People worry that rather than catching bad guys, the Obama administration will use the info it gathers to create bad guys

One of the things that characterizes the rule of law is that it applies equally to all citizens.  The rich man’s son who vandalizes a shop is prosecuted as vigorously as the poor man’s son who does the same.  That the rich man’s son can afford a good lawyer is the random luck of life.  America can provide equality of opportunity, but nothing, not even socialism, can guarantee equality of outcome.  The important thing for purposes of the rule of law is that the law doesn’t give the rich man’s son a pass.

The rule of law also has to be grounded in common sense and reality.  That’s why Anatole France was being nonsensical when he famously said “In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.” The reality is that a rich man, unless crazy, does none of those things — but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the law is unfair if societal good demands that we value property or try to keep streets safe for all citizens. The law is what it is. In the case of theft, vagrancy, and begging, it isn’t the law that should change but, perhaps, the availability of opportunities and, as needed, charity.

Common sense has long-dictated, at least since 9/11, that the best way to stop terrorism directed at Americans is to keep a close eye on people, especially men, who practice a strict form of Islam and on disaffected young men who take psychotropic drugs.  These two categories of people have been responsible for almost all, or maybe all, of the mass killings against Americans over the last decade and more.

When it comes to the mentally ill, we keep talking about monitoring them, but we don’t do it.  Lack of political will, lack of political and social organization, civil rights issues, and the fact that it’s more fun to rail against guns than against insane people (poor things) means that this won’t change any time soon.

Even worse, our government has made the “politically correct” decision to refuse to monitor with extra focus those young men who embrace radical Islam (e.g., the Tsarnaevs or Nidal Hassan).  It’s not fair, we’re told.  Profiling will make law-abiding Muslims (and the vast majority of Muslims in America are law-abiding) uncomfortable.  It’s racist and mean to assume that, because someone is Arab-looking, and sweating, and smelling of rose water, and murmuring “Allahu Akbar” under his breath to think that he’s up to a bit of no good — never mind that, when the bomb goes off or the plane falls from the sky, any Muslims in the area will be just as dead as their non-Muslim compatriots.

Heck, we’ve allowed minority groups to prey on each other for decades for fear of causing offense.  The number one target of violent, young, black and Hispanic males is . . . violent, young, black and Hispanic males, followed closely by all the hapless black and Hispanic children, old people, mothers, and fathers who have to share communities with these monsters of violence.  Because it looks bad for white police to go after these monsters, their communities must suffer.  The Gods of Political Correctness delight in human sacrifices, and the younger, more innocent, and more tender the better.

Americans therefore fully understand that our government, for “diversity,” or “multicultural,” or “politically correct” reasons (all of those terms speak to the same end), absolutely refuses to look first at the obvious suspects (young, radical Muslim men) before casting its net wide to sweep in people who are trying to avoid capture by looking less obvious.  It’s not likely that the Minnesota granny has a bomb in her brassiere, but it’s possible.  A good national security system doesn’t assume that anyone is innocent, but it does concentrate its resources where they make they most sense.

So here’s the deal with the NSA spying:  We know with some certainty that, for Leftist political reasons, the NSA is not making an effort to scrutinize the population most likely to go all “Allahu Akbar” on us.  Instead, for politically correct reasons, it’s spying on everyone.  In essence, it’s creating a haystack of information, with extra paddings of politically correct, multiculturalist hay wrapped around any spot where a needle might hide.

If politics means that the system won’t look for the obvious bad guys, what is it looking for then?  Well, I suspect that what’s going to happen is that the system will be used to look for easy targets.  Things that are neither criminal nor suspicious, but that pop up nevertheless, will suddenly be scrutinized because they’re there.  It will be the surveillance equivalent of “If the mountain won’t come to Mohamed, then Mohamed must come to the mountain.”  Since the NSA can’t focus its efforts on finding real criminals, it will engage in some flexible thinking and criminalize whatever activity it sees.  And — voila! — it will therefore justify its bureaucratic existence and purpose.  That the country will lose its identity and the people their freedom is a small price to pay for bureaucratic immortality.

Hollywood may inform Obama’s Washington more than we realize — all theater, no substance

Sometimes one reads something and thinks “That’s it!  That explains what’s been going on.”

I do believe that Elliott Abrams is on to something when he discusses the administration’s approach to Syria, and his point is much larger than the already ugly fact that the president may have misspoken American right into a war.  (Which kind of makes Bush’s gaffes, malapropisms, and linguistic mangles seem a whole lot less significant, right?)

Abrams points out that the New York Times report revealing that Obama’s red line was an ad lib, and a dangerous one at that, also reveals that the White House never actually had a plan.  Here’s what the Times reports:

Mr. Obama’s advisers also raised legal issues. “How can we attack another country unless it’s in self-defense and with no Security Council resolution?” another official said, referring to United Nations authorization. “If he drops sarin on his own people, what’s that got to do with us?”

But they concluded that drawing a firm line might deter Mr. Assad. In addition to secret messages relayed through Russia, Iran and other governments, they decided that the president would publicly address the matter.

After a detour to note how ironic it is that the same President who established an “Atrocities Prevention Board” a few months ago (“‘never again’ is a challenge to nations”) now has people saying “What do we care?”, Abrams gets down to the nitty-gritty of Obama’s approach to foreign policy — it’s all theater:

Second, the issue of bluffing. It is noteworthy in the Times story that the administration officials were dealing with words, with lines, with messages—never it seems with tougher decisions about actions. This is of course a huge mistake, as just about everyone now acknowledges, though how it comes to be made in year five of an administration is more mysterious.

Abrams contrasts this superficiality — figuring out how to sell an attitude, without having an actual attitude — with what went on under Reagan when the Soviet Union wanted to send advanced fighter planes to Nicaragua.  Abrams was the assistant secretary of state for Latin America, so it was up to him to read formally to his Soviet counterpart the administration’s stand:  “there was a unanimous view that we would not permit Russia to put advanced combat jets into Nicaragua and change the power balance that had existed in the region since the Cuban missile crisis. Everyone agreed.”

That’s what played out in the world.  But what Abrams remembers is that this is also what played out behind closed doors:

But what preceded such talking points was the NSC meeting. There, after everyone said yes, let’s deliver that message, James Baker spoke up. As I recall it, Baker said something like this: Look, we are not agreeing here on sending a message. We are agreeing now that if they act, we will act. We’re not going to come back here in a month or three months or six months and say, gee, now what do we do? If you are agreeing on taking this line and sending this message to the Soviets, you are agreeing now, today, that if they put those jets in, we will take them out. That’s what we are agreeing. Today.

Although Abrams says he wasn’t then and isn’t now a Baker fan, he was then and is now a fan of that type of sober, realistic thinking.  Abrams’ conclusion about the administration’s hollow, theatrical approach to the rapidly unfolding disaster in Syria applies with equal force to every single foreign policy situation Obama has faced.  As you read the words below, think not only about Syria, but about Libya, the Arab Spring, the Israeli/Palestinian debacles, etc.:

It seems there was no one at these Obama administration meetings wise or experienced enough to say “Hold on, what do we do when they call the bluff?” My boss back in the Reagan years, Secretary of State Shultz, was, like Baker, an ex-Marine and a serious guy. At these White House meetings on Syria this year and last, was there one serious guy? Seems not, and seems that that problem has not been solved.

Sheldon Adelson: Put aside social conservativism to reclaim America

I promise that this post will be about what Sheldon Adelson had to say in an interview with Alana Goodman of Commentary Magazine.  Before I get there, though, I need to begin with a little story of my own.

Readers of my newsletter know that I had lunch last week with seven other conservative women here in Marin.  We had all found each other more or less by accident, not because any of us in Marin have proudly worn our conservativism in the open (our kids would be ostracized if we did), but because we listened for the little clues in their words that hinted at a conservative orientation.  We then risked exposing ourselves by asking, “Uh, are you by any chance  . . . um, you know, conserva-mumble, mumble, mumble?”

That shyness, of course, was before the last election.  Since the 2012 election, we’ve all made a vow to each other to be more open about our political identity and to challenge liberals who lead with unfounded conclusions that demonize conservatives and their beliefs or that confer saintly virtues on Obama and his cadre.

Interestingly, the eight of us were a microcosm of conservative views, ranging from fiscally conservative but socially liberal conservatives all the way to both fiscally and socially conservatives.  Our common denominator, of course, was fiscal conservativism. Dig deeper, and there were two other common denominators:  an abiding belief in the Constitution’s continued relevance to modern America and a fierce devotion to individual liberty.

Where we differed was (a) gay marriage and (b) abortion.  With regard to abortion, we did have one overarching point of agreement, which was that abortion is not a federal issue and should therefore be returned to the states.  When it came to gay marriage, all of us were willing to recognize gay unions, but we differed about whether the answer is to declare gay marriage the law of the land or, instead, to preserve marriage for religious institutions, while making civil unions across the board (both straight and gay) the law of the land.  As regular readers know, I hew to the second view, which acknowledges human relationships and state goals, without interfering in any way with religious freedom.

I walked away from the lunch realizing as clearly as I ever have that the strong fiber weaving us together is fiscal conservativism and individual liberty.  The frayed strands at the edges are what are commonly called “social issues.”

The Democrats, recognizing that the quickest way to shred a piece of fabric is to tear at the frayed edges, rather than to try to destroy the sturdy center, worked hard during the election to blow the gay-marriage and abortion dog whistles.  As the race in Missouri showed, social conservativism is a political landmine that routinely explodes in the face of struggling Republican candidates.  Todd Akin could have won that race if he hadn’t been asked about abortion.  When thinking about Akin’s repulsive and misinformed answer, which provided a solid Progressive rallying cry, don’t forget Richard Mourdock. His experience proves that, even if Akin had given a principled pro-Life answer, he still would have been pilloried and destroyed.

I’m a big believer that, when it comes to social issues, culture drives politics, rather than politics driving culture.  For the past forty years, social liberals have been planted very firmly in the driver’s seat.  They have infiltrated both media and education, which has given them the chance to shape a generation’s social views.  They have sensitized this generation’s ears so that the dog whistles most people under 55 hear the loudest aren’t “debt” or “fiscal cliff” or “responsibility,” but are, instead, “women haters,” “homophobes” and “racists.”

What this cultural transformation means is that, in the short term, conservatives can win on the fiscal side (and, possibly, on the individual liberties side) because people haven’t been deafened by decades of dog whistles on those subjects.  Until we take back the culture, though, which we do exactly the same way the Left did — namely, a slow march through the culture — we will invariably lose on social issues.  Significantly as the most recent election shows, losing on social issues inevitably means losing on all issues.

Now, finally, have established my premise about the way in which social issues invariably play against conservatives in national elections, I can get to Sheldon Adelson’s interview in Commentary Magazine.  For purposes of this essay, Sheldon Adelson is important for three reasons.  First, he is a conservative who is willing to put his money where his mouth is (unlike Warren Buffet, a true-to-form liberal who wants to put other people’s money where his mouth is).  The second reason Adelson is important is that, after his emergence as a money-player in this election, the Left has worked as hard to demonize him as they did to demonize the Koch Brothers and Mitt Romney.  And the third reason is that Sheldon Adelson agrees with me that conservatives cannot win on social issues:

For someone whose name and face were a regular staple of the election coverage, the public does have many misconceptions about Adelson. His liberal social views rarely received media attention during the campaign season, though he’s certainly never hidden them.

“See that paper on the wall?” he asked, gesturing toward a poster with rows of names on it. “That is a list of some of the scientists that we give a lot of money to conduct collaborative medical research, including stem cell research. What’s wrong if I help stem cell research? I’m all in favor. And if somebody wants to have an abortion, let them have an abortion,” he said.

[snip]

Adelson has not said whether he will use his influence to try to change the GOP internally. But he does believe social issues cost the Republicans the last election.

“If we took a softer stance on those several issues, social issues, that I referred to, then I think that we would have won the most recent election,” he said. “I think people got the impression that Republicans didn’t care about certain groups of people.”

You should definitely read the whole interview.

Adelson is precisely what my self-admitted conservative friends are:  fiscally conservative, socially fairly liberal, very receptive to legal immigration (because a nation, for health, national security, and economic reasons should control its own borders), and supportive of Israel.  What’s funny, though, is that Adelson is also pretty close in actual outlook to all the upscale, white collar liberals I know who reflexively vote Democrat because of the conservative issues.  These people are also fiscally conservative in their own lives; they what their country safe and fiscally sound for their children; they like immigrants but recognize that illegal immigrants pose risks both for American citizens and legal, Green Card immigrants; and they like Israel’s values.

The problem at the ballot box is that, after forty years of Leftist indoctrination, these educated liberals are unable to harmonize their values with their politics.  Despite recognizing the wisdom of fiscal management in their own homes, they think a state can survive indefinitely by spending more than it takes in; despite training their children in self-reliance, they believe that we should destroy self-reliance in “the poor”; despite believing that people should be able to protect themselves and their homes, they are embarrassed when their country tries to defend itself; and despite admiring a pluralist, democratic society, which is what Israel is, they bemoan the plight of the poor Palestinians who have allowed their (now sovereign) territory to devolve in a crazy mix of anarchism and Islamic fundamentalism.

What makes this cognitive dissonance possible for white collar liberals is their unswerving allegiance to unlimited abortions and (of late) to gay marriage. Just as fiscal conservativism, the Constitution, and individual freedom bind conservatives of all stripes together, so too do abortion and gay marriage (with a soupçon of illegal immigration) bind together Progressives of all stripes.  We cannot entice Progressives to fiscal conservativism if we insist on a purity test for abortion and gay marriage.  It’s just not going to happen.  And here’s the kicker:  abortion and gay marriage become moot issues if our nation collapses entirely under the weight of debt or if our walls our breached by Islamists or if we become “tuberculosis central” because we cannot assert even a modicum of polite control over our borders.

As a parent, I hew socially conservative, so those are values I want to advance.  But I’m a pragmatist who recognizes that the ballot box isn’t the place to make it happen.  The ballot box is how we manage issues of sovereignty (including national security and border control) and fiscal health.  Our social institutions are where we make headway on social issues.  If we can keep those lines from crossing, we can be a resurgent conservative political party and, eventually, a somewhat more traditional America, one that preserves the best and healthiest social policies of the past and the present.

 

“Loose lips might sink ships” — and blabby administrations definitely kill American servicemen

One of the most memorable advertising campaigns from WWII was the all-out effort to make sure that people didn’t inadvertently reveal military secrets that they’d gleaned from their work or from contacts with loved ones.  The most famous is probably this one, because it’s got that memorable rhyme:


The “loose lips” poster wasn’t the only one.  England and America were covered with posters reminding people that national security — and their loved ones’ lives — were at stake, and that a careless word could cause unthinkable damage:

What’s quite obvious when one looks back at WWII is that no one ever contemplated that this deadly loose talk might emanate, not from a thoughtless, gossipy homemaker but, instead, from a boastful White House.  How could those men and women have imagined a time when our President and his administration would be so anxious to borrow military honor that they would treat military secrets with complete disregard for the safety of the men under their command?  It’s hard to find a better example of the base selfishness that characterizes an administration that enthusiastically, and with massive government coercion, assures us that we have an obligation to be selfless for the greater good.

The predictable Democrat ad hominem attack against those special forces who fear the administration’s loose lips

Yesterday, I urged you to view a 22 minute video that a 501(c) organization put together to show how severely the publicity-hungry Obama administration has damaged America’s national security and the risks to which that same administration has exposed its special ops forces and human intelligence assets, both at home and abroad.

The Democrats have reacted in predictable fashion, not by addressing the challenge leveled against the administration, but by using a “guilt by association” tactic.  As Bruce Kesler discusses, they’ve latched onto a quotation from one retired SEAL who admits to being a Birther and claimed that he discredits every accusation brought against the administration.

In law, we call this an ad hominem, or personal attack.  In law, we also understand that a party uses ad hominem attacks only when it has no other credible argument to make.  If you can’t defend on either the law or the facts, call your opponent names.

Certainly, one can challenge Birtherism, but the fact that a highly qualified, experienced military veteran also happens to be a Birther doesn’t discredit him on the subject of national security.  Getting back to the law again, the law has always recognized the difference between “insanity,” which is a complete disconnect from reality, and a “monomania,” which may simply be an intellectual blind spot in the knowledge and intelligence of an otherwise highly able individual.

In any event, you just know the Democrats have a weak argument when the best person they can find to drag out in front of the cameras is . . . John Kerry.

Can you keep a secret? If you’re the Obama administration, the answer is no

People in the intelligence community — as well as intelligent people — have long been upset that, in the current iteration of the war against terrorists and terrorist  nations, it is our own White House that is afflicted with the loose lips that can sink ships. A group of intelligence community specialists and SEALS has put together a polished, professional video decrying the administration’s decision to politicize national security. At 22 minutes, it covers a lot of ground without getting boring.

Why Obama’s secret past — assuming there is one — matters

In response to my post pointing out that being a closet gay is as good an explanation as any for the many holes in Obama’s past, Spartacus made an important point about putting unvetted people into the White House.  It’s so good, in fact, that I’m elevating it to post status:

“We understand that the United States has developed a defense against our anti-ship missiles, but we have no details at this time.  A certain Mr. Jones from your Department of Energy will be requesting an upgrade to his security clearance to access the files — please see to it that this is granted.”

There are many, many federal jobs for which one may have a sexual orientation other than the one advertised, and it is irrelevant; CINC ain’t one of ‘em.  Ferreting out the pressure points and weaknesses of key individuals is Foreign Intelligence Collection 101.  Who paid for Harvard Law School?  What’s the story with that trip to Pakistan?  And yes, for whom has he unzipped?  I don’t pretend to know the answers to these questions, but they are basic questions that all competent foreign intelligence services became intensely interested in as soon as Barack became a senator.

I don’t know how many of his abominable decisions are due to explicit or implicit blackmail, but I’d be very surprised if the answer were zero.  I mean, if this clown walked into an Air Force recruiting office and tried to sign up as an E-4 intel analyst whose job was to look at satellite photos of garbage dumps in the Syrian desert, the security folks would look at his (mostly blank) background and laugh themselves silly while thumping a great big “REJECTED” stamp on the application.  He’s a security nightmare.  But the voters, with no questions asked, bypassed all of that and handed him the keys to the kingdom anyway.

For the sake of gossip, I don’t much care which way his compass points, or who has paid his way, or any of that.  But for the sake of understanding the character and verifying the integrity of our single most important employee, who holds the fate of the world in his hands, it matters, and we are right to ask a few questions.

Is the administration being penny wise and pound foolish?

My earlier post was about the fact that the US spends and spends and spends, and saves very little.  We definitely need to stop spending, but we need to be smart when we do it.  Because our current administration tilts Left, it is reluctant to slow the hemorrhage but, to the extent it will cut programs, it wants to cut our defense spending.  Bruce Kesler suggests, quite rightly too, that this approach fits neatly into the penny wise and pound foolish category.

Dear Government, Please keep your cotton-pickin’ fingers out of my business *UPDATED*

When I was a little girl, one of the refrains in my life was “get your cotton-pickin’ fingers out of that.”  I didn’t mean to be destructive.  I was always certain I could make things better.  I had bald Barbies, because I was pretty sure I could make their hair look better.  I had misshapen stuffed animals, because I thought I could fix stuffing defects.  My generous destructive tendencies didn’t stop with my own stuff.  Cameras lost lenses, appliance knobs got jammed, and the food my mom was cooking got ruined.  I thought I was “fixing” things.  My parents knew that my cotton-pickin’ fingers were wrecking havoc.

I was a little girl, and had an excuse for my ill-fated attempts to improve things.  What’s the excuse our government has for continually interfering with things in which it has no business?  And even worse, what’s the excuse of citizens who keep demanding more interference from the government?  I don’t want Washington to “fix” the economy.  I want it to back off.  Let people who know something about business, about supply and demand, about capital, about finances, about consumers, and generally about the facts on the ground, be the ones who fix business.  All that government offers, whether Democrat or Republican, is stupid good will and cotton-pickin’ fingers.

After I expounded on this theory to my sister, she asked, “What should government do?”  I started the usual list:  National Security, Epidemic and Pandemic Control (as opposed to telling people what to eat or how much to weigh), Transcontinental Road and Bridge Building and Maintenance (not “intercontinental,” but “transcontinental”) — basically, things in which it has an interest.

Take national security, for example.  Government definitely has an interest in national security.  That’s one of its biggest jobs and, more importantly, it’s not a job that can be handled competently by states or individual citizens.  Because the government is very goal oriented when it comes to national security, it tends to do it efficiently.  Sure, there’s waste and graft and corruption, but on the whole, as long as the political will is there, our national security system does its core job very well, whether its our men and women in on foreign battle fields, or our information gatherers here at home.

People confuse the main national security goal with the often beneficial by-products it produces.  A classic example is to support a demand that the government fund science by pointing to the huge surgical strides Americans have made during every war since WWI, or to the far-reaching scientific and technological innovations flowing from NASA.  But what they forget was that, in each case, the government had a bigger goal than better sutures or a computer chip.  The government was not trying to improve surgery but was, instead, trying to keep its troops alive so that they could fight and win.  And up until Obama turned NASA into a Muslim outreach organization, it’s purpose was to help us beat the Soviets in the Cold War. That its technology benefited the private sector was great, but that wasn’t the government’s job.

Problems always arise when government tries to micromanage things in which it has no interest.  Government is neither a consumer nor a business, so when it meddles in the marketplace, it does so without any coherent goals, strategies or tactics.  It’s inefficient because it can be inefficient:  as long as things are sort of moving in one direction or another, there is no specific outcome the government is heading towards.

The same holds true for science:  Nowadays, the government tries to pick scientific winners or losers, depending on the political flavor (and trendy Hollywood star) of the day.  As ethanol, biofuels and Solyndra show, the government has an uncanny knack for backing the wrong horse.  Because government spends our money using a mystical and poisonous combination of politics, bureaucracy and corruption, its decisions are unrelated to practical realities.  It’s the marketplace that should be investigating the best way to reduce pollution, whether that means increasing fossil fuel outputs and cleaning emissions, or finding entirely new energy strategies.  Because government as an entity has no responsibility for science qua science, it shouldn’t pretend — at great taxpayer expense — that it does.

And that, my children, is your sermon for the day.

UPDATEBiden’s Solyndra speech pretty much makes my point.  This Jim deMint article does too.

Wikileaks

I have been, I suppose, almost remarkably silent about the whole wikileaks fiasco.  The data drop is of such enormous proportions, it’s actually difficult for me to process all the implications.  I have, however, got a laundry list in mind of some conclusions to be drawn and some of the things it means, which I’ll just drop here in no particular order.

1.  This is truly Pandora’s box.  Once opened, it cannot be closed again.  This does not mean, however, that the U.S. government should do what it is doing regarding Assange — namely, nothing.  If he is allowed to get away with this, the U.S. will have given carte blanche to other, similarly situated anti-U.S. anarchists.  The purpose of punishment, after all, isn’t simply to make the wrong-doer suffer; it’s also to serve as a grim deterrent for others contemplating the same type of action.  Dragging Assange back to Sweden to face pseudo-rape charges (pseudo because of Sweden’s bizarre rape laws) scarcely suits anyone’s notion of the punishment fitting the crime.

2.  To switch metaphors, I’ll abandon Pandora, and move to Rorschach.  If nothing else, the way different people have latched onto the documents is a fascinating insight into their political, social and economic desires.  To conservatives, the documents vindicate long-held beliefs about Iran; about the fear it inspires in the Arab world; about the Obama administration’s ineptitude; about Hillary’s bungling and deviousness; about Israel’s intelligent navigation of impossibly difficult situations; etc.  To liberals, it proves that the U.S. is evil and addicted to oil.  (That last is from Tom Friedman, who’s been repeating the same trope for more than a decade, even as he cheers on cutting off any avenues to oil independence, such as domestic drilling or nuclear power.)  To the Arab world, it is, of course, all the Joooos’ fault, as is everything.  Gosh, if only the Jews had more fun and got better press from their omnipotence.

3.  The leaks are undoubtedly evil.  People who have helped America are now at risk.  People who might have helped America (thereby saving American and allied lives) will refuse to do so.  America’s vulnerabilities around the world now have big targets drawn on them.  We can assume that the next round of leaks will be even more damaging.  Assange has been consistently upping the ante, and rumor has it that the next leaks will involve Gitmo and other topics near and dear to America-haters’ hearts.

4.  All of the above means that this is a game-changer.  Much as it is tempting to assume that governments and people around the world, out of long-term self-defense, will adopt an ostrich strategy and try to pretend none of this happened (much as one would ignore a loud burp at a fancy dinner party), the implications are too extreme.  Assange has proven that there is no information that can truly be protected (and that’s a comforting thought in an ObamaCare age, isn’t it?).  The “bodyguard of lies” that surrounds our nation’s — indeed, all nations’ — national security has been massacred.  It no longer exists.  We now live in a binary world that sees either no secrets or only secrets, both of which are equally dangerous to freedom and security.

Real airport security — by Spartacus *UPDATED*

Sometimes, a reader leaves a comment that is too good not to elevate to post status.  This time, it was Spartacus, writing in response to my question about real ways (not stupid, embarrassing, intrusive ways) to improve airport security:

***

A childhood friend of mine got married in the Tel Aviv area in 2002. By happy coincidence, the wedding date fell squarely in the middle of my one-and-only European vacation so far, so catching one more flight over to the other end of the Med was a no-brainer. Pricewise, it made the most sense to Chunnel over to Paris and round-trip from there, where there were two options: Air France or El Al. About the same price, so toward which was I more favorably disposed, ideologically speaking? Duh. El Al it was.

Got to the airport in Paris way early, like you’re supposed to for international flights, and went to check in. The ticket agent said something about going over somewhere to answer some questions or something. Questions? OK, sure, whatever. A trim, young, friendly, and utterly charming security gal appeared from out of nowhere, led me in my confusion over to a little kiosk, and began to ask me questions. All kinds of questions, and all very enjoyably and conversationally asked. Where was I from? What did I do for a living? Why was I travelling to Israel? What did I plan to see while there? Where had I been on my vacation so far? How did I get from Point A to Point B? And from B to C? What did I see while in B? What was most enjoyable about C? Is the food good there? Oh, and how did I get from A to B again? And if I wanted to get from B to D, why did I go through C on Mode X and then switch to Mode Y when it would have been faster and cheaper just to go direct by Mode Z? (“Dang,” I thought, “I spent two months planning this vacation, and she’s right! Why didn’t I think of that?”). Oh, and how is the food in C again? Classic interrogation techniques, not unlikely learned in the IDF, and flawlessly performed by a very quick-witted security professional.

In retrospect, it all made sense. My profile: young, single, male, non-Jewish, non-Israeli, no previous flights on El Al, and travelling alone. So, yeah, they naturally wanted to talk to me. The Q&A actually lasted about 80 minutes — a fact I completely missed until looking at my watch later. Between the friendly conversational tone, the fast pace, and her crystal-blue eyes… [sigh]… it seemed like about five minutes. When we were done, she escorted me back to a security room where I could see the last stages of the examination of my backpack: 35mm film rolls were being taken out of the plastic cannisters, X-rayed, and carefully put back in; my neatly folded and rolled underwear was being neatly re-rolled exactly as it had been; and so on. No cubic centimeter of my pack had been left unexamined. But the examination of the pack was unnecessary, since by the time I got on that flight, El Al knew everything that was in my mind and in my heart.

Security-wise, the flight to Tel Aviv was uneventful until we were almost there. You know how they now ban people from lining up outside the restroom in the front? Well, I was almost all the way in the back, in between the two aisles, and a bunch of guys started gathering all around. Real Orthodox-looking types. Since we were almost there, I was beginning to wonder if they couldn’t just hold it until we landed. I was startled nearly out of my seat when they all suddenly burst out in some Hebrew song. So they weren’t really waiting for the restroom after all! I still don’t know what they were singing, but I think it was something like, “Paise be to the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Israel! We will soon aquire the localizer signal to ILS Runway 27 and begin our pre-landing checklist!” (But coming from the guy who thought they were all going to the restroom, you might want to take that with a grain of salt.) It was interesting and different, which is cool.

My friend successfully got married, and about a week later, I was back at the airport. Just for good measure, they had me spend another very enjoyable 80 minutes of Q&A with another very attractive security gal. After being released to the departure gate, I looked out the big plate-glass window. Airplanes shifted busily around the tarmac as the pinkish glow of the coming dawn enveloped the entire scene. “Beautiful,” I thought, as I pulled out my camera. About 3.6 seconds later, another very attractive security gal quietly appeared from out of nowhere (yes, this was becoming a recurrent theme) and gently informed me that no pictures were allowed in the terminal. “Oh, sorry, I didn’t know.” But it made sense. And it showed once again that they didn’t miss a thing.

Back at Heathrow a few days later, I went up to the United counter to check in for my flight back to the States. The ticket agent, who fit all of the negative stereotypes of a DMV worker, followed the United Airlines security screening procedure — she pulled out a small card, from which she read two questions: “Are you a terr… terr… terr… Oh, whatever… Do you have any bombs with you today?” Not especially looking up to register my responses to these questions, she gave me my ticket. And the security procedure which had bothered me not in the least on my way over to England now, in comparison, made me fear for my life.

I would fly El Al again almost anytime, anywhere… maybe even Point A to Point A, just for the heck of it.

UPDATE:  This is a good companion piece to Spartacus’ El Al post.

The illogical behavior and beliefs of the American Statist

“Logic! Why don’t they teach logic at these schools?” — C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Neither Data nor Mr. Spock, two relentlessly logical creations, could ever be liberals or Democrats or Progressives, or whatever the Hell else they’re calling themselves nowadays.  (For convenience, I’ll just lump them all together under the “Statist” title).  As I realized over the 20 plus years of my political journey from knee-jerk Statist to thinking Individualist, the single greatest difference between the two ideologies is that the former lives in a logic-free world.

Sure, as Statists will always shrilly point out, more Individualists than Statists subscribe to traditional religion — and the belief in God definitely requires a leap of faith — but that’s just about the only leap of faith in their lives.  Their political positions are almost always driven by a solid understanding, not only of human nature, but also of the realities of cause and effect.  Liberals, on the other hand, even as they pride themselves on the logic of their abandoning God (never mind that they cannot satisfactorily prove God’s nonexistence), apply magical thinking to just about everything else.

Here, in no particular order, is a laundry list of illogical policies espoused by Statists (with the understanding that modern statism is driven by identity politics and self-loathing):

Statists believe that America’s out-of-control illegal immigration has nothing to do with the fact that, when illegal immigrants sneak across the border, we provide them with education, health care, welfare, food stamps, and the promise that they will be allowed to remain in the country regardless of their unlawful status.  These same Statists, blind to the laws of cause and effect, are always shocked when temporary crackdowns result in a corollary (and, equally temporary) diminution in the number of illegal aliens.

Statists are wedded to the idea that government creates wealth.  To this end, they are bound and determined to use taxes to consolidate as much money as possible in government hands so that the government can go about its magical wealth creation business.  The fact that those countries that have all or most of their wealth concentrated in government hands have collapsed economically (Eastern Europe, Cuba) or are in the process of collapsing (Western Europe) doesn’t impinge on this belief.  As even my 10 year old and 12 year old understand, the government’s ability to print money is not the same as an ability to create wealth.  The best way for a government to create wealth is to ensure a level playing field with honestly enforced rules — and then to get out of the way.

Statists believe that no-strings-attached welfare has nothing to do with the creation of a welfare culture.  My father, the ex-Communist, figured this one out:  “If you’re going to pay women to have babies (meaning constantly increasing welfare benefits), they’re going to have babies.”  In 1994, a Republican Congress forced Clinton to change “welfare as we know it.”  To the Statists’ chagrin, all their dire predictions about weening Americans off the government teat proved false.  Poor people are not stupid people.  If they’re getting paid to do nothing, they’ll do nothing.  If that money vanishes, they’ll work.  By the way, I’m not arguing here against charity for those who cannot care for themselves.  I’m only railing against a political system that encourages whole classes of people to abandon employment.  This subject is relevant now, in 2010, because there is no doubt but that, Rahm-like, Democrats are using the current economic situation as a backdoor to increase welfare benefits to pre-1994 standards.

During the run-up to the ObamaCare vote, Statists adamantly contended that, even if employers would find it far cheaper to pay fines than to provide insurance coverage for their employees, they would still provide coverage.  Likewise, they refused to acknowledge that, if insurers could no longer refuse coverage for preexisting conditions, and if individual fines were cheaper than insurance, savvy consumers would jettison insurance and wait until they were actively ill before knocking on the insurer’s door.  In both cases, the Statists’ illogical beliefs about human nature and economics were proven absolutely and conclusively wrong.  (Info and examples are here, here and here.)

For decades, Statists have contended that if we can just get guns out of citizens’ hands crime will go away.  To the Statists, the problem isn’t one of culture and policing, it’s that the guns themselves cause crime.  What’s fascinating is that they continue in this belief despite manifest evidence that it is untrue.  The NRA was right all along:  If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.

Statists firmly believe that Individualists (a group that includes Republicans, conservatives, libertarians, and other “bitter” Americans), are an angry mob, primed and ready to explode against all non-white, non-straight, non-Christians.  They do so despite hard evidence that angry mobs, as opposed to scattered angry individuals, reside solely on the Left, anti-American side of the political spectrum.

Statist gays, who feel obligated to be Leftists because of identity politics, throw their wholehearted support behind Palestinians, whom they see as the beleaguered victims of evil Israeli imperialism.  They hold to this view despite the fact that Palestinians kills gays, and Palestinian gays regularly try to immigrate to the safe haven of Israel.  In the same way, Statist gays, hewing to their solid Leftist credentials, side with Iran against America, despite the fact that Iran is able to boast about the absence of homosexuals only because it routinely kills them.

Statist blacks, who feel obligated to be Leftists  because of identity politics, are deeply hostile to the police.  While there is absolutely no doubt that, in the past, police routinely harassed, arrested, and killed black people just for being black, we’re not living in the past anymore.  In modern America, the person most likely to kill a black person is another black person.  Blacks need police more than I do, sitting in my comfortable safe, suburbia — yet it’s here, in white suburbia, that our police force, which is largely decorative, is appreciated and admired.

American Statists believe that, if you placate a bully, he will see the error of his ways and become nice.  It didn’t work for Chamberlain in 1938, and I’m pretty damned sure it won’t work for us, whether the bully is Iran, Venezuela, China, Russia or any other totalitarian government intent upon expanding its power beyond its own borders.  I’m not advocating unbridled aggression our part.  That would mean we’re no better than the bullies arrayed against us.  I’m more of a Teddy Roosevelt, in that I’ll allow us to speak softly, as long as we carry a big stick.  Self-defense is not aggression — and sometimes you have to fight to defend a principle, a person, or a nation.

Statist women are silent, absolutely silent, about the condition of women across most of the Muslim world.  I think I’ll rename them “sadist” women, not “statist” women.

Statists tout as a quality Supreme Court justice Elena Kagan, who violated American law to bar the military from her campus because of Clinton’s don’t ask/don’t tell policy, but who cheerfully accepted millions of dollars and a chair from the same Saudis who murder homosexuals and treat women like 32nd class citizens.  There’s logic for you.

I opened this post with a quotation from C.S. Lewis regarding the absence of logic in education.  We can see the profoundly dangerous effect that lack of logic has on real world policies.  I’ll end with Tweedledee and Tweedledum opining on logic in a way that only a Statist could appreciate and understand:

“I know what you’re thinking about,” said Tweedledum: “but it isn’t so, nohow.”

“Contrariwise,” continued Tweedledee, “if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.”