of Law, never mind that, as Daniel Hannan explained, the Rule of Law is the foundation of freedom.

The epitaph to Obamacare may end up being “Legislate in haste; repent at leisure.”

** 12 **

I devoutly hope that David Weigel is correct and that the campaign to have Elizabeth Warren run for president is all smoke and mirrors. I neither like nor trust that woman, based both on having been one of her students and on her conduct and speeches since she burst onto the national political scene.

Of course, DemProg pundits are also dissing Hillary’s candidacy. Maybe these guys are genuinely worried about Warren and Hillary as potential candidates or else they’re trying to take the heat off both women so that they can prepare in dead earnest for the real fight in 2015/2016. Ace, for one, doesn’t think Hillary’s campaign is anywhere near its end.

** 13 **

Also, all the hiding in the world won’t protect Hillary from signs such as this one, spotted when Hillary was at a bookstore signing in Connecticut:

Hillary and her security team

** 14 **

Two articles about Malaysian Airlines Flight 17:

Mark Steyn, in one of his most insightful posts, explains why to understand Israel is to understand Ukraine, and vice versa.

Tom Nichols explains why the attack on the plane has the Russians running scared.

** 15 **

The purge is complete. ISIS has driven the last Christian out of Mosul. Surprisingly enough (NOT), all the usual idiots who still huff and puff about Palestinians who lost land during a war they started in 1948 are completely silent about this.

(Also, if you have access to the Wall Street Journal, there’s more behind the pay wall.)

** 16 **

I don’t usually comment on local weather here, but I’m hoping that the thunderstorm that passed through the Bay Area last night is a sign that El Nino is kicking in and that California (or at least some of California) will have a wet winter.

The one thing I don’t see the storm presaging is more global warming. Indeed, if one looks at raw climate data, it’s apparent that California, rather than being bedeviled by global warming, has been cooling rather consistently.

** 17 **

Michael Tanner explains why the primarily Democrat-supported War on Poverty (although the GOP has had its paws all over this one too) is more aptly titled a “War on Work”:

** 18 **

Daniel Hannan looks at the Orwellian twist on the word “diversity” when placed in Leftist hands.

** 19 **

I’m a bit late to this party, but apparently I was waiting for Megan McArdle’s wonderful outrage regarding the story of the Mom arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to play in a safe park without a parent nearby.

I posted this article on my real-me Facebook, along with the fact that, when I was 9, I routinely walked a couple of miles to and from school by myself.  I was then inundated by similar stories from my liberal friends.  I keep hoping stories such as this one will get them to think after government encroachment in their lives.

** 20 **

We Americans are being bullied back into the Stone Age because of our allgedly excessive CO2 output, which we are told is causing unabated global warming (except, see above about California’s big chill, when it’s not). I wonder if the climate fascists will change their minds if they learn that humankind accounts for only 3.75% of atmospheric CO2.

Frankly, I’d already figured out that, while man can affect his immediate environment to the point of total destruction (strip-mining, extinct dodos and mammoths), nature as a whole is still far vaster and infinitely more reactive than we are.

** 21 **

With all due respect to those who don the blue uniform and are prepared to put their lives on the line to protect us, there have been too many stories lately about militarized, arrogant, disrespectful, violent police authorities for me to be an unalloyed fan anymore of our police forces. Nevertheless, Jack Dunphy makes a good case for the fact that there are times when something that looks violent and disrespectful may not be.

** 22 **

After being outraged about getting caught in two traffic traps in as many days (a red-light camera tagged me even though I was moving on yellow and pedestrian sting), I decided to be philosophical and view the tickets as the universe telling me I need to slow down and stop cutting driving corners. Here’s a good public safety message along those same lines:

** 23 **

And for something joyous:

** 24 **

Hamas takes over hospital

140 rockets a day

Hamas doesn't understand ceasefire

IRS and the truth

IRS lies

Deja Poo

The plague of passwords

Passwords may soon be obsolete, thanks to two-factor authentication.  Until then, please enjoy this joke that Earl forwarded to me:

Senior trying to set a password

WINDOWS: Please enter your new password.

USER: cabbage

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password must be more than 8 characters.

USER: boiled cabbage

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password must contain 1 numerical character.

USER: 1 boiled cabbage

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password cannot have blank spaces.

USER: 50bloodyboiled cabbages

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password must contain at least one upper case character.

USER: 50BLOODYboiledcabbages

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password cannot use more than one upper case character consecutively.

USER: 50BloodyBoiledCabbagesShovedUpYourAssIfYouDon’tGiveMeAccessNow!

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password cannot contain punctuation.

USER: ReallyPissedOff50BloodyBoiledCabbagesShovedUpYourAssIfYouDontGiveMeAccessNow

WINDOWS: Sorry, that password is already in use.

Daniel Hannan goes to the heart of things, praising the rule of law

Daniel HannanAs I said, today I got to hear Daniel Hannan speak as part of promoting his new book, Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World. I have my autographed copy in hand, and am look forward reading it. To the extent Hannan’s talk was a preview of his book, I know I’m going to like it, and then drive everyone crazy by quoting from it all the time.

For those who don’t know, Daniel Hannan is a British representative at the European Union. He shot to fame amongst conservatives in America thanks to this video:

Before I get to the substance of Hannan’s way-too-brief talk, let me say that the video does not lie. He is a slim, neat looking man, who is enormously articulate in a way only the British seem to be. His grammar and diction are perfect, his Biblical and historic references fluent, his fund of knowledge vast, and his narrative organized and impassioned in a polite, classy way. When I spoke with him briefly after the luncheon, he was endearingly thoughtful and charming. I was probably one of 75 people to whom he spoke, and yet I felt he was giving me his full attention and seriously considering my point.

In his talk, Hannan’s core issue was a surprisingly simple one: He asserts that the Rule of Law’s primacy in the Anglo-American sphere is the basis for the freedom and prosperity that led these two nations to dominate the world, seriatim, for centuries.  More than asserting that, he made his case supporting this assertion.  And yes, as a lawyer and a Jew, I was inclined to agree with him from the get-go.

The Anglo-American reverence for law goes back 799 years to Runnymede in England, 1215. That’s when the English barons, fed up with charmless King John’s monarchical excesses, forced him to sign the Magna Carta.

The Magna Carta is the first writing ever that holds that there are abstract legal principles inherent in the individual that transcend even the king himself. Even when one remembers that these inherent principles were written so as to apply only to a very small band of high lords, this was still the moment that led directly to America’s Bill of Rights.  That document also states that there are inherent legal principles that protect against their government, the difference being that those rights extend to all people, not just the privileged few.

No wonder then, said Hannan,that Lord Denning described the Magna Carta as “the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot.” It is this supreme achievement, Hannan added, that is the “shared patrimony” of English-speaking people. “This is our Torah.”

Because the law by its very existence frees people from tyranny, it is the foundation of everything else that has elevated the Anglo-American sphere (including former colonies) above the rest of the world. It leads to true democracy, the eventual end of slavery, free markets, equality, and, indeed, every right one can imagine in our world.

Unfortunately, too many people take the rule of law for granted. Indeed, many think it is the natural state of things. It’s not. The natural state of things is the autocrat, the tyrant, the oligarch, or (something striking increasingly close to home) the dictatorship of the administrative state.

Nor is it easy to spread these ideas. To the extent they exist at all, they have been spread by occupation or military conquest. It turns out that, in most places, an iron fist was necessary to put the tools of liberty in place. (As an aside, the value of the rule of law explains why, as Niall Ferguson argued in Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power, all of Britain’s former colonies are the most successful places in their region or on earth.)

Interestingly, Hannan says that Americans value the Magna Carta much more than do the Brits. In Runnymede (which is part of Hannan’s constituency), the first monument appeared only in 1957 — after the American Bar Association paid to erect it.

Amazingly, considering the document’s age, England has four original copies of the Magna Carta.  No one, however, seems to care much. When Hannan took his children to see the one in Lincoln, it was just hanging on the wall, there were no lines, and it was easy to stand right in front of it, so as to admire the medieval parchment, writing, and seals.

By contrast, when that same copy of the Magna Carta came to New York in 1939 for the World’s Fair, almost 14.5 million Americans went to see it. Moreover, in a marvelously symbolic way, because the war started before the Americans could return Magna Carta to its home country, that seminal document spent the war safely stowed away in Fort Knox.

Showing a greater knowledge of California history and politics than most people, Hannan said that California could easily have gone another way, away from the Anglo-American sphere. It was, of course, part of Spain before America got it, but Russia also wanted it. In 1806, Count Nicolai Rezanov wooed and almost won the daughter of the Spanish garrison commander in Monterey, something that would have cemented a Russian-Spanish alliance in the Western half of the new world. It was only Rezanov’s failure to return from Russia to claim the maiden’s hand (he died en route in Siberia) that prevented this event.

Even that marriage, however, might not have been enough to stop the spread of the Anglo-American rule of law across the American continent. As England herself discovered in 1776, in a pre-industrial age it’s terribly difficult for a centralized power to exert supreme control over a far-flung empire. This is especially true when the people living in those far-flung parts are independent minded.

In some places, of course, conquerors simply substituted themselves at the top of an existing power structure. In the new world, however, Hannan pointed out that free-spirited, freedom-loving settlers set out on their own to claim territory. Once they settled in, they applied the rule of law, quickly creating strong, functioning communities. This proved to be the best way to build a society from the ground up: the organic growth of free people subject to the rule of law.

For a microcosm of the two different types of governance, Hannan contrasted Silicon Valley and Sacramento. One is a dynamic creative hub, the other a sclerotic administrative entity that exists to fund itself in perpetuity (something both political parties are guilty of doing). In other words, said Hannan, “governments are pension providers, not service providers.”

Hannan then focused on the nature of government itself: How is it that well-intentioned people go into government, but nothing changes? He said that what they discover once they get to the halls of power is that the buttons and levers assigned to them are illusory. The un-elected functionary is the real power.

Given this depressing state of things, with the Western world moving quickly to administrative autocracies, how, Hannan asked rhetorically, do we repair things? The first step, he said, is for us to remember who we are. We — the Anglo-American world built upon the rule of law – are a wonder and a miracle, and we need to recognize that in order to preserve it.

Because this is California, Hannan offered a wine analogy: When Europeans first came to America, they brought their grape cuttings with them and planted wonderful vineyards that grew and thrived. Then, in the 19th century, a terrible blight destroyed European vineyards. To recover them, the Europeans had to come to America and bring cuttings from those heritage plants back home.

England brought her cuttings to America in the form of ideas. She’s now lost many of those ideas at home, but can look to America to reclaim them. Moreover, she can recognize that they’ve gotten better here — just as we pay $5 for a bottle of wine better than Louis XIV could ever have imagined.

That last fact recognizes the spectacular achievement of the free market. When law is king, a society prospers and innovates. People have stability, reliability, rights in property, etc., and that encourages creation and innovation, not to mention more affordable things — all types of things — for all people.

Hannan had a very simple example of the miracle of the law-based free market: a can of baked beans for $1. That can represents the coming together of so many things: the farmer, the loggers who cut the wood used for the label, the paper makers, the label printers, the mine for the metal used in the can, the smelting plant that made the can, the factory that cooked and canned the beans, the transportation that brought all these items together and then brought them to market, and the retailer who eventually sells it to you . . . all for $1.

This can of beans is a miracle, and we need to appreciate it and value it in order to preserve it. Moreover, the Left has never, not even once, put forward an idea or a behavior that has benefited so many people as the ideas and behaviors that came together in that single can of tasty nutrition.

Hannan wrapped up his speech there and opened the floor to a few questions. The first question was about China. Hannan does not foresee a good outcome there. Demographically, not only does it lack girls, it lacks youth. Like Japan and most of Europe, it will soon be a top-heavy nation with millions of old people relying on a small number of young people for support. Moreover, since it’s not a free nation, there will be no debate about how to deal with this problem. The Party’s heavy-hand will do something, and it probably won’t be nice.

If China could be given a rule of law and true freedom, she’d be unstoppable. Look at Hong Kong and Singapore, said Hannan. Both of these former British colonies are spectacularly successful and economically free.

The next question went to Hannan’s own identity. It’s a little-known fact that he was born in Peru, and first went to England to attend boarding school. This meant that he got to see both cultures side by side. In the England of his youth (a youth during the Thatcher era), what wasn’t barred was allowed. What you owned you kept. The NHS notwithstanding, it was still a legal system for individuals, not the state.

In Peru, what’s not permitted is disallowed. You hold the land on sufferance from the government (sounds feudal, doesn’t it?).

On the subject of the UKIP, Hannan said the best way to think of it is to imagine that the Tea Party became a genuine third party. There are some extremists in it, but mostly it’s a party that wants to hew to free markets, individual liberty, etc. That’s why the Left hates it and the Conservatives (just like the GOP with respect to the Tea Party) want to destroy it.

Things can get very bad in England if the Conservatives refuse to embrace UKIP.  This is so because, when a single party splits in two, rather than getting twice as many votes, each gets half as many, leaving power to the party on the opposite side of the aisle. In England, if Conservatives and UKIP combine, they have a clear majority; if they fight it out, the smaller Labour party sweeps the elections. (The GOP should, but won’t, pay attention to this.)

On the subject of energy, Hannan says that there is a vast shale reserve under his own constituency in south-eastern England. However, unlike America, which has vertical rights, the British did not own the land under their property. Since oil recovery can be a messy, noisy prospect, no one has an incentive to engage in it. Only with some ownership rights will they be willing to drill.

Finally, Hannan addressed how he, an individualist, can sit in the EU, the ultimate administrative, top-down, undemocratic body. For one thing, he explained, he is not simply defined by one thing. One can simultaneously be a member of the EU and work to limit its power.  More than that, to the extent the EU is a representative body, he should represent those who don’t like the EU. He admitted, though, that this is an uncomfortable situation for him, especially given that the British still have a vestigial sense of law and individual freedom, while the Europeans fear individual decision-makers (after all, individuals elected Hitler and Mussolini) and have endless faith in the power of elite technocrats.

Lastly, as I mentioned at the top of this post, I had a brief word with Hannan when he signed the book. Interestingly enough, while driving into the City, Charles Martel and I had spoken about the Leftist march through institutions. One of my points was that conservatives made that march easy because, by definition, conservatives are suspicious of institutions. A person who values individualism and liberty is not about to embrace an institution that invariably leads to its opposite. By instinctively retreating from those institutions, however, conservatives created a vacuum that the Left gleefully filled.

Since Hannan had spoken about the reason a conservative would enter the EU, I suggested that, if he’s asked that question again, he should add that he’s countering the Leftist march through institutions by filling a seat that would otherwise have gone to someone hungering for even more technocratic, bureaucratic power. Hannan really listened to me, and explained that he agrees with me, but that the few conservatives in the EU all speak about the soul-searing difficulty of functioning in that organization. To counter it, every year he organizes a holiday for all of them during which they contribute labor to a charitable organization (building houses for the poor, etc.).

I went in to the luncheon speech expecting to be impressed, and I left . . . impressed. Daniel Hannan is doing what he can to resurrect in the American soul a reverence for the rule of Law and all the benefits that flow from that. It’s up to us to do what we can to spread that idea further.

And one other thing:  Hannan’s talk gave me an insight into why Bush’s efforts to bring freedom to Iraq ultimately failed (with Obama simply adding to that failure when he created the power vacuum into which ISIS marched).  Bush made the mistake of thinking that democracy equals freedom.  In fact, democracy equals the right to vote.  The Soviets all voted.  I remember how the Soviet leadership always boasted that they were a true democracy, unlike America, because they had a 100% turnout in every election, unlike our puny two-digit numbers.  But they were not free.

Giving Iraqis the right to vote was not the same as creating a stable Angl0-American legal system within which they could thrive.  Of course, considering that sharia is a stable legal system, although a terribly repressive and punitive one, it’s doubtful if anyone, even someone with a better understanding of law’s relationship to freedom and stability, could have succeeded in Iraq.  As we have all had reason to learn, the Anglo-American system, which is individual-centric, does not exist in the same universe as sharia, which subordinates the individual completely to the cruel and autocratic will of the long-dead Mohamed.