Thursday, May 21, 2015

Conservative Calls for Civil Disobedience

Thomas Jefferson, borrowing from John Locke, wrote in the Declaration of Independence that,
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
It may turn out at some point that revolution is the only way to avoid despotism, but the costs of such a measure are so high and the outcome so uncertain that it should be an absolutely last resort. Long before such drastic steps become necessary citizens who wish to remain free, who wish our nation to be a nation of laws and not executive fiat, who wish to retain their rights to free speech, freedom of religion and freedom to bear arms, all of which are under unprecedented assault in this country by the current administration, should take to the streets in acts of civil disobedience and non-cooperation.

That our freedoms are in the Left's crosshairs becomes plainer, it seems, every day. What, for example could the president possibly have meant when he said that we need to change the way we report the news? What could Hillary Clinton have meant when she said that religious convictions that cause people to oppose abortion must be changed?

Here's the president a week or so ago:
And so, if we’re going to change how Rep. John Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell think, we’re going to have to change how our body politic thinks, which means we’re going to have to change how the media reports on these issues, and how people’s impressions of what it’s like to struggle in this economy looks like.
How can he do that without essentially abrogating the freedom of the press? Here's Mrs. Clinton last month:
Far too many women are denied access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth, and laws don’t count for much if they’re not enforced. Rights have to exist in practice — not just on paper....Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will and deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed. As I have said and as I believe, the advancement of the full participation of women and girls in every aspect of their societies is the great unfinished business of the 21st century and not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.
How can she change the deep-seated ... religious beliefs of a people without abrogating our freedom of religion?

The progressive veils are being taken off. Their agenda of compelling people to accept their utopian vision and their understanding of a moral society is being explicitly stated. Charles Murray has written a book (By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission)in which, in the words of Clark Niely at The Federalist, calls for conservatives to resist the Left's relentless statism by engaging in selective civil disobedience. Niely writes:
Summarizing the thesis ... Charles Murray calls (read Murray's essay here)for citizens to push back against government over-regulation by refusing to comply with laws that are “pointless, stupid, or tyrannical” — especially when they interfere with our ability to earn a living, run a business, or use our own property....

Thus, the mere fact that a court says it is constitutional to bulldoze people’s homes in order to build nicer ones, or license the sale of floral arrangements, or exercise federal control of local pet-care decisions does not make it so. Those decisions are so obviously wrong—and so poorly reasoned—that they can make no serious claim to anyone’s intellectual or civic allegiance....

Simply put, when the government’s abuse of its authority is sufficiently clear, sufficiently oppressive, and sufficiently offensive to the conscience and morals of decent people, there is nothing un-conservative about resisting it, even (or perhaps especially) when the Supreme Court is out to lunch—as it so often is.
In his Letter From a Birmingham Jail Martin Luther King famously observed that unjust laws are no laws at all and should not be obeyed. The same can be said for Executive Orders and other unilateral means of unjustly imposing the will of one man on the entire nation while denying the people's representatives the ability to stop him.

Statists like those in the current administration will strip us of every freedom they can, they'll stick their noses into every aspect of our lives that they can, unless at some point, the citizenry declares that we've had enough. Murray thinks we're at that point now. If Mrs. Clinton wins in 2016 we'll surely be at that point then.

Even with a legislative branch controlled by Republicans, many of whom are also infected by the statist virus, the president can still appoint federal judges, Supreme Court Justices, and bureaucrats in the alphabet agencies like OSHA, EPA, IRS, etc. to circumvent any roadblocks the legislature may erect to ever-expanding government and ever-diminishing individual freedoms. It's past time for Americans to rouse themselves from their comfortable slumbers and begin to reclaim the freedom bequeathed us by the Founding Fathers.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Accomplishments? What Accomplishments?

It's one of the charming oddities of our politics that people will vote for a candidate for all sorts of reasons other than the candidate's qualifications for office. The individual may be unqualified, corrupt, dishonest, untruthful, unprincipled, vindictive, and unscrupulous and people will still vote for the person as long as the person is in the right party. Then they'll spend the next four years complaining that politicians are unqualified, corrupt, dishonest, untruthful, unprincipled, vindictive, and unscrupulous.

The focus group in this video consists of a group of Iowa Democrats who are asked to name just one accomplishment Hillary Clinton can claim from her tenure as Secretary of State that qualifies her to be president. The consensus answer is, apparently, that she hasn't accomplished anything, but she's got the right view of gay marriage and abortion and she's better than Scott Walker because he's a Republican.
For those readers with long memories, remember that Richard Allen, Ronald Reagan's National Security Advisor, innocently accepted a check from a Japanese magazine for arranging an interview with Nancy Reagan. There was no impropriety, he never cashed the check, and an FBI investigation cleared him of wrongdoing, but nevertheless the Democrats howled about the stench of corruption until Allen ultimately resigned. Hillary Clinton accepted millions of dollars in gifts from foreign countries while she was Secretary of State, a clear conflict of interest that potentially compromised American foreign policy, and her base remains steadfastly supportive. It's no big deal. She's not a Republican, after all.

Older readers might also recall that fourteen members of the Reagan administration were indicted in the Iran-Contra affair for illegally selling weapons to Iran and illegally channeling some of the proceeds to the Contras in El Salvador. The Democrats were livid about this, but Hillary Clinton was evidently involved in illegally sending weapons from Libya to Syrian rebels, an operation that quite possibly precipitated the attack on the Benghazi consulate, and it hardly makes the news. What matters to a lot of people is not the candidate's qualifications or character, but whether there's a D or an R after his or her name. They'd vote for Beelzebub himself if he was a member of the right party.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Knowing What We Know Now

The "Knowing what we know now" game seems to be enjoying a spurt of popularity among the media, mostly because it's being used to make Republican presidential candidates like Jeb Bush squirm. The fun won't last, though, since the game is inevitably going to be turned against both President Obama and Hillary Clinton. It's not hard to imagine either of them or both at some point being asked to play the game. If it involves the president it might go something like this:

Knowing what we know now do you think it was a good idea to:
  • Expend all your political capital on passing Obamacare
  • Encourage the overthrow of Mubarak in Egypt
  • Undertake a "reset" of relations with Russia
  • Overthrow Qaddafi in Libya
  • Pull all our troops out of Iraq
  • Refuse to arm moderates in Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine
  • Refuse to strengthen security for our Libyan diplomats
  • Blame Benghazi on a video
  • Facilitate the flow of weapons across the border to Mexico in the Fast and Furious operation
  • Give millions in taxpayer dollars to numerous failing companies like Solyndra
  • Trade five top terrorists for Bowe Bergdahl
  • Select Hillary Clinton to be Secretary of State
  • Select Joe Biden to be Vice-President
  • Promise to give the American people the most transparent administration ever
On further reflection I take back what I said above. It is indeed hard to imagine either Mr. Obama or Ms Clinton being asked questions like these by a media so desperate to see progressivism succeed that asking tough questions of fellow progressives would never even occur to them, nor would they have any idea how to go about it if it did.

I've already suggested one way I think Bush or any other candidate should answer the "Knowing what we know now" canard here. Here's another courtesy of Allahpundit at Hot Air: "Yes, knowing what we know now, i.e. that any military success we would enjoy in Iraq would be entrusted to Barack Obama to sustain, it was indeed a mistake to invade Iraq."

Monday, May 18, 2015

White Flight

It's not unusual to hear commentators blame the problems of our urban areas, at least in part, on "white flight." Whites, it's implied, don't want to live in proximity to African-Americans and other minorities so they take their money and flee to the suburbs, leaving the cities, and their schools, impoverished. The tacit, or sometimes explicit, assumption behind this allegation is that white flight is motivated by racism.

The charge is nonsense, but that doesn't stop it from being made, as Dana Casey clearly fears it will be in her case. Casey has written a fine piece at The Federalist in which she lays out why, when she was a child, her family, liberal Democrats to the core, finally gave up and left Baltimore, and why as an adult she returned.

At the end of her essay Casey calls for genuine dialogue about the problems of Baltimore and other cities, rather than finger-pointing monologues in which blacks lecture whites about their white guilt. She says this:
On April 27, 2015, I listened to the sirens rush past my bedroom window all night, heading to another fire at the senior center less than a mile away, a center being built by a black church for local citizens. Baltimore was never the same after the ’68 riots, but I don’t think that will be the case today unless we keep listening to people like author Jake Flanagin or Al Sharpton, Loretta Lynch, Malik Shabazz, and even President Obama, who all keep pointing the finger instead of calling for healing or common ground.

Their supposed calls for dialogue are really a demand for monologue. The rest of us (meaning white people) had better shut up and accept the fact that we are all racist and everything is entirely the fault of white people, all white people. Then we should be made to pay (as Sharpton has so successfully modeled).

So what is true? I can only speak to what I know, but if we start including everyone’s stories and not just the politically correct stories or those that support “the narrative” being pushed by the Left as the only truth that matters, we may get closer to the actual whole truth.

Just putting in writing the things I actually witnessed in Baltimore in those troubled times will be enough to make some people hate me and call me a racist. I am willing to take that chance. Real dialogue, not just monologue, has to start with someone. I know I do not have the whole truth, but I do have a part of it and I may be that part’s only voice right now in Baltimore. Real truth, real dialogue, and real healing of our wounded city will only start when all legitimate voices are considered.
Read the whole thing. It's very good and very important.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Water's Weirdness

There's an interesting article by Alok Jha in The Guardian on the very strange and unique properties of a substance we (unless we're Californians) take for granted - water.

It's hard to overstate how amazing water's properties are and how crucial those properties are to living things. For example, Jha tells us that,
Water is at its most dense at 4C and, at that temperature, will sink to the bottom of a lake or river. Because bodies of water freeze from the top down, fish, plants and other organisms will almost always have somewhere to survive during seasons of bitter cold, and be able to grow in size and number.
If the temperature of the water continues to drop toward 0C (the freezing point) the colder water actually gets less dense and rises to the surface. That's why ice floats. It's less dense than the warmer water it floats in. In fact, if it didn't float it would sink to the bottom and bodies of water would freeze from the bottom up making it impossible for most forms of life to survive a cold winter.

Jha adds,
This, though, is just the start. Take a glass of water and look at it now. Perhaps the strangest thing about this colorless, odorless liquid is that it is a liquid at all. If water followed the rules, you would see nothing in that glass and our planet would have no oceans at all. All of the water on Earth should exist as only vapor: part of a thick, muggy atmosphere sitting above an inhospitable, bone-dry surface. A water molecule is made from two very light atoms – hydrogen and oxygen – and, at the ambient conditions on the surface of the Earth, it should be a gas. Hydrogen sulfide (H2S), for example, is a gas, even though it is twice the molecular weight of water. Other similar-sized molecules – such as ammonia (NH3) and hydrogen chloride (HCl) – are also gases.
Of course if water were a gas at normal temperatures life as we know it would be impossible. Jha mentions a few other interesting facts about water, but he just touches the surface, as it were. Entire books have been written on the subject, and indeed, Jha himself has written one.

Here's one more fact that Jha didn't mention. Water gains and loses heat more slowly than almost any other substance. This is why the ocean is still cold even on a blistering hot day in June. It takes a long time for water to heat up and a long time for it to cool down. This is very fortunate for a number of reasons but one is that because there's so much water on the earth's surface and because it changes temperature slowly it tends to stabilize the earth's overall temperature and keep it within a range in which life can thrive.

Jha claims that evolution has shaped us to survive in a watery environment. Perhaps so, or perhaps the myriad fortuitous properties of water, so far from accidentally resulting from the mindless chaos of the initial Big Bang, are actually the deliberate result of the scientific genius of a brilliant cosmic Chemist.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Enemies of Free Speech

Kirsten Powers is a liberal Democrat (in the classical sense) who appears sometimes as a political analyst on FOX News. Unlike many of her fellow contemporary liberals, however, she's serious about freedom of speech - so serious, in fact, that she's written a book (The Silencing: How the Left Is Killing Free Speech ) about how her fellow progressives are crushing free speech in America. An editor at Christianity Today magazine, Katelyn Beaty, recently interviewed Powers about her book. Here are a couple of excerpts:
K.B.: Your book criticizes an intolerance among the cultural Left toward those with dissenting viewpoints. You give many examples of how the “illiberal Left,” as you call it, is not just disagreeing with but discriminating against those with different views. What are some of the most powerful examples of this from your research?

K.P.: There were an endless number of examples, to the point that I had to cut a couple chapters. If I had to, I’d say the absolute worst [example] is one in which a professor at the University of California Santa Barbara physically attacked pro-life demonstrators who were doing a peaceful demonstration. It’s a prototype of these cases, not in the fact that it was violent, because that’s unusual, but her argument is typical: Disagreement is treated as an attack and even violent in and of itself. The act of expressing a point of view they disagree with is an act of violence. This came up over and over in the police reports when the professor was arrested. She was the victim, even though she was the persecutor. She had been harmed, they [the protestors] made her unsafe, and she has a right to go to work and feel safe and they made her feel unsafe.

This actually just happened, so it's not in my book: [Scholar] Christina Hoff Sommers has been on campuses lecturing about feminism for the past 20 years, and she’s a critic of gender feminism and talks instead about equity feminism. In April, at two different events, one at Georgetown and one at Oberlin, she had to have campus security protection because the students were posting things that had the administration so alarmed for her safety. She has been a critic of the rape statistics that are cited to show there’s an epidemic of rape on campuses, so she’s been deemed a "rape apologist," even though she’s obviously not denying rape; she’s talking about statistics. Some Oberlin students wrote a letter to the editor before she came and said, “There’s nothing we can do to stop her from coming here, so let’s stand together in the face of this violence.” And she hadn’t even spoken yet.

Traditionally liberals in the United States have valued free speech as enshrined in our Constitution, have recognized that dissent can be good and shape public policy in important ways, and that the freedom to say what we think and feel is an important element of democracy.

K.B.: Why is free speech such an important value, and what’s the cost of losing it?

K.P.: Our conception of free speech in this country comes directly, indisputably, from liberals. We would not understand free speech the way we do today if not for—and I’m sorry to say, conservatives who don’t want to hear it—the American Civil Liberties Union, and liberal Supreme Court justices who charted the course of expanding the view of the First Amendment, and activists during the Vietnam War. So this is a core part of American liberalism. So we have people who call themselves liberals on the Left of the political spectrum, acting in complete contradiction of their values and the arguments that underlie them.
Powers is correct about this. The Left was on the vanguard of the free speech movement throughout much of the twentieth century and especially from 1960 to 1990, but during this time they were a minority seeking to change the establishment. Now they are the establishment and free speech is as much a threat to them as they were to the establishment two generations ago. Thus free speech is now being defined as hate speech, as violence, and is to be suppressed and punished. This is the Left's modus operandi throughout history. They use the democratic system to destroy the system and then, once they're in power, they impose a totalitarian conformity on everyone else. George Orwell vividly illustrates how this strategy works in his novel Animal Farm, which every intelligent person should read at some point in their education.
KB: Is the dynamic we're seeing simply political correctness run amok, or is something more insidious at play?

KP: I don’t refer to the dynamic as political correctness, because that downplays what’s going on. It’s something much deeper. In the book I don’t diagnose why it’s happening, I’m simply trying to establish that it is happening.

But what struck me while writing the book is that the illiberal Left reminds me of religious zealots, except of a secular religion. The average religious person has their beliefs, but they’re not trying to get people fired who don’t have their beliefs. But zealots do do that. It’s not enough for them to believe it; they can’t tolerate other people who don’t believe what they believe, and they have this absolute certainty that they’re right. It’s self-sanctifying. They have to establish that they are morally superior to people who disagree with them. It’s social signaling: “My identity comes from the fact that I’m pro-gay marriage and pro-choice and believe in climate change and oppose charter schools.”
There's much more at the link. Powers is one of a vanishing breed of liberal that used to be typical in the 50s and 60s. She's someone who believes that being liberal means that one stands for freedom. Today being liberal is too often very close to being fascist. Those who stand for freedom in our contemporary politics tend to be conservatives and libertarians.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Harder Than It Has to Be

Once again a Republican presidential candidate is struggling to answer a question that shouldn't be too hard to answer. Earlier, you'll recall, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker was blindsided by a question about his belief, or lack thereof, in evolution. I suggested at the time that Walker's response should have been to ask the questioner to explain exactly what he or she meant by "evolution," a term so protean that it can mean almost anything. Such a reply would so discombobulate his interrogator that the question would probably never be raised again. Few laypersons, after all, have any idea what scientists and philosophers mean by the word evolution and the almost certain inability to clarify the question in any coherent way would doubtless prove embarrassing enough to the journalist that probably no one would wish to risk public chagrin by raising it again.

It would have been easy.

The same could be said for the recent stumbling performance of Jeb Bush when asked whether, given what we know now, he would have invaded Iraq as his brother did in 2004. Bush has taken three different stabs at answering the question and he's gotten lots of criticism for all three attempts, none of which was very clear or convincing. There is a very simple answer he could have given, though, that would not have sounded like he was throwing his brother under the bus - which is, of course, what the media wanted him to do - but which would have been completely honest and reasonable. He should have said that the only way he could give an informed answer to the question is if he knew not only what we know now about what has happened since the invasion but also if we knew what would have happened had we not invaded Iraq.

Since we don't know that, and can't know that, there's no point in speculating in retrospect about whether toppling Saddam was wise or not. It's like asking whether, knowing what we know now, it was worth dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The question is unanswerable unless one knows all of what would have happened had we not dropped the bomb. The only fruitful way to frame such questions is to ask whether, knowing what we knew then, it was reasonable to conclude that going to war was justified.

Bush might also have added that many of the problems that have ensued in that part of the world are the result of the current administration's hurry to wash its hands of the place, which, it could be argued, was as great a mistake as some think George W. Bush made in going in.

In any case, answering these sorts of questions, which, of course, only get asked of Republicans - Hillary hasn't been asked any tough questions by the media about Benghazi, about her deleted emails, her use of a private server, or the evident massive conflict of interest posed by the donations foreign countries have made to her "charitable foundation" - shouldn't be as hard as these guys are making it.