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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Leave Me Alones vs Make It Betters

By On June 29, 2011
The two streams in American politics are not liberal vs conservative, they can be roughly defined as "Leave Me Alone" vs "Make It Better". Leave Me Alone seeks personal independence, self-reliance and freedom from interference. Make It Better believes in the progressive betterment of society through regulation, intervention and education.

Most people associate the "Leave Me Alones" with conservatism and the "Make It Betters" with liberalism. That's partly true, but not entirely. The hijacking of liberalism and the Democratic party by the radical left has them into the standard bearers of a ruthless "Make It Better" agenda. But "Make It Better" is found often on the right as well. The loss of the cultural war to the left has pushed conservatives into a defensive position. And the ascension of the left has moved it into a state of permanent aggression.

"Leave Me Alone" is defensive. It creates boundaries and asks that they be respected. "Make It Better" is offensive, it pushes through individual boundaries in the name of the greater good. Neither of these are purely moral positions. Rather they are preferential positions. "Leave Me Alone" can turn a blind eye to evil with long term consequences. "Make It Better" sometimes brings positive change. But like any course of positive action, "Make It Better" is more likely to be associated with negative consequences.

The difference between "Leave Me Alone" and "Make It Better" is cultural. It's in the way we prefer to live and how we see other people. To "Leave Me Alones", other people are either good or bad. But to the "Make It Betters", everyone is in a gray area and in need to enlightenment. "Leave Me Alones" trust people more as individuals, while being suspicious of groups. "Make It Betters" think of groups as more moral than individuals.

"Make It Betters" judge people by their web of interconnections. The interconnectedness is their way of morality. The more involved with others someone is, the better of a person they are. By contributing to the whole, they demonstrate selflessness. Their understanding of morality is purely external, as shown by interaction with others. It is why "Make It Betters" are often unable to process how one of them could possibly be guilty of a crime, when he is so involved in helping others. They derive their sense of moral worth from group participation, which makes self-examination difficult for them. Dissatisfied with the group, they often search for happiness and pursue self-improvement, but lack the internal moral code that makes either one truly possible.

"Leave Me Alones" see morality as internal. A matter of character. Public interactions can reveal character, but are also dominated by social pressures. "Leave Me Alones" distrust those who make a show of their social morality. To them external morality is often a cover for private sin. They are prone to self-examination and have a keen awareness of their failings. And suspect that everyone else also has a similar mismatch between their outer and inner selves.

The "Make It Betters" are hierarchical, as all social movements must be. Their movements promote equality through brotherhood, but as in any movement, function defines status. Inequality is the impetus for their movements, and by pledging to remedy this inequality, they also acknowledge it and enshrine it. By taking on the role as the uplifters, they elevate themselves to a higher status, and unconsciously seek to maintain their superior role in relation to those they wish to uplift. If actual equality occurs, they feel lost for equality removes their status as the uplifters.

Moral "Make It Better" movements typically assign blame for the inequality to the unequal, and political "MIB" movements assign it to those in power. Moral movements call on the unequal to improve themselves. Political movements call on those in power to stop oppressing them. Both approaches are incomplete and opportunistic. But in both cases the "Make It Betters" take on the role of intercessors for a portion of their community, their country or the world.

The "Leave Me Alone" ideal is the cave. A private place with a single defensible approach (and maybe a well hidden back exit). The "Make It Better" ideal is the beehive, buzzing with progressive activity and constantly making it better. But "Leave Me Alones" are actually often better community members because they understand boundaries, while the "Make It Betters" are too often afflicted with egotism, neediness, martyrdom and a collection of neuroses.

The "Leave Me Alones" are often accused of being dysfunctional members of the community, but it is more accurate to say that the "Make It Betters" are often dysfunctional as individuals. They have never learned how to be alone with themselves or to accept the inevitable aspects of life-- and need a group to give them what they cannot give themselves. They cannot live on their own terms, and must live through others instead.

The "Leave Me Alones" accept the reality of the world. The "Make It Betters" deny it. They deny death by seeking immortality through the group. They deny human fallibility by their constant programs of collective betterment. They have made the group their god, and they kill and die for it. If the LMA's can be accused of selfishness, the MIB's are guilty of a much more pervasive and unthinking selfishness. Their religion is social progress and they deny the right of anyone to dissent from the worship of their faith. LMA's are capable of private and mob cruelty, but it is MIB's who routinely enshrine that cruelty into law in the name of the greater good.

Of course few people or movements are purely one thing or another. Most are a mixture of the two. The difference is usually one of proportion. People have their own preferred mix of independence and interdependence that they want to practice on their own terms. And this is a "Leave Me Alone" approach.

The American tradition has a strong bias toward independence. Our myths, from the minute man to the cowboy to the superhero, are about vigilantes. Lone wolves who fight for what's theirs or stand up for what's right. While in other countries, liberators often overshadow revolutions, here George Washington may be the nation's greatest figure, but he still stands in the shadow of what was genuinely a popular revolution. No American leader's cult of personality has ever been allowed to overshadow the nation's achievements.

Even our collectivist movements are forced to resort to this tradition, framing a collectivist agenda in terms of individuals who make a difference by breaking from the herd and acting on their own initiative. The American psyche is resistant to stories of any other kind. They can be told, but they don't persist. The American Hero is still the individual, who remains suspicious of authority and willing to speak up where others remain silent.

But politics favors the "Make It Better" agenda. For it is an agenda, rather than the absence of. It is a difficult thing to set a man to the task of opposing change. It is much easier to make him an agent of change. For change has momentum. Its opposition has the potential energy of the backlash, but it has the kinetic energy of a progressive agenda. Those who want to make things better carry more weight in public debates than those who wish to be left alone. And the MIB's are usually better organized, for organization is in the nature of what they do.

The American narrative began with those who wanted to be left alone. Religious dissenters looking to practice their faith in an empty land without a state church. Planters and merchants looking for a place that had room for them and their ambitions. Farmers who wanted scarce land in a continent full of it.

Each confrontation between the authorities back home, their governors here, and the people brought the inevitable clash nearer. Bacon's Rebellion in 1676, was a forewarning of 1776. But the very act of rebellion required increasing organization. And so the Whiskey Rebellion that came in the aftermath of independence. And those post-independence clashes foreshadowed the Civil War and the present day conflict between the individual and the state. Each triumph of centralization solidified the narrative of union. The need of the central government to be able to set laws and have them obeyed in the name of the greater good-- trumping all else.

If the "Leave Me Alones" feel that their backs are to the wall, they are right. The exponential growth of the state, backed by high speed transportation, instant communications, massive data processing and storage, over increasingly dense populations leads to an irresistible conclusion. Dense populations are more unstable. And population growth means that the state has constant justifications for expansion. The rapid pace of change creates dislocation, which leads to economic downturns, unemployment and cultural change. All of these lead to further instability, violence and the breakdown of families and communities.

The Tea Party movement is driven by "Leave Me Alone" rhetoric, but it is up against a political system in which is government an enterprise with the need to create demand for its services. "Leave Me Alone" is also a service, and there are politicians and lobbies who have made careers on promising to provide it. But they can never succeed, or else they would be out of business. To successfully fight for political change is to bring a constituency into being, along with all the infrastructure that comes with it. It is the first step to going from LMA to MIB. In a democracy, to successfully resist the system is to become part of the system. To go from shooting at Redcoats at the Battle of Lexington, to shooting at farmers over Whiskey excise taxes.

The American narrative is still on the side of those who want to be left alone, even if the media and the cultural establishment is not. It is the romantic ideal at the heart of the American experience. But is freedom possible without a frontier, and can we fight to be left alone, without becoming what we are fighting against? The coming years will answer those questions in ways we cannot predict, but must learn from.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Get Well, Hugo

By On June 27, 2011
Reports say that Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez may be seriously ill. In Dictatorspeak, seriously ill means seriously dead. And seriously dead, means there's a revolution coming up shortly. But whether Hugo Chavez is dead, sick or just vacationing in Cuba for his health-- there's no reason for him to feel down.

Even if Hugo Chavez is dead, his brother Adan Chavez has vowed to use force to stay in power. And that is the true socialist way. If you can't win an election or keep your strongman seated upright on his throne without stuffing him full of hay, then bring out the army and show the rabble who's really in charge. Nothing proves you're a man of the people like ruling through armed force.

And with so many brothers already in power, the Chavez clan can look forward to a long career of wealth redistribution. With his father and brother running one state, another brother running a town, and more scattered around cabinets, banks and other high offices, there's enough Chavez's to go around. Lose a Chavez and swap in another one. It works in Cuba, why not in Venezuela?

Yes Chavez's standing isn't what it used to be a few years ago, but socialism is still the dominant paradigm in the hemisphere. From Barack Obama to Dilma Rousseff, and from Daniel Ortega to Evo Morales, the spirit of Marx is strong on this side of the Atlantic. While holdouts still remain in Canada and Columbia, the forces of revolution remain confident of achieving victory. Or at least total international debt default.

The Venezuelan economy has hit a rocky stretch with many of the proceeds going into the pockets of la familia Chávez, but socialism isn't a dirty word yet. At least not everywhere. In Canada, the NDP is debating whether to remove the part of their constitution that says progress “can be assured only by the application of socialist principles”. But it's not so much that they're debating whether that's true, but whether it's politic to say it out loud.

It's the same problem in America where the Democratic party is stuck pretending to be offended every time someone calls their socialist programs by their proper name. After a bout of soul-searching, the NDP decided to keep on being socialists in name, as well as in policy. And the Democratic party has decided to be socialists in policy, but not in name. That may be why the Democratic party is in power and the NDP isn't.

But in Venezuela, there's no need to compromise. Chavez's United Socialist Party is socialist in name and in power. And runs roughshod over the opposition, civil liberties and freedom of the press, the way that a proper socialist party should. As Adan Chavez reminded his colleagues, "we cannot forget as authentic revolutionaries, other methods of struggle". Like using snipers to pick off unarmed protesters from rooftops.

And who better to represent the authentic revolutionary strivings of socialism, than a Chavez. Any Chavez. With an entire family making a living off being in the government, it's enough to make a Kennedy kvell with pride.

Jobs? We don't need no stinking jobs. We're lifetime ruling socialists in the tradition of Simon Bolivar. Or in the tradition we're sure he would have approved of, if only because we say so. Venezuela's unemployment has doubled since 2008-- but the Chavez family will always have lifetime jobs. Either in politics or the prison laundry-- only time will tell.

In most countries, when a leader's health is in question, stocks and bonds slide. But in Venezuela, bonds actually rallied on news that Chavez might be dead. An impressive level of mismanagement is needed to create an environment in which your country's bonds actually go up on the mere supposition that you might be dead. But for a dedicated socialist, this is the finest tribute possible. And when Chavez gets out of his mausoleum, dons his track suit and begins quietly unloading as many bonds as possible, before the financial markets realize he's still alive-- it will be another triumphant victory for socialism.

But to really put one over the capitalists, El Presidente might want to consider playing dead for a year or two. It could do wonders for Venezuela's economy. And maybe that way, he won't need to create yet another new currency to replace the old devalued currency.

If Chavez decides to keep on governing from the hospital bed, at least he won't be the only Marxist strongman in Latin America to do it. The wonderful Cuban medical service could move in another bed next to Fidel and the two human toadstools could rule over two countries side by side, confiscating newspapers and imprisoning dissidents, while being examined for bedsores.

But then what does it say about socialism, when its two leading promoters south of the border can't get out of bed? The Ottoman Empire held the status of the Sick Man of Europe. With two of the leading leftist tyrants of Latin America confined to their sickbeds-- maybe Socialism should be the Sick Man of Latin America.

Karl Marx wrote that that, "A specter is haunting Europe-- the specter of Communism". Today Fidel and Hugo are the specters of Communism haunting Latin-America. And if they don't cut out the fried foods, they might shortly become actual specters. 

But what if the unthinkable should happen and Hugo should indeed give up the ghost? The good news is that even if the entire Chavez clan somehow becomes indisposed to take power in his stead, there are great socialists north of the border who would be happy to step into his double wide shoes.

Take Obama, please. A defeat in 2012 would mean that the Nobel Peace Prize winner would have nothing to do with his time but play golf and shoplift from local small businesses out of nostalgia. But Obamanomics looks almost sensible compared to Hugonomics. Neither of them can add up 2 plus 2, but at least America is still on the same currency it was on in 2008. That currency is worth less, but we aren't swapping dollars in at the bank for Future Dollars. Yet.

There's no doubt that Obama could do a great deal to revitalize Venezuela. For example, outlaw oil drilling. And redirect all of manufacturing to creating green jobs. Green jobs being jobs that you have to pay bribes to be hired for. And the one thing Latin America needs is another leader who makes constant speeches that no one can stand to listen to. With Fidel out of shape, Obama can fill that vacuum. And his Spanish pronunciation is bound to make him the hit of Miami radio.

If Obama doesn't suit, what about AFL-CIO thug, Richard Trumka. Trumka has said, "Being called a socialist is a step up for me". I guess it beats murderer. The advantage of getting Trumka to fill Chavez's shoes, is that he could actually fit in the shoes, and he comes with his own mustache. Chavez's facial hair deficit has long been a major problem. Trumka will bring mustachioed socialism into the 21st century.

Finally what about Governor Blagojevich, a hard-working socialist leader, forced out of office for doing what would come naturally to the Chavez family. Blagojevich could bring much needed reforms to Venezuela's electoral system. And his experience in the Chicago way of politics would come in handy when it comes to everything from community organizing to community policing to community death squads.

But let's not jump to any conclusions yet. As far as we know, Hugo Chavez is alive and well, and has been photographed in the company of the ghosts of Fidel and Raul Castro. So let us bend our knees in silent prayer to Lenin, Stalin and Noam Chomsky on behalf of their brother in need, Hugo. As Marxism and Communism have fallen in Russia and China, it is up to them to defend its strongholds in this hemisphere.

For if it loses here, then where else can it go? A giant hole in the ground. Mars, the Red Planet. That won't do, not when Chavez recently revealed that capitalism destroyed all life on Mars. So what's left besides a back closet in Michael Moore's estate? There are no more fallback positions left. If Hugo doesn't recover, will socialism?

The Progressive Reactionarism of the Postmodern Left

By On June 27, 2011
The absurdity of the postmodern left is that it is a chimera crossbred of contradictions mixing together technocracy and environmentalism. Hunting through the trash for discarded food and triumphantly blogging about it on a 500 dollar device. Big government projects and making your own shoes. Stand up to the man and tell him to appoint more bureaucrats. Read Dawkins and then blog about visiting a Middle Eastern mosque. Reject materialism in the latest carefully branded 200 dollar shoes made from recycled rubber tires.  

If the old left at least had something resembling rational project, the postmodern left has its broken vestiges, dressed up in directionless rage, superstition, anti-materialism and primitivism. The end result of this progressive reactionarism isn't just ugly, it's unsustainable.

The contradictions between the left's big government ambitions and its destruction of everything that makes it work dooms the whole project to a meltdown. The Soviet Union was run by vicious thugs who understood that you needed a massive industrial and agricultural base to build the socialist future. But today's left is completely uninterested in such things. Like lunatic dot com pioneers, they don't bother with revenue streams or business models, just plans and proposals. Ideological compliance matters. Functionality isn't even a blip on the radar.

As hopelessly stupid as many of the Bolsheviks were, they understood that something had to come after seizing the property of the rich. The modern left just assumes that the property of rich is an infinite commodity that can be seized and will still always be there. Not enough money? Raise taxes. Still not enough money? Raise more taxes. And then get ready to move your own money to another tax shelter. Their anti-materialism is more like a hypocritical ignorance of their own material realities. Socialism for them is not a material act, but a spiritual one. To make it work, you must have faith in hope and change.

The Soviet Union in its time made Union Carbide and Exxon look like radical greens. It didn't just pollute, it celebrated the destruction of the natural world as the triumph of modern man. It tore down mountains with the same glee it tore down churches. It destroyed rivers and lakes just to show that it could. This violent vandalism sprang from its materialist roots. Primitive man might be satisfied with smelling the flowers, but Socialist man would stomp all over the flowers and go back and plant some even better steel flowers to show his superiority to the natural world.

But its idiot grandchildren have gone just as radically in the opposite direction to an environmentalism that makes industry impossible and individual prosperity hopeless-- and with them the economic base for their ideology. Embracing environmentalist dogma isn't just a knife to the throat of businesses and a bullet to the head of the consumer-- it's a slow prolonged death for the tax happy Great Society that was built at their expense.

It takes a mighty nation to support a cradle to grave welfare state and grants to analyze the racial subtext of Eskimo poetry. Or a bankrupt nation getting bailouts from the IMF in the hopes of being able to service its debt. And beyond that lie the spiritual values of starving children sorting garbage in slums so admired by moral leaders like Prince Chuck. The anti-materialism of the freegans taken to its inevitable outcome when the economy and then the system that made their dilettantism possible is destroyed.

By a perverse twist, anti-capitalism has become anti-materialism. The strange love child of Marx and Rousseau celebrates the wonders of African capitalism and bemoans brand labels. Structural analysis has given way to identification. A herd instinct for those who fancy themselves too smart for the common herd. The herd is not concerned with where it is going, but only that it is traveling with others of the same kind.

Marx had little use for the noble savage and primitivism for its own sake. His casual observation that  "Islamism proscribes the nation of the Infidels, constituting a state of permanent hostility between the Mussulman and the unbeliever" is today only to be found on the right and among a besieged handful of European leftists. The rest welcome in Islam and Sharia Law as the solution to all ills. In their  minds, the only way to fully purge the materialism and nationalism of the civilized world, is to fill it with the uncivilized.

The addled left has confused primitivism with anti-materialism, treating poverty as evidence of higher moral values. This attitude hung around the necks of upper class activists all along, but there is no longer any counter to it. Every college assigns critical texts on Orientalism, and yet every campus wallows in the fetishization of non-Western cultures. Gandhi, the former soldier turned independence activist, has become the plaster saint on the wall of Western pacifism, and the Koran has become the book of tolerance and feminism. Those so intolerant of the hypocrisies of their own culture, eagerly wallow in the hypocrisies of other cultures.

The progressives thought they were moving up, but the reactionaries think that down is up. That the way to a better future lies in making do with less and living a simpler life. These ideas are not rational, they are cultic. Their embrace of Islam, the most reactionary creed since the witch doctor and his bone knife, does not derive from a comparison of its relative merits, but from their political escapism. They are too lazy to be bothered to analyze ideas on their merits. Instead they choose the one furthest away from the rational and congratulate themselves on how well they refuse to be fooled by the reactionaries.

The postmodern left has a socialist bookshelf, but the readers are aspiring savages. Aspiring because they lack the aptitude for more than the occasional street protest and date rape. They have a highly developed nose for injustice, but no sense of guilt. They strive to atone for their consumerism with a conspicuous anti-materialism of fair trade and DIY projects. They want to overturn and sustain their privileges at the same time all at the expense of the working class. And while they cash in on cap and trade, it's the ordinary workers who are being capped and their jobs getting traded overseas.

Progressive reactionarism is the escalator of men and women who want to be seen moving forward, even as they slide further backward. Their greatest fear is that the rest of the herd will realize they don't know the difference. The more the progressives move their agenda forward, the more the society they infest moves backward. But most of them are not positioned where they can see that. Nor can they see the bigger picture.

They reduce all transactions to the victim-oppressor equation, unrealizing that to much of the country they have become the oppressors. That the out of work coal miner, the small businessman and the working family trying to make ends meet increasingly hates them and their institutions. That their self-consciously charming coffeehouses, home woodshopping and green advocacy look like the playthings of a dilettante elite about to be swept out of power by popular anger, as thoroughly as the Bourbon kings of France.

The massive unwieldy beasts of government have become the Versailles of a hopelessly out of touch liberal elite, that slums around with books about how hard it is to get by on a limited income, but have no comprehension how much the people who are getting by resent the massive infrastructure of their bureaucratic palaces. The progressive reactionaries have lost sight of the moment when they crossed the terminator from activists to tyrants. That self-delusion is a weakness the Communists did not suffer from. The Progressive-Reactionaries are vain enough to dress up as democrats and pretend that their rule is consensual. Any opposition is met with shrieks of racism. A word that no longer has any meaning except as code for counter-revolutionary.

Of all the tyrannies of history, the Progressive-Reactionaries are by far the dumbest. The only thing they know how to do is bribe their way to stay in power. But even the old divide and conquer politics of apportioning the spoils of government to your supporters only works for as long as you have what to give them. When the economy turns bad enough and there's nothing to hand out anymore, then there's nothing standing between you and the counter-revolution except the hoarse cry of racism.

Jobs? Ask the Commies about that one. They at least knew what jobs are. That's something Richard Blumenthal couldn't do during his senate debate. It's something Obama hasn't been able to grasp with all his shovel ready projects and promises of creating a billion zillion jobs a week. His latest economic plan to create jobs is by legalizing illegal aliens. At this point it's painfully obvious that never having held a job or done a job, he doesn't actually understand what they are. And he doesn't care to find out.

'Jobs' like 'Racism' has become one of those words that goes well in any sentence. The left now uses it like explorers who have landed on a native island, aware that the natives worship some god called 'Jobs' and hope that by randomly pointing to things, taking them and then shaking them upside down, the natives will find those 'Jobs' they keep looking for and leave them in peace.

Conservatives accuse liberals of reading Marx and Lenin. But it's much worse than that. They're reading Thomas Friedman's The Lexus and the Olive Tree, with some Alinsky and Arabian Nights on the side. They're not so much socialists, as they are idiots who think that the economy is a function of their genius and all foreign policy problems can be settled with a beer summit and a heartfelt apology. It's not just that they're ruining America-- it's that they're frequently too stupid to even know they're doing it.

They're too stupid to even understand that their vision of a technocratic environmentally sustainable democracy in which everyone makes do with less and likes it that way makes as much sense as teaching your dog to do tricks by setting yourself on fire. Or that working toward a united world by empowering a bunch of people who kill each other over minor points of religious doctrine and ethnicity is like torching yourself, the dog and the nearby fire station. Or that none of this can even pay for itself because every time they pass a law, jobs fly out the window like startled birds. And the only thing they ever do anymore is pass laws, and then more laws on top of that.

You can't get there from here. That's the saddest thing about the progressive-reactionaries. The old leftists could combine idealism and materialism in a brutal package of a mechanical society. But there is hardly any materialism in the dogma of the new left, except when it comes to their own salaries. They have nothing resembling a plan for a workable society. Not even a bad plan. Instead the envision that a better society will somehow emerge from the piles of mouldering bureaucracy and angry mobs of multicultural refugees. The 'somehow' is left up to someone else to work out.

Like Wily E. Coyote teetering in mid-air, the postmodern left still fancifully imagines that it is going forward. But the only place it's going is down. And as of now, they're taking everyone else with them.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Good News From Libya

By On June 25, 2011
The good news is that victory is all but assured in Libya. Just don't ask for whom, or how or why. Or any other questions for that matter.

Ten years ago, liberals howled in outrage when President Bush said, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." They wanted a third option like remaining neutral. Or a fourth option of being with the terrorists, while still having the patriotic credibility of condemning any action against Muslim terrorists as "Un-American".

Now Hillary Clinton replied to Republican congressional critics with, "The bottom line is, whose side are you on? Are you on Qadhafi’s side or are you on the side of the aspirations of the Libyan people and the international coalition that has been created to support them?"

As rousing retorts go, this sounds like it was processed through the sausage factory of bureaucracy and ended up as the conclusion to a thesis. But then it's hard to make, "You're either with the international coalition and the aspirations of the Libyan people or with the guy in the robe who was a close ally three months ago" sound snappy. That's the problem with fighting wars on behalf of a multinational philosophy that can only be summed up in polysyllabic torrents of words that don't mean anything.

When Bush said, "You're either with us or against us", we all knew what he meant. But what does fighting for the aspirations of the Libyan people mean? If it turns out that the Libyan people aspire to behead their daughters and ethnically cleanse Africans, will we still be for that. And if not, why not. Either we are for democracy or we're for crushing their aspirations under the tanks of a dictator. And who are we to pass judgement on their aspirations anyway. Look at the Indians, Three Mile Island and Britney Spears.

It doesn't take much to start from that way of thinking and go straight to dropping bombs for female genital mutilation and sending in the marines in support of beheading gays, even as the marines are forced to accept openly gay soldiers.

"You're either with our coalition or with Gaddafi" abandons national interests in favor of some vague right to protect civilians from bombardment by bombing them first. How many villages do we have to destroy before we finally save them? There's no way to tell. Not without blowing them up first.

If we're going on bombing raids to protect civilians, then why are the skies of Syria, Sudan and Iran clear of B2 bombers and Tomahawk missiles? It's because we only protect certain civilians. Usually the ones who don't exist.

To justify the war on Libya, Obama has claimed that if he had not acted thousands of civilians would be dead. Last month he reiterated that all the 700,000 people in Benghazi are still alive only thanks to his swift actions. How do we know that? Well Obama took action and they're alive, aren't they. What better proof could you possibly ask for?

You might as well act skeptical when the administration also insists that by spending trillions of dollars they saved millions of jobs. How do we know that millions of jobs were saved? There are millions of people still employed, aren't there? Q.E.D.

And when next fall we begin bombing China to save 1 billion Chinese from something or other, then so long as there are a billion of them still alive when we're done-- then clearly we were right to act. Either you're with us or with the imaginary crisis we made up to justify a stupid policy that doesn't even make sense to us and that we can't rationally defend. That one's almost as big a mouthful as that whole bit about the "the international coalition and the aspirations of the Libyan people". But it's more accurate.

So why are we in Libya? A better question is why aren't we in Libya. When George Mallory was asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, his reply was, "Because it's there." Libya is there too. And if we don't bomb it, someone else will. But George Mallory died on Everest. Which suggests that there might be better reasons to climb mountains and bomb countries than their general "thereness".

Libya has a dictator. A quality it has in common with the Muslim world and much of the globe. But you don't see us sending in the marines to remove the tyrants of the majority of the UN membership. After all who would authorize such an operation? Not the UN. And then we would be acting unilaterally, which in finer diplomatic circles is considered worse than tyranny, pederasty and genocide. Throw in a reference to religion and you're worse than the Third Reich.

Hillary Clinton with Gaddafi Jr
When Bush went into Iraq, it had genocide, chemical weapons and was a threat to the region. Libya has none of these. Which is why the same Times scribblers who took a firm line against seizing Saddam are keen to knife Gaddafi. But the situations are totally different. Saddam was just another homicidal tyrant , but the robed madman of Tripoli is standing in the way of the great tidal wave of democracy sweeping through the region. He isn't killing people. Worse he's obstructing the march of the Arab Spring. The Times editorial page can forgive genocide, but not standing in the way of the wave of history. No one does that and lives.

Reasonable observers will note that waves are rare in a desert and anyone claiming to see one has just sighted a mirage. That the rebels consist of Gaddafi's own ministers and representatives from the local branch of Al-Qaeda. But why quibble at such minor points. Just rephrase the sentiment a little. "Either you're with the Gaddafi government and Al-Qaeda, or with Gaddafi and his African mercenaries." And we must do our utmost to defeat Gaddafi so that his ministers and Al-Qaeda can battle it out for the chance to take a percentage of bribes from Western oil companies.

Taking that firm line against Gaddafi sounds better if we forget that we were for him, before we were against him. And if he manages to outlast Sakorzy, Cameron and Obama, or at least the two out of three on that list who are going into elections as unpopular losers, then we may end up being for him again.

Obama was photographed pressing the tanned creepy flesh of the Arab world's craziest leader at the G8 summit a mere two years ago. And in 2013, he may be doing it again. Gaddafi has been bombed by Americans before. And lived to tell the tale. And what's a dead son or daughter anyway when international diplomacy is at stake.

But then you get the feeling that Obama went to war as much out of irritation at Gaddafi's insistence on calling him a "Son of Africa" and "of Muslim descent". It's one thing to kill your own people and another to be a Birther. No one puts baby in a corner or in the position of having to show his birth certificate.

The ultimate in good news though is that this is not a war. It's just one of those things where we go to a country and drop bombs on it. But not in a warlike way. It's just one of those kinetic military actions. And kinetic military actions or KMA's, kinetically deploy munitions, which is clearly an action and involves the military, but is not a military action, just a kinetic action of the military. And I don't think we have anything to worry about.

Last week there was an armed kinetic event on my block with one fatality. Some hotheads are calling it a murder, but why throw around crazy words like that which give people the wrong impression. It was an event and kinetics were involved. Also kinesthetics and eventually anesthetics and paramedics. But the more we talk like academics about the dynamics of kinetics, we are free not to pay attention to the chrematistics of undeclared illegal wars fought on behalf of the aspirations of oil companies and foreign policy apparatuses who use reform as a synonym for friendly dictatorships.

And this particular kinetic military action, which we may or may not be fighting, is a winner. It may not be for us, but like the lottery, someone out there is going to cash in. Will it be Gaddafi or his ministers? Al-Qaeda or the African mercenaries? And what about BP or Obama's golf game. We may be cutting and running from Afghanistan, and sitting down to talk things over with the Taliban, but our slow slog toward the rough beast of Libyan democracy waiting to be born is going smoothly.

In the words of Gaddafi's Son of Africa, "There will be times, though, when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and our values are." There was and still is no evidence whatsoever that Gaddafi had ever threatened Obama's interest in playing golf all day Or his socialist values. But the mere fact that Obama is able to continue to play golf and spend money is proof that we were right to act. We can't be selfish and act only when we know there's a crisis. We must just act. Climb mountains because they're there. Bomb countries also because they're there. Just remember. You're either with us or with the people who think before they act.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Afternoon Roundup - No Muslim Terrorism To See Here

By On June 24, 2011
What's your mental image of prison. Breaking rocks, risky showers and listening to trains go by where rich folks are eating from a fancy dining car?

Forget all that. If you're a Muslim terrorist in Israeli prison, life is smartphones, salaries paid for by American taxpayers and access to your own Facebook fan page.

That was the Facebook fan page of Omar Saeed until recent media attention got it taken down. Those are photos he took in prison with his 3G phone and uploaded to his own fanpage, along with poetry about destroying Israel. And there's more in my exclusive Front Page Magazine article, The Hard Life of Muslim Terrorists in Israeli Prison

Hamas terrorist Haytham Battat, who was responsible for the murder of four Israelis, uses his Facebook page to share Jihadi videos from YouTube. PFLP terrorist Saeed Omar, who was sentenced to nineteen years in jail, poses with his favorite soccer team’s banner...

Using a 3G smartphone, Omar is able to update his own Facebook ‘fan page’ from prison. Other terrorists use smartphone video to go shopping with their friends and pick out their own clothes, which are then brought to them in prison, and remotely attend family events.

Who's paying for it all? Actually you are.

Buying treats and luxury goods isn’t a challenge either. Every convicted Muslim terrorist receives a salary from the Palestinian Authority. Even members of Hamas. That money is provided by American and European taxpayers. As much as 10 percent of the Palestinian Authority’s budget is dedicated to paying the salaries of imprisoned terrorists

Those terrorists are dining out thanks to extra money paid to them by the Palestinian Authority which it gets as aid money from America and Europe.

The Obama Administration dramatically escalated aid to terrorists. In 2008, it provided 600 million dollars worth of assistance to the Palestinian Authority. In 2009, it pledged 900 million dollars. By 2010, the PA had pulled in almost 4 billion dollars from international donors, including the US.

There are more photos below and a lot more information and context in the article itself.

Netanyahu has pledged to end distance learning degrees for terrorists in Israeli prisons. But Iran's useful idiot Yuval Diskin has already rushed to warn that there will be prison uprisings if the terrorists can't get their doctorates.

Guess which is getting more play in the Israeli media, this Maariv story or Haaretz's story that Netanyahu's son wrote on Facebook that, "Terror has a religion and it is Islam,"

Tie that in with the four Golani soldiers jailed for wearing t-shirts that read, ""Golani fights the enemy and does not expel Jews". To the left both statements are equally controversial.

Tie all this in with the recent publicized farce that was the Presidential Conference featuring the likes of Peres, Shakira, Amos Oz, Jeremy Ben Ami, Sarah Silverman, Dennis Ross, James Wolfensohn and Livni-- and why complain about the flotilla, when the conference was a flotilla of its own. At state expense.

Wolfensohn had recently joined Sandra Day O'Connor and Zbignew Brzezinski to try and make Obama look moderate by finding an anti-Israel position even further than his. Amos Oz sent a copy of his book to a mass murdering terrorist. And Jeremy Ben Ami heads a Soros funded organization dedicated to Israel's destruction. In company like that, who needs a flotilla. 

Incidentally the death of Peter Falk reminds me of another flotilla.

At the close of World War II, Falk tried to sign up for the armed services but was rejected because of his eye. After serving with the U.S. Merchant Marines, he signed up to go to Israel to fight Egypt.
Back then there were people getting on boats to help Israel defend itself.


With a congressional majority and even some Democrats opposed to Obama's war in Libya, would it be possible to defund the war? You would think so. But no. Nope. And not even close.

Want to know who to blame? Go read the Roll Call for yourself.

Those voting against included Paul Ryan, Michelle Bachmann, Darrell Issa, Peter King, Allan West and Ron Paul voting on the same side as Nancy Pelosi, Alcee Hastings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Keith Ellison.

Forget all the talk about RINO's. Are there any actual non-Rinos?

Who did actually vote for it? Not the guys being touted for president. But Eric Cantor, Joe Barton and Ileanna Ros-Lehtinen stepped up to the plate. And good old Joe "You lie" Wilson showed he was more than just talk.

By the numbers almost 40 percent of congressional Republicans voted against. Including many of the stars touted by some conservative blogs. There are of course excuses. There are always excuses. The bottom line is that when it came time for them to cast a vote that would actually mean something. They were satisfied to talk the talk and keep running their mouths.

All this on a fairly weak bill that would hardly get the job done. And they couldn't even for it.

I would say more, but I'm just too disgusted.

But don't worry. Congress moves on to important business. And I'm talking genuinely important business

"Why We Should Care About Bats: Devastating Impact White-Nose Syndrome is Having on One of Nature’s Best Pest Controllers" 

I won't keep you in suspense, but after five years of study, we still don't know for sure what's killing bats.. .but Fish and Wildlife, the National Park Service (NPS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the USGS, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Defense, and other affected Federal agencies will continue spending as much as it takes until we finally get to the bottom of it.

How are we fighting the problem?

U.S. Fish and Wildlife, for example has hired a national coordinator, assistant coordinator, press person, and at least seven regional WNS coordinators. USFWS states that over $11 million of their funds have been spent on WNS, with about $3 million for research. That’s simply the wrong balance.

How can we possibly save bats without a lot of coordinators? The bats may die, but there will be plenty of jobs for bat press coordinators.

Did someone say something about the fall of Rome? Good. Let's not hear that kind of talk out of anyone. Things are going great. Just talk to the press coordinator.


House Armed Services Committee member Mike Turner (R-OH) told The Cable that U.S. Admiral Samuel Locklear, commander of the NATO Joint Operations Command in Naples, Italy, told him last month that NATO forces are actively targeting and trying to kill Qaddafi, despite the fact that the Obama administration continues to insist that “regime change” is not the goal and is not authorized by the U.N. mandate authorizing the war.

But remember this war is better because it has UN approval. Just not UN approval for any of this.


Back in the US, it's another day and another terrorist attack that has absolutely nothing to do with Islam. Zippo. Nada. Not a thing.

Two US men were charged Thursday with plotting to attack a Seattle military center with machine guns and grenades in the hopes of killing more people than a single gunman achieved in the deadly 2009 attack at Fort Hood.

Their aim was to inspire other Muslims to carry out similar attacks and one was allegedly caught on tape saying "Imagine how fearful America will be, and they'll know they can't push the Muslims around."

The men, who are reportedly converts to Islam, planned to use machine guns and grenades in order to kill as many people as possible in a military processing center that also houses a day care facility.

But as usual they're not really Muslim terrorists. They're crazy and suffering from a bad economy.

Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, also known as Joseph Anthony Davis, 33, was so broke that he filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last month, reporting $1 in his checking account. His major asset: a 17-year-old Honda with 162,000 miles.

See it's not Islam. It's bankruptcy that drove him to it. And Honda.

Abdul-Latif told a psychologist he had smoked marijuana and "huffed" gasoline as a teen and tried to kill himself again around his 23rd birthday by overdosing on pills prescribed for a seizure disorder. He was depressed, he said, and "felt lonely and had no use to live."

But at the time of the evaluation, he said he was relaxed and unworried. He also said he had heard a male voice that gave him advice and had experienced hallucinations in the past. He also said he didn't have an urge to harm anyone.

Suicidal tendencies. A love of gasoline. Violence behavior combined with assurances that he's harmless. It's like he was a perfect candidate for membership in the Religion of Peace.

A dating profile that appears to belong to Abdul-Latif indicates he converted to Islam about nine years ago.

In the online profile, which corresponds to his name, height (5 feet 6 inches), age and race, Abdul-Latif said he was looking for a second wife, age 16 to 30, who "wouldn't mind sharing me with my current wife 

A romantic at heart, Abdul was. To his credit he wasn't willing to go lower than 16. Clearly he wasn't a proper Wahhabi.

And the other fellow was also possessed of a romantic streak and a proper Muslim approach toward women.

Mujahidh's estranged wife has alleged that he was capable of violence. In an interview Thursday, she said she has been separated from him since 2007 and she was in the process of divorce.

The Seattle Times is not using her name because she has identified herself in court papers as the victim of domestic violence attributed to Mujahidh, who at that time went by the name Frederick Anthony Domingue, Jr.

She said the couple married in 2007 after they met in Riverside, Calif., and she lives in the Seattle area. In July 2007, she filed a petition in King County Superior Court seeking a protection order against Mujahidh.

The petition alleged Mujahidh had "kicked down my apartment door and destroyed everything that was in the apartment."

She wrote that he twice threatened to kill her.  "He also goes into these rages where he screams and yells at me ... ," she wrote.

Yes we know about those rages. They're why we keep appeasing terrorists.

Both men are converts. Both had violent tendencies. Both joined a religion which teaches that you can get to paradise and have your sins forgiven... if you murder non-Muslims.

Did that have an impact? Read for yourself...

"This is my way of getting rid of sins, man... I got so many of 'em," Mujahidh allegedly said in the secret FBI tapes.

There we go. Ex-cons, unstable, violent-- instant soldiers for Allah.

Will this lead to a conversation on prison radicalization? Don't count on it. Will this affirm Peter King's hearings and lead to apologies from the coalition and media that waged war on it? Again don't count on it.

This is America. This is also Australia. Canada and Europe and everywhere else.

The man sat his daughter, who was not yet three, on his knee to watch videos of executions and suicide bombings, slapping her if she became distressed, his former wife testified.

A federal magistrate accepted the man taught the little girl to "chant enthusiastically and joyously over the death and mutilation of other human beings".

He pronounced the duas, seeking that he and his wife be rewarded with great honour by the children dying before puberty and and going forward in the cause of Islam.

Pakistan? Lebanon? No, Australia. But there's not much difference anymore. How long before this...

Lebanon's highest Sunni Muslim authority on Friday rejected a bill aimed at protecting women against domestic violence and marital rape, saying it would lead to the demise "of the family as in the West."

...comes to Australia?

Not to mention this....Egypt: Christian Girls Kidnapped and ‘Sold’

Two teenage Coptic girls, cousins, were recently kidnapped and then “sold” in Minya, Egypt

Christine’s father, who has been harrying the police since the minute he discovered the girls were kidnapped—to little avail—says he and his family “have been in a living hell since Christine’s abduction.” Nancy’s father laments that “My daughter has not even outgrown childhood; she is only 14 years old, the youngest in the family, our baby….Since her disappearance my household has been living in continuous depression, misery, and weeping.”

Actually it's already here. Remember the case of Jessie Bender?

When American mother Melissa Bender married Pakistani Mohammad Khan, she brought three children from a previous marriage into the relationship. Today the children are in protective custody after police discovered that her 13 year old daughter, Jessie Bender wasn't taken away by a predator, but that the predator had been right in her own house.

Mohammad Khan was planning to take Melissa and Jessie to Pakistan, where the 13 year old girl feared she would be forced into an arranged marriage. Instead she bravely went on the run and the police department appears to be doing the right thing. For now.

Had Mohammad Khan taken her to Pakistan and married her off, it would have been almost impossible for the child to escape again. Particularly from a rural area. She would have been repeatedly raped by her "husband", beaten by her in-laws and turned into a slave. And Khan would have likely profited from the exchange. Khan didn't just marry a middle aged woman, he married a woman with at least one girl at home. And in Pakistan that translates into a salable commodity.


Alcee Hastings is in trouble again. This time for sexual harassment.

A former aide, Winsome Packer, filed a lawsuit in March accusing Hastings of making unwanted sexual advances and firing her when she refused them. 

Let's briefly recap Hastings' history.

Carter appointed Hastings as a federal judge, where he was charged with accepting a 150,000 bribe and impeached.

After that Hastings went to congress and is a fixture there, and by fixture I mean he hardly attends votes but is always up for ethics violations.

Could a guy like this be guilty of anything?

Hastings put his girlfriend, a disgraced former lawyer who was disbarred by the Florida Supreme Court for “multiple offenses,” on the public payroll as his “office liaison and staff assistant.” According to the Sentinel, Alcee Hastings owed her “more than $500,000 in legal fees for representing him during his 1983 bribery trial and his 1989 impeachment hearings before Congress.”

Nah. And it doesn't matter. You don't think he's going to get the Weiner treatment do you?

Hastings was paying the woman in question, Winsome Packer, around 80 grand a year, it seems as if he thought that he was buying more with public money than just a staffer.


In another win for Egyptian democracy, Obama is less popular there than Osama.

Is unemployment getting you down? Move to Iran and become a Mullah...

But these high priests of Iran are not exactly living up to their brand. The mullah Mafia has a great scam going. They promise the ignorant Islamic devotees the phony ‘paradise’ of afterlife while they themselves enjoy their paradise of women, wealth and wine on this earth. They are unraveled in duplicity and heartlessness. So in nearly perfect emulation of Muhammad and his leadership 1400 years ago, the pious Mullahs go about plotting earthly destruction as they enrich themselves and enjoy earthly pleasures on the backs of their people. Great work!...if you can get it.

Don't say no right away. At least mull it over.

Israeli leftists prove to be just as patriotic as their American and European counterparts

At a recent graduation ceremony for law school students, the singing of Hatikva was prohibited.  Evidently the decision was that of the law school dean, Prof. Niva Elkin-Koren.  Her email is elkiniva@law.haifa.ac.il.  Hatikva was evidently banned because of fears that singing it could offend the delicate sensitivities of University of Haifa Arab students.

And we mustn't do that.

CAIR goes down. Is Media Matters next?

Meet the man in charge of America's security. On second thought, don't.

Finally for those in the Georgia area, Americans United for Israel will be holding a rally. Learn more at their Facebook page.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Long Walk Through New York

By On June 22, 2011
Yesterday I walked across half the width of the city. To walk across New York City is to see a study in contrasts. The ambitious skyscrapers of the real estate bubble and the declining working class neighborhoods being eaten away at by Halal markets and mosques. It is also to witness the prolonged death of the progressive vision for the city.

New York is not a large city in space. It is walkable if you have the time and the energy. Its largeness is vertical. The buildings push upward around concentrated real estate bubbles. A dozen blocks in a hot zone can be completely torn down and rebuilt into an unrecognizable mini-metropolis in only a few years. While a dozen adjacent blocks remain stagnant and unchanged since the 50's. Much of this has to do with zoning regulations. Some of it with the ridiculous trends of 90's gentrification. But seen from above it is undeniably strange.

Walk across one of the bridges between Manhattan and Brooklyn, dodging bike riders with messenger bags speeding across, and you see the narrow strait of the East River, once filled with shipping, now a recreational lane for light yachts and water skiers, and the occasional barge carrying garbage or rubble from some construction project. The industry is mostly gone and the shipping with it. And the city's working class districts have become an eyesore. Like so many other northeastern towns and cities they are ghosts of their former prosperity.

The city's new wealth comes from its centrality. New York City is still a nameplate brand. And it attracts creative people. It is not the flow of Third World immigrants, so often namechecked in mayoral speeches, who contribute anything to the economy. There is little for them to contribute. Without much in the way of manufacturing, there aren't many jobs for them. Cheap labor is handled by the ubiquitous Mexican illegal alien who can be found toiling even in Chinese stores and marts, where mutual linguistic incomprehension is overcome by grunts and emphatic hand gestures.

It is the creative industries which account for the city being the largest regional economy in the country. This is still the city of magazines, tall buildings and the finance sector. It is where news organizations and foreign corporations set up shop to have a presence and recruit from the pool of talent drawn here. They are the ones who drove up real estate prices and financed the construction of unsightly new skyscrapers that look like a Picasso took a nose dive into a swimming pool full of concrete.  

Bloomberg's three term role at the helm is a sly concession to where the money is really coming from. The financial sector and the media. The new "immigrants" who come bearing wealth are graduates of MIT and Princeton, they are the European companies who have set up shop here, and the Muslim sheiks who have gobbled up portions of its prominent skyscrapers. But this is something that the city rarely admits to itself.

The Old New York City, the one seen in movies till the 80's, notorious for its adventurous decay and seedy danger has given way to a playground for its new wealth bearers, a city that caters to tourists, and whose natives no longer really belong. It was only 18 years from Taxi Driver to Friends. But that 18 years has changed its destiny. Given it a second lease on life. That second lease may be a boring one, a mashup of slow urban decay subsidized by high taxes leveled against major corporations, but it is better than being Detroit or Chicago.

New York has become Tokyo on the Hudson, A city of glittering corporations and limited margins. The old working class aspirations are an illusion now. Immigrants rarely get off the boat and make something of themselves. The system doesn't work that way anymore. The new immigrant is an aid client for the city and its associated charities. A reliable voter for the corrupt Democratic party machine which lives off the imported prosperity. A few hit on a winning business and work until they make it. But Chinatown is a testament to the limitations of such hard labor.

The old city of manufacturers, laborers and workers lives on the margins of the new city. And the new city does not need strong arms, it needs high end college degrees and creative minds to give a veneer of credibility to the latest mad corporate venture. There is little crossover between these two cities. Few lines of connection. The old Carnegie formula of working your way up has no relevance in a system where working is already a dead end.

On the one side, the new city of creative arts and million dollar contracts, on the other is a city of immigrants. There is nothing romantic about this second city. It is an empire of housing projects, towers of ethnic enclaves where drug dealers and housing cops pass each other on the graffiti splattered stairs of twenty-story buildings. It is filled with dingy supermarkets full of expired food that take in most of their money as food stamps, and abutted by endless social services centers, city hospitals and ads urging residents to sign up for more free things from the government.

Squashed between them is the old city. The working class houses of Brooklyn that have not been turned into carefully preserved tributes to the 19th century by celebrities or into crack dens by the children of the welfare state are the old city. The one that still makes an effort to plant flowers without being ostentatious about it. That sets flags waving on the fourth, has a family history in the city that dates back to the 1860's and a houseful of curios and antiques. But even they work for the city, often as not. And if they don't, then the odds are some of their children do. Even if it's only for the fire department or the police department, but most likely filing papers in one of the countless city buildings.

The city employs a quarter of a million people. Its school budget alone is higher than the GDP of half the world. And it is a tribute to the effectiveness of its political machine that the new governor has managed to move cuts through without the unions doing much to hijack the process. The New York difference is not a lack of corruption. Its pols are cunning enough not to tolerate incompetence for very long. The city's budget is too impossible for it to be any other way. The economics of a massive city which can never hold on to enough of its money are unworkable otherwise.

New York is the home of the country's oldest political machine. Tammany Hall has always known how to step aside and let reformers take over and keep the city going, so it could rob them blind. And the machine allowed Giuliani and Bloomberg to fix and then hold together what they broke. But sooner or later the machine always takes over again.

If New York City is not nearly as dangerous as it used to be in the bad old days, that is a combination of police work and gentrification. And the police work of the Giuliani era was impressive. Its disregard for civil liberties in pursuit of even the pettiest quality of life offenses was not the new philosophy some made it out to be, it was an application of time honored Latin American ruthlessness to subdue and intimidate a restive population. But the gentrification would not have been possible without it. The city as a playground for white liberals who can take their children to see The Lion King on Broadway or fearlessly cycle through Brooklyn Heights owes it all to a police crackdown on the things that irritated or endangered them.

There is a difference between a law abiding city and a city with a low crime rate. New York City has never been law abiding, but today its crime rate still slumbers. It has been slowly rising, but not high enough to panic anyone. It is as if the criminals have forgotten how to be criminals. But it is rarely the criminals that you have to worry about. The criminals I have encountered were generally courteous. They were doing a job in their own dysfunctional way. And they wanted you to know that they were people too. The dangerous element has always been the teenagers gone wilding, smashing and beating for fun. The hardened ex-con with a drug habit, who can tell you about all the times he was in, fears them too. He fears them because they lack a fear of consequences. They are capable of anything.

East of Prospect Park, that charming imitation of Central Park, from the bygone days when Brooklyn was still independent, the first women in black begin to make their appearance. Along with Halal stores offering goat meat and phone cards to call countries whose name appear only as foreign script. The Muslim population in the city has been rising too imperceptibly for anyone to notice. Before 9/11 few in the city paid attention to basement mosques where food cart vendors went after work. And even afterward few notice.

The nearest enclave appears to be Bangladeshi. Men in white with twisted beards glare at you. Stores are fronted by baskets full of overpriced rotten fruit. Old women in black pass by muttering. This is the first of many of the developing no go zones in what was once working class Brooklyn. Its characteristic mood is sullenness. A mosque is going up across the street. Two concrete towers rise up from the street for a modest building that is still the tallest building on the block.

Further down there are neighborhood newspapers and liquor stores. But here there is only the sullen mood of angry people who don't want to be here and don't want us here either.

Thunder rumbles in the distance. A slow mumbling growl like a man who has forgotten what he is angry about. A cold wind blows through the heat soaked day and then it is gone. And the road leads straight on. Behind me lies the future of the city. Its towers of commerce. Its ad agencies and trendy bars. Its smart sets. And behind them still the no go zones. The young boys and young girls already covering their heads. A new generation with a Jihad waiting for them at the mosque door.

Ahead is a dead zone. Tired shops. Auto repair shops whose doors shimmer in the heat. Former factories turned warehouses or just boarded up. Discount stores. A few chain stores. A pharmacy that has been in the family for three generations with a neon sign that flickers intermittently. This is what is left of the city's booming industry. The industry has since moved on to China. A few holdouts remain behind dusty windows and metal doors. But most have gone on.

The story is the same in so many other places. This a city defined by its flights. Its haphazard scattering of luxury houses and tenements created as a part of a long race dating back to the 18th century, as the rich fled the poor and the poor followed after. And then the day came when the rich returned and the poor ran away. Uptown and downtown in Manhattan, from the days of Edgar Allen Poe to the present day. Now the numbers show that many of the young graduates are leaving the city. But it is not only the whites who are fleeing. The city's black population is registering a net loss.

The New York miracle was built on a reinvention of its myths. But that reinvention cannot be sustained. It depends on a division between two cities and such a division is unstable. Sooner or later it will fall. To be a New Yorker is to live within the myth of the city. To inhabit is to completely that it remains unexamined. That it becomes who you are. But like the American myth, it is also a story of an identity under siege. The city changed to meet a new millennium. But like so much of the Northeast it is haunted by what it has lost.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Technocracy Isn't Policy

By On June 21, 2011
The celebration of the Arab Spring is built on faith in the redemptive ability of enhanced communications technologies to create a transparent global culture. To the true believers on the New York Times editorial page, it is axiomatic that cultural revolutions driven by communications technologies will be liberal. That anything which breaks down barriers must be liberal.

Technocracy as foreign policy has become the standard reaction to turmoil and instability in the Muslim world. Whether it's Hillary Clinton talking about the need to have relationships with the populations of entire countries or Thomas Friedman sketching out yet another vision of a New Middle East, the misplaced enthusiasm is everywhere. At the heart of it all is the idea that social media is leading to the dawn of a new age.

This Twitter-centric narrative assumes that social media is ushering in a new age of progressive people power. But that's hardly the case.

The successful revolutions of the Arab Spring have brought down secular governments and are in the process of replacing them with Islamist or military dictatorships. And a prime mover behind them is Al-Jazeera, a global news channel run out of the territory of an absolute monarchy. The Twitter activists have already been left behind. The power remains in the hands of those who had it all along. Whether it's the Egyptian military which forced Mubarak to resign or the defectors from the Libyan government who have achieved international recognition, power is built on power. Not on Twitter.

Even Wikileaks, which seemed to usher in a new informational world order, had its scoops distributed through the dead tree vector of 150 year old newspapers. Newspapers which took the material and turned on its distributor anyway. The world did not change dramatically for it. Diplomatic cables had been leaked before, just not on this scale. But unlike the Zimmerman Telegram, nothing in Wikileaks started a war. Which means that a single leaked diplomatic cable from 1917 was more devastating than all of Wikileaks.

The acceleration of information distribution and the expanded social organizing toolset of the internet are not elementally liberalizing. Rather they are empowering. And like all tools, they empower those who use them effectively and aggressively.

The United States is hobbled competitively in the fight by its own faith in technocracy. When Hillary Clinton wonders why America doesn't have anything as effective Al-Jazeera, the answer is simple. It's because Al-Jazeera pursues a clear and definite agenda. The United States has no agenda anymore except to win friends and influence people. And that's not an agenda, it's a strategy. But to the technocrats gaining influence is an end in and of itself. And they can't gain that influence when they don't know what they want to do with it.

The Obama administration is more clueless when it comes to national interests than any previous administration. Which is why it's incapable of influencing anyone. While Russia and China know what they want and set out to get it-- American diplomats turn into philosophers of futurism lecturing on the wonderful new transparent world, as if that were their objective. And indeed it is. But that isn't a national objective, it's a philosophical preference.

Liberalism has supplanted the national interest and American diplomats still think that the same technologies which disrupted the national consensus on values will do the same thing worldwide. And they are as right as they are wrong. Because it isn't the communications tools themselves that did it, but their monopolization in the hands of a liberal elite. But outside the United States and Europe, there is no liberal elite to monopolize communications. Instead the monopoly rests in the hands of totalitarian governments and fanatical ideologies who are just as keen to force their way of life on the rest of the world.

Social media and global communication are more effective in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Emir of Qatar or Vladimir Putin than in the hands of the reformers. This flies in the face of social media as social liberation, but it's the truth. Tools are agnostic. And the disruptive elements of the internet and associated mobile technologies do not mean that they are perfect weapons of liberalization. Only that they are perfect weapons.

It is just as easy to distribute a lie, as the truth. Any social grouping is limited by its own biases. And a dictatorship may as easily employ social media to crush dissenters, so long as it has plenty of loyal followers. Technologically is a tool, not a destiny.

The technocracy of Western foreign policy experts neatly blinds them to reality. That is why the fake blog, A Gay Girl in Damascus, was so effective at playing into the false linkage between technology and revolution, between political instability and reform, that dominates their view of the world. A dominance that is entrenched by their misreading of their own recent history as being progressive, rather than a revived feudalism under a socialist red flag.

Progressive liberalization as the political destiny of states confronted with modern technology is an idea that should have died a decade ago during the first techno-adrenaline rush of the internet, when it was clear that this was simply not happening. Since then the global village has filled up with dictatorships ruling over populations that have internet cafes and 3G phones. But the Arab Spring has played too neatly into the globalist package sold by the experts. It finally delivers what they were promising all along, liberalization through globalization, the metal and silicon hand of technology coming down on the liberal side of history.

Global Communication is indeed changing the world, but not necessarily for the better. Or the freer. It is easier than ever to be heard, but harder than ever to be listened to. Accessibility is still bounded by gatekeepers. And as Wikileaks demonstrated, the identity of the gatekeepers hasn't changed all that much. It's easy to put a message out there, but the sheer volume of messages reduces communications to a garble of noise. Web 2.0 used social media to filter and index the messages, turning everyone into a participant in the cultural wars.

The Brave New Digital World is just as welcoming of Islamists as of rationalists. The vast amounts of information are not a barrier to medieval fanatics, instead the information becomes an ocean from which everyone may draw whatever information suits them and use it to populate their own ecosystem of ideas. Each faction carries on its cultural war for dominance in a world that has no more boundaries and against a West that no longer believes in anything except being fairminded.

Where Islamists use technology as a means to bring about their preferred social and political order, the Western liberals who are the most enthusiastic believers in transparency through technocracy want it to bring about some form of global consensus. Which it will, just not one that allows them to keep their heads.

The defect is not in their intelligence, but in their analysis of history as a force sweeping their way. That messianic view has characterized the left all along and given it a sense of destiny. But the analysis was always a bad one. The historical analysis depended on a cycle of revolutions liberating new groups of oppressed peoples to eventually create an absolute equality. But revolutions are just as likely to lead to tyranny as to freedom. A principle that the left's own revolutions have shown to be true.

Western liberalization was driven less by population revolution and more by economic prosperity. But in countries where prosperity is limited to those at the top, revolutions revert to the feudal, Communists and radical socialists become a new feudal nobility. Or in the Middle East, Islamists. Technology cannot lead to universal participation in nations without universal literacy. And even universal participation does not overcome the disparity of power. Nothing truly does.

The romance of the technocracy reassures liberals of the inevitable historical destiny of their cause. Which is why they ignore all contradictory trends. Their willingness to see global culture as a destiny and a destination, rather than a battlefield, sustains the myth and makes the defeat of human rights around the world seem like a victory. Even the cultural expansionism of the Muslim Brotherhood is seen as a positive thing if it leads to a global culture.

In championing technocracy over national interest, they have become just as agenda agnostic as the technologies that make the global cultural battlefield possible. By embracing a post-American world, they have opened the door to a global cultural war, rather than the global cultural order that they have envisioned.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Two State Solution for Turkey?

By On June 20, 2011
Imagine a European Union member nation which represses an ethnic minority that makes up a fifth of its population. Now imagine the EU being forced to take sides in a domestic civil war within its own union in which ethnic cleansing is the order of the day. That is the fate awaiting the EU if it admits Turkey as it is.

Turkish intolerance of ethnic minorities resulted in the Armenian genocide. And in the ongoing repression of its Kurdish population. Turkish prisons are full of Kurdish political prisoners, some who have done nothing more than use the Kurdish language in the wrong place or sing a Kurdish song. Kurds have fought back against Turkish state repression with a political and militant struggle. And despite what Turkish authorities are telling their European counterparts, that struggle is not over.

The same elections that gave the Erdogan regime another term, also racked up political victory for Turkey's Kurds. Meanwhile chaos in Iraq and Syria may be setting the stage for Kurdish independence in both those countries. Iraq's Kurds already enjoy partial autonomy. Should Syria's Kurds achieve full or partial autonomy, then Turkey will be left to stand alone in its isolated policy of denying Kurdish rights.

From bombings by PKK militants to marches and political activism in occupied Northern Kurdistan,  it is increasingly clear that there is no way forward for Turkey except through political autonomy in Northern Kurdistan. The Erdogan regime has filled its prisons and staged incursions into Western Kurdistan in Iraq. It has even been accused of using chemical weapons against civilians. But the Turkish perpetuation of the cycle of violence has not changed the determination of the region's Kurds to win their independence.

The Kurds remain a ticking time bomb inside Turkey. And no responsible European leader can accept Turkish entry into the EU until the Kurdish situation is resolved. Slightly relaxing the oppressive cultural restrictions is not enough. It is time that the Erdogan regime be made to understand that it faces a choice between maintaining the occupation of Northern Kurdistan and joining the community of nations.

After a generation of fighting the PKK, Turkey is no closer to defeating it. The PKK is not going away and neither is the dream of Kurdish independence. If the Erdogan regime wishes to maintain its borders in the face of Kurdish independence in Western Kurdistan, then it will have to negotiate with the same leaders it has been throwing in prison. Only by allowing an autonomous Kurdish state within the borders of occupied Northern Kurdistan, will Turkey gain stability and peace.

Accepting Kurdish autonomy in Northern Kurdistan will allow Turkey to avoid a full fledged civil war and a two state solution which will see portions of its territory annexed to Kurdistan. While the Erdogan regime is confident that Europe and the rest of the world will continue turning a blind eye to its repression of the Kurds, there is no doubt that this will change in the event of a civil war. The world will not stand by and witness another genocide carried out by Turkey. And it will certainly destroy Turkey's prospects for EU membership.

Autonomy or a two state solution is in Turkey's own best interests as well. Kurds have a higher birth rate than ethnic Turks do. Almost double. And that means that if Turkey fails to separate itself from the larger portion of its Kurdish population-- then all of Turkey will eventually be Kurdistan.

Ending Turkish occupation of Northern Kurdistan will also leave the Turkish economy in a better competitive position and reassure international observers concerned about its stability. It will also end the need for cross-border incursions which will sooner or later lead to war.

The Turkish government has a limited time frame in which it can advance a constructive solution. Its tactics of repression have failed, its cultural band aids will only encourage a burgeoning desire for independence and instability in Iraq, Syria and Iran mean that the creation of a Kurdish state on its border is only a matter of time. Now is the time for the Erdogan government to sit down with the political representatives of the Kurdish people and their resistance in pursuit of a negotiated solution.

Neo-Ottomanists within the Erdogan regime may still dream of an expanding empire, but there is no place for such thinking in any nation that wishes to be part of the European Union. And it is up to the European leadership to make it clear that Erdogan and Davutoglu must choose between imperialism and democracy. That Turkey's relationship with Europe depends on a negotiated settlement of the Kurdish question, as well as a recognition and restitution of the Armenian genocide, the termination of its occupation of Cyprus and eventual withdrawal from its occupation of Northern Kurdistan.

Turkey's economic successes should not be confused with political stability or human rights. And the admission of an unstable country at risk of fighting a bloody civil war against a fifth of its own population remains untenable. It also raises serious questions about the long term future of any foreign investment in Turkey. Particularly in conflict areas.

The Erdogan regime should not be allowed to imagine that like China it will be able to buy its way out of any uncomfortable questions about human rights using economic leverage. Turkey is not China and its high level of debt increase mean that it will not be able to outproduce and outexport its troubles. With budget deficits as high as 20 percent of its GDP and a troubled bond market, the Turkish future is not as bright as the AKP's oligarchs like to pretend. And domestic instability in the form of a large scale Kurdish uprising could easily bring Istanbul's house of cards tumbling down.

European leaders have spent too much time flattering the Erdogan regime and its oligarchy to share with them the hard truths that Turkey has no future without meaningful reform. And beneath all those reforms is the inescapable question of ending the occupation and achieving a settlement with the Kurdish people.

Turkey must be willing to choose between Kurdish autonomy or a withdrawal from occupied territory to pave the way for a Kurdish state. There is no third option. Maintaining the occupation and repression is not sustainable. And has no future.

If Istanbul really wishes to move forward, then it is time to begin holding peace talks that address the national and political rights of Kurdish citizens living in the occupied territories of Northern Kurdistan. With Turkey increasingly dependent on IMF aid, that aid should come with preconditions, including Turkish willingness to participate in a peace conference with legitimate representatives of the Kurdish people.

If Erdogan chooses to continue the repression of the Kurdish people, then Turkey will join the likes of Burma and North Korea as a rogue state, an Apartheid regime that will be brought down when the aspirations of the Kurdish people are finally achieved in a state of their own.


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