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2/28/2011
THE CONSEQUENCES OF BEING TOO CIVILIZED

We are rightly proud of the accomplishments of western civilization over the past 500 years. We have not been perfect - not by a long shot. But gradually, western values and attitudes have permeated the planet, softening the rough edges of civilization, and providing a framework of law where the strong do not always ride roughshod over the weak.

Imperfect, but viable. Flawed, but as a practical matter, better than any alternative.

There is one glaring weakness from which the west suffers in particular that has been exposed time and time again over the last 70 years; our inability to deal with individuals who are determined to act outside the boundaries of “civilized” norms and commit acts of barbarism so profoundly disturbing that they shake our faith in our institutions and belief systems.

This is a consequence of being too civilized. When a Pol Pot, Idi Amin, or a Yakubu Gowon confront the west with the butchery of their own people, we are constrained in our response, stopping short of doing what is necessary to save the innocents from slaughter. It is not a lack of moral courage. Rather, it is the inability to do what is necessary to defeat the evil that is perpetrating such suffering.

It is our refusal to adopt the tactics and ruthlessness of evil in order to destroy it that makes us look weak and helpless in the face of such monumentally uncivilized behavior.

When confronted with evil — the real thing, not the exaggerated, partisan, politically motivated sort of “evil” that right and left believe emanates from their opponents — civilized man freezes like a deer in headlights and fails spectacularly in doing the things necessary to stop it.

It took truly barbaric tactics — including fire bombing German cities and leveling a great many French villages and towns — to defeat Adolf Hitler. Prior to the war, western governments realized in a vague way the threat posed by Hitler’s evil, but refused to lift a finger to stop him until it was far too late.

It took a barbaric weapon to defeat the evil Japanese militarists who literally raped their way across Asia in an orgy of slaughter. Prior to Pearl Harbor, the very cultured and decent Franklin Roosevelt refused to heed the admonitions of his own Japanese ambassador, Joseph Grew, about the threat posed to the world by the unholy alliance of the Imperial Army and corporate war mongers. It took one of the most decent men ever to serve as president - Harry Truman - to order the use of the most indecent weapon ever devised by man and end the militarist’s mad ambitions. We debate the morality of using that weapon and the tactics in Europe to this day.

Since the end of the Second World War, a procession of tin pot dictators, genocidal maniacs, coldly calculating mass murderers, and religious fanatics have marched across the world stage leaving a trail of blood and sorrow so massively beyond the scope of decent people’s understanding, that we failed to grasp the horror even while it was happening in front of our eyes. Pol Pot created a hell on earth in Cambodia and despite desperate cries for help from the lucky few who escaped the mass slaughter, western governments turned a deaf ear and stood by as the Communist butcher depopulated his own country.

The Rwandan genocide — 100 days of unspeakable bloodletting that took the lives of 800,000 Tutsi tribesmen — was known to the entire world and yet, debates raged for weeks at the United Nations whether the mass murder should be referred to “officially” as genocide. The US could have cut off radio broadcasts of the Hutu extremists who were egging on the gangs who were carrying out the killings but failed to do so because it might have violated international law.

Good, decent, civilized people stood by while 800,000 human beings were killed - many of them hacked to death by machete. Our own ingrained sense of civility and virtue prevented the kind of quick action that might have saved tens of thousands of lives.
The problem is obvious; in order to defeat that kind of evil, the tactics used by civilized people just don’t work. One must match evil for evil in order for civilization to win out in the end.

It has always been so. How could we have possibly intervened in Cambodia without causing enormous bloodshed of our own among civilians? The army, government, and population was in such close proximity that massive civilian casualties would have been unavoidable. Our intervention may also have triggered a much wider war with China coming to the aid of their ally. Pol Pot would have been gone, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Cambodians would have been saved, but because our notions of civilized warfare have grown to preclude that kind of mathematical judgment, the west failed to act and nearly 2 million Cambodians died.

Intervention in Rwanda would have been horribly messy. Many innocents would have lost their lives as well as those responsible for the massacres. The Hutu-led government would have almost certainly fought back which would have meant even more civilian casualties. The Tutsis would have resented not being able to take revenge on the Hutus, thus putting them at odds with their putative saviors. The conflict would have degenerated into a guerrilla war with both sides taking shots at the international force sent in to stop the violence. (A similar outcome might have been the case if we had intervened in the Sudan.)

Would it have turned out better than sitting by helplessly and doing nothing? This is a counterfactual where there isn’t enough historical evidence to say for certain either way. But our concern here is why we didn’t intervene. And the answer has to be, in part, that we don’t have it within us to fight evil by being as ruthless and cold hearted as the perpetrators of these crimes against humanity.

The first Gulf War ended after the “turkey shoot” along the Highway of Death horrified Colin Powell and George Bush Sr. to the point that they were concerned that slaughtering Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army would not only be detrimental to America’s image but was inhumane. If we had continued blasting the trapped Iraqis, the massacre of the Kurds in the north and Shias in the south could probably have been avoided, and Hussein himself might have been removed by the military. Our hand was stayed by many factors, but the specter of a bloody march to Baghdad and the prospect of urban warfare with many thousands of innocent Iraqis killed certainly played a decisive role in that decision.

Instead, we gave in to our civilized impulses and not only stopped our attacks, but agreed that the Iraqi military could fly helicopters in the no fly zone for “humanitarian” purposes. This led directly to the slaughter of tens of thousands of Kurds and Shias who revolted against Saddam’s rule.

The results of our overthrow of Saddam in 2003 speak for themselves in this regard. The positive good of getting rid of one of the 20th century’s truly evil tyrants is usually overlooked when an accounting of the human cost of the war is discussed.

Now the civilized world is once again faced with a situation where a madman in Libya is violating every tenet of civilized behavior that the west has worked tirelessly to spread from one end of the earth to the other. There is talk of “no fly zones,” arming the Libyan opposition, sanctions, and other, even less effective ideas to stop Muammar Qadaffi in his insane desire to hang on to power.

But direct military intervention appears to be off the table. The United Nations seems even more inept, more irrelevant at times like this. Not only is it impossible for the world body to make up its mind on even the gravest of threats to innocent people, their collective decisions are so watered down that by the time a consensus is reached, the action recommended is meaningless.

It is left, as it always is, to western governments to take meaningful action. For all intents and purposes, this means the burden falls squarely on the United States of America — the only nation militarily capable and possessing the moral courage to sacrifice its men and treasure in a cause not directly related to its interests. We import only a tiny amount of oil from Libya, nor do we have any trade to speak of with Qaddafi. If we sent in the Marines, it would clearly be an act of self-abnegation.

But we won’t send in the Marines, nor will any western government send a military force into Libya to save the people from their own government. The butcher’s bill would only rise precipitously as Qaddafi’s men would use civilians as human shields to protect themselves. We may indeed rid the world of Qaddafi if we resorted to military force. But at what cost? The minions of evil know well our weakness and play upon it relentlessly.

So the body count in Libya will continue to rise while the world flails about unable to bring itself to ape the tactics and behavior of the evil they are fighting. We may see this as “progress” in the sense that an overly sensitive attitude toward civilian deaths, international law, and the rules of war prevents us, in a grossly rudimentary way, from becoming what we are fighting.

But do the people getting gunned down in the streets of Tripoli see it that way? I wonder.

This article was originally posted on The Moderate Voice.

By: Rick Moran at 9:23 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

2/26/2011
HOW BOLD SHOULD OBAMA BE ON LIBYA?

I posted this at PJ Tatler:

Even the left is wondering about the president’s Libyan response. From Leon Wieseltier writing at TNR:

“This violence must stop.” So President Obama declared the other day about the depravity in Tripoli. This “must” is a strange mixture of stridency and passivity. It is the deontic locution familiar from the editorial pages of newspapers, where people who have no power to change the course of events demand that events change their course. This “must” denotes an order, or a permission, or an obligation, or a wish, or a will. It does not denote a plan. It includes no implication, no expectation, of action. It is the rhetoric of futility: this infection must stop, this blizzard must stop, this madness must stop. But this infection, this blizzard, this madness, like this violence, will not stop, because its logic is to grow. It will stop only if it is stopped. Must the murder of his own people by this madman stop, Mr. President? Then stop it.

Nothing is ever as easy as it looks, and one can appreciate — if not agree — with the president’s dilemma. He was late to the condemnation chorus, largely (we are told) out of fear of what the Libyan madman might do to American citizens. The hostage crisis that paralyzed Jimmy Carter and the United States for more than a year is never far from any president’s mind in situations where there is a breakdown in civilization. The argument has been advanced that the president acted prudently by waiting until almost all Americans were clear of Libyan territory before issuing a strong statement condemning the bloodletting. This is correct — as far as it goes. Other western countries had citizens at risk but that didn’t prevent their governments from laying into the Libyan dictator for his shocking behavior.

Wieseltier wonders why the president is reluctant to use our power in this situation as well as other crisis of his presidency:

Why is Obama so disinclined to use the power at his disposal? His diffidence about humanitarian emergencies is one of the most mystifying features of his presidency, and one of its salient characteristics. These crises—in Tehran two years ago, in Cairo last month, in Tripoli now—produce in him a lame sort of lawyerliness. He lists the relevant rights and principles and then turns to procedural questions, like those consultations. The official alibi for Obama’s patience with Qaddafi’s atrocity is his concern for the Americans who are still stranded within Qaddafi’s reach; I was amused to learn from a friend that the spin out of the White House includes the suggestion that Obama’s restraint is actually the wisdom of the hostage negotiator. But Obama’s statement about Libya suggests another explanation for his slow pace. This was its climax: “So let me be clear. The change that is taking place across the region is being driven by the people of the region. This change doesn’t represent the work of the United States or any foreign power. It represents the aspirations of people who are seeking a better life.”

They are fighting authoritarianism, but he is fighting imperialism. Who in their right mind believes that this change does represent the work of the United States or any foreign power? To be sure, there are conspiracy theorists in the region who are not in their right mind, and will hold such an anti-American view; but this anti-Americanism is not an empirical matter. They will hate us whatever we do.

Lara Logan probably agrees.

There are two possible explanations for the president’s hesitancy; the first is that he does not believe that the application of American power is a positive good in most cases and refrains from intervening because it is against his principles. The second is that he can’t make up his mind.

A good case can be made for both reasons.

I think the key is Wieseltier’s use of the term “Lawerly” to describe Obama’s thinking; logical, well ordered, systematic, even reasonable. This serves the president well when making a decision regarding domestic policy.

But this approach is an unmitigated disaster in a crisis. The president seems content to draw out the decision making process in a foreign crisis when events are moving so quickly that he always seems to be behind the curve. JFK believed that if you are constantly reacting to events in a crisis, you have already lost. Anticipating and making quick decisions allows a president to get on top of events which gives him a better shot at controlling them.

Obama seems incapable or unwilling to go that route. That’s why the body count continues to mount in Libya while the president tries to decide how to stop it.

By: Rick Moran at 3:31 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

2/25/2011
THE WAGES OF BECK

There are many on the right who make the argument that clowns like Glenn Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh, and their ilk are, if not entertaining and usually right about Obama and the liberals, basically harmless. “No one believes they are ‘leaders” of the conservative movement,” goes part of the argument. The left wants to choose our leaders for us and define them while the MSM takes every nutty thing they say out of context. Besides, they “tell it like it is” about Obama — something the gutless GOP refuses to do.

There’s more along these lines but the gist is simple; these Cotton Candy Conservatives “tell the truth” about Obama and the liberals which is why the left is frantic to portray them as unbalanced lunatics, unhinged from objective reality, and dangerous to boot. If they weren’t effective, the left wouldn’t care about them.

As is common with the temper of the times, liberals do indeed exaggerate some of what these nincompoops utter on a daily basis. But to be honest, it’s a target rich environment. I’ve tried this myself so I know it can be done: I challenge anyone (with a reasonable hold on the real world) to click on Rush Limbaugh, Hannity, Glenn Beck, Randy Savage, or a half dozen other talk show hosts anywhere in the middle of their programs - it doesn’t matter - and not be blown away by the rank stupidity, the exaggeration, the hyperbole, the laughable idiocy of what they are talking about.
These people couldn’t find reality if it were stapled to their ass.

They are so far removed from reasonable, logical analysis that it begs the question: If Obama and the liberals are as bad, as unholy, as evil as they say, what are they doing sitting in a sound studio spouting about it? If the United States of America is truly in as much danger as Beck and his buds tell us every day, why not “water the tree of liberty” with a little blood? Where’s the revolution, guys? And you call yourselves “patriots?” Your nation is slipping into socialism and all you can do is rant about it?

Get off you fat butt Rush, pick up a gun, and help save us from this fate! C’mon, Glenn! You gathered a couple of hundred thousand citizens to engage in a little spiritual renewal. Why not send out a call for a real march on Washington - armed to the teeth and ready for bear.

“Don’t retreat, reload” indeed. What a load of crap. It appears you would much rather perform the latter rather than the former. Those Founders you talk about incessantly “pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” to give us a nation of liberty. What have you pledged except an increase in ad rates for your programs due to the phenomenal success you have in scaring the crap out of the bullet-headed cretins who listen every day to your unbalanced rants?

I’m calling you out for your cowardice. If things are truly as bad as you all say — if we are all doomed to a socialist/Marxist hell with government putting their foot on our necks, snatching our freedom from us, what in the name of our sainted ancestors are you doing sitting on the sidelines? The colonies went to war against the most powerful army and navy the world had seen to that point with a lot less provocation than you screech at your listeners every day, and the best you can do is ask people to get involved in a tea party?

If Obama is truly “trying to destroy America” you’re just going to sit there and do nothing while he does it? If you don’t have the stones to fight, why not use your celebrity and notoriety to call for revolution?

This is the exact same argument I used when loony lefties were screaming about “Bush the dictator.” If you truly believed that Bush was out to “shred the constitution,” what kind of American are you that you’d sit passively and do nothing to prevent it? The same over the top divorced from reality rhetoric, hyperbole, exaggerated warnings of danger, was coming from the left during the 8 years of the Bush administration that we now see transferred to the right with only changes in the principle’s names to differentiate this idiocy from what transpired previously.

More importantly, what are the real world consequences of this flight from objective reality? We get chilling crap like this:

A constituent at a town hall for Georgia Rep. Paul Broun drew laughter on Tuesday when asked, “Who is going to shoot Obama?” and the Republican didn’t come anywhere near condemning the question in his response.

“The thing is, I know there’s a lot of frustration with this president,” Broun said, according to the Athens Banner-Herald. “We’re going to have an election next year. Hopefully, we’ll elect somebody that’s going to be a conservative, limited-government president … who will sign a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

The congressmen is also a couple of shakes short of a finished martini:

Last month, Broun live-tweeted Obama’s State of the Union address and drew criticism for one in particular. “Mr. President, you don’t believe in the Constitution,” he wrote. “You believe in socialism.”

On the day after the speech, Broun told CBS News, “I stick by that tweet.”

“Everything he does is bigger government, more central control from Washington, D.C. That’s not what our founding fathers envisioned the government to be,” he said. “Mr. Obama believes in a big central government, where the federal government controls everything in our lives. That’s socialism. And so I stick by that tweet.”

You go ahead and “stick by that tweet,” Mr. Broun. It is a nice segue into explaining the danger that Beck et.al. represent to the republic generally, and conservatism particularly.

The nitwit who asked who was going to shoot Obama is only carrying the message being imparted by the Cotton Candy Conservatives to its logical extreme; things are so bad with the people in power that we must kill them or we are lost. It’s true that none of the talk show hosts or conservative celebrities have advocated committing acts of violence directly. They don’t have to. By painting such a bleak, hopeless, frightening picture of the near future under Obama and the Democrats, their listeners are programmed to feel helpless and small. The psychological impact is predictable. When the actions of Obama and the liberals are placed in such apocalyptic terms, the extreme solution begins to sound eminently practical and reasonable. Why not kill the bastard? If it will save America, that’s a small price to pay.

Peter Wehner on Beck specifically, but what he writes could apply to any of them:

It’s hard to tell how much of what Beck says is sincere and how much is for show. Whatever the case, and even taking into account the entire MSNBC lineup, Glenn Beck has become the most disturbing personality on cable television. One cannot watch him for any length of time without being struck by his affinity for conspiracies and for portraying himself as the great decoder of events. Political movements are not just wrong; they are infiltrated by a web of malevolent forces. Others see the shadows on the wall; Beck alone sees the men casting them. The danger when one paints the world in such conspiratorial terms is that it devalues the rational side of politics. It encourages a cast of mind that looks to expose enemies rather than to engage in arguments. Few things, after all, are as they appear.

Beyond that, of course, is the sense of impending doom, of the coming Apocalypse, of our world being on the edge of calamity. If taken seriously, this has the effect of creating fear, hopelessness, and feelings of helplessness.

It’s not the Cotton Candy Conservative’s “eliminationist rhetoric,” or goo-goo brained conspiracy mongering that’s a threat. It’s that people take their flights of fancy seriously enough that the fantastical can appear real; that what strikes normal people as balderdash is taken to heart by millions and millions of otherwise sane individuals.

That fellow who wondered who would shoot Obama is probably a nice guy, someone you’d never suspect of harboring such thoughts if you bumped into him at a party or other social situation. It’s that his view of objective reality has been so warped by the Becks of the world that they are willing to believe almost anything bad about anybody he is told to hate.

Asking a majority of conservatives to marginalize or denounce these purveyors of faux nightmares is futile. For many, it is a question of looking at the results of Obama’s policies and asking the simple minded question, “What else could it be but that he wants to destroy the country?” In other words, it’s not Obama’s wrongheaded policies that are the problem, but rather his obvious evil intent to inflict the results of those policies on the rest of us. From there, it’s a short distance to believing that the deliberate destruction of our economy and country have a dark and evil purpose; the president is a Marxist, or socialist, or a Mooooslim, and the horrible results we see of his policies are part of a nefarious plan to subjugate all of us.

For others, however, Beck and his cohorts cannot be denounced because they further careers, rouse the right to give money, volunteer for campaigns, and most importantly, vote. That ’s why so many GOP congressmen and senators refuse to say the Birthers are a bunch of loons, or that Limbaugh is a blowhard. The Cotton Candy Conservatives are just too valuable to the establishment to push too far away.

I don’t know what can be done. But I know that in perilous times, it doesn’t help conservatism to have such high profile fantasists purporting to give a conservative take on the world around them - especially when what they are promoting is a world view at odds with reality.

By: Rick Moran at 1:19 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

QADDAFI AND ORTEGA: BROTHERHOOD OF BLOOD

My latest offering is up at FrontPage.com and in it, I examine the incredible support being shown for Qaddafi by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, and the relative silence of other Latin American leftists about the slaughter going on in Libya.

A sample:

The bloody horror being visited on his own country by Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi keeps getting more and more surreal as the days pass and the body count mounts. The dictator’s actions in so brutally cracking down on challenges to his 41-year rule have drawn the condemnation of almost the entire planet. Even President Obama finally bestirred himself to criticize the massacre of protesters. But there are those who just can’t bring themselves to side with unarmed demonstrators being mowed down by helicopter gunships and bombed into oblivion by modern jet fighters. While the rest of the civilized world are gagging at Qaddafi’s bloodlust, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega telephoned the Libyan leader to “express his solidarity” as this Washington Post article states.

The reason for the calls? Ortega says that Qadaffi, ‘”is again waging a great battle’ to defend the unity of his nation” and that ‘”it’s at difficult times that loyalty and resolve are put to the test.”‘ Ortega shouldn’t really worry about Qaddafi’s “resolve.” The despot’s thugs and mercenaries are demonstrating that quality every day when they break into homes armed with swords and hammers, hacking and bludgeoning people to death. And how much of a “battle” can it be if Qaddafi’s air force is bombing civilians in the streets? Ortega is unconcerned; he blames the Libyan people getting shot down in cold blood for their own predicament, saying “There is looting of businesses now, there is destruction. That is terrible.”

One can only marvel at Ortega’s train of logic that shows concern for looted businesses and destruction - caused at least partly by Libya’s own air force - but not for women and children jumping off of bridges to avoid African mercenaries who are massacring everyone in sight.

Ortega is not the only leftist Latin leader who has expressed, if not solidarity, then at least understanding of Qaddafi’s actions. The mummified Fidel Castro is taking a “wait and see” attitude toward events in Libya. In a column published Tuesday, Castro wrote, “You can agree or not with Gadhafi. The world has been invaded by all sorts of news … We have to wait the necessary time to know with rigor how much is fact or lie.”

Good advice from the master of propaganda and deceit. It appears that Castro is perfectly willing to wait and see if reports of mercenaries from Chad and Nigeria roaming the streets of Benghazi shooting unarmed people in the head are true or not. Evidently, video evidence is just not good enough.

Why is it leftist dictators and not right wing strongmen who sympathize outright or stay silent otherwise in the face of such extraordinary bloodletting? In the radical Marxist universe that these thugs live in, there is no moral framework of right and wrong, only what works. In that sense, they can dismiss 10,000 Libyans dying as long as the greater good is served by keeping Qaddafi in power.

By: Rick Moran at 8:56 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

2/24/2011
CHICAGO’S ONE PARTY DICTATORSHIP CHOOSES NEW LEADER

Something a little different today. My latest is up at PJ Media and it’s pretty much of a full-throated rant against the Chicago Machine and its pretensions to democratic forms.

A sample:

I wouldn’t actually call it an “election.” That would suggest there was more than one side who would benefit by a victory.

The truth, as it usually is, was a little more prosaic: the city of Chicago chose another politician to head up the corrupt Machine that has dominated politics in the Windy City for nearly 80 years. Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel became the city’s 46th mayor and first Jewish leader. He succeeds Richard M. Daley who, together with his father Richard J. Daley, ruled the city, the county of Cook, and the state of Illinois for all but 14 of the last 55 years.

The Machine is also known as the “regular Democratic Party.” There is nothing “regular” about it. It is an obscene blight on the idea of representative government and republican principles. The 95% Democratic vote cast last night are the kind of numbers Soviet leaders used to get in their “elections.” Hugo Chavez doesn’t do as well in his rigged contests.

The fact of the matter is, Chicago is held in thrall to a one-party dictatorship as firmly ensconced in power as any banana republic dictator. The enforcement mechanism is not an army or secret police (although the Machine has been known to play rough on occasion), but rather a network of ward bosses, corrupt businessmen, the odd mobster, and those who owe their livelihood to the party in power. The uniting expedient behind the Machine is money — taxpayers’ money — that is fleeced in many ways, both old-fashioned and novel.

The current Machine replaced the fractured ethnic amalgam of rancorous factions from the 1920s that was not only corrupt, but under the thumb of brutal, murdering gangsters. At least the new Machine had the decency to keep the gangsters off of the city payroll — most of the time — while assigning them a lesser role in the city’s hierarchy. Today, “the Organization,” as the mob is called, stays quietly in the background, sticking their fingers in several legitimate pies while generally refraining from carrying out their wet work inside the city limits. Today, most Chicago gangsters die in their beds or in prison.

Once Emanuel has his hands on the levers of Machine power, he is, in effect and for all practical purposes, Mayor for Life. The Machine may not have quite the influence it once had in that the mayor will not be able to crack his whip and have 13 subservient congressmen doing the bidding of a Democratic president as Daley the Elder could claim. But when it comes to elections — local, state, or national — the Machine is supreme. A steady flow of patronage jobs, city contracts, and outright bribes maintains the loyalty of ward bosses and ward heelers alike.

It is fair to ask what are the consequences of this smothering of alternative ideas to address the challenges faced by the city? Failed schools, failed mass transit, failed crime prevention, failed economic opportunities, failed protection of neighborhoods, failed prudent use and protection of the taxpayer’s money…

Failed, failed, failed - a legacy of nearly 80 years of one party government. Citizens are cowed into submission. “Reformers” are co-opted or absorbed. The press - cynical to a pathological extreme - views the entire situation as a circus; entertainment, not a political tragedy. Reporters vie with each other to come up with the most amusing, the most shocking, the most world-weary tone to their stories and receive prizes for their abdication of media responsibility.

What saved Chicago in the past was a unique dynamism among its entrepreneur class. Starting a decent sized new business in Chicago is a minefield, requiring the services of a lawyer who can help the new business owner navigate through the labyrinthine maze of paperwork at city hall. Despite this, Chicago keeps re-inventing itself economically which has saved it from the fate suffered by Detroit and other dysfunctional cities.

But that energy is dissipating as most businesses are giving up and moving out of the city - and soon, the state - as taxes continue to skyrocket and the nuisances of activists and politicians make it near impossible to make a decent profit.

I am not given to ranting but watching the returns on Tuesday night made my blood boil. The Machine not only takes care of its own but actively seeks to keep opposing or alternative ideas from being discussed in an open electoral arena. The result is the continued steady decline of a once great city.

Democratic and Republican administrations over the years have failed to dislodge the Machine’s chokehold on democracy. In fact, the Machine could have just as easily been a Republican dominated outfit rather than the Democratic party apparatus it operates as today. Party labels are irrelevant when the democratic forms are short circuited as they are in Chicago.

It would be heartbreaking if it wasn’t so maddening.

By: Rick Moran at 9:05 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

2/22/2011
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: SOLIDARITY FOREVER?

You won’t want to miss tonight’s Rick Moran Show, one of the most popular conservative political talk shows on Blog Talk Radio.

Tonight, I welcome Rich Baehr of the American Thinker, Vodkapundit Stephen Green, and Monica Showalter of IDB. We’ll look at events in Wisconsin and issues surrounding the labor controversy. We’ll also discuss the situation in Libya.

The show will air from 7:00 - 8:00 PM Central time. You can access the live stream here. A podcast will be available for streaming or download shortly after the end of the broadcast.

Click on the stream below and join in on what one wag called a “Wayne’s World for adults.”

Also, if you’d like to call in and put your two cents in, you can dial (718) 664-9764.

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio

By: Rick Moran at 5:06 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

2/20/2011
A FEW DISJOINTED THOUGHTS ON UNIONS, TEACHERS, AND HITLER
CATEGORY: Politics

Those who don’t believe we need unions anymore should take a turn working in a grocery store.

It doesn’t matter where - cashier, bagger, stock person, meat cutter. The temptation for management to take advantage of employees and run them into the ground usually proves to much to resist in non-union operations. I imagine the same holds true for meat processing, farm workers, and a few other labor intensive industries where there is large turnover and poor base pay.

For other industries? I’m not so sure. Marginally necessary perhaps for worker protection and decent benefits but unions like the UAW have lost sight of the true value of labor. I doubt whether their members would make half as much in wages and benefits in a true socialist economy. Negotiating with government is a lot different than negotiating with companies concerned about a bottom line and public image.

That said, is there any justification for public unions? At one time, perhaps yes. The reason for such outstanding benefits for public employees - at least it was justified to taxpayers this way - was that public workers made so much less than their counterparts in the private sector. This is decidedly not true at the federal level. Federal workers make comparable pay while enjoying 4 times the cash value of benefits.

But not all federal workers are unionized. Only around 30% belong to a union. Pay at the state level is considerably less, with one study showing state and local workers receiving 3.7% less than their counterparts in the private sector. State and local workers are also first in line for pay cuts during budget crisis and last to get a pay raise.

Is there really a necessity for a union to make up this difference? A public union is not bargaining with the government, but rather with the people of that state or locality. Government is a middle man, representing the interests of citizens. Perhaps, as Governor Johnson is doing, unions should be allowed to negotiate issues relating to their pay while leaving pension and health insurance to the legislature. Given the pension bomb that is about to go off across America, it’s probably going to happen anyway.

Public employees have been able to negotiate jaw-dropping pension plans and gold plated health insurance benefits in many states. This is not true in all states, nor is it true that all municipal employees everywhere enjoy undeserved bennies and high pay. Making generalizations about public unions is difficult because there are so many different ways that states and localities approach negotiating with them. Some unions are forbidden from going on strike. Some are statutorily limited in how much of an increase in pay they can ask for.

What has happened in Wisconsin is a clash of extremes. Exaggerated claims on both sides, egged on by outside forces, has created a crisis. Walker is not trying to break the unions (nor will his proposals prevent collective bargaining), while teachers have overreacted to reforms that as government workers, they are going to have to get used to. The calumny that has been directed at the protestors is well deserved in my opninion. Calling Walker and “dictator” or “Hitler” is beyond absurd. They are making themselves a laughingstock, convincing no one while radically harming their cause.

When taxpayers are footing the bill for pensions that are out of whack with those in the private sector, they have a right to ask why those workers can’t contribute more to bring their contributions inline with their own pensions. When workers enjoy tax-payer funded health insurance far beyond what the average citizen can afford, they have a perfect right to demand that those employees pay a little more into the insurance fund. These are hardly unreasonable demands for teachers whose average salary for nine months of work is $46,000 in a state with a very reasonable cost of living. Citizens who make a lot less pay a lot more in to pensions and health insurance plans.

What really bothers many is the sense of entitlement demonstrated by the teachers and other public employee unionists. They don’t like to be reminded who they’re working for. This points up what some are saying about the coming battle over budgets at every level of government. The divide will be between the producers and the dependents - between taxpayers and those who receive direct payments from government.

It will be a splendid little war that will probably determine the fate of the nation.

By: Rick Moran at 1:33 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

2/19/2011
IN WHICH I EXPLAIN MYSELF TO MY CRITICS WHO BELIEVE IN PARANOID FANTASIES ABOUT OBAMA

My PJ Media piece yesterday wasn’t linked by a single blog (except this one) and yet, it garnered more than 150 comments. My guesstimate would be that 95% were extremely negative — abusive, belittling, and dismissive. I fully expected this, have come to expect it, whenever I write anything for PJM or other conservative websites.

No one likes to be called a paranoid, but frankly, I can’t think of another word that describes the divorce from reality that has been finalized by so many on the internet right. Theirs is a unique world where logic and reason have gone on permanent vacation, and the fantastical has been substituted for rationality.

The question can be rightly asked; why do you do it if it breeds such contempt from readers to point out the error in their thinking? It certainly isn’t advancing my writing career which, despite claims that I am doing it because it garners praise from liberals, or will get me a job with a Beltway conservative publication, has tanked in the last year. I’d like to say I have bravely gone henceforth into the breach carrying the standard of reason on high, but the opposite is true. No one likes to be unpopular, but beyond that, no one takes my writing seriously anymore. This has made me a little gunshy in writing about anything, much less the mortal danger posed to conservatism by the paranoids.

I have also discovered that I am not a very persuasive writer, probably doing more harm than good to my cause by chastising the right for their blinkered view of reality. It is a fact that few like to be told they are wrong, much less crazy wrong. I should probably have recognized this early on and tried another tack, but would that really have mattered? Besides, crazy is as crazy does, to paraphrase Mr. Gump, and any attempt to minimize the distance between what many conservatives believe about Obama and liberals in general and the real world would probably have been met with similar resistance.

When I began to question cotton candy conservatives like Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh, and Sarah Palin, I actually believed that applying a little logic to the irrational things they were saying might convince some on the right to abandon this shallow, unserious flirtation with pop conservatism. The ease with which these charlatans “explain” what Obama and the liberals are up to by ascribing the worst possible motives to them should be a tip off for any rational observer who values reason. Gleaning motives, or intent, from results is backasswards. It beggars belief that any thinking person would fall into this logic trap.

Allow me to explain: The entire basis for “Obama wants to destroy the country,” Cloward-Piven, and even Rules for Radicals as a gameplan for Obama rests on the results of policies enacted by the administration — unemployment, massive debt, government “takeovers,” etc. From there, the paranoids walk their assumptions backwards to a supposition, i.e. Obama wants to destroy the country. “What else could it be but that Obama is evil and deliberately wants to bring America down?” is the question they ask.

Well, you have offered as much evidence that aliens are telling Obama what to do as you have proven that Obama is evil and wants to destroy the country. In short - zero, nada, nil, nothing. Not one shred of evidence that Obama initiated these admittedly idiotic policies except that the results of those policies were bad. No evidence of meetings where Obama and his advisors mapped out the destruction of America. No paper trail that shows that this was the administration’s intent. No tape recordings of Obama or his advisors plotting America’s downfall. No insider tell all book detailing how the president and his men sought to destroy the United States.

How then, can anyone with an ounce of reason or logic draw the ridiculous, paranoid conclusion that because Obama’s policies have resulted in near economic ruin (a dubious supposition given the previous administration’s profligacy and nearly 30 years of continuous deficit spending with an expanding state), that the only possible explanation is that he is evil and trying to destroy us?

The problem for the paranoids is that they start, not with a supposition, but an assumption. By assuming evil intent, the only possible supposition is that Obama is trying to destroy us. But what is easier to believe? Occam’s razor would teach us that beginning with the supposition that Obama is incompetent would lead to the exact same results that the paranoids believe proves Obama is evil! Is it easier, more rational, more reasonable to believe that Obama is a horrible chief executive or a Machiavellian president who has been able to hide the proof of his intent to destroy us - except from the eyes of those chosen few who claim special knowledge not in evidence of the president’s intent?

When looking at Obama through this kind of paranoid prism, all manner of evils can be attributed to him. He doesn’t “love” America. He wants to weaken us so that the Mooooslims can establish Sharia law in America. He is conniving to turn our capitalist economy (such as it is) into a socialist, or even a Marxist one.

Obama’s words are twisted beyond any reasonable definition of intent in order to “convict” him out of his own mouth. The president’s redistributive rhetoric, naive liberal idiocies about America’s role in the world, his juvenile, Keyenesian view of economics, his dangerously expansive view of constitutional principles all point to Obama being a far left liberal, out of his depth, who is seeking to “remake” America into his vision of of what a “socially just” nation should be.

He is not the first American who has had these ideas. He’s just the first president who has been elected to try it. How’s it working out? Not very well and it’s getting worse.

Wrong not evil. A poor leader, not Satan. A misreading of the country, not an extra-constitutional authoritarian. Isn’t it more reasonable to believe the former and not the latter of all of those assumptions?

I am not a psychologist so getting to the bottom of many on the right’s paranoia about Obama and the liberals will have to be explained by someone else. In the meantime, I will continue, as best as I am able, to try and inject logic and reason into the debates of our time, while leaving the witless paranoids to stew in their own conspiratorial muck.

By: Rick Moran at 11:46 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

2/18/2011
The Paranoid Style Is Alive and Well in Some Conservative Quarters
CATEGORY: PJ Media, Politics

My latest is up at PJ Media - another gangbusters article about the paranoid right and how some of their beliefs have entered the mainstream of conservative Obama critiques. This is especially true of the “Obama is deliberately trying to destroy the country” theme that is so prevalent on the right.

A sample:

One of the most confounding critiques of President Obama from the right has been the expressed belief that the president of the United States has deliberately initiated policies that he knew would injure the economy and the country. In short, Barack Obama wants to destroy America.

Several different motivations are given for this traitorous behavior. Rush Limbaugh thinks it’s because Obama wants as much of the population as possible to fall into dependency on government, thus giving Democrats a permanent majority because everyone knows poor people vote Democratic. Others believe it’s because the president is a socialist/Communist and in order to remake America, it must first be destroyed.

Darker conspiracies that combine the most paranoid parts of the birther narrative with Cold War revanchist nightmares involving a plot line ripped from the film The Manchurian Candidate (the sublime Frank Sinatra version, not the Denzel Washington turkey) provide a little comic relief to the dourness of the subject matter. Obama as the unholy offspring of Frank Davis or Malcolm X, groomed from birth by the international Communist conspiracy to become leader of the free world, programmed to remake America into a Marxist dictatorship, gives the entire proposition of Obama as Destroyer of America a slightly hysterical tinge.

Thankfully, most on the right don’t go quite that far over the cliff in positing the notion that President Obama has deliberately set out to bring America down. Still, there is a desperate paranoia at work among some conservatives if one were to take the notion seriously that this president — any president — would purposefully set the nation on a course where America’s destruction would be the end result. In order to believe that proposition, you have to also believe that the president is not just an incompetent, indecisive, empty suit in way over his head as chief executive, but that he is the personification of evil.

Conservative film critic, talk show host, and political commentator Michael Medved recently penned an article for the Wall Street Journal that attempted to address this phenomenon and place it in a realistic political context:

None of the attacks on Mr. Obama’s intentions offers an even vaguely plausible explanation of how the evil genius, once he has ruined our “strength, influence and standard of living,” hopes to get himself re-elected.

I also take conservatives to task for believing in the Cloward-Piven nonsense as well as thinking that the White House is following the Saul Alinksy playbook found in Rules for Radicals. Both critiques descend into the paranoid conspiracy level by making the claim that Obama wants to destroy America.

As you can imagine, I am getting slammed in the comments. Apparently, I am some sort of liberal Obama-lover. This points up a related issue for those conservatives who go off the reservation and think as I do; we are accused of not hating Obama enough.

We can strenuously oppose his policies, even think him personally arrogant, incompetent, narcissistic, and in over his head. That doesn’t matter to the paranoids. Unless you hate the president with every fiber of your being - and believe the absolute worst about his motives - your fealty to conservatism is openly questioned.

Is this a way to judge someone’s philosophy? If you’re a right wing fanatical hater of Obama, I guess so.

I take comfort in the fact that I am smarter, prettier, richer, and more grounded in objective reality than most of my critics.

By: Rick Moran at 8:45 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

2/17/2011
ROVE AND I ARE RIGHT: INNOCULATE CONSERVATISM AGAINST THE BIRTHERS

The recent poll showing that an astonishing 51% of GOP primary voters believe that Obama is a “foreigner” has proved what I wrote more than a year and a half ago; the Birthers are poison and threaten the party and conservative movement.

Me in July, 2009:

The question then becomes do we try and isolate, chastise, and ultimately drive out the paranoid purveyors of utterly fantastical notions of Obama’s origins while they are still a small enough group that a concerted effort could succeed? Or do we wait and see how big they get before acting, thus risking a backlash against the right from the voter?

To prevent many diseases from harming our health, we inoculate ourselves so that an illness will not develop. I propose something similar in dealing with the Birthers. For my part, anyone who leaves a comment on this site, on any post, that advances any birther “theory” will be banned from accessing my writings.

Some might think this a bad idea in that I will forgo “debate” or perhaps not allow a Birther to be convinced otherwise. That’s nonsense. My experience with Birthers has been that they don’t want to hear any contrary evidence, that they have closed their mind so completely to the truth that arguing with a brick wall would be easy by comparison.

Besides, for most Birthers, it’s not about discovering the truth. It is about delegitimizing the president. For months they demanded to see the president’s birth certificate. When the state of Hawaii released a “Certificate of Live Birth,” we heard from the Birthers that it wasn’t good enough, or it was a fake. “All we want is to see the president’s birth certificate,” they innocently ask. And they take the president’s reluctance to do so - indeed, his fight in the courts to prevent the release of it - as “evidence” that there is something amiss.

[...]

I am open to any and all ideas on how to marginalize these kooks before conservatism itself becomes a victim of the Birthers unbalanced lunacy. We can no longer turn the other way when confronted with Birther blather. Since they won’t listen to reason , shame and humiliation would seem to me to be the best way to closet them with the other nutcases of American politics

Karl Rove yesterday:

ROVE: Republicans had better be clear about this.

We had a problem in the 1950’s with the John Birch Society, and it took Bill Buckley standing up as a strong conservative and taking them on.

Within our party, we’ve got to be very careful about allowing these people who are the birthers and the 9/11-deniers to get too high a profile and say too much without setting the record straight.

BILL O’REILLY: What percentage of Republican voters — 5%, 10%?

ROVE: I don’t know, but whatever it is, it ought to be less, because we need the leaders of our party to say “Look, stop falling into the trap of the White House and focus on the real issues.”

O’REILLY: You know this stat that was put out — that 51% of Republicans…

ROVE: … look, this is a lousy poll.

O’REILLY: I know it is, but it’s going to be picked up — it already has been by the mainstream media.

ROVE: Absolutely.

O’REILLY: To demonize the rest of the Republican party.

ROVE: Sure, it fits into the White House theme-line.

O’REILLY: But isn’t that smart of the White House to do that?

ROVE: Oh, absolutely.

Look, these guys may be lousy at governing, Bill, but they’re damn good at politics.

O’REILLY: So it’s a smart strategy….

ROVE: … sure it is, because if we are where we are, which is we have a group of people out there who keep repeating this, and we’ve yet to get into a place where candidates are being asked about this in debates — look, don’t you think in the Fox debate or one of these debates that’s gonna be televised, candidates are going to be asked about this?

If they’d step forward and say “Look, we’ve got better things to talk about, then to fall into this trap that the White House has laid for us”, this issue will start to go away.

Rove wants the “leaders” of the party to take a stand and marginalize these kooks. Fat chance. John Boehner - incredibly - said the other day that it wasn’t his job to tell the American people what to think.

That’s real leadership, eh?

Birtherism, the loony idea that Obama is deliberately trying to destroy the country, Cloward-Piven nonsense, Saul Alinsky’s ludicrous gameplan — what all of these have in common is paranoia. Part of the reason is just plain ignorance — a lack of applying logic to a supposition and coming to a rational conclusion. Opposing Obama is not irrational; seeing evil in the results of his policies is. It is a leap of illogic to posit that Obama’s policies are having a monstrously bad effect on the economy, ergo, this automatically means that he has it in for America. I’ll never understand that kind of thinking, tinged as it is with an hysterical view of one’s political opponent. Isn’t it bad enough that the president is an incompetent boob? Why invent motivations that are so off kilter that one wonders how those who hold these views function in society?

A sizable segment - easily more than a third - of conservatives and Republicans are bat guano crazy. A similar percentage who are nutso on the left subscribe to idiotic conspiracies involving the Koch Brothers or the Chamber of Commerce, or some other right wing target. We are at the exact moment in American history when we can least afford to have a third of the electorate held in thrall to fantasy. We need hard headed realism, not mushy headed conspiracy theories.

What happens if things fall apart? With millions divorced from objective reality, I leave it to your imagination.

.

By: Rick Moran at 3:53 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)