The Official Blog Of Edward Cline

Month: January 2013

Rights vs. “Rights”

I
developed a dislike for Franklin D. Roosevelt in high school because he was
oversold by my history teachers. He was portrayed as a kind of canonized
secular saint who had saved the nation and the world from the ghastly phenomena
of the Depression and the Axis. Too young to judge FDR’s political accomplishments,
what inculcated an unshakable suspicion in me was the tone with which FDR was
uncritically presented by the teachers to my history classes. (They were still
called “history” classes back then, not “social science.”) He
could do no wrong, his intentions were unquestionably noble, he had sacrificed
himself for the greater good, and to criticize him was to belabor the picayune
and the arcane and reveal oneself as an ignorant, reactionary lowbrow. So it
was also with JFK and Woodrow Wilson. 

Of
course, my real education began after leaving school and by not going on to college. I learned much,
much more about FDR, JFK and Wilson without the benefit of teachers whose eyes
would shine brightly in adulation when their names were mentioned and who would
brook no disagreement (mostly with a sneering ad hominem), and maintained my status as a reactionary, but highly
knowledgeable lowbrow.

Cass
Sunstein’s eyes also shine brightly when he speaks or writes about FDR and
President Barack Obama. Sunstein, former administrator of the White House
Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (a post he left to return to Harvard
Law School) had an op-ed on the Bloomberg
View on January 28th, “Obama, FDR and the Second Bill of
Rights.” In it he approves of, promulgates, and sells Obama’s alleged
desire to establish that “Second Bill of Rights” while keeping the
“old” Bill of Rights.

George
Orwell noted in his Appendix to Nineteen
Eighty-Four
about the totalitarian take-over of language, in his novel
called “Newspeak,” that a full translation of Jefferson words about
“self-evident truths” from the Declaration of Independence [into
Newspeak] “could only be an ideological translation, whereby Jefferson’s
words would be changed into a panegyric on absolute government.”*

Sunstein’s
article is such a panegyric on absolute government, written not in
indecipherable Newspeak jargon, but in one in which certain terms are dropped
into the text without justification or validation, and intended to allay the
suspicion that a fast one was being pulled on the reader. Sunstein claims that
FDR was not an enemy of capitalism, nor, he claims, is Obama, simply because
Obama mentioned “free enterprise” in his inaugural
address without making a face.

Sunstein
pulls his own Newspeak shell game when he writes:

Drawing on
Thomas Jefferson, Roosevelt insisted that “these economic truths have become
accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of
Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established
for all regardless of station, race or creed.”

It is important
to be clear about what FDR meant. He did not propose to amend the Constitution. He did not think that the Supreme
Court should enforce the Second Bill of Rights. He believed in free markets and
free enterprise; he had no interest in socialism.

What
twaddle! Roosevelt did not believe in free markets. If he had believed in them,
he would not have pushed for all the welfare legislation he did. He would not
have tried to pack the Supreme Court with justices friendly to his economic and
social welfare programs. He would have advocated getting the government out of
the economy, beginning with the abolition of the income tax and the Federal
Reserve System. Roosevelt took the side-door approach to socialism, as
leftist/progressives do today, not calling it that, but instead the
government’s “responsibility” to do something about all the
government-caused and perpetuated problems and crises that existed in his time.
So it is with Obama.

Except
that Obama is a nihilist whose agenda on the surface appears to be fascist or
“national socialist,” but which fundamentally is geared for
destruction for destruction’s sake in the name of “transforming” the
country.

But,
what are rights? Novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand wrote:

A “right” is a
moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social
context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its
consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life….The concept of a
“right” pertains only to action—specifically, to freedom of action. It means
freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.**

Let
us look at and analyze Roosevelt’s schedule of “rights,” a list he
included in his 1944 State of the Union address
and which Sunstein cited as a model on which Obama and Congress might create a
“Second Bill of Rights.” Roosevelt prefaced his address with a
statement which contradicted what followed:

“This
nation in the past two years has become an active partner in the world’s
greatest war against human slavery.
We have joined with like-minded people in order to defend ourselves in a world
that has been gravely threatened with gangster rule.” (Emphasis mine.)

The
right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or
mines of the nation.

Well,
where does this “right” come from? If you, the individual, exist,
then that somehow automatically entitles you to a job. Your mere existence
creates the “right” to someone else’s property, money, or livelihood.
Conversely, owners of industries, shops, farms and mines have a
“duty” to provide you with that job. This is a formula for mutual
slavery, not trade. In the leftist/progressive or cultural Marxist political
agenda, “rights” are not validated on man’s nature as a being of
volitional consciousness who must establish his own values and pursue them
without physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men, and without
resorting to force, but privileges that emanate from society and are doled out
by the state acting for society. Your metaphysical existence is accepted as a
cipher of society, but rejected as a free, independent individual.

The
right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.

Who
is to determine what is “enough” to provide food, clothing and
recreation? A government bureau or agency or department, staffed by individuals
who assume the infallibility of the Pope and the omniscience of a deity? Who is
to determine what is “adequate”? The same bureaucrats and regulatory
“czars.” And if producers refuse to “provide” these things,
what then?

The
right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will
give him and his family a decent living.

Who
is to determine that “rate of return,” and by what measure can
“a decent living” be established? Again, government bureaus and
agencies are the arbiters. Between 1995 and 2011 government farm subsidies ran to $277 billion to
growers of everything from corn to dairy products to tobacco to sunflowers.  

The
right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of
freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad.

An
“atmosphere of freedom,” to Roosevelt and his economic managers and
regulators, meant punishing the successful for putting the unsuccessful out of
business with laws against “unfair” competition. Who defines
“unfair”? Lobbyists for industries and businesses jeopardized by the
successful, who press Congress to save their skins with laws and regulations
that amount to physical compulsion, coercion and interference. “This
business is under-selling its widgets
for $1.50 retail, and I don’t want to think about its wholesale rates! I can
only sell my widgets for $2.50, because of unforeseen conditions and economic
down-turns. This isn’t fair! I have a right to succeed, and this other business
is trying to monopolize the trade! Do
something, and I’ll foot the bill for you for a trip to Bermuda, all expenses
paid.” 

In
a fully capitalist economy, this lobbyist would be out of luck and have to
successfully compete against the other company or fold, and the congressman
would be stymied by a new amendment in the Constitution that would prohibit any
abridgement of trade. In a truly free economy, legally-enforced monopolies are
government-created monopolies, either run by the government or regulated by it.

Remember
General Motors? It, too, was saved from dissolution by government compulsion,
coercion, and interference, chiefly to save its unions’
“entitlements.”

The
right of every family to a decent home.

Shall
I mention the subprime
mortgage melt-town and TARP? The Federal Reserve and Treasury Department and
other government agencies encouraged and often compelled banks and financial
institutions to underwrite everyone’s “right” to a “decent
home.” That house of cards collapsed. When it collapsed, who paid for the
rescues and the lost billions? American taxpayers through direct taxation and
inflation, which is a form of tax, to the tune of billions of dollars.

Who
defines a “decent home”? Any government agency and NGO from the Department
of Health and Human Services to your local community organizing racket and
municipal housing authority.

The
right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good
health
.

This
“right” was achieved incrementally with Medicare and Medicaid programs
and climaxed with Obamacare
(aka The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010). All the alleged
benefits of this compulsory legislation accrue to the compulsorily insured
citizen at the expense of the indentured servitude of doctors, surgeons, and
other medical professionals, many of whom are leaving their careers in protest
to the servitude. In the legislation, the predictable consequences of doctors
abandoning their careers in such a protest, such as a shortage of doctors to
act as “health providers,” there is nothing in it that prohibits the
government from drafting retired doctors (regardless of their ages) into
“service.”  

The
right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness,
accident and unemployment.

This
is Social
 Security
and all disability and
unemployment legislation ever passed by Congress, which costs billions of
dollars and are called, not “rights,” but “entitlements,”
because everyone has been compelled to pay into the system. But the retirees of
today are getting more for their confiscated money than younger, still-working
adults will ever see in the way of their own “entitlements.”
Post-WWII “baby boomers” are the most fortunate recipients of their
“entitlements.” Their sons and daughters will not be so fortunate.
They’ll be expected to pay in more and get less.

The
right to a good education.

What
is a “good education,” and why does anyone have a right to one?
There’s really no answer. The right is picked out of the ethereal realms of
leftist/progressive political philosophy. The Department of Education spends
about $30 billion a year on subsidies,
the “
bulk of that funding goes toward student aid programs,
with the balance going toward grants to educational institutions.” For all
the billions spent on education, from nursery schools on up to graduate
schools, America has been dumbed down and brainwashed and “socially
conditioned” to “serve” society, to “give back.”

Every
Roosevelt-Sunstein “right” cited above is plank in a socialist
program. Every one of them has been legislated for, with the right to
“adequate medical care” represented by Obamacare.

Sunstein
winds up his article with:

Obama’s second
inaugural did not refer explicitly to the Second Bill of Rights, but it had an
unmistakably Rooseveltian flavor. Just after a serious economic crisis, Obama emphasized
“that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people
from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.” Recalling Roosevelt’s central theme,
Obama said that “every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and
dignity.”

I have
news for Mr. Sunstein: There is no dignity in servitude and being chained to
one’s fellow men, and even less security. But, I think he knows that. He
doesn’t need to be told. Sunstein, too, is a practicing nihilist.

A “Second
Bill of Rights” would render the original Bill of Rights redundant and
superfluous. It would be supplanted with a list of state-dispensed privileges. It
should be called instead a “Manifesto of Entitlements for the Hoi Polloi.”

*Appendix,
“The Principles of Newspeak,” Nineteen
Eighty-Four
, by George Orwell. Ed. by Irving Howe. New York: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich. P. 205.

**”Man’s
Rights,” The Virtue of Selfishness.

Gun Control: Lexington Green Arising?

Barack
Hussein Obama was no sooner elected than his propaganda vehicles were loosened
on the nation. In my column, “Obama’s Anti-Absolutism Club” article,
in which I demonstrate just how smitten the Mainstream Media are with Obama, what
I could also have highlighted was the lengths to which the MSM will go in the
way of excuses, covering up his failures and the peril he poses to the nation
as a wannabe tyrant, and just plain forgiving him for his executive trespasses
and crimes (all done in the name of “progress” and “moving
forward”).

It
would have been neatly just to compare the MSM with that instance of brainwashing
and indoctrination in schools, when a class of grade school children was taught
to sing his praises. Remember the scandal that erupted when people learned about
the class chanting,
“Barack Hussein Obama! Um, um, um!” and so on? 

That’s
the MSM. Substitute full-grown adults for the kids and different lyrics and a
journalistic snapping of fingers, and you have the character and substance of
the left/liberal news media. In a nutshell.

The
subject here is how the MSM, Obama, and Congress wish to ban guns – “assault”
weapons, pistols, anything private citizens could own and use to defend their
lives and homes against predators, rapists, murderers, burglars, and even government
agents – in the name of “public safety.” That desire is nearly
synonymous with the policy the British tried to enforce in the 1770’s in the American
colonies. Those who remember their American history will recall that when some
700 British soldiers marched out of Boston in April 1775, their purpose was to
find, seize, or destroy the colonials’ caches of guns
and powder to better ensure that the colonials had no means to resist or
threaten the Crown’s occupation of the city and its environs.

Paul
Revere and others rode out to the towns and hamlets outside Boston to warn them
of the approaching menace. Citizens’ militias quickly assembled to oppose the
soldiers. About sixty of them encountered the army on Lexington Green on April 19th.
A shot was fired – one that was heard “round the world,” and no one
knows from which side it came, and it hardly matters now, because the militia
stood its ground and wasn’t about to disperse on command from the British
officer in charge. The militia opened up, and the British fired four volleys in
return, killing eight of the militia. The outnumbered militia was routed. On their
way back to Boston after failing to find the caches of guns and powder, the
British were mercilessly harried by other militias – composed of farmers, coopers,
tradesmen, blacksmiths, and even freed blacks – leaving behind scores of dead
and wounded on the twenty mile march back to safety.

While
most rebelling colonials owned or used old British muskets from the Seven
Years’ War and French-made muskets,
which the British unsuccessfully tried to ban from importation, the most deadly
weapon in Americans’ hands was the Kentucky or Pennsylvania rifle. Muskets employed
“smooth bore” barrels which did not control the trajectory of the
ball blasted from them. Aiming a musket and hitting a target was a haphazard
affair. This is why both American and British forces (and later the French,
when they entered the fray) would line up in columns against each other and
fire volleys en masse, counting not
on accuracy but on numbers to cause casualties on the opposing side. Too often
a ball leaving the barrel would not fly straight ahead, but alter course left
or right.

However,
the most feared weapon in British hands, from the Americans’ standpoint, was
not the Brown Bess musket,
but the bayonet at close quarters. Most colonial muskets and rifles were not
designed to accommodate bayonets. When the British finally ascended Bunker and Breed’s
Hills after sustaining horrific losses (some 1,500, especially among officers) in
three assaults in June of 1775, most of the American casualties (some 450) were
bayoneted to death.

Rifles,
on the other hand, employed grooved barrels that more accurately directed the
ball at a target. It flew flawlessly in a straight line at a greater range, up
to 500 yards. American snipers using rifles killed or wounded many especially British
officers. Throughout the ensuing war and fight for independence, British military
policy was to immediately execute any captured American using a rifle by
hanging or firing squad.

Rifles,
however, were just as slow-loading as were muskets. The “bullet” had
to be assembled quickly with powder, paper, and ball; pre-packaged cartridges
and rifles that could accommodate them were not in common use until long after
the Revolution. Assembling a bullet took almost as much time as frying a couple
of eggs. The standard time which trained and drilled British soldiers took to
fire and reload was about four shots a minute. Their Prussian allies boasted of
six. Moreover, rifles needed more maintenance and care than did muskets. As
with “guns” – that is, with cannon on land and sea – they needed to
be swabbed and dried before preparing the next shot, because embers would
remain in the grooves or powder pans and cause premature firing. Rifles were
put on equal par with muskets in any close engagement between American and
British forces. Their effectiveness was reserved to snipers or flankers on the
sides of a main army.

Assault
weapons, particularly those with multi-cartridge clips, are the new “rifle”
feared by gun-control advocates, and, of course, by the government. “Assault”
weapons put a civilian on nearly equal terms in the way of fire power. However,
in any engagement between Americans fighting for their liberty and government forces
– local, state, or federal – civilians will still be at a distinct
disadvantage. SUVs and Mercedes cars and even Hummers are no match for armored
vehicles equipped with considerably more fire power, nor will impromptu civilian
militias be a match for trained SWAT teams and the like. But, nonetheless, such
confrontations may still occur. That is the mood of the country.

Sheriffs
and other law enforcement personnel around the country are advising citizens to
refuse to surrender their guns to federal authorities, and even advising them
to purchase them now and learn
how to use them. Other
law enforcement people and state legislators are vowing to oppose any federal
gun controls that may be legislated (or dictated by Obama via “executive
order”) and threatening to arrest any federal official or officer trying
to seize, confiscate, or control private weapons. Their statements are based on
a reverence for the Constitution – particularly the Second Amendment –
completely lacking in the White House, Congress, and the MSM.

Following Oregon
Sheriff Tim Mueller’s lead, three more Sheriffs in parts of Oregon announced
Wednesday in letters to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden that they would refuse to
enforce any federal gun laws that are unconstitutional.

Crook County
Sheriff Jim Hensley local reporters, “I’m going to follow my oath that I took
as Sheriff to support the constitution.” “I believe strongly in the Second
Amendment,” Hensley added, urging “If the federal government comes into Crook
County and wants to take firearms and things away from (citizens), I’m going to
tell them it’s not going that way.”

Meanwhile,
back East,

Minnesota, Pine
County Sheriff Robin Cole wrote an open letter to his residents to inform them
that he does not accept that the federal government supersedes State
authorities when it comes to regulation of firearms. “I do not believe the
federal government or any individual in the federal government has the right to
dictate to the states, counties or municipalities any mandate, regulation or
administrative rule that violates the United States Constitution or its various
amendments.” Cole wrote.

Cole said that
the right to bear arms is “fundamental to our individual freedoms and that
firearms are part of life in our country.”

Even
in liberal New York, gun-owners,
stung by the Journal
News stunt of publishing a map of legal gun-owners,
are vowing never to register or surrender their weapons to the federal government.

Now, in what is
sure to be a growing trend across the entire country, New York gun owners are
organizing a resistance against what many believe to be the most, “brazen
infringement on the right to keep and bear arms anywhere in the nation,”
according to The New American:

Preparations are already being made for mass resistance. “I’ve heard from
hundreds of people that they’re prepared to defy the law, and that number will
be magnified by the thousands, by the tens of thousands, when the registration
deadline comes,’’

said President Brian Olesen with American Shooters Supply, among the biggest
gun dealers in the state, in an interview with the New York Post.

Even government
officials admit that forcing New Yorkers to register their guns will be a tough
sell, and they are apparently aware that massive non-compliance will be the
order of the day. “Many of these
assault-rifle owners aren’t going to register; we realize that,’’ a source in
the Cuomo administration told the Post
, adding that officials
expect “widespread violations” of the new statute.

However,
Senator (“Ma’am”) Dianne Feinstein
is determined that the nation shall bow. She has introduced gun-control legislation
in the Senate that conforms to Obama’s rhetorical emotionalism about guns.

In January, Senator Feinstein will introduce a bill to stop the sale,
transfer, importation and manufacturing of military-style assault weapons and
high-capacity ammunition feeding devices.

Feinstein
misses the point:  Any weapon – revolver,
Colt or Mauser type pistols with ammo clips, hunting rifles, shotguns, and so
on – can be used “military-style” in any conflict between men. The rapidity
and efficiency with which such weapons can be loaded and fired are irrelevant. Reducing
an ammo clip to nine rounds from twenty is futile; more ammo clips would just be needed
to be carried and handy in such engagements. That may or may not work to the
disadvantage of a “new rebel,” and that is also irrelevant.

The
whole thrust of Feinstein’s bill is to further disarm Americans as a first step
to disarming them completely and permanently, so that they would need to resort
to bows and arrows, rocks, and rubber bands. Such a move will be touted as
being for their own good, for the “public good.”

 


Is
America edging closer to another Lexington Green? Time will tell. Americans are
beginning to stand their ground. Will it be a war, or a civil war? If armed
conflict occurs between Americans and their government, where will it begin? And
when? Will such a conflict be premature, timely, or too late? Whatever the scenario,
it would be good to remember Captain John Parker’s
immortal words at Lexington Green, words that were also “heard round the
world”:

 

“Stand your
ground! Don’t fire until fired upon! But if they want to have a war, let it
begin here!”



 

Obama’s Anti-Absolutism Club

The Mainstream Mafia
– excuse me, Media – oblivious to
their own death throes and their glaring irrelevancy in contemporary American political
discourse, continue to fawn over President Barack Obama and his second inaugural
address of January 21st. They behave as though everyone in the
nation were breathlessly glued to CBS, CNN, ABC, NBC, Washington Week, Face the
Nation and PBS’s variety show of round table analytical yak fests. The MSM
erroneously presume that the nation receives their dollops of wisdom from them.
The truth is that even Obama’s supporters and worshippers rely less on what the
MSM have to say and more on Internet news outlets, as well as on Twitter and
Face Book, where they can “inter-react” with each other and play virtual
paddy cake with their Progressive/Marxist idols.

Still, the MSM believe
they set the terms of the discourse. Let’s examine some examples. Keep in mind
that these are all from a left-wing perspective.

Ruth Marcus
of the Washington Post broke out her rosary or worry beads and fretted over how
The One will accomplish all he has set out to do during his second term. Also keep
in mind that, to The One and his titillated throngs of admirers, there are no
such things as “absolutes,”
except the “absolute” of the moment, which must be “seized”
and made an absolute before it fluxes into something distasteful. After scoring
Obama on the “blustery naiveté” of his first inaugural address, she
forgives him.

The battle-scarred
Obama of the second
inaugural address
was simultaneously more realistic and more confident. He
spoke like a man who, in the course of four long years, has developed a far
sharper vision of the role of government: first, “that preserving
our individual freedoms
ultimately requires collective action”; second,
that “our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a
growing many barely make it.”

The Marxist theme
of those assertions may or may not have escaped Marcus. But they are definitely
Marxist, and more and more liberals are admitting it. “This was a speech
that tilted decidedly to the left, far more so than four years ago.” Left,
but not Marxist.

Another aging Washington
Post resident tyro, Harold Meyerson,
crowed that Obama’s majority is now everyone’s majority, even if everyone didn’t
show up on the Mall to “witness history.” He, too, forgives Obama for
his narcissistic and tautologically confusing words in 2008.

But in the
aftermath of Obama’s 2012 reelection and his second
inaugural address
, his 2008 remarks seem less a statement of
self-absorption than one of prophecy. There is an Obama majority in American
politics, symbolized by Monday’s
throng on the Mall
, whose existence is both the consequence of profound
changes to our nation’s composition and values and the cause of changes yet to
come.

The Mall throng was
a bizarre menagerie of groups “from Seneca Falls and Selma and
Stonewall” that represent Obama’s constituency, not the nation’s majority.
Meyerson, too, waits breathlessly for him to cause “changes yet to
come.” Meyerson takes a swipe at Obama’s principled and absolutist
opponents.

Our history,
Obama argued, is one of adapting our ideals to a changing world. His speech
(like recent books
by Michael Lind
and my Post colleague E.J.
Dionne Jr.
) reclaimed U.S. history from the misrepresentations of both
constitutional originalists and libertarian fantasists. “Fidelity to our
founding principles requires new responses to new challenges,” the president
said. “Preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective
action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world
by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or
communism with muskets and militias.”

Well, just throw
out those copies of The Federalist Papers,
The Anti-Federalist Papers, all those
interminable scribblings of Jefferson, Madison, Mason, Henry, and even of
Hamilton. They had their absolutes. We have ours. Besides, they were just a
bunch of privileged white
men with bones to pick with tyranny. Reality changes absolutes. Freedom is
slavery, don’t you know?

In the astrological
readings of Meyerson, individual freedoms are not obliterated by “collective
action” – that is, by organized and channeled mob rule – but somehow
remain in force, somewhere, somehow, but, don’t bother him with
causo-connections. And one supposes that he has never read Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which the
reigning Party rewrote history twenty-four hours a day to counter the
“misrepresentations of both constitutional originalists and libertarian
fantasists.” There are no “absolutes,”
just the “will of the people” who somehow establish absolutes by
picking them out of the thin air with some guidance from the administration and
university professors and the Supreme Court and the ACLU, and then hand them to
Obama, saying, “Here’s your mandate. Where’s my stuff?”

But, beware, Mr.
Meyerson. The nation is in a rotten mood, that is, that part of it fed up with
the fascist populism and mob rule and the arrogance of a man who thinks he’s
God’s or Nature’s gift to the masses. The time will come – and there are bellwether
stirrings among the newly disenfranchised of the middle class, the rich, the
constitutionalists, the originalists, the “libertarian fantasists” –
when men will take up their illegal muskets and semiautomatics and oppose the
mobs and SWAT teams and the OWS
Stoßtruppen. You will call them
“reactionaries” or “flunkies of the old order” or
“running dogs of the offshore wealthy.” They will call themselves
revolutionaries. They will be wearing the tricorns of old and brandishing
banners that proclaim, “Tread on me no longer” and “Disperse, or
die, so we can live free.”

Or, try this
scenario: They will go on strike, à la
Atlas Shrugged.

The New York Times
is timidly lifting its veil and admitting to itself, after all these years,
that Obama is Marxist. Jennifer Schuessler,
in “A Young Publisher Takes Marx Into the Mainstream,” celebrates the
founding of a blatantly Marxist publication, Jacobin. Hailing the founder,
Bhaskar Sunkara, as an example of an unexpurgated activist journalist, she
writes:

…In 2009,
during a medical leave from his sophomore year at George Washington University,
Mr. Sunkara turned to Plan B: creating a magazine dedicated to bringing jargon-free neo-Marxist thinking to the masses.

It’s about time
some brave soul decided to dispense with the dissembling verisimilitude of left/liberal
Aunt Hildegard and her Gray Lady Progressive code-talkers and speak frankly in
Marxist jargon.

The
resulting magazine, Jacobin, whose ninth issue just landed, has certainly been
an improbable hit, buoyed by the radical stirrings of the Occupy movement and a
bitingly satirical but serious-minded style. Since its debut in September 2010
it has attracted nearly 2,000 print and digital subscribers, some 250,000 Web
hits a month, regular name-checks from prominent bloggers, and book deals from
two New York publishers.

But, who are
“the masses”?  The nation’s
unemployed? The food stamp brigade? The battalions of single-parent welfare
recipients?  Is Jacobin destined to
replace The Village Voice and Rolling Stone? Why the curious name,
“Jacobin”? During the French Revolution, the Jacobin Club was a
far-left organization that demanded ideological purity from the central government,
in this case, “pure” democracy. Or, unchecked mob rule. Off with
their heads! That doesn’t refer to the command of Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts,
but to Charles Dickens’ Madame Defarge.

Meanwhile
the magazine was also attracting attention from more established figures on the
left, who saw it as raising fundamental questions that had been off the table
since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Corey Robin, an associate professor of
political science at Brooklyn College who became a contributing editor last
winter, pointed in particular to articles by Mr. Ackerman and Peter Frase,
another early Jacobin recruit, debating the possibility of a post-capitalist
economy involving, among other things, drastically reduced working hours.

“So many
people are not working or already getting wages subsidized by the state — maybe
there’s something already at play that we haven’t paid enough attention to,”
Mr. Robin said.

What Mr. Robin hasn’t
been paying attention to is the creeping statism and increments of fascist
economics, disguised as unadulterated socialism. And, in a
“post-capitalist economy” (and the U.S. has never had a wholly
“capitalist” economy), “drastically reduced working hours”
are for millions translating into no
working hours. But, that’s all right with Robin. It would be ideal for him if
everyone had state-subsidized wages, even if most of them weren’t working at
all. They have a right to security and dignity, you see.

Finally, ABC
is tiptoeing up to the truth. Yes. Obama is a “progressive” and a
“liberal.”
 
After years
of downplaying ideological labels for Barack Obama, ABC has seemingly accepted
the idea that the President is a “progressive” and a
“liberal.” While recapping the inauguration, Good Morning
America’s
journalists used the terms four times in just two minutes and 45
seconds. Yet, when Obama was a Democratic primary candidate in 2007, the
networks deployed the L-word
just twice
– in the entire year.

The dreaded
“L-word” is now acceptable in polite political discourse among, well,
liberals. “Progressive”? All that can mean is to “progress”
forward. The contemptible “C-word,”
conservative, was repeatedly
pronounced with sneers and jutting lower lips, meaning to its speakers to regress, or move backward, that in turn being synonymous with (however erroneously
among conservatives and progressives)
absolutist notions of individual rights, original meanings of the Constitution,
the sanctity of private property, and even gun ownership.

Media Research
Center provided a transcript of some of the unprecedented exchange among George
Stephanopoulos and Jon Karl, as they assured themselves that Obama will kiss
our wounds and make everything all right.

GEORGE
STEPHANOPOULOS: We’re going to turn to President Obama now, and what’s in store
for the second term after yesterday’s inaugural. The speech, a call to action, an uncompromising enunciation of liberal
principles
. The question, now, what can actually get done on those big
issue like gun control, gay rights and climate change? ABC’s Jon Karl has more on that from the White House. And, Jon, liberals
were cheering yesterday. Republicans, not so much.

KARL: With
that, he invited all Americans to celebrate the changing landscape of American
culture.

Obama (video
montage): We have always understood that
when times change, so must we. But preserving our individual freedom ultimately
requires collective action.

KARL: He unapologetically laid out a progressive
agenda, promising action on climate change, equal pay for women and
immigration.

Obama (video
montage): Progress does not compel us to
settle the centuries-long debates about the role of government for all-time.
But it does require us to act in our time.

You see. Absolutes are not for “all time.” Absolutes are the Spam
of politics. They look like meat, feel like meat, even taste like meat. But really
aren’t meat. Or absolutes. They can change. The centuries of bickering are
over. The debate stops now, in
“our time.” It’s settled political science, just as man-caused global
warming is settled science. Obama promises to do something about that, too,
even if it means emulating King Canute and commanding the sun to stop affecting
the weather. Government is the end-all and be-all of all things. It alone can
move men “forward.” It alone can “Organize for
America.”

So says the Club of the Mainstream Mafia. Those of you who don’t wish to be
“organized” or to move “forward,” please leave the room. Outside,
give the nice TSA man your shoe size, be prepared to be measured for your
concrete boots.

Obama’s Second Declaration of War on America

Sitting down to
parse President Barack Obama’s second inaugural
address of January 21st, one’s eyes begin to glaze over while
scanning the transcript of the speech. There again are the same old platitudes,
bromides, and catch phrases and secret coded messages. There again is the
sanctimonious delivery of a person who wants to be remembered for something,
because otherwise he is a zero who can only recite a speech someone else wrote
and polished and ensured that no gaffes or unintended meanings were in the
text. But he read the speech, he vetted it and approved of it, and he delivered
it, so, it’s his speech. He owns it, for better or for worse. And the
unrelenting theme is worse.

Worse for the
country, because he means to “transform” it. Which, to anyone who
values freedom and governing his own destiny, means to damage it, perhaps irreparably.

Without Secret
Service tut-tuts, you really want the chance, instead of laboriously construing
the content of his inaugural spiel, to slap the man silly and hard across that
smug, arrogant phiz of his for uttering words like “liberty,” and
“free markets,” and “We hold these truths to be
self-evident…” and other words and phrases that occur in the speech. Why? Because
the words mean nothing but trouble to him. They meant nothing to the
speechwriter. He is an enemy of those words. He is a power-luster. Liberty,
free markets, freedom, and self-evident truths are his nemesis. He worked hard
in his first term to denigrate and diminish them. He will work harder in his
second term to eradicate them altogether.

He as much as said
so.  “I’m here, and I’m going to do
as I please – ‘transform’ the nation from a mixed economy/welfare state – which
was bad enough (chuckle, chuckle) – into a full-scale Progressive/Socialist
utopia, and what’re you gonna do about it?” Boil away all the rhetoric,
and that’s thug talk. That’s Chicago talk, the Rahm Emanuel gangster persona and approach to politics that never
left the White House when the master of expletives and crisis-exploiter
departed to return to his old stomping grounds.

In Congress, there
is no one to oppose him. The Republicans may as well charter themselves as a
dues-paying affiliate of the Democratic Party. The appellation
“republican” for these compromisers and appeasers is undeserved and
obscene. The Republican Party has, for just about a century now, behaved like a
Chihuahua riding on the back of a Doberman. It goes wherever the Doberman goes,
and yaps when the Doberman barks, and dares not jump off, because the Doberman
will have it for lunch.

The Republicans,
after all, helped to midwife the birth of the Progressives and the inauguration
of socialism in the nation and of its economy in 1912,
by Teddy Roosevelt’s split with William Howard Taft  over Taft’s using the Sherman Anti-Trust Act
to break up U.S. Steel, a pet of Roosevelt’s. The conflict between the
conservative and Progressive Republicans handed Woodrow Wilson, a committed
advocate of nascent fascism, the election of 1912. Virtually everything on the
Republican Progressive platform – such as an income tax, the direct election
of Senators, an inheritance tax, and so on – comported easily with the official
Democratic Progressive agenda. That’s bipartisanship with a capital B.

Having the
Republicans and the conservatives for lunch is what is explicitly advocated by John
Dickerson,
political director of CBS News, in his battle plan that would allow Obama to
consolidate his autocratic powers.

“The president who came into
office speaking in lofty terms about bipartisanship and cooperation can only
cement his legacy if he destroys the GOP. If he wants to transform American politics,
he must go for the throat.”

In explaining how Obama
can divide and conquer the Republicans by abandoning attempts at bipartisanship,
Dickerson
advises:

Obama’s only
remaining option is to pulverize. Whether he succeeds in passing legislation or
not, given his ambitions, his goal should be to delegitimize his opponents.
Through a series of clarifying fights over controversial issues, he can force
Republicans to either side with their coalition’s most extreme elements or
cause a rift in the party that will leave it, at least temporarily, in
disarray.

The “extremists,”
Dickerson suggests, should be so demonized that the Republicans will disavow
any connection with them. Obama, he writes, has an opportunity “to hasten
the demise of the old order by increasing the political cost of having the GOP coalition
defined by Second Amendment absolutists, climate science deniers, supporters of
‘self-deportation’ [of illegal immigrants], and the pure no-tax wing.”

Obama’s inaugural
agenda has that precisely in mind, and more. Dickerson needn’t hold his breath.
Conservative talk show host Mark Levin
agrees with Dickerson’s assessment of the state of the “Grand Old
Party” and its inability to block the Obama agenda:

How to fight
that agenda? Levin said the answer certainly doesn’t lie in the current
Republican Party leadership. “I think the Republican Party, its apparatus, its
so-called leadership, the parasitic consultants, represent an institution that
is tired, old, almost decrepit, full of cowardice and vision-less. It has
abandoned the Declaration of Independence and any serious defense of
constitutional republicanism. The Democrat Party is now a radical 1960s party;
it’s the anti-Constitution, anti-capitalism, anti-individual party. It largely
controls the federal government, including the massive bureaucracy and much of
the judiciary — what I call the permanent branches of the federal government.
The Democrat Party represents the federal government, and the federal government
expands the power of the Democrat Party.

And, to paraphrase
that comic line from Monty Python’s The
Life of Brian
(“What have the Romans ever done for us?”), what
have the Republicans ever done for us? Levin nails it:
On the other
hand, the GOP today stands for capitulation, timidity, delusion — so mostly
nothing. Republicans may speak of the Constitution, limited government, low
taxes, etc., but what have they done about them? Next to nothing if not
nothing. Even when Bush 43 was president and the Republicans controlled
Congress. What did they do? They went on a spending binge. They expanded
Medicare, the federal role in local education, drove up the debt, etc.
Meanwhile, we are lectured by putative Republicans like Colin Powell,
Condoleezza Rice, Tom Ridge, and a conga line of others trashing often
viciously NOT Obama and what the Democrats are doing to our nation, but
conservatives, constitutionalists, and tea party activists who are the only
people left standing for liberty against tyranny in this country.”

And why did the
Republicans go on spending binges and expand the role and scope of government? Because
they are morally and politically bankrupt. That was evident in 1912. They have
been too obsessed with measuring up to the Democrats’ and Progressives’ notions
of an ideal moral polity – which is collectivist, socialist, and ultimately
fascist. But this would be news to the Republicans. When the Democrats bark,
most Republicans yap in concurrence. Levin also nails Obama and his ideological
origins and commitments:

I think
Obama sees himself as correcting historic wrongs in this country, as delivering
the fruits of the labor of other people to people who he believes have
historically been put upon. I think there’s a lot of perverse thinking that
goes on in his mind, radical left-wing thinking. He was indoctrinated with Marx
and Alinksy [sic] propaganda. You not
only see it in his agenda but in his words — class warfare; degrading
successful people unless, of course, they help finance his elections, causes,
and organizations; pretending to speak for the so-called middle class when, in
fact, he is destroying their jobs, savings, and future. Obama’s war on our
society is intended to be an onslaught in which the system is overwhelmed.”

I can think of a
number of historical figures who saw themselves as “correcting historical
wrongs”: Mussolini, Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Hugo Chavez,
the Perons. And I think I can count on the fingers of one hand who have had the
temerity to compare Obama with any one of them. Levin, perceptive as he is, is
not of that number. It takes a species of honesty to make that comparison. I have
heard no Republican or conservative courageous enough to make it.

Jerome Corsi of the
Tea
 Party
reveals that the
“executive orders” concerning guns was just a lot of official puffery,
being little more than toothless presidential “proclamations.”

What Obama signed were 23
presidential memoranda and proclamations that have no binding effect of law
whatsoever.

But Congress is
sure to help him making them lawfully binding in some form. No is not an operative verb in its
lexicon. Maybe is. So, on to a little
parsing of Obama’s inaugural address. There is a wealth of assertions and
statements that one can highlight. While not focusing how many times Obama said
we (61 times) and together (seven) – he had to make sure
that his audience identifies with his aims and that they will “share”
the struggle with him – let’s analyze a few, beginning with:

But we have always understood
that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles
requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual
freedoms ultimately requires collective action.

Meaning? Those “founding
principles” no longer apply in the modern world. Reality is in flux and we
must adapt to its new requisites. “New responses” are called for, such
as abandoning those principles in favor of “collective action.” Which
means surrendering one’s freedom as individuals for the sweaty warmth of the
populist mob. It’s just like squeezing into a packed subway car during rush
hour. We’re all going in the same direction, and have a right to be in that
subway car.  Fidelity to principles must
be replaced with loyalty to the state. To the leader. To the Führer.

My fellow Americans, we are made
for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together.

Yes,
“seize” it before it disappears again. “We are made for this
moment” because we are all shapeless, malleable, interchangeable hunks of
protoplasm, with no special claims on life. And if we “seize it together,”
that will make things all right.

For we, the people, understand
that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing
many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the
broad shoulders of a rising middle class.

Here’s his
watered-down Marxism, omitting to mention that anyone connected with government
contracts and lobbying and special interests comprise the new “shrinking
few,” except that the shrinkage is actually the unchecked growth of an oligarchy
of a federal elite, in and out of government. Fox
News reports on the locus of class:

The American Community Survey released last Thursday found seven of the
nation’s top 10 wealthiest counties now surround Washington, D.C. They include
Loudoun County, Va., ranked No. 1, with a median household income over $119,000
dollars a year. Fairfax County, Va., was second with $105,000 and Arlington
County, Va., third with just over $100,000 a year in median household income.

That “rising
middle class” is chiefly a class of unproductive parasites of almost
limitless description, from Congressional interns and staffers to Congressmen
and Senators and lawyers and lobbyists and their staffers and thousands of
organizations that have the ear of the power dispensers. I’ve left out the
brigades of White House staffers and their sumptuous salaries and perks, as
well as those of the Cabinet.

We understand that outworn
programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and
technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools,
and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more,
and reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a
nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That
is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.

And Obama’s creed
is to “move forward,” shoulder to shoulder, in lockstep, and he will
reward us with higher taxes, more money for indoctrination camps otherwise
known as “our schools,” and special programs to enable “our
citizens” to work harder and know more so they can become toiling tax
cows. The “moment” requires that everyone surrender his individuality
and become the one of the many, the Seven of Nine, the Sixteen of Two Million,
and a loyal cipher unable to breathe free.

We, the people, still believe
that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must
make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our
deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for
the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that
will build its future.

That “basic
measure of security and dignity” means the welfare state, government-guaranteed
golden parachutes, and the dodgy trampolines of safety nets. As for the
“generation that will build” the future? It’s already saddled with a
debt that can never, ever be paid off – “fiscal cliff” or no fiscal
cliff – yet the government expects everyone to be happy and to whistle while
they work in a state of indentured servitude. Let’s see, the $700,000 share of
the national debt has been assigned to five-year-olds, but that figure won’t remain
static, it will grow. Their generation – should it survive – will be asked to
make more sacrifices. As for working, productive adults today – they’re screwed
already, so there’s no need to make any appeals to them. The next time a doorbell rings, it’s the government
calling on your kids.

They’ll be in it
“together,” you see. All for the common good. Forward!March!

Barack Obama: Our Orc-in-Chief

Daniel Greenfield, in his January 20th Sultan Knish column, observed that “Obama is truly fake. He is authentically unreal. There is absolutely nothing to him. If you take away all the work that was done to make him famous, there would be nothing there. And that is exactly why he is the perfect avatar for the media age.”

How true. Of course, a man who is nothing but who seeks to be something by pursuing political power is, root and branch, a nihilist. And that is what Obama is, at core. Down deep, he knows he is nothing. But in the eyes of his worshipping electorate, he is something. He is a leader. A Messiah. A Führer. The Thirteenth Imam. The Mahdi. The Prophet. The savior of the ages, the man on horseback who comes to save a nation from itself. Because he is nothing, he must work miracles, and turn gold into lead. He must prove that he is something.

His identity depends on pulling the wool over his electorate’s heads. He is what he imagines himself to be, which is an illusion. As Greenfield notes, remove the illusion, switch off the hologram, strip away the prancing king’s clothes, and there is nothing there. The garb seemed to hang in mid-air, held there by invisible strings. Everyone who doubts Obama’s “goodness” and values the truth, has Superman’s X-ray vision. They can see that there’s nothing there. Obama back in 2008 promised the nation “transparency.” It’s the only promise he kept – for those who choose to take a good, hard look at the nothingness that is there for all to see.

Except that his admiring electorate, egged on and abetted by the MSM, has no X-ray vision. They see what they see, which is nothing garbed in imaginary vestments of sanctimony and the self-righteous. Truth is their enemy, their nemesis. Truth is what they wish it to be. So they wish very hard – call it praying, or banging one’s head against a brick wall, or bowing to the Mecca of statism three times a day – and the unreal becomes the truth.

It is the inherent, ineluctable nature of a state of zero in a person that a man who is lacking in character and values must be a destroyer. He becomes something when he is able to demonstrate his capacity for destruction. He must act to sustain the illusion. Destruction is his own proof of power.

He is the secular version of Christ. With a modicum of showmanship, with much assistance from an adoring MSM, he performs “miracles,” and turns loaves into fishes, and fishes back into loaves, and water into wine, and wine into Jim Jones’s brand of Kool-Aid, and pig pen muck into French pastries. It’s all as bogus as a TV reality show, as Greenfield notes.

But, because he can’t create anything – to be able to create something, a person must have a measure of what is the good, and Obama is a vacuum, a hollow man with no conception of any life-affirming good – he can only destroy. And when he destroys, to his minions, it passes as proof of his goodness and efficacy. They get free cell phones and Obamacare and bailed-out companies that fail anyway and solicitude and assurances that they have a right to destroy what they never really built but which he assures them they helped to build, anyway.

And that is the leitmotif of Barack Obama, America’s first truly nihilist president. Bad as they were, he makes Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton look like hired clown magicians at a children’s birthday party, faking finding quarters behind children’s ears and making funny creatures from squeaky, multi-colored balloons. Only Obama’s quarters are counterfeit ones that are the government’s multi-trillion dollar debt pulled from Americans’ wallets and savings accounts, and the squeaky balloons are his back-firing foreign policies.

What most people can’t grasp is that the debt is deliberately impossible to erase or correct, and that the back-firing policies are going according to plan. They are meant to back-fire.

How else to explain Obama’s Mideast policies, which loose countless Tolkien-like Islamic Orcs on that region and on the world? Al Qada, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Boko Haram, Hezbollah, the Taliban – all the Islamic jihad groups – they are real-world counterparts of Tolkien’s subhuman, flesh-eating brutes, eager to slaughter the good because they are the good. They are slobbering, drooling beasts that are but gross, unsightly clones of Barack Obama’s true soul or character, ready to kill for the sake of killing, ready to rip men and women apart and roast their limbs over fires of kindled with the remnants of freedom of speech and the right to property and gun ownership.

Obama is a nihilist at work. He knows what he is doing. As he pretends to saw a woman in half, his believers chuckle and think it’s just a trick, and isn’t he such a masterful illusionist? What entertainment! But the red spewing from the box isn’t Teresa Heinz-Kerry’s ketchup, it’s real blood, and the screaming victim is but a proxy for everyone in the adulatory audience. They all presume that the woman in the box will go home after the show, coddle her kiddies, and watch “Nature” on PBS while spooning Yoplait and munching on Granola bars.

When the audience gets home and checks its bank accounts and payroll stubs and insurance premiums and tries to devise a personal budget that is in mortal conflict and in a losing race with a limitless federal budget, it represses its screams and consoles itself that it’s all for the good. Out of destruction comes construction, isn’t that the way things are done? The country is being remade, “reframed.”

But, what is being “constructed,” what are the constituents of the remaking, in what square is the country being “reframed”? Obama’s audience doesn’t want to know. It prefers fairy tales and illusions. It prefers pretty Technicolor pictures of a City on the Hill, with people dancing on cobblestone streets inlaid with gold, and choruses of flowers singing at their passing, and buildings and houses swaying in rhythm under a cloudless sky, and everyone guaranteed a chicken in every pot and an environment-friendly hybrid car in every garage.

Greenfield calls the fakery a “consensual illusion.” That, also, is true, and it takes a willingness by both parties, the One at the Podium, and the ones in the audience, to sustain the illusion. It requires a habitual, subconscious, but still volitional desire to “blank out,” to evade the knowledge, the truth, and the reality of things. Or it takes a criminal ignorance, which is much the same thing.

The dish-rattling rumble you hear are the hordes of Orcs coming for you and your life. They are advancing from several directions: from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, from Capitol Hill, from the Justice Department, from the Supreme Court, and from their auxiliaries, the EPA, and the AFT, the TSA, and the DEA, the HHS, and other phalanxes of statism.

My Life in Words

Contributing Editor Edward Cline was interviewed by
Family Security Matters about his life, writing career, and goals. He is first and foremost a
novelist, but over the years has written hundreds of book and movie reviews,
political and cultural columns, and papers for a variety of print and weblog
publications. Born in Pittsburgh in 1946, when he graduated from high school,
he went directly into the Air Force because he was going to be drafted. After
leaving the Air Force, he lived and worked around the country, educating
himself (he learned very little in high school) and honing his writing skills.
Currently, he lives in Williamsburg, Virginia.

FSM:  You say you are first and foremost a
novelist. But, what prompted you to write so much nonfiction? You’ve had
hundreds of articles, reviews, and essays published, much of it appearing on Family
Security Matters
.

Cline:  While writing the novels, those were
occasional projects I pursued when I had the spare time and energy, and when I
was invited to submit articles. I’ve written pieces for the Encyclopedia of Library and Information
Science
, McGraw-Hill’s Western
Civilization
, the Journal of Information Ethics, Reason Magazine, The
Social Critic, The Intellectual Activist, The Wall Street Journal, Marine Corps
League, The Library Journal, The Journal of Colonial Williamsburg, and The
Armchair Detective, among other publications. Over the last few years I’ve
contributed to Rule of Reason, Capitalism Magazine, and, of course,
Family Security Matters. Often my pieces are picked up by other weblogs, from
here to Israel and India. Since finishing the Sparrowhawk
series, I’ve had time and energy on my hands. It’s got to be spent somehow,
somewhere, productively. I can’t sit still when there are so many issues to
address.

FSM:  Why do you think it’s necessary to address
those issues?

Cline:  Because I think I can bring a measure of
reason to them. And because it’s in the way of catharsis, of letting off steam.
If I didn’t write about them, I’d blow up. I don’t want to be confined in a
state-run rubber room wearing a straightjacket.

FSM:  You’ve published a collection of your columns.

Cline:  I’ve published three collections: Broadsides
in the War of Ideas
, Running
Out My Guns
, and Corsairs
and Freebooters
. They’re print books as well being on Kindle. They
contain articles and essays on politics, Obama’s rise to stardom (stage-managed
by George Soros), Islam and the threat it poses to the West, the Federalization
of language (i.e., politically correct speech) and various cultural topics,
such as the wholly bogus depictions of Mozart and Salieri in Amadeus. I’m thinking of compiling a
fourth collection, tentatively called Boarding
Parties
.

FSM:  How long have you been writing novels? Or, for that matter, how
long have you been writing anything?

Cline:  I wrote two clunkers before finishing my
first polished novel, Whisper the Guns.
I don’t even have the manuscripts of the first two novels – I disposed of my
copies ages ago, I didn’t want them around – although incredibly, I found an
agent who represented them, a fellow by the name of Oscar Collier (he died in
1998). Those clunkers were my first efforts. One, In the Land of the Pharaohs, was set in a future American
dictatorship, and was about a police detective who’s assigned to help a Federal
agent find the gang that robbed the Federal Reserve Bank of its gold bullion.
The second was a suspense novel about an American businessman, Merritt Fury,
rescuing a woman kidnapped by the Polish Communists. He breaks into the Polish
Consulate and causes a lot of mayhem. I can’t now recall its title or even how
it ended.

Mr. Collier couldn’t
find publishers for the clunkers, however. Whisper
was eventually published in 1992 by The Atlantean Press, a small publisher
based in California. It was about to publish the second in that series, We Three Kings, when it went under. It
had republished two of Victor Hugo’s novels, Toilers of the Sea, and The
Man Who Laughs
. I wrote the introduction to The Man Who Laughs. Whisper,
of course, went out of print. The Atlantean Press editions of those novels
aren’t even listed on Amazon Books.  I
find copies of Whisper now going for
$150 or more from bookstores connected with Amazon Books. I finally republished
Whisper on Kindle two years ago and
recently as a print book, and later We
Three Kings.
The third and last
in that series, Run
From Judgment
, sees Fury being targeted for assassination by some
unknown person. He winds up marrying a British portrait painter and inheriting
a financial weekly much like Barron’s, the U.S.’s leading financial weekly.

FSM:  Isn’t We
Three Kings
about Arabs?

Cline:  Yes. I finished that novel in 1980. Readers have
said it was pretty prescient, because in 1980 the Saudis weren’t much in the
news. I wouldn’t call it “prescient.” As a culture watcher, I’d made
a habit to observe fundamental trends, and our obvious, obscene, and obsequious
behavior to the Sauds was hard to ignore.

 The story? This Saudi
sheik has bought up all these rare gold coins to use in a museum in Riyadh. The
last one is owned by an American, who won’t sell it, and the sheik sics his
nephew on him to terrorize him into surrendering it. Fury rescues the man
during this mugging, killing the nephew during the fight. The man, Crenshaw,
gives the coin to Fury in the way of appreciation. Then he’s murdered. The
sheik, who’s also something or other at the U.N., is given carte blanche to
deal with Fury as he pleases by the State Department. In the meantime, a
homicide detective, Wade Lambert, works to prove that Fury murdered the nephew.
He winds up siding with Fury and is suspended from the police force and goes
into hiding before he’s kidnapped by the sheik. There are more murders, and no
plot spoilers here. Fury triumphs in the end.

FSM:  What were you doing in the meantime, while
writing all these novels?

Cline:  Making a living. I held numerous jobs on Wall
Street, in insurance, banking, for Icelandic Airlines, and so on, working
chiefly as a teletype agent for all these firms. I also worked as a reader for
a few publishers. My work life enabled me to pursue my life work, my novels.
The only break in that period I had was when I moved to East Lansing, Michigan,
and Michigan State University, to research my first detective novel, With
Distinction
. Wade Lambert was the progenitor of Chess Hanrahan, a
detective who solves what I call “moral paradoxes.” With Distinction is set in the
philosophy department of a fictive university. A philosophy professor is
murdered, and Chess can’t believe that anyone would want to murder such a
person. As he investigates, he learns why. In that novel he’s the chief of
police of this university town. Then in First
Prize
, the second in the series, I move him to New York as a private
detective. In this one he solves the murder of a prize-winning novelist. The
third in that series, Presence
of Mind
, pits him against the denizens of diplomacy.  The fourth and last in that series, Honors
Due
, has him playing cat-and-mouse with some Hollywood types over the
murder of a scholar.

First Prize was originally
published by the Mysterious Press/Warner Books in 1988. Otto Penzler, the
publisher, was the power behind that break and published it against the wishes
of his editors. At the time, it was represented by George Ziegler, whom I
called the last “gentleman” agent in the business. It was even
reviewed in The New York Times.  It was
in print for years before lapsing. First editions of it are now going for some
pretty outlandish prices. Perfect Crime
Books
has now published the whole Hanrahan series.

FSM:  What was it like, dealing with publishers,
trying to interest them in your books?

Cline:  Publishing seems to have always been in a
state of flux, completely rudderless in terms of literature and literary
standards, although it usually followed intellectual trends, such as the French
deconstructionists or the New School Progressives or the Postmodern Realists
and Surrealists. One really couldn’t decide who was running the “literary”
show: critics such as Stanley Fish (a postmodernist Marxist) and Edmond Wilson
(a leftist) and Granville Hicks (a leftist), or publishers such as Bennett Cerf
(of Random House) and George Delacorte, or editors and teachers such as Hiram
Haydn.  Compounding the confusion have
been successive generations of aspiring writers and editors expectorated from
university humanities courses, whose literary senses have been stripped of all
standards and value and whose only ambition was to make names for themselves as
arbiters of literature and culture. I remember that when I was a reader for a
few publishing houses, invariably the trash I called trash in my reports was
published, and the books I thought had promise or showed a glimmer of
intelligence, were consigned to the slush piles. I lasted a year in that
racket.

FSM: Were you still working
in New York?

Cline:  No. By the time First Prize was published, I had moved to Palo Alto, California. I
had accepted a job offer there with a free market think tank, the Institute for
Humane Studies. I finished the rest of the Hanrahan novels there, on an IBM
Selectric typewriter, which I still have. When IHS moved to George Mason
University a year later, I elected to stay on in Palo Alto, where I made my
living working for various Silicon Valley software firms and other companies.
While at IHS some of my nonfiction writing was published and even syndicated in
various newspapers. I even wrote four book reviews for The Wall Street Journal.

FSM: There’s a third
detective series of yours, isn’t there?

Cline:  Yes. This one is set in San Francisco in 1928
and 1929, and features Cyrus Skeen, a wealthy private eye who uses his cases to
collect material for his short stories, which he writes under a pen name. Its
genesis is peculiar. I was invited by Western Michigan University Press to
write an article for an anthology of articles about detective and crime
fiction. I wrote the piece, called “The Wizards of Disambiguation,”
which burst the balloons of various left-wing literary critics who alleged that
Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon
was a kind of proletarian novel. In the piece I prove that, while Hammett had
Red sympathies, his hero, Sam Spade, wasn’t some kind of signifying avatar of
communist ideology and that all the Frankfurt School-inspired
“deconstructive” interpretations of the novel were just so much
hooey. The piece wasn’t accepted. It turned out, I learned later on, that all
the other essays in that anthology were written by left-wing critics. But the
exercise led me to write an answer to The
Maltese Falcon
, set in the same week and year as Hammett’s story, which was
originally serialized in Black Mask Magazine in 1928.  Thus was born China
Basin
, which I finished in 1990. Skeen is asked by a French countess
and retired British officer to find Thomas Becket’s chalice, stolen from them
by a psychotic and very elusive killer. It’s also an audio book, as are First Prize and Whisper the Guns.

FSM:  And after that?

Cline:  I had so much fun writing China
Basin
that I decided to continue the series. I felt that I could no longer
set a detective story in my own time, what with political correctness gaining
strength and the politics becoming more and more statist. Publishers were
becoming leery of anything that went against political trends, not that any of
them gave me a second look. Also, trying to force my heroes work within all the
federal regulations and stifling laws brought me no joy or satisfaction. So I
decided to set the next novels in a time when the hero had more freedom of
thought and action. I finished The
Head of Athena
in 1992. In it, Skeen agrees to try to exonerate an
atheist lecturer of the charge of murdering his ex-wife. Next came The Daedâlus
Conspiracy
in 2011, and lastly, The
Chameleon
, in 2012. Skeen takes on some very unusual cases in the last
two, and his politics also become more evident. All are now published by the
Patrick Henry Press as print books and are on Kindle.

FSM:  Why is there such a big time gap between The Head of Athena and The Daedâlus Conspiracy? It’s nearly
twenty years!

Cline:  For a long while I had been taking notes for
a historical novel set in the pre-Revolutionary period. That period, I had
decided, had not been justly or fairly represented in American fiction. I
decided to do something about it. I wanted to dramatize why the Revolution
happened, and not write just another costume period novel. The election of Bill
Clinton in 1992 caused me to think: If I’m ever going to write this novel, I
had better start on it now, because politically and culturally, things can only
get worse and I may not have a chance or even the freedom to write it. So, in
1993, I packed up my bags and moved to Williamsburg, Virginia, to begin
researching and writing the series, Sparrowhawk.
I finished it in 2005. It turned out to be six titles, plus a Companion to the series, published in
2007. The first title appeared in 2001. The series was published by
MacAdam/Cage of San Francisco.

FSM:  How did that come about? 

Cline:  To paraphrase Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (who was paraphrasing
Prospero in The Tempest), it was the
stuff that dreams are made of. In 2000 I had moved temporarily to Las Vegas to
take a breather from working on the novel, which I had worked on steadily while
working full time. I had sent out queries to publishers and agents about their
interest in Sparrowhawk. No interest.
I was in the middle of the fourth title of the series. I was feeling pretty
despondent. I got a note from my retired agent, George Ziegler, suggesting I
query MacAdam/Cage, a new publisher that that was looking for “quality
fiction.” I had heard that line before – I didn’t think much of the
“quality fiction” I saw was being published – but sent a query to the
firm. They expressed interest. I submitted the first of the series. Before I
knew it, I had a contract for the first four titles and a promised contract for
the rest of the series. Book One: Jack
Frake
came out in 2001, the other titles consecutively up to 2007, as well
as the trade soft covers.

FSM:  So, it was smooth sailing from that point on?

Cline:  No, it was rough seas and an un-prosperous
voyage. My relationship with MacAdam/Cage blew hot and cold. They did a very
nice job in designing and packaging the series, but did next to diddly to
market it. If it sold, it sold on its own merits. It was a series that the
reading public had to discover itself. Which it has, but with no help from the
publisher. They did not know how to sell it. In addition, one of their readers
thought that the hero of Book One,
Jack Frake, was unbelievable, and thought he could be made more credible if I
gave him an Oedipus complex or something. I said no deal, and if that meant no
contract, that was fine with me. They gave in and never made another editorial
suggestion.

The series became a
revenue generating mainstay for the publisher. Then, shortly after the Companion came out, I stopped getting
royalties. To make a long story short, I got no satisfaction from the
publisher, and had to threaten legal action to get paid what was coming to me.
This tug of war lasted some four years. The publisher’s appetite was bigger
than its ability to publish big time. It was buying some very trendy books and
going into bidding wars against far bigger publishers, such as Random House and
Harper/Collins, and paying writers fabulous advances. Their books did not sell.
The publisher began suffering significant losses.

As well as my series was
doing, it couldn’t carry the whole firm. 
Behind all its backlist authors’ backs, it sold the electronic or e-book
rights of the whole backlist to a British publisher to keep afloat. I didn’t
learn about that until I put up the series myself on Kindle, with cleaned up
texts, and was told that I was in violation of contract. So, down they came.
I’ve patched things up with MacAdam since then – the relationship since then
has been tepid at best – but now the publisher is negotiating the sale of the
firm to some other outfit, and the future of Sparrowhawk is in question. For all I know – because the publisher
won’t answer my queries, which does not bode well for the future – it’s a done
deal. Publishers Weekly is looking into it.

FSM:  What a rollercoaster ride!

Cline:  You can say that again. Sparrowhawk represents a big chunk of my life. I had to fight for
it. I may still need to fight for it.

FSM: What were your first published writings?

Cline: Aside from a handful of letters to the editor, my first
“professional” writings were fillers for Barron’s National and
Financial Weekly, now just known as Barron’s. I rewrote corporate press
releases into bland short items, with no byline. They were intended to fill
blank spaces that followed a regular column or news item.

FSM: How did you get that job?

 Cline: I had just moved to New
York City from California, and had worked for a few stock brokerages. I was in
between jobs and on an impulse went into the Dow Jones building on Broad Street
to see if the Wall Street Journal was hiring. The personnel department (not the
“human resources” department) referred me to Barron’s. They were
looking for a “go-for.” So, with some excitement, I went up upstairs
and was interviewed by Robert Bleiberg, the editor-in-chief, and began the next
day. I loved Bleiberg’s editorials. They were consistently pro-freedom and
harshly anti-government. I was hired as the paper’s librarian, but soon was
asked to write fillers, and then was sent out to cover press conferences and
performed other minor editorial tasks. No bylines, however.

FSM:  What other tasks?

Cline:  Oh, proofing the writers’ copy, running
errands between Barron’s and the Journal, even going for writers’ lunches. I
completely reorganized the paper’s library. It was a mess. The writer at the
desk in back of me was an elderly gentleman, either German or Austrian. I had
long discussions with him about economics and political economy. He introduced
me to Hayek and von Mises.

FSM:  Why did you leave Barron’s?

Cline:  The assistant editor didn’t like me, and I
didn’t like him. When Bleiberg was away on vacation, this editor managed to
make it impossible for me to remain there, so I quit. It was so long ago, I
can’t recall the circumstances now.

FSM:  What then?

Cline:  While at Barron’s, I volunteered to work for
Nixon Campaign Headquarters on Park Avenue. I worked as a news reviewer. I
watched the television evening news and wrote up reports on whether or not the
coverage was pro- or anti-Nixon or pro- or anti-Humphrey. This was in 1968.
When Nixon won, he had to leave the law firm he was a partner with, and I got
to go next door to the Dow Jones building to wait with hundreds of other
well-wishers in the lobby for him to come down from the law offices. I got to
shake his hand. I’m still wiping the grease from it. Later, when he imposed
wage and price controls, I swore I’d never work for another politician. And I never
did.

FSM:  Well, enough about your writing career. What
about you? Ever married?

Cline:  Never married. Had a few disastrous romances.
Not much of a social life, because I’ve had little time for one. But, allow me
to correct you. My career is my life. Anything outside of it is not the stuff that dreams are made of. I
wouldn’t presume to bore people with it.

FSM:  Thank you, Mr. Cline.

Who Framed the Second Amendment?

“If
there’s even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try,” said
President Barack
Obama.

In
the fantasy world of Left/Liberalism,
in which the vacuity of preventive, positivist law reigns and is unquestioned
and adopted as policy, countless lives will have been “saved” with
gun bans, smoking bans, big soft drink bans, msg-bans, transfat bans, medical insuranceless
bans
(Obamacare), lead gas bans, “dirty” energy bans, pollution
bans, drug bans, asbestos bans, greenhouse gas bans, Islamophobic speech bans, hate
speech bans, and so on.  But how, then,
is it proven that even one life has been “saved”?  Will the Left/Liberals be able to trot out the
single life that has been saved? Will that single individual become the poster
child of tyranny?

Let’s
up the ante, and move on to “countless” lives saved. Where are the
graphs, the pie charts, the statistics to come from? Is there a kind of
gigantic federal database that collects, analyzes, correlates and decollates “non-events”
to prove the efficacy of bans? Oh, they can be produced, but will they be as credible
as, say, the numbers produced by the wizards of University of East Anglia to
“prove” anthropological global warming?

The
absurdity of bans is nearly self-evident, but not so much that liberals and leftists
can grasp it. Were it as self-evident as a sunrise, we would not be bothered
with pontificating, sanctimonious rhetoric surrounding the signing of executive
orders
to “save” one life, never mind countless lives.

Let’s
examine the absurdity for a moment, even though Ayn Rand counseled (through one
of her villains), “Don’t bother to examine a folly – ask yourself only
what it accomplishes.”*

The
purpose of any ban is to cause an absence
of a consequence. The absence or delinquency of a consequence is held as proof
of the efficacy of a ban. Thus, the presence of a gun in someone’s hand will
likely cause the death of a child. The absence
of a gun in someone’s hand will result in the child not being killed by a gun. In logic, this is the fallacy of
attempting to prove a negative. The absence of something causes a non-event. In fact, it causes nothing.  Ergo, a universal gun ban – of handguns,
automatics, clip-loaded, whatever – will consequently cause incalculable non-events.

Let’s
imagine more non-events. That guy you passed on the street did not try to rob
you because he had no gun. Because there are no guns in your house, your wife,
son, or daughter did not try to kill you with a gun because there are no guns
in your house. Your three-year-old kid did not accidentally kill herself while
playing with a gun because there were no guns for her to play with. If your son
is mentally unbalanced, he could not go to a local school with a gun and begin
killing students and teachers.

Just
imagine: If no guns had been allowed in Newtown, Connecticut, Adam Lanza would
not have been able to go to the Sandy
Hook school
to commit a massacre.

Just
imagine:  If George
Zimmerman
had not been carrying a gun that fateful evening, Trayvon Martin
would still be alive today. Possibly he would be in jail for assault and
battery, and Zimmerman beaten to a pulp by a punk and still recovering from his
wounds. But, the saved life is the important thing, you see.

Okay.
No guns. But that does not rule out clubs, knives, frying pans, tire irons, rolling
pins, or other objects that can be used to kill. I can’t recall the number of
times the cartoon character and moonshiner Snuffy Smith was beaned by his wife
with a rolling pin. Those cartoons were dangerous. Provocative. And sanctioned
violence! Then there was Joe Palooka, and Popeye!

So,
just imagine: There’s this unstable fellow who’s really, really mad at the
world. At his parents. At his siblings. At his teachers. His classmates. At that
girl who won’t look at him twice because he’s wearing razor blade earrings and
has a steel pin lanced through his lower lip to complement his multi-dyed
semi-Mohawk hairdo with a cowlick and the stud affixed to his tongue. He’s so
upset, he sits in his room and pounds the top of his desk in frustration and anger
and just knows that he is alone in
his victimhood. Nobody understands him. He’s the only sane person in his known
world. What’s a guy to do? It’s hopeless. He’s doomed to unhappiness and
solitude! He may as well try to make a statement, or die trying. And make
others die while he tries. It’s all their fault, you see, that he’s so terribly
frustrated! He shakes his feeble fist in the air, and cries, “Cruel world!
Hear me roar!”

In
the fantasy world of Left/Liberal bans, he calms down, cleans himself up and
finds a job at the local Burger King, or volunteers for community service, or
masters quantum mechanics. Why? Because he had no access to guns! No guns in
his house! No gun sales allowed in his town! No gun ownership allowed in it
whatsoever! Guns aren’t even available for purchase across the state line. Not anywhere.
All is peaceful. Nothing happens, except that flowers sing as he passes by,
everyone smiles at him, and the world throbs with the placid quietude of a
gun-less society.

The
fantasy world of the gun-haters is about as real as Toontown in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

In
the real world, he finds a tire iron or baseball bat and goes to the nearest
primary school and starts killing children and teachers with it. But first murders
his parents and siblings. See? It was a no-gun
non-event
! Lives were saved from guns! Think of all the disgruntled former
employees who can’t go to their former workplace and start shooting. Of all the
gang members who won’t be able to rub out their neighborhood rivals. Of all the
bank robbers who can’t rob banks because of the absence of guns. Of all the men
and women whose spouses had no guns with which to punish them.

By
now, one should be convinced that banning guns – any type of gun – from sale or
ownership, will have only two real-world consequences: criminals and the criminally
insane will get them somehow, somewhere; and victims, real and potential, will
be disarmed against them. There will be real, demonstrable events, which the
MSM and anti-gun advocates will ignore or gloss over or explain away.

Aside
from scrutinizing the deadly fantasy worlds of the Adam Lanzas and Andre Breiviks
and Timothy McVeighs of the world, the Technicolor fantasy worlds of anti-gun
advocates should also be subjected to close examination. It will be seen that
their projections and forecasts have all the substance and veracity of a
computer model predicting next week’s weather.

Then
we’ll know who framed the Second Amendment – and why.

*Ellsworth
Toohey, p. 666, in The Fountainhead,
by Ayn Rand (1943).  New York: Penguin/Plume
Centennial Edition, 2005.  

All for Nothing: Nihilism in Cinema

It is common knowledge that, as Washington is now the citadel of the Left, Hollywood has been a fiefdom of the Left for a very long time. The Left picks the projects, the scripts, the actors, and the directors, and then foists its films on a hapless American movie-going public, saying it’s only entertainment and not to be taken seriously, adding, “We don’t mean nothin’ by it.” The Left calls nearly all the shots in Hollywood. Anyone who doesn’t toe the Left’s Party line is left unemployed, unnoticed, shunned, and ostracized, regardless of talent or experience. In short, blacklisted. They may be invited to fill seats on Oscar night, but that is the limit of their visibility.

But how did the Left take over Hollywood? What made it possible? Without rehashing a history of Hollywood’s political struggles, its flirtation with self-censorship (the Hays and Breen Offices), and subsequent abandonment of self-censorship in favor of “ratings” (the MPAA), the Communist infiltration of the studios and various unions, the McCarthy Era, the HUAC hearings, and the Hollywood Ten, the subject here will be what I perceive to be one of the means by which the Left effected its conquest. That method is psycho-epistemological in nature, and it is insidious.

What is epistemology? Novelist/Philosopher Ayn Rand defined it as “a science devoted to the discovery of the proper methods of acquiring and validating knowledge.” Psycho-epistemology, she went on to explain, is “is the study of man’s cognitive processes from the aspect of the interaction between the conscious mind and the automatic functions of the subconscious.”

Briefly, epistemology can tell us existence exists and why we know it. Psycho-epistemology tells us the method of our awareness of existence. Epistemology can validate that you are reading these words and that they are real. Psycho-epistemology, for example, will prove that reality is not some kind of super piñata to be approached blind-folded with a stick in hopes of thwacking some meaning from it.

In her brilliant essay on the effects of modern education on children, “The Comprachicos,” Rand noted that:

“This skill [the process of forming, integrating, and using concepts] does not pertain to the particular content of a man’s knowledge at any given age, but to the method by which he acquires and organizes knowledge – the method by which his mind deals with its content. The method programs his subconscious computer, determining how efficiently, lamely or disastrously his cognitive processes will function. The programming of a man’s subconscious consists of the kind of cognitive habits he acquires: these habits constitute his psycho-epistemology.”*

But who or what left the door open to the Left? It was nihilism. The Left needed help in establishing squatters’ rights. Its penchant for censorship and propagandizing was too well known. Let us pick an arbitrary time for when the nihilism began to creep into film, say, the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, before the Left and the beatniks-cum-hippies completed their takeover of Hollywood. Very likely it began long before, but some prominent movies ought to demonstrate the method and the rot.

And what is the method? The films I mention here lead the viewer to believe that the story they are about to see is going somewhere, that there is a purpose to the sequence of events, no matter how muddled or tightly drawn the sequence. Viewers are in the mental habit of expecting a conclusion and a climax that make sense, no matter how banal or dramatic or contrived.

And these are not amateur films produced by film school wannabe directors shooting from a sophomoric script and starring no-talent casts and shot on make-shift sets. They are professionally made films made by big name directors on million dollar budgets with all-star, often international casts.

The films simply end. There are no concluding, satisfying denouements, no logical resolutions, no happy or even tragic endings. They simply end and everything that precedes the ending evaporates into irrelevancy. Life is meaningless, as well as all the struggles, thoughts, efforts, conflicts and purposes – all meaningless. All for nothing. Dissolved into nothingness. Phttt! Roll the credits.

Don’t believe me? Try these synopses.

Anatomy of a Murder (1959, Otto Preminger, director): Jimmy Stewart plays a small town lawyer who agrees to represent a soldier accused of murdering his wife’s rapist. By the end of the story, after Stewart has got the soldier off the hook on an insanity plea, the soldier and his wife skip town without paying him. This act of dishonesty casts doubt on the evidence and testimony of the solider and his wife. Was she actually raped, and did her husband, a drunken lout, kill her alleged attacker during a bout of “insanity”? Stewart shrugs it off and goes fishing. Mentally, the viewer is expected to do the same.

They Came to Cordura (1959, Robert Rossen, director): During the Mexican Incursion campaign of 1916, Gary Cooper plays an officer charged with taking several candidates for the Congressional Medal of Honor to a Texas town, Cordura, so they can live to receive the medal and serve as role models for Americans when the U.S. enters World War I. During a grueling trek on foot across desert (having had to surrender their horses to Mexican bandits), the soldiers nearly murder Cooper, attempt to rape Rita Hayworth, and initiate a string of harrowing conflicts and betrayals, in which the candidates reveal they are not heroic after all. Finally, Cordura is spotted and, forgetting everything that went on before, everyone rushes to reach it. Well, what a relief! But, what was all the dramatics about that led up to it? Will Cooper still recommend the brutes for the Congressional Medal of Honor? We are left guessing.

Advise and Consent (1962, Otto Preminger, director): A Senate committee is convened to investigate the possible left-wing allegiances of the president’s nominee for Secretary of State, appropriately named “Leffingwell” (played, appropriately, by Henry Fonda). By the end of the film, the president dies and Leffingwell’s name is automatically withdrawn because the new president will have his own nominee for the post. All the entanglements, intrigues, back-stabbings, and even a suicide, were for naught. Never mind. They’ll just start all over again.

Lonely Are the Brave (1962, David Miller, director; screenplay, Dalton Trumbo): Kirk Douglas plays an independent man and cowboy who gets himself arrested and put into a local prison so he can stop his best friend there from being sent to a penitentiary by making an escape. His friend refuses to escape and wants to serve his time. So, Douglas escapes, and, with his horse, leads the authorities on a wild chase over a nearly impassable mountain. His pursuer is a local sheriff played by Walter Matthau.

After training his horse to cross highways safely, when they have reached sanctuary during a rain storm, he and his horse make it to the other side of the mountain, only to be struck by a truck, driven by Carroll O’Connor, hauling a load of commodes. Matthau is at the scene and he may or may not identify Douglas as the man he had conducted the search for. We are not sure of his motive, or even that he recognizes Douglas. Douglas is last seen gazing up with bewilderment at all the faces staring down at him.

Play Dirty (1969, André De Toth, director): Michael Caine plays a British officer drafted into a scheme to blow up Nazi fuel dumps in North Africa. He is put in charge of a group of grungy ex-cons who are also experts in sabotage. In the course of the story, Caine displays leadership, solves an insurmountable problem, but is forced to watch the Germans ambush and wipe out a British patrol because his group is anti-British. The fuel dump they are sent to destroy turns out to be a booby-trapped decoy. The group picks another fuel dump, but is ordered not to destroy it. They are betrayed to the Germans by the men who sent them on the mission. They manage to set the fuel dump ablaze. By the end of this picture, Caine and his second lieutenant, disguised in Italian Army uniforms, are the only survivors of the mission. They are accidently shot dead by a British soldier who didn’t see Caine’s white flag. Oh, well….

Ronin (1998, John Frankenheimer, director): Former American spy Robert De Niro is contacted by a woman to secure a briefcase that contains something that other spies and mercenaries want. After nonstop action and gun play and car chases, the briefcase may or may not have been secured because it has been switched with a duplicate. We never learn what was in it. By mayhem’s end, the main characters settle back in a café to have their drinks and reminisce and speculate.

And as the credits roll and the audience leaves the theater, what is the audience to think? Well, they’re not supposed to think about it at all. Just accept the nihilism as the norm. Causo-connections, however solid or shaky, that would allow full or partial comprehension, are forbidden.

It’s interesting to note that Otto Preminger was not an avowed communist, and was famous for Laura (1944), Forever Amber (1947), and many other films that do have conclusions. If he was anything, he was apolitical. Robert Rossen was a communist, but a penitent one who “ratted” on his fellow communists to HUAC. The politics of André De Toth, a Hungarian immigrant, are not known.

However, Dalton Trumbo, who received credit for the screenplay of Lonely, and who was one of the unrepentant Hollywood Ten, was a communist, although he tried to distance himself from the others by “ratting” on his fellow travelers, too. John Frankenheimer‘s most famous films, The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Seven Days in May (1964), The Train (1965), all of which have finely honed conclusions, conflict violently with the senseless carnage of Ronin.

These films do not overtly reflect their makers’ political leanings. Every one of them introduces an element of nihilism – or the destruction of values for destruction’s sake –that helped to pave the way for the Hollywood Left to attack all American values, and values as such.

Why? I do not think the introduction of nihilism was deliberate or conscious. I think the directors were simply absorbing the psycho-epistemology of the time, by way of osmosis, one made possible by an overall retreat of reason in the culture. Making a film without the capstone of a conclusion was a novelty that contrasts sharply with each director’s overall oeuvre. Their casts can be held blameless; actors are rarely good judges of the philosophical import of the scripts they choose to accept, although that is not the rule today. Ask Sean Penn, or Brad Pitt, or Danny Glover.

Some critics, in passing, or in amusement, called these and similar films “cynical.” But nihilism is worse than mere cynicism. They are not the same thing. Cynicism alleges that there are certain ideals or standards that men can imagine but cannot live up to for one reason or another, usually because of their “base,” deterministic nature. Nihilism says there are no ideals or standards – or even minds – that can’t be suborned, corrupted, gutted, and destroyed.

Nihilism is by no means the sole method with which the Left inveigled its way into becoming the dominant political force in Hollywood. But, these and other films helped to make nihilism respectable, and the norm. Once that was done, the Left was free to fill the void. They prepared the viewer for an onslaught of films that are little more than gussied up propaganda. They inured viewers to watching the construction of a tower, and before it can be topped off, seeing it dynamited and collapsed into a cloud of rubble and dust.

Nihilism – even little bits of it snuck into scenes in the course of other films – habituates viewers to the notion that everything is nothing and nothing is everything, and that all is meaningless, so there’s no good reason to claim that one’s values are superior or special or sacrosanct, and can’t be replaced with “higher” values. It attempts, case by case, instance by instance, from film to film, to scrub the viewer’s epistemology clean of important causo-connections between reality, his values, and his own cognitive powers.

Nature does not tolerate a vacuum, neither in reality, nor in men’s minds. As the “comprachicos” in modern education – from Progressive nursery schools up through the universities – have been busy “remolding” men’s minds to create compliant servants of the Left and the all-encompassing state, nihilist films have sought to complete that education in the theater.

The solution in education is to get the government out of education. Once that is accomplished, that will, in time, solve the problem of evicting the Left from Hollywood.

*p. 158. The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution. New York: Signet/New American Library, 1971.

Becoming a Great Leader: Advice from a Zero

I suppose it is a law of political economy that when a burgeoning and omnivorous government reaches a certain stage of growth, its champions and beneficiaries and sinecured, career bureaucrats inaugurate self-congratulatory and appreciation organizations that “reward” bureaucrats and “public servants” for their work. These organizations are great for bringing the “recognized” together for speeches and photo-ops and a dose of “feel-good” camaraderie. Not to mention a medal and possibly a chunk of cash. Looking at the Washington Post’s “Federal Coach” blog columns, written by Tom Fox of the Partnership for Public Service, one is amazed by the hubris of an organization that recognizes the efforts of salaried parasites who happen to be department heads or supervisors or White House cabinet members.

Scrolling through the Washington Post’s daily grind the other morning – I subscribe to the Post and the New York Times Internet versions of the papers, just to keep an eye on them – a teaser caught my attention: “Lead ’em and Reap: Why self-sacrifice, shared values and reflective listening are the building blocks of great leadership.”

My immediate mental rebuttal was: Obama isn’t sacrificing anything, least of all himself, I share no values with him, and the building blocks he is fashioning, which resemble the Mafia’s cement shoes, are resting on my head. He is not a “great” leader by any means, although he is a “leader.” He is a community organizing Führer.

Clicking on the article, the page comes up with the startling headline: What makes a great federal leader?
The article is an interview by Fox of E. Allan Lind of Duke University, whose research “centers on leadership and global management issues.” Lind discusses, with appropriate prompting by Fox, how bureaucrats and presidents and public servants can become effective Führers and gauleiters in the name of bureaucratic efficiency and effectiveness.

Most Americans, however, don’t want efficient bureaucracies. Efficient and effective bureaucracies are a nemesis. If they must have them, Americans prefer inefficient ones that allow them a breathing space to mind their own business. Like me, they don’t want “leaders.” But apparently Lind and Fox have not received this message. Their heads are in the realm of theoretical authoritarianism.

Lind natters on in sociological and social-metaphysical language, focusing on how a “leader” can best get along with his underlings and coworkers. His advice could just as well apply to running a Boy Scout troop or a Chicago street gang or a Target women’s accessories department. It has the nebulous consistency and mutability of a cloud.

Lind’s chief point, on which the five other points seem to rely, is something called “reflective listening.” This is “listening to what somebody says and then paraphrasing back to them [sic] to check understanding.” In populist jargon, this means ensuring that the listener and the speaker are “on the same page,” or confirming that the listener knows where someone is “coming from.” You wonder how much Lind is being paid to play semantic alchemist and turn jargon and metaphorical patois into effervescent technicalese. Otherwise known as yadda-yadda.

Fox asks Lind what he and his colleague, Prof. Simon Sitkin, call the “Six Domains Leadership Pyramid.” And you thought I was kidding about the technicalese. Lind replies:

The first domain is personal leadership, which is demonstrating vision, competency, authenticity and dedication — in essence, showing people why they should follow you. The second domain is relational leadership. You must understand your people’s interests and their competencies, show concern for their well-being, and show fairness by behaving in an unbiased way. The third category is the idea of contextual leadership. This domain is all about how the leader conveys the essence of the organization to the people he or she is leading. These three domains form the base of a pyramid. If you adhere to these three domains, you build up a stock of leadership capital. Once you got this stock of leadership, then you can exercise inspirational leadership, which is getting people excited about the mission and getting them to be innovative and optimistic about the task.

Yes, this is “cloud speak.” And if you follow the logic of it, you, the “great leader,” will be sitting on top of the pyramid, on the pointy end of it, venerated and deferred to by all your underlings. In politics, there have been precedents for this kind of social metaphysical people management in pursuit of a variety of missions. In America, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, and JFK. Overseas, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, weirdly-coiffed North Korean tyrants, Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. To name but a few. Except that when they reached the top of the pyramid, concern for anyone else’s well-being and for fairness and for wanting to solicit others’ opinions so those others won’t feel extraneous, ignored, and left out, all got thrown out the window.

As Lord Acton noted: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Unless you’re already corrupted by power-lust, as President Barack Obama is. He’d just rather not have to deal with Congress. Just as Hitler did not wish to deal with the Reichstag.

Of course, if you’re just a bureaucratic mediocrity and a cipher in the federal state of things, you needn’t aspire to become a “great leader.” You can settle for being just a comfortably ensconced and well-remunerated middle-of-the-road bureaucrat who follows all Lind’s rules and is rewarded with “recognition” for not rocking the boat and doing nothing that would cause a sex scandal or bring charges of malfeasance on your head.

There really isn’t much to report on Tom Fox, other than his association with the Partnership entities, which seek to make the federal government the “employer of choice for talented Americans.” He’s not even on Face Book, so his career antecedents are unknown. The Partnership for Public Service entities, however, have their tentacles and fingers everywhere, especially in universities.

This is to be expected in a culture that is turning more and more statist and European. If you’re looking for “talented” young people to lord it over the serfs laboring in the private sector, recruit them straight out of the classroom. They’ve been prepared for “public service” in their studies and social lives. The Partnership entity, a non-profit, was founded by a former businessman, Samuel J. Heyman, who, fresh from Harvard, worked for Robert F. Kennedy. Well, that explains the political color of the organization, which is distinctly Democratic but particularly fascist.

Heyman made a lot of money in business later, and decided to fund an organization with it that would promote his own “employer of choice” – the federal government. It is a rule of thumb that businessmen who fund charities and organizations that promote the growth of government do so from a sense of guilt. Look at Bill Gates.

As for Lind, he has written several papers and is engaged in several projects. Choosing at random from his many papers and projects, here is a sample of his obfuscating, insubstantial wisdom, from “Social Conflict and Social Justice,” an address and paper presented to Leiden University in 1995:

Many theories of social conflict suggest that whenever people try to divide scarce resources, their egoistic inclinations will push them toward competitive actions that ultimately result in mutual harm. The temptation to act competitively will prompt one person to make choices that benefit his or her individual interests but that harm others in the social group or society….

The consequences attached to various choices in the fundamental social dilemmas that I have in mind go to how we define ourselves and how much of our self-identity we are willing to put in the hands of others. As we move away from dilemmas of concrete outcomes and toward dilemmas of identity, I would argue, the stakes become much more important than any material outcome….

One prediction of the theory I have just described is that justice will be construed largely in terms of one’s personal relationships to salient groups. If people generate justice judgments in order to have a standard to use in deciding whether they will be rejected or exploited, then it would make sense for the standard to be primarily concerned with the individual’s own personal relationship with the group. Justice judgments should be very sensitive to indications that one is favorably or unfavorably positioned vis-à-vis one’s group. …

This suggests that the question in intergroup conflicts is not how to get people to abandon their original group identifications in favor of identification with another group. What is needed instead is a high level of overarching identification regardless of subgroup identification.

Had enough? Are your eyes crossed yet? There are pages and pages more. The term “social justice” should have served as a clue to its leftist character. How are your “egoistic inclinations” faring? Does wanting to retain ownership of your guns, or your property, or your life contribute to the harm of the social group or society? Are your “justice judgments” attuned to your group’s sensitivities? If not, you’re in for a boatload of conflict. Are you ready to submit to a “high level of overarching identification, regardless of your subgroup identification”? If not, prepare to be ostracized and shunted aside.

Hitler did that. He appealed to all Germans in a supreme example of “overarching identification.” His “reflective listening” was to paraphrase right back at them the “unfairness” of the Versailles Treaty and the burden of the reparations and the demonization of Germany for having begun a war of conquest. This “overarching identification” included Catholics and Protestants, the young and old, the middle and lower classes, the white collar workers and the blue, men, and women and children. All subgroups.

His “reflective listening” did not solicit the opinions of Jews, gypsies, and the mentally retarded and permanently disabled. They were all thrown out the window. They were on pages he wished to rip from the book of great leadership. They had no place in the “Six Domains of Leadership Pyramid.”

It may seem melodramatic using Hitler as an example of the kind of sociological nonsense and patent medicine statist solutions peddled by Lind and his ilk. After all, how many federal nonentities who are mere department heads or supervisors in any federal organization nurture in secret an ambition to become a “great leader”? Very damned few.

But they should take heart. After all, Hitler was awarded two Iron Crosses for just pedaling a bike. And he was among the greatest public servants of them all.

Our Zombie Culture

Without going much into the lore, literature, and filmography of zombies, there is an appropriate analogy to be drawn between the notion of the “living dead” and the living that deserves to be illustrated. Metaphorical zombies rule our current political culture, as well. At least, that is how I often feel when engaging others in a discussion of politics and even esthetics and contemporary human behavior. Try as one might, such people are proof against reason, beyond redemption or reclamation.

There is, however, more fascination with the subject than I had expected to encounter. One venue I had not expected to see it in is a government website, incredibly, that of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It is a tongue-in-cheek, semi-humorous treatment that employs the notion of a zombie apocalypse to instruct people to prepare for very real disasters, including a pandemic of disease. It isn’t confined to one page, but goes on and on through several links and even offers a down-loadable graphic novel tailored to disaster preparedness.

This is your tax dollars at work. It is so reassuring to know that some bureaucrat decided to indulge his sense of humor and subcontract some pricey consultant to create a website devoted to publicizing disaster preparedness, as a way of talking down to us lunk heads and cajoling us into a state of responsible citizenship, doubtless taking a leaf from that patronizing and politically correct PBS children’s educational program, Sesame Street or virtually any other instance of children’s educational programming.

Briefly, according to some accounts, the term “zombie” was popularized in our culture by Bela Lugosi in his 1932 movie, WhiteZombie. The term has Haitian voodoo origins, of course, and the notion of a zombie has ancient European folklore parallels, as well. Mary Shelley’s 1818 Frankenstein monster was assembled from the body parts of the dead, thus technically making it a zombie. Stephen Mallory’s “drooling beast” in The Fountainhead could be said to be a zombie, too, a beast deaf to all reason, a thing that lives only to kill, a “maniac who’s had some disease that’s eaten his brain out….You’d see living eyes watching you and you’d know that the thing can’t hear you, that it can’t be reached, not reached, not in any way, yet it’s breathing and moving there before you with a purpose of its own…”*

Ian Fleming exploited the idea in his 1954 James Bond thriller, Live and Let Die. George A. Romero’s low-budget, 1968 Night of the Living Dead boosted interest in the notion of flesh-eating zombies, an interest which has since spawned a billion dollar industry that caters to the zombie-obsessed among the living. AMC’s bigger-budget “The Walking Dead” TV series is about to go into its third season. It is based rather loosely on the graphic novel of the same name.

In the TV series, the last surviving doctor in Atlanta’s CDC blows up the place and himself in a fit of despair and hopelessness about finding a cure to whatever caused the pandemic. I’m betting the irony was not lost on the executive responsible for the CDC’s zombie site.

I do not like horror movies, but have watched some of them to grasp their appeal in an attempt to form a wider understanding of the phenomenon and the culture. I have watched “The Walking Dead” because in it human relationships compete with all the head-lopping, rasping, and flesh feasting. These relationships do not rise above the confusing, complex and banal ones to be seen in daytime soaps. There is no explanation of why suddenly the world is overrun by the walking dead. The title of the series not too subtly indicates the actual, living characters who are all infected with some unidentified pathogen and will rise from death by natural or unnatural causes regardless, and so must be shot in the head before they do. It just happens.

So, what is a zombie? It is a metaphysically impossible creature, dead, but magically reanimated by a virus or a curse or other pseudo-scientific jiggery-pokery, with a functioning motor and autonomous system, a non-causal appetite, a robot oblivious to the weather and its surroundings, conscious but not conscious, volitional but not volitional, teleologically driven or programmed to consume living flesh to survive. But, then, how can the dead “survive”? Survive what? And what for? These are paradoxical questions that needn’t be examined, because they are semantic follies. Call a zombie a humanoid plant, or a kind of non-religious Golem.

Americans, too many of them, have an unhealthy fascination with zombies, whatever the antecedents of their favorite walking dead. And too many of them also have functioning motor and autonomous systems, perfect digestive systems, and are selectively conscious. They are eclectically volitional from choice or from habit, and their moral codes make them teleologically driven to consume the living flesh of their fellow men – in the way of social services, government-paid entitlements, surrendering to the state their own lives together with the lives, fortunes and purposes of others. As in “The Walking Dead,” they gather in herds and move in herds, chiefly aimlessly, until they find the living.

If, after having seen for themselves what destruction has been wrought by President Barack Obama and his nihilistic policies, and they remain stubbornly blind to that destruction and to the guarantee that he will author even more, and they voted him into a second term, then they are zombies.

If they expect the state to solve every real or imagined crisis, and refuse to grasp that most economic and social crises are caused by government interference or mismanagement or corruption or the systematic expropriation of wealth and effort redirected by force into the bottomless pits of subsidies, welfare, and “social justice,” then they are zombies.

If they believe that the state can manage, regulate, or juggle the economy and/or their lives for the public good and for their children and future generations, and guarantee a permanently prosperous, vibrant, and stable society, then they are zombies.

If they believe that incalculable wealth can be stolen from the poor to make others rich, or that a nation’s wealth is a static entity that should be divided equally among all, then they are zombies.

If they believe that their mere existence entitles them to economic and spiritual support by their fellows via the state, through taxes, special legislation, and protective privileges, then they are zombies.

If they believe that America was founded as a majority-rule “democracy” and that the principles enunciated by the Founders in the Constitution are inapplicable to the “modern” world, or that the Constitution is a “living” one that can be interpreted any way a court or law professor or bureaucrat or politician wishes to conform with the fiat populism or fallacy of the moment, then they are zombies.

If they believe that principles are merely prejudices or con games designed to manipulate or fool the ignorant and superstitious, then they are zombies. If they believe that the greed of a successful businessman is evil, but that their own greed for the unearned is supremely virtuous, then they are zombies.

If they believe that words have no demonstrable and permanent meaning, that all opinions are merely subjective utterances determined by one’s race, gender, class, age, ancestry, or education, then they are zombies. If they further believe that words accrue meaning solely by consensus or fiat law, then they are zombies.

If they believe that the state is the author, dispenser, and steward of all individual rights, and that rights are merely privileges bestowed and granted by the state at the behest and will of a real or fictive majority, and can be withdrawn or obviated at any time, then they are zombies.

If they believe that freedom of speech, guns, and the profit motive are the sole causes of massacres and crime, which they call “tragedies,” then they are zombies. If they further believe that speech, guns, and the profit motive should be regulated, and even banned, for the safety and benefit of all, so as to prevent more “tragedies,” then they are zombies.

If they believe that all property is theft – and needn’t explain from whom – they are zombies.

If they believe that unquestioning “faith” in the ability of government to solve all their problems is justifiable, then they are zombies. If they believe that government is imbued with the power of a deity to work wonders and promise paradise and salvation, then they are zombies. “Faith,” by the way, is responsible for the partial lobotomy of most men’s minds, making them the walking semi-dead. To many of these zombies, Earth and existence are just a way station to the future or some ethereal realm. Why bother with freedom? Why overvalue it?

If they believe that government can create a tolerable economic and social condition which amounts to tyranny, these zombies are insensible to the consequent loss of freedom. They never understood it and would not miss it, even in their own penury. If you are not a zombie, there’s no place in their paradise for you, the living.

The poverty and hardships imposed by the government today will make possible the luxuries and ease of living for everyone tomorrow.

Anyone who believes that is a zombie.

On a final, esthetic note, if a person doesn’t see a difference between Michelangelo’s “David” and Giacometti’s “Walking Man,” he is a zombie.

Doubtless many readers have friends, acquaintances, work colleagues, and even family who fit some or all of the foregoing criteria of zombiehood. To know them is not necessarily to love them, but rather to keep them at arm’s length before they take a chunk out of one’s arm or neck or wallet or bank account.

But today’s zombies needn’t get up front and personal to be a slobbering, life-threatening menace. They can elect career zombies to do it for them. Herds of them are busy in Washington and every state capital and municipal town hall, day and night, chomping away at the wealth of individuals and businesses. In Washington, a herd of these zombies – Republicans and Democrats – just this morning, in fact, have come together and maneuvered you to the edge of a fiscal cliff.

The name of the pandemic is altruism. Its symptoms are collectivism and self-sacrifice.

*The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand. 1943. Bobbs-Merrill: Indianapolis-New York. pp. 352-353.

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