The Official Blog Of Edward Cline

Month: April 2009

The Irrelevancy of Conservatism

It must be an uncontrollable compulsion in conservatives that in almost any discussion of the role of government, they cannot help taking a swipe at novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand, denying that she was much of a novelist or even a philosopher, and devoting at least a few derogatory words to her and her novels, if not launching into a nearly frenzied tirade characterized by ad hominem charges against her and sneers at her work. Three of her most notorious American detractors were Whittaker Chambers, William F. Buckley, Jr., and Granville Hicks, the latter a Marxist-cum-“humanist” editor, novelist and book critic. Since their scurrilous reviews were published decades ago, Rand-bashing has become a kind of fraternity initiation ritual for Right and Left alike.

Speculation on the root causes of the compulsion can range from envy for the sales of her books, which far outstrip the sales of anything ever written by any conservative, to moral opposition to her philosophy of selfishness and individualism, which they abhor, to a fear that she is and has been right about everything she ever wrote and spoke about, a fear and hatred hidden behind a mask of occasional dispassionate criticism.

Of her novels, Atlas Shrugged has drawn the largest dose of their venom, and that dosage has grown larger ever since the outset of the financial debacle last fall. Newspapers and other periodicals have noted, with a degree of objectivity and respect never granted to the novel in the past by the Left or Right, the parallels between the events in the novel and events in reality, which have helped to spur sales of the novel. No novel ever written by a member of the Right or Left has proven to be so prophetic in its essentials and even in some of its concretes.

Yaron Brook, president and executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, however, cautioned in an interview that Atlas Shrugged should not be seen exclusively as a prophetic playbook of how to cause economic disasters:

“Many of these commentators seem to view Atlas Shrugged as a novel that’s primarily about politics and economics. The main issue…and which we feel is extremely important to address…is that the origins of the crisis in Atlas Shrugged and the origins of today’s crisis are much deeper than that. They result from the prevailing morality of the culture, of which political systems are an extension. In Atlas Shrugged the political system is crumbling because of the morality of altruism, and that is also the root source of our current crisis. So Rand is relevant, and she’s relevant on a level far more fundamental than politics and economics.”

Historically, on a moral and political level, the Left has objected to her philosophy because it claimed the individual owes his existence to society or the state and so should not be free to act against it, while the Right claimed that the individual owes his existence to God and society, so his mind should not be free to question either. Over the last few decades, Left and Right have been converging to the same points of agreement: that the individual owes his existence to the state or society (God’s role being optional) and should not be free at all.

Rand herself marked the malaise of conservatism in 1962 in her essay, “Conservatism: An Obituary.” Identifying why conservatism was finished as a distinct political ideology and political force, she wrote:

“If the ‘conservatives’ do not stand for capitalism, they stand for and are nothing; they have no goal, no direction, no political principles, no social ideals, no intellectual values, no leadership to offer anyone. Yet capitalism is what the ‘conservatives’ dare not advocate or defend. They are paralyzed by the profound conflict between capitalism and the moral code which dominates our culture: altruism.”*

The compulsion can be explained. They must attack Rand because her philosophy contradicts and refutes their core premises and assumptions. Atlas Shrugged demonstrates and dramatizes the moral and practical consequences of those premises and assumptions. It is not merely a matter of details. As Rand once put it, it is a matter of philosophical nuclear warfare. Conservatives cannot hide their recognition that Rand’s is not merely a rival philosophy; it is their chief, mortal enemy. In the meantime, the “atheistic” Left is their principal ally, today aggressively applying the collectivist and altruist principles which it shares with the Right.

A critic does not, as a rule, devote thousands of words and his best verbal pyrotechnics to dismissing a novel which he asserts in the beginning of a review should not be taken seriously. Granville Hicks (1901-1982) and Whittaker Chambers (1901-1961), however, did take Atlas Shrugged seriously when it appeared in 1957, not because they placed any personal importance on it, but because they feared with quivering, incensed certainty that it would be taken seriously and earn, over time, an esteemed place in the culture (which it has achieved). Their reviews of the novel were essentially flippant and snarling pleas to the reading public to ignore the novel. They protested too much the novel’s supposed insignificance.

Hicks, once an associate editor for the publisher that debuted Rand’s first novel, We the Living, but who fought against it, resigned from the Communist Party in 1939 over the Nazi-Soviet Warsaw “non-aggression” Pact.** Chambers, who was a courier between the Soviets and several Communists working in various federal bureaucracies, left the Party in 1937 or 1938 over the Soviet purge trials, and also because he did not want to risk being summoned to Moscow only to be “purged” from existence for having supposedly “ratted” on fellow American Communist agents in the U.S. He went into hiding, joined the staff of Time Magazine, and eventually became a conservative.

But a putative renunciation of communism (or of any other collectivist ideology) does not necessarily trigger an automatic recognition of the efficacy of reason and a concomitant endorsement of egoism, individual rights, and capitalism. Nor does it guarantee the acquisition of a better set of literary standards or values. Both Hicks and Chambers are cases in point. After “repudiating” communism, they remained hard-core collectivists to their dying days – Chambers would today probably be a “big-government” neoconservative – hostile to and consistently deprecatory of any degree of political and economic liberty, in fiction or in fact.

As for Buckley (1925-2008), I will simply repeat here some remarks from my March, 2008 obituary notice on the occasion of his death in February that year, “The Philosophic Postmortem of William F. Buckley, Jr.” He uttered and wrote numerous vicious comments about Rand over the years, but showcased conservative-convert Whittaker Chambers’ review of Atlas Shrugged in the National Review, Chambers acting as his proxy critic. On his role in serving as a moral guide for the morally bankrupt Republican Party, I noted:

“Buckley saved their necks and provided them with a ‘system’ of ideas they could feel at home with. He persuaded a spent and ideologically rudderless conservative movement to base its political philosophy on religion, altruism, and self-sacrifice as an alternative to the ‘atheistic’ liberal welfare state of society, altruism and self-sacrifice. Individual rights were nothing to him if not ‘God-given.’ He was as much an enemy of freedom – and of freedom of speech – as any holy-roller Democrat. Fundamentally, there is no difference between the policies advocated by ‘atheistic’ or secular collectivists and ‘religious’ ones. Buckley never seriously challenged the ‘status quo’ of controls, deficit spending, or the regulation of business and industry. He was one of the original advocates of volunteerism or mandatory public service.”

Sound familiar? Are these not points on which Republicans and Obamacrats agree? As for Buckley’s style and tone, I observed:

“Learned, glibly articulate with a penchant for obscure words and noted for a complex, obfuscating verbosity nearly as convoluted as Immanuel Kant’s, master of sardonic humor, often self-deprecatory, Buckley was the Ellsworth Toohey of the Right.”

There is little irony in the fact that Atlas Shrugged was reviewed in two publications ostensibly on opposite ends of the political spectrum, the left-liberal The New York Times and the religious-right National Review. Both publications were then, and still are, united in their opposition to laissez-faire capitalism, individual rights, and man the individual with no duty or obligation to “serve society.” Although their political affiliations are hardly irrelevant, they are not the subject here. In the long run, it is the evaluations by Chambers, Hicks and Buckley of Atlas Shrugged that have been proven to be not only wrong, but themselves insignificant and futile.

As proof of how Left and Right are merging into a single, mongrelized enemy of capitalism and individual rights, Family Security Matters (FSM), a conservative Internet site, on April 23 ran a long article on the financial crisis by William R. Hawkins, who is billed as “a consultant specializing in international economic and national security issues.” In his article, “Conservatism After the Tea Parties,“ Hawkins decries the Tea Parties of April 15 and expresses anger that they have been largely governed by the political thought of “libertarians” such as Rand. The problem, he claims, is not “big government,” but “big government” that has not behaved responsibly. And the protesters should not have sported signs and placards that cited Ayn Rand. Rather, he claims, these protesters should look to arch-conservative Russell Kirk and economist Milton Friedman for moral and economic guidance.

About the April 15 Tea Parties, Hawkins writes:

“More precise thought needs to be given to what the protests are about if effective reform is to result. The cry cannot simply be to oppose ‘government’ per se. In a major financial crisis like the current one, when comparisons to the Great Depression are not unwarranted, it is the responsibility of the Federal authorities to take action to stabilize the economy and lay the groundwork for recovery.”

Is this not what the Obama administration is attempting to do now? And why should it be the responsibility of the Federal authorities to have any role in the crisis? Is it not the government’s regulation of private sector banking and financial actions that was and continues to be the cause of the crisis? And is not “reform” of the economy along socialist/fascist lines what is on the administration’s agenda? Hawkins does not address these issues, except to endorse government action. By way of an authoritative sanction of government interventionist policies, he cites Milton Friedman, in his words, “the guru of modern capitalist ideology and foe of socialism.”

“Milton Friedman…laid out this responsibility in his monumental A Monetary History of the United States. He makes the now standard interpretation of what made the ‘great contraction’ so severe. During the years 1930-33, a wave of bank failures reduced the money supply by a third. Federal authorities did not take action on the scale needed to counteract the impact of the financial collapse on the real economy. No advocate of Big Government, Friedman could nevertheless declare this earlier dilatory attitude ‘confused and misguided.’”

Significantly, Hawkins states that Federal Reserve Board chairman, Bernard Bernanke, “is a student of Friedman, and his decision to buy $1.2 trillion of government bonds and mortgage-related securities last month makes more sense than trying to rebuild a financial system crippled with $2.7 trillion in toxic assets (according to the IMF) with tax money.” Echoing the assurances of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and others in the administration, Hawkins agrees with their conclusions:

“These losses are too large to replace with fiscal measures, and the public is rightfully worried that to try would burden future taxpayers (and their children) with too much debt.”

How much debt is “too much”? Should there be any debt? Is there a feasible, non-coercive method to finance legitimate government functions — that is, the courts, the military, and police — that would not entail debt and economic interventionist policies and a wealth-redistributing welfare state? And will not the debt being rung up by the Obama administration be a burden for several generations of taxpayers, and not just future taxpayers and their children, provided the economy and country do not first collapse into anarchy and dictatorship because of that debt? Hawkins does not essay any suggestions on these issues. He sticks to the conservative line, and refuses to venture outside the boundaries of traditional conservative thought into the Uncharted Forest of reason.

More importantly, however, the article reveals that conservatives are afraid that men are realizing that Ayn Rand is fundamentally relevant to today’s political, moral and economic crises, and that they have grown irrelevant. The “transcendent order” of Russell Kirk (1918-1994), cited by Hawkins as a source of moral and political wisdom, was based “variously on tradition, divine revelation, or natural law,” but has made way for the “transcendent order” of the brute collectivism of the state, to which Americans are more and more expected to defer.

“What should really agitate the public is not the principle of government intervention to prevent an economic collapse, but how the politicians have seized the opportunity to spend huge sums on non-emergency, special interest programs.”

Where was Hawkins on April 15? The Tea Parties featured protests on a variety of issues, including Congress’s pork barrel projects, in addition to government intervention. And should anyone worried about the consequences of government interventionist policies discard the principle, and settle for just emoting against special interest programs?

Hawkins criticizes the $787 billion stimulus package, the Obama administration for exploiting the crisis to rush through social programs, the Republicans and Democrats for being corrupt, and “the very Wall Street entities whose blunders plunged the country into economic disaster.”

“These are the proper targets for outrage, not some formless chanting against ‘government’ per se. Such chanting is the nonsense of anarchists (known in polite circles as libertarians), not the wisdom of conservatives.”

And what is the wisdom of conservatives? It is the “dean of conservative thinking” Russell Kirk’s, which the reader may sample here, beginning with:

“….Conservatism is the negation of ideology: it is a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order.”

So it is an anti-ideology, or a set of “sentiments” and non-ideas, or a “state of mind” which is supposed to animate anyone to try to dam the advancing, liberty-destroying lava of statism. Hawkins offers his conservative credentials in this outburst:

“The most alarming sign that the anarchists are trying to take over the Tea Party movement is the sudden revival of the amoral and anti-social screeds of the late and unlamented Ayn Rand. Her name has been bantered around far too often on talk radio and by Fox News commentators.”

Hawkins should wonder why her name is so frequently “bantered around,” and not Buckley’s or Russell Kirk’s. Perhaps it is because men are searching for answers and ideas, Rand has had them for decades, and answers and ideas are not to be found in conservatism. He should also learn that Rand was neither an anarchist nor a libertarian.

As if to underscore the religious, anti-reason color of conservatism, Hawkins manages to introduce Original Sin as an ingredient of the financial crisis:

“True conservatives know the character of Mankind is ’fallen’ and that there is a dark side to human nature to which bankers and fund managers are just as vulnerable as anyone else. Freedom without responsibility, and rights without duties, leads to license and wrong-doing.”

To which Presidents Bush, Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, and Senator John McCain would say, “Amen.” Hawkins then descends into pure fantasy. He falls back on and endorses the assertions of Constitutional scholar Walter Berns.

“He warned that our modern problem is the retreat of government, not its growth. We have already instituted too much of a libertarian state, one ‘that does not get involved in censorship, in moral education….’”

This is Hawkins’ most bizarre statement. If a “libertarian” state is one of limited government whose powers are defined and delimited by the Constitution, how can he explain, as examples, court-upheld speech codes, restrictions on tobacco and pharmaceutical advertising, subsidies to banks and automakers, and the indoctrination of children in public schools in the guise of “moral education”? Where, exactly, is the government retreating, and not growing? What sector of the Twilight Zone has Hawkins emerged from?

Hawkins ends his article with more advice for the Tea Party movement:

“Hopefully, those attracted to the Tea Parties will follow the path of Kirk and not of Rand.”

Far be it from Hawkins to risk soiling his fingers by opening a copy of Atlas Shrugged to check on the spelling of names and the roles of the characters. So he misquotes another writer (of an April 20th Forbes article on the resurgence of interest in Rand) by describing Henry Rearden, the steel manufacturer and inventor of Rearden Metal, as Rand’s “most famous fictional character Hank Riordan.” Had he paid closer attention to the news coverage of the Tea Parties, he might have observed several protesters’ signs that read, “Who is John Galt?” and none that read, “Who is Hank Riordan?” He might have himself asked, “Who is John Galt?” but the connection between the name and the novel eluded him, because apparently he has never read that “amoral and anti-social screed.”

Conservatives were once noted, if not for their God-fearing rationalizations of why men should or should not be free, then for their fastidiousness concerning the facts and ideas they were attacking or twisting out of recognition. Now, in their desperate rush to de-emphasize the influence of Ayn Rand and her ideas, they are just growing sloppy. They are hurling spit balls at a photo of Rand pinned to a dartboard, but hitting only the wall around it.

Finally, I have gone to this length to rebut Hawkins because I have not encountered any better arguments by conservatives elsewhere; their common denominator is a congenital hostility to reason, Ayn Rand, and freedom. So this should serve as a blanket answer to any one or all of them. (Note: Appearance on the FSM site does not indicate endorsement of its overall political philosophy. FSM re-posts my commentaries at the peril of persuading its regular readers of the fallacies of conservative thought.)

*In Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. New York: Signet softcover, 1967, pp. 193-201.
**See Essays on Ayn Rand’s We the Living. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2004. Rand’s determination and confidence in the value of the novel allowed her to break through the “Red ceiling” of the New York publishing world in 1936. Richard Ralston’s essay on the novel’s publishing history is informative and illuminating.

A Guns of Nihilism Postscript

When I began composing brief answers to some reader comments on my “The Guns of Nihilism” post, I decided to elaborate just to cover some ground I could not cover in the original post, and also to clear up some issues in my own mind.

One commentator asked:

“What I don’t understand about these nihilist pacifist leftists is: Don’t they understand that by undermining America they are putting their own lives in danger? Also, if they weaken America’s military strength they open up the possibility that America will fall. But this would destroy their power and all leftists lust for power. What it is so hard for me to understand is the phenomenon of power lusting leftist/fascists who are nevertheless suicidal….”

What is hard for any rational, life-loving person to understand is the death premise of such nihilists. But, it’s that very premise which you must grasp and take seriously. Then you won’t be so puzzled by their words and actions. If America fell, nothing would please them more, even if that fall entailed their own deaths. That is why they are nihilists, worshippers of nothing, champions of nothing, advocates of non-existence. Rand dramatized it perfectly in the character of James Taggart in Atlas Shrugged, and Galt explicated the phenomenon in his speech.

It’s obvious in Obama’s words and actions, and also in the rhetoric and actions of environmentalists. Environmentalism has moved from being a pseudo-science to being a virulent anti-science religion, attracting all sorts of people searching for a mystical sanction that will allow them to coexist alongside but with apologies to plants, animals and rocks. Nihilists are secular Buddhists, hankering for a means to exist and not exist at the same time, but preferring their own non-existence if they can take the lovers of life they depend on with them into it. (The actual Buddhists at least keep to themselves.) If they can’t kill or have the lovers of life killed by some means, then they want to make their lives as painful and joyless and burdensome as possible.

Thus Taggart’s confession that he wants to hear Galt scream as Galt is being tortured on the “Ferris Persuader.” Thus the whole “green” movement, which philosophically clueless automakers and “renewable energy” technocrats and all sorts of bizarre, rudderless people are submitting to. Thus the militancy of political, economic, and cultural egalitarians. From top to bottom and across the board, the nihilists’ motivating premise is death, or pain, or destruction, or all three. Concede any of their arguments at your own peril — and concession to their arguments is what our policymakers have made, guaranteeing the economic decline of this country, not to mention its inability to defend itself from global predators.

For example, environmentalists object strenuously to the Navy’s use of sonar in the oceans, because it allegedly “disorients” whales. They place no value on this country being able to defend itself, which they would benefit from, and ostensibly some mystical value on the uninterrupted freedom of whales, from which they derive no conceivable or measurable benefit. This is altruism, or the application of that code to the relationship between man and nature. Since environmentalists treat man and nature as coequals, or nature as intrinsically superior to man, if nature is in any way imperiled, man is expected to do “the right thing” (à la Kant), and erase himself from existence. Altruism and nihilism are natural partners.

The Dadaists and the avant garde of abstract art and atonal composers in the early 20th century posed as “artists” and professed a passion for art. But their primary motivation was to destroy art which they couldn’t begin to match and which their “souls“ nevertheless would not permit them to emulate; their “passion“ was actually a hatred of it. They were as value-impoverished as Obama is. They had no values to preserve or betray. The art historian who tells you that a urinal with a Barbie doll sitting in it is just as great a work of art and an instance of a profound esthetic appreciation or statement on the meaning of life as Michelangelo’s David or Daniel French’s The Minute Man, is a nihilist seeking to sabotage your mind, your values, and art as such. (I include French’s statue here because it is a special symbol of what Obama and his nihilist cohorts wish to obliterate in Americans’ minds, the necessity and willingness of men to fight for freedom.)

The critic who tells you that someone like Willie Nelson or Ice-Cube or John Cage is just as great an artist and composer as Rachmaninoff and that there is no difference in spirit or talent between them, is such a nihilist. And for years whole schools of nihilists were busy in the literary and academic realms as constructionists, deconstructionists, and post-deconstructionists, actively destroying the value of great literature in the minds of college students. That carnage, wrought over decades of that kind of “education,” is responsible for the arid, colorless, and windless landscape of modern literature.

Toohey’s speech to Peter Keating near the end of The Fountainhead about his means and ends to power is but an introduction to that part of Galt’s speech which deals with the means and ends of the nihilists, of the murderers of man’s spirit.

As for the Department of Defense’s brass-shredding program, regardless of the caliber of ammo, it is just the start. The anti-gun advocates and legislators won’t stop there, as the commentator pointed out about the move to ban lead in private-sector ammunition. It’s their way of weaseling around the accusation that they are against Americans protecting themselves, just as their ilk in another venue duck the charge of censorship by rationalizing the establishment of “speech codes” or “fairness doctrines” that won’t hurt anyone’s “feelings” or “self-esteem” or to assure anyone of his “right” to speak on someone else’s time, dime or property.

Finally, some further remarks are in order on the Department of Homeland Security’s Assessment, “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” I have read the entire document, and it is noteworthy that while it focuses on “rightwing paranoia” as a potential catalyst for violence, it is itself written from a state of left-wing paranoia. It dwells almost exclusively on the alleged nemesis of a supposedly rival ideology, on any group purportedly governed by “rightwing” thinking, from white supremacists to returning “disgruntled” veterans to antigovernment militias, and just about anyone or any group that questions the wisdom, rightness, and efficacy of government interventionist and extra-Constitutional policies. That Assessment is one of the crudest instances of political “package-dealing” I have ever read.

As I read this document, I could not help but suspect that it is an expression of the left’s worst nightmares. Remember that the DHS was created with Republican President George W. Bush’s encouragement and blessing, and is the child of the “right” intended to detect and combat Islamic terrorism. Predictably, an agency vested with extra-legal powers such as those possessed by the DHS must sooner or later regard itself as the end-all and be-all of national policy, see itself as a permanent adjunct to any political party that assumed the reins of power, and turn against the population it was intended to safeguard. The April 7th Assessment assumes the possibility of a general “rightwing” uprising against the federal government, or at least general civil disobedience in revolt against a federal government encroaching upon and obviating freedom, to which the government would have no answer and only two options open to it: to “back off” or to impose martial law, including censorship.

The DHS, in cooperation with the FBI, monitored the Tea Parties of April 15th and presumably recorded the faces and identities of thousands of Americans who took part in the “antigovernment” events. Doubtless all that information has gone into the DHS database.

The Assessment is also noteworthy in regards to its omissions. If the DHS is concerned about the potential for violence and “rightwing” terrorism, there is not a single mention in the memo of the terrorism the agency was originally created to detect and combat, Islamic jihad. But it does cite instances of “rightwing” violence, such as the “shooting deaths of three police officers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on 4 April 2009.”

“The alleged gunman’s reaction reportedly was influenced by his racist ideology and belief in antigovernment conspiracy theories related to gun confiscations, citizen detention camps, and a Jewish-controlled ‘one world government.’”

Of course, the DHS can argue that Islamic jihadists are hardly “rightwing extremists,” and so were not the subject of the memo, but it cannot deny that Islamic “extremists” also subscribe to conspiracy theories, train for urban warfare on private compounds in this country, are anti-Semitic in principle, seek to convert this country to Islam and replace the Constitution with Sharia law, and dream of a “one world government,” as well, in the form of a global caliphate. Why discriminate between them and Aryan race skinheads or white supremacist militias? I found it interesting that while the Assessment memo cited the Pittsburgh killings, it did not cite the recent killings of the four Oakland, California police officers by a Muslim, nor any of the numerous attacks on non-Muslims by Muslims in this country since 9/11.

One can only suppose that the DHS considers some “extremist” violence, even if it has not occurred, more equal than other “extremist” violence, even though that violence is a matter of record. And the “extremism” of the current administration, which is hard left-wing cloaked in populist rhetoric, receives a free pass from the DHS.

“Rightwing extremism,” according to the DHS mindset (and that of the Obama administration and of left-wingers everywhere), is synonymous with fascism. But fascism, which is government control of nominally private businesses, industries and property, is simply the “right wing” of the left. The only element that distinguishes the two political and ideological phenomena is the role of religion. They are otherwise one and the same.

Had he been elected, there is no reason to believe that Senator John McCain, based on his political record, would have acted any differently from Obama over the subprime mortgage crisis, except that we would have heard more about God and patriotism as he was busy proposing bailouts, firing company executives, and holding CEOs accountable to the government. McCain and Obama are in the same fascist/socialist camp. McCain would have moved only a little more slowly in the direction of fascism. Obama and his fellow felons are in a hurry to establish a fascist/socialist state before any credible opposition to it can rally its forces and point out to Americans the false spectrum of “left-wing vs. right-wing.”

We can only hope that we can persuade Americans of the deception of that yardstick, and show that the only political alternative beyond it is laissez-faire capitalism and freedom.

The Guns of Nihilism

One of the best accounts of what actually happened between the Somali pirates, the U.S.S. Bainbridge, Navy SEALS, and President Barack Obama last week can be found here, in Jack Wheeler’s Half-Full Report of April 17. Note: “Zero“ is his nickname for the man who would be president:

“We can raise a full glass of your favorite adult beverage to all the Tea Party participants – and to the one group of Americans the Zerocrats despise above all others: our soldiers in the US military.

All of us want to raise our glass the highest this week to the Navy SEALs who popped those three Somali pirates. And I’m sure you want to hear the real story of what happened. Especially because there is a revoltingly opportunistic and cowardly side to it. Guess which side Zero is on.

Why, for example, did it take SEAL Team Six (aka DEVGRU, Navy Special Warfare Development Group, the Navy’s equivalent of Delta Force) over 36 hours to get to the scene?

Because Zero refused to authorize the SEAL deployment for those 36 hours, during which the OSC – the on-scene commander, Cmdr. Frank Castellano of the USS Bainbridge – repeatedly requested them.

Once the SEALs arrived – parachuting from a C-17 into the ocean near the ship – Zero then imposed Rules of Engagement (ROE) specifying the SEALs could not do anything unless the life of the hostage, Captain Richard Phillips, was in “imminent” danger.

Thus, when Capt. Phillips attempted to escape by jumping off the lifeboat into the ocean, the SEAL snipers had all four pirates (one later surrendered) sighted in and could have taken them out then and there – but they could not fire due to Zero’s ROE restrictions.

When the SEALs approached the lifeboat in a RIB (rigid-hull inflatable boat) carrying supplies for Capt. Phillips and the pirates, the pirates fired upon them. Not only was no fire returned due to the ROE, but as the pirates were shooting at the RIB, SEAL snipers on the Bainbridge had them all dialed in. No triggers were pulled due to the ROE.

Two specific rescue plans were developed by Cmdr. Castellano and the SEAL teams. Zero personally refused to authorize them.

After the second refusal and days of dithering, Cmdr. Castellano decided he had the Operational Area and OSC authority to ‘solely determine risk to hostage’ and did not require any further approval of the president.

Four hours later, the White House is informed that three pirates are dead and Capt. Phillips has been rescued unharmed. A WH press release is immediately issued, giving credit to the president for his ‘daring and decisive’ behavior that resulted in such success.

Zero has absolutely no military knowledge or experience whatsoever. He demanded decisional control over the entire hostage drama to the last detail. All actions required his personal approval. He dithered like a coward while the world laughed at our warships flummoxed by four illiterate teenagers with AKs in a lifeboat.

Only when the Navy Commander decided to ignore his Pantywaist-in-Chief and take action and responsibility himself, were the incredible skills of the SEALs put into play.

That Zero could cynically and opportunistically claim that his ‘bold,’ ‘calm,’ ‘tough’ leadership was responsible should remind everyone that not a single action, not a single word of this man can be trusted. He is bereft of honesty and moral character. That’s why he’s Zero.

The HFR raises a glass full of pride and gratitude to Navy Commander Frank Castellano, the Navy SEALs for their incredible competence, and our military. Let’s hold a Tea Party in their honor.”

Wheeler’s report differs in some minor points from others. World Net Daily’s account states that the SEALs were fired on by the pirates when they tried to take supplies in the RIB to the Maersk Alabama, which had already left the scene and was on its way to Kenya.

But most accounts on the Internet credit the commander of the Bainbridge with acting to save Phillips’ life, not Obama. It is only in the sycophantic news media that truth and falsehood grappled, and truth lost. For example, the Associated Press reported that Obama gave the Navy commander the go-ahead to use force.

“…[I]t goes some way toward dispelling the notion that a liberal Democrat with a known distaste for war – Obama campaigned on his consistent opposition to the Iraq invasion – doesn’t have the chops to fire on the pirates holding the cargo ship captain at gunpoint.”

No, the notion has not been dispelled, not even a little way. Obama lacked the “chops” to call on U.S. military power, as most non-news media accounts can testify to. In fact, he sent professional hostage-negotiators from the FBI to the Bainbridge to try to talk the pirates into releasing Phillips, as though the Indian Ocean was a domestic crime scene. If Phillips had been murdered by the pirates, it is certain that the negotiators or the commander of the Bainbridge or the SEALs would have been blamed, not the pirates, not the policy of appeasing the enemy by pulling the punches our military could deliver with devastating effect.

The Indian Ocean is not your usual dangerous neighborhood too risky for an ice-cream truck or lunch wagon to venture into. And the Somali pirates declared war on commercial shipping and private pleasure vessels long ago. They very likely have strong links to al-Qada and other Islamic terrorist gangs, and must share ransoms with them. That part of the Indian Ocean is a war zone.

And Obama – a liberal Democrat?? Hubert Humphrey was a liberal Democrat, as was Lyndon Johnson. They were relatively amateur shoplifters compared to the likes of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Obama, however, is a doctrinaire, committed fascist/socialist, dedicated to turning a proud, free nation into a submissive wallflower and a minimum security prison of indentured servitude.

I differ with Wheeler over his perception of cowardice. A coward is afraid to protect his values, unwilling to risk his life (or reputation) to preserve or keep them. The U.S. is not a value to Obama, except as a thing to betray, ruin and destroy. Obama has no moral character; ergo, no honesty, no integrity, no respect for truth. He has no values to keep or preserve. He is a nihilist to the core. I agree with Wheeler that Obama and his staff are opportunistic; what exponents of pragmatism-as-policy are not? Their pragmatism, in addition, makes possible their cynicism. Confrontation is not Obama’s “style”; he is surpassing “Slick Willy” with his penchant for weaseling out of any crisis and emerging from it unscathed.

No, Obama, during the whole “man-caused” disaster, behaved true to his career goal and followed Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals to the letter. He is our Community-Organizer-in-Chief. It was just a neighborhood thing to him, you know, nothing to begin shooting guns off about, and the pirates were just poor, troubled teenagers trying to “spread the wealth around“ with armed extortion. Obama did not order anyone to fire on anyone. He hung ten in hopes that everything would just come out all right, with no bruises or bloodshed.

And instead of reducing every pirate’s den, mud hut and palace to smoldering rubble, and every pirate anchorage and boat to unrecyclable floating debris, the U.S. and other nations will continue to spend fortunes patrolling the Indian Ocean in a fruitless policing mission, hamstrung by rules of non-engagement, rather than risk one more pirate’s life or collateral casualties among the pirate’s camp followers.

I dread to speculate on the future career of Commander Frank Castellano of the Bainbridge for having belayed Obama’s orders and followed his own standing orders as the officer commanding on the scene, which are to take action against an enemy to preserve American lives and property.

Speaking of “man-caused” disasters, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will have the everlasting, notorious credit for coining one of the most evasive, cowardly euphemisms in the lexicon of diplomacy. In an interview with Spiegel on March 13, she explained why she did not pronounce the term “terrorism” in her Congressional testimony:

“…I presume there is always a threat from terrorism. In my speech, although I did not use the word ‘terrorism,’ I referred to ‘man-caused’ disasters. That is perhaps only a nuance, but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur.”

Napolitano “nuanced” what is a moral issue into a mere sociological conundrum. Never mind that Islamic terrorists have a political agenda, which is either the destruction of the U.S. or its submission to Islam. To terrorists, fear is as much a political weapon as bombs and stealth jihad. When Osama bin Laden or one of his henchmen issues another warning that Americans will die and Islam will bury the West, Napolitano wants to reply with cotton-candy language. She would rather oppose the chain-mail armor of Islamic Janissaries with tie-dyed T-shirts. Doubtless she agrees with her boss that the U.S. should engage Russia, China, Iran and North Korea in new talks leading to a revived version of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT), knowing that it would effectively disarm this country and leave it to the mercies of rogue governments and nuclear-armed terrorists.

One cannot believe that Napolitano and her ilk do not understand that a defenseless America is a beaten America. They, as well as any rational being (not to confuse the two), can see the consequences of unleashed force and organized mayhem practiced by every dictator and tyrant, in the past as well as in the present. One cannot believe that they actually believe in the efficacy of regurgitated pacifist policies of the hippies. One cannot even believe that they take seriously the notion that if they feel strongly enough about peace and goodwill, universal amity will somehow, magically reign.

One can only conclude, through a rational process of elimination of possible motives, that they bear this country so much ill will that they wish to see it punished because it is great. What other creatures, for example, would imply in the recent DHS “Rightwing Extremism” memo that returning American military personnel from Iraq and Afghanistan are likely to resort to “rightwing extremist” violence because they are “disgruntled, disillusioned, or suffering from the psychological effects of war?” [Section U/(FOUO)DHS/IAA]

“Napolitano, on a Fox News appearance today [April 17], backtracked a little, saying ‘To the extent veterans read it as an accusation…an apology is owed.’”

And not a resignation or a firing for impugning the character of servicemen returning from combat? The “Rightwing Extremism” memo reveals that the DHS regards all Americans as suspect in terms of their possibly resisting the state, and exhibits a natural predilection for defending itself and the state over defending the nation. Its authority overrides that of all legitimate law enforcement agencies. It ought to be dismantled.

Fascism is taking on an unusual and unprecedented form.

Adolf Hitler, a nihilist, acted to expand Germany’s borders and impose a Pax Germany over Europe. He envisioned a mighty, invincible Germany that would rule the world. His self-worth was dependent on the successes of his aggressions. And when his power was reduced to the confines of a Berlin bunker, he muttered that, as punishment for its failure, Germany should be exterminated as undeserving of existence.

Barack Obama, a nihilist, is acting to diminish an America that never sought to rule the world, and his self-worth is dependent on how much he can enable the world to rule America. He bows to feudal monarchs, joshes with South American dictators, and is moving to betray this country’s only ally in the Middle East, Israel. He snubs this country’s allies and ingratiates himself with its enemies.

It is not enough that Obama and his hand-picked administration wish to render America “harmless and blameless.” They wish to disarm Americans, as well. The DHS memo complements the administration’s virulent anti-gun policy, and reveals that the government fears armed resistance to its express-speed, liberty-destroying statist policies.

The Georgia Arms Company, the nation’s fifth largest retailer of .223 ammo, received a notice from the Department of Defense advising it that the company could no longer buy spent brass cartridges from the DoD used for training on military bases. Formerly, Georgia Arms and other manufacturers and retailers bought the shells to reload for resale to law enforcement, gun shops, gun clubs, and other commercial outlets.

“…[F]rom now on the DoD will be destroying the brass – shredding it. It is no longer available to the ammo makers, unless they just buy it in a scrap shredded condition (which the makers have no use for). The shredded brass is now going to be sold by the DoD to China as scrap metal….”

Furthermore, if any ammo seller is compelled to purchase newly manufactured brass shells,

“…then the cost of ammunition to the buyer will double and triple…plus Obama wants to add a 500% tax on each shell.”

Hardworking, productive American citizens who successfully undergo lengthy criminal background checks before being allowed to purchase guns will still be disarmed if they cannot afford to buy ammo. Criminals, terrorists, and the mentally unbalanced such as the Virginia Tech and Binghamton, New York mass murderers, will acquire guns and ammo regardless of the stringency of gun controls. Moral Americans will be caught between an armed and growing police state and armed criminals.

In Book Five: Revolution of my Sparrowhawk series, the Crown-appointed lieutenant-governor of Virginia suppresses a lone, private newspaper by sending a bailiff and his men to shut down the paper. Instead of confiscating or destroying the printing press, they seize the owner’s type cases, effectively silencing the paper.

Readers will appreciate the parallels.

I freely admit to parodying the title of a great adventure film here, “The Guns of Navarone” ( 1961, directed by J. Lee Thompson, based on Alistair MacLean’s novel). This finely directed and superbly cast “war” move reflects a morality largely absent in film for decades, not to mention skill in creating conflict and drama. And there is a relevance to be noted between Obama’s nihilism and the pro-life, goal-directed character of the film.

Like the Castellano/Bainbridge/Navy SEAL episode, “Navarone” is also a nonpareil suspense story. In 1943, a British commando team is sent to destroy a pair of massive German anti-ship guns that can pulverize any warship attempting to evacuate British troops surrounded on a Greek island. The position of the fortified guns atop a 400-foot cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea renders them impregnable against Allied naval and air action. They can only be destroyed from within — by the commandos. By the end of one of the most suspenseful action films ever made, they accomplish their mission.

Fast forward to the Indian Ocean, April 2009. American warships are stymied, not by mammoth German guns, not by a disciplined German army, not even by four pirates in a rowboat, but by the value-negating morality of altruism and by an American president who is, in the most fundamental moral sense, on the side of the pirates.

A Cavalcade of Collectivism

So many things are happening now that, as I take time off to participate in the Tea Party in Newport News, Virginia on April 15, I have decided to devote just brief commentary on a selection of events.

Legislated Slavery

Presumably to give themselves more time to sweeten the idea of slavery or indentured servitude for future “volunteers,” Congressmen have dropped a provision from the GIVE Act, HR 1388, to establish a commission to study the idea, and included it in HR 1444 and called the provision the “Congressional Commission on Civic Service Act.” “GIVE’ is the acronym for the hokey, cumbersomely named “Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act,” passed by the House in March. That bill is intended to rope all Americans into servitude, regardless of age. The HR 1444 commission’s focus, however, is specifically Americans about to embark on adulthood. It is to ruminate on:

“The effect on the Nation, on those who serve, and on the families of those who serve, if all individuals in the United States were expected to perform national service or were required to perform a certain amount of national service.

“Whether a workable, fair, and reasonable mandatory service requirement for all able young people could be developed, and how such a requirement could be implemented in a manner that would strengthen the social fabric of the Nation and overcome civic challenges by bringing together people from diverse economic, ethnic, and educational backgrounds.”

This bill and its predecessor are absolutely immoral and antithetical to the idea of this country being a society of free individuals. What I found especially curious about HR 1444 was the term “social fabric” and the idea that it needed “strengthening.” Are the bill’s sponsors and advocates worried that the nation’s “social fabric” is coming apart at the seams? They would do well to worry, for there are signs it is, and they would need to look no further for its cause than the floor of the House, the scene of so much fiscal improvidence, theft of wealth, abridgement of liberty, and collectivist arrogance (not to mention pork barrel corruption).

But, whether or not HR 1444 reaches the Senate and passes there unmolested, the more unsettling news is a phenomenon I call “SDS: The Next Generation.” The White House and cabinet, agency, and department realms are now top-heavy with the Left of Old, from the 1960’s and 1970’s. Barack and Michelle Obama, ideally representing that next generation, are the plastic figures fixed atop the wedding cake. And far, far below in our “social fabric” is the generation educated and indoctrinated by the lefties who careered into education, à la William Ayers of the Weathermen, or by former Students for a Democratic Society and their countless fellow travelers who decided to wreak their vengeance on America by drilling its young in so many boot camps of selflessness and sacrifice, from kindergarten up through college. The new bills will ensure the line of succession of the Old Left so that the New Left can continue the campaign of producing selfless drones of service.

The New York Times of April 12 reported that many college graduates no longer look to Wall Street, business, industry, medicine, and science as fields of potential employment. An increasing number aspire to become community organizers, “just like the world’s most famous one, Barack Obama.”

“A job that has not been all that alluring to college graduates is in resurgence, according to leading community organizers and educators. Once thought of as a destination for lefty radicals committed to living lives of low pay, frustration and bitter burnout, community organizing is now seen by many young people an exciting career.

“With their jobs, students envision helping communities address urgent issues — economics or the environment, education or social justice — while developing leadership skills. And these jobs, students say, can actually lead to…well, you know.”

To the chancellorship of Nazi America? Well…you know. Further on in the article, its writer notes:

“Dr. [Marshall] Ganz, the veteran organizer, trained thousands of Obama campaign volunteers to organize communities and voters….Three years ago, Dr. Ganz, who earned a doctorate in sociology and is now a lecturer at Harvard, taught 40 students in his community organizing class at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government….Three years ago, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, began using Dr. Ganz’s curriculum. It is now taught at the College of the Holy Cross, Providence College and Wellesley. And more institutions, like M.I.T. and Northwestern, are calling him.”

The article does not once mention Ganz’s Old Left mentor, but clearly he, Obama, and thousands of college students and their current mentors are avid disciples of Saul Alinsky, the patron saint of “community organizers” everywhere.

Speaking of Harvard, Democratic congressman and domestic Somali pirate Barney Frank spoke at the Kennedy School of Government on April 13 and got into a verbal brouhaha with a law student who asked a fair question: “How much responsibility, if any, do you have for the financial crisis?” Note that the student did not accuse Frank of being up to his ears in responsibility.

Frank, of course, took personal exception to the question, as any guilty liar would, and accused the student of repeating what he called “right-wing talking points” and of ignorance of the issue. He more or less implied that the student should have come armed with all 1,000+ pages of the first stimulus package, or perhaps a copy of the Community Reinvestment Act and Frank’s voting record on the matter or perhaps a transcript of his statements from five years ago, which would contain, for example, Frank’s assertion that “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not facing any kind of financial crisis.”

To his credit, the student stuck to his guns, and repeatedly asked Frank to simply answer the question. Frank repeatedly subjected the student and the audience to a bewildering kaleidoscope of half-truths and contextless concretes no one could examine and refute in anything less than a book, all the while the fingers of his left hand twitching nervously and his posture betraying a man on the point of panic.

Creeping Censorship

On April 3rd, an article by Democratic Senator Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland appeared in The Washington Post, “A Plan to Save our Free Press.” I have already reported on this move to establish a more financially sound but suborned press in “Freedom of Speech: Silence is Not Golden,” about the plan to convert failing newspapers into nonprofit entities such as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Aside from the fact that Cardin’s Newspaper Revitalization Act would relieve these papers of significant tax obligations not enjoyed by papers not tottering on the brink of bankruptcy, it would be a first step to bring all newspapers under federal control, or at least marginalize those which do not succumb to the temptation to “go public.”

“My bill would allow newspapers — if they choose — to operate under 501(c)(3) status for educational purposes, similar to public broadcasters [read, government or tax-supported TV and radio stations]…. Under this arrangement, newspapers would not be allowed to make political endorsements but would be permitted to freely report on all issues, including political campaigns. They would be able to editorialize and take positions on issues affecting their communities. Advertising and subscription revenue would be tax-exempt, and contributions to support coverage or operations could be tax-deductible.”

How can a newspaper editorialize without making political endorsements? By doing exactly what PBS and all its affiliates around the country do every day: propagate ideas advocated by the persons they are not allowed to politically endorse or favor. That is, for example, editorialize positively about “hope” and “change,” wealth “redistribution” and “social equity,” but not blatantly agree with Obama or any other politician or candidate who promotes those things.

The Confiscation of Offshore Wealth

Reuters reported on April 13 that Credit Suisse will enable the U.S. government to more easily tax and/or confiscate money Americans once thought was safely deposited in Swiss bank accounts.

“Sonntagszeitung [a Swiss newspaper] said the bank had about 2,500-5,000 U.S. clients with undeclared offshore accounts worth about 3 billion francs….The paper said that Credit Suisse had started parting company with its U.S. offshore clients, giving them the option of moving their accounts to its CS Private Advisors subsidiary, which would report the accounts to the U.S. tax authorities, or writing them a check.

“The move comes after rival UBS said last year it would stop offering offshore services to U.S. citizens after U.S. authorities alleged that the Swiss bank has helped rich Americans hide money away from the taxman in Swiss accounts.”

Switzerland isn’t what it used to be. The Associated Press also reports that UBS, aside from losing about $18.41 billion in the subprime mortgage fiasco, also stands to lose about $14.8 billion in American deposits when it turns over the records of about 52,000 Americans to the IRS.

“UBS already has agreed in a deal with the U.S. Justice Department to pay $780 million and disclose up to 300 UBS account holders suspected of tax fraud.

“Oswald J. Gruebel told staff the bank had to stick strictly to the law in order to protect its reputation.”

Whose law? Swiss law, or American? What reputation? A Swiss bank now is no better a “safe” deposit vault than the shoe boxes of American banks.

When a politician, American or foreign, talks about the benefits of a global economy, take it for granted that he means a fascist global economy in which there are no sanctuaries or safe havens from government theft and pillaging. When Obama, a celebrity sensation at the G20 summit in London, where he agreed to place American companies under the authority of an international Financial Stability Board (with no recognized recourse to American courts) assured Joe the Plumber during the campaign that he just wanted to “spread the wealth around,” he meant instead that he intended to spread the poverty around. For that is his and his administration’s aim, to ensure that the rich are as destitute and defenseless as the middle class, and unable to escape anywhere from their “duty“ to sacrifice and serve. The U.S. government and the European Union have pressured Swiss banks to betray their customers.

Of course, the “undeclared” billions in those banks are but a drop in the bucket, compared to the Niagara Falls of trillions Obama and Congress wish to create out of nothing and spend on rearranging America along fascist/socialist lines. One might then ask: If that is true, why send posses after the individuals who own those billions? How can destroying that wealth make a difference? The answer: envy. To leave no slave behind in the quest for totalitarian control. To leave no cent behind that could be tossed into the bottomless pit of need. And the root motive behind such a quest is hatred of the good for being the good — in this instance, hatred of anyone who has outwitted the looters and pillagers by preserving his wealth beyond their grasp. It is destruction for the sake of destruction.

The next time you hear someone ask, “Have you paid your taxes?” you should answer, “Whose taxes?”

Profile Muslims, no! Profile “Rightwingers,” si!

And the next time you brace yourself for a frisk and a search at the airport and watch helplessly as some otherwise unemployable drudge rifles through your luggage, you might also be want to be prepared to account for the copy of Atlas Shrugged you might have in your carry-on. Or perhaps one of those specially trained attitude detectors might interpret the sour look on your face as evidence of a probable terrorist, and have you pulled from the line to be interrogated in the TSA version of George Orwell’s Room 101.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on April 7 released (or leaked) a “threat assessment” memo called “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” The Solons of the DHS just might correctly consider Ayn Rand’s novel as “radical,” though in its fathomless wisdom they wouldn’t be able to explain why. You, the advocate of individual rights, of limited, rights-protecting government, of the rule of objective law and not of power-lusting men, would be lumped together with racists, anarchists, neo-Nazis, basement-bomb conspirators, and any other group that could be identified as “anti-government” and your identity red-flagged for special attention. You, the cleanly rational radical for capitalism who opposes the initiation of force by criminals and government alike, might someday be locked in a holding pen with the ilk of Timothy McVey, the Unabomber, anti-abortion assassins, and other unsavory company.

The two troubling terms in the memo’s title and their usage throughout the memo itself are extremism and rightwing. Nowhere are they defined. The irony is that the term extremism is meaningless. As Ayn Rand notes in her 1964 essay, “Extremism, or the Art of Smearing”:

“The concept of ‘extreme’ denotes a relation, a measurement, a degree. The dictionary gives the following definitions: ‘Extreme, adj. — 1. of a character or kind farthest removed from the ordinary or average. 2. utmost or exceedingly great in degree.’ It is obvious that the first question one has to ask, before using that term, is: a degree — of what?”*

In the context of the memo and the alleged function of the DHS, which was created shortly after 9/11 to deter further terrorist attacks on the U.S., the term implies an unspecified potential for violent acts against the government and/or American citizens in this country. Michelle Malkin, in her dissection of the memo, questions the timing of the memo’s release a week before the hundreds of Tax Day Tea Parties and concludes that the memo exclusively targets conservatives, noting that no left-wing groups are cited.

“In Obama land, there are no coincidences. It is no coincidence that this report echoes Tea Party bashing left-wing blogs (check this one out comparing the Tea Party movement to the Weather Underground!) and demonizes the very Americans who will be protesting in the thousands on Wednesday for the nationwide Tax Day Tea Party.”

She managed to speak with persons in the DHS but was not able to persuade them to identify which “rightwing extremist” groups were busy “recruiting” people to join them, and no one in the DHS was willing to identify for her the nature of the “rightwing extremist chatter” on the Internet that alarmed the authors of the memo. (And the memo’s mention of that chatter confirms that the DHS, and probably the National Security Agency, monitor not only domestic phone calls but the Internet, as well.) Section U of the memo cites one cause of the alleged increase in “rightwing extremist” activity: the “economic downturn.” Another alleged cause is dissatisfaction with the new administration’s economic, spending, and social policies.

“Rightwing extremists are harnessing this historical [sic] election as a recruitment tool. Many rightwing extremists are antagonistic toward the new presidential administration and its perceived stance on a range of issues, including immigration and citizenship, the expansion of social programs to minorities, and restrictions on firearms ownership and use….From the 2008 election timeframe to the present, rightwing extremists have capitalized on related racial and political prejudices in expanded propaganda campaigns, thereby reaching out to a wider audience of potential sympathizers.”

Surely a news media in lockstep with promoting the administration’s policies would have jumped at the chance to report a swelling of the ranks of “rightwing” vigilante groups or a dramatic growth in subscriptions to conspiracy-theory newsletters, and issued their own dire warnings. But, as Malkin and other commentators point out, the DHS offers no evidence that substantiates the memo’s assertions. The only concrete thing that might have given insecure Homelanders the jitters is the reported spike in gun sales, but even the news media concedes that this is a result of the administration’s wish to gut the Second Amendment.

Every other section of the memo similarly smears anyone who opposes the new administration’s policies by implying that he is a potential terrorist or an unhinged malcontent frothing at the mouth, ready to mow down Mexicans, Muslims, blacks, and IRS clerks. Malkin is wrong to conclude that the memo libels only conservatives. Its insinuating language is broad enough to include all men of reason who oppose the socialization of America, and to include all Americans who know that Obama and Congress are guilty of exacerbating the logical and inevitable destructive consequences of government interventionist policies and of implementing a socialist agenda that would destroy what liberties remain to them.

All of which renders the term rightwing meaningless, as well, if it is implied that “rightwingers” are “capitalist” fascists, which would necessarily include left-wingers, or those who advocate government management of the economy, of private property, and the scrapping of the Bill of Rights. Fascists are fundamentally socialists. The terms left-wing and rightwing constitute a bait-and-switch game of terms. (I lost count of the number of Tea Party protesters I spoke with who no longer see a difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties.)

Further, it is noteworthy that the DHS felt it necessary to circulate the memo to law enforcement agencies and departments around the country on the eve of a phenomenon, the nationwide Tea Party. But the DHS and the Obama White House cannot but have helped to observe months before a grassroots opposition to Obama’s and Congress’s policies, long before the first Tea Parties in February.

The Wall Street Journal on April 15 ran an excellent analysis of the Tax Day Tea Party phenomenon, tracing its roots and discussing its portentous political consequences, and also the role of the Internet in making it possible. It concludes with these predictions:

“This influx of new energy and new talent is likely to inject new life into small-government politics around the nation. The mainstream Republican Party still seems limp and disorganized. This grassroots effort may revitalize it. Or the tea-party movement may lead to a new third party that may replace the GOP, just as the GOP replaced the fractured and hapless Whigs.”

The Republicans will ignore the Tax Day Tea Party at their own peril. The Democrats are not ignoring it, even though the news media largely did ignore it or downplayed the significance of over half a million Americans saying “No!” to the Obama administration.

Those half million Americans, drawn from almost every thread of the country’s “social fabric,” may be the answer to the government’s worried “Who is John Galt?” and may represent an unwelcome species of “volunteerism” that can scuttle the plans of “community organizers” everywhere. The Internet, as The Wall Street Journal article suggests, can turn all liberty-valuing Americans into Minute Men.

*In Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. New York: Signet softcover, 1967, pp. 173-182. The reader is urged to read the entire essay for how the term “extremism” has been and continues to be employed politically to smear advocates of capitalism or anyone who takes a rationally principled stand on any given issue.

Of Obama and Obeisance

More disgusting than former President George W. Bush holding the hand of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (when the latter was but a “crown prince”) on Bush’s Crawford, Texas ranch years ago, was the signature demonstration of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy when he bowed before the king at the G20 meeting in London and presumably kissed that same hand. This was an uncalled-for gesture on the part of a man who poses as a friend of the “unwashed masses” but who apparently experiences a “high” when hobnobbing with the rich and powerful.

And as a politician who likes to place himself on the same historical plane with Abraham Lincoln and FDR, surely he must have known that Saudi Arabia and the Koran condone slavery, that Abdullah very likely owns a dozen or more slaves himself, and that Saudi Arabia is a repressive theocracy with designs to convert the U.S. to Islam with stealth jihad through CAIR and other Saudi “civil rights” organizations in this country.

Not that he cares. There is King Abdullah, and there is Prince Barack. A very tenuous excuse might be made for Bush; he was an unlikable and unliked man, who knew he was mocked by Congress, the news media, and the public. He wanted to be liked by everyone, even if it meant rubbing shoulders with Vladimir Putin, King Abdullah and other unsavory creatures in hopes of teasing a grin from them.

No excuse can be made for Obama. His contempt for the United States in his every action since taking office in January is so apparent that it would have been surprising had he not emphasized it by bowing to a relic of medievalism. It was his way of proving that he is not a product of what he claimed in Germany was American “arrogance,” a euphemism for the United States asserting its right to exist and for being the freest, most prosperous country in history (for the time being). I do not think that contempt for the U.S. has been lost on this country’s enemies. Obama has more or less telegraphed his willingness to damage this country with his domestic and foreign policies as much as they would were they in his shoes. He’s their man.

George Stephanopoulos, his unofficial press secretary on ABC (who does a better job of shilling for Obama‘s policies than the official press secretary, the Elmer Fuddish Robert Gibbs), last Sunday gave Obama high marks for “stagecraft” on his European tour. The term means a series of orchestrated hale-fellow-well-met magic moments in domestic and exotic locales, but apparently those high marks do not include preserving the dignity of the office of president. It is doubtful that Abdullah even expected a president of the United States to be so extraordinarily obsequious.

The American Thinker site, in reporting and discussing this shameful episode on April 7, poses the question in answer to any possible White House or State Department denial that bowing to Abdullah was not an act of subservient inferiority:

“If it was not a gesture of subordination, why did the Saudi king fail to respond with a similar bow?”

Because potentates do not bow to their subjects or inferiors. When I learned of this “stagecraft” on the Internet (it certainly wasn’t through the news media, not for them to report such a disquieting event), the final scene of “The Godfather” flashed in my memory, in which Michael Corleone, acknowledged head of a crime family, receives the hand-kissing fealty of his underlings.

At a time when rogue governments such as Iran’s and North Korea’s are working to develop nuclear weapons and delivery systems, Obama has reached a tentative agreement with another rogue government, Vladimir Putin’s, to reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles. Which means the emasculation of this country’s defense capabilities — not Russia’s or Iran’s or China’s or North Korea’s offensive capabilities. No totalitarian government or other brand of dictatorship has ever felt morally bound or constrained by any weapons reduction treaty signed between it and another statist regime or between it and any coalition of Western “democracies.” Read the history and consequences of such agreements and treaties from long before World War One up through the twentieth century. One might then ask how such a self-proclaimed student of history could make such a concession when the overwhelming evidence points to a guarantee of aggression and war.

There are two possible answers to this question. The first is that Obama knows that history but is confident his wishes will overcome reality. He wants it to be so; ergo, it will be so. One might call it the King Canute syndrome. The tides will cease on command; dictators and enemies of this country will be nice enough to refrain from arming themselves and their proxies.

The more likely answer is that defenseless is how Obama imagines the U.S. should be against regimes that wish to harm or destroy this country, or at least compel it to submit under the threat of destruction. It would be fit punishment for its past “transgressions” and “arrogance.”

And in Turkey, he proclaimed that the U.S. “is not and will never be at war with Islam.” Maybe not. But Islam is certainly at war with the U.S. Surely he must know that, as well. It is fairly common knowledge in the Muslim world. If he doesn’t know it, then he’s not reading his intelligence reports, or their authors are not mentioning it for fear of offending his sense of “diversity” and risking their immediate redundancy. But, like Bush, he will not blame Islam for the attacks on the U.S. and the West, only its kamikaze pilots. Thus his grandstanding about “defeating” Al-Qada in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Addressing the Turkish parliament on April 6, Obama asserted:

“We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over so many centuries to shape the world for the better, including my own country.”

Excuse me? Were Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and James Madison secret Muslims? Or Lincoln? Stating that Islam helped to “shape” the United States is as specious an assertion as the claim that a confederation of American Indian tribes served as a model for the U.S. government before ratification of the Constitution. In attempting to establish a détente with Islam, Obama either dismisses or is ignorant of the totalitarian nature of the Islamic faith and its record of destruction, massacre, rape, genocide and enslavement over the centuries, one that rivals only the Catholic Church’s and its wars with dissenting sects. In that sense, yes, the Islamic faith has done much to shape the world — but not for the better.

One might even hypothesize that Obama envies the Islamic faith, because it requires immediate and unquestioning submission to its ideology, something he would like to see happen in this country at the snap of his fingers.

Obama has his own notion of submission. A power-luster will respect a power-holder; this would also help to explain his toady-ish behavior upon meeting the Saudi king. But, back home, submission is what he expects of American business executives. When he met with banking CEO’s for an hour and a half on April 2, he was in his Michael Corleone mode. He stopped the friendly chitchat and attempts by the bankers to explain why they and their employees needed bonuses, and went to the point, reports the Politico site:

“My administration,” the president said, “is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”

Corleone couldn’t have said it better.

After ranting on about how he saw the economic crisis and why people were outraged over Wall Street’s executive bonuses (and the only people who seem to be outraged are the news media and the “man-in-the-street” dimwits they pick to emote angrily about the bonuses), he invited the bankers to talk.

They were true to their record of moral cowardice.

“JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon complimented Obama on the economic team he’d assembled…Dimon also insisted that he’d like to give the government’s TARP [Troubled Asset Relief Program] money back as soon as practical and asked the president to ’streamline’ that process.”

Nix to that, replied Obama. Returning the money might “send a bad signal,” or create the wrong impression. Appearances trump reality. Appearances will become the reality. Reality is what he wishes it to be. Obama regards himself the master illusionist.

“Several CEO’s disagreed, arguing instead that returning the TARP money was their patriotic duty, that they didn’t need it anymore, and that publicity surrounding the return would send a positive signal of confidence to the markets.”

No dice. Apparently, career bankers know nothing about finance, markets or banking. Or perhaps Obama would concede that they do know those things, and that he and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and their economic advisors do not. None of that mattered. Barack Obama, who has never worked a productive, wealth-creating day in his life but spent years in unproductive “public service,” knows better, because he has a personal line to a higher authority. Call it the Kant-Hegel-Marx triumvirate.

Besides, it was more “patriotic” and safer to be his yes-men. And accepting the TARP money back from the banks might cause people to suspect that perhaps the government is the chief culprit behind the crisis and that it is attempting to paper over its responsibility by literally printing more paper money and granting itself more credit so that impoverished Americans can pay it off in about six generations.

Provided, of course, there are still an economy and an America. In fact, the debt Obama and his predecessors in the Oval Office and in Congress have rung up can never be paid off, not without the government garnishing and attaching the full incomes of every American and granting everyone an “allowance.” The catch is that such an economy is not productive and if it exists at all it is because there is a freer economy elsewhere propping it up. If there are no free economies, then the world is in another Dark Age.

If one ever sought proof that Obama and his gang do not want the economy to recover, there it was, in that meeting with the banking CEO‘s, the willing whipping boys for the government‘s policy failures. If the road to perdition is paved with good intentions, there is only one verdict to reach about a man and his clique whose intentions are not good.

From the Academy to Atlas Shrugged: An Appreciation

Were you alive in Aristotle‘s time, had attended his lectures at the Academy, and had read his works, as well, would you have grasped the importance of those works to your existence? Would you have evaluated his contribution to the lives of other men and gasped in unbounded gratitude? Would you have understood the scope and breadth of his bequest to posterity? Could you have projected how his philosophy would influence the actions of men yet unborn, and what effect his ideas would have on their lives? Could you have projected the consequences of his work, such as skyscrapers, or robots exploring Mars, or microscopic cameras and lasers eradicating cancer, or genetically perfected crops, or communications through radio waves?

Could you have imagined a tableau like Raphael’s “The School of Athens,” in the hall of philosophers, with Aristotle and Plato, deep in conversation, striding from beneath the arch, one pointing upward to the heavens, the other gesturing to the earth? Would you have rejected Plato, and venerated Aristotle?

After the eclipse of ancient Greece, and following the interim of ancient Rome before the heavy, impenetrable curtain of the Dark Ages fell to hide the Greco-Roman millennium from the knowledge and sight of men, it took another millennium for them to rediscover Aristotle. The ruins and artifacts of his and Rome’s civilizations lay buried or weed-grown and crumbling in the chaotic, terrifying landscape of the Dark Ages, presenting a paradox and mystery to men who did not understand the source and significance of those ruins and artifacts. His works were salvaged and preserved by a culture, Islam, which ultimately, logically, had to reject them. Aristotle’s rediscovery in the Middle Ages made possible the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution — and America.

In a dramatically telescoped way, Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged, is experiencing the same rediscovery in the 21st century. It was the most important book of the 20th century, published in New York City in 1957. Although its sales success has been steady and almost without precedent since its publication, until now the novel was ignored, relegated to the cultural sidelines, and deprecated by the cultural establishment. As far as modern philosophers and intellectuals were concerned, it did not exist as a work worthy of serious attention, or exist at all in their minds. It was, and still is, invariably dismissed by critics, leftists, collectivists of every stripe, and most academics as a badly written, unfeeling, hateful, overlong screed posing as a work of literature. Or, it was studiously ignored.

It has taken little over half a century for men to rediscover it and the significance of Rand’s mind and work. Men are gasping, if not in grateful appreciation, then in simple astonishment in the knowledge that she was right. The parallels between the events in the novel and those in the real world have become too obvious for even the novel’s detractors to ignore. They still hurry to denigrate it, but their protests sound peevishly feeble. Hardly a week goes by without Atlas Shrugged being discussed in newspapers, magazines, on the air, or on the Internet. (The latest mention, in the Drudge Report, can be seen here.) The instances are too numerous to cite here. The catalyst for the rediscovery is the current moral and economic crisis for which government actions are only the symptom. What men will do about it remains to be seen.

In an intellectual and philosophic sense, the works of Aristotle acted as a “prime mover” of human culture and civilization. Without them, no Renaissance and Enlightenment would have been possible. Their rediscovery and advocacy by the men of those periods accelerated human progress in terms of a mastery of the physical world, which manifested itself in the Industrial Revolution. But, as Rand herself so succinctly and eloquently observed in her numerous articles and speeches, the Aristotelian influence went only so far, because the skeleton hands of the philosophy of altruism and unreason remained clutched firmly to men’s notion of morality and men did not bother to throw them off. They believed that microwave ovens and cars could coexist with a morality that condemned the ovens and cars, as well as themselves.

Also in an intellectual and philosophic sense, Atlas Shrugged is acting as a “prime mover,” reemerging from behind its curtain of unrecognized existence as something to fear or to reexamine. Men are learning now that the philosophy which made possible their earthly well-being is irreconcilable with its antipode, which makes possible their recurring moral crises. Atlas Shrugged demonstrates that. They are beginning to see that contentment with their pragmatic, unstated “rapprochement” between the opposites can only lead to tyranny, destruction and death, to a condition of existence, as Rand once put it, worse than that of the Dark Ages, for if a partial application to reason fueled the rapid material progress of man, its total absence will cause an even more rapid collapse into anarchic savagery. And reason is what the world’s intellectuals and political leaders are asking men to abandon.

That is what we are beginning to witness now, here in America and abroad.

Atlas Shrugged is about the necessity of a full, unreserved commitment to reason, capitalism and freedom versus a careless, unthinking defaulting to mysticism, “duty,“ slavery and misery. Its theme is the role of the mind in man’s existence. It dramatizes what happens when the rational mind withdraws its power from a society that wishes to both enslave it and kill it. When statist laws and physical force become the “moral” norm in any society, rational minds, which do not take orders or obey edicts, begin to hide, vanish, and go on strike. Just as they did in the Dark Ages. Just as the heroes do in the novel.

In the broadest historic and philosophic sense, the American Revolution was a form of such a strike. As an historic event, it was unprecedented. Its “No, thank you!” was flung in the face of Crown tyranny. Unlike the heroes of Atlas Shrugged, however, the American revolutionaries had to fight a war to win their freedom from that tyranny. Someone has remarked that the novel was America’s second declaration of independence, a completion of the principles present in the first Declaration. That document contains the beginnings of a philosophy which ought to have been explicated, but which was merely implied. Given the enormity of their accomplishment, however, there is neither profit nor point in gainsaying its authors for what they did not do.

For the Founders, because of their circumstances and the means at their disposal, it was necessary to risk the fortunes of a violent separation, which could have ended with defeat and execution in their attempt to dissolve the political bonds which they realized were ensuring their enslavement. In our time, it will become necessary to repudiate and dissolve the bonds of a philosophy which is ensuring our own incremental enslavement. It will require the ratification of a consistent philosophy of reason, one which corrects even Aristotle’s errors. Once that is done, the execrable politics based on a morality of selflessness and sacrifice now robbing us of our own lives, fortunes and sacred honor, will dissolve, as well.

In 1782, replying to James Monroe about calls for Jefferson to abandon plans to retire from public service and return to his personal life, Jefferson wrote:

“In this country…since the present government has been established the point has been settled by uniform, pointed and multiplied precedents, offices of every kind, and given by every power, have been daily and hourly declined and resigned from the Declaration of Independence to this moment….If we are made in some degree for others, yet in a greater are we made for ourselves. It were contrary to feeling and indeed ridiculous to suppose that a man had less right in himself than one of his neighbors or indeed all of them put together. This would be slavery and not that liberty which the Bill of Rights has made inviolable and for the preservation of which our government has been charged. Nothing could so completely divest us of that liberty as the establishment of the opinion that the state has a perpetual right to the services of all its members. This to men of certain ways of thinking would be to annihilate the blessing of existence; to contradict the giver of life who gave it for happiness and not for wretchedness, and certainly to such it were better that they had never been born….”

Had he pursued the thought further, Jefferson might have concluded that neither the state nor society nor “others” had any right or claim to the services of any of its members. Had he done that, and in deference to his incomparable stature as a political thinker and child of the Enlightenment, Jefferson would have attained the heights of Aristotle and his philosophical heir.

One hundred and seventy-five years later, Rand, in Atlas Shrugged, completed that thought:

“I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”

It is as simple as that.

**Jefferson: Writings, New York: The Library of America (1984), “The Limits of Public Duty,” pp. 778-779.

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