Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thermopylae Revisited

A Guest Post By Mat Bracken:

  Did Obama Withhold Cross-Border Authority?

 Please help me. I am trying as hard as I can to get out the word about cross-border authority (CBA).

 I just can’t believe reporters don’t know enough to ask the right questions! It’s infuriating.

 Libya, as far as standing down the rescue, is 100% Obama’s show, and nobody else’s. Only he can grant CBA, not Biden, not Panetta, not Dempsey, not Hillary, and certainly not Ham in Germany.

 The entire episode is explained perfectly inside the context of not granting CBA. The CIA QRF in Tripoli? No problem, send them on the local Tripoli station chief’s say-so. He merely informs up COC that he has done so. CCs them so to speak. “This is what I am doing.” Ditto if Predators were in country, no problem using them.

 But the big rescue air armada streaming toward Libya right away after the alarm got to Stuttgart and Africom? That has to stop. I believe at the 5pm meeting with Panetta and Biden in the Oval Office, he said, “No outside military intervention,” on the basis that the last report was the “lull” from the consulate, at about 1030 p.m. in Benghazi, when the attack appeared to be over and the situation stabilizing.

 (As a soft exception, Obama may have authorized sending an unarmed Predator from outside of Libya, but I am thinking the two Predators were already in-country, and hence available to use within “no CBA granted” rules.)

 “No outside military intervention” equals “no cross-border authority” and that constitutes “standing orders” until POTUS changes them. Nobody else can “un-decide” the POTUS decree. The rescue air-armada of C-17s, C-130s and SOF helos like MH-47 Chinooks and Pavehawks cannot proceed directly to Libya without CBA being granted, so instead they are all staged at Sigonella, Sicily.

 USN ships are in position to “lilypad” helos for long over-water flights. Airborne tankers are coming into position. SOF forces in Sigonella are going over their gear for different contingencies. Fuming all night as officers keep checking in with operational commanders. “Hold in place, no rescue yet. We can’t find the President, it sounds like,” say the colonels to the majors and captains. 100s of military must know about this. I keep waiting for the conclusive whistle-blowers to come forward BEFORE the election. After won’t matter, it will be for the historians.

 Panetta is falling on his sword for Obama with his absurd-on-its-face, “The military doesn’t do risky things” defense of no rescue. Panetta is destroying his future reputation entirely, to save Obama. The question is why? Loyalty?

 Petreaus was probably “used” in some way early, about the supposed CIA intel link to the Mohammed video, and now he feels burned. So he conclusively said via his PAO, “The stand-down order did not come from CIA.”

 Well, what is higher than CIA? Only White House. Obama, nobody else. Petreaus is naming Obama without naming him.

 Now, as far as Obama / Huma Abedin / Valerie Jarrett etc actually wanting Ambassador Stevens dead, to terminate the end of the very dirty Libyan arms to Syrian AQ programs, I can’t speculate. Obama is not competent enough, I’m thinking.

 But for sure, the ambassador going to unsecure Benghazi on 9-11 of all days stinks to me of a setup. You can bet Stevens would have told the Turks, “No, 9-11 is not a good day for us,” and stayed in Tripoli behind many high and thick walls. For him to go to dangerous Benghazi on 9-11 means the Turks totally insisted, but why would they care about the meeting date, unless they were in on a “hit” as the Judas goat?

 Alternatively, ordering Stevens to meet the Turks in Benghazi on 9-11 may have come from down OUR chain of command. Stevens seems to have been wearing two hats as ambassador and CIA arms shipper. Moving between more-secure Tripoli, the Benghazi “consulate,” and the CIA “annex.” So orders to him might come down the State or the CIA commo channels, or both. I am unclear on his job title and true position, but either the CIA or State sends him final instructions. How this works with “dual-hatted” ambassadors, I haven’t a clue.

 But Stevens meeting the Turks at the unsecure Benghazi “consulate” on 9-11 stinks to me of a deliberate setup. The Turks left the meeting and probably flashed their headlights to the attack team commanders lurking in shadows. A coded text, a word on a phone, meaning, “The ambassador is there, with minimal security: proceed with the attack plan.”

 That is all pure speculation. What I know FOR SURE is that the big “stand down order” issue revolves around granting or withholding cross-border authority.

 Every SOF officer and ops officer all the way up has this drummed into his head. We can make Obama respond to this question, even if reporters must shout it at him while he’s doing storm cleanup photo ops. If the reporters KNOW enough to ask the quesion.

 That’s why I am shouting all over the internet about CBA.

 I can’t believe cross-border authority permission is not one of the top discussion points about Benghazi.

 That, and who “set him up” by sending him to Beghazi to meet the Turks on 9-11, with them leaving after dark.

 And of course, down the road, was the military rescue-in-progress turned back because Obama actually wanted to make sure the consulate was wiped out? Is that why the spooks at the annex were refused permission to travel the under one mile to intervene? That would connect it all together, but for now, the best focus is on Obama either granting or withholding cross-border authority for the rescue.

 Feel free to repost these musings of a long-ago SOF officer anywhere you please.


More Outrage HERE 

Who is the Ephialtes?


The Sandy Report, 10-30-2012

Well, we're still here, but there's no power. However, I can run my router on battery power for a little while, so I'll do my best to keep you all informed.

Long Island was hard hit. Nearly a million customers are without power. Storm surges did serious damage along the southern coast, and the inner coast of Brooklyn abd Queens.

There are many trees down across the feeder roads that lead to the major arteries. Travel is hazardous, even in the daylight, so the stay-home advisories all remain in effect.

Somehow, I doubt things will be back to normal this week. With commerce of all sorts badly impeded by the electrical outages, the region faces more than $10 billion in aggregate losses.

On a more personal note, it takes a Sandy to remind me just how much I enjoy a nice hot shower in the morning -- and how little there is to do at 4:00 AM with all the lights out!

Later, Gentle Readers.

Reasons not to vote for Obama -- #2.

REASON # 2: Something is wrong with President Obama's spine.

President Obama clearly has a spine problem that he is not telling us about. The scientific vector diagram above shows that his upper body is bent at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit off of the vertical. It's clearly interfering with his performance of his duties.

Here he's meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and he's unable to look him right in the eye as an American president should be able to do.

Whatever is wrong with Pres. Obama's spine, it's clearly something serious and it makes folks think he's groveling before them.

How can we have any national prestige if folks think your president is bowing low to everybody?

Monday, October 29, 2012

The While-We-Have-Power Edition

Good morning, fellow traffic and weather fans, and my sincerest condolences to any of you who had money on the New York Jets. It's a beautiful day here on Long Island, with sustained winds of 30 to 40 mph and skies as black as Obama's heart. The forecast is for heavy rain starting late this afternoon, with gale force winds gusting to 70 mph and the usual bevy of uprooted trees and downed power lines. Traffic on the Island's major arteries is expected to be light, but given the insanity prevalent among Long Island drivers, one never really knows. Needless to say, Beth and I are staying home.

Rufus the Newfus severely disapproves of strong winds. He's now been out-and-in six times since 4:00 AM, and has become increasingly indignant with each sampling of the conditions. The weather, he maintains, is our responsibility, and he's waiting to see some definite action on the matter.

Anyway, I'll be droning on at the keyboard for as long as the power and Internet connections hold up. Updates at the bottom.

Once in a great while, one will be privileged to see a reporter commit a blatant act of actual journalism at great risk to his future in the trade:

Kyle Clark has demonstrated more reportorial courage in that one seven-minute interview than has the whole staff of the New York Times over the past four years. Barack Hussein Obama demonstrated his trademarked technique for "running out the clock" without actually answering the question asked. It suggests first, that Clark had better watch his back, and second, that we need more reporters willing to interrupt a politician when he starts to drone irrelevancies in the hope of deflecting an unpleasant question.

If you've been following the comments to this post, no doubt you've been entertaining two questions of your own:

  • Why can't I find something more constructive or entertaining to do?
  • What's with all this conspiratorialist jazz?

I can't help you with the first of those questions. The second...well, maybe I can't help you with that one, either. What I know about the Benghazi atrocity is no better than second-hand, so I can't claim any special insight into the events there. Concerning whatever degree of Washington villainy might have been involved, all I can say is that even the mildest conjectures about the matter reflect so poorly upon the Obama Administration that the entire lot of them should be put out on the street at once. Should the more shocking thesis advanced by my commenters -- that Ambassador Stevens was deliberately left exposed to lethal hazard by the Administration, for one reason or another -- turn out to be true, it constitutes murder by inaction.

In all probability, no official penalty will ever be imposed on anyone in the chain of responsibility. However, that doesn't mean there will be no unofficial penalty. Consider: Bill Clinton, whose misbehavior in the Oval Office was considered unprecedented at the time, nevertheless demands -- and receives -- hefty bucks for contracted appearances and "lectures." Given the degree of popular outrage at Barack Hussein Obama for what was at the very best an unacceptable display of spineless unconcern for the lives of Americans, what sort of future in the public eye should he enjoy?

We didn't inflict an adequate degree of disgrace upon Jimmy Carter after he left office. We've paid for it ever since as he's meddled in things far beyond his station. Neither did we properly ostracize Bill Clinton for his conduct. Let's get it right this time.

Here's another bit of opinion on the failings, not merely of the Administration but of the media as well:

Pat Caddell, a longtime Democrat who worked for the McGovern for President campaign, has expressed what any decent American should feel over the atrocity -- in particular, what we should all feel about the media's flaccidity over the affair. Whether expressions of outrage such as his will wake the Mainstream Media up to its responsibilities remains to be seen.

I'm pumping out this drivel because:

  • I can't sleep;
  • I can't make any headway on either of my novels-in-progress.

Next question.

From Joseph Curl at the Washington Times comes this pungent observation:

The main lesson from Watergate (after the no-brainer that you should never hire a guy named “Tricky Dick”) was this: The Cover-Up Is Worse Than The Crime. For some reason, Professor Obama seems not to know this crucial lesson. Or he’s just arrogant enough to say, “Well, that doesn’t apply to someone as brilliant as moi.”

My question: Did Obama's teachers and mentors persuade him that he's incomparably brilliant, or is his arrogance about his supposed intellectual gifts innate?

Sometimes our blessings come unusually well disguised.

This past Friday, I took a slowly leaking tire to my neighborhood tire shop, and learned something I hadn't known: A car with four wheel drive should always have identical tires on its front and rear axles. Mixing brands or tread depths endangers the transfer case and transmission, the repair of which can run to several thousand dollars. In consequence, I purchased two new tires for my front axle, and went home feeling relieved.

Well, this morning I was back at the tire shop, because the driver's-side front tire -- one of the two new ones -- was leaking even more swiftly than the one it replaced. The problem, of course, was the rim, which was cracked along the inside surface. In all likelihood, the previous tire was perfectly sound. By conventional logic, I didn't really "need" a new tire at all.

All the same, that cracked rim alerted me, through the information I received from the tire shop, to a potentially very expensive hazard about which I would not have known otherwise. Despite the cost, I feel that I should be grateful.

It's 2:30 PM Eastern, and the full force of the storm appears to have arrived: winds from the northeast at a sustained 50 mph, with gusts around 60 mph, and driving rain. So far, the power's holding, and I've only heard one warble from the local fire department’s sirens. According to Fox News, the Connecticut coast is seeing surges up to 11 feet. The most fear centers on the five boroughs of New York City, especially the southern tip of Manhattan Island.

Mayor Bloomberg ordered the most vulnnerable areas to be evacuated, but even if there are zero deaths or injuries from the storm -- an outcome profoundly to be hoped -- there's a possibility that Manhattan's infrastructure will be severely damaged, including both its transit system and the dense network of Internet arteries that run through the island. Some of the world's fastest and busiest routers are in the danger zone. Internet routers do their best to find a way around blockages and damage, but Long Island is an "Internet peninsula:" we depend on Manhattan for access to the rest of the world. We found out how bottlenecked we are on September 11, 2001.

Too much of the nation's commerce and communications depends on the Net. Let's hope it's sturdier in the face of Sandy's battering than it was before the nonexistent mercies of Osama bin Laden.

3:40 PM: It looks like we're about to lose power. Pray for us.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fear Of Equalizers

[The following subsumes two essays that appeared at Eternity Road in March, 2005. In light of this foofaurauw, they seem once again to be highly relevant – and let no one dare to claim a “compelling government interest” within my earshot! – FWP]

Part I: The Basics

Quite a lot of conservatives -- even a few hard-core libertarians -- are squeamish about the right to keep and bear arms. One very bright fellow of your Curmudgeon's acquaintance opined that "rudeness ought not to incur the death penalty," implying that he would expect a wave of homicide in the streets were the tradition of bearing firearms in public to be renewed. Another wanted to know what would become of peaceful public places such as supermarkets and movie theaters, should the hips of citizens be decorated with weapons once more. Granted that cell phone users can be very annoying, he said, surely they deserve no more than a broken arm, at worst.

At least one doesn't hear the old private-nuclear-weapon chestnut too often, these days. But anyway, even a lot of staunch defenders of the Bill of Rights and its philosophical premises appear comfortable with empowering the State to decide:

  1. Who shall be allowed to own and carry weapons, and:
  2. What weapons shall be deemed acceptable in private hands.

Why? Why should the State, which institution has more bloodshed to its credit in a single century than private parties have amassed down all the ages of Man, have the power to decree some men and some weapons licit while others are not? How can the State, which ceaselessly strives to increase its power over the individual, justify forbidding the individual to arm himself against both State excesses and private predations? And how can anyone who understands the immense danger the State poses to human well-being bless its usurpation of this all-important privilege?

In For A New Liberty, Murray Rothbard asked the question in a de novo setting. Imagine, he proposed, that we were dropped to Earth without any history at all, and chose to form a State for some set of perceived collective purposes. Regardless of how that State were organized, would anyone deem it wise to allow it an unchallengeable preponderance of coercive force, such that its subjects would be incapable of resisting it at need?

Other thinkers have approached the matter from a historical perspective. In every instance where the State has disarmed its subjects, they note, massive oppression and slaughter have followed. Therefore, if we draw the lessons from these episodes, we are well advised to allow the State no such authority. Indeed, it just might be best to forbid the agents of the State and only them to wield firearms.

Both arguments are cogent and on point. But substantial numbers of solid conservatives profess to be unconvinced. Why?

It might have something to do with economics.

The politically engaged tend to be among America's better off. Conservatives in particular often feel they have a lot to defend. In the main, they've worked hard for what they have, and justifiably feel that they deserve it and deserve to keep it. If our typical conservative, Smith, senses some sort of threat to his position and holdings, from where would it emanate, and what form would it take?

Most violence and crime against property takes place in a relatively small sector of the country: the heavily populated urban areas and their nearest, densest suburbs. Smith is highly unlikely to live in such a locale, preferring the greater safety and gentility of the outer suburbs or rural America. Therefore, he's unlikely to be too often aware of his vulnerability to personal attack. Nor will he think of his home as a probable target for plunderers.

However, Smith hears the stories, as do we all. He hears about the plagues of gunfire and gang warfare on the evening news; he simply can't get away from them and remain reasonably well informed. So the "threat" posed by firearms, which the Old Media have promoted ceaselessly since 1965, will appear linked to forces which, were they to impinge upon his life, would have the aspect of an invading army, albeit one that wears no uniforms and flies no banners.

Given this sense of a potential but distant threat, Smith would prefer to see it kept at bay by "professionals": the police and armed forces. Economically, it makes more sense to him; a citizen militia would cut too deeply into his time and the walk-in trade at his place of business. Besides, defending the borders is what government is for, isn't it?

Another economic vantage arises from the comparative theory of wealth: that Smith regards himself as wealthy only because he has more than most others. If those others are poised at his gates, and might just be contemplating the redistribution of his wealth, he'd rather wrap himself around his property than take up arms to repel them. It will be infinitely easier for "the authorities" to protect him and his if no one else is permitted a firearm; it will make their targets easier to spot.

These are natural reactions to the asymmetric state of affairs that prevails in American society at this time. In a way, they're the class-warfare angle to the right to keep and bear arms, which its proponents would prefer to see as class-independent. In truth, the whole country would benefit were we to go back to being a gun-toting people. Widespread availability of firearms under the widest conceivable array of circumstances would put ordinary citizens on an equal plane with the predators that prowl among us. Beyond that, it would put us at each other's disposal; citizens are far more likely to come to one another's aid when they're armed. Finally, the heightened prospects for any insurrection that might arise would have a sobering effect on our political class. It's just hard to see that picture when one is consumed by the more lurid fears described above.

Instead, folks who ought to know better divert the conversation to strawmen such as the nuclear-weapon conundrum. Others harp on the militia clause to the Second Amendment, which was understood as explanatory rather than restrictive when written and hasn't changed since.

It's hard enough dealing with the hardcore statists. Your Curmudgeon wishes those who claim to stand with us on principle could dispel the phantoms from their vision.

* * *

Part II: The Limits

With regard to this screed, commenter Jonathan opined:

There do have to be *some* limits on personal weapons. The nuclear weapon chestnut is a real problem for pure libertarian ideas.

An extreme example shows that there must be limits, then the argument shifts to just where to set those limits.

If everyone had access to a $20 device that could destroy the universe, how long would the human race survive, given the frequency of murder-suicides?

Personal weapons ownership rules have to be based on how many people will be killed before the user can be stopped. It’s just another issue of balance between freedom and safety.

All right, your Curmudgeon will discuss the nuclear-weapon chestnut. It keeps coming up, which suggests that not much is known about either libertarian thought or the principles behind property rights -- or that the enemies of freedom are still hoping to palm a card on the rest of us.

The concept of ownership -- that status that confers rights over the thing owned -- has a small number of prerequisites:

  1. The thing owned must have been acquired either by:
    • homesteading: That is, it was previously owned by no one, and the owner gathered it in by his own action or the action of a contracted agent;
    • trade: That is, it was previously legitimately owned by another, who parted with it voluntarily in exchange for some other consideration, or none.
  2. The thing owned must be held apart from the common: That is, the owner must sustain his claim of ownership by assertion, use, and the maintenance of the thing in an "improved" state.
  3. The thing owned must be within one's adequate control: That is, one must be able to make reasonable guarantees that neither its possession nor its use will infringe upon the rights of any innocent party.

Failure of any of the above conditions nullifies a property claim. For example, having acquired a plot of land, Smith might permit it to deteriorate to the point that it can no longer be distinguished from an unowned field. That would nullify Smith's claims through the agency of neglect. Alternatively, he might pollute it in such a fashion as to pollute his neighbors' lands as well. That would nullify his claims through the agency of inadequate control. Either of these would warrant a fresh homesteading of the field, or seizing the field from him on the grounds of a clear and present danger.

If the language sounds familiar, that's because it's well embedded in Anglo-American legal practice for about three centuries now.

Adequate control is also the logic behind assessing a claim of damage against an owner for what his property did without his knowledge. For example, if Smith were to buy gasoline -- an ordinary sort of transaction -- and store it in his garage, he would become liable for any damage that gasoline might inflict on others. If he were to park his car on a hill, and the car's parking brake were to fail and send it careening into a crowd, he would be liable for the deaths, injuries, and property damage that ensued. And if he were to acquire radioactives, which then poisoned his neighbors or made their homes uninhabitable, he would be liable for those crimes as well.

By acquiring an item, the owner assumes responsibility for whatever that item might inflict upon unconsenting others. Alfred Bester's classic short story "Fondly Fahrenheit" is a neat dramatization of this principle.

Since a nuclear weapon imposes massive hazards upon everyone in the area in which it is stored, and since by its nature it cannot be used in a fashion guaranteed to affect only some targeted aggressor, a private party that acquired one would fail the test of adequate control. Even governments, which are theoretically capable of securing such devices and guaranteeing that they won't be used against their own citizens, have to meet very stringent tests to be allowed to possess them. The key issue is the "mass destruction" characteristic. It would justify the decision of one's neighbors to seize the offending item and destroy it, to put an end to the hazards it imposes on unconsenting others.

There are persons who argue that the same logic can be used to justify banning private ownership of machine guns and conventional explosives. Admittedly, this is a gray zone, though military experience suggests that light automatic weapons and grenade-scale explosives can be used in a targeted fashion. However, the principle is the important matter here: to maintain ownership of a thing, one must be able to distinguish it from the common, and must guarantee adequate control over it and all its effects upon others. Such guarantees simply cannot be made about a nuclear weapon, a bioweapon, a tank of nerve gas, or any other weapon of mass destruction.

In deciding the gray-zone issues such as full-auto weapons and small quantities of explosives, legislatures and courts must respect the fundamental principles outlined here. Otherwise there can be no coherent, defensible concept of private property -- and isn't the defense of private property, including one's life, what the ownership of weapons is all about?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Climax

What for a month and more has seemed overwhelmingly likely has been established beyond all reasonable doubt: the decision not to allow American forces to come to the aid of the beleaguered Americans at the Benghazi consulate belongs exclusively to "President" Barack Hussein Obama.

The stunning thing about this isn't the factual substance, but that anyone, anywhere could be surprised by it. Nevertheless, here's my prediction for the ultimate outcome:

Congress will not impeach Obama, nor in any other way hold him to account.

Whether or not Obama wins a second term, he will suffer no penalty for having abandoned four Americans in service to their country to death at the hands of a savage enemy.

Why not? For the president to withhold defensive resources from a collection of Foreign Service personnel in an American consulate under lethal threat does seem an impeachable offense, does it not? Indeed, I could make a good case that, as a form of aid and comfort rendered to America's enemies, it constitutes an act of treason.

But politicians don't often compel one another to account for their crimes in office. The closest we've come to that in recent years is the censuring of the Dishonorable Charles Rangel, who continues in office despite his multiple offenses.

I see it as an expression of "professional courtesy." It has a practical purpose, too: it protects quite a lot of "rice bowls." Consider:

  • We have a "president" whose idea of "presiding" is lots of golf, fancy vacations, and nonstop campaigning, who habitually blames any unpleasant development on someone else, and who has repeatedly conciliated America's enemies while rebuffing its allies.
  • We have a "vice president" whose behavior would get any individual not comfortably ensconced in high office swiftly certified and packed off to some pleasant institution where the suites all have soft walls.
  • We have a Congress of 535 persons, half of whom are principally concerned about not admitting to error, half of whom think gentlemanly courtesy toward sworn enemies is more important than fidelity to their oaths of office, and virtually all of whom are, by Constitutional standards, corrupt to the very marrow of their bones.
  • We have a judiciary that fears the displeasure of the executive and legislative branches too greatly to rule against even the most egregious crimes against the Constitution.
  • We have a "permanent government" (i.e., the alphabet agencies) thoroughly imbued with the Government Uber Alles ideology, that presses on toward totalitarianism despite any and all attempts to restrain it (of which there have been damned few).
  • We have a press corps that automatically leaps to the defense of any left-liberal officeholder -- that actually defended the late Edward Kennedy on the ground that Mary Jo Kopechne, had she lived, would have benefited from the policies Kennedy backed! -- straining to find an excuse for that "president's" imminent ejection from office that won't blemish the Sacred Ideology of Left-Liberal Social Fascism.
  • With the exception of some of the members of the press corps, all the persons mentioned above are very, very rich.

With so many generously provisioned rice bowls to protect, what do the deaths of a few innocent Foreign Service members mean? We can't expect the above persons to care much about the loss of innocent lives -- lives they swore to protect -- when their futures of power, prestige, and pelf are endangered. That would require something like judgment according to a moral/ethical standard.

Something like a conscience.

* * *

It's actually worse than that. There were several military commanders between the president and the guys at the sharp end, any of whom could have chosen to ignore an order to stand down. They could have ordered the Spectre to engage the enemy, and any other assets near enough to the scene to take appropriate action. They would have had reason to be confident that in the aftermath, their actions in defense of American lives and property would be deemed fully justified, even against the press corps' efforts to paint them otherwise. Yet none of them did so; why?

Because our military has suffered a thorough Sovietization. Commanders are no longer evaluated on the basis of their competence as military men and leaders, but on the basis of their "reliability:" that is, their responsiveness to the desires of the political elite. A captain or major who aspires to command rank must never, ever be heard to say a word of criticism against the masters of the regime. A colonel who wants stars on his shoulders knows that he'll be scrutinized so closely that even to nod in response to an "inappropriate" statement of opinion would be death to his prospects. Thus, corruption in our political class becomes spinelessness among our military commanders.

Yes, there are exceptions. Unfortunately, there aren't enough.

* * *

Ann Barnhardt and others have stated outright that the Republic has fallen. They might be right, if by "the Republic" we mean the American political system and the organs of coercion that enforce its decisions. Certainly, a demonstration of spinelessness in the face of an implacable enemy, whose ideology is quite clear about its need to destroy us, is evidence to that effect. The incarceration of a filmmaker for having offended that enemy, despite the Constitution's protection of freedom of expression, is still more evidence.

Yes, we have national elections coming up in ten days. Yes, the tenor of the electorate is favorable to cleaning out at least some of the rot we see. Yes, among ordinary Americans the traditional virtues of honesty, fidelity to promises, and constructive fellow-feeling remain fairly strong...at least, in comparison to the political class. Yes, yes, yes.

But how much can we change with our votes, when the persons we raise to power are so hard to hold to their oaths of office? How reasonable is it to expect that a wholly new political class would diverge tomorrow from the patterns of today? How much weight can private citizens bring to bear against the institutional incentives that have produced such a horror of rapacity, mendacity, and irresponsibility?

I know: we have to try. We have no options. There's nowhere to run. But I'm not terribly hopeful.

Not for the first time, I find that I'm glad I won't live to see much more of this. We've let the liberty bequeathed to us by our forebears slip through our fingers. To reclaim it at a stroke is not within our powers. To reclaim it at all will be a labor of decades, if it can be done at all.

May God forgive us.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A pointless sacrifice to political ambition.

The September 11 Benghazi tragedy resulting in the death of four Americans is instructive on Pres. Obama's leadership and the question of how Americans are sorely ill served by a national security establishment whose senior leaders are slaves to the Obama political agenda.

According to Investor's Business Daily (IBD),[1] two former U.S. Seals continued to fight to defend the "CIA annex" there even after they were wounded. They did this for more than six hours after the attack began. IBD observes that the two might have wondered if any help would be forthcoming.

A ridiculous thought, as it turns out.

Assets available.

CBS News reported that "hours after the attack" a Predator drone was over Benghazi and that other reconnaissance aircraft observed the last part of the battle as well.[2] The Predator can carry ordinance but whether it was armed has not been made clear to our knowledge. (Update: The Predator was unarmed.)

However, from IBD and CBS we know, at a minimum, that these military assets in Europe and the Mediterranean were available to help Woods and Doherty:

  • A Special Operations force at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy. Also, fighters and Spectre AC-130 gunships.
  • F-16s and Apache helicopters at Aviano Air Base in northern Italy. Also, Spectre AC-130 gunships.
  • Assets at Souda Bay, Crete, including fighters and Spectre AC-130 gunships.
  • Two destroyers in the Mediterranean off the coast of Libya.
Suffice it to say that an F-16 fighter carrying a moderate combat load has a speed of 915-1,500 mph and, even from northern Italy, could have been over Benghazi in 30-68 minutes. Whatever transport was capable of moving the Special Operations force from central Europe to Sigonella was capable of moving it to Benghazi. A CH-47 transport helicopter travelling at 155 mph could have moved that force to Benghazi in three hours with six hours and 20 minutes to land somewhere in the desert and wait until the moment that Woods and Doherty were killed.

Assets readiness.

Sen. John McCain, America's Weasel, today (October 26, 2012) announced on FoxNews that the Senate concluded that no military assets could have been used to aid Woods and Doherty because all available assets were in "an insufficient state of readiness," or words to that effect. Besides being classic weaselspeak it's a blatant falsehood as the Special Operations force in Sigonella was obviously in a sufficient state of readiness to be moved from central Europe to Sicily and is unlikely to have been told to go into town for some brewskis and a little boom boom right after their arrival. An Army Reserve transport unit drilling in Louisiana might not be in a "sufficient state of readiness" to deploy to Benghazi in a matter of an hour or two but Delta Force guys take showers with their radios and weapons and the destroyers off shore sure as heck were ready at a moment's notice to provide fire support. Utter, complete, total, gold-plated nonsense.

Weapon accuracy.

The Predator has a laser designator for the Hellfire missile allowing pinpoint attacks with that missile, assuming it was armed. A Specter AC-130H 480 miles away in Sigonella could have been on station (i.e., doing nothing but standing by for orders to intervene) over Benghazi within one hour and 36 minutes after it became known the annex or the consulate were under attack, namely, one could have been overhead at 11:16 p.m., available for all of the remaining four hours and 44 minutes while Doherty and Woods called for help . . . and fought on until they were killed at 4:00 a.m.

Guided munitions have been tested for guns on our destroyers and if operational now, accurate fire was available by that means as well, and was available within minutes not hours.

The accuracy of the AC-130H is such that it could have swept the streets around the annex with highly accurate fire (e.g., this video at 4:18 and 8:08), where no innocent civilian had any business to be. Let it be said.

Actionable intelligence.

Add to this this stripped-down timeline:

2140, Sept. 10 – attack on annex begins.
2300, Sept. 10 – Pres. Obama meets with Defense Secretary Panetta and Vice President Biden in the Oval Office.
2316, Sept. 10 – earliest time an AC-130H gunship from Sigonella could have been available on station over Benghazi.
0007, Sept. 10 – White House Situation Room, among others, receives email indicating that Ansar al-Sharia claims responsibility for the attack.
0400, Sept. 11 – Woods and Doherty are killed.

Muslims oh-so-torqued-off about obscure videos casting aspersions on Islam don't customarily commence demonstrations expressing their displeasure after 9 o'clock at night. Since arson was much in evidence at either the consulate or the annex, or both, not to mention the infra red signature of hot rifle barrels or streams of tracers from machine guns, of which there was at least one, it's clear to any observer that something a lot more organized and serious was underway than a "demonstration." Videos of street scenes in the vicinity of the consulate or annex in Benghazi on FoxNews clearly show that it was no demonstration in progress but small numbers of armed men milling around out in the open on the streets. The heat signature of their bodies alone would have revealed the situation in the streets to the drone overhead at the outset.

These practical considerations plus (1) information available from communications that we now know existed between the Seals and other Americans, (2) the evidence available from an ever-greater number of surveillance platforms, and (3) emails arriving in the White House Situation Room itself could leave no doubt in anybody's mind what exactly was going on at the annex.

Respecting the decision to commit troops or not in Benghazi, Defense Secretary Panetta, with furrowed brow evidencing the determination of a Chihuahua instead of someone with serious military responsibilities, stated that

a basic principle here, and the basic principle is that you don't deploy forces into harm's way without knowing what's going on, without having some real-time information about what's taking place.

As with everything issuing forth from the president and Administration officials on this, this is pure shuck. The left will forego their sneers about "military intelligence" for the duration of this inquiry into the nature of the Obama presidency and fall at the feet of its practitioners. Holy writ, no less, that one must know what one is about before one can act. Well, hold the general principle and focus back on the issue of real-time intel and you've got your finger on the nerve. Obama's inbox was overflowing with it.

He knew.

Available intelligence laid out with crystal clarity that some of our people, including one of our ambassadors, were in mortal danger and needed the president's help. Any military officers with whom Secretary Panetta conferred had to have urged military assistance. No military leader would do less, unless from the Wesley Clark school of politico-military decision making. Only the basest of political maneuvering would have caused such urgings to be ignored.

The President knew of the attack at least one hour and 20 minutes after it began and he knew unequivocally it was an al Qaida operation at the most three hours and 27 minutes after the attack began.

Yet he did nothing while Woods and Doherty fought on for their lives for another three hours and 53 minutes.

Any pretense of some vital national interest dictating inaction is transparent nonsense in view of the "horrid video" rationale taken to heart by Secretary of State Clinton who debased herself, and the nation, by talking about our Plymouth-rock-solid religious tolerance toward Muslims who, far from reciprocating such sentiments, tear down Christian churches and gun down Christians in Muslim lands as a religious duty. Contrived Muslim outrage over the any video had nothing to do with the Benghazi events and Clinton's holding fast to that preposterous idea long after the truth was known to her is despicable.

So rest assured that right now there are a lot of enraged U.S. military people around the world who know damn well that military assets were positioned where they could be available if the president gave the green light and acted like the damned commander in chief he reminds us he is every hour on the hour.

That commander did exactly nothing for our fellow Americans in peril of their lives when he could have easily saved them. He had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the place where he gave the green light on taking out Bin Laden and it's no surprise that he wouldn't life a finger for a couple of mere Seals, a mere U.S. ambassador, and Sean Smith, a State Department computer expert.

". . . [T]hey watched my son die,” said Woods's father, Charles Woods.[3]

The story of the president's failure as a leader and of his moral failing to tell the truth about what he knew is a story that will not go away.

To what end the Defense Department?

We have looked at the needless death of some Americans who were with easy reach of comrades who could have saved them. Accurate, devastating, and immediate fire could have been sent down like a curtain around our people. That was the ONLY thing that mattered.

The larger point behind this is that it calls into contrast the huge gap that exists between the military assets that the United States has and the uses to which they are put by our political class. In this I do not spare Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, or Barack H. Obama. All of them sent American troops into harm's way at the cost of life and limb to many of them for transient or insubstantial reasons. At the same time they did that, the borders of the very nation that sent those troops to fight in strange places to vindicate insignificant or nonexistent U.S. interests are studiously and deliberately undefended.

Our military boxes with shadows elsewhere in the world but not one U.S. troop stands guard on our southern border to repel an actual invasion by millions of incompatible, welfare-seeking, sometimes criminal, sometimes diseased, third-world illegal immigrants with little or no intention of assimilating and whose first act and every subsequent daily act here are in defiance of our laws and a detriment to our own people.

That they are unarmed for the most part and seek a better life for themselves here in no way subtracts from the simple fact that they are part of an invading force that is unwelcome to the majority of American citizens, but whose views are unsolicited or ignored.

Billions and billions of dollars spent for defense seemingly defend only foreigners, and even when some of our own are in peril of their lives overseas the vast military machinery for which so many billions have been expended is told to stand down. WMAL-AM's (brilliant) talk show host Chris Plante's favorite images demonstrating something utterly futile is "chasing squirrels around your back yard with a tennis racket." The nearest equivalent in the foreign policy arena is our naïve infatuation with "democracy" and "nation building" – two foreign policy goals, in Muslim lands, for sure, as idiotic as the goal of teaching square dancing to members of the Aryan Nation or table manners to Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

In short, vast state resources are expended in our name in the pursuit of "defense" but they do not defend us at home or abroad.

The interests that they do advance are only the narrow and partisan self interests of our national leadership who resort to blatant lies and transparent misdirection to conceal their true purposes.

Woods, Doherty, Smith, and Stevens died so that Pres. Obama's political objectives would not be compromised.


[1] "Benghazi Consulate Could Have Used Marines With Bayonets." Editorial, Investor's Business Daily, 10/25/12.
[2] "Could U.S. military have helped during Libya attack?." CBSNews.com, 10/20/12.
[3] "Joe Biden to Father of Former Navy SEAL Killed in Benghazi: "Did Your Son Always Have Balls the Size of Cue Balls?" By Jason Howerton, The Blaze, 10/25/12.


1. Hurricane Sandy, the "Frankenstorm."

One of the reasons I've endured this region for as long as I have is the historical paucity of major natural catastrophes. No earthquakes. No volcanoes. No tornadoes. No tidal waves. Infrequent hurricanes (about once every fifty years). But "infrequent" doesn't mean "never."

Hurricane Sandy has been upgraded to Category 2, and might gain further in power as it advances along the East Coast. Current tracking predictions have it veering north by northwest , such that the eye of the storm would pass almost directly over New York City. The storm is very wide -- a radius of at least 200 miles -- so Long Island will feel at last some of its wrath even if the projected track fails to materialize.

I have to say, it does look bad for New York Metro, Sunday night through Tuesday morning. The mildest of the predictions forecast gale-force winds and eight inches of rain. As there'll also be a full moon, that bodes ill for the tides, with obvious implications for water's-edge residents and boat owners.

We'll be battening down the hatches later today and tomorrow, as far as possible. However, certain things are beyond our control, among them electricity and Internet access. Even communications will be endangered; the winds might become strong enough to take down cell towers. The bottom line: If you live within about 200 miles of the Atlantic Coast, get cracking on your preparations as soon as possible. If you have loved ones or friends along the Eastern Seaboard, spare them a prayer or two.

Hey, at least the weather is unlikely to be this bad.

* * *

2. The Election.

Matters electoral are closer than I like. Though the Romney/Ryan ticket is doing better than was once predicted, especially in the "swing" or "battleground" states, the most recent polls indicate that its edge is within the margin of error. More, with eleven days left before final balloting, there could yet be surprises of many kinds.

The most disturbing forecasts center on Ohio.

You might recall that Ohio decided the 2004 election. The Bush/Cheney margin there was fairly substantial: about 150,000 votes. Whoever takes the state this year is unlikely to enjoy that wide a cushion, which means that the results might be challenged in court. Most Americans would hate to see that, but with so much at stake, were Obama/Biden to win Ohio, and thus the country, by a few thousand votes, I'd want to see Romney/Ryan contest the results -- especially given the importance of vote fraud in the previous quadrennial elections.

The title of Hugh Hewitt's book -- If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat -- has never been more apposite. The presidential contest of 2000 was a radical exception to an important pattern: In every other case of which I'm aware, when an election has been within the "margin of lawyer" (Mark Steyn), the Democrat has been seated, even if the ultimate results favored the Republican. So if you can contribute to the GOP's "ground game" in any possible way, I exhort you to do it.

* * *

3. A Personal Note.

These past few weeks I've received a fair number of emails whose general tenor has been "Your production has fallen off noticeably. Is everything okay?" Rather than answer those queries individually, I'll do so here.


My health has deteriorated markedly. I have far too much to do, too little time, and no one to help. Stresses of several sorts are piling up on me. Squeezing out seven or eight hours per night to sleep has become a significant challenge. Perhaps I should have written "to try to sleep," for that, too, is becoming more difficult, for both physiological and psychological reasons.

I've had a good run: here, at Eternity Road, and at the old Palace of Reason. (Only my longest-term readers will remember that last one, which I shut down in 2004.) Writing for these outlets has been far more a pleasure than a burden. But as that underappreciated philosopher Chad Stuart has written, "They say that all good things must end someday / Autumn leaves must fall." I have entered my autumn years; I cannot reasonably expect to keep everything going as I have for very much longer.

I must practice a sort of writerly triage. As I've committed to producing two more novels, I'll be giving those efforts precedence. I'll post essays here as often as my other commitments and burdens allow, but I fear that will be substantially less often than I have in the past.

Fortunately, Liberty's Torch has a bevy of top-notch co-contributors, upon whom I can rely to keep things lively. It's up to you, Gentle Readers, to let them know what you want and how you want it. (Hm. That sounds like a line from a porn novel. Well, anyway.) Yes, yes, we're all "old farts," and none of us is without his own unique challenges and burdens, but hopefully the sheer number of us will count for something!

Keep the faith.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


President Barack Obama had some startling words for his opponent in an interview with Rolling Stone, according to an advance report on the article from Mike Allen at Politico.

Allen says Obama told Rolling Stone's editor that kids look at Mitt Romney and say, "Well, that's a bullshitter, I can tell."

"Obama Calls Romney 'A Bullshitter'." By Grace Wyler, Business Insider, 10/25/12.

College grad.

You know I voted for him in 2008 and I plan to stick with him in 2012, and I’ll be voting for he and for Vice President Joe Biden next month,” Powell said on CBS’ “This Morning.
"Colin Powell Endorses Obama Again: ‘We’ve Come Out of the Dive and We’re Starting to Gain Altitude’." By Madeleine Morgenstern, The Blaze, 10/25/12.

Get OUTTA here!

Prof. Jacobson found this: "New study finds economic illiteracy correlates with political preferences."

Spoiler alert: It's what you think.

H/t: The Barrister, Maggie's Farm.

Reasons not to vote for Obama -- #1.

REASON # 1: President Obama is deaf.

Deafness rate = 33.3%.

Look at this picture. Here we clearly see that when the national anthem is being played, everyone else on the stage is, like, able to hear it.

How cool is that?

However, it's CLEAR that Mr. Obama is completely unaware that any music is being played, let alone that it's the national anthem.

Am I the only one in the U. S. of KKK America who has noticed this?! Why am I always the one who has to point out the stuff that people would rather ignore? Is that it?

I know that we go out of our way to accommodate people with disabilities in our country -- and no one supports this more than I do – but President Obama is the commander in chief of our armed forces, as he reminds us forty times a day, and he needs to be able to hear stuff like, you know, right . . . a. . . way.

All day. Every day.

If, for instance, someone is yelling at him that one of our ambassadors is under military attack in some ghastly third-world country and may need to be rescued by U.S. soldiers or something, well, he needs to hear that so he can quickly send those soldiers to save our ambassador.

Dude, If he can't like hear and stuff, how can he save someone who's about to be killed?

Even if the soldiers can get there quickly, what good is that if the President doesn't know they need to be sent?

We, like, sooo need a president who has good hearing.

The Pre-Exculpatory Phase

The esteemed Ronald Radosh, who was himself once a left-liberal, presents an enlightening piece on the pre-election positioning being attempted by the Mainstream Media:

As it becomes clear that Mitt Romney might actually win the election, desperate Democrats are beginning to develop a new spin about why Obama might lose. That they are doing this two weeks before the election gives us a glimpse of just how scared they are. First, the New York Times’ top political reporter, Matt Bai, suggests that if Obama loses, blame could be put on none other than his most important campaign asset, Bill Clinton. Bai writes:
But there is one crucial way in which the 42nd president may not have served the 44th quite as well. In these final weeks before the election, Mr. Clinton’s expert advice about how to beat Mitt Romney is starting to look suspect.

At first, Bai says, the Obama campaign tried to depict Romney as “inauthentic and inconstant, a soulless climber who would say anything to get the job.” But after the public got to see what Romney was really like in the debates, that effort ground to a halt. Instead, Clinton argued they had to portray Romney as an extremist conservative. That, after all, is what Clinton did when he ran, portraying himself as a centrist in between far left elements in his own party and right-wing Republicans opposed to him.

But didn't Obama do the same -- present himself to the electorate as a pragmatically minded slightly left-of-center statesman determined to bring all sides together -- in 2008? If memory serves, it worked to the extent of a 7% popular vote margin and over 300 electoral votes. Besides, Clinton had essentially the same sort of opposition: George H. W. Bush was a very slightly right-of-center figure, who had governed in a fashion that put whatever Reaganite-conservative views he might once have held very much in doubt.

Casting one's opponent as an "extremist" is a workable tactic. Indeed, it always has been, for "extreme" has always meant "heartless" or "conscienceless." The key implication of "extremist" is "doesn't care what the policies derived from his ideology would do to ordinary people." Few voters are unconcerned about the well-being of other Americans. At least, few will admit it.

As Radosh observes, Clinton's advice derived from his own success. That made it especially attractive to a candidate desperate to win and devoid of any ideas of his own. We may never know whether Clinton proffered that advice in full knowledge that, given Mitt Romney's particular character and political leanings, it was sure to fail, but as Ernest Hemingway might have said, isn't it pretty to think so?

However, there's an even more interesting point behind this one. Now that a major Republican victory seems likely, Matt Bai might not be defending Clinton -- once his foremost political idol -- or Obama -- the "god that failed" -- but he most certainly has it in mind to defend left-liberal ideology.

It seems inevitable, in retrospect, that Obama's failure to persuade Americans to grant him a second term would be characterized by his media annex as a personal failing, whether Obama's or someone else's. Perhaps the "someone else" will be Bill Clinton, as Matt Bai is suggesting; perhaps it will be his Cabinet secretaries or other close advisors; perhaps it will be his campaign managers. It will not be the policies Obama advocated and shepherded through Congress, nor the raft of anti-Constitutional executive orders he's issued, nor any policy he's espoused but has not yet seen enacted. The media cannot allow, even by implication, that those policies, so sharply at variance with Obama's 2008 campaign posture, proved massively destructive and distasteful to the nation.

The ideology and its protection from substantive examination are paramount. Why else do left-liberal polemicists consistently refuse to condemn Communist states? Why else would left-liberal spokesmen be so incensed at any mention of actual evidence against their positions? Why else do they insist on blaming individuals -- preferably non-Democrats, of course -- for why they couldn't get the results they promised?

The Left's media allies will only defend individual liberal champions if such a defense doesn't threaten left-liberal social-fascism as a set of concepts and policies. A charismatic figure can only take his hangers-on so far; the ideology, on the other hand, is a perpetually renewable meal ticket. The Left's defense of its "rice bowls" will always trump all other considerations.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Say Goodbye to The American Eagle

Stolen from: Lew Rockwell via Karen De Coster and Travis Holte

"We The People," Who?

[This essay first appeared at Eternity Road on June 19, 2007. In light of predicted UN oversight of our upcoming elections and the rising importance of the immigration issue and the Hispanic vote, it seems even more relevant today. – FWP]

In mid-2004, there was born a Website which proposed to hold an international plebiscite on the upcoming American elections. The thesis was that since what the United States does "affects" the entire world -- yes, those are "sneer quotes" -- then the world should have as much say in the selection of American officialdom as the American citizens do. Say what you will about the "logic" behind such a proposition, we must grant its audacity at the very least.

That campaign season also featured a letter-writing campaign by British glitterati, including rabid anti-theist Richard Dawkins and hack novelist David Cornwell (a.k.a. "John LeCarre"), to voters in selected American "swing states." The writers urged their American targets to vote for the Democratic presidential nominee, John Kerry -- say, did you know he served in Vietnam? Imagine that! -- on the grounds that President Bush was "stupid," a "bully," a "theocrat," was "universally hated," was waging "an illegal war," or any possible combination thereof. And with that, your Curmudgeon's sneer-quote key has breathed its last, at least for today.

The supranationalist assumptions behind these phenomena are easily destroyed. Yes, America has great influence in the world; we Americans, a mere 5% of the population of the world, generate more than 30% of its wealth and wield armed forces that could defeat all the other nations of the world in concert. But that's not because of our government, but because of the governments of all the other nations of the world. Our government, despite its many flaws and violations of its Constitutional contract, doesn't exercise the kind of power over American enterprise that other governments do over the productive efforts of their subjects. America's magnificent military is the consequence of the wealth that flows from our largely free economy and relatively restrained welfare system. Heavily regulated and bureaucratized economies, which must also carry the burden of much larger welfare states, can't afford worthwhile militaries, which is why ours is so frequently called upon to deal with tyrants and terrors.

(Nota bene: A citizen is one who retains his individual sovereignty despite his allegiance to a particular polity. His distinguishing characteristic is his right to keep and bear arms. A subject is one who has no individual sovereignty, having surrendered all ultimate decision-making power to the State. His lack of a right to keep and bear arms, which renders him defenseless against incursions on any of his other rights, is the most prominent giveaway. The United States has citizens; most of the rest of the nations of the world have subjects. Food for thought.)

But we can't expect to defeat supranationalism -- broadly, the premise that nation-states are inimical to the general good and should be done away with -- with mere logic. The supranationalist is adroit. He argues from his good intentions. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone had a say in everything that affects him in any way? And since every slightest thing that anyone does, anywhere in the world, affects all of us in some way, however small, doesn't that imply that democracy should be unbounded by these Westphalian fossils we call nation-states?

Well, if you buy the premise, you buy the conclusion. But the premise is itself unsound. Indeed, it's about as risible as the arguments made for slavery, with which it has a great deal in common. And Eternity Road readers are unlikely to accept supranationalism anyway, so what's the big deal?

The big deal is this: whenever a government compromises its nation's integrity for the sake of another nation, or the subjects of another nation, it's acting from the supranationalist premise. In so doing, it degrades the interests of its own people, implicitly or explicitly to favor other peoples. It ceases to act as its citizens' delegated agent, and assumes the prerogatives of their owner, who may dispose of their rights and prerogatives as it pleases, without their consent.

Two particularly egregious cases of this are in motion today.

In the Middle East, the Palestinian irredentists of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are engaged in a particularly bloody civil war. Their quarrel with one another is purely over power. Neither side deserves the support of a decent man; both are committed to the ultimate destruction of Israel. If Israel's statesmen regarded themselves as the servants of Israel rather than its masters, they would seize this opportunity to perfect the quarantine of the Palestinian zones. They would cease all quasi-diplomatic intercourse with the Palestinians "for the duration," a period of convenient elasticity. They certainly wouldn't look for guidance to the supranational United Nations or European Union, both of which have displayed uncompromising hostility toward Israel for many years. But the Olmert government is behaving in precisely the opposite way, attempting to conciliate and buttress Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction in the hope that it will prevail and reach a peace accord with Israel in the aftermath. This is like taking sides in a knife fight between murderers; the only decent course is to root for both sides to lose.

Here in the West, we have the spectacle of a majority of our Congressmen and Senators, and our president himself, bowing to the demands of our neighbor to the south that we not fortify our mutual border. Legislation from 2006 mandates a border fence, but there's been little funding provided for it and little to no work on it. The disproportionate participation of illegal aliens in felony crimes is widely known, yet there've been scant efforts to impede the movement or employment of illegal aliens already in our land. The infamous immigration reform bill gestating in Congress even offers a cheap amnesty to the estimated 12 million illegals to whom we're already hosts, conciliating them above 290 million born and naturalized citizens to whom our government is supposedly subordinate.

One can suspect corruption and venality, of course. No doubt they play some part in both cases. But the arguments used to rationalize the objectionable postures are almost explicitly supranationalist. It's the people that matter, not the borders. And anyway, think of the kids.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Borders matter because people matter. Borders are important because there must be a limit on every man's responsibilities for others, and on every nation's, too. Every political system binds its citizens in a web of mutual responsibility. Not for everything, but for the really big things commonly delegated to government: the defense of the realm, the maintenance of order in the streets, a common, generally comprehended legal system, and above all the protection of individuals' rights to life, liberty, and honestly acquired property. Israel granted the Palestinians autonomy within their zones, or, as Eric Frank Russell once put it, "the right to go to Hell in their own fashion." Now that they've chosen their course, they should be allowed to follow it to its conclusion, out of respect not only for their right to do so, but the right of Israelis not to be involved in it. Likewise, America did not agree to shelter or employ the whole world. If our borders were better secured, not only would our streets be safer, but Mexicans' interest in reforming their own polity would be greatly increased.

Don't say any of that to a supranationalist, though. He'll accuse you of being hard-hearted, a jingoist, possibly a racist. He'll call you an ingrate for spurning the innumerable contributions of undocumented Americans to our great nation, though if these contributions go beyond cheap lawn care and abundant convenience-store clerks, your Curmudgeon has yet to discover it. He'll stride away filled with moral superiority and reinforced in his conviction that we grubby conservatives have nothing of substance to say, and must be re-educated or destroyed.

Be not afraid to reject the supranationalist premise. Be very afraid of what might follow in supranationalism's train. Its advocates are mobilized as never before. Their agenda goes well beyond what's currently under discussion. We shall see.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Taxing Epiphany: An Unfortunate Defense of Loopholes

As I have been enduring these early not-so-glamorous-or-rewarding experiences of landlording -- which I think come to anyone who tries to do this and have more or less totally consumed all my free time and energy of late -- a sad epiphany has come to me.

I have long been an advocate that taxes be as simple and un-meddlesome as possible and have looked with absolute loathing upon attempts to carve out 'special privelege' by inserting 'deductions' into the tax code.  So, it is with much chagrin and a difficult and embarrassing wince that I must admit that I appear to be very wrong with respect to at least one 'deduction' -- interest.  It seems that, even though I very much dislike this conclusion, it is absolutely necessary that interest payments be deducted from income for the purposes of taxation, otherwise it appears that all hell breaks loose.  And if it is true for interest, it is likely true for many other expenses which I have yet to think through quite as thoroughly.

I arrived at this unfortunate conclusion because I finally realized that income received as rent from a property which must then be paid out to another party with an ownership stake in the property isn't actually income, at least in a strict sense.  Which is to say, according to the abstractions by which one understands the dynamics of the free-market.  So even though those annoying real estate gurus are always trying to sell people on the idea of leveraged investments in real estate by telling them that the interest is deductible, as if they were getting away with something by being in bed with government, actually, it could hardly be any other way.  It is actually a simple acknowledgement of the way things really are.  For once, it seems, the meddlesome bureaucrat eggheads have got something right.

The thinking goes something like this.  The property in question 'produces' various utilities -- shelter, comfort, security, etc. -- which are enjoyed by the occupant.  If the occupant does not own the property, then this utility is purchased through periodic 'rent' payments to the landlord.  Again, strictly speaking, it isn't quite proper to call this payment 'rent,' as rent refers purely to land, and as a dwelling is a heavily improved piece of land requiring maintenance and other costs, the payment actually contains a mixture of elements.  If anything, it would be more proper to call it 'interest,' since the landlord is acting mostly as a capitalist, curtailing his own consumptions and 'advancing' the use of the house to his tenant, so that the tenant does not have to pay for the entirety of the house at once.  The tenant only pays for time in the house -- for use of capital, a bit at a time -- which is the capitalist's interest income.

Therein lies the rub.  In the case of a leveraged investment, the capitalist does not possess full ownership of the asset.  A landlord with a mortgage does not fully own the house, he only possesses limited equity (there's that annoying word you always hear those know-it-all financial guys throwing around...).  So, the interest generated by the capital asset should only accrue to him in proportion to his equity.  The rest goes to the other owners -- in this case, the bank which is the mortgage holder.  And does, actually, except of course as the real rate of interest deviates from the money rate, as I talked about last time.

In an ideal world, this would all be simple enough to resolve by having the tenant write separate checks to each partial owner.  But this is not an ideal world, and the tenant writes only one check to the landlord.  The landlord then remits the bank's 'share' to the bank, the interest portion of which is the income of the bank and not merely an expense of the landlord.  

To count the interest as regular income of both the landlord and the bank would be to tax it twice.  This would probably be no big deal if income tax rates were on the order of, say, 2%.  It would be a rounding error.  But with marginal rates in the 20-30+% range, not to deduct this 'income' would be to shut down the housing market.

This conundrum makes me wonder if the whole notion of a 'flat tax' is nothing more than a ridiculous pipe dream -- for totally non-political reasons.  So long as the income tax is a non-trivial amount, there will necessarily have to be a maze of deductions and adjustments just to keep the economy moving.  Everyone realizes that it would be impossible to tax a business on its total receipts as if it were income, because obviously, income is total revenue minus expenses.  To tax the total money taken in would be a revenue tax -- a completely different animal.

If people are acting as businesses -- by renting houses, among other things -- it would seem that there would have to be deductions for expenses if there is to be an income tax.  Period.  Otherwise, it isn't actually an income tax.  I don't see any way around it, other than a name change.

So...  now who's on board with a national sales tax?

Monday, October 22, 2012

The End Of The Rhetoric

No, it's not here just yet, as ardently as we might wish for it. Yes, tonight's face-off between the presidential candidates, supposedly over foreign policy, is the last of the series for this campaign. But until November 6 is behind us, there will be endless pronouncements over it, over the candidates themselves, over their policy prescriptions, and over anything and everything else one could plausibly style politically relevant...because this, after all, is "the most important election in our lifetimes."

Maybe it is. After all, my lifetime's not over yet, so how am I to know? All the same, the nation's more prominent commentators and prognosticators eat very well during presidential campaigns, even though their alignments are easily predictable and they seldom say anything much different from the last time around on the quadrennial carousel. It can make a man wonder whether he entered the wrong occupation...one year out of four, at least.

To most Americans, it's really tiresome. In these days of the "permanent campaign," it gets tiresome enough for most of us to tune it out long before the election itself. But those who bloviate for bucks regard it as the meat and mead of life. Tastes do vary.

One of the aspects of continuous political rhetoric that's become massively noticeable is the mind-numbing repetition of certain key words and phrases. Some of those phrases have become so monotonous that they've been embedded in the rules of popular drinking games. ("Fair share," anyone?) Others have attained the status of membership badges: use it and you automatically designate yourself as an allegiant of a particular party or ideology. Thomas Sowell made note of several of the latter in his book The Vision Of The Anointed, which is indispensable to anyone who yearns to understand the stubborn ineducability of the left-liberal.

Today's sample thereof comes to us courtesy of columnist Star Parker:

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in its recent endorsement of McCaskill, "Todd Akin…comes out of the new incarnation of the Missouri Republican Party, the one based on peddling simplistic solutions to fearful "values voters."

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that for the years 2006 through 2010, 26 percent of the population of St. Louis, which is almost half black, lived below the poverty line.

It doesn't seem to phase the Post-Dispatch that poverty in their own city persists at levels 60 percent above the national rate. They are more concerned about a conservative getting elected, who might actually try to do things differently.

Whereas insanity is doing the same things and expecting different results, doing things differently – like freeing up poor parents to send their kids to church schools and promoting politically incorrect traditional values – is for liberals and the Post-Dispatch editors simplistic.

"Simplistic" is a flip dismissal of a policy prescription one would rather not have to argue against. The most important questions about a policy proposal:

  • Has it been tried before?
  • If not, what evidence and reasoning supports it?
  • If so, did it work as expected then? What were the costs and unforeseen consequences?

...focus on results. Whether the proposal is simple (by whatever standard) or complex (by whatever standard) is brushed aside in favor of whether it will work and at what cost. But the reverse of that coin-of-the-policy-realm is a similar analysis of the policy that brought about the problem to be solved (if any):

  • Why did it fail?
  • What evidence that it would fail did we overlook?
  • What aspect of the reasoning used to promote it was faulty?

These are questions the promoters of political snake oil would prefer that we not ask. They'd move heaven and earth to prevent them from being asked about the most visible, bloody, and expensive policy failures of the past century...were anyone actually asking them.

Political rhetoric exists because there exist customers for it: political candidates. Such candidates, including the very best of them, are essentially salesmen for constellations of policies advocated by the parties and groups that support them. This follows from an old axiom about human desire:

The specific thing Smith is pursuing is what Smith really wants.

Therefore, a candidate for public office wants that office and its powers, not the "good he could do with it." Perhaps he'd use those powers to good effect, and perhaps he wouldn't, but we must assume that the office, not his projected activities therein, is his true desire. From there it follows that his policy proposals, like his promises to various voting blocs and interest groups, are principally means to an end -- and from there it follows that he'd never have articulated them, or the catchphrases with which he promotes them, if he thought they might cost him the election.

All political rhetoric must be viewed in this light, whether or not one approves of the people employing it or the policies they espouse.

And so we come to the end of yet another interminable screed about the innate tawdriness of the political process in our time, only to realize that it's a wordy restatement of an old quip:

Q: How do you know when a politician is lying?
A: His lips are moving.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The destruction of European democracy.

In his book, Europe: The Shattering of Illusions, to be published by Bloomsbury on Thursday, Mr [Václav Klaus, President, Czech Republic] makes the case that the EU has evolved into its current form because political leaders have found it convenient to turn away from their nation states, where voters have historically been able to hold them to account.

"Political elites have always known that the shift in decision-making from the national to the supranational level weakens the traditional democratic mechanisms (that are inseparable from the existence of the nation state), and this increases their power in a radical way. That is why they wanted this shift so badly in the past, and that is why they want it today," he writes.

"The authors of the concept of European integration managed to short circuit the minds of the people, making a link between Hitler's aggressive nationalism (nationalism of a totally negative type) and the traditional nation state, calling into question the existence of nation states in general. Of the many fatal mistakes and lies that have always underpinned the evolution of the EU, this is one of the worst."[1]

The West drew precisely the wrong lessons from WWII, as President Klaus makes clear. The grisly carnage of leftism in the 20th century was subsumed under "far-right" Naziism. Thus, you will find in Washington, DC, a museum dedicated to the Holocaust that killed six million Jews during the course of an aberrant political regime that spanned 11 years of the history of the German people. The unbelievable slaughter of other leftist regimes to the tune of over 100 million people goes virtually unmentioned. Not for nothing does the comedian Gallagher refer to The History Channel on cable TV as "The Hitler Channel."

It is beyond sad that Europeans went down this path described by President Klaus which path involves casting aside the lessons of the danger of concentrated political power in favor of a highly authoritarian and misguided experiment that edges ever closer to European political integration and the submersion of a salutary nationhood and ethnic identity and of democratic governance itself. If you doubt the latter point, consider the devious ways in which the E.U. (successfully) sought to cancel the votes of actual national electorates against joining the E.U.

President Klaus elsewhere makes clear the monetary unreality of the E.U. The ethnic and racial insanities so ardently pushed by European leaders have yet to reach the same tipping point as the monetary ones. Alas, nothing but the faintest, most feeble stirrings of nationalist parties in Europe indicates that calamity can be avoided. Only the hideous playing out of the insane logic of multiculturalism awaits Europe, which has turned its back on the healthy nationalism so artfully derided and derailed by dreamers, fools, and leftists since WWII.


[1] "CZECH PRESIDENT: The Destruction of Europe's Democracy Is In Its Final Phase." By Bruno Waterfield, Business Insider, 9/23/12 (emphasis added).

H/t: Honest Thinking. 9/25/12.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

We will destroy America and Britain and impose Islam.

Only a Western, white liberal can fail to understand what an insufferable prick this Muslim is and the mortal danger to decency and rationality that he represents:

Are you liberal fools so cowardly as to turn your countries and your children over to scum like this? Is there nothing in what you have that you'll fight for? That you value? That is precious to you?

Or does your land deserve to be subjugated by seventh-century pestilential fanatics who despise you for your liberality, your rationality, your compassion, and your precious concern for "inclusion," refugees, and peace?

And for your weakness?

I defy you to listen to this and then continue to mewl about multiculturalism and the kinship of all people. This man doesn't want to be your brother. He wants to dominate you, degrade your women, and turn your land into the cesspool of superstition and despair that third worlders flee by the millions.

But you're doubtless willing to bet it all on multiculturalism and suicidal tolerance. Your entire stack on hitting that one lucky number on the roulette wheel.

Your life, your freedom, your culture, the land of your ancestors, your fortune, and the safety of your family on lucky number 36. In essence, that's your existential bet at the present state of play.

What a putz.

H/t: Eeyore at Vlad Tepes.

Civic duty.

If Mitt Romney wins the election I think its [sic] our duty as Black folks to riot and **c* **i* up.
~ Don Kushnelius quoted at "SBPDL."

Fifty years after the civil rights revolution. If this is progress, I'd be terrified of failure. I would.

Trevor Loudon: An Urgent Message for America: Please Help This Go Viral.

H/t: Gulag Bound.

To the same effect: The disgrace of the Al Smith dinner." By Lawrence Auster, View from the Right, 10/19/12.

Vanderleun on the undecideds and political disease.

Yes, yes, we know all about these "undecided voters," but -- seriously -- fuck all five of them especially the four living in DC. Nobody, but nobody, is really undecided now.

Right now, today, I know, you know, we know and they know. Everybody knows. And the truth is that there are more, many more, of us in 2012 than there were in 2008. And we are all going to the polls whereas many of them are not. I know that they all say that they are, but you know how deeply and compulsively they lie so why would we believe them about this.

Our army appeared from out of nowhere back in 2010 and our army has only gotten bigger since then. It's not a standing army. We don't like standing armies. But it is an army and it knows that, come November, it has to march on the polls and eradicate this disease that has been infecting the body politic.[1]

That's right. Apparently, if you're "undecided" you can't form an opinion as to whether the one guy with certifiable record of management and business acumen as long as your arm is the better candidate over the
Some kind of
one who's a bisexual, dope-smoking, constitutionally-unqualified, Muslim, white-hating, America-loathing, communist, treasonous, naif with a forged "birth certificate" and a Social Security number once used by a dead man, which candidate also took to heart the lessons of "community organizing" articulated in a book dedicated to Satan.

For some, this choice is apparently a tough choice.

I kid you not.


[1] "It's Over. Romney's the Next President. Obama is Toasted as Brown as a Benghazi Safehouse." By Gerard Vanderleun, American Digest, 10/12/12.

Foreign Policy

I'm already known as one of the bloodthirstier types in the DextroSphere. Yet even those who assess me even more extremely have no idea the extent to which I'd be willing to go over the violation of our consulate in Benghazi.

I've already posited what the federal government should do about this act of war. I believe the remedy was sufficiently unambiguous not to require further explication. Moreover, I stand by it quite as firmly today as on the day I penned it. But one section has elicited more head-scratching than the rest:

The government of a nation-state, deemed sovereign over its territory, has the responsibility for maintaining law and order within that territory. At the very minimum, that requires that the government act to safeguard the lives of the representatives of other nation-states, under the conventions that have protected diplomatic missions since the Congress of Vienna. Thus, a government that fails to protect other nations' diplomats, or that actively encourages assaults upon them, is an outlaw government, which may rightfully be regarded as invalid by the other nations of the world. When such assaults occur, other governments have the duty to respond in whatever fashion is required to restore order and deter further violence against their representatives.

In the most extreme case, when a government completely fails of its obligation to keep the peace, it is no longer sovereign. Other nations are justified in regarding its territory as no longer the jurisdiction of a nation-state as we understand them. That puts that territory on a plane with the "high seas." Persons who commit felonies there are automatically consigned to the category of "enemies of all Mankind," whose lives are forfeit to anyone who wants to take them. That, after all, is the law of the ungoverned: the rule of naked force and nothing else. He who dares to dwell there has bet his life on his prowess, much like a prospector in the jungle or the Arctic wilds. Civilized men, who recognize individuals' rights and the constraints of law, are free to do what they like about whatever threats emanate from such a realm.

Inasmuch as even the intelligent, erudite readers of Liberty's Torch might not have thought through the underlying rationale for those two paragraphs, I'll undertake to put them on the firmest possible foundation.


First, a quote from an underappreciated philosopher:

    "But this universe consists of paired dualities. What is the converse of authority? Mr. Rico."
    He had picked one I could answer. "Responsibility, sir."
    "Applause. Both for practical reasons and for mathematically verifiable moral reasons, authority and responsibility must be equal -- else a balancing takes place as surely as current flows between points of unequal potential. To permit irresponsible authority is to sow disaster; to hold a man responsible for anything he does not control is to behave with blind idiocy. The unlimited democracies were unstable because their citizens were not responsible for the fashion in which they exerted their sovereign authority...other than through the tragic logic of history....No attempt was made to determine whether a voter was responsible to the extent of his literally unlimited authority. If he voted the impossible, the disastrous possible happened instead -- and responsibility was then forced on him willy-nilly and destroyed both him and his foundationless temple."

[Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers]

An aside: I know several intelligent persons who've disdained to read that book because they "don't like science fiction." Yet I know of only one other novel that explores the connection illuminated above, which is inarguably the most important single concept in political philosophy. You'd think that would count for something.

The relations among authority, responsibility, and sovereignty are so strong, and so critical, that they constitute the entire basis for a rational foreign policy. Discounting them leads directly to Benghazi.


Ever since the Peace of Westphalia, sovereignty has consisted of the concession (by other states) that a particular regime exercises a lawful and adequate degree of control over its demesne, such that that region cannot reasonably be deemed lawless. Now, I speak here of an agreement among the rulers of European Christendom, a distinction that must not be overlooked. Those rulers agreed on the moral basis of both law and government. There were no significant differences among them about the legitimate extent of political power, nor on the appropriate measures to be taken against lawbreakers. To put it in the most compact possible form: On all matters of absolute right and wrong, they deferred to Christ.

The treaties of Westphalia were the true beginning of modern civilization, usually and erroneously tagged to the Enlightenment a century later.

But note this: Inasmuch as sovereignty in the Westphalian conception is a concession by one's neighbors, it is not and cannot be a regime's permanent and uncontestable possession. Should the current regime over a region cease to demonstrate "a lawful and adequate degree of control," other states could reasonably declare that regime no longer sovereign, and its former demesne lawless -- ungoverned. Should that take place, any or all of those neighbors would be justified in moving to establish a new regime there, capable of restoring law and justice.

The entire basis for the convention known as diplomatic immunity rests on this conception of sovereignty. Diplomatic immunity is a condition observed and enforced by a sovereign state: i.e., a state capable of exercising "a lawful and adequate degree of control" over its territory. To formalize it in Westphalian terms, the embassies and consulates of foreign powers are deemed exclaves: bits of those powers' territory, formally recognized as such by the enclosing state, whose defense is delegated to the enclosing state for practical reasons. But law only exists to the extent to which it is enforced: i.e., to the extent that the sovereign power pursues, captures, and punishes lawbreakers. Thus, a failure of diplomatic immunity, such as occurred in Benghazi, constitutes the failure of "a lawful and adequate degree of control," and therefore a cession of sovereignty by the enclosing state.

The United States would be fully justified in declaring that the "government" of Libya is no longer sovereign over its claimed territory, at minimum to the extent of the city of Benghazi. That district has "reverted to the commons." In such a region, any entity capable of establishing "a lawful and adequate degree of control," with everything that implies, is free to do so under the conceptions adopted in Westphalia.

Objection: But the rulers of Libya didn't agree to the treaties of Westphalia!
Reply: Who cares?

Were the U.S. to send an expeditionary force to Benghazi to convert it into an American protectorate, there would be no principle of justice (or "international law") to stand in our way.


Sovereignty subsumes jurisdiction. Were the U.S. to assert jurisdiction over Benghazi -- or all of Libya, for that matter -- it would simultaneously be claiming jurisdiction over all events that occur in that region. The application of appropriate penalties for any crimes committed there would become America's prerogative. Concerning the invasion of our soil and the murder of our citizens, supposedly protected by diplomatic immunity, with the passive connivance of local "authorities," a very severe penalty can easily be justified.

Now, among the core principles of Western justice is the absolute prohibition against punishing the innocent. Therefore, we don't simply launch a Trident missile at Benghazi and wipe our hands. Instead, we give the residents of that unfortunate place a reasonable chance to evacuate: enough time to remove themselves and their movable property, but not enough to mount a defense of the city. One week seems sufficient. So we announce that we intend to punish the city by its nuclear destruction, state the date on which the sentence will be carried out, and wait. On the appointed day, we launch. Any residents who choose to remain as "human shields" will have allied themselves with the perpetrators of the attack on our consulate, and would therefore possess no right to life.

Inasmuch as the whole point of the exercise is to deter any further strikes against American soil or personnel, it. would be tragically wrong for the U.S. to undertake any sort of remediation of the site, or "disaster relief" for the former residents. The radioactive crater at Benghazi should -- indeed, must -- stand as a reminder of the righteous wrath of the Americans, and what we're ready, willing, and able to do to savages who take American lives and property.


The above should make it clear that I have absolutely no interest in the objections of persons who are horrified by warfare, who condemn the use of nuclear weapons, who maintain fictions such as "international law," or who assert obscenities such as "moral ambiguity." There is no such thing as "international law;" the nations of the world exist and operate in an anarchic state relative to one another. There is nothing "morally ambiguous" about the murder of our citizens or the defilement of our consulate; these are acts that are absolutely wrong in all places and times, which must be punished swiftly and firmly that no one might think it safe to repeat them. The course forward I've described might admit of minor adjustments of detail. Nevertheless, it constitutes the one and only course by which both American sovereignty and the principles of absolute right and wrong can be defended, short or long term.

Indeed, I would go so far as to say that it constitutes the sole imaginable basis for a sustainable foreign policy in a world of anarchic, quarrelsome States. Once again, to put it in the most compact possible form (though Mitt Romney might deplore the phraseology):

Don't fuck with us.
You won't like the consequences.

I await your thoughts.

UPDATE: SF Author Tom Kratman, whose knowledge and opinions I respect, wrote to tell me that consulates do not share the sovereignty characteristic of an embassy, though the person of an ambassador is considered sacrosanct anywhere. Live and learn.