Demonstrating how it is only the lesser of two evils, the Republican Party, so recently energized and savvy enough to win big in the elections, is lying back on it’s “go along to get along” couch. Or at least a significant section of it is.
President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration hasn’t even been issued yet, and already congressional Republicans are desperately trying to come up with reasons why they’re powerless to do anything about it.
It would be “impossible to defund President Obama’s executive order through a government spending bill”, House Appropriations Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Hing said Thursday. …
We cannot, literally cannot, defund that agency in an appropriations bill because we don’t appropriate that agency. That agency is entirely-fee funded. As of right now, our understanding is the primary agency responsible for implementing any type of executive order is CIS and we don’t fund CIS. There are no appropriated dollars.
That is absolute nonsense. The notion that Congress can turn on a money spigot but is banned from turning it off is nonsense. And the worst part is that it’s willful nonsense. There is simply no law whatsoever that says that the House is only allowed to X and Y but not Z on an appropriations bill.
Now why would appropriators be so invested in pushing something completely false about the Congressional power of the purse? Easy. They don’t want another defund/shutdown fight. I get that. I understand that a lot of Republicans think the 2013 shutdown seriously hurt the long-term interests of the party. I don’t agree with it, but I understand that concern. But what’s happening right now is that rather than just saying, “We don’t want another defund/shutdown fight,” appropriators are dishonestly pretending that even if they wanted one, it’s impossible. Which is balderdash.
The excuse they’re trying to make is that because the USCIS, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is funded primarily by mandatory, rather than discretionary spending, they have no way to whack it with an annual appropriations bill. …
It’s a clever little argument. Completely wrong, but clever. What these appropriators want you to believe is that “not subject to annual appropriations” and “cannot be changed via an appropriations bill” are synonymous. They’re not. …
The only thing that differentiates mandatory and discretionary spending is how often each must be re-authorized. Every single dollar spent by the federal government must be first appropriated by Congress.
Just because some spending is not subject to annual appropriation doesn’t mean it’s not subject to appropriation at all. Congress can’t block Obama’s executive order by shutting down the government, but it most certainly can defund it by law.
Congress adds riders and prohibitions to appropriations bills all the time. Why? Because it can. That’s kind of the whole purpose of Article 1, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution:
No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law.
And from that power of the purse come the most powerful words in federal law. [Congress can say:] “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no funds shall be appropriated or otherwise made available for ______.”
That’s it. That’s literally all it takes. …
Republicans can add defunding language to any bill whenever they so choose.
The issue is not that they can’t use the power of the purse to block Obama’s lawless power grab. The issue is that they don’t want to. The real shame is that they can’t even be honest about that.
The Right has regained considerable power. The cheers die down. The champagne has been drunk. The recovery of America is only just beginning.
Continuing to explore ideas about what will follow now, we quote an excellent article – or a rallying cry – by J. E. Dyer, posted yesterday at Liberty Unyielding:
There’s a division of sentiment among conservatives, the day after a big electoral victory for Republicans.
There are plenty of conservatives who were glad to be able to vote for candidates they admire and believe in. That distinguishes them from other conservatives who had to either withhold their votes in certain races, or vote for GOP candidates they didn’t particularly like.
But even many conservatives who had attractive candidates to vote for share something important with less fortunate conservative voters. They share a sense that America has already experienced a break with the political consensus of the past that can’t be repaired with this election.
This isn’t only because Congress will remain divided from the president across policy lines for the next two years. That is important – and not mainly because it will theoretically result in gridlock. (Some gridlock would actually be pretty darn healthy at this point.) It’s important because the president has executive power, and Congress doesn’t.
Realistically, we can expect Congress to be slow and timid in any attempts to block executive unilateralism by the Obama administration. The American people, the targets of weaponized government, won’t get any meaningful relief.
But it’s even more than that. Something bigger than American partisan politics is going on in the world, and what the voters accomplished on Tuesday will do little to position America better to face it. That’s the sense of settled foreboding I see in many conservatives.
It won’t all be up to the United States government, in any case. The world is going to hand us problems created by others – diseases, foreign despots who churn out refugees; Islamists, Russia, China, Iran, some damn fool thing in the hot-spot of your choice – that could very well impinge as much on the daily lives of Americans as anything Obama does before 2017. They could impinge more, whether they involve geopolitical disruption or economic shocks.
Too much is unsettled now. Getting from where we are to where we need to be will require stopping at a waypoint we haven’t reached yet. The election on Tuesday is not that waypoint.
Indeed, to revive the American spirit of liberty, the waypoint will almost certainly have to have the same weight and import as our constitutional convention of 1787-89. It’s not clear yet what combination of circumstances might make it possible to identify such a waypoint, and take advantage of it.
For the time being, those with a coherent idea of liberty and limited government expect little gratification from today’s partisan politics. They see what those who voted for Republicans as a status-quo alternative to Democrats don’t: that the status quo itself can’t continue. Creeping bureaucratic despotism – what we live under now – is unsustainable. It’s not the future. … People have nothing to live for under its lash; ultimately, as limitations and pessimism drive out opportunity and hope, it must destroy itself.
That’s a statement of enormous optimism. What can bring bureaucratic despotism to an end?
Even this clear-eyed writer cannot answer that vital question.
But what the outlines of the future will look like, and what factors might give events a push, no one can foresee from here. …
But Commander Dyer is sure there are better times ahead – because America is the embodiment of an idea: the idea of liberty, and it is an idea that cannot die.
The truth is that deadlines keep passing, for everyone who predicts one certain doom or another. America has not been loaded into a garbage truck from which the only exit is in the landfill. This country still has a lot of living to do.
Liberty has always been an idea, and as an idea, it can’t be killed. It stills burns in the hearts of millions of Americans.
Only some of them know what liberty really is, but there are still millions of those people. And here’s what I perceive about them. Although they remain committed to the political process – they think it’s important not to give up on it – their investment in it is on the wane right now.
The reason? The political process is not making the difference between liberty and overweening government anymore. Electing Republicans doesn’t bring relief from overregulation, collectivist statism, and the growth of public bureaucracies that are easily taken over by fanatical ideologues.
This is why the 2014 midterm election isn’t an end-state, nor … a model for the future. It isn’t good enough to elect Republicans to take over the same business the U.S. federal government has been doing for 100 years now. It’s the business that has to change.
Seeing this clearly is going to keep liberty-minded conservatives in tension with old-consensus Republicans between now and 2016. But having a vision for something better always does that. …
So, though it is good that the Democrats – the ideologists of serfdom – have been defeated, she does not believe that the Republican Party will bring us the liberty we crave.
It’s actually exciting, and a source of optimism, to realize that our future doesn’t have to be charted within the confines of the patterns of the past. Yes, the GOP leadership in Congress is still an old-consensus leadership. But it’s not discouraging to recognize that the Republicans we’ve just handed a congressional majority aren’t going to change much for us. It’s liberating to stop expecting them to.
The task now is for the sons and daughters of liberty to educate themselves on liberty itself, and man the ramparts as watchmen on the walls. … The watchmen on the walls have to be on the lookout for opportunity: knowledgeable about how liberty has been established in the past, and ready to interpret circumstances and openings when they arise.
I think those circumstances and openings are going to arise, although I can’t tell you today what they will be. I do know that the day has come when it is more important to fan the flames of liberty than to damp them down, through the political process, in search of consensus. Putting too much into consensus only teaches us to believe lies about freedom, and we’ve been doing that for too long. …
I look to the future. Join me if you can. History gives us every reason to be optimistic about a future with liberty, because liberty is healing. Liberty is the empire of hope. So get up on those walls, troops. We’ve got some watching to do.
A new American conservatism? It’s not here yet – not even on the horizon – but we’re thinking about how and what it might be.
[Added after discussion in the comments section with Azgael:] We atheist conservatives are, or could be, an incipient movement. We must be prepared to say what we stand for, and not seem to be locked in the past. So we invite readers to tell us their thoughts. Help us define a new Conservatism for a new era.
We’ll start with what should be kept out of a future libertarian-conservative manifesto.
Sex and gender. There’s no need for the sex and gender choices of individuals to be treated as matters of political importance. Not constantly, anyway. Hardly ever, actually. We all know there are many ways people seek sexual satisfaction, but they are not res publica (public affairs). Needless to say there is, always has been and always will be, homosexuality, heterosexuality, bestiality, polygamy, orgies, sado-masochism, pornography, rape, pedophilia and pederasty, and good old fashioned procreation in the marriage bed. All fine and dandy – except the bestiality, the rape, the pedophilia and the pederasty. Let consenting adults do what they will with what’s their own. Only, if it should happen that a child is conceived by someone in the course of her pursuit of erotic delight – a biological effect that happens often enough to keep the world populated – then the privacy is terminated. The advent of a third party, not able to express consent or refusal, alters the story. It becomes a matter of ethics, and so, marginally, of politics (public affairs).
Religion. Religion should be as private as sex. For many it is, and they should be left to enjoy or endure it as they choose. It will not cause public offense unless it is constantly bruited about. But organized religion is egregious. With luck it will die out. To the non-religious, public worship by congregants might be viewed as comparable to orgies; an emotional – or the religious would say “spiritual” – equivalent of sexual communion. Public expressions of an eroticism of the “spirit”. A pornography of superstition. There would be absolutely no loss to any consistent and reasonable set of political principles if religion were to be totally cut out of them. (Some political ideologies, such as Islam, are formed only to serve a religion, and therefore should have no place in the political forum whatsoever.)
As for what should be put in, there are first the everlasting principles:
Upholding and defending the Constitution
Defending states’ rights
What should be added to them?
Soon now the Republicans will be in control of both the House and the Senate. What will they do with the power they have regained?
Here are some sketchy notes for new policies. The need for them is urgent because of the damage done to America by the far left pro-Islam world-government-favoring regime tragically elected to power in 2008:
Secure the borders and scrupulously enforce existing immigration laws.
Withdraw from the United Nations and all its agencies, confiscate its headquarters at Turtle Bay, and pay not a dime more to assist or promote any of its programs and purposes.
Cancel every treaty to do with arms and the sea that puts the US at a disadvantage.
Facilitate the fullest possible development of energy resources, especially natural gas and shale oil.
Stop negotiating with terrorist groups in the Middle East, and stop keeping the Palestinians as a beggar nation on handouts.
Support allies and punish enemies.
Prohibit the application of any foreign system of law.
Repeal the laughingly-so-called Affordable Care Act, and let there be nation-wide competition among health insurers.
Hugely reform education.
Lift and curb regulations on business.
Abandon the minimum wage.
Hugely reduce all taxes. Introduce flat rate income tax. Tax forms, 2 pages max.
Hugely reduce entitlements and phase them out.
Reduce the size of government.
Abolish the Fed, the EPA, Fannie and Freddie … Oh the list of institutions and agencies needing to be abolished is very long. But the Fed must be the first to go. Abolitions will reduce the size of government.
Overhaul the IRS to make it serve the nation and not terrify everyone.
Root out corruption in government as far as possible.
Readers are invited to expand, reduce, correct or re-write these first-thought suggestions of ours.
Obama warned that he would “fundamentally change America”.
From what to what wasn’t asked or stated.
He is plainly making a demographic change. That is as fundamental a change as any change could be.
Fundamentally the nation has been from its inception an Anglophone country, its law based on British common law, it’s values – enshrined in the Constitution – derived from the European Enlightenment. Immigrants were invited into the land from everywhere and anywhere in the world, and were expected to use English, obey the law, and uphold the Constitution.
Obama wants to change all that. He manifestly does not want America to be solely or even predominantly English-speaking; he does not believe the law is sovereign, preferring it to be what leftist judges say it is from one moment to another, in accordance with their moods and personal prejudices; and he wants to scrap the Constitution.
Therefore he does not want new immigrants from Britain or Europe, or any Anglophone countries. Which is to say, he does not want white immigrants.
He wants enormous numbers from the Third World, where the Enlightenment never penetrated, and rule by tyrants and criminals is customary. So he invites hundreds of thousands of immigrants – millions over time – from the Muslim Middle East, Latin America, and countries where most people are black.
It is a policy of downright racism.
Obama is a racist.
This is from the MailOnline:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services [USCIC] plans to seek a vendor to produce as many as 34 million blank work permits and “green cards” – the paperwork that authorizes illegal immigrants to live and work in the United States – as the White House prepares to issue an executive order after the Nov. 4 midterm elections.
According to a draft solicitation published online, the government agency will look for a company that can produce a minimum 4 million cards per year for five years, and 9 million in the early stages.
President Barack Obama has pledged that he will make a move on immigration reform this year. His original timetable called for a decision by the end of the summer.
Republicans have decried the plan as an “amnesty” for millions of illegal immigrants, including hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied minors who have come across the U.S.-Mexico border this year. …
Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which he ultimately enacted without congressional support, uses the EAD cards [Employment Authorization Documents] as part of its implementation.
USCIS says it processed 862,000 EADs overall between January and June of this year.
But “the guaranteed minimum for each ordering period is 4,000,000 cards”, according to the draft RFP (Request For Proposal].
“The estimated maximum for the entire contract is 34,000,000 cards.”
But why even bother with the documents?
This is from the Washington Times:
The ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee took the Obama administration to task Friday for its “irresponsible” plan to allow as many as 100,000 Haitians to immigrate to the U.S. without a visa.
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said the administration’s Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program — which will allow thousands of Haitians awaiting a U.S. visa to enter the country and legally apply for work permits — is “an irresponsible overreach of the executive branch’s authority”.
The Obama administration is unabashed.
“The rebuilding and development of a safe and economically strong Haiti is a priority for the United States. The Haitian Family Reunification Parole program promotes a fundamental underlying goal of our immigration system — family reunification,” said Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. “It also supports broader U.S. goals for Haiti’s reconstruction and development by providing the opportunity for certain eligible Haitians to safely and legally [sic] immigrate sooner [in]to the United States.”
There’s typical Obama gang “reasoning” for you: rebuild Haiti by taking large numbers of Haitians out of it.
They are highly desirable immigrants to Obama, because they are black.
John Hawkins writes at Townhall:
1) Only in America could politicians talk about the greed of the rich at a $35,000 a plate campaign fund raising event.
2) Only in America could people claim that the government still discriminates against black Americans when we have a black President, a black Attorney General, and roughly 18% of the federal workforce is black.
3) Only in America could we have had the two people most responsible for our tax code, Timothy Geithner, the head of the Treasury Department and Charles Rangel who once ran the Ways and Means Committee, BOTH turn out to be tax cheats who are in favor of higher taxes.
4) Only in America will you find people who burn the American flag and call America an “imperialist nation”, but who get offended if you say they’re not patriotic.
5) Only in America can we have terrorists kill people in the name of Allah and have the media primarily react by fretting that Muslims might be harmed by the backlash.
6) Only in America could someone drinking a $5 latte and texting to his friends on an iPhone 4 complain that the government allows some people to make too much money.
7) Only in America would people take rappers who brag about shooting people and selling drugs seriously when they complain the police are targeting them unfairly.
8) Only in America would we make people who want to legally become American citizens wait for years in their home countries and pay tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege while we discuss letting anyone who sneaks into the country illegally just become American citizens.
9) Only in America could the people who believe in balancing the budget and sticking by the country’s Constitution be thought of as “extremists”.
10) Only in America could the most vicious foes of successful conservative women be self-proclaimed feminists and the National Organization for Women.
11) Only in America could you need to present a driver’s license to cash a check or buy alcohol, but not to vote.
12) Only in America can we have terrorists fly planes into our buildings and have some people’s first thought be “what did we do to make them hate us?”
13) Only in America would we think teaching kids at college is an appropriate job for communists, terrorists, and other dregs of humanity.
14) Only in America could people demand the government investigate whether the oil companies are gouging the public because the price of gas went up when for every penny of profit the oil companies make, the government tacks on roughly 24 cents’ worth of taxes.
15) Only in America could the first people asked to weigh in on the seriousness of a racial incident by the media be professional race hustlers like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Ben Jealous. In other words, it’s like calling in a car dealer as a neutral source on whether or not you need to get a new car.
16) Only in America does airport security put its hands on your underwear….while you’re wearing it.
17) Only in America could the government force a skating rink to have handicapped parking spots and Braille on the ATM machines.
18) Only in America could the government collect more tax dollars from the people than any nation ever has before in all of recorded history, still spend a trillion dollars more that it has per year, and complain that it doesn’t have nearly enough money.
19) Only in America could the rich people who pay 86% of all income taxes be accused of not paying their “fair share” by people who don’t pay any income taxes at all.
20) Only in America could the people who approve of slaughtering 25 million females babies via abortion accuse OTHER PEOPLE of waging a “war on women”.
We laughed and nodded, and hope our readers will too.
Numbers 5, 8, and 13 are the ones we appreciate the most.
(Hat-tip our Facebook commenter Libby Lael)
It was something to celebrate this past week – the departure of the (now former) attorney general, Eric Holder, from the Department of Justice.
This is from an article by Matthew Vadum at Front Page:
Attorney General Eric Holder is at long last relinquishing his cabinet post after nearly six unprecedented, catastrophic years of racial demagoguery and gangsterism.
Holder … will leave behind what is probably the most ugly and toxic legacy of any attorney general ever in the history of the republic. …
He is a protected, pampered member of the ruling class and his arrogance knows no bounds. He ignores court orders and gives congressional overseers the finger.
Holder has transformed the U.S. Department of Justice into a racial grievance incubator, an intensive care unit for kooky, authoritarian ideas that should have died after the 1960s.
The DoJ, especially its rotten, totally corrupt Civil Rights Division, is a lawyerly commune for revolutionaries who oppose the very idea of the rule of law. Critical Legal Theory and Critical Race Theory govern much of what goes on in the department.
It is no exaggeration to say that Holder leaves death and destruction behind after saturation-bombing the Constitution, orchestrating criminal activity in order to whip up public support for policy changes, fomenting racial tension and violence, persecuting political opponents and disfavored industries, obstructing justice, and enforcing laws arbitrarily and capriciously and in a manner calculated to benefit his friends and allies.
It was all too predictable. Holder was the official assigned to vet President Bill Clinton’s 176 last-minute pardons in January 2001. Among those pardoned were former Weather Underground members Susan Rosenberg and Linda Evans. He was deeply involved in Clinton’s pardons of fugitive financier Marc Rich and Puerto Rican terrorists.
Holder is an archetype, a living, breathing embodiment of American political corruption. …
Holder is about race, race, and race. It’s what gets him up in the morning. His sick fixation on skin color is notable even in an administration jam-packed with racial obsessives and identity politics-driven Marxists. He brands those who oppose him as racists. This is usually enough to shut up most Republican lawmakers. …
Of course, Holder is the first black U.S. attorney general, a fact he loves to repeat over and over again in speeches and media interviews, as if his race were a bona fide job qualification.
But he is also the first U.S. attorney general in memory to openly declare that he works only to protect the interests of what he calls “my people,” or those who share his skin color. …
Holder possesses an off-putting combination of creepy self-righteousness, cockiness, hatred of country, and racist contempt for white Americans that makes him the darling of the activist Left and the mainstream media that refuse to report on his many, many misdeeds. …
He serves as a personal consigliere, or mob lawyer, to President Obama, the highest elected gangster in the land. And he will never double-cross the capo di tutti capi. …
Holder is the legal ringleader for today’s Democrats and their culture of corruption.
After being held in criminal contempt of Congress in June 2012 – the first such citation against a sitting attorney general in American history – he is just a few steps away from being impeached in the House of Representatives and tried in the Senate for the high crimes and misdemeanors he has committed against the American people. …
This morally bankrupt racketeer ought to spend the rest of his life in prison. Probably nothing will happen to him.
But … in the midst of celebration we hear of new danger from this horrible man. Vadum’s last sentence is alarming:
Rumor around Washington has it that President Obama wants to put Holder on the Supreme Court.
(For a detailed account of Eric Holder’s disgraceful career, go here to Discover the Networks.)
The proponents of centralized power require a homogeneous “people” to justify expanding government power. Such a “people” will have similar interests that only the central government can effectively identify and serve. Interests like “social justice”, “social duties”, and “social efficiency”, cannot be fulfilled by local or state governments, or by the parochial aims of civil society or the market, or by churches divided by sectarian beliefs. The federal technocrats of government agencies, more knowledgeable than the people about what they really want and need, must be given the power to trump those clashing local interests and manage polices that serve the larger “social” good – as defined not by the people in all their variety and complexity, but by federal bureaucrats and technocrats.
We quote from an excellent article by Bruce Thornton at Front Page.
In 1902 Theodore Roosevelt intervened in a strike by Pennsylvania coal miners, exceeding his Constitutional authority as president. When this was pointed out to him by Republican House whip James E. Watson, Roosevelt allegedly yelled, “To hell with the Constitution when the people want coal!”
This outburst reflected the novel Progressive view of the Chief Executive. Instead of the Constitution’s limited powers focused on specific needs, such as national defense, beyond the capacity of the individual states or local governments to address, the President needed more expansive authority in order to serve the “people”. Over 100 years later, Barack Obama has governed on the same assumption, one that undermines the Constitution’s structure of balanced powers and limited government, and puts at risk our political freedom and autonomy.
In January of this year Obama famously asserted, much less honestly than did T.R., his willingness to shed Constitutional limits: “We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got phone.” And he’s been true to his belief during his nearly six years in office. He has changed his own signature legislation, Obamacare, 42 times.
He has also used his “pen and phone” to change immigration laws, gun laws, labor laws, environmental policy, and many other statutes that should be the purview of the legislative branch, to which the Constitution gives the law-making power.
Other presidents, of course, have used signing statements and executive orders. But Obama has pushed this traditional prerogative far beyond the bounds that presidents in the past were usually careful to respect.
But the ideas behind this expansion of power are not peculiar to Obama, and transcend any one man. They come from the Progressive worldview that rejects the Constitution’s philosophical vision of humans as driven by conflicting “passions and interests”, and eager to amass power in order to gratify both. The Progressives, on the contrary, believe that human nature can be improved, and that technocrats armed with new knowledge of human behavior and motivations can be entrusted with the concentrated power necessary for managing that improvement and solving the new problems created by industrialism, technology, and the other novelties of modernity.
In terms of the federal government, the key to this new vision is the executive branch, led by an activist president. Woodrow Wilson was quite explicit about these ideas. In 1890 he wrote of the need for a “leader of men” who has “such sympathetic and penetrative insight as shall enable him to discern quite unerringly the motives which move other men in the mass”. He knows “what it is that lies waiting to be stirred in the minds and purposes of groups and masses of men”. This sympathy is one “whose power is to command, to command by knowing its instrument”, and the leader possessing this “sympathy” cares only “for the external uses to which they [people] may be put”.
More frightening still are Wilson’s comments further expanding on this “sympathy”. “Whoever would effect a change in a modern constitutional government must first educate his fellow-citizens to want some change. That done, he must persuade them to want the particular change he wants. He must first make public opinion willing to listen and then see to it that it listens to the right things. He must stir it up to search for an opinion, and then manage to put the right opinion in its way.”
Gone are the notions that free people decide their own political fate and choose representatives to serve their interests and principles, their autonomy protected by the Constitutional structure of checks and balances. Now an empowered elite presumably wiser about human nature will, like Plato’s Guardians, manipulate the people’s opinions so that they make the “right” choice. These ideas are on a continuum that at the extreme end lie Mussolini’s fascism and Lenin’s communism. …
Ideas that have been recycled by Cass Sunstein – former Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama White House – with his proposal that people must be “nudged” to do and think as he and his fellow Progressives are certain they should.
We see in Wilson’s writings another Progressive assumption still with us today: defining Americans as an abstract, collectivist “people”. This unitary “people” rejects the Founders’ recognition of America’s great variety … that characterize the citizens of the United States. … As John Adams wrote in 1787, the “selfish passions in the generality of men” are the “strongest”.
Knowing that this selfish inclination is rooted in a human nature … and so cannot be improved or eliminated, the Founders sought merely to balance faction against faction so that no one faction can amass enough power to threaten the freedom of all.
Two visions irreconcilably opposed to each other: that of the Founders’ taking account of human nature and its natural selfishness and finding the way to accommodate differences while protecting the freedom of each with rules for all; and that of the Progressive elite who would change human nature, homogenize interests, and impose their own vision on everyone, subordinating individual choice to a collective will controlled and guided by themselves.
Go back to Obama’s “pen and phone” statement and read what follows to see this same collectivist vision at work: “And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward in helping to make sure our kids are getting the best education possible, making sure that our businesses are getting the kind of support and help they need to grow and advance, to make sure that people are getting the skills that they need to get those jobs that our businesses are creating.” The president assumes that in a country of some 330 million people, “the help they need” and their views on improving job creation, education, or job training are all the same, and thus one man can formulate policies that advance them, cutting out the several hundred representative of Congress, and state and local governments.
The obvious danger is one evident from the 20th century’s history of totalitarianism from the Bolsheviks to the Khmer Rouge. Elites convinced of their superior knowledge and insight into human behavior and the proper aims people should pursue, demand the coercive power to achieve these goods. But true to the Founders’ vision of a flawed human nature, power is “of an encroaching nature,” as Madison and Washington both warned. It intoxicates and corrupts those who possess it. Moreover, it requires weakening the autonomy and freedom of the people, whose various interests will contradict the “vision of the anointed”, as Thomas Sowell dubs them, who claim to know what’s best for everybody, and use their power to neutralize or eliminate those who resist this superior wisdom.
We need to recognize that for over a century this Progressive vision has revolutionized the federal government, which now has a size, scope, cost, and coercive power that would have horrified the Founders.
What does a conservative in the US most want to conserve? We would say: A commitment to liberty, the founding principle of his country. American conservatives may differ from each other on questions of religion, foreign affairs, entitlements and the economic “safety-net”, homosexual marriage and abortion, even on defense, but if they are not loyal to the Constitution and the idea of individual freedom that it enshrines, they are not true conservatives.
In Britain too, conservatives are dedicated to the defense of the traditional and hard-won liberties of the people.
In Russia, being a conservative means something different. The very opposite. What Russian conservatives want to conserve is their long and almost completely unbroken tradition of tyranny. The quarrel within their ranks would now, in post-Soviet times, be chiefly over whether they want a return to the Red Tyranny of Bolshevism, or the older tradition of Tsarist oppression, where cause for national pride may more confidently be found.
Owen Matthews, author of Stalin’s Children, writes in the Spectator (UK) about a conservative Russian military leader:
Strange times throw up strange heroes — and in Russia’s proxy war with Ukraine, none is more enigmatic than the Donetsk rebel leader Igor Girkin, better known by his nom de guerre of Igor Strelkov.
In a few short months, Strelkov has gone from being an obscure military re-enactor to the highest-profile rebel leader in eastern Ukraine. But at the same time Strelkov’s fame and outspoken criticism of Vladimir Putin for failing to sufficiently support the rebels has earned him the enmity of the Kremlin. Moreover, Strelkov’s brand of sentimental ultra-nationalism, extreme Orthodoxy and Russian Imperial nostalgia offer a frightening glimpse into one of Russia’s possible futures.
In the West, we are used to seeing Putin cast as a dangerous adventurer and nationalist. But to Strelkov, and to the millions of Russians who have come to admire him, Putin isn’t nearly nationalist enough.
Within weeks of his arrival in eastern Ukraine in May this year, apparently on his own initiative, Strelkov quickly became the highest-profile rebel leader thanks to his discipline and military bearing. A veteran of wars in Bosnia, Transnistria and Chechnya, Strelkov is a reserve colonel in the Russian army and a former (and possibly current) officer in Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU. With his clipped moustache, pressed fatigues and careful charm, Strelkov styles himself on a pre–revolutionary Tsarist officer. In May he mustered a 2,000-strong local defence force in Slavyansk, banned his troops from swearing and ordered two of his own men to be summarily executed for looting.
He wrote a manifesto calling his troops “an Orthodox army who are proud that we serve not the golden calf but our Lord Jesus Christ” and declared that “swearing is blasphemy, and a Russian warrior cannot use the language of the enemy. It demeans us spiritually, and will lead the army to defeat”.
Russian state television built Strelkov up as a hero. The nationalist writer Egor Prosvirnin praised him as the “Russian God of War” who “rinks the blood of foreign mercenaries to the last drop, and then asks for more”. …
And then, in mid-August, Strelkov mysteriously resigned his post as “defence minister” of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic — along with two other Russian citizens who had been the civilian heads of the rebel Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. All three rebel leaders were replaced by Ukrainian citizens.
The most obvious explanation for the reshuffle is that Moscow is preparing a negotiated settlement where the Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine — or Novo-Rossiya, “New Russia”, in Russian nationalist parlance — will be given some degree of autonomy within Ukraine. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary — from young soldiers’ Instagram selfies tagged to locations inside Ukraine to the Russian regular soldiers taken prisoners of war on Monday by Kiev’s troops — Moscow has also continued to insist that it is not a combatant in Ukraine. Clearly, having Russian citizens at the helm of supposedly autonomous rebel republics and their armed forces was a diplomatic inconvenience to the Kremlin which needed to be fixed — and pressure was put on Strelkov and his cronies to quit.
But there’s another, deeper meaning to Strelkov’s fall from favour. Though he’s often portrayed as a stooge of Moscow, Strelkov has in fact been consistently critical of the Kremlin’s failure to act decisively to annex eastern Ukraine as it annexed Crimea in spring. “Having taken Crimea, Putin began a revolution from the top,” Strelkov wrote in June. “But if we do not support [this revolution] now, its failure will sweep aside both him and the country.”
Strelkov’s close associate Igor Ivanov, the head of the rebel army’s political department, has also furiously denounced the “Chekist-oligarchic regime” of Vladimir Putin and has also predicted that Putin will soon fall, leaving only the army and the church to save Russia from chaos.
This mix of militarism, religion and a mystical faith in Holy Russia’s imperial destiny to rule over lesser nations has deep roots. Ivanov was until recently head of the Russian All-Military Union, or ROVS, an organisation originally founded by the White Russian General Baron Pyotr Wrangel in 1924 after the victory of the Bolsheviks in the civil war. Its guiding motive was to preserve the Tsarist ideals of God, Tsar and Fatherland. For much of the 20th century, ROVS was the preserve of elderly emigré fantasists — before a new generation of post-Soviet nationalists like Ivanov breathed new life into the organisation as a home for Russian ultra-nationalists who hate Putin’s brand of crony capitalism.
A similar outfit is the Narodny Sobor, or People’s Assembly, which describes itself as an “Orthodox-Patriotic organisation devoted to fighting ‘liberasts’ and western values, to promoting Orthodoxy, and to preserving the traditional family”, according to a recent study by Professor Paul Robinson of the University of Ottawa. In Russia, the Narodny Sobor has, along with the Russian Orthodox church, successfully campaigned for a tsunami of conservative legislation to be passed by the Duma, from banning swearing on television and in films to prohibiting the spreading of “homosexual propaganda”. The head of the Narodny Sobor’s Ukrainian branch is Igor Druz — a senior political advisor to Strelkov who has denounced the Kiev government as “pederasts and drug addicts”.
On the face of it, Strelkov and his ilk and Putin should be on the same side. They share a nostalgia for a lost Russian greatness — indeed Strelkov has a degree in history and was until recently an enthusiastic military re-enactor, playing White Guard and second world war officers. And this year, in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis, Putin has abandoned years of hard-edged pragmatism and economic prudence and moved towards the kind of mystical, Orthodox nationalism so beloved of the ROVS and Narodny Sobor crowd.
Yet as Putin prepares to sign off on some kind of compromise peace deal with the Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, there will be millions of Russians brainwashed by months of state television’s patriotic propaganda who will agree with Strelkov that Moscow is selling the rebels down the river.
Strelkov himself has little chance of becoming a serious opposition figure to Putin; he is too stiff and too weird for public politics. But Putin’s main challenger, when he comes, will be someone of Strelkov’s stamp.
We tend to think of Vladimir Putin as being most politically vulnerable from the left — from the liberal, western-orientated professionals who came out in their hundreds of thousands on the streets of Moscow and St Petersburg three years ago to protest at Putin’s third term. But in truth Putin’s real vulnerability is from the right — from the racist football fans who rioted unchecked through central Moscow in 2010; from prophets of a Russian-led Eurasian empire such as Alexander Dugin, who was in the radical nationalist opposition to Putin before falling temporarily into step with the Kremlin in the wake of the Crimea campaign; and from militaristic ultra-conservatives on the Russian religious right.
So for the countries of Eastern Europe emancipated from Russian servitude barely a quarter of a century ago, there is not only the growing threat of re-subjugation, but the probability that it will be applied according to the whims of a madman, a religious fanatic living out fantasies of Tsardom and limitless imperial expansion by military means.
Let’s interpret what Obama said yesterday about dealing with the Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL), now waging war in Iraq and Syria and threatening to bring terror and destruction to the United States. Dig out what he really meant. It’s not difficult. We’ll also comment on what his spokesman said in a hopeless effort at damage control.
We take the text for our comments from the report of the speech at Time online, which – interestingly for a left-leaning organ – takes a dim view of it:
President Barack Obama seemed to commit the worst of Washington gaffes Thursday when he updated the American people about the ongoing threat from Islamist militants wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria. “I don’t want to put the cart before the horse: we don’t have a strategy yet,” Obama said of the effort to combat the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) in its safe haven in Syria. “I think what I’ve seen in some of the news reports suggest that folks are getting a little further ahead of what we’re at than what we currently are.”
Meaning: “I have no idea what to do. I’d rather not do anything. Don’t urge me to do something. I’m not ready to do anything. I really don’t want to make a decision. I really don’t want to act. Don’t bully me.”
Obama’s comment that “we don’t have a strategy,” delivered to reporters at the White House before the Labor Day holiday weekend, prompted immediate mockery from Republicans — not to mention quick damage control from the White House. “In his remarks today, [Obama] was explicit — as he has been in the past — about the comprehensive strategy we’ll use to confront [ISIS] threat,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a series of Twitter posts. “He was referring to military options for striking [ISIS] in Syria,” Earnest added in a hastily scheduled CNN appearance.
Obama was not explicit. That is the whole point of all the criticism. The minions of the Left typically mis-describe their statements and actions as the opposite of what they actually are. “I/he made it clear” is the regular cover for being muddled and foggy and evasive.
Obama was set to meet with the National Security Council on Thursday evening, and he said his Administration is working hard to develop a plan for stemming ISIS’s spread from Iraq to Syria.
He is not working at all to develop a plan for anything. He has no wish to stem ISIS’s spread.
“We need to make sure that we’ve got clear plans, that we’re developing them,” he said.
Big giveaway there. He needs to make sure he’s got plans. Clear plans, mark you, comrade. Or he needs to make sure that he’s developing them. Will he actually make plans, or develop them, so that he can make sure that that’s what he’s doing? What has he, Lord of the Planet Earth, done already?
Obama said he’s ordered Secretary of State John Kerry to begin …
“Ordered John Kerry.” John Kerry the Chief Bungler. So we know that whatever it is that must be begun will be a failure.
… assembling a coalition to strike back at ISIS …
Meaning: Won’t do it on my own. Like Bush did (even though he didn’t). I’m not going to be held responsible for going to war. If lots of other countries do it then maybe okay. And no, I’m not resigning leadership. As always, I’ll be leading from behind, while they follow in front. So be still, My Base, I’m doing the least I can.
… while he has tasked Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to present him with military options.
Lots of options. So many that it will be impossible to choose one. Unless there’s one that is “unbelievably small”, to use John Kerry’s terrifyingly belligerent expression.
“We’re gonna cobble together …
“Cobble together”. Stitch up a ramshackle kinda co-operational thing. Nothing so decisive and leader-like as “organize a coalition”. And incidentally, wasn’t NATO created for the common defense of the West? Well maybe, but it was frightfully anti-Russian. And – I mean – it’s armed and everything, and it might really do damage, you know.
… the kind of coalition that we need for a long-term strategy as soon as we are able to fit together the military, political and economic components of that strategy,” Obama said. “There will be a military aspect to that.”
It’s sooo complicated. Like a jigsaw puzzle. There’s the political aspect. We haven’t even begun to think about that. And there’s the economic aspect. I mean, how much is it going to cost ISIS if we – our cobbled-together coalition – were to go to war against ISIS? Think of the reparations we’ll have to pay afterwards! And then okay there’s also – did I say “military”? Well, yes. There would be a military aspect to that. Not something to be undertaken lightly, a military aspect.
Yes, in a way, you could say that military strikes, from the air, have already been made. You absolutely have to understand that those were only done to protect Americans in Erbil. I mean, it was urgent and essential. I acted decisively, you see. Urgently. Americans were under immediate threat. The only way to protect them was by bombing some munition sites in the territory held by the Islamic State. It was so urgent, I was being so decisive, I didn’t want to waste time asking Congress to authorize the attacks. (The Constitution says? What Constitution? ) Besides, you know, that wasn’t making war. Not really. You see, folks, I was protecting our folks.
The President defended his decision not to seek authorization from Congress before beginning strikes on ISIS targets in Iraq three weeks ago, saying the urgency of the threat to the U.S. consulate in Erbil required immediate action. “I can’t afford to wait in order to make sure that those folks are protected,” Obama said.
Since Aug. 8, the military has conducted 106 air strikes in Iraq, according to U.S. Central Command.
It will all be different, you see, when plans have been developed, and when he’s made sure that plans have been developed. Doing anything before that would be putting the cart before the horse. When the time comes that the horse can be put before the cart, then I may go to Congress – for the funds. It’s a suggestion I may consider. Because Congress must not be totally ignored. After all, those are the representatives of the American people, so I intend to allow them some buy-in in this enterprise, whatever it may turn out to be.
Obama suggested that once he has a strategy for tackling ISIS, he would seek authorization from Congress, particularly since it may require additional funding. “It is my intention that Congress has to have some buy-in as representatives of the American people,” he said.
First the plans and the cobbled-together coalition, then the strategy, then going to Congress for the money … With any luck ISIS will have won the war by then, conquered the whole of the Middle East, and John Kerry can be despatched to start talks with President Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on exchanging American land for peace.
Next comes the supremely important task of separating ISIS from Islam.
“This should be a wake-up call to Sunni, to [Shi‘ite], to everybody, that a group like ISIS is beyond the pale; that they have no vision or ideology beyond violence and chaos and the slaughter of innocent people,” Obama said. “And as a consequence, we’ve got to all join together — even if we have differences on a range of political issues — to make sure that they’re rooted out.”
If I can get enough Muslim forces into the cobbled-together coalition, and let them do the fighting, I can make it seem as if the Islamic State is not Islamic at all.
Oh why am I burdened with all this! I’d much rather talk about a Big Question, like the meaning of life. My own view is that Muhammad found the right answer. I only hope there are splendid golf courses in paradise.
Daily one hears and reads American conservatives insisting that America, our civilization, our might, our freedom, our prosperity, are owing to “our Judeo-Christian values”. (For one of today’s examples, see here.)
There are no such things as “Judeo-Christian values”.
Unless you count a few of the “10 commandments” – that it’s wrong to kill, to steal, to bear false witness (which realization in any case long pre-dates Mosaic law) – the two religions diverge sharply on the question of values. In fact what each holds as its highest value is in direct contradiction to the other. The highest value in Jewish teaching was Justice. For Christianity as invented by St. Paul, it was Love.
Christianity preaches that a person can be separated from his deeds: “Hate the sin but love the sinner”. There is no place for justice where a wrong-doer is not to be held responsible for what he does. The Christian gospels stress that evil should not be resisted. (“Resist not evil” the putative Christ is reported as preaching in his “Sermon on the Mount”.) The Christian message also stressed unconditional forgiveness. It all adds up to a morality that excludes justice: an unjust morality.
What Judaism and Christianity could be said to have in common – which the parrots of “Judeo-Christian values” would not care to admit – is a devaluing of reason. Neither respects reason above faith.
The values we ideally live by were not the product of Judaism or Christianity, but of the Enlightenment. It was only when, in the 18th century, Reason usurped the power of the Churches, that individual freedom became a supreme value. Only then, for the first time since the glory days of classical Greece, people were encouraged to think for themselves, to obey no orthodoxy. Freedom of conscience and freedom of speech began for us then – in an intellectual revolution against religious dogma.
The greatness of the West, and especially of the United States of America, is the result of the revolution which is rightly called the Enlightenment. Freedom to doubt, to leave room for all ideas to be expressed and heard, and so to learn and discover and experiment, has brought us prosperity and power. The world-dominating success of our civilization began with the triumph of reason over religion.
A return to theocracy would be a return to darkness.
Afterword. Reason triumphs yet again.
From the Washington Post:
[An] experimental drug pressed into emergency use in the West African Ebola epidemic cured a group of 18 monkeys of the deadly disease, including some who didn’t receive the treatment until five days after they were injected with the virus, researchers reported Friday.
The finding raises new hope for use of the cocktail of monoclonal antibodies, called ZMapp, against Ebola, which has no known cure or vaccine. It has been fatal to more than half the people who have contracted the virus in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
During the current outbreak, more than 1,500 people have died and 3,069 people have become infected in five countries, the latest of them Senegal, according to the World Health Organization. The current epidemic is worse than all previous Ebola outbreaks combined. A small number of cases, believed to be a separate outbreak, have surfaced in the Democratic Republic of Congo. …
The fact that ZMapp has worked on monkeys “strongly supports” the possibility that it will work on people, “but it’s not proven” – as yet.
It soon will be.