Robert Tracinski: ‘The Party of Coercion Hasn’t Thought Much About Coercion’

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Government Force is the Left’s Entire Agenda

 writes:

The left is the side of the political debate that wants more government: more taxes, more spending, more regulations, more laws. So you would think they would have highly developed thoughts about what a law is and how laws are actually enforced. This is, after all, the stuff they want more of.

You would be wrong.

Sally Kohn recently argued, bizarrely, that law as such is not coercive.

This issue of government force is a funny one. You could also argue that the government is forcing you to drive below the speed limit or wear a seatbelt in your car. But it’s not. There isn’t a police officer holding a gun to your head literally forcing you to buckle up. In fact, you are 100 percent free to speed and not wear your seatbelt—and simply deal with the consequences if you’re pulled over. Is the threat of the fine for breaking the law amount to “forcing” you to follow the law? No.

Get that? Unless someone is literally holding a gun to your head at this very moment, you’re not being coerced. Don Corleone would be glad to hear it. After all, he didn’t coerce anyone. He just made a suggestion that you’ve got a nice place here, and it would be a shame if something were to happen to it.

[Read the full text here, at The Federalist]

I forgot to pay a speeding ticket once. I’m pretty sure if I had persisted, the “consequences” would have involved handcuffs and the inside of a jail cell. And the guys who put me there would have been armed with guns. So I paid it.

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 continues,

This is a pattern I’ve seen over and over again, everywhere, for as long as I can remember: the party of coercion hasn’t thought much about coercion.

Government force is the left’s entire agenda. They want to expand Social Security, seize more wealth from taxpayers, force traditional Christians to cooperate with gay weddings, license beauticians, and impose vast regulations on every aspect of the economy with the goal of controlling the weather 100 years from now.

It is a program of coercion on a vast scale, encompassing matters great and trivial. Yet if you quiz them about the nature and justification of government force, they profess confusion: “The issue of government force is a funny one.”

Many year ago, I was helping to run a college club for Objectivists—fans of the arch-capitalist author Ayn Rand—and we had the idea of co-sponsoring a capitalism-versus-socialism debate with the Democratic Socialists. In the middle of the event, one of the debaters we brought in on our side made a direct challenge to the socialists: aren’t you in favor of force? The socialist debaters just skittered away and evaded it, finally mumbling something about how, when a policy is decided democratically, it doesn’t really matter how it is implemented. And these weren’t just cranks brought in off the street. They were professors at well-regarded universities, and one of them has gone on to some prominence.

This is how it always seems to work. Read the rest of this entry »


Enough Is Enough: Abolish the IRS

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Robert W. Merry reviews Grover Norquist’s new book 

Robert W. Merry writes: Among the more enjoyable spectacles of Washington in recent years has been watching Grover Norquist eluding once again a contingent of media foxhounds in full bray, yelping and jumping at the bottom of a tree in which, they are convinced, they have finally trapped the prominent anti-tax guru. One such episode took place in November 2012, shortly after President Obama’s reelection—and at a time when official Washington faced a choice between a grand fiscal compromise and the austere budget cuts that would kick in automatically under what was known as “sequestration.”

Congress would never allow sequestration to take effect, according to the media wisdom of the day, and hence Republicans would have to accept tax increases as part of the alternative fiscal bargain. That would mean the GOP would have to repudiate the famous Tax Pledge devised by Norquist and signed by nearly every congressional Republican. That, in turn, would destroy the force and power of that nettlesome Tax Pledge—and IRS-bookdislodge Norquist from his prominent place as Horatio at the bridge of tax policy.

[Order Grover Norquist’s book “End the IRS Before It Ends Us: How to Restore a Low Tax, High Growth, Wealthy America“, Center Street, 352 pp., $20.25 at Amazon.com]

This particular episode took place around the luncheon table of the Center for the National Interest (publisher of this website and its allied magazine), and the media hounds went after Norquist with the glee of those who know they are about to witness a political comeuppance of serious magnitude. Through it all, the imperturbable Norquist confidently and quietly held his ground—never ruffled, never riled, never lacking in magnanimity, seemingly sure of his aces. “This isn’t my first rodeo,” he said, and laid out a lucid political explanation for why his Pledge would hold, even in the face of such tectonic pressures.

[Read the full text of Robert W. Merry‘s review here at The National Interest]

The next day, the Los Angeles Times offered an analysis entitled, “Grover Norquist the has-been.” It proclaimed that “even he can’t ignore the signs that his hold is slipping.” The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, after quoting Norquist’s insistence that congressional Republicans would adhere to their anti-tax heritage, even in the face of the looming sequestration decision, wrote with a smirk, “Also, the dog ate Norquist’s homework.” He added that Norquist’s confidence on the matter suggested he “had been on a long trip in a remote location.” The New York Times, in a front-page feature, suggested Norquist “finds himself in a tricky spot.”

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What happened next? The sequestration deadline came and went, no grand fiscal compromise emerged, the austere spending cuts went into effect, and Norquist’s famous Pledge remained intact, as did the political standing and influence of Norquist himself. Dana Milbank never got around to revealing to his readers his own remote location whenIRS_logothe dog was eating his prediction of Norquist’s political demise. Truly, Norquist is a Washington figure to be reckoned with.

Now he bundles up his anti-tax sentiments and political assessments into a sprightly volume entitled: End the IRS Before It Ends Us: How to Restore a Low Tax, High Growth, Wealthy America. It’s a book of many parts: primer on America’s tax history and growth in government; polemical expose of liberal legerdemain on the issue; policy recommendations for smaller government, strong economic growth and a streamlined tax system; and paean to the energy and efficiency of unfettered capitalism. He even provides an amusing narrative of the earnest efforts of his adversaries to obliterate his famous Pledge, all to no avail.

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The reason they can’t obliterate it, writes Norquist, is that the American people are on to the ominous consequences of inexorable governmental expansion and fiscal incontinence. Currently, U.S. governmental spending—federal, state and local—amounts to 34 percent of the national economy, while taxes consume about 30 percent of annual IRS-symbolGDP. And what’s going to happen to tax rates and the governmental share of GDP, he asks, when it comes time to pay down the $17 trillion in federal debt (nearly $8 trillion of it added on Obama’s watch) or the $123 trillion in “unfunded liabilities” accumulated through years of irresponsible government spending?

All this has generated civic angers that in turn spawned the Tea Party phenomenon of the early Obama years—the country’s first mass movement focused primarily on governmental spending. During the week of April 15, 2009, Americans gathered across the country in more than 600—perhaps as many as a thousand—anti-spending rallies with up to a million participants. As Norquist puts it, “A wall of opposition to government spending rose up.” At the next election, Republicans campaigning against government spending and Obama’s stimulus legislation captured the House by gaining sixty-three seats in that chamber; they also picked up a net gain of six Senate seats.

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Two years later, though, the Tea Party movement seemed to have petered out. Republicans failed to oust Obama from the White House or to capture the four Senate seats needed for control of that chamber. What happened?

According to Norquist, the answer is simple. “The Tea Party didn’t fall down the stairs. It was pushed.” Read the rest of this entry »


Men More Likely Than Women To Go Back In Time And Kill Hitler

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The Hitler question was among a range of moral questions asked of 6,100 people in a study conducted by U.S., Canadian and German researchers.

Jim Algar writes: Here’s a question; if you could go back in time and kill Hitler – likely saving millions of lives – would you do it? Your answer, researchers were surprised to find, might depend on your gender.

New research published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology suggests that, given such a question, men seem more willing to accept the need for harmful actions for the sake of the greater good than do women.hitler-tall

“Women were more likely to fall into the deontology camp and agonize for a long time over a decision, while men were somewhat more likely to lean toward utilitarianism and make a quick decision.”

The Hitler question was among a range of moral questions asked of 6,100 people in a study conducted by U.S., Canadian and German researchers.

“Women seem to be more likely to have this negative, emotional, gut-level reaction to causing harm to people in the dilemmas to the one person, whereas men were less likely to express this strong emotional reaction to harm.”

— Lead research author Rebecca Friesdorf

Although both men and women carefully considered the consequences of their potential decision, women said they found it harder to commit murder and were more likely to let Hitler survive, the study found.

“Women seem to be more likely to have this negative, emotional, gut-level reaction to causing harm to people in the dilemmas to the one person, whereas men were less likely to express this strong emotional reaction to harm,” says lead research author Rebecca Friesdorf. A master’s degree student in social psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, Friesdorf analyzed 40 data sets from previous studies.

“Although both men and women carefully considered the consequences of their potential decision, women said they found it harder to commit murder and were more likely to let Hitler survive.”

In the study participants were asked 20 questions, all of them involving a moral dilemma centering on such things as murder, torture, abortion, lying or the morality of animal research. Read the rest of this entry »


Jonah Goldberg: Why Aren’t Heads Rolling at Rolling Stone?

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Ignoring the most basic rules of journalism

Jonah Goldberg writes: Rolling Stone screwed up.

jonah-GIn most media scandals, it’s unfair to paint with such a broad brush. When Stephen Glass concocted his fables at The New Republic, he went to antiheroic lengths to conceal his deceptions from his colleagues. Janet Cooke, who famously won a Pulitzer for her Washington Post series about an Janneight-year-old heroin addict, “Jimmy’s World,” lied to her editors.

“The field of journalistic ethics can get ridiculously Talmudic. But it’s all based on a very simple rule: Tell the truth.”

That’s not the case with Rolling Stone’s publication of “A Rape on Campus,” the story of the brutal gang rape of a student named “Jackie” at the University of Virginia that turned out to be false. Its failure was a group effort, from editor-in-chief Jann Wenner on down.

[Also See – Campus Rape and the ‘Emergency’: It’s Always An Excuse for Authoritarianism]

The best thing you can say about this fiasco is that there was little deliberate lying involved. According to an exhaustive report by the Columbia Journalism School, the article’s author, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, and her editors didn’t purposefully publish falsehoods.

[Read the full text of Jonah Goldberg‘s column here, at National Review]

Of course, this is faint praise. The field of journalistic ethics can get ridiculously Talmudic. But it’s all based on a very simple rule: Tell the truth. If the truth is unclear, tell what you know and give both sides (or as many credible sides to a story as might exist) an opportunity to make their case. (For opinion journalists, like yours truly, the rule is even easier: Don’t say anything you don’t believe.)

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“At every stage, editors and reporters knew what they should do: Talk to the accused rapists, confirm the identities and testimony of alleged witnesses, give the University of Virginia and the leadership of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, where the rape allegedly occurred, a fair opportunity to rebut the charges, nail down corroborating details…”

Rolling Stone ignored this basic rule. At every stage, editors and reporters knew what they should do: Talk to the accused rapists, confirm the identities and testimony of alleged witnesses, give the University of Virginia and the leadership of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, where the rape allegedly occurred, a fair opportunity to rebut the charges, nail down corroborating details, etc.

“And, at almost every turn, they collectively went another way, caving to Jackie’s refusal to help confirm her story.”

And, at almost every turn, they collectively went another way, caving to Jackie’s refusal to help confirm her story.

[Also see – Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s OTHER Possibly Fake Rape Story]

The Columbia report, requested by Rolling Stone and written pro bono by the journalism school’s dean, Steve Coll, and colleagues, has a single major failing. It’s dispositive on the who, what, when, where, and how the system broke down, but it’s remarkably weak on the question of “why?” Read the rest of this entry »


Bret Stephens: Obama and the ‘Inevitable Critics’

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We are dealing with a case of Mutually Assured Obfuscation

Bret Stephens writes: ‘So when you hear the inevitable critics of the deal sound off, ask them a simple question: Do you really think that this verifiable deal, if fully implemented, backed by the world’s major powers, is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East?”

That was Barack Obama on Thursday, defending his Iran diplomacy while treating its opponents to the kind of glib contempt that is the mark of the progressive mind. Since I’m one of those inevitable critics, let me answer his question.

Yes, it’s worse. Much worse.

Yes, because what the president calls “this verifiable deal” fails the first test of verification—mutual agreement and clarity as to what, exactly, is in it.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

Take sanctions. Iran insists all sanctions—economic as well as nuclear—will be “immediately revoked” and that “the P5+1 member countries are committed to restraining from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions.” But the Obama administration claims Iran will only get relief “if it verifiably abides by its commitments.” The administration adds that “the architecture of U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on Iran will be retained for much of the duration of the deal.”

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So who is lying? Or are we dealing with a case of Mutually Assured Obfuscation?

Yes, too, because the deal fails the second test of verification: It can’t be verified.

Here again there are significant discrepancies between the U.S. and the Iranian versions of the deal. The administration claims “Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol,” a reference to an addendum to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that permits intrusive inspections. But Tehran merely promises to implement the protocol “on a voluntary and temporary basis,” pending eventual ratification by its parliament, inshallah.

We’ve seen this movie before. Iran agreed to implement the Additional Protocol in 2003, only to renounce it in early 2006, after stonewalling weapons inspectors. Read the rest of this entry »


CLICHÉS OF PROGRESSIVISM #51: ‘The Free Market Cannot Provide Public Education’

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The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) has been proud to partner with Young America’s Foundation (YAF) to produce “Clichés of Progressivism,” a series of insightful commentaries covering topics of free enterprise, income inequality, and limited government. This is the final installment in the series. 

(Editor’s Note: For 15 years, the author was editor of The Freeman, the journal of the Foundation for Economic Education. A version of this essay was originally published there in June 2000.)

Sheldon Richman writes: Can the free market provide public education? The short answer, of course, is: yes, look around. Right now, private enterprise and nonprofit organizations provide all manner of education  —  from comprehensive schools with classes in the traditional academic subjects, to specialized schools that teach everything from the fine arts to the martial arts, from dancing to dieting, from scuba diving to scrutinizing one’s inner self.

If we define “public education” as “what the government does now,” then it’s a trick question. Every school serves members of the public. For the sake of this discussion, we can ignore that the word “public” has been corrupted to mean “coercively financed through the tax system.”

Summary

  • As long as government can tax its citizens and then provide educational services to them at a marginal price of zero, much private education will never come into being.
  • Most parents would no more make educational decisions without consulting knowledgeable authorities than they would make medical decisions without consulting doctors.
  • We don’t use the small number of neglectful parents as a pretext for government control or finance of religion. Nor should we use it as a pretext for government control or finance of schooling.
  • Government domination of education assures that the entrepreneurial innovation and creativity we are accustomed to in, say, the computer industry will be missing from education.

The free market — and I include here both for-profit and nonprofit organizations — would provide even more education than it does now but for the “unfair competition” from government. Since government has a resource that private organizations lack — the taxpayers — it’s able to offer its services for “free.” They’re not really free, of course; in the government context, “free” means that everyone pays whether he wants the service or not. Clearly, as long as government can tax its citizens and then provide educational services to them at a marginal price of zero, much private education will never come into being. How ironic that government vigilantly looks for predatory pricing in the private sector when it is the major offender.

[Read the full text here, at The Freeman : Foundation for Economic Education]

There is certainly nothing about education that should lead anyone to doubt that the market could provide it. Like any other product or service, education is a combination of land, labor, and capital goods directed at a particular objective — instruction in academic subjects and related matters demanded by a class of consumers, primarily parents.

Here’s where things may get contentious. Critics of market-provided education are uncomfortable with education’s being treated like a commodity, subject to supply and demand. In the marketplace, consumers ultimately determine what is produced. Entrepreneurs take risks to serve them. And fickle consumers show no mercy when something new and attractive comes along. Ask the shareholders of Boston Chicken or Kodak, among others.

Why should parents alone determine what is and what is not acceptable education? But why not parents? To whose hearts are the interests of children closer? Besides, most parents would no more make educational decisions without consulting knowledgeable authorities than they would make medical decisions without consulting doctors. The uninformed-consumer argument against free-market education is a red herring. Read the rest of this entry »


Signaler-In-Chief: Our HBO-Watching, Millennial-Pandering Hipster President

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It’s Not About Substance. It’s All About Signaling

Jonathan V. Last writes: In economic theory, “signaling” is an action one party takes that has, superficially, no plausible economic explanation. The reason the action is undertaken isn’t because the action itself is helpful, but because the action transmits important information to a second actor.

“Why do reporters ask politicians what they think about evolution? Practically speaking, no one really cares what a senator or a congressman-or even a president-thinks about evolution. But what a politician says about evolution is a handy signal to certain types of voters telling them what they’re supposed to think.” 

So, for instance, the entire field of higher education is essentially a big production in signaling, with students paying lots of money to achieve-not because a college education is worth anything as a good, but because the students hope that the the credential will signal value to potential employers. You don’t pay $200K for a bachelor’s in history from Williams because the class on colonial oppression in West Africa is worth the price of a house. You pay it because you hope that Goldman Sachs sees a Williams diploma as proof of intelligence and will want to hire you.

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“The president of the United States-who’s also a constitutional law scholar!-decided that in order to get his arms around reforming the criminal justice system he had to consult with the producer of a fictional TV show that went off the air seven years ago.”

Political life is full of signal theory, too. Why do reporters ask politicians what they think about evolution? Practically speaking, no one really cares what a senator or a congressman-or even a president-thinks about evolution. But what a politician says about evolution is a handy signal to certain types of voters telling them what they’re supposed to think.

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“President Obama has always been skilled at sending out very precise, targeted signals, whether it’s to mainstream swing voters or to his liberal base. But the group Obama works hardest at signaling to is the young, Millennial hipsters who were so vital to his 2008 victory over Hillary Clinton.”

So if you’re a nice, well-educated cog in the Goldman Sachs machine who thinks that, generally speaking, public-sector unions are harmful, that the federal government is operating in a suboptimal manner, and that the mullahs of Iran probably shouldn’t be allowed to have nuclear weapons, you might consider voting for someone like that tough, can-do governor from Wisconsin.

[Read the full text here, at The Weekly Standard]

But then someone asks the governor whether or not he “believes in evolution” and he doesn’t answer by jumping up and down chanting and “Darwin! Darwin! Darwin!” And suddenly you understand: This guy isn’t really like you. Better to let Iran have nukes.

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You got the signal loud and clear.

“As a substantive matter, Obama’s presidency has been terrible for these people. High unemployment numbers for recent graduates. No bending of the curve on college tuition prices….Yet Obama has made sure to signal that, despite everything, he’s really on their side.” 

President Obama has always been skilled at sending out very precise, targeted signals, whether it’s to mainstream swing voters or to his liberal base. Read the rest of this entry »


THE U.S. & IRAN: Who Got a Good Deal?

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Reuel Marc Gerecht and Mark Dubowitz: Iran’s Negotiating Triumph Over Obama and America

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The U.S. is surrendering control of verification to the United Nations, where our influence is weak

Reuel Marc Gerecht and Mark Dubowitz write: President Obama believes that the nuclear “framework” concluded Friday in Switzerland is a historic achievement. Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, says he believes the same. Those two positions are incompatible.

“The American, French and Israeli governments have compiled fat files on the clerical regime’s nuclear-weapons drive. No one who has read this material can possibly believe Iranian assertions about the nuclear program’s peaceful birth and intent.”

Mr. Zarif is also a loyal servant of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,who believes that the West, in particular the U.S., and Iran are locked in a “collision of evil and evil ways on one side and the path of…religious obedience and devotion on the other,” as he said in July 2014.

“The inspections regime in Iran envisioned by the Obama administration will not even come close to the intrusiveness of the failed inspections in Iraq.”

The supreme leader says the Islamic Republic has a divine calling to lead Muslims away from the West and its cultural sedition. The Obama administration has never adequately explained why Mr. Zarif’s relentlessly ideological boss would sell out a three-decade effort to develop nuclear weapons.

“Worse, once sanctions are lifted and billions of dollars of Iranian trade starts to flow again to European and Asian companies, the U.S. likely will be dealing with a U.N. even more politically divided, and more incapable of action, than in the days of Saddam and the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003.”

The defensive and offensive strategies of the Islamic Republic, given the chronic weakness of its conventional military, ultimately make sense only if nuclear weapons are added to the mix. The American, French and Israeli governments have compiled fat files on the clerical regime’s nuclear-weapons drive. No one who has read this material can possibly believe Iranian assertions about the nuclear program’s peaceful birth and intent. The history of this effort has involved North Korean levels of dishonesty, with clandestine plants, factories and procurement networks that successfully import highly sensitive nuclear equipment, even from the U.S.

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A White House less desperate to make a deal would consider how easily nuclear agreements with bad actors are circumvented. Charles Duelfer has written a trenchant account in Politico of how Saddam Hussein tied the United Nations Security Council and its nuclear inspectors into knots in the 1990s, rendering them incapable of ascertaining the truth about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Read the rest of this entry »


Crucifixion: Its Not Ancient History Anymore

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ISIS has revived the barbaric practice. The time to stop both of them is now

Derby Murdock writes: From Easter services to cablecasts of Bill O’Reilly’s bestseller Killing Jesus, Christians are focused on the crucifixion of their Savior. American believers and non-believers consider this a historical event. But in the Middle East, crucifixion is a current affair.

“It has become a standard feature of fringe Islamist groups to revive these outdated practices in an effort to bring back what they believe is authentic.”

— Georgia State University Islamic scholar Abbas Barzegar

ISIS has resurrected crucifixion. In doing so, these Islamofascist scum have built a bridge to the fourth decade a.d. The only way to top this would be to feed Christians to lions this evening at Rome’s Colosseum.

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“People are tired and they hate everything. If you don’t close your shop during prayer time you get lashes, if you smoke you get lashed, if you say one wrong thing you can be executed. It is like a waterfall of blood. There are more and more executions and now the children watch like they are used to it.”

— Resident of ISIS-controlled territory

By prying this ancient practice from the history books and returning it to modern
life, ISIS has reconfirmed its epic evil. Obama immediately needs to implement a coherent strategy to relegate ISIS itself to the history books.

[Read the full text here, at National Review]

Much of the news about latter-day crucifixions and other atrocities escapes the confines of ISIS-controlled territory thanks to a brave group called Raqaa Is Being Slaughtered Silently. Details are grim.

“People are encouraged to watch and expected to watch, and if you miss too many executions, you might get a knock on your door: a stern lecture from a fighter, perhaps a few days in prison, perhaps a few lashes. You never know.”

— Benjamin Hall, combat journalist who has reported from Iraq and Syria

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These crucifixions began in March 2014, reports CNN’s Salma Abdelaziz. ISIS charged a shepherd with murder and theft. He was shot in the head, and his corpse was tied to a wooden cross in the main square in Raqaa, Syria, ISIS’s capital.

Last May, two more victims were crucified there and left to rot in the sun for three days. “This man fought Muslims and detonated an IED here,” read the placard around one victim’s neck.

ISIS crucified nine men last June, according to London’s Telegraph. Eight, from Deir Hafer, Syria, were killed and displayed in the village square for 51PIHuXn9NL._SL250_three days. A man from Al-Bab survived, despite being nailed to a cross for eight hours.

[Order the book “Inside ISIS: The Brutal Rise of a Terrorist Army” from Amazon.com]

Last October, London’s Daily Mail reports, ISIS crucified a 17-year-old boy in Raqaa. His crimes? Selling his photos of ISIS military bases and “apostasy” — converting from Islam.

Seventeen men were killed in mid-January in what the International Business Times called a “crucifixion frenzy.” The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that one victim was executed for “taking a picture of an ISIS fighter and publishing it on Facebook.” Another was nabbed for smoking, charged with being an Assad-regime informant, and crucified. Fifteen others were denounced as rebels and mounted on crosses.

ISIS does not limit this carnage to adults. Citing a February report from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, Reuters indicated that “Islamic State militants are selling abducted Iraqi children at markets as sex slaves, and killing other youth, including by crucifixion or burying them alive.”

In Raqaa, “executions are simply routine — a part of daily life,” writes my fearless friend Benjamin Hall, a combat journalist who has reported from Iraq and Syria, with ISIS’s black flag flapping menacingly mere yards away. Read the rest of this entry »


Kevin D. Williamson: ‘Today’s discussion suggests that some people have forgotten how government works. Here’s a quick explanation’

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Kevin Williamson via Twitter


Fred Bauer: Pluralism vs. Sectarian Secularism

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The debate over religious liberty has brought out some odd readings of American history

Fred Bauer writes: A number of forces are fueling the current debate about religious liberty in the United States: among them, good-faith efforts to promote the continued improvement of the Union, senses of cultural grievance, anti-religion paranoia, ignorance, self-righteousness, opportunism, partisanship, and new-wave authoritarianism. However, it might be helpful to see this debate as taking place against the backdrop of a clash between two different views of the role of religion in public life. On one side stand sectarian secularists, who want to remove religion from public life altogether, and on the other stand pluralists, who support a more open society.

“Leaving aside the religious and political beliefs of Americans before 1776, appeals to the divine suffuse American culture and politics. Many of the Founders — along with Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Martin Luther King Jr., and countless others — would have a bone to pick with those who say that our foundational rights do not come from God.”

[Read the full text here, at National Review]

Modeled in some respects on the French tradition of laïcité, sectarian secularism holds that appeals to religious ideas have absolutely no place in the public square, and its adherents will ridicule as out of bounds any appeal to the divine. This position goes well beyond a separation of church and state, which is about distinguishing the institutions of religion from those of governance, and instead suggests that the religious and the political should be entirely separate spheres. Unlike a more moderate and open-minded secularism, sectarian secularism seeks to police the bounds of public debate by rendering religious approaches to politics illegitimate.

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“This sectarian-secularist approach seems to inform Chris Cuomo’s much-mocked declaration in February on CNN about the source of our rights: ‘Our rights do not come from God. That’s your faith. That’s my faith, but not our country’.”

[Also see – Religious Liberty and the Left’s End Game]

This sectarian-secularist approach seems to inform Chris Cuomo’s much-mocked declaration in February on CNN about the source of our rights: “Our rights do not come from God. That’s your faith. That’s my faith, but not our country.” Particularly telling, and demonstrative of a sectarian-secularist viewpoint, is Cuomo’s insistence that it is somehow un-American to believe that our rights do come from God — that’s not “our country.” In a later Facebook post, Cuomo continued to insist that the language of the Declaration was not really part of American life: “Because the US does not draw on divine authority for recognition of rights.

“Particularly telling, and demonstrative of a sectarian-secularist viewpoint, is Cuomo’s insistence that it is somehow un-American to believe that our rights do come from God — that’s not ‘our country’.”

[Also see – RFRA: Now More than Ever]

Founding documents were the beginning of course but the first amendment in that seminal constitution, which has infinitely more authority than the dec of indep obviously keeps faith out of government.” Cuomo is far from an outlier here. The past few weeks alone have offered numerous examples of attempts to stigmatize religious references in public debates. The sectarian secularists have defined once and for all what the U.S. is: a society where religion should be kept in the closet and not influence politics or policy-making.

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“Pluralism offers a radically different account of the Republic. A pluralist welcomes all to the public square: Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and atheists alike.”

[Read the full text here, at National Review]

Pluralism offers a radically different account of the Republic. A pluralist welcomes all to the public square: Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and atheists alike. Pluralism does not seek to make the public square a hermetically sealed chamber, nor do pluralists ask believers to take off their faiths the instant they enter it. Indeed, pluralists believe that such a sealing off is practically and philosophically impossible.

“Pluralism does not seek to make the public square a hermetically sealed chamber, nor do pluralists ask believers to take off their faiths the instant they enter it.”

From a pluralist perspective, religion can perhaps never be fully separated from politics. Politics is shaped by broader philosophical principles about the ends of human existence, and one’s religious beliefs will undoubtedly influence one’s understanding of these principles. If one believes that all men and women are made in the image of a divine Creator, that will likely lead to a different set of principles from those that one would espouse if one believes that some people are innately better than others. Read the rest of this entry »


The Anti-Pizzeria Mob Loses its Mind

anaonburn

Burn Her! She Would Act Like a Witch in a Situation That Will Never Come Up!

 writes: Someone please tell me if my progression here is inaccurate in any way:

1) Family owners of small-town Indiana pizzeria spend zero time or energy commenting on gay issues.

2) TV reporter from South Bend walks inside the pizzeria to ask the owners what they think of the controversial Religious Restoration Freedom Act. Owner Crystal O’Connor responds, “If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no….We are a Christian establishment.” O’Connor also says—actually promises is the characterization here—that the establishment will continue to serve any gay or non-Christian person that walks through their door.

3) The Internet explodes with insults directed at the O’Connor family and its business, including a high school girls golf coach in Indiana who tweets “Who’s going to Walkerton, IN to burn down #memoriespizza w me?” Many of the enraged critics assert, inaccurately, that Memories Pizza discriminates against gay customers.

4) In the face of the backlash, the O’Connors close the pizzeria temporarily, and say they may never reopen, and in fact might leave the state. “I don’t know if we will reopen, or if we can, if it’s safe to reopen,” Crystal O’Connor tells The Blaze. “I’m just a little guy who had a little business that I probably don’t have anymore,” Kevin O’Connor tells the L.A. Times.

Rod Dreher titles his useful post on this grotesque affair “Into the Christian Closet,” and it’s apt considering the progression above. If only these non-activist restaurateurs had simply kept their views to themselves when asked by a reporter, April Fool’s would have been like any other day for them.

But as it stands, they’re now being trashed not just by social-justice mobs from afar, but by powerful politicians where they live and work. Democratic State Sen. Jim Arnold represents the O’Connors’s district. This is what he said about his constituents:

pp_religiousfreedom_2015-04-02-9dd17504

“The vast majority of people in this country are not going to stand by and watch that kind of activity unfold,” he said. “If that’si-keep-telling-you-people-that their stand I hope they enjoy eating their pizza because I don’t think anyone else is going to.”

Sen. Arnold says he’s upset by the news because of the negative attention it’s bringing to a town he says is a great community.

He said this kind of thinking has no place in this town. And the Religious Freedom Restoration Law is not an excuse for them to discriminate.

“This is America and if people say they’re not going to serve them and they feel this is some kind of defense, which by the way doesn’t take effect until July 1, but if they feel it’s some kind of defense, I think they’re sadly mistaken[.]

Almost every word out of Sen. Arnold’s mouth was wrong, horrifying, or both.

1) The O’Connors did not say “they’re not going to serve them,” they in fact stressed the opposite. Read the rest of this entry »


Kevin D. Williamson: The War on the Private Mind

Dr. Bill van Bise, electrical engineer, conducting a demonstration of Soviet scientific data and schematics for beaming a magnetic field into the brain to cause visual hallucinations. Source: CNN Source: Supplied

Dr. Bill van Bise, electrical engineer, conducting a demonstration of Soviet scientific data and schematics for beaming a magnetic field into the brain to cause visual hallucinations. Source: CNN

In Indiana, in Arkansas, and in the boardroom

Kevin D. Williamsonkevin-williamson writes: There are two easy ways to get a Republican to roll over and put his paws up in the air: The first is to write him a check, which is the political version of scratching his belly, and the second is to call him a bigot. In both cases, it helps if you have a great deal of money behind you.

Tim Cook, who in his role as chief executive of the world’s most valuable company personifies precisely the sort of oppression to which gay people in America are subjected, led the hunting party when Indiana’s governor Mike Pence signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, while Walmart, a company that cannot present its hindquarters enthusiastically enough to the progressives who hate it and everything for which it stands, dispatched its CEO, C. Douglas McMillon, to head off a similar effort in Arkansas, where Governor Asa Hutchison rolled over immediately….(read more)

millen-anguish

“Adlai Stevenson famously offered this definition: ‘A free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.’ We do not live in that society.”

…There are three problems with rewarding those who use accusations of bigotry as a political cudgel. First, those who seek to protect religious liberties are not bigots, and going along with false accusations that they are makes one a party to a lie.

[Read the full text here, at National Review]

Second, it is an excellent way to lose political contests, since there is almost nothing — up to and including requiring algebra classes — that the Left will not denounce as bigotry. Third, and related, it rewards and encourages those who cynically deploy end-is-nearaccusations of bigotry for their own political ends.

[Kevin D. Williamson’s book  “The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome”  is available at Amazon]

An excellent illustration of this dynamic is on display in the recent pronouncements of columnist and gay-rights activist Dan Savage, who, in what seems to be an effort to resurrect every lame stereotype about the shrill, hysterical, theatrical gay man, declaimed that the efforts of those who do not wish to see butchers and bakers and wedding-bouquet makers forced by their government at gunpoint to violate their religious scruples is — you probably have guessed already — nothing less than the consecration of Jim Crow Junior. “Anti-black bigots, racist bigots, during Jim Crow and segregation made the exact same arguments that you’re hearing people make now,” Savage said. Given the dramatic difference in the social and political position of blacks in the time of Bull Connor and gays in the time of Ellen DeGeneres, this is strictly Hitler-was-a-vegetarian stuff, the elevation of trivial formal similarities over dramatic substantial differences. The choices for explaining this are a.) moral illiteracy; b.) intellectual dishonesty; c.) both a and b…(read more)

National Review


My So-Called Religious Freedom

joker-scare-quotes

National Review‘s Katherine Connell notes major media’s new House Style:

Unknown

[read the full text here, at National Review]


Deroy Murdock: ‘Are We Prepared to Handcuff a Feminist Photographer Who Won’t Take Pictures at a Strip Club?’

liberals-in-shock-590

At National ReviewDeroy Murdock asks some questions.

• Do we still respect a woman’s right to choose not to bake a cake for a gay couple?

• Do we respect a woman’s right to choose not to take photographs at a Christmas party at a men’s club because she is a feminist who deeply loathes all-male establishments?

• Do we respect the rights of groups of women to choose to enjoy the sisterhood of a women’s club where they need not cope with men?

• Do we respect the Junior League’s right to choose to remain a female-only group, as it has been since 1901, or must they now accept male members?

[Read the full text here at National Review]

• Do we respect a lesbian bar owner’s right to choose to post a No Men Allowed sign in her window because her customers want to enjoy their all-female company in peace and don’t want to associate there with a bunch of hairy dudes with Adam’s apples, brawny shoulders, testosterone in their veins, and penises in their pants?

• Do we respect a gay merchant’s decision to tell a heterosexual couple to stop making out inside his club full of gay men who could live without such a spectacle while meeting other gay men?

cake_god-hates-fags

“Bake this!” — Can a gay baker just say no?

• Do we respect a gay baker’s right to choose not to bake a cake for the Westboro Baptist Church with icing that reads God Hates Fags?

• Do we respect a fundamentalist Muslim baker’s choice not to bake a cake for a bar mitzvah because she really is not crazy about the Star of David?

[Also see –  Indiana’s Law Is Not the Return of Jim Crow,” by Jonah Goldberg]

• Do we respect a black jazz band’s choice not to perform at a Ku Klux Klan chapter’s “Negro Minstrel Show”?

• Do we respect a pro–gun control photographer’s right to choose not to snap pictures at a Sharpshooter of the Year banquet organized by the local chapter of the National Rifle Association? Read the rest of this entry »


Tim Cook Needs to Do Some Homework

620x349“Apple’s Gay CEO Tim Cook Wants to Boycott Indiana for Its Allegedly Anti-Gay RFRA, But Will Gladly Sell You an iPhone At Its Boutique in Riyadh, Where They’ll Stone You to Death For Being Gay.”

AceofSpadesHQ

Ponnuru

 writes: Tim Cook, the chief executive officer of Apple, is spreading misinformation about a new religious-freedom law in Indiana. That law and similar ones, he writes in the Washington Post, “say individuals can cite their personal religious beliefs to refuse service to a customer or resist a state nondiscrimination law.” He goes on to claim that they “rationalize injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear. They go against the very principles our nation was founded on, and they have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality.”

“What these religious-freedom laws say is that government can require people to violate their religious beliefs only when it is pursuing a compelling interest, and must do so in the least intrusive manner possible. Thus the Supreme Court recently ruled under a federal religious-freedom law that a Muslim prisoner doesn’t have to shave his beard.”

Discrimination against gay customers or employees is what opponents of the law are especially concerned about. But that’s a strange argument to make in the context of Indiana, which lacks any state nondiscrimination law on sexual orientation for people to resist. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is legal almost everywhere in the state, and was before this religious-freedom law passed.

“Cook may not be aware of this point or others that cut against his argument because reporting on this controversy has been abysmal. Cook may also be unaware that the ‘wave of legislation’ that he fears has largely already happened. A very similar religious-freedom law has been on the federal books for 22 years…”

[Read the full text here, at bloombergview.com]

Cook may not be aware of this point or others that cut against his argument because reporting on this controversy has been abysmal. Cook may also be unaware that the “wave of legislation” that he fears has largely already happened. A very similar religious-freedom law has been on the federal books for 22 years, and that law itself codified a Supreme Court doctrine that had been in place for most of the previous few decades. Nineteen states besides Indiana have similar laws. Read the rest of this entry »


Bret Stephens: The Capitulationist

Obama-Haim-Saban-AFP:Getty

The Obama administration refuses to negotiate openly, lest the extent of its diplomatic surrender to Iran be prematurely and fatally exposed.

Bret Stephens writes: For a sense of the magnitude of the capitulation represented by Barack Obama’s Iran diplomacy, it’s worth recalling what the president said when he was trying to sell his interim nuclear agreement to a Washington, D.C., audience in December 2013.

“We know they don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordo in order to have a peaceful program,” Mr. Obama said of the Iranians in an interview with Haim Saban, the Israeli-American billionaire philanthropist. “They certainly don’t need a heavy-water reactor at Arak in order to have a peaceful nuclear program. They don’t need some of the advanced centrifuges that they currently possess in order to have a limited, peaceful nuclear program.”

An Iranian worker at the Uranium Conversion Facility at Isfahan, 410 kilometers, south of Tehran. The conversion facility in Isfahan reprocesses uranium ore concentrate, known as yellowcake, into uranium hexaflouride gas. The gas is then taken to Natanz and fed into the centrifuges for enrichment. (photo credit: AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

An Iranian worker at the Uranium Conversion Facility at Isfahan, 410 kilometers, south of Tehran. The conversion facility in Isfahan reprocesses uranium ore concentrate, known as yellowcake, into uranium hexaflouride gas. The gas is then taken to Natanz and fed into the centrifuges for enrichment. (photo credit: AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Hardly more than a year later, on the eve of what might be deal-day, here is where those promises stand:

Fordo: “The United States is considering letting Tehran run hundreds of centrifuges at a once-secret, fortified underground bunker in exchange for limits on centrifuge work and research and development at other sites.”—Associated Press, March 26.

[Read the full text here, at the Wall Street Journal]

Arak: “Today, the six powers negotiating with Iran . . . want the reactor at Arak, still under construction, reconfigured to produce less plutonium, the other bomb fuel.”—The New York Times, March 7.

Advanced centrifuges: “Iran is building about 3,000 advanced uranium-enrichment centrifuges, the Iranian news media reported Sunday, a development likely to add to Western concerns about Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.”—Reuters, March 3.

nypost-obama-islam-blind

But the president and his administration made other promises, too. Consider a partial list:

Possible military dimensions: In September 2009 Mr. Obama warned Iran that it was “on notice” that it would have to “come clean” on all of its nuclear secrets. Now the administration is prepared to let it slide.

“It was never especially probable that a detailed, satisfactory verification regime would be included in the sort of substantive framework agreement that the Americans have been working for.”

— The Economist

“Under the new plan,” The Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon and Laurence Norman reported last week, “Tehran wouldn’t be expected to immediately clarify all the outstanding questions raised by the IAEA in a 2011 report on Iran’s alleged secretive work. A full reckoning of Iran’s past activities would be demanded in later years as part of a nuclear deal that is expected to last at least 15 years.”

Verification: Another thing the president said in that interview with Mr. Saban is that any deal would involve “extraordinary constraints and verification mechanisms and intrusive inspections.”

Iran isn’t playing ball on this one, either. Read the rest of this entry »


Hamilton’s Warning Against Obama and the Iran Deal: Federalist No. 75

Hamilton-Cleaning-Reuters-640x480

Congress should heed Hamilton’s warning before it is too late

“An ambitious man might make his own aggrandizement, by the aid of a foreign power, the price of his treachery to his constituents.”

Thus did Alexander Hamilton warn the American people, in Federalist No. 75, against allowing the president to make treaties alone.

Hamilton, while a supporter of executive power, nevertheless argued for the Senate’s treaty role, because “it would be utterly unsafe and improper to intrust that power to an elective magistrate of four years’ duration.”

“An avaricious man might be tempted to betray the interests of the state to the acquisition of wealth.”

It would be unsafe, he said, because even the most virtuous individuals, with the best of intentions, would fall prey to the temptations that negotiations with foreign powers would certainly provide.

How much more so does his advice apply to a president of lesser virtue, such as Barack Obama, who intends to decrease the power of the United States as a matter of ideological conviction, and who seeks narcissistic satisfaction in the attention a deal with Iran would temporarily provide!

Hamilton also anticipated the greed allegedly displayed by Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, whose perambulations around the globe in service of the president’s dubious foreign policy agenda coincided with generous donations from foreign governments to her family’s personal foundation. Read the rest of this entry »


Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Un-Feminist Un-Hero

Lowry

She is defying the jihadi censors, the misbegotten hate-speech laws and the polite conventions of Western debate that all limit what can be said about the relationship of Islam to modernity. So what’s Feminism’s problem? 

Rich Lowry writes: Ayaan Hirsi Ali should be the perfect feminist hero.

In theory, she fits the role on multiple levels: She’s an escapee from an abusive patriarchy.

[Read the full text here, at the New York Post]

She’s an African immigrant who made her own way in a Western country, the Netherlands. She’s a fierce advocate for women’s rights.

YAAN - FEB28 - Author Ayaan Hirsi Ali talks about her autobiography. tb (Photo by Tony Bock/Toronto Star via Getty Images) By: Tony Bock Collection: Toronto Star

Author Ayaan Hirsi Ali talks about her autobiography. Photo by Tony Bock/Toronto Star via Getty Images. 

“Raised a Muslim in Somalia, subjected to genital mutilation and married off to a distant cousin, she is famously a critic of Islam.”

She’s a target for deadly violence by angry men who want to shut her up. She left her religion and became a scourge of its repressive practices.ayaan-hirsi-ali-1

Except for the blemish on her record: Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a dissident from the wrong religion.

“Ayaan Hirsi Ali has more confidence in Western civilization and its values than people who have never had to live outside it, or face down the enemies who want to destroy it.”

Raised a Muslim in Somalia, subjected to genital mutilation and married off to a distant cousin, she is famously a critic of Islam.

She has excoriated it at extraordinary risk to her own safety, and makes the case again in her latest book, “Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now.”

When she collaborated on a film in the Netherlands in 2004 cataloging abuses against Muslim women, her fellow filmmaker Theo van Gogh was assassinated by an Islamist who left a note threatening her pinned to van Gogh’s chest — with a knife.

“In the fashionable neologism designed to be a conversation-stopper, she is “an Islamophobe’.”

But Hirsi Ali wouldn’t be silenced. She is truly a hero of our time. She is defying the jihadi censors, the misbegotten hate-speech laws and the polite conventions of Western debate that all limit what can be said about the relationship of Islam to modernity.

[Order Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s new book “Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now” from Amazon.com]

Our society, and especially the left, tends to reflexively celebrate dissenters. But some heretics are more welcome than others. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] The Reasons Why Democrats Are the Party of Slavery and Victimization

Zo thinks that Democrats are really the party of slavery, Jim Crow, and the KKK. Hear why.


To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran

Bolton-NYT

John R. Bolton writes: For years, experts worried that the Middle East would face an uncontrollable nuclear-arms race if Iran ever acquired weapons capability. Given the region’s political, religious and ethnic conflicts, the logic is straightforward.

“Even absent palpable proof, like a nuclear test, Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear weapons has long been evident.”

As in other nuclear proliferation cases like India, Pakistan and North Korea, America and the West were guilty of inattention when they should have been vigilant. But failing to act in the past is no excuse for making the same mistakes now. All presidents enter office facing the cumulative effects of their predecessors’ decisions. But each is responsible for what happens on his watch. President Obama’s approach on Iran has brought a bad situation to the brink of catastrophe.

An Iranian worker at the Uranium Conversion Facility at Isfahan, 410 kilometers, south of Tehran. The conversion facility in Isfahan reprocesses uranium ore concentrate, known as yellowcake, into uranium hexaflouride gas. The gas is then taken to Natanz and fed into the centrifuges for enrichment. (photo credit: AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

An Iranian worker at the Uranium Conversion Facility at Isfahan, 410 kilometers, south of Tehran. The conversion facility in Isfahan reprocesses uranium ore concentrate, known as yellowcake, into uranium hexaflouride gas. The gas is then taken to Natanz and fed into the centrifuges for enrichment. (photo credit: AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

“Now the arms race has begun: Neighboring countries are moving forward, driven by fears that Mr. Obama’s diplomacy is fostering a nuclear Iran.”

In theory, comprehensive international sanctions, rigorously enforced and universally adhered to, might have broken the back of Iran’s nuclear program. But the sanctions imposed have not met those criteria. Naturally, Tehran wants to be free of them, but the president’s own director of National Intelligence testified in 2014 that they had not stopped Iran’s progressing its nuclear program. There is now widespread acknowledgment that the rosy 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which judged that Iran’s weapons program was halted in 2003, was an embarrassment, little more than wishful thinking.

gangster-nukes

“There is now widespread acknowledgment that the rosy 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which judged that Iran’s weapons program was halted in 2003, was an embarrassment, little more than wishful thinking.”

Even absent palpable proof, like a nuclear test, Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear weapons has long been evident. Now the arms race has begun: Neighboring countries are moving forward, driven by fears that Mr. Obama’s diplomacy is fostering a nuclear Iran. Saudi Arabia, keystone of the oil-producing monarchies, has long been expected to move first. No way would the Sunni Saudis allow the Shiite Persians to outpace them in the quest for dominance within Islam and Middle Eastern geopolitical hegemony. Read the rest of this entry »


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