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Thursday, 18 September 2014
From Alternative Fuels to Alternative Realities
Topic: Liberal Fascism

Guess what caused this summer’s violent disorder in Ferguson, Missouri? “To me, the connection between militarized state violence, racism, and climate change was common-sense and intuitive,” writes Deirdre Smith, a “black climate justice advocate” who is the Strategic Partnership Coordinator for something called 350.org. You and I, prisoners of false consciousness, might think that the weather is ideologically neutral, but Ms. Smith raps us across the knuckles with these trenchent observations:

Communities of color and poor communities are hit hardest by fossil fuel extraction, as well as neglected by the state in the wake of crisis. People of color also disproportionately live in climate-vulnerable areas. Similarly, state violence should concern us all, but the experience of young black men in particular in this country is unique. Those of us who are not young black men must step up to the challenge of understanding that we will likely never experience that level of demonization. That kind of solidarity is what it takes to build real people power — the kind of power that stands up unflinchingly to injustice, and helps us all win our battles by standing together.

This is difficult work. Some of it requires listening and working with racial justice organizations, and some of it requires introspection, questioning what we have been taught, and healing from internal oppression. Part of that work involves climate organizers acknowledging and understanding that our fight is not simply with the carbon in the sky, but with the powers on the ground.

Yeah, Deirdre, difficult work—but easier, I suspect, than plodding through the lugubrious blather generated by the windmills of your mind. Your screed exhibits the lockstep reliability of a doublepusgoodthinker, piling out progressive cliché upon leftie platitude, constructing an Ideological Theory of Everything by which carbon-based fuels are produced by sinister white men in pointy white hoods and even the rain has a racist agenda. I do thank you, however. For pure entertainment value, a bulletin from the alternate reality inhabited by progressives beats a knock-knock joke any day.

Aside from being deeply, deeply concerned with racial justice Ms. Smith is, of course, a big, big advocate of alternative fuels—“clean energy that doesn’t kill us,” as she puts it. I suppose she envisions this wonderful clean energy being produced and distributed by the People’s Sunshine Harvester Commune, the Communities of Color Clean Energy Collective, etc. Green jobs! Hurrah! But if you’re a middle-aged white guy with an American flag decal on the side of your hard hat and a serious Jones for NASCAR…don’t bother to send in a resume.


Posted by tmg110 at 9:15 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 18 September 2014 9:20 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 17 September 2014
The Future of the Union Jack
Topic: Decline of the West

A minor but interesting question arises in connection with the impending Scottish independence vote: If Scotland votes to dissolve the union with England, what will happen to Britain’s national flag, the Union Jack?
 
When King James VI of Scotland ascended the English throne as James I in 1603 the two countries maintained their separate identities, being united only in the sense that they shared the same monarch. In connection with this personal union, disputes arose as to what flags should be used at sea by English and Scottish merchant ships. The solution was to create a “Union Flag” by combining the English Cross of St. George (white flag, red cross) with the Scottish Cross of St. Andrew (blue flag, diagonal white cross). This Union Flag (later nicknamed for obscure reasons the Union Jack) symbolized the union of the crowns under James and his successors and for many years it was used only at sea. Not until the 1707 Act of Union, which brought England and Scotland together under a single government and monarchy as the Kingdom of Great Britain, did the UJ begin to be used on land, primarily as a military flag. In 1801 another Act of Union created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the UJ was modified by the addition of the Cross of St. Patrick (white flag, red diagonal cross). The UJ in this form has served down to the present day.
 
But the Union Jack has never been formally adopted in law as the national flag of the United Kingdom. Only in 1908 did it receive official recognition in the form of a parliamentary statement that “the Union Jack should be regarded as the national flag.” Later, in 1933, the Home Secretary of the day made a statement, generally accepted as authoritative, that “the Union Jack is the National Flag.” However, such pronouncements are a far cry from the formal flag laws that exist in the United States and other countries.
 
Technically (and probably legally) the Union Jack is a royal flag, symbolically expressing the union of the crowns of England, Scotland and Ireland. The abolition of the 1707 union would not abolish the union of the crowns: Queen Elizabeth II would remain as monarch of the United Kingdom of England and Northern Ireland and of the newly independent Kingdom of Scotland. There would therefore be no reason to abolish or modify the UJ in the event that Scotland votes for independence. Its use as a royal flag within the territories of the former United Kingdom would be entirely appropriate (though not, perhaps, politically expedient).
 
However, the flag question is greatly complicated by the fact that the UK currently uses variants of the UJ for different purposes. The White, Red and Blue Ensigns, used respectively by the Royal Navy, the merchant marine and non-naval government vessels, all incorporate the UJ. There are in addition numerous variants of the Red and Blue Ensigns for government and non-government entities, mostly with a distinctive badge added. Then there are the Queen’s Colours of the armed forces, which also incorporate the UJ. Changing all these flags, ensigns and colors would be costly and complicated.
 
So probably though the UJ will disappear in Scotland if that country votes for independence, it will soldier on in the diminished United Kingdom, albeit with a different legal status. Many people expect that if Scotland becomes independent the Cross of St. George will become the national flag of the UK. But with Northern Ireland still in the union, this seems inappropriate. More likely UJ will carry on as the state and national flag of the United Kingdom. In England, however, the Cross of St. George will be the flag of choice for display by private citizens. In Northern Ireland the UJ is currently the only official flag (though rarely flown) and the political sensitivity of the flag question will probably argue against any attempt to change that situation.
 
The 1707 union may well fall to the ground tomorrow, setting Scotland on an uncertain road to full independence. But whatever happens, don’t expect the Union Jack to be hauled down.


Posted by tmg110 at 8:40 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 17 September 2014 7:51 AM EDT
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Monday, 15 September 2014
Scotland the Fatuous
Topic: Decline of the West

If the polls are accurate Scotland may soon be an independent country, as it was prior to the 1707 Act of Union that brought England and Scotland together as the Kingdom of Great Britain. This is odd indeed, since there’s no good reason for the Scottish people to vote themselves out of the United Kingdom. Certainly Scotland cannot claim to be a downtrodden occupied territory. On the contrary, the country derives great benefits from its inclusion in the UK. Besides, Scotland already enjoys substantial control over its internal affairs and a voice in the national government. On the other hand, independence could well prove to be an economic disaster. A number of companies have already said that they’ll relocate out of Scotland if the country becomes independent. Nor is it certain that Scotland would be permitted to continue using the pound sterling as its currency. And the idea that Scotland will be able to fund its own welfare state with North Sea oil revenues is pure political pixie dust.

But never mind: Scottish independence is all the rage just now and there’s a nearly even chance that the Scots will say no to the continuation of the UK in the impending referendum.

In some ways England might consider itself well rid of Scotland, a region that gobbles down more government largesse than it pays in taxes. But there are other considerations. Scottish independence would probably, ahem, scotch the possibility of an English Labour government for many decades to come. Every Labour government in recent times has depended for its majority on 40-odd Scottish Labour members of Parliament. With independence those MPs would vanish overnight, leaving the Labour Party in England high and dry. Then there’s the question of the Royal Navy nuclear submarine bases in Scotland, at Faslane and Coulport. The Scottish National Party has said that an independent Scotland will be nuclear free, implying that the RN bases must be moved. But the specialized facilities required for nuclear submarines exist nowhere else in the UK and to replicate them would be astronomically expensive.

From an American perspective it seems clear that Scottish independence is a fad rather than a serious political movement. It addresses no solid injustices; it seeks to right no obvious wrongs. What it does do is give people an opportunity to gather in crowds, wave flags and perform their arcane tribal rituals. But after all, fads and popular crazes can have big political effects, as the untimely death of Princess Diana and its brutish aftermath demonstrated to the consternation of the British government and Royal Family. In this case the fad could result in the dissolution of a 304-year-old political union.

Maybe it doesn’t matter, though. In contemporary Europe, where national governments are progressively surrendering their sovereign powers to the European Union oligarchy—what price independence? Assuming that they vote to bolt the UK the Scots under their national flag will have to trudge to Brussels, there to learn the price of EU membership: proud independence in form, abject submission in substance. William Wallace would not be amused.


Posted by tmg110 at 2:38 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 16 September 2014 7:35 AM EDT
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Friday, 12 September 2014
Seriously, Barry?
Topic: Decline of the West

Yes, all right, President Obama sounded firm and resolute in his speech to the nation on ISIS. If you didn’t know the guy, you’d think that he was determined to demolish that nest of Islamofascist beheaders. But as usual with The Greatest President Absolutely Ever, there was rather less to Wednesday’s prime-time dog and pony show than met the eye.

The deal breaker for me was Obama’s assurance that ISIS really has nothing to do with Islam. Here was an example of our president doing what he does best: flatly denying the obvious. You can claim that ISIS represents an extremist strain of Islam or even that it’s a perversion of Islam. Though I happen to disagree with these claims at least they’re arguable. But for Obama—a non-Muslim, mind you!—to lay down the law on what is and is not Islam was breathtaking in its arrogance.

Now of course other presidents have gone some way down this road. Bill Clinton was leery of calling undue attention to the fact that Islamic terrorism was, well, Islamic. Then there was George W. Bush’s observation, post-9/11, that Islam is a “religion of peace.” But neither Clinton nor Bush abrogated to themselves the power to decide who and who is not a Muslim. It wasn’t until we got to Obama that the problem of Islamic terrorism was finally solved: If it’s terrorism, it’s not Islamic!

That he accompanied his fighting words with this fatuity betrayed yet again Barack Obama’s lack of seriousness. He seems to believe that the right form of words—violent extremism, not Islamofascist terror—solves the problem. It was the wicked Bush who waged war on Islam. The saintly Obama is just…well, it’s not quite clear what he’s doing and my prediction is that it will turn out to be nothing much in particular.


Posted by tmg110 at 10:08 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 27 August 2014
All in the Script
Topic: Decline of the West

The shameless hypocrisy that characterizes American public life has been well on display recently in and about Ferguson, Missouri.

What does it take for our ruling elites to notice that large numbers of young black men are being gunned down on the streets of our cities? Why, of course, if the shooter happens to be white and better still if he happens to be a white police officer! Then the death of a young black man becomes a heinous crime. But in the much more common circumstance when a young black man is killed by another young black man…move along, folks, nothing to see here…

We’ve been here before, of course. When George Zimmerman shot Treyvon Martin, the media were quick to characterize the former as “white Hispanic,” a hitherto unknown ethnic category. When photos of Zimmerman surfaced, showing that he was unlikely ever to be mistaken for Elizabeth Warren’s brother, the media tied themselves into knots trying to analyze his “complicated” ethnicity. Surely there was some white racism in there someplace!

The shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson is, thankfully from the media’s point of view, a simpler case. The victim was black and the shooter was unambiguously white—a white police officer to boot! With that the civil rights industry—it stopped being a movement decades ago—was off and running. The standard-issue gaggle of horribles, Al Sharpton and Eric Holder leading the charge, rampaged across our TV screens barfing out the usual rhetoric. Another martyr had spilled his blood in the crusade to expose the vile racism of White Amerikka. The possibility that the facts of the case might tell a different story was not merely discounted but furiously denounced as thought crime.

There was, indeed, something phony about it all—all, that is, except the looting and burning of businesses in Ferguson. The desire for free stuff, the thrill of wanton destruction, those were heartfelt emotions. But who could look at the Rev. Sharpton without thinking that he was some kind of malign Muppet, or listen to the blathering of earnest pundits without knowing in advance what they would say? It was all in the script.

Meanwhile in Chicago there have been 1,292 shooting victims in Chicago from 1 January 2014 to date. Here are the details of just one of those shootings: At about 9 pm on 10 August, a 16-year-old boy named Jabari Scurlock was shot and killed in an alley on the 5900 block of South Justine Street on the South Side. He was the only shooting victim who lost his life that weekend in Chicago, though 26 other people were wounded. Need I add that Jabari’s death attracted no attention from Al Sharpton, Eric Holder or the national media?

During Michael Brown’s funeral, which received national news coverage, he was eulogized as a “gentle soul”—though the store clerk that he pushed around shortly before his fatal encounter with Officer Wilson might beg to disagree.  His death at the hands of a white cop has made Brown a celebrity. But few people have heard about the death of Jabari Scurlock.

What does that tell you?


Posted by tmg110 at 7:55 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 27 August 2014 8:02 AM EDT
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Monday, 25 August 2014
Comprehensive Folly
Topic: Liberal Fascism

Don’t even ask me to try any dish whose name includes the word “surprise” (Tuna Surprise is the classic example). And don’t bother to solicit my support for any piece of legislation described as “comprehensive.”

When applied to legislation at the federal level the adjective “comprehensive” is Newspeak for “insanely bloated, insanely complicated, completely incomprehensible, containing within its bowels some very unpleasant surprises” (the most recent example is Obamacare). So it is with any broad-scale attempt to solve a complex problem by legislating it away. Comprehensive legislation is the ultimate power fantasy of those for whom social science is the Moving Finger. All the social ills that bedeviled past generations are waiting to be sponged away! With a few studies and an application of expertise, and providing that the legislative language is properly tweaked…

It requires a peculiar view of reality to convince one’s self that the healthcare system of a nation of 330,000,000 people can be streamlined and improved by 2,000 pages of legislative language backed up by 10,000+ closely printed pages (and counting) of bureaucratic jargon. But people like Ezra Klein actually believe this to be possible. That he and people like him, up to and including Barack Obama, are opinionated self-deceivers is so obvious that it needs to be shouted from the rooftops. Indeed, the presidency of Barack Obama to date constitutes an extended lesson in the folly of expertise: the notion that smart people armed with specialized knowledge have what it takes to “remake America”—as Obama put it. He has remade it, all right, just not in the manner originally envisioned.

Now of course Obama’s personal deficiencies—hubris, narcissism, dishonesty—have played a major role in the demise of the Grand Illusion of 2008. . To a second-class intellect Obama adds a third-class temperament. But these vices have been magnified by systemic problems with the progressive world-view to which the President pledges allegiance. His hubris is amalgamated with a set of beliefs that estrange him from the country he purports to lead. And they reinforce the isolation, the disconnection from common reality, with which all presidents have to contend.

Whether Obama himself pays respect to the cult of expertise is a doubtful question. It’s hard to imagine the guy conceding that anyone else knows more than him. But to the considerable extent that he has promoted the cult, our Community Organizer-in-Chief has done great harm upon America.

 


Posted by tmg110 at 12:15 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 25 August 2014 12:26 PM EDT
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Thursday, 21 August 2014
Populism Isn't What It Used to Be...
Topic: Liberal Fascism

Just a quick observation: Among the many amusing phenomena in contemporary American politics is the rise of Senator Elizabeth Warren, Populist Heroine. That’s Elizabeth Warren the multimillionaire, Harvard elitist, affirmative action beneficiary…

Yes, yes, I know, FDR was a rich elitist too, and he successfully posed as a champion of the little guy. But FDR had (as Oliver Wendell Holmes is supposed to have put it) a first-class temperament. One can hardly say that of the shrewish Warren, who reminds me of nothing so much as a female version of the Original Elitist, Woodrow Wilson.


Posted by tmg110 at 4:26 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 21 August 2014 4:27 PM EDT
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Elephant Stampede?
Topic: Politics & Elections

In 2010 the Republican Party blew its chance to regain control of the US Senate. A lineup of subpar candidates—Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, Sharron Angle in Nevada, etc.—snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in a very good year for Republicans. And Democrats had their fingers crossed this year, hoping that the influence of Tea Party crazies would once more crush the GOP’s Senate hopes. 

No such luck. 

In the key states where control of the Senate will be determined, Republican primaries produced candidates favored by the party establishment, i.e. candidates unlikely to commit the tyro blunders that some Tea Party-backed candidates committed in 2010. Nor did the Tea Party succeed in unseating any of the incumbent Republican senators up for reelection this year. A net six seats must flip from the Democrats to the Republicans for the latter to win a Senate majority and that goal now seems well within reach. 

Democrats, on the other hand, have been hit with a series of setbacks. Earlier this month the campaign of Montana Democratic Senator John Walsh collapsed over charges of plagiarism, crushing the last fleeting hope that the party might retain control of the Senate seat held for 35 years by Max Baucus, who resigned after being nominated as ambassador to China by President Obama. Montana Governor Steve Bullock Walsh had named Walsh, the lieutenant governor, to serve out the brief remainder of Baucus’s term. Until felled by scandal, Walsh was running hard for election in his own right. His replacement for the 2014 election is a little-known state representative, Amanda Curtis

Meanwhile, in Louisiana, Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, her reelection already in doubt, has been staggered with accusations of improper use of taxpayer dollars to fund campaign travel. The Louisiana Senate race had been rated as tough but winnable for the Dems, so Landrieu’s travails come as very unwelcome news indeed. 

The Democratic Party’s Senate prospects are further compromised—perhaps fatally—by Barack Obama’s plunging popularity. Gone are the golden days of the 2008 campaign and the first two years of his tenure. Aloof, out of touch, seemingly bored with his job, the President casts a cloud of gloom over the landscape of Democratic Party politics. With an approval rating in the vicinity of 40%, he’s a millstone around the neck of every Democratic candidate in a competitive race. Whoever would have thought that Barack H. Obama would turn out to be the Democrat’s George W. Bush? 

For Democrats, the 2014 outlook is grim. They could always play for a miracle, I suppose, and at this point they’d be well advised to get down on their knees…


Posted by tmg110 at 9:20 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 19 August 2014
No Injustice, No Peace
Topic: Decline of the West

We actually don’t know much about what happened between the late Michael Brown and Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson. That Wilson shot Brown is not in dispute. That Wilson executed Brown, or that he was defending himself against a violent assault by Brown, are speculative claims. That Brown was not shot in the back as some witnesses have claimed is suggestive—but of what? Though this tends to support Officer Wilson’s account of the fatal encounter, it certainly does not exonerate him. The facts of the case remain to be determined.

But the facts have become irrelevant.  Like the Trayvon Martin shooting, the killing of Michael Brown has become a cause célèbre, emblematic of issues ranging from white racism to the militarization of the police. The latter, indeed, has been much commented upon, though not in connection with the incident itself. It was the community’s reaction to the shooting and the police response to disorder in the streets that got people wringing their hands over police militarization. I find this peculiar. Clearly, the police should be properly equipped and trained to deal with civil unrest. That riot gear makes cops look more military in no way proves that a particular police department has evolved into a paramilitary gendarmerie. And in fact, despite all the moaning about police militarization I have seen no tanks, armored fighting vehicles, machine guns or grenade launchers deployed on the streets of Ferguson. A Hummer with light armor to protect against rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails, etc. seems to me to be a good investment for any police department likely to be faced with violent demonstrations and riots. Though police militarization is a worrying trend in America, to be sure—why does the Department of Agriculture need a SWAT team?—it has nothing to do with the crisis in Ferguson.

The real problem in Ferguson, Missouri is the loud and raucous demand for the Queen of Heart’s justice: sentence first, verdict second. Michael Brown was black; Officer Darren Wilson is white. Therefore Wilson is guilty: first of racism and then of murder. And if the facts demonstrate otherwise, then the facts must be changed or disregarded. It’s a situation that both Lewis Carroll and George Orwell would have understood.

I don’t doubt that relations between the largely white Ferguson police department and the mostly black community are bad. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that many officers regard the people they’re supposed to protect and serve with fear and dislike. You can call this racism but mostly it’s situational racism: the kind that makes you and me cross the street to avoid a group of young black men. But a police officer can’t cross the street. We pay him to deal with the Michael Browns of the world. Then when the inevitable happens we strike an indignant pose. And many of us close our eyes to the evil attendant on such incidents: the cry for revolutionary justice.

It isn’t that Darren Wilson is going to be dragged into the street and hacked to death. He’ll get his day in court and if the facts of the case are as he related them he’ll be cleared of criminal wrongdoing. No, the problem is that the blood lust of the mob—and that’s what it is, make no mistake—will not be sated, even if Eric Holder manages to convict Darren Wilson of some civil-rights violation. That which the mob wants—his head on a pike, the Queen of Heart’s topsy-turvy justice—it will not receive. Give us Wilson’s head on a pike, the people say, and there will be peace. Which is another way of saying that peace in Ferguson and elsewhere in urban America where similar conditions obtain is a long way off.


Posted by tmg110 at 9:02 AM EDT
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Monday, 18 August 2014
Progressives Are Idiots: Exhibit MCLXLVIII
Topic: Liberal Fascism

According to Rob Reiner: “You can’t negotiate with that, you have to say either Hamas goes away and the Palestinian authority takes over all that region and deal with some kind of honest broker here, and create the two-state solution. Anytime you’re dealing with an extreme group, you cannot negotiate with them, and the way to do it is to eliminate it. With the Tea Party, you have to go through political thing, you have to wait till 2020 to redistrict, but that is really tough stuff.”

Yes, Rob, it' such a pity that you have to go through that annoying political thing.  If only you could get President Obama to call in a few drone strikes on those extremist Tea Party demonstrations…

What a moron. 


Posted by tmg110 at 5:50 PM EDT
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