Friday, May 29, 2009


By now, some of our readers may have read Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse by James W. Rawles...

Part novel, part survivalist-handbook, Patriots tells of a small group of friends facing every American's worst nightmare-the total collapse of society. The stock market plummets and hyperinflation cripples commerce and then a seemingly isolated financial crisis passes the tipping point when an unprepared government fails to act. Practically overnight, the fragile institutions of democracy fall apart and every American is forced to survive on their own.

Evading mobs of desperate, out-of-control citizens who have turned Chicago into a wasteland of looting and mayhem, this novel's protagonists make their way to a shared secure ranch in the wilds of northern Idaho. Here the survival-driven group fends off vicious attacks from the outside and eventually assists in restoring order to the country. The compelling, fast-paced action-adventure novel has readers jotting notes and referencing the book's impressive index for informative survivalist tips on everything from setting up a secure shelter to treating traumatic flesh wounds.

The primary message of the book is about being prepared to be self-sufficient should we find that some of the services we've come to expect and rely upon no longer are available like running water, electricity, fully stocked grocery shelves, law enforcement, etc. I found several interesting things about this book:

  • It's a self-sufficiency manual wrapped inside a novel. So even if some threads of the story might seem to wander a bit, there's always an underlying educational "how-to" to be learned.

  • The events that are unfolding in our economy as I write this have the potential to cause the very social collapse that Rawles describes in his story. Government administrations have ignored the Constitutional mandate for honest money for decades and have embraced Keynesian economics at their (and our) peril. The big banks have hijacked our government and the Administration does their bidding with little or no regard for the cost to the American citizen.

  • There is a surprising turn of events toward the end that I just didn't see coming (you'll have to read the book to find out).

  • Perhaps, most importantly, the book should motivate the reader to contemplate their degree of preparedness and what they would do should such a scenario unfold.

For those with confidence that such a disruption couldn't happen here in America, you only have to recall the breakdown of law and order, the killing, raping, and looting that took place in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. At least two observations may be made: First, it is ultimately the individual's responsibility to provide for their own security, protection, and welfare. It is not the job of the government and it obviously was a mistake for those who thought that it was. And second, if there was anything positive about Katrina, it's that it was localized to the Gulf area rather than being national in scope.

In the story, the incompetents running our country are held responsible for the unraveling of our social fabric but it could just as easily be caused by a terrorist attack or even a major sun spot or solar storm event. Rawles makes an interesting point when he says that our society's civility is only a thin veneer. Take away food and water for four days and it will be stripped away in an instant. If that happens, what are you going to do?

Check it out.

Latina Justice

Karl Rove maintains that both President Obama and the Republicans get something from the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor:

Mr. Obama said he wanted to replace Justice David Souter with someone who had "empathy" and who'd temper the court's decisions with a concern for the downtrodden, the powerless and the voiceless.

"Empathy" is the latest code word for liberal activism, for treating the Constitution as malleable clay to be kneaded and molded in whatever form justices want. It represents an expansive view of the judiciary in which courts create policy that couldn't pass the legislative branch or, if it did, would generate voter backlash.

There is a certain irony in a president who routinely praises America's commitment to "the rule of law" but who picks Supreme Court nominees for their readiness to discard the rule of law whenever emotion moves them.

Rove is correct to point out the irony. Liberal judicial philosophy is not about determining what the law says but about enacting into policy what they wish it said. A judge who rules on the basis of empathy is a judge who is derelict in her responsibility. An impartial judge should not allow personal feelings to obtrude into her interpretation of the law. If she does then she'll be showing a favoritism or bias toward one or the other of the parties who appear before her. That this is improper is the whole point of the symbol of justice as a blind-folded woman.

The Sotomayor nomination also provides Republicans with some advantages. They can stress their support for judges who strictly interpret the Constitution and apply the law as written. A majority of the public is with the GOP on opposing liberal activist judges. There is something in our political DNA that wants impartial umpires who apply the rules, regardless of who thereby wins or loses.

Mr. Obama understands the danger of heralding Judge Sotomayor as the liberal activist she is, so his spinners are intent on selling her as a moderate. The problem is that she described herself as liberal before becoming a judge, and fair-minded observers find her on the left of the federal bench.

Republicans also get a nominee who likes showing off and whose YouTube moments and Google insights cause people to wince. There are likely to be more revelations like Stuart Taylor's find last Saturday of this Sotomayor gem in a speech at Berkeley: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn't lived that life." Invert the placement of "Latina woman" and "white male" and have a conservative say it: A career would be finished.

Few revelations in recent weeks show the media's total abandonment of their traditional role as neutral watchdogs of the political power players than the revelation to which Rove refers. If, mutatis mutandis, this fatuous remark had been made by a white male, especially a conservative white male, he'd have been keel-hauled by the media and the left. The President would have yanked his nomination within hours, but the same comment from a Hispanic woman elicits nothing more from our media guardians than a few tut-tuts before they commence stomping upon any hapless Republican who might suggest that just maybe Ms Sotomayor is a bit of a bigot.

The media has also quickly adopted the story line that Republicans will damage themselves with Hispanics if they oppose Ms. Sotomayor. But what damage did Democrats suffer when they viciously attacked Miguel Estrada's nomination by President George W. Bush to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the nation's second-highest court? New York Sen. Chuck Schumer was particularly ugly, labeling Mr. Estrada a right-wing "stealth missile" who was "way out of the mainstream" and openly questioning Mr. Estrada's truthfulness.

Democrats can get away with this because both Hispanics and African-Americans, like drug-dependent women living with abusive boyfriends, are perfectly willing to suffer the indignities heaped upon them by the party overseers as long as those "boyfriends" keep promising them more "candy."

Nonetheless, Republicans must treat her with far more care than Democrats treated John Roberts or Samuel Alito and avoid angry speeches like Sen. Ted Kennedy's tirade against Robert Bork. The GOP must make measured arguments against her views and philosophy, using her own words and actions.

The Ricci case is an example: Whites were denied fire department promotions because of a clear racial quota. Ms. Sotomayor's refusal to hear their arguments won her stinging criticism from fellow Second Court of Appeals judge Jos� Cabranes, a respected Clinton appointee.

The Ricci case is right now before the Supreme Court and knowledgeable observers predict that it's going to be overturned. Perhaps Ms Sotomayor should have had a little empathy for the firefighters in this case who worked very hard (overcoming dyslexia in the case of Mr. Ricci) to prepare for the test and pass it. According to NPR:

Frank Ricci, the lead plaintiff in this case, is not a naturally gifted test taker. In an affidavit, he said he has dyslexia, that he studied as much as 13 hours a day for the firefighter promotional exam, that he paid someone to read the textbooks onto audiotapes, prepared flashcards and worked with a study group. And he passed.

Ms Sotomayor disdained the test results because all the people who passed were white (one Hispanic). Her empathy evidently does not extend to such as Mr. Ricci who, due to an unfortunate accident of birth, is a white male.

Anyway, unless the Republicans block her in committee she'll be the next Supreme Court Justice, and she'll have ample opportunity to demonstrate how a Latina judge is better situated than those doofus white men on the Court to interpret the Constitution. I can't wait.


The Crucial Factor

Noemie Emery cuts to the heart of the debate over torture with a fine essay at the Washington Examiner. She notes that in all the sturm und drang the most crucial element in determining the nature of the act is often omitted - intent. Whether an act is evil or not depends not merely upon the act itself, as so many of President Bush's critics seem to assume, but mostly on the reasons why it is done.

This is such an elementary ethical principle that one is taken aback by the realization that it still needs to be articulated. Here's some of Emery's column:

The key to the way we judge the morals of violence is that, while the impact on the victim always is similar, force used offensively and force used defensively have always been two different things. Shoot someone, or failing that, fracture his skull with a fire tong, and you inflict pain, harm, and possibly death on your victim, but the reason you do it determines your fate.

Stand at the top of a hill with a rifle, and spray shots at the people beneath you?

If it's campus, you're a monster, and serial killer. If it's a battlefield, and you're facing an enemy onslaught, you'll get a medal, if you survive. Charge at someone with bayonet fixed and pointed? If you're an Axis soldier impaling civilians, it's an act of the utmost depravity. If you're a Union soldier at Little Round Top at Gettysburg, fighting off the oncoming Confederate army, you're a national hero, saving the last, best hope of mankind.

In the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln was offered the use of a bullet that exploded inside the body, doing the victim incredible damage. Lincoln approved it: It would shorten the war. For the same reason - to shorten the war - President Harry S Truman incinerated not one but two Japanese cities. Neither man is considered a war criminal (except by Bill Maher), as they took some lives to save more lives, specifically those entrusted to them, and to preserve a political system less unjust than the ones they were fighting.

Their guilt is absolved by their intent, which was to save lives, and a more benign social order. Yet liberals, who apply the motive defense in trying to exonerate perpetrators of criminal violence - the accused was stressed out, he ate Twinkies, he was deprived as a child, etc. - seem strangely unwilling to extend this to those who made use of 'harsh' tactics to forestall further attacks after thousands had perished in the most torturous manner on Sept. 11, 2001.

"The horror of Sept. 11 resides in me like a dormant pathogen," writes Richard Cohen, shortly before comparing George Bush to a Nazi for trying to make sure such a horror would never recur. "Here, once again, were the squalid efforts of legal toadies to justify the unjustifiable," as he informs us. "I know it is offensive to compare almost anyone or anything to the Nazis, but the Bush-era memos struck me as echoes from the past."

But the Nazis' intent was to invade countries and subjugate and degrade whole populations, set up death camps where as many as 11 million civilians would perish, and orchestrate the elimination through starvation and torture of the ethnically impure from the universe. The intent of Bush and his people in water-boarding three hard core terrorists was to prevent another 9/11, that was sprung on his unaware and his innocent country.

Cohen's characterization is at best simplistic and reveals an inchoate, underdeveloped moral understanding. His argument, if one might wish to characterize it as such, is that since the Nazis inflicted suffering, and the Bush people inflicted suffering, therefore the Bush people are Nazis. It's pretty embarrassing, but there you have it, and Cohen isn't the only one to comment on this issue whose logical abilities are similarly attenuated.

The crucial question that needs to be asked to determine whether the Bush administration acted in a morally reasonable way is not so much what did they do, but rather why did they do it, and this question seems to concern very few of Bush's critics.