Right Wing Nut House


Rebooting the Nuthouse: A Declaration of RINOhood

Filed under: Arizona Massacre, Decision '08, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 11:43 am

After nearly two years of spasmodic posting on this blog, I have decided to reboot and relaunch the site and write daily, original postings as often as I can manage.

That’s the plan, anyway. With the campaign for the presidency beginning to heat up, I felt compelled to add a voice to the proceedings that perhaps isn’t heard as much as it should be.

The voice of reason.

I’m just cynical enough to realize that no one much cares about reason, logic, rationality, or philosophical conservatism for that matter. Fewer care what I think. Fewer still have any use for my brand of conservatism.

And I’m just arrogant enough to think that love me or hate me, agree or disagree, I am a good enough writer to engage your interest and entertain most of you.

And that brings me to the reboot of Right Wing Nuthouse. I have been branded with the epithet “RINO” by most of the internet right — at least, those who view themselves as true blue, or “real” conservatives. But “RINO” may be a misnomer. I have never been a “party man” in the almost 8 years this site has been on the net, although I have had my partisan moments to be sure. The ideologues who have tarred me with what they believe to be their most withering criticism actually mean that I am a “Conservative In Name Only” — a CINO. But since the GOP is now almost exclusively a party of conservatives — something to be greatly lamented — we’ll stick with RINO as a catch-all for both.

It hardly matters. I wear both acronyms with pride, considering the source. Besides, I have no desire whatsoever to have my name associated with a political party that:

1. Embraces the likes of Ted Akin, Christine O’Donnell, Michelle Bachmann, Alan West, Tony Perkins, Joe Arpaio, Herman Cain, Tom Tancredo, and 2 dozen more bomb throwers, anti-science mountebanks, bigots, half-crazed religious fanatics, closed minded nincompoops, and intellectual lightweights. For those who are tempted to say, “Oh Yeah? Well those Democrats have their own Hall of Idiots too,” I would only respond that I have no earthly reason to be associated with the Democrats either. Besides, defending your own by pointing out that the other side is worse, or similarly handicapped is idiotic. It’s not an argument. It’s a cry for help.

2. Fails to deal rationally with the problem of 11 million illegal immigrants. You can’t deport them all, or round them up and hold them in pens until they get their due process. They are here. There are 11 million of them. Deal with it. If you want them off the public dole, make it possible for them to work. The potential human capital and entrepreneurial energy being wasted because of bigotry or some over-heated notion of “law and order” is irrational (crossing the border illegally is a misdemeanor). A more rational legal immigration policy would help. So would beefing up border security. But for the 11 million already here, a solution must be found.

Either solve the problem or take the words “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” off the Statue of Liberty

3. Believes that we are living in the end times of the republic if Barack Obama is re-elected. If the US can survive a James Buchanan, US Grant, and Jimmy Carter, we can survive Obama. This hysterical overreaction to every thing the president does is astonishing. The claim we are “losing” our freedoms is pathetic. Please list those freedoms Barack Obama has taken away, not talking points from the echo chamber. Czars do not represent a loss of freedom. Executive orders do not take away freedom. Creating a gigantic bureaucracy to oversee health care in America does not represent a loss of freedom. Overregulation is not a loss of freedom. Just because government becomes a nuisance does not mean that our basic freedoms are being lost. If they were, you would probably be in jail for saying so.

Those besotted with partisan ideology and who see Obama through the darkest prism imaginable, are the real danger to the republic — not some incompetent, far left liberal with delusions of grandeur and dreams of redistributive justice.

4. That believes all Democrats are traitorous, evil wretches who hate America.

5. That believes Obama is a “socialist” or even a “Communist.” To disregard the definition of a word and substitute your own meaning is damaging to the language and to rational discourse.

6. That believes the Constitution is holy writ and is to be interpreted literally.

7. That thinks that Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and other right wing radio talk show hosts should be taken seriously.

8. That believes in so many conspiracies that paranoids locked up in mental institutions look sane by comparison.

9. That never met an environmental regulation they didn’t hate and defines “free market” as nearly unfettered, predatory capitalism.

10. That believes the solution to most of our challenges overseas is either to bomb the hell out of them or overthrow the offending government. Sometimes both.

11. That believes waterboarding and other forms of internationally recognized torture are only what the terrorists deserve.

12. That equates compromise with surrender and civility with weakness.

13. That believes there is nothing to learn from opposing points of view and that criticizing your own side for something they’ve said or done is tantamount to apostasy.

There’s a lot more, but I’ve got to save something for future postings.

All of the above is the result of massively excessive ideological fervor that celebrates ignorance and cheers the irrational. I don’t know who or what is to blame — talk radio, the internet, perhaps more than anything, the perilous times we live in. I only know that I proudly reject a political party whose rank and file hold to this kind of deranged thinking — a derangement that extends even to the leadership of the party at times.

So what is it that RINO’s believe? I can only say what I believe and let others who might be tempted to join the ranks of conservative heretics make up their own mind.

1. I believe in a practical, reasonable interpretation of constitutional principles. These include defined limits on the scope and power of government, even if those limits interfere with some people’s concept of “social justice.” There is no justice without order, no order without limits on power. This was one of the core beliefs of the founders and I see no reason to abandon it for any reason.

I also believe in a rational interpretation of constitutional intent. This includes recognizing that the founders could never have envisioned the overwhelming role of commerce in America, but trusted their decedents to balance liberty with the need to restrain the powerful to keep them from preying on the weak. (A no brainer, this one.)

2. I believe in prudence as a civic virtue above all others.

3. I believe in science as a “candle in the dark” and that rejecting established science for religious or ideological reasons is anti-intellectual.

4. I believe we should render unto God what is God’s. All else — including government, public education, and the town square — belongs to man.

5. I believe that the current crisis needs serious men and women willing and able to work with their political opponents to begin to address the monumental problems we are facing. Recognizing that politics is a dirty, nasty business and that it will never be all sweetness and light between Republicans and Democrats, this is not an excuse to indulge in the most juvenile name calling and spitballing that substitutes for governance today. If politicians can’t find a way to overcome their own worst instincts, we are doomed to a collapse that will bring about unthinkable social and economic upheaval.

6. I believe there is merit to carefully examining criticism from the other side when it is logical and reasonably given. I also believe it imperative to expose oneself to other points of view outside one’s ideological comfort zone. If “Reading maketh a whole man” one must never stop searching for knowledge no matter what its origin.

7. I believe in “the examined life” — constantly testing the underlying assumptions of one’s philosophy to ensure that it is grounded in reality. While principles are immutable (to a large degree), one’s definition of belief regarding a particular issue might change as more information is inputted. If one finds that it is necessary to stretch, or spin one’s beliefs on an issue to force it to fit into a predetermined slot in your philosophy, the chances are very good that you’ve moved beyond that particular formulation and need to define a new one.

8. I believe it necessary for conservatism to inoculate itself against the toxicity being spread by the right wing ideologues whose hysteria, conspiracy mongering, irrational religious fervor, and lunatic ideas of government threaten to undermine the true nature of conservatism as a personal philosophy and force a retrenchment that would take us back to a time when the right was irrelevant.

Conservatism is not a political ideology. As Oakeshott points out, the application of conservative principles to liberal democracy is more to the point. What he calls, “rational government” incorporates principles expounded on by theorists from Burke to Kirk.

To govern, then, as the conservative understands it, is to provide a vinculum juris for those manners of conduct which, in the circumstances, are least likely to result in a frustrating collision of interests; to provide redress and means of compensation for those who suffer from others behaving in a contrary manner; sometimes to provide punishment for those who pursue their own interests regardless of the rules; and, of course, to provide a sufficient force to maintain the authority of an arbiter of this kind. Thus, governing is recognized as a specific and limited activity; not the management of an enterprise, but the rule of those engaged in a great diversity of self-chosen enterprises.

I suppose since Oakeshott was in favor of regulating business, he would be called a RINO today.

There’s much more I believe, of course. But to find out, you’re just going to have to add me to your RSS feed and come back for more.



Filed under: Ethics, Politics, War on Terror — Rick Moran @ 9:25 am

God bless the US Marines.

Every society — even the freest and the most civilized — needs a warrior class to protect it. And the Marines, generally regarded as the best warriors in the world, function in that regard for America.

They are the sharp end of the spear of American policy and their arrival on the battlefield strikes fear in the breast of our enemies. They are trained for one purpose, and one purpose only; to kill our enemies. We don’t send the Marines in to negotiate, and we usually don’t send them in to build schools and hospitals. We send them in to seek out and kill as many of the enemy as can be found.

To accomplish this necessary goal, we train the Marines to see the enemy as not quite human. There are many subtle ways this is done, but the bottom line is that it relieves our warriors of the tremendous psychic burden that being civilized human beings has placed on them; that killing another person is murder.

Dehumanizing the enemy in war, then, is unavoidable if we wish our warriors to survive and achieve success. Thus, the questions raised by the Marines who, at the very least, disrespected the dead by urinating on them, have far more to do with who we are as a nation than what we think of the Taliban.

We should not mourn the death of any Taliban. They are trying to kill Americans and killing them first is the best way to fight and win the war. But every society has customs and rituals associated with the dead and deliberately violating them by desecrating the bodies of our enemy is not in the “warrior ethos” as Corps Commandant Genearl Jim Amos said in a statement responding to the video of the act.

He’s right. We’re better than that. The Marines are better than that. It’s not political correctness that is at the heart of the real criticism of the actions of the Marines. (criticism by domestic critics and America’s enemies is exaggerated and mostly without merit, having more to do with politics than ethics). It is the notion that America is an exceptional country and that by definition, we hold our warriors to a higher standard. The argument that the Taliban does worse, or Muslims have desecrated the bodies of Americans as they did in Somali doesn’t hold water. Are we to ape the worst behaviors of the enemy and justify it as tit for tat? Or, are our standards superior to our enemies and thus, criticism of the Marines is justified?

Sebastion Junger, director of the superior documentary “Restrepo” which follows a company of Marines for a year in the “Valley of Death” - the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan — has an interesting piece in the Washington Post about the Marines and why they may have acted as they did:

The U.S. military should be held to a higher standard, certainly, but it is important to understand the context of the behavior in the video. Clearly, the impulse to desecrate the enemy comes from a very dark and primal place in the human psyche. Once in a while, those impulses are going to break through.

There is another context for that behavior, though - a more contemporary one. As a society, we may be disgusted by seeing U.S. Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters, but we remain oddly unfazed by the fact that, presumably, those same Marines just put high-caliber rounds through the fighters’ chests. American troops are not blind to this irony. They are very clear about the fact that society trains them to kill, orders them to kill and then balks at anything that suggests they have dehumanized the enemy they have killed.

But of course they have dehumanized the enemy - otherwise they would have to face the enormous guilt and anguish of killing other human beings. Rather than demonstrate a callous disregard for the enemy, this awful incident might reveal something else: a desperate attempt by confused young men to convince themselves that they haven’t just committed their first murder - that they have simply shot some coyotes on the back 40.

It doesn’t work, of course, but it gets them through the moment; it gets them through the rest of the patrol.

We sometimes forget the tremedous psychological cost to our warriors of fighting for our country. The epidemic of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome cases of our soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq should remind us of this. Dealing with the stress of combat is an individual war within the war and, as Junger writes, we shouldn’t be shocked when a release of the kind the Marines chose to effect occurs.

But this can’t excuse the behavior.Despite war being a dehumanizing venture, it nonetheless demands that a baseline of ethical and moral behavior be followed. One of those ethical lines in the sand has to be a simple respect for the dead bodies of our enemies who, after all, can no longer harm anyone and are someone’s husband, father, or brother. Inflicting pain on the innocent by desecrating the body of their loved one is not exceptional. It is fundamentally wrong whether there is a written rule in the Geneva Conventions, or the Marine Corps Code of Conduct, or not. The bottom line is, we wouldn’t want an enemy soldier treating our dead that way — a good rule to follow when fighting for an exceptional country like the United States.

What kind of punishment - if any - should the Marines be subject to I can’t say. Nor should the Commandant determine their fate based on the outcry from those who hate the Marines for what they do without recognizing their existential value to the nation. The idea being advanced by some on the left that this is some sort of “Abu Ghraib” repeat is idiotic. No one was hurt. No one was tortured. No one was killed. The notion that this is some kind of “war crime” is equally nonsensical - a criticism made more for political effect than any reflection of reality.

I hope General Amos places their actions in the proper context and makes his decision on whether to punish the Marines or not by basing it on the high standards set by the Marine Corps and not the rantings of civilian partisans who want to use the incident to further their own political agendas.



Filed under: FrontPage.Com, WORLD POLITICS — Rick Moran @ 11:11 am

A troubling disconnect between Assad’s brutality and the Arab League’s “peace plan” and the Red Cross efforts to visit detainees as I point out in my latest at FPM.

A sample:

Despite the Red Cross finally being allowed to visit some detainees held in an Interior Ministry prison outside of Damascus, there appears to be a disconnect between the brutal actions of the Syrian government, and the efforts by the Arab League and Red Cross to deal with the crackdown. In statements made by the representative of the Red Cross, Jakob Kellenberger, it appears that the pacifist organization is unable to grasp the enormity of the crimes against humanity being committed by Assad and his generals.

After expressing the hope that the Red Cross would be able to visit other prisoners being detained by the regime, Kellenberger said of the ICRC’s visit, “This is an important step forward for our humanitarian activities in Syria.” He also met with President Assad and discussed “the rules governing the use of force by security forces in the current situation and the obligation to respect the physical and psychological well-being and human dignity of detainees.”

For five months Assad has been using tanks against civilians and the Red Cross bureaucrat is lecturing Assad about “rules” and “obligations?”

Nobody has any idea how many Syrian civilians have been detained so far. Human rights groups put the number of detainees in the “tens of thousands.” Desperate families have no idea where their loved ones are being held, or even if they are still alive. Those few who have been released have told stories of torture and murder in the prisons. Amnesty International recently released a report detailing the deaths of 88 civilians who were detained by the army. Fifty-two of the bodies showed signs of torture. Amnesty International researcher Neil Sammonds said, “The accounts of torture we have received are horrific.” He added, “We believe the Syrian government to be systematically persecuting its own people on a vast scale.”

Meanwhile, the plan created by the Arab League is completely unacceptable to the protestors, never mind it being heavily criticized by the Syrian government. According to AFP, the document asks Assad to hold elections within three years, move toward a pluralistic government, and immediately halt the crackdown. SG al-Arabi said it was necessary “to carry a clear message to the Syrian authorities about the situation in Syria and the need to stop the violence and launch immediate reforms.” The League’s proposal also includes a requirement that most of their own governments don’t even follow: Assad must “separate the military from political and civil life.”

What makes this statement so surreal – and the effort behind it – is that opposition to the Assad regime has moved far beyond these paltry efforts to “reform” the political process. The protestors want Assad gone one way or another. One activist expressed the hope that the army would take the initiative and overthrow the dictator. “We think the army will one day make a coup. It would make the situation much easier,” he said. So far, that seems a forlorn hope. And the prospect of allowing Assad to serve another three years waiting for elections is a total non-starter with the opposition. In short, most elements in the plan are not based on the reality of what is happening in the streets.

The Arab League’s plan is not only unacceptable to the opposition, the Syrian government has all but rejected it out of hand. Hence, the request that SG al-Arabi cool his heels in Egypt and wait for a more propitious time to make his pitch. The semi-official Syrian news agency SANA reports that Damascus told al-Arabi, that the delay was necessary “due to circumstances beyond our control.” The agency added, “He [al-Arabi] has been informed of those circumstances and a new date will be set for his visit.”

Given the vagueness of the Syrian government’s statement about when that might be, one could assume that an invitation will be a long time coming.

The Arab League is a joke - always has been - but this effort is just gobsmackingly dumb. None of them really want to do anything because someday, they might be forced into the same situation as Assad and want to keep their options open as far as slaughtering their own citizens. They don’t want to intervene in Syria, just as they didn’t want to intervene in Libya. But the conscience of the world shamed them into supporting (or at least giving lip service) to the NATO mission.

The Red Cross seems truly oblivious to the manifestation of evil found in Assad’s Syria. To believe that Assad cares what they think about “rules” of behavior or “obligations” to respect the “dignity” of detainees is just plain weird. I suppose an organization like the ICRC is necessary but they make fools of themselves when injecting themselves into tragedies they simply can’t understand.

The Security Council is being blocked from extending sanctions by Russia and China who don’t think the game is up for Assad quite yet and are hedging their bets that he will find a way to survive. Those are pretty long odds from where I’m sitting. The protestors aren’t going away, the opposition is getting better organized by the week, and the military is becoming less reliable with every killing in the streets. There’s nothing Assad can do to “reform” the political process that would put the genie back in the bottle and stop the demonstrations, so he’s going to have to continue trying to suppress the revolt using terror tactics.

How long that can continue before the world, the Syrian army, or his own inner circle move to stop him is anyone’s guess.



Filed under: Decision '08, Election '06, Ethics, Politics — Rick Moran @ 4:58 pm

Gee guys…what can I say? I blew it when I accused you, and other peace loving extremist Muslim groups of having a hand in that Norway operation yesterday. I mean, what can I do to make it up to you? Cut off my own head? Drown myself in boiling oil? How about if I chopped off my hand and mailed it to you? Would that make you feel better?

Anyway, there are several VERY important people who are demanding that I apologize for getting it wrong. Well, not me specifically. I knew it was a right wing nut all along. Soon as I heard about it, I said “Yep. Christian conservatives did this.” The tell-tale massive explosions close together. And then there was that carnage at the youth camp. Only Christian conservatives - and you - carry out attacks like that. And since we’ve blamed a lot of terrorism on you guys over the last decade (here’s a list of Muslim terrorist acts over the last two months - pretty impressive, I must say!) I figured that we ought to give someone else a chance to get blamed. Blond haired, blue eyed European terrorists have been in short supply since the Red Brigades and Baider-Manhoff retired. Nice to see we white people are making a comeback in this sphere.

So Glenn Greenwald thinks we do you a disservice when blaming you for any old terrorist attack that comes down the pike:

Al Qaeda is always to blame, even when it isn’t, even when it’s allegedly the work of a Nordic, Muslim-hating, right-wing European nationalist… we’ve seen repeatedly: that Terrorism has no objective meaning and, at least in American political discourse, has come functionally to mean: violence committed by Muslims whom the West dislikes, no matter the cause or the target.

He’s right, ya know. You’ve given us very little cause to “dislike” you. I mean, what’s a few thousand infidels being incinerated, more or less? We make far too big a deal out of people dying. After all, it happens all the time, every day in fact. Just a part of life.

Greenwald has a valid point. Terrorism has no “objective” meaning. It could mean Eric Rudolph blowing up the Olympics. Or some Christian wacko murdering an abortion doctor. Or Glenn Greenwald inflicting more of his tortured logic on an unsuspecting world (OK - maybe not terrorism but it’s annoying as hell.)

But Allah forbid it ever mean that 95% of the acts of terror committed on this planet is carried out by friendly Muslim fanatics like you. This “objective” truth must never be uttered lest we hurt your feelings. Far better to point to blond, blue eyed righty extremists as the true terrorists of the world and blame them first when some nutcase breaks into a meeting and starts screaming “Allahu akbar!” while spraying automatic gunfire into the crowd. After all, maybe the perp dyed his hair black, and is only pretending to be a Muslim.

So for what it’s worth, I apologize. From now on, I give all Muslim terrorists the benefit of the doubt and will hold my literary fire until you tell us that you’re the guilty party.

It’s not only the fair thing to do. It’s the right thing to do.



Filed under: Media, Politics, War on Terror — Rick Moran @ 10:04 am

Recently, we’ve witnessed a rash of controversies about various media figures being fired, or “blackballed,” or disrespected, ostensibly due to their political beliefs or because they thought their 140 character musings on Twitter were either privileged communications or shouldn’t count against them if they tweeted something idiotic.

Andrew Sullivan sees the dark hand of oppression at work:

Froomkin was fired for opposing torture a little too passionately; Weigel was forced out because his private emails revealed he was not acceptable to the partisan right; Frum is cut off from conservative blogads funding; Moulitsas is barred from MSNBC for criticizing Joe Scarborough; and Octavia Nasr is fired for offending the pro-Israel lobby over a tweet expressing sadness at the death of a Hezbollah leader.


Notice a pattern here? We’re all on notice, I guess. I’m extremely fortunate to work at a place where open exchange of views and ideas is valued, not penalized.

Froomkin was not fired “for opposing torture a little too passionately.” The idea that Sullivan presents this reason as fact is due entirely to his own pet theory for why Froomkin was let go by the Washington Post:

“Dan’s work on torture may be one reason he is now gone. The way in which the WaPo has been coopted by the neocon right, especially in its editorial pages, is getting more and more disturbing. This purge will prompt a real revolt in the blogosphere. And it should.”

Note that Mr. Sullivan appears to be a lot less certain in the immediate aftermath of Froomkin’s dismissal. Instead of the declarative statement made today about Froomkin’s opposition to torture being the sole reason for his being let go, at the time, Sullivan thought it “may one one reason” he was dismissed.

And was Weigel forced to resign because he pissed off the right? Or was it perhaps because the emails revealed the fact that his animus toward many conservative personalities brought into question his ability to write about the right in a professionally detached manner? I’m not even talking about not being biased. Weigel’s bombast - once publicized - would make it impossible for him to be taken seriously as a journalist.

Frum was cut off from Hawkins conservative ad network because John didn’t think that David was a conservative. His ad network - his opinion. I disagree with it but equating the public functions of the Washington Post with the private nature of Hawkins ad network is nonsense. Would Tom Friedman be able to join the Liberal Ad Network? It would be interesting to see. And if Friedman would have been rejected, would that be evidence that our thoughts were being “policed?”

The tweets of Kos and Ms. Nsar are the kickers. Moulitas evidently tweeted about the death of a Joe Scarborough intern as a “scandal” for the former congressman and was surprised that after viciously biting the hand that feeds him, he would be banished from MSNBC.

Are you kidding me?

Even more clueless was Nasr who innocently said nice things about Hezballah’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah. She called his death “sad” which might raise an eyebrow but is hardly a firing offense. But it was her characterization of Fadlallah being a “giant” that she “respected” that got her into hot water. Respecting someone who had devoted his life to wiping Israel off the face of the earth? Someone who approved of suicide bombings against women and children? Her subsequent “explanation” only made things worse. She tried to explain that her respect for the dead, terrorist supporting giant was based on his attempts to wipe out honor killings, writing that the Ayatollah thought the practice “primitive and nonproductive.” I guess beheading infidels and blowing up innocents was “modern and productive.”

Sullivan must have been joking when he called her response “nuanced,” right? Nasr’s views are not out of the ordinary if one happens to think that Hezballah is more than just a terrorist group/political party out to seize power from the Lebanese government. (Nasr tried to separate Fadlallah from Hezballah in her apologia by saying that he was respected by other religious leaders and even beyond the borders of Lebanon. This was true. He was also a religious and political fanatic - a fact that escaped Nasr’s “nuanced” journalism.)

Her tweet made it clear that she was incapable of seeing the role played by Hezballah in her Middle East beat with sufficient skepticism and objectivity. What’s sort of scary is that CNN was unaware of her views for 20 years. I’m not sure that calls into question all of CNN’s Middle East coverage, but it should wake up the network to how their coverage is shaped.

The lesson of all these cases of media malpractice? Don’t make a public idiot of yourself. If you feel the need to prove yourself to be a clueless, partisan git, try old fashioned diary writing. At least that way, you’re guaranteed to stay off the internet.



Filed under: PJ Media, Sports, WORLD CUP — Rick Moran @ 3:16 pm

Will no one rid us of these meddlesome horns?

My latest is up at PJ Media and its about those maddeningly obnoxious horns being blown in South African stadiums at the World Cup.

A sample:

There is nothing remotely close to a “musical tradition” in the blowing of these horns from hell. For that to occur, music, it would be assumed, would have to emanate from some kind of musical instrument. There is no difference between a vuvuzela and a New Year’s Eve party horn. And unless you are very, very drunk, no one will ever mistake the soused blasting of a noisemaker with Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.”

The vuvuzela is not a musical instrument — unless you want to change the definition to include the rack, the iron maiden, and Chinese water torture as the equivalent of a Stradivarius or a Steinway.


What makes the vuvuzelas so incredibly annoying is the monotone note that is a constant from the time the TV coverage of a match begins to the last second of the live feed from the stadium. It is unvarying in pitch and decibel level — about the same as standing a few feet from a jet plane taking off or an amplifier for a rock concert. At 127 decibels, the vuvuzela is louder than a jackhammer, a chain saw, a pneumatic drill, and a subway.

FIFA’s Sepp Blatter might find the dulcet tones made by a jackhammer the symphonic equivalent of a Mozart concerto, but the rest of us have a slightly different notion of what constitutes music.



Filed under: "24", Politics — Rick Moran @ 10:39 am

I would like to think that I have something meaningful and profound to say about the end of the series 24. But that would presuppose there is something meaningful and profound that I haven’t said already. I tire of repeating myself, as you no doubt are weary of the themes I have hammered home about the show over these last 5 years - years I have spent watching, writing, thinking, and and immersing myself in all things Jack. But there are a few things specific to the finale that I think need to be said, as well as a summing up that I feel compelled to attempt that will probably break no new ground, but will, to my own satisfaction, place a coda on my efforts over the years to slot Jack Bauer and the growth of his character in the context of how America has changed these last 9 years.

The series this year was better than last year but still a pale imitation of the show’s first 5 seasons. The writers fell in love with exposition the last few seasons and this detracted mightily from the pace of the show as well as cluttering up plot lines unnecessarily. This may have been unavoidable due to a general malaise to which the series fell victim, as well as a limited number of plot devices that could be employed because of the nature of the show. Plot “twists” were used over and over; the CTU mole, the impossible dilemma for a main character, Jack losing someone close to him, etc. What was, at one time, fresh and surprising became tired and trite by Season 8.

The same could be said for the threats Jack and CTU had to deal with. There are only so many credible WMD scenarios and CTU had to deal with all of them at least twice. “What? Not ANOTHER bio weapon?”

That said, the writers and producers responsible for last night’s finale made the right choice. The show was written not to please critics or the casual fan who might have looked in once and a while over the years to see what Bauer was up to. Last night’s final two hours were geared to please the 24 fanatic - largely because those were just about the only people left who watched the show this year.

We are the ones who were still able to suspend belief and accept a Muslim woman as president of an Islamic country. It was we fanatics who could understand Chloe being placed in temporary charge of CTU, or not think much about how for the umpteenth time, CTU was penetrated by terrorists, or even that a disgraced former president could wield such influence with the sitting commander in chief.

These were but bumps in the road that 24’s loyal base of fans accepted in order to be drawn into the story. We forgave the show a lot over the years; its descent into political correctness, its dead end plot threads (that probation officer is probably starting to stink up the conference room by now, don’t you think?), and the switch from battling foreign terrorists to fighting evil American corporate criminals whose greed was portrayed as a worse sin than trying to murder a lot of citizens. The critics may have groaned, others may simply have eventually just clicked away and watched other fare, but the rest of us remained glued to our seats because Jack Bauer was the most compelling hero in the history of series TV.

A bold statement, that. But the case for it being true is wrapped up in how Bauer fit into an America that was changing at lightening speed over the past decade. Terrorism, war, financial collapse - many of the verities with which Americans began the first decade of the 21st century were shaken or sloughed off under the burning glare of history’s relentless spotlight. Certainly, 9/11 changed us. The way the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have progressed changed us. Losing faith in the complete efficacy of free markets has changed us. And the desperate desire for “hope and change” have now sobered us. What kind of America emerges from the Obama interregnum is anybody’s guess. But - and this is key - I don’t think there will be a place for Jack Bauer.

For Bauer is a creature of our past. His principles, his gallantry, his single minded determination to win, and his moral sense that allowed him to operate in a world that he firmly believed was black and white — all this and more are out of fashion.

In - angst-ridden decision making. Out - going with your gut to do what you know is right. In - a war on terror that doesn’t even have a name anymore. Out - knowing exactly who the enemy is and where they should be sent. In - a cynical outlook on power and its uses. Out - a belief in duty, honor, and that there is a higher calling to fight for justice; not above the law but beyond the law.

I will get an argument from many that most of these things deserve to be placed on the ash heap of history. Perhaps, yes. Bauer’s fanaticism led him down some very dark paths; torture, murder, willy nilly violations of constitutional rights, and a veritable smorgasbord of institutional transgressions that no decent manager would have ever put up with. But this was Jack Bauer as we found him in the aftermath of 9/11. He offered moral certainty, a clear eyed recognition of the stakes he was fighting for, and a devotion to America and American principles that had us on our feet cheering more than we were troubled by the demons that sometimes seemed to possess him.

Of course, those demons finally got the better of him this year. Bauer’s vengeful rampage against those responsible for Rene Walker’s death wasn’t shocking at all. I watched with detached interest as Jack systematically began to work his way up the chain of responsibility with bloody skill and determination, idly wondering if he’d eventually kill either President Logan or President Taylor. Both deserved whatever fate had in store for them, although the thought that Jack would actually murder a former president - even one as bad as Logan - would have been wildly out of character considering his reverence for American institutions.

But that didn’t lesson our huge enjoyment as President Jellyfish was finally in Jack’s clutches, looking down the barrel of a gun at his own mortality. No doubt Logan saw the Circle of Hell in which he was destined to spend eternity for his crimes. Gregory Itzin, playing the conniving, sniveling Logan to perfection, gave fans exactly what they wanted from that confrontation with Bauer; abject terror and cowardice.

And the irony in Chloe being the one placed in the impossible situation of having to shoot Jack so that Bauer and his compatriots could win the game and expose the cover up was too delicious - and still a huge shock when she actually shot him. The scene brought to mind Jack’s extraordinary execution of Ryan Chappelle in Season 3, among other dilemmas that have entertained us through the years.

Chloe - the last of Jack’s old friends, who never turned her back on him, would have given her own life to save his, and even in the most dire circumstances with Jack being pursued by every federal agency in the US government, foreign intelligence services, and bad corporate actors, never, ever let him down - at the end of it all, proved she had as much courage in her own way, as Bauer. Did she love Jack Bauer? Perhaps in the manner of a school girl crush on the star quarterback in high school, yes. But it was obvious from their first meeting that they were not only opposite personalities, but from different galaxies as well.

Their last scene together was played with excellent understatement and was predictably affecting. I almost expected Bauer to say that when he first met Chloe, he really, really didn’t like her at all. That may have been true. As we all know, Chloe has to grow on you. You have to learn to ignore those little personal idiosyncrasies that endeared her to the TV audience but drove friends, co-workers, and even terrorists crazy. It was part of her charm.

Instead, Jack said that he never would have believed that it would have been her who had his back for all those years. A tribute from one counterterror colleague to another, one warrior saluting a comrade. And for Jack, no higher praise.

There will be a film of 24. It’s already in development and we can see where it will probably begin; some foreign country with Jack being pursued by everybody. Also, since they didn’t quite kill of Logan, expect to see his character somewhere in the film as well.

Beyond that, we hear that they are not considering “real time” scenario for the film. Freeing Jack Bauer from the constraints of time will be interesting to see although it will be tough to save America when you are out of the country. They will probably have to find a way to bring him back, no doubt under presidential dispensation. No word on when the film is due out.

Thus endeth the tale of Jack Baur, post 9/11 American hero, accused of inspiring war crimes, catalyst for serious arguments about politics and policy…

And one helluva an entertaining character.



Filed under: Government, Homeland Security, Politics, The Law — Rick Moran @ 10:27 am

This article originally appears on The Moderate Voice.

John McCain is saying we shouldn’t mirandize an American citizen who has been arrested for his participation in the Times Square bomb plot:

It would have been a serious mistake to have read the suspect in the attempted Times Square car bombing his Miranda rights, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Tuesday.

McCain, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a longtime leading Republican on national security issues, said he expected the suspect in the case could face charges that might warrant a death sentence if convicted.

“Obviously that would be a serious mistake…at least until we find out as much information we have,” McCain said during an appearance on “Imus in the Morning” when asked whether the suspect, 30-year-old Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen from Pakistan.

“Don’t give this guy his Miranda rights until we find out what it’s all about,” McCain added.

First of all, it is never a “mistake” to follow the law. Mr Shahzad is an American citizen, and even if he had murdered thousands, he would still be entitled to the protections guaranteed under our Constitution.

And yet, this is one instance where the “ticking bomb” scenario might very well be a reality. Newsweek reports there may be a connection between Shahzad and the Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud:

A prominent expert on Jihadist media says there is an apparent link between the new video message in which Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, once thought to have been killed, proclaims he is still alive, and a message posted overnight Saturday in which the Pakistani Taliban appears to claim credit for the failed Times Square car bomb attack.

Rita Katz, founder of the Site Intelligence Group, a private organization that monitors and translates extremist Web postings, late on Monday outlined a timeline her organization put together that suggests that the Hakimullah video and the U.S. attack claim were both posted, at least on some sites, by the same person or persons.

Terrorists are notoriously full of bombast but just for the record, Meshud made some bloodthirsty threats toward America in his latest video:

In the videos, Hakimullah Mehsud vows attacks on U.S. cities, which he says his suicide bombers have penetrated. The videos provide the first solid evidence that he survived the missile strike, and they come after the Pakistani Taliban’s widely dismissed claim of responsibility for the failed attack in New York’s Times Square. In that case, authorities were zeroing in on a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan. A suspect was arrested late Monday, though reports of his ties to extremist groups in Pakistan could not be substantiated.

Might there be other terrorists in other major American cities waiting to strike as I write this? And would that be a good enough excuse for the government to arbitrarily waive Mr. Shahzad’s Constitutional rights, designate him an “enemy combatant,” and interrogate him using all legal means at our disposal (I take it as a given that President Obama has rejected “enhanced interrogation” as an option)?

For some on both sides of the argument, this is an easy question to answer in the affirmative or negative. However, knee jerk ideological reactions from civil liberties absolutists or bloodthirsty right wingers are just not good enough in this situation.

The threat is real and immediate. Hundreds - perhaps thousands - of American lives may be at stake. Wouldn’t it be easier just to forget the Constitution in this one instance and treat this terrorist as the enemy he himself claims to be?

It would be easier. But would it be the right thing to do? I daresay if there is another terrorist attack - this one successful - and we followed the law to the letter by allowing the suspect to remain silent despite the fact that it is later revealed he could have given us information that would have stopped the attack, the political ramifications would be severe. And the fact that our police obeyed the Constitution would give cold comfort to the families of those who lost a loved on in a preventable attack.

It’s an easy choice - unless you lose someone because of that choice. Then it becomes a little more complicated, yes? Or, on the other side of the coin, if Mr. Shahzad knows nothing of any other attacks and precious little about his overseas connections, violating his constitutional rights would be seen as dramatic overkill. The law would have been violated for, what in retrospect, would be seen as no good reason.

You might argue that postulating outcomes is a fool’s game and that holding fast to Constitutional principles or making the exception in Shahzad’s case is a decision for the moment and no thought should be given to relative consequences. I disagree. This decision would be all about “relevant consequences.” If we violate the suspect’s Constitutional rights and the information we are able to wean out of him prevents an attack, is that justification for tossing the Constitution aside? Or if he has no information relevant to accomplices or other plots, must we automatically assume that what was done was a travesty?

Herein lies the conundrum over Mirandizing Shahzad. Whether we do or don’t, our actions will have profound consequences.  Even if no other terrorist attacks are being planned, finding that out is almost as important as discovering another plot to kill Americans. And as with any other decisions made by policymakers, the potential harm must be weighed against any positive outcome to their actions.

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t be confronted with choices like this. But in the real world where lives may be at stake and the responsibility weighs heavily on our national leaders, the simplified view of the ideologues is a luxury not vouchsafed those who are charged with protecting American citizens.


As is his wont - and the wont of other excessively ideological dimwits on both sides - John Cole exaggerates, takes out of context, and generally makes a hash of my writing.

As far as torture, Cole knows full well I oppose it as strenuously as he does. As for the “ticking bomb scenario,” I have written extensively about how the professionals do not believe it could ever happen.

The point of this post was to theorize that there may arise a situation in the future where - ticking bomb or not - American lives would be placed at risk by mirandizing a terrorist. It doesn’t take much imagination to visualize such a scenario. My purpose was to outline the arguments for and against such action. I tried to present both sides fairly. Cole, being the partisan, ideological hack that he is, only saw one side.

James Joyner is also dubious about my reasoning here and corrects me about any American citizen able to be designated an “enemy combatant.” I don’t believe I came down on either side in Shahzad’s case in the article but just for the record, I support mirandizing him.



Filed under: Decision 2010, GOP Reform, Politics — Rick Moran @ 10:35 am

This article originally appears at The Moderate Voice

Pajamas Media paid my way to New Orleans last weekend to attend the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, and I am just today recovered enough from my trip home on Sunday to write something about it.

The journey back to Chicago from New Orleans was actually more like an Icelandic Saga than the return leg of a round trip. The only thing missing is Odin hurling thunderbolts at the airplane, although we were lucky enough to actually fly through a Boomer when landing in Atlanta on Thursday.

I much prefer direct flights but that wouldn’t do for PJM. So off to Atlanta from Chicago I went on Thursday last week, failing to see the logic in traveling to the east coast in order to fly to a city located in the middle of the country. I’m sure it had to do with the “Hub” system that has been the death of air travel in America. At any rate, a one hour, forty five minute flight turned into a half day’s aggravation. As it was, I barely caught the connecting flight to New Orleans because we were late taking off from O’Hare.

But all that pales in comparison to the four airport, 3 airplane torture I was subjected to on Sunday. I spent more time in layovers - 4.5 hours - than I did in flight time - 4 hours. From New Orleans, I flew to Houston where a 2.5 hour layover awaited. Then, boarding a jump jet, we headed off to Dallas, another hour layover, and then the excruciating experience of being sandwiched between a man and a woman who were even larger than my 250 pound bulk for the final leg back to Chicago.

After spending the weekend endlessly walking through the conference venue, I spent Sunday endlessly walking through 4 airports. My legs almost fell off when I got home and even a hot bath didn’t help much.

Enough of my ordeal, what about the conference?

Partisans will see and hear what they want to, but I really did make an effort to step back and listen to the speeches and converse with delegates as someone not beholden to party or ideology. Some of what I heard disturbed me. Some things cheered me. Mostly, I was impressed with the confidence exuded by those present.

Is it misplaced? Some argue that the GOP has peaked too early, that the Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts was the high water mark of the GOP comeback.

Forgive me if I find that laughably wishful thinking. The fact is, there is something happening in the hinterlands of America that those of us who spend our days wrapped in this little internet cocoon can barely fathom. Millions of people - not just Republicans or conservatives - are aroused. Many are angry but many more are worried. There is a widespread belief that the government of the United States has gone off the rails and is literally out of control. In short, what ever tenuous connection the people had with Washington has been broken.

Assigning blame is not my intent. In fact, the media narrative about the tea party people is so remarkably wrong, it would be humorous in almost any other context. Every single tea partier I talked to - and you couldn’t move in New Orleans without stepping on one - is as mad at the Republicans as they are the Democrats.

Every single one.

Even if they vote Republican in 2010, the GOP will be on notice; reform or it will be your turn to get kicked out. This attitude is reflected by the polls in that while GOP fortunes may have surged, the number of people who identify with the party has remained relatively constant - about 27% of the electorate. Voters have not forgiven Republicans their mistakes. For the GOP to assume otherwise and then get to Washington next year only to carry out their own spending plans, would be the height of folly.

This emotional reaction of the tea partiers and others who may identify with the movement but have no desire to join, has little to do with health care reform or even spending. Opposition to those issues are symptoms of a much broader concern; the unmooring of government from the tenets of the Constitution.

I wrote about this aspect in my PJ Media column on Sunday:

But there was also something most unusual about the conference: an uncommon amount of talk and discussion of the United States Constitution. Ordinary people from all walks of life, not a constitutional scholar or lawyer among them, are actually trying to come to grips with the fundamental meaning and purpose of our founding document.

Has such a thing happened since the debates over ratification? If the numbers of tea partiers can be believed — and they were omnipresent at this gathering — perhaps millions of citizens are reading the Constitution and trying to place the actions taken by our government within the confines of our founding document’s strictures. And judging by the numerous conversations I had with delegates, bloggers, and just ordinary folk, there is a profound feeling of unease about not just what Obama and the Democrats have done to expand the power of the federal government, but Republicans as well. Contrary to what the left would like to establish as conventional wisdom — that the tea party movement is a wholly partisan operation — the anger people are demonstrating about spending is directed at both parties, almost equally.

But becoming emotional about spending is only a symptom of what bothers most people. If you start to talk to them about spending, inevitably the conversation will turn to the Constitution and their understanding of how that document should be interpreted.

How dare they, you might say. What do they know about 221 years of constitutional law? What do they know about the great and important decisions of the Supreme Court that have defined, redefined, and reinterpreted our founding document through the decades? How can they possibly intelligently address the minutiae, the subtlety, the beautiful strands of logic that have painstakingly been built up, layer upon layer, as our civilization has groped with ways to live together in justice and peace?

It may seem to some a quaint exercise in good citizenship for these millions to wrestle with the such convoluted and complex questions as the meaning and reach of the commerce clause or the constitutionality of the individual mandate to buy health insurance. The condescension is misplaced — and totally unwarranted.

What’s really at work here is the mystery of faith and how it can not only move mountains, but perhaps save a country from its own foolishness.

The reason for this massive interest in the Constitution may be seen as an attempt to reconnect the people with their government. Childlike in its simplicity, this very serious concentration on our founding document by people from all walks of life is an attempt to try and understand what government is doing in the context of the only blueprint we have for how to keep our liberty. It has engaged the sensibilities of the public in a way not seen for a very long time.

Some of the speakers sought to take advantage of this re-examination of the Constitution by trying to make the point that the Obama administration, the Democrats, the liberals - all were actually against the Constitution and were seeking to take away the liberty of the people, to enslave them.

Texas Governor Rick Perry went so far as to define the powers of the federal government thusly: Perry believes the federal government’s responsibilities should be limited to:

Have a strong military, secure our borders, and deliver the mail on time. And that’s it. …

And until you can get those three right, how about leaving everything else alone?

Few in the tea party movement would go that far. And the ones who do could rightly be termed “anti-government” rather than small government conservatives.

There was also some worrying rhetoric about the ultimate loyalty and intentions of Obama and the Democrats. Here, many more if not most in the tea party movement agree that the Democrats are basically un-American with some going as far as saying that they want to ruin the country. This is, as I point out, the Age of the Ideologue in America so perhaps it’s understandable, if not a little depressing that this attitude is so widespread.

For now, the Republicans don’t quite know what to do with these people. They are of a different breed than other activists in that they don’t seem to want to give their loyalty to any party or party establishment. Eventually, this movement will be co-opted and absorbed by the GOP. But until then, they will give the Republican party leadership fits with their constant badgering about first principles and constitutional order.



Filed under: Ethics, Politics — Rick Moran @ 8:36 am

Am I talking about Democrats? Or am I quoting Johnny Rico’s battle cry from Starship Troopers?

As much as some Democrats and liberals remind me of cockroaches, the answer is a qualified “no.” I say that because if I was indeed crying out for the termination of liberal’s life functions, that would be wrong, although anyone who 1) took my threat seriously; or 2) tried to make the case that I was inciting violence would, under normal circumstances, be seen as something of a raving loon.

But that’s the state of political discourse today. Intent on stifling any post-Obamacare dissent, many of our friends on the left have discovered that over the top, exaggerated, hyperbolic rhetoric is not usually a good thing - except when they engage in such and target conservatives and Republicans. Then, all manner of free speech is allowed, even considered necessary, in order to stifle opposing viewpoints.

And connecting my “Kill them all!” cry to some yahoo throwing a brick through a Congressman’s office is, if possible, even loonier. Five seconds of extra thought to such a notion would tell you that not only would said yahoo probably be unable to read and therefore would miss my transgression against civility altogether, but the chances of him coming across my blog post in the first place are astronomically small.

Hence, I feel perfectly comfortable in crying out “Kill them all!” After all, who’s to say where I am directing my battle cry? Maybe I only want congressional liberals to expire? Perhaps I am only targeting black liberals with my eliminationist rhetoric? It’s even possible that I am only advocating that three toed, humpback, mustachioed, gay Democrats be given the deep six?

The only way to deal with restrictions on speech is to speak the supposedly offending words and offensive language in the loudest, longest, most exaggerated manner possible and keep doing it until those seeking to stifle your First Amendment rights are shown to be the tyrannical louts they truly are.

To wit:

It’s time to take off the kid gloves and start TARGETING these Democrats for SPECIAL TREATMENT. HANG THEM FROM THE YARDARM, I say! PUT THE CROSSHAIRS over their district and FIRE AWAY. Don’t be NIGGARDLY (couldn’t resist) in your criticisms. RACK THEM. You might even consider DRAWING AND QUARTERING them - metaphorically speaking, of course.


Getting hysterical over a figure of speech may be taking the idea of “eliminationist rhetoric” to its absolute, most frothingly idiotic limit. It isn’t a question of whether such language incites violence; it doesn’t. It isn’t a question of whether the user actually intends to hang someone from a yardarm or wishes to use the Medieval torture device, the Rack, to injure or kill a political opponent because the very definition of a “figure of speech” precludes such a possibility:

A Figure of Speech is where a word or words are used to create an effect, often where they do not have their original or literal meaning.

What we have is the old liberal trick of ignoring the author’s intended meaning of words and phrases in order to substitute their own, politically motivated interpretation of what is written. Hence, if I quote Johnny Rico by writing “Kill them all!”, I am not making fun of liberals, I am actually calling on those shadowy tea party folks to put a bullet through a Democratic Congressman’s head. It doesn’t matter that my intent was to make liberals look like idiots. It is that some liberal schmuck decided he could make political hay by pointing hysterically to my figurative use of the phrase and triumphantly accuse me of advocating the death of Democrats.

Goldstein has been tracking this phenomenon for years. He always explains it better than I:

As I’ve explained on countless occasions, however, language simply does not exist in the absence of intent. Intent — the intent to signify — is what turns signifiers into signs, marks into language (and so, potential communication). In an instance where we don’t know the intent of the author or utterer, it is our job as receivers of a communication to try to decode that intent. And that’s because the intent and the message are irrevocably tied together. Which is why when we aren’t interpreting by way of appeals to authorial intent, we aren’t “interpreting” at all. Rather, what we are doing is treating marks as mere signifiers, and then we are attaching to them our own signifieds — in essence, writing our own text. To then turn around and attribute the text we wrote to that author is not only wrongheaded, it is pernicious: after all, we are still privileging intent. It’s just that we have now privileged our own, while attributing that intent to the writer/utterer.

Intent is always present; whose intent gets privileged determines whether or what we’re doing is “interpreting” or “creative writing.”

When the left “privileges” its own intent, substituting their own interpretation of a word, or a phrase for what the author was trying to convey, it becomes impossible to communicate on any level whatsoever. How can there be discourse when both sides cannot agree on the meaning of language?

I hate to see the right attempting this nonsense - and not doing it very well. When Ed Schultz says on his show that if there is another Oklahoma City-like terrorist attack, that Glenn Beck and other righties should “blow their brains out,” no one with any respect for language believes that Schultz is advocating the death of talk show hosts. He is using a figure of speech to shock his audience (and garner ratings). He is not signaling some kook to kill Beck. He is not using language to incite violence against anybody. Those who interpret Schultz’s use of the cliche as anything other than the radio host doing his shtick are guilty of exactly the same kind of idiocy the left uses when critiquing, for example, Stephen Green’s call to “tar and feather” congressmen.

Political violence is unwanted in America. So is deliberate exaggeration of the threat of such. Ten recorded incidents against Democrats (and a couple against Republicans) do not a civil war make. The notion that tea partyers, bloggers, pundits, or anyone else on the right is advocating, inciting, or wishing for violence against Democrats is balmy.

That is, if everyone were truly interested in defining intent correctly, rather than reinterpreting speech in order to score political points and stifle the opposition.

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