Thanksgivukkah — the perfect storm

clould_storm

A “perfect storm” occurs when circumstances that normally operate independently from each other occur at the same time, with each heightening the other’s impact.  Starting at sunset tonight, we are about to see the nexus of four circumstances that normally operate independent of each other, especially since two of those circumstances have never before occurred.  Two of the four are symbolic events; and the remaining two are entirely real, with possibly cataclysmic outcomes.

I refer, of course, to the fact that Thanksgiving and Hanukkah overlap, an event that will not occur again for something between 600 and 70,000 years (depending who’s doing the calculations).  This holiday nexus overlaps with two real-world occurrences, the first of their kind in America:  Obamacare, which threatens to undermine America’s still-vaguely-capitalist economy, and Obama’s agreement to allow Iran, a totalitarian Islamist state with an apocalyptic religion and visions of world domination, to go ahead with its nuclear program.  The real world events are deeply disturbing to those who love America and Israel (the only true democracy in the Middle East), but perhaps Someone is try to send us a sign insofar as they occur in the year of Thanksgivukkah.

Tying these four seemingly disparate strands together requires understanding fully what these strands are.  I won’t bore you by repeating everything you know about Obamacare and the deal with Iran, since each can be summed up in one or two sentences.  Hanukkah and Thanksgiving, however, deserve somewhat more detailed treatments.

Obamacare saw President Obama and his democrat minions use outright fraud to take over the American healthcare and insurance system in such a way as to throw most Americans off the insurance that 85% of them found satisfactory, and to dump them in an exchange that sees them lose their doctors and hospitals, all for significantly more money.  It was manifestly meant to be a way-station to socialized medicine (complete with death panels), but the government’s ineptitude with regard to the exchanges meant that Obama and Co. tipped their hands as to the fraud before they were ready to do so.

Obama’s deal with Iran gives Iran permission to continue its uranium enrichment program to something just short of full weapons potential, and unlocks the money that the mullahs need to maintain their despotic hold over their country and that Iran needs to continue with its nuclear program.  Obama did this after years of telling Israel not to strike at Iran’s weapons program when it was still possible for Israel to do so, using the fraudulent promise that he would protect Israel from Iran’s frequently expressed genocidal intent towards Israel.  (And no, the doctrine of mutually assured destruction is not a deterrent for Iran.  Iran subscribes to an apocalyptic form of Islam that differs significantly from the Christian view of the apocalypse:  unlike Christians, who wait for the apocalypse, Iranian Shiites believe that it is their responsibility to bring it about.)

Put simply, we are looking at two possibly apocalyptic events, one that has the power to downgrade America irrevocably to the status of a poor, socialized nation, and the other that could witness Israel’s destruction and decades of turmoil and death in the Middle East.  Knowing this can leave anyone feeling lost, hopeless, and abandoned.  But I do believe that the concatenation of these events with both Hanukkah and Thanksgiving means something.  That all of this occurred now might be a coincidence, or it could be part of something larger — a Divine plan, for those religiously inclined — from which we should draw hope.

Lighting the Hanukkah menorah

For those who think of Hanukkah as a holiday that involves lighting candles, spinning dreidels, and giving gifts (the “Jewish Christmas”), let me take a few minutes to tell you about the miraculous military victory that Hanukkah commemorates, a victory that every Israeli must surely be thinking about today given Obama’s Munich-esque deal with Iran.

In 168 B.C.E., Greek soldiers in modern-day Syria (and isn’t that symbolic too?) seized the great Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and defiled it by dedicating it to Zeus.  Jews passively accepted this desecration for fear of incurring Greek wrath.  Human nature, though, is human nature, and you cannot appease a tyrant.  Within one year, Antiochus, the Syrian-Greek emperor, declared that observing Jewish ritual was a capital crime.  Instead, he said, all Jews must affirmatively worship the Greek gods.

As before, most Jews acquiesced, but they raged inside.  The smoldering tinder of Jewish resistance burst into flame when Greek soldiers in the village of Modiin tried to force the Jews to bow to an idol and eat pork.  Realizing that where the leader goes, the others will follow, a Greek officer focused his efforts on Mattathias, a High Priest.  Mattathias refused to acquiesce to the Greek demands.  In fear, another villager offered to violate Jewish law on Mattathias’ behalf.  Mattathias, rather than being grateful, was outraged.  He killed first the appeasing villager and then the Greek officer.  Mattathias, his five sons, and a handful of villagers then killed the remaining Greeks.

Outlaws now in Greek-controlled Israel, Mattathias, his sons, and their followers hid in the m0untains and began a guerrilla campaign of resistance against the Greek occupiers.   The fight came at a terrible cost.  Mattathias and several of his sons died in battle, leaving only one of his sons, Judah Maccabee to carry the fight to its conclusion.  As was the case with the American revolutionaries fighting their seemingly quixotic battle against the might of the British Empire (the most successful military in the world at that time), it seemed impossible to believe that the Maccabees (or Hasmoneans) could win — but they did, driving the Greeks from their lands and restoring the Temple to its rightful glory.

When the Maccabees re-claimed the Temple in Jerusalem, they knew it had been defiled by Greek religious practices, including the slaughter of swine on the altar.  They believed that they could purify the Temple by burning the ritual oil in the Temple’s menorah for eight days and eight nights.  The problem was that they had only enough oil left for one day and one night.  Nevertheless, the triumphant Maccabees lit the menorah and a great miracle happened there (nes gadol haya sham):  the menorah burned for eight days and eight nights.  It is this miracle that the Jews celebrate when they light the menorah every night for the eight days of Hanukkah.

The Hanukkah story is a wonderful story of faith, commitment, and bravery.  It is also a reminder that tyrannies, even those that appear to have unlimited power, are fundamentally unstable.  A committed band of people can come together to topple them.

Thanksgiving

And as for Thanksgiving, that tale too, deserves to be retold, since Progressives in the past 40 years have watered it down to a story about noble Native Americans rescuing fanatically religious Pilgrims who, having broken bread with the indigenous people, returned the favor by slaughtering them.  As Rush Limbaugh tells annually on his radio show and demonstrates in both See, I Told You So and in his best-selling children’s book, Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims: Time-Travel Adventures with Exceptional Americans, that story is bunk.  The real story is much more interesting and lays the foundation for America’s robust development. Here is my précis of Rush’s factually accurate, extremely important telling of American history:

The Pilgrims set sail for American aboard the Mayflower on August 1, 1620.  Their reason for leaving the world they knew and striking how for this unknown wilderness was religious freedom.  While still aboard the ship, their leader, William Bradford, had them enter into a biblically inspired agreement that came to be known as “The Mayflower Compact.”  It established just and equal laws for all members of the new community, irrespective of their religious beliefs.

When the Pilgrims landed on the northeast tip of what came to be America, Bradford said that they found themselves in “a cold, barren, desolate wilderness.”  They were in an isolation that was anything but splendid, one without food or shelter.  In that first long, cold winter, says Rush, half the Pilgrims – including Bradford’s own wife – died of either starvation, sickness or exposure.

In the spring, the native population came to the Pilgrims’ rescue, teaching them how to harvest the land’s plant and animal bounty, an act of great kindness and humanity, and one that deserves to be remembered.  As Rush says, that is the beginning and the end of most American’s understanding of the Thanksgiving story.  Chapter two in every child’s history book is “and then the Pilgrims eventually killed the Indians.”  There is much, much more to the story, though.

When the Pilgrims had left England, they had entered into an agreement with their merchant-sponsors in London.  That agreement called for the Pilgrims to pool all their resources — their land, their crops, their meat and furs — and to draw from those resources according to their need.  Karl Marx would have recognized this:  “From each according to his ability; to each according to his need.”

Things did not go well.  Indeed, William Bradford, who was now the colony’s governor, realized that, just as the Pilgrim’s first winter proved deadly, so too would this experiment with communism.  Bradford later summed up precisely what had happened with this first “commune”:

The experience that was had in this commone course and condition, tried sundrie years, and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanitie of that conceite of Platos and other ancients, applauded by some of later times; -that the taking away of propertie, and bringing in communitie into a comone wealth, would make them happy and florishing; as if they were wiser then God. For this comunitie (so farr as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much imployment that would have been to their benefite and comforte. For the yong-men that were most able and fitte for labour and servise did repine that they should spend their time and streingth to worke for other mens wives and children, with out any recompence. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in devission of victails and cloaths, then he that was weake and not able to doe a quarter the other could; this was thought injuestice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalised in labours, and victails, cloaths, etc., with the meaner and yonger sorte, thought it some indignite and disrespect unto them. And for mens wives to be commanded to doe servise for other men, as dresing their meate, washing their cloaths, etc., they deemd it a kind of slaverie, neither could many husbands well brooke it. Upon the poynte all being to have alike, and all to doe alike, they thought them selves in the like condition, and ove as good as another; and so, if it did not cut of those relations that God hath set amongest men, yet it did at least much diminish and take of the mutuall respects that should be preserved amongst them. And would have bene worse if they had been men of another condition. Let pone objecte this is mens corruption, and nothing to the course it selfe. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in his wisdome saw another course fiter for them.

Put in modern English, what Bradford said was this:  The ancient writers loved the theory of a commune, assuming that the doctrine of “from each according to his ability and to each according to his need” would result in universal happiness.  Put into practice, though, communism bred laziness, jealousy, and discontent.  The most deleterious effect was seen on young men — the most important workforce in any agriculture society — who resented deeply having to expend their labor for other men’s families without any return on effort.  Redistribution of wealth ultimately meant less labor in an agrarian society, with the inevitable and dangerous decrease in the food supply.  People work cheerfully, industriously, and productively only if they know there is the possibility that outcome will correlate to effort.

Made wise by experience, Bradford abolished the commune and, instead, assigned to each family a plot of land for which it was solely responsible. The result was predictable.  “This had very good success, for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.”  Or, as Rush said, “supply-side economics.”

Because the Pilgrims had a personal stake in their labor, they worked hard, and produced surplus crops that they traded with the Indians or sold to British merchants.  Soon, this small band of wanderers in a far-off outpost of the nascent British Empire had created a profitable, growing, and quite attractive little society.

Paspajak Patrol

So, where are we now?  We are witnessing two events unfold, both of which have the potential to wreak terrible destruction on healthy, functioning, open democracies.  And we have those two events unfolding during the once-in-a-lifetime convergence of holidays that celebrate a military victory over tyranny and an economic victory over socialism.  These holidays celebrate defining moments in history.  They show that, no matter how dark things appear, people of passion, intelligence, and faith can “repair the world” (hebrew:  tikkun olam).  A great miracle happened there, in Jerusalem; a great miracle happened there, in the Plymouth colony; and we cannot reject the idea that great miracles can still happen, whether in the Middle East or in America.

We lose under only two circumstances:  we are wiped off the face of the earth (something all tyrannies have tried against the Jews, but thankfully without success) or we give up (something that too many disaffected, disheartened conservatives keep threatening to do).

Call it coincidence or call it a sign from a higher power, but the fact remains that, as Israel and her friends in America watch Obama try to include America in the Axis of Evil, and as we Americans watch a concerted effort to socialize the American economy, destroying America’s fundamental character and greatness, tonight and tomorrow serve as powerful reminders that, with faith and courage, a small band can destroy a great tyranny and that the socialist experiment can be undone with a return to greatness.

To everyone, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, I wish you a very happy Hanukkah, as we take eight days to remember that miracles do happen and that tyrants are overthrown.

And to everyone, American and non-American alike, I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving, a day on which we count the myriad blessings in our lives, both big and small, and we remember that, while socialism may temporarily mute the striving, creative, dynamic, productive, energetic parts of human nature, it cannot destroy them.

Yale Prof. offers a revealing glimpse into the Ivy League’s epistemic closure

A lot of sites have been linking to a blog post from Daniel Kahan, a law professor at Yale because it contains a very surprising confession.  To appreciate both what Kahan said (which was good) and what he refused to do (which was very, very bad), you need to know a little more about Kahan’s specialty.  According to the Wikipedia entry about Kahan, he’s a “leading scholar in the fields of criminal law and evidence and is known for his theory of Cultural cognition.”  (Emphasis mine.)

For the Luddites among us (and I proudly include myself in that number), “cultural cognition” is defined as follows:

The Cultural Cognition Project is a group of scholars interested in studying how cultural values shape public risk perceptions and related policy beliefs. Cultural cognition refers to the tendency of individuals to conform their beliefs about disputed matters of fact (e.g., whether global warming is a serious threat; whether the death penalty deters murder; whether gun control makes society more safe or less) to values that define their cultural identities. Project members are using the methods of various disciplines — including social psychology, anthropology, communications, and political science — to chart the impact of this phenomenon and to identify the mechanisms through which it operates. The Project also has an explicit normative objective: to identify processes of democratic decisionmaking [sic] by which society can resolve culturally grounded differences in belief in a manner that is both congenial to persons of diverse cultural outlooks and consistent with sound public policymaking [sic].

In English:  the good professor thinks that people use their preexisting values and data to analyze new information.  If you can get people to think the right way (I believe the Chinese communists called it “reeducation”), then you can get them to agree to Progressive policies.  (If you read on, you’ll understand why I translate “sound public policymaking” to mean “Leftist policies.”)

As an aside, shouldn’t Yale professors know that “policy making” and “decision making” are two words, rather than each being one portmanteau word?  Yeah, yeah.  Just call me fussy.

For those wondering about the value of a modern Ivy League education that little paragraph pretty much tells you what you need to know:  The Ivy League needs a guy with an expensive Harvard J.D. (and you know how highly I value those pieces of paper) and an even more valuable Yale job to figure out that people operate from their biases, both in collecting and analyzing data.

And speaking of people operating from their biases, Kahan has now confessed that his biases just received a stunning blow.  In the next few paragraphs, I’ll give him some credit for being honest about his recent discovery, but I’ll then explain why he only gets a small nod from me, not a big one.  For the most part, his post leaves me both disdainful and depressed.

Oh, I didn’t tell you what his discovery is.  It turns out that Tea Partiers, the ones who think that AlBore is a scam artist; that humans can pollute but that they lack the power to change the climate, something the sun has been doing fine on its own for several billion years; and that a country that insists on spending money it doesn’t have will soon go broke, are actually more scientifically knowledgeable than the Progressives who worship at the altars of global warming and Keynesian economicsYes, really.  Buried in a sea  of really awesomely impressive statistical jargon, that’s exactly what Kahan says:

In this dataset, I found that there is a small correlation (r = -0.05, p = 0.03) between the science comprehension measure and a left-right political outlook measure, Conservrepub, which aggregates liberal-conservative ideology and party self-identification. The sign of the correlation indicates that science comprehension decreases as political outlooks move in the rightward direction–i.e., the more “liberal” and “Democrat,” the more science comprehending.

Do you think this helps explain conflicts over climate change or other forms of decision-relevant science? I don’t.

But if you do, then maybe you’ll find this interesting.  The dataset happened to have an item in it that asked respondents if they considered themselves “part of the Tea Party movement.” Nineteen percent said yes.

It turns out that there is about as strong a correlation between scores on the science comprehension scale and identifying with the Tea Party as there is between scores on the science comprehension scale and Conservrepub.

Except that it has the opposite sign: that is, identifying with the Tea Party correlates positively (r = 0.05, p = 0.05) with scores on the science comprehension measure:

Again, the relationship is trivially small, and can’t possibly be contributing in any way to the ferocious conflicts over decision-relevant science that we are experiencing.

(I must confess that reading the above made me just ecstatically happy that I no longer practice law.  Think how much academic writing that spares me.)

You’ve probably seen the above quotation everywhere over the last two days.  It certainly makes sense to conservatives, because people who pay attention to actual facts are more likely to conclude that Anthropogenic Global Warming is a hoax.  (If you’re a data junkie, I recommend Watts Up With That.)  It’s the believers who are stuck in the epistemic closure loop.  Climate warmer?  AGW!!  Climate cooler?  AGW!!  No climate movement at all?  AGW.  Models wrong?  Still AGW!  That’s faith, my friends, not science.

But getting back to Professor Kahan.  What’s really fascinating is what comes after his confession regarding what is, to him, a counter-intuitive statistical anomaly.

May I take a moment here to remind you what Professor Kahan’s specialty is?  It’s “cultural cognition,” an expensive sounding theory that posits what your grandmother could have told you for free:  Our biases predispose us to interpret information in certain ways.  This obviously includes as a subset the fact that people look to certain authorities for information.  I can guarantee you that Obama reads the New York Times, and not National Review.  In this way, of course, he is distinct from conservatives, who read both.

Kahan believes that, if he can render cultural cognition into set data points, he can drag people into “sound public policymaking.”  (I believe George Orwell called it “groupthink.”)  Lift their blinders, and they will see the light.

But what about Kahan’s own blinders?  And that’s where his little post gets really interesting.  If you want to see a closed intellectual universe, Kahan invites you right into his:

I’ve got to confess, though, I found this result surprising. As I pushed the button to run the analysis on my computer, I fully expected I’d be shown a modest negative correlation between identifying with the Tea Party and science comprehension.

But then again, I don’t know a single person who identifies with the Tea Party.  All my impressions come from watching cable tv — & I don’t watch Fox News very often — and reading the “paper” (New York Times daily, plus a variety of politics-focused internet sites like Huffington Post & Politico).

I’m a little embarrassed, but mainly I’m just glad that I no longer hold this particular mistaken view.

Of course, I still subscribe to my various political and moral assessments–all very negative– of what I understand the “Tea Party movement” to stand for. I just no longer assume that the people who happen to hold those values are less likely than people who share my political outlooks to have acquired the sorts of knowledge and dispositions that a decent science comprehension scale measures.

I’ll now be much less surprised, too, if it turns out that someone I meet at, say, the Museum of Science in Boston, or the Chabot Space and Science Museum in Oakland, or the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is part of the 20% (geez– I must know some of them) who would answer “yes” when asked if he or she identifies with the Tea Party.  If the person is there, then it will almost certainly be the case that that he or she & I will agree on how cool the stuff is at the museum, even if we don’t agree about many other matters of consequence.

What a charming confession.  It even includes an embarrassed moue, along the lines of “I’m so embarrassed that I assumed Tea Partiers were dumb.”  That almost hides a rather spectacular omission.  Kahan fails to include the logical follow-up that any intelligent person invested in cultural cognition should make.  What he should say after his little confession is “Maybe I should check out what these surprisingly intelligent people believe and argue.”

Instead, what Kahan says after admitting to his intellectual bubble is that he’s just fine with it.  He has no interest in actual data.  Instead, based solely on his predefined values, he will continue “to subscribe to [his] various political and moral assessments — all very negative — of what I understand the ‘Tea Party movement’ to stand for.”  Or as I translate that, “Please, people!  I’m a Yale genius who’s looking for ways to re-educate you.  Don’t bother me with facts and, to the extent that I inadvertently stumbled onto some facts myself, be assured that I will assiduously ignore them.”

I have said for years that, while I’ve never met a post-1984 Harvard Law grad who wasn’t arrogant and ill-informed,* I’ve been impressed with Yale grads.  After my little insight into the thought process of a current Yale professor, I fear that, should any recent Yale grads pop up on my legal radar, I’m going to discover that Yale has gone all Harvard.  Clearly, you’re getting what you pay for at the premier law schools only if you desire social and professional cachet layered upon close-mindedness, chronic epistemic closure, arrogance, and ignorance.

We can all guess, of course, why the Ivy League crowd is so incurious.  They’re afraid that, if they look beyond the narrow confines of their own Progressive cultural cognition, they might follow David Mamet’s path.  Next thing you know, they’ll be cranking up the air conditioner, using excess amounts of toilet paper, and listening to Rush Limbaugh, while muttering “Ditto!”

_________________________

*And yes, I know Ted Cruz is a post-1984 Harvard Law, but I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him.  I’m just basing my “Harvard lawyers are not people I’d ever hire for myself” attitude on the people I have worked with and opposite.  And of course, if Cruz is a Harvard anomaly, Obama, serenely enveloped in his ignorance and arrogance, is a Harvard poster child.

I said mentally ill with a narcissistic personality disorder; Rush Limbaugh calls him psychopathic

Heck, Rush and I have disliked Obama from the get-go.  Of course, we’re going to look askance at his policies, especially his more peculiar ones.  But what’s different here is that (a) my man Rush and I both see Obama as someone suffering from a severe personality disorder, which I characterize as malignant narcissism and which Rush calls psychopathy (see video below); and (b) most of America agrees with us that what Obama is doing is crazy.  It doesn’t mean that they’re saying that Obama himself is crazy.  Nevertheless, there has been a massive shift in his standing before America.

This has gone beyond mere policy matters.  This is not about socialism or anti-Americanism.  I’m beginning to know how Romans felt when their nation and their safety were turned over to Nero or Caligula.

Ted Cruz’s question to Dianne Feinstein regarding the constitutionality of her gun law should be required reading for conservatives

Ted Cruz

Every day, I am more impressed with Ted Cruz.  He’s smart, he’s courageous, he’s knowledgeable, and he’s deeply loyal to the Constitution.  I understand that he went to Harvard Law School, rather than my alma mater, The University of Texas School of Law in Austin, but I can forgive him that failing because he’s so damn smart and intellectually brave.

Cruz couldn’t have asked better questions yesterday in the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding Dianne Feinstein’s proposed gun control bill.  You’ve already heard those questions.  DiFi’s huffy, offended response was the only one available to her, because he’d shut the door on her intellectually.  Thus, all she could say was “Who do you think you’re talking to, little boy?  I was writing unconstitutional laws before you were born!”  That was fun.

(Let me be catty for a minute. DiFi says she’s not a sixth grader. Hoo-boy, is that obvious! She looks like a mummy. She was once a very attractive younger woman, but she’s morphed into a creepily scary old woman. Okay, I needed to get that out of my system.)

Typically, though, it was Rush Limbaugh who summed up most perfectly what Ted asked, what it meant, and why DiFI had just enough firing brain cells to realize what a devastating attack Cruz had leveled at her bill.  Here’s what Rush had to say this morning, which started with him playing a tape of Cruz’s brilliant question:

CRUZ: The question that I would pose to the senior senator from California is: Would she deem it consistent with the Bill of Rights for Congress to engage in the same endeavor that we are contemplating doing with the Second Amendment in the context of the First or Fourth Amendment? Namely, would she consider it constitutional for Congress to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books and shall not apply to the books that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights? Likewise, would she think that the Fourth Amendment’s protection against searches and seizures could properly apply only to the following specified individuals and not to the individuals that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights?

RUSH: Are you applauding, folks?

Are you standing up and cheering here?

This is just not done! These people are never called on this. Here’s Dianne Feinstein with her list of approved guns. Dianne Feinstein, California senator, former mayor of San Francisco. Okay, fine. Great resume. You and you alone are gonna determine what kind of guns we can have all? So Cruz said, “Well, are you going to determine what books we can all read? Are you gonna determine what words can’t be said and what words can?” and liberals are not used to this. This is effrontery. This is lecturing. This is disrespect, as far as the left is concerned.

Dianne Feinstein was not happy with this, and she told Cruz not to lecture her.</blockquote>

It’s hard to believe that Cruz and Obama attended the same law school.  Cruz actually learned something.  Obama was probably too busy organizing communities and hobnobbing with Ayers & Co. to pay attention in class.  Or, given Cruz’s accurate statement about the Leftists’ in charge of the Harvard Law School classrooms, may Obama was paying too much attention.  Either way, one student graduated knowing American law, while the other student graduated knowing Karl Marx.

Criticism, constructive and otherwise — or talk radio can serve us better

During the past week, whenever I found myself alone in the car during good drive-time talk radio (i.e., Rush), I did something unusual:  I didn’t listen.  Instead, I turned to mindless pop music.  I was thinking about this peculiar behavior on my part, because I truly love Rush.  I think he’s a radio genius, someone who understands perfectly the lines between entertainment, news, and analysis.  He’s also one of the sharpest political thinkers out there.  No wonder the Left hates him.

But still….  I didn’t want to listen.

Analyzing my bizarre retreat from Rush, I realized that my problem is that the things that used to energize me during Obama’s first term — conservatives reporting on the faults and foibles of the administration, even as the MSM ignored them — no longer stir me up.  I’ve had four years to learn that Obama is not the “hope” promised, unless your hope was for a jobless stock market recovery, endless welfare rolls, increased racial tension, a simmering Middle East that constantly threatens to explode, negative pressure on core Constitutional rights, and all the other practical and ideological changes Obama’s presidency has brought to America.  The problem is that, while you and I were riled by these stories, none of this data penetrated the minds of less engaged American voters, all of whom who listened to the media’s siren song and reelected Obama.

Having accomplished its job, the media is suddenly discovering that there are some problems with Obama’s first term, everything from violently antisemitic and anti-American “friends” in Egypt, to the coming economic and medical disaster that is ObamaCare, to the corruption that’s always swirled around his administration.  As I told my mother when she pointed to such stories, this isn’t just a case of too little, too late.  It’s nastier than that.  The media is doing these stories as cover:  when the second Obama term brings badness to America (although Obama may still escape unscathed), the media has provided itself with some plausible deniability.  It can point to these articles and say “We told you so” — the big con being that they only told the American people so after they’d ensured that Obama locked up a second term in office.

The fact is that four years of conservative media pointing out what Obama and the Dem Progressives are doing made no difference to the ultimate outcome in 2012.  To be sure, there was a ton of criticism from the Right, but it wasn’t constructive, because those who needed it (Obama and the Dem Progs) weren’t listening and wouldn’t have changed anyway.  It was criticism in a vacuum.  It made the minority party feel better, but ultimately had no effect.

I want marching orders, not whining mourners.  I want to hear ideas about how to change the body politic, not another story about what weasels Obama and his buddies are.  I already know that stuff — and the media, for reasons of its own, is finally doing a little heavy lifting and is starting to report on a few foibles in the Obama administration.  The fact is that Obama will not run again.  He’s already old news.  What conservatives need know is to disengage from the war with Obama and begin, instead to plot a strategy for 2014 and beyond, one that ignores this little man and, instead, focuses on shaping ideological issues in ways that excite the man on the street.  Talk radio, with its vast reach, should be a source of inspiration, rather than relentless, mis-focused anger.

Tom Grace talks about “The Liberty Intrigue”

A month ago, I reviewed Tom Grace’s excellent book, The Liberty Intrigue, which is a very rare animal indeed — a political polemic that isn’t didactic or boring.  I also got the opportunity to send Tom a list of questions about his book.  They’re not very good questions (I’ll never make it as a professional interviewer), but Tom was nevertheless kind enough to respond with some very good answers:

1. Why did you shy away from discussing foreign policy in The Liberty Intrigue?

As much as possible, I wanted to focus on domestic issues and the balance between liberty and tyranny that the US is struggling with right now, and has been the main political struggle in our country for the past century. Foreign policy is so fluid, and evolves largely outside of our control, so our nation’s response tends to be more reactive than proactive. In projecting world events, I risk either locking my book to tightly to a specific point in US history or presenting a world which doesn’t mirror the international challenges well enough to seem real. Adding a significant foreign policy dimension to book would have aded pages to the book without necessarily adding to the overall message of the book. Our nation’s behavior internationally reflects who we are as a nation, and the struggle for who we are as a nation is the main focus of the story.

2. If you had discussed foreign policy, what would you have said?

I did address one aspect of foreign policy because it is so important to out domestic policy: immigration. Our neighbors to the south are exporting their citizens to the US in order to prevent revolution because those governments have failed to foster an environment of economic growth. That we would use these economic refugees, and call them as such, would highlight that failure and allow us to help vote those regimes out of office. Big picture: the goal of the US should be to export liberty. Using the principle of subsidiarity, Egan would replace foreign aid to governments with microloans to individual citizens or communities to help foster self-sufficiency. Imagine if the $1 Billion the US gives the Egyptian government was instead distributed directly to individual entrepreneurs and threatened communities, how much good that would do.

3. Do you see anyone on the world stage who could be a Ross Egan?

Sadly, I do not. I see glimmers of him in all of the remaining GOP candidates. Ross Egan became what he was because of what he endured with the people of Dutannuru. Egan left for Africa near the end of the Reagan presidency, which was a hopeful time in America. Upon his return, he found the country very different from the one he left, a nation far closer to socialist tyranny. Egan, in a sense, endured in Africa what the Founding Fathers endured, and that experience gave him the both the mind and heart to restore liberty in the US.

4. Of the current crop of Republican candidates, do you have a favorite?

I like aspects of them all and will support the GOP nominee in the general election. I will not endorse any of them simply because I think most endorsements are irrelevant. My vote won’t be swayed one way or the other by the opinion of a celebrity or personality. As to who I voted for in the Michigan primary, I prefer to keep that to myself.

5. Are you optimistic about the 2012 elections? (With the obvious follow-up being “please explain your answer.”)

I am hopeful that enough of the American public sees the dangerous course being charter by President Obama, and that they will act in accordance with the Constitution to limit him to a single term and to install in office individuals who will repair the damage. There are some very good people with solid conservative credentials and ideas running for office. From our experience with Reagan we know what works, and over the past few years have relearned what never works. While none of the candidates running is Ross Egan, they could certainly evolve into something like him if the mantle of the presidency is placed upon them.

6. In terms of political development, one could say that the American people spent more than 100 years preparing for the Constitution. Do you truly believe that, if it was suddenly imposed from above on a country such as Libya or Egypt, it would work? I’m not repeating Ruth Bader Ginsburg insofar as she thinks that a Constitution should impose rights on people (hence her desire for Egypt to adopt a European model) rather than that a Constitution should preserve individual liberty and protect people from government. I’m must wondering if Egypt or Libya or Iraq or anywhere else with a history of lawlessness, tyranny, and religiously-based totalitarianism, could switch to true American constitutionalism.

I believe if the people were taught what a Constitution like ours really means and given the choice between it and the tyranny they are used to or, in the case of Middle East, some form of Sharia law, they would vote in their own self interest. Liberty cannot be imposed on a people anymore than hope can be forced into someone’s mind. Tyranny is imposed from above by a coercive government, it restrains the individual. Liberty rightly recognizes that the government is the servant and not the master, and that the individual enjoys rights which cannot be taken away by the government.

7. The book paints a Democrat win in 2012 as the beginning of the end for America. Do you believe that to be true?

Should the current crop of extreme-progressive democrats retain the White House and increase their control of the legislature, I do believe the damage that could be done to the country may be irreparable. I could not imagine a direct attack on the First Amendment like the HHS Mandate, yet there it is. We were warned by the Founding Fathers about the type of damage done by progressive politicians of both parties over the past century, and accelerated by the current administration–they understood where the weak points were in the structure they had built. I am concerned that America’s ebbing economic and military might may embolden some ambitious nations to take advantage of the situation. The end of Pax Americana will make the world a more dangerous place.

I’m happy to report that Tom’s book is doing very well, so much so that he had an interview with Rush Limbaugh yesterday.  That’s got to be good for sales.  I even got a little mention, although you have to know it’s me, because I’m not mentioned by name:

CALLER:  My new novel is called The Liberty Intrigue.  And the interesting thing about it is there’s actually one nationally published review that latched onto my take on conservatism ’cause it’s a conservative election thriller. It’s told from our point of view, but there’s a character in this book that bears an uncanny resemblance to you, and this reviewer thought that you actually wrote portions of the book.

RUSH:  (laughing)  Really?

CALLER:  So I don’t know if I owe you any royalties or not because, you know, I’m a 24/7 member and that’s where I did my research. You know, clearly I caught your style and substance so perfectly that I caught your ear for how you handle your show and they thought you wrote those portions of the book.

RUSH:  Really? Did that hurt you in the review?

CALLER:  Not at all.  The reviewer loved my book because they thought it was a brilliant articulation of conservatism. And here’s a fun thriller as opposed a polemic or a treatise. You know, somebody’s actually done something in the popular culture.

I’m that reviewer.  Woot!

#BillMaher gives a lovely example of the way the Left uses itself as the template for what’s fair

I always love it when Leftist idiocy highlights some sort of life lesson I just imparted to young people.  Today’s life lesson is that fairness should be a reasonably objective standard, rather than one that, as Bill Maher would have it, depends on whether you, personally, are benefiting from the standard imposed.

Back in 2008, all the Marin children with whom I had contact were claiming that they “would vote” for Obama “because he’s black.”  They were taken aback when I said, “That’s racist.”  To them, racism means negative treatment based upon race.  It never occurred to them that racism includes any treatment that sees one so dehumanize a person that the person becomes nothing more than the color of his or her skin.  I suggested that, if they were indeed interested in the election, they should consider Obama’s history, statements, and ideas, rather than his skin color, in determining whether he was fit for office.  I wish the opportunity had arisen (which it did not) to make the same point to their parents.

Yesterday, I again had the opportunity to help a couple of kids understand that things are not always as they seem.  We were talking about good and bad teachers.  Good teachers, obviously, were the ones who communicated well and, even better, made the material seem meaningful and sometimes exciting.  Bad teachers were poor communicators and managed to make every subject boring.

Within these good and bad divisions, though, something interesting cropped up:  One of the hallmarks of the bad teachers was that they treated students differently within the class.  This didn’t just mean picking on some students, which the kids easily classified as “unfair.”  It also included playing favorites, something that the kids didn’t like, but didn’t recognize as equally “unfair.”  To them, “fair” is good treatment, “unfair” is bad treatment.  A teacher who is too good to some students therefore cannot be considered “unfair.”  They were quite taken aback when I suggested to them that any equal treatment is unfair.  Sometimes the lack of fairness can be justified, but it’s still not “fair.”

I thought of this inability to comprehend that it’s just as unfair to treat people too well as it is to treat them too badly when I read about Bill Maher’s defense when Jake Tapper queried him about the truly vile statements he’s routinely made regarding conservative women:

Bill Maher: The bit I did about Palin using the word c—, one of the biggest laughs in my act, I did it all over the country, not one person ever registered disapproval, and believe me, audiences are not afraid to let you know.  Because it was a routine where that word came in at just the right moment. Context is very important, and it’s also important to remember that stand-up comedy is the final frontier of free speech. Still, I stopped doing that routine, but I would like someone to replace that word if it’s so awful with another one that has the same meaning for a person – not just women, it’s a word you can and lots do (all the British, for example) use for both sexes. It has a very specific meaning.

Jake Tapper: And that’s not comparable to what Limbaugh said about Sandra Fluke?

Bill Maher:  To compare that to Rush is ridiculous – he went after a civilian about very specific behavior, that was a lie, speaking for a party that has systematically gone after women’s rights all year, on the public airwaves. I used a rude word about a public figure who gives as good as she gets, who’s called people “terrorist” and “unAmerican.” Sarah Barracuda. The First Amendment was specifically designed for citizens to insult politicians. Libel laws were written to protect law students speaking out on political issues from getting called whores by Oxycontin addicts.

John Nolte nails down precisely what is wrong with Maher’s self-serving analysis:

Bill Maher is a comedian and commentator. Rush Limbaugh is a commentator. But for some reason, Maher is apparently under the absurd impression that there’s some kind of caveat in the First Amendment that gives him super, secret, double free speech rights over the rest of us.

Well, I’ve read the First Amendment and no such caveat exists.

If there’s a difference between what’s happening to Maher and what’s happening to Limbaugh, it is that Maher is under fire from private citizens and Limbaugh is under fire from a stealth campaign led by the government — specifically, the President of the United States.

Private citizens exercising their free speech rights to protest Bill Maher is the purest form of democracy there is.

The government, however, joining a crusade to silence one of their critics is the very definition of censorship.

(Nolte has much more to say, which you can read here.)

What’s pretty apparent is that, when it comes to fairness, Maher’s understanding of the word is stuck in the middle school years.  For all his sophisticated patina, he’s still a little boy who thinks that his emotional reaction to something determines whether something is fair or not.  If it works in his favor, it’s fair; if it doesn’t, it’s unfair.  Easy-peasy analysis for the small, immature mind, right?

Please, please, please let Gloria Allred be successful in convincing Florida to mount a criminal prosecution against Rush Limbaugh

Gloria Allred is demanding that Rush face criminal prosecution for calling Sandra Fluke a slut:

In a letter dated March 8, Allred, writing on behalf of the Women’s Equal Rights Legal Defense and Education Fund, requested that Palm Beach County State Attorney Michael McAuliffe probe whether the conservative radio personality had violated Section 836.04 of the Florida Statutes by calling Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke the two derogatory words.

The statute stipulates that anyone who “speaks of and concerning any woman, married or unmarried, falsely and maliciously imputing to her a want of chastity” is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree. Allred explained that the statute recently came to her attention as having never been repealed, and that it could very well apply to Limbaugh’s remarks as his show is broadcast from West Palm Beach.

When I read that, my first thought was, “Please, please, please, make it so!”  Can you think of anything more wonderful than having Fluke in court defending her sex life?

Think of it:  the legal standard is that the prosecutor, in order to win, must first show that Fluke was sufficiently chaste that someone could be convicted for wrongly accusing her of not being chaste.  Keep in mind that Fluke gives no appearance that she is a blushing virgin.  Rather, she is a 30 year old activist who insists that taxpayers and the Catholic Church fund her sex life.

Any trial of this matter will be a circus, and any circus can only benefit both Rush and the conservative point of view.  It’s already wonderful enough that Allred is making this hysterical claim, but the icing on the cake, the gilding on the lily, the cream in the coffee, would be a criminal action.

But . . . but . . . there’s a caveat.  If the Florida prosecutor goes after Rush, he also has to promise to go after Maher.  That one, at least, should be an easy case to make:

Tom Grace’s “The Liberty Intrigue”

One of the nicest perks about having a slightly well-known blog is the fact that authors and publishers occasionally ask me to review a book.  In this way, I get the opportunity to read books that I otherwise wouldn’t even know exist.  My approach to book reviews is simple:  If I enjoy the book, I’m happy to review it, because I want to share my good fortune with my friends.  If I don’t enjoy a book, however, I don’t give it a bad review.  Instead, I don’t review the book at all.  I find it impossible to write about a book that bores or disappoints me.  This is why, at my blog, you’ll only read positive reviews.

As you’ve guessed by now, I’m very happy to give a positive review to Tom Grace’s newest book, The Liberty Intrigue. Let me start with the publisher’s own description of the book, before I get to why I liked it:

Ross Egan has quietly labored for years in the West African nation of Dutannuru—a tiny republican democracy that emerged from the wreckage of the brutal civil war that claimed the brilliant engineer’s wife and child. When a neighboring despot threatens Dutannuru with renewed violence, Egan is abruptly thrust onto the world stage at the center of the deadly international crisis. Egan’s actions and resulting notoriety land him on the short list of individuals capable of challenging the progressive incumbent for the presidency of the United States—if only he can be convinced to run. A political neophyte, Egan is intrigued by the challenge of unseating a ruthless political operator seen by some as the most dangerously leftist president in the nation’s history. To win the White House, Egan must mount the most unorthodox presidential campaign ever attempted — and navigate through a daunting new world marked by character assassination, high-level corruption, armed raids, and political murder.

I have to admit that, for the first two chapters, the book didn’t engage me because I didn’t “get” it.  The Liberty Intrigue begins in the fictional African nation of Dutannuru.  Reading those chapters, I thought that, despite the run for the White House that figures in the book, most of the action would take place in Africa.  I had visions of a bloody thriller with hero Ross Egan on the run from machete-wielding African militias.  I like thrillers, even bloody thrillers, but Africa isn’t one of my favorite venues for these books.  There’s a reason for this:  Africa depresses me.  It’s a country continent [with a face palm for my silly error] that is rich in natural resources (human, mineral, environmental, etc.), and yet it is a perpetual basket-case.  (Incidentally, one of the best books on this subject — a book that, sadly, is not outdated despite being almost 20 years old — is Keith Richburg’s Out Of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa.) The sad fact is that a thriller set in Africa is never going to have a happy, or even a satisfying, ending.

Fortunately for my reading pleasure, I stuck with the book, which didn’t stay in Dutannuru for long.  The Dutannuru beginning was not wasted time, though.  It establishes Egan as a man who combines idealism with pragmatism, both of which are rooted in his faith in the American Constitution as a template for a successful society, one in which citizens can both work and dream.  The America to which Egan returns from his Africa sojourn, however, is not a Constitutional America.  Instead, it’s an America that has been under tight Progressive control for three years.

It isn’t a coincidence that the fictional America has the same political posture as the real America.  From the moment Egan returns to the states from Africa, he is confronted with an America that looks precisely like America in 2012 — only the names are changed.  The president is a hard core Leftist who wants to substitute social justice for Constitutional principles, all while enriching himself and his friends; the Vice President is a buffoon, who exudes a certain shadiness, and who has a knack for saying the wrong thing; the president’s campaign manager mirrors David Axelrod insofar as he lives to dig for opposition dirt and disrupt democrat processes; and the President’s closest friend and most powerful backer is a Soros-like multi-billionaire who manipulates world markets and funds various hard-core Progressive organizations.  Those are the novel’s statists.

The individualist side of the book has several important characters who move the plot forward, but only two are carefully delineated spokespeople for conservativism.  First, we have Egan, who powerfully articulates core constitutional arguments and positions.  Of course, I’m sorry to say that this means he is not analogous to any modern conservative politician.  The other dynamically drawn conservative character is a talk radio host, Garr Denby, who sounds uncannily like Rush Limbaugh.  (It really is uncanny.  Grace has a perfect ear for both Limbaugh’s style and substance.)  The book details the way in which Egan’s friends, who believe he is the only one who can save the nation, work with him to create an unconventional campaign that keeps the Progressive president perpetually off balance.

Large parts of the book are straightforward polemics.  Grace has the president make speeches and conversational asides that support Progressive political principles, while Egan and Denby counter with speeches explaining why America’s constitutional freedoms provide the best solutions to economic problems and illegal immigration.  (For the most part, Grace shies away from discussing foreign policy issues.)

Normally, I find polemical novels boring, since they’re wooden and artificial.  By using a presidential election as a format for his novel, however, Grace overcomes the artificiality problem because he’s able to have the characters state their positions in the natural context of political speeches, debates, strategy conferences, or talk radio shows.  Grace deals with the wooden speech problem simply by having a good ear.  As I noted above, Grace’s take on Rush is perfect.  It’s almost possible to believe that Rush himself helped Grace write Denby’s lines.  When the Progressives speak, it sounds as if Grace copied their familiar tropes and talking points, so they’re scarily realistic.  And when Ross Egan speaks, Grace has him say what we all wish our inarticulate Republican candidates (e.g., McCain or Mitt) or our slightly loopy Republican candidates (e.g., Newt or Ron Paul) would say.  It’s something of a relief to see any candidate saying these things, even if he’s only a fictional character in a novel.

In some ways, as you’ve probably gathered from this review, I found the plot almost a secondary feature in the book.  (Which is unusual for me, as I like my books plot driven.)  The Liberty Intrigue has clever and often exciting twists and turns, but the book’s real value lies in Grace’s ability to articulate clearly and elegantly core conservative principles, and to stress how these principles stand in direct opposition to the damaging governance the Progressives are visiting on the United States today, not in a novel, but in real life and in real time.

I enjoyed The Liberty Intrigue very much.  I was fortunate enough to get a courtesy review copy, but I can confidently say that this is a book I would happily buy right before a vacation, which is the one time of the year I always dig deep and buy actual books for flights, train rides, at-sea days on cruises, etc.  More than that, I would buy The Liberty Intrigue, not as an e-book, but as an actual paper book.  That way, I could leave the book behind in the hope that some other vacationer would pick it up and learn something.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

Fast and Furious — killing people to weaken the Second Amendment

Many, many have written on this, but I like Keith Koffler’s summation the best, as I think he does a remarkably good getting to the core point about the latest twist in Fast and Furious.  He also manages to highlight why I like Rush:  Rush is not afraid to identify and accurately predict the evil that lurks in the heart of Progressives.

Obama’s foreign policy in no more than two or three sentences

Rush let ‘er rip against the media this morning regarding its utter failure to investigate any aspect of Obama’s life, even as it subjects Republican candidates to the most invasive investigations and demeaning tactics imaginable.   It’s a long riff, but every bit of it is interesting, and you’ll probably be nodding your head and saying “amen” as you read it.

From there, Rush went on to the usual double standard, which is that Republican candidates have to have “think tank” level knowledge of every subject, including foreign policy, whereas Obama got, and continues to get, a free pass.  It was with regard to that free pass that Rush posed this question:

Can somebody tell me in one or two sentences what Obama’s foreign policy doctrine is?  I’m serious.  Can anybody call this program at 800-282-2882 and tell me what Obama’s foreign policy is?  What is the guiding principle of Obama’s foreign policy?  What are our nation’s objectives in Obama’s foreign policy?  Does anybody have the slightest clue?

Rush, I’m not going to call, but I am willing to take a stab at the guiding principle behind Obama’s foreign policy, and I’ll do so in two sentences:  Obama’s foreign policy principle is to weaken and demean America, while overtly and covertly supporting both Leftist and Islamic regimes.  Because ordinary Americans would be repulsed by this policy, he hides it behind an amalgam of passivity, on the one hand, and ambition, distraction, uglification and derision, on the other hand.

That was fun.  Do you guys want to give it a try?