The Official Blog Of Edward Cline

Month: October 2013

Stealthy Moves against Freedom of Speech


Advocates
and defenders of the First Amendment and freedom of speech are strung out like
the three Roman legions that were ambushed and ultimately annihilated by
barbarians in the dense Teutoburg
Forest
in Germany in 9 A.D.  Out of a
force of about 36,000 fighting men, the Romans suffered between 16,000 and
20,000 casualties.
The
First Amendment
, appended to the Constitution with nine other Amendments
which  became known collectively as the
Bill of Rights, reads:
Congress
shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the
free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or
the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government
for a redress of grievances.
And
that Amendment is all Americans have at present protecting them from censorship
and a dictatorship. We are marching into an ambush by secular advocates of
censorship and Islamic ones. Our political leadership is either as ignorant of
the perils as were the Roman army’s generals, or just as careless in its
defense, or oft times even hostile to it.
No
European nation has the equivalent of the First Amendment. As Bruce
Bawer
, an American journalist who has lived in Europe for years, noted in
his October 2010 column on the trial of Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician who
stood trial for “blaspheming” Islam (and who was subsequently
acquitted of all charges):
 One of the most bizarre aspects of being an
American in Western Europe — at least if you’re an American who has opinions
and is used to expressing them freely — is getting accustomed to the fact that
there’s no First Amendment over here. Some of us grew up thinking of Western
Europe as part of the “Free World.” But how free is a country if it doesn’t
recognize freedom of speech as a fundamental right?
Indeed.
Just how “free” is the “Free World” when most of its
members labor under various gradations of the welfare/regulatory state? The
fact is that freedom of speech in Europe is granted
by the various governments there, but it is a conditional granting by the
state, and not a recognized inherent right of the individual. And the
conditions are many and malodorous. The chief complainant in Europe has been
Islam. Bawer notes:
In
recent years, the superiority of America on this score has been affirmed again
and again, as one Western European government after another has prosecuted
individuals for saying or writing things that were deemed unacceptable. In a
preponderance of cases, these prosecutions have been for statements about
Islam. Some of the defendants — Oriana Fallaci, Brigitte Bardot — have been
famous.
The
superiority of the First Amendment lies in the fact that it expresses a
fundamental requirement for existence, while European speech laws deal with
incidentals, as though the “right” to express oneself were a spurious
privilege, icing on the cake of a government permitting one to live and slave
away for the collective. This premise, however, has been introduced into U.S.
law in the guise of “hate speech” and “hate crimes.”
Now,
the problem with “hate speech” is that it is an anti-concept and an attempt to read men’s minds. I
hate Islam. So what? I can explain why I hate Islam, but a rational, and even
an irrational explanation is irrelevant to “hate speech” law. So what
if I express my “hate” in words or in images? Words and images and
even gestures are not metaphysical entities that can be shot, catapulted, or
flung at the object of hate. Words, images and gestures do not have the
physical power to destroy or harm anything or anyone. Perhaps even a dhimmi American judge would concede
those points. He should conclude: No crime
has been committed.
However,
if my “hate speech” provokes initiatory force or actions by those
claiming defamation or being “hurt” by my speech, it is the
“potential” provocation to action for which I could be punished,
penalized and even jailed. The “potential” may not even realize
itself, but woe to me if Muslims began taking physical action against me and
others, resulting in injury, death, or the destruction of property. Look what
happened to the “Innocence
of Muslims
” trailer-maker. His YouTube film was used as an excuse to blame
“free speech” for the attack on Benghazi, resulting in the deaths of
four Americans. He was arrested, held without bail, and subsequently sentenced
to a year in prison. Initially, however, it was our own State Department via
Hillary Clinton together with President Barack Obama that assigned
the blame
. It was later proven that the film
had nothing to do with the attack
.
Remember
what happened after the publication
of the Mohammad cartoons? Muslim
mayhem
. You wouldn’t need to calmly examine Islam as a religious or
political system. Even should you suggest that Mohammad had lice in his beard
and was probably syphilitic, out would come the crazed,
semi-literate Muslim
hordes demanding your head on a pike. It would make no
difference.
My
speech could not by any definition be regarded as an initiation of force. But
the actions taken by those who wish to punish me, or to suppress it before I
have even spoken it – be they Muslims acting on their own, or the government
itself on behalf of Muslims – can be. And the question is: Were my words
provocative? In the final analysis, no.
Men are free to agree or disagree with what I say, or even to ignore what I
say. Absent any attempt by me to force others
to hear what I have to say, to read what I have written, or even to acknowledge
a physical gesture (such as giving Mohammad an “Italian salute”),
then any physical or statutory “retaliation” against me is an initiation of force.
Only
a government can employ censorship against a nation’s citizens, that is, use
initiatory force to silence anyone from expressing a viewpoint, disseminating
information, voicing opposition to a political system, or even showing a
picture. Only a government can “legally” punish an individual for
expressing what is on his mind. And it is the mind which both a censorial government and groups such as Muslims
wish to neutralize or extinguish.  
In
the U.S.
censorship
is a mosaic of disparate instances that do not add up to blanket
censorship one might otherwise associate with iron-fisted dictatorships like
Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and Communist/Fascist China. Censorship by private
individuals, corporations, newspapers, magazines and the like, however, is not censorship: It is the barring of
viewpoints, language, images or behavior on nominally private premises, be they
pages in a newspaper, over the airwave, physical private property, or an
Internet venue (e.g., Facebook), because they are in opposition to the host’s
viewpoint or violate its rules. Absent in private “censorship” is the
element of force. Individuals do not have a right to force others to act as
their soapboxes for viewpoints or behavior others find objectionable or
repellent. Nor have they a right to literally force themselves on another’s
property.
Europe
continues to follow the path to a state of affairs concerning speech so
restrictive that Europeans may as well not even bother opening their mouths or
writing an essay, for the least criticism, especially of Islam, can be interpreted
by Muslims and by European Union bureaucrats as “hurtful” or
“defamatory” or an expression of “hate.”
Soeren
Kern, in his October 28th Gatestone article “EU
Proposal to Monitor ‘Intolerant’ Citizens
,” reported:
While
European leaders are busy expressing public indignation over reports of
American espionage operations in the European Union, the European Parliament is
quietly considering a proposal that calls for the direct surveillance of any EU
citizen suspected of being “intolerant.”
Critics
say the measure — which seeks to force the national governments of all 28 EU
member states to establish “special administrative units” to monitor
any individual or group expressing views that the self-appointed guardians of
European multiculturalism deem to be “intolerant” — represents an
unparalleled threat to free speech in a Europe where citizens are already regularly
punished
for expressing the “wrong” opinions, especially about
Islam.
 The proposed European
Framework National Statute for the Promotion of Tolerance
was recently
presented to members of the Civil
Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee
of the European Parliament,
the only directly-elected body of the European Union.
Kern
goes on to explain that the focus of the proposed legislation is an unqualified
“tolerance” that will not “tolerate” the least criticism of especially
Islam, and provides a breakdown of the intent and method of enforcing
“tolerance.” Importantly, he emphasizes:
Section
6 states: “It goes without saying that enactment of a Statute for the
Promotion of Tolerance does not suffice by itself. There must be a mechanism in
place ensuring that the Statute does not remain on paper and is actually
implemented in the world of reality.”
An
explanatory note to Section 6 (a) states: “Members of vulnerable and
disadvantaged groups are entitled to a special protection, additional to the
general protection that has to be provided by the Government to every person
within the State.” Another note adds: “The special protection
afforded to members of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups may imply a preferential
treatment. Strictly speaking, this preferential treatment goes beyond mere respect and acceptance lying at
the root of tolerance
.” [Italics
mine]
The
“reality” in Europe is that Islam is setting the terms of every
European’s political existence. One after another, national and local
governments capitulate to demands by Muslims that they be accommodated in terms
of mosque construction, blaring calls to prayers, closing off public streets
for mass prayers, the serving of Islamic halal
food in schools and other “public” venues, and numerous other
“concessions” to Islamic mores (such as they are).
Who
actually are the new “members of vulnerable and disadvantaged
groups”? Non-Muslims. What do the architects of Islam’s “preferential
treatment” expect of non-Muslims “beyond mere respect and
acceptance”? The total surrender of their minds and obsequious submission
not only to Islam, but to the EU’s totalitarian dictats. The Soviets, by
forbidding and punishing all instances of independent thought, hoped to nurture
the creation of a “Soviet Man,” that is, an automaton that would
unthinkingly do the Party’s bidding. The EU hopes its speech suppression laws
will produce the “Tolerant Person,” an automaton that will
“tolerate” its own destruction by being assimilated into Islamic society.
Jacob Mchangama, in an
analysis of the origin and implementation of “hate speech” law in his
December 2011 Hoover Institution paper, “
The Sordid Origin of Hate-Speech Laws,” writes that, indeed, hate speech laws are a
legacy of Soviet totalitarianism:
All western European
countries have hate-speech laws. In 2008, the EU adopted a framework
decision on “Combating Racism and Xenophobia” that obliged all member states to
criminalize certain forms of hate speech. On the other side of the Atlantic,
the Supreme Court of the United States has gradually increased and consolidated
the protection of hate speech under the First Amendment. The European concept
of freedom of expression thus prohibits certain content and viewpoints,
whereas, with certain exceptions, the American concept is generally concerned
solely with direct incitement likely to result in overt acts of lawlessness.
Yet the origin
of hate-speech laws has been largely forgotten. The divergence between the United States and European countries is of
comparatively recent origin.
In fact, the United States and the vast majority
of European (and Western) states were originally opposed to the
internationalization of hate-speech laws. European states and the U.S. shared
the view that human rights should protect rather than limit freedom of
expression. [Italics mine]
Rather, the
introduction of hate-speech prohibitions into international law was championed
in its heyday by the Soviet Union and allies. Their motive was readily
apparent.  The communist countries sought to exploit such laws to limit
free speech.
That “divergence” between Europe
and the U.S. is shrinking to a state of convergence.
Bruce
Bawer also weighed in on the proposed legislation in his October 30th
FrontPage article, “EU
Unveils Crackdown on Free Speech
.”
The
first thing I ever wrote about Islam was an essay for
Partisan Review entitled “Tolerating Intolerance,” which was published a
few months after 9/11. My argument, in brief, was that Islam is not just a
religion but an ideology that teaches an extreme and violent intolerance – and
that Europeans had a right to protect the freedom of their societies by
implementing well-informed immigration and integration policies. Now the
European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation (ECTR), founded in 2008
and consisting largely of former European presidents or prime ministers,
has issued a report whose thrust is – and I quote – that there’s “no need
to be tolerant to the intolerant.”
But
the argument of the report – which was presented to the European Parliament in
late September and takes the form of a “Model Statute for Tolerance”
that the ECTR hopes to see enacted by all EU member states, is light-years away
from the one I made all those years ago in Partisan
Review
. The ECTR’s concern is not with addressing the importation into Europe
of Islamic intolerance but, rather, with addressing the purported intolerance
of Europeans toward (among other things) imported Islam.
President
Barack Obama pronounced
at the U.N
. in September 2012, “The
future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.
” But
the future seems to belong to Muslims and Western judges who would persecute
anyone who gave Islam and Mohammad a scholarly or visceral middle finger. To Islam,
everything said about Mohammad by infidels is “slanderous.”
Cooperating
with the European Parliament is the Organization
of Islamic Cooperation
(OIC), with its recent Geneva
Conference
on speech and its United Nations Resolution 16/18, which seeks
to ban and punish all “defamatory” speech, most and especially about or
against Islam.
Deborah
Weiss reported on October 22nd in her FrontPage article,
“Geneva Conference Moves Toward Criminalizing ‘Islamophobia’.”
In
its quest to criminalize speech that’s critical of all Islam-related topics,
the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)* endorsed the formation of a new
Advisory Media Committee to address “Islamophobia.”
This
past September, the OIC held “The
First International Conference on Islamophobia: Law & Media
.”  The
conference endorsed numerous recommendations which arose from prior workshops
on Islamophobia from media, legal and political perspectives.  A main
conclusion was the consensus to institutionalize the conference and create an
Advisory Media Committee to meet under the newly established OIC Media Forum
based in Istanbul Turkey.
Note
that the conference was not held to discuss the criminalization of “Judeophobia”
or “Christophobia” or even “Atheistiophobia.”
Supposedly,
the purpose of the conference was to support an OIC campaign to “correct
the image of Islam and Muslims in Europe and North America.”
  By this,
it means to whitewash the intolerant, violent and discriminatory aspects of
Islam and Islamists.  The OIC has launched a campaign to provide
disinformation to the public, delinking all Islam from these undesirable traits
and attacks all who insist on these truths, as bigots, racists and Islamophobes….
Its
present goal is the international criminalization of all speech that
“defames” Islam, which the OIC defines as anything that sheds a
negative light on Islam or Muslims, even when it’s true (wrote Clare
Lopez in American Thinker
in 2011).
Its
target is the West and one of its tactics is to accuse those who criticize Islam
or its various interpretations as “Islamophobic.” It is attempting to
pass the equivalent of Islamic blasphemy codes in the West, using accusations
of bigotry to silence anyone who speaks the truth about Islamic terrorism or Islamic
persecution of religious minorities.
The
OIC wants enforceable laws passed in Western nations that complement its wish
to criminalize speech regarding Islam. In practice, this would mean that only Islamic
clerics and spokesmen would be allowed to say anything about Islam. And Muslims,
treated as “victimized” minorities in those nations, would be free to
persecute, murder, rape, and terrorize Jews, Christians, atheists and other
non-Muslims with impunity and indemnity everywhere and any time they wished. As
they do now.
Can
such Orwellian laws be passed in this country? The existence of “hate
speech” and “hate crime” judicial decisions in American courts
has prepared the ground for them here. It was Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton
who invited OIC members to a conference in
Washington
to discuss how American law can conform to U.N. Resolution 16/18
and the OIC agenda. What difference can it make to her if Americans are gagged
and threatened with prosecution for speaking out against Islam or drawing to
the public’s attention the gruesome facts of Islam in practice and in action?
Just remember, and to
paraphrase that Orwellian warning: “Hate speech” is “hate crime.” Just ask Audrey
Hudson
, the journalist whose home was raided by Federal and Maryland state
law enforcement in search of evidence of her own “hate crime.”
And
so began Hudson’s nightmare – held captive by armed agents of the U.S. Coast
Guard, Maryland State Police and the Department of Homeland Security as they
staged a pre-dawn raid in search of unregistered firearms and a “potato gun.”
“I
think they found a great way to get into my house and get a hold of my
confidential notes and go through every other file in my office.”  – Audrey Hudson, journalist
But
instead of taking the potato gun, agents seized unrelated government documents
and notes from the former Washington Times journalist.
Agents took Hudson’s records during a search for guns and related
items owned by her husband, a civilian Coast Guard employee. They also
confiscated her legally registered firearms, according to court documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The
lesson here is that a search warrant no longer is a protection against the
depredations of any government agency that has the power to expropriate one’s
property, or to intimidate anyone who has been critical of government policies,
gaffes, failures and tyrannical behavior. Search warrants are now just a
pretext to violate one’s person and one’s rights.

The barbarians and
totalitarians inside and outside our borders are ready to ambush the First
Amendment and render us helpless against their onslaught.

Our Military: Obama’s Janissaries?


Last
May, reading a British Daily Mail article about the umbrella incident, during
which two U.S. Marines
were ordered to hold umbrellas
over the heads of President Barack Obama and
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a press conference in the
White House Rose Garden, other than expressing my disgust for the degrading
chore the Marines had to perform (against protocol), something else tickled my
memory. At the time, I was engaged in other issues and that little gray gremlin
never came out of the closet. Specifically, it was the picture of Erdogan, a
policy pal of Obama’s, flapping his gums while a Rock of Gibraltar Marine stood
stoically holding an umbrella over his head, which prompted the gremlin to make
his presence known.
At the
time, I couldn’t make the connection between Erdogan and that elusive
something.
This
morning, after having imbibed over the past year a number of stories of how
Obama goes out of his way to emasculate the U.S. military or turn it into his
personal policy enforcer (Libya, Syria, etc.), the gremlin emerged, garbed in a
tall funny hat with plumes and long robes and brandishing a wicked-looking
scimitar, and greeting me in Turkish –
Uyan, yavaş zekâlı biri! – and in Bosnian – Probudi se, tupoglav jedan!*
Janissaries.
Who or
what were the Janissaries? They were a private army of Turkish sultans
recruited from prisoners of war, chiefly from the Balkans. A Harvard
Center for Middle East Studies
study document describes this special
military arm of the Ottomans:
The
Janissary Corps, yeniceri ocak or
“new soldier corps,” was one of two main branches of the Ottoman
armed forces, the other being the Sipahis
or provincial free-born Muslim cavalrymen, organized in the fourteenth century.
The Janissaries were the kapukulu,
“slaves of the sultan.” The corps members were educated and trained
for the Ottoman military and government service and became the private standing
army of the Ottoman Sultan. The Janissaries became an efficient and formidable
fighting force and the most outstanding army in Europe. Over time the Corps’
essence and behavior and the empire’s needs changed and the corps was abolished
in 1826.
The
Janissaries were recruited from captured Christian adolescent boys who were
made to convert to Islam. They were a key element in the final capitulation of
Constantinople in 1453.
Were
it not for Obama’s blatantly pro-Islam policies and stance over the last five
years, the notion that he regarded our military forces as Janissarian tools
would never have occurred to me. It didn’t occur to me under George W. Bush, even
though he parroted the Islamic line that Islam is a “religion of
peace,” nor even under Bill Clinton, in spite of his Bosnian intervention
in favor of Muslims.
From
his “New
Beginning
” speech at Cairo University in June 2009 through his Libyan intervention
of 2011
to the staffing of key
federal government posts
with Muslims that rivals the Soviet infiltration
of the government from the 1930s on through the collapse of the Soviet Union,
one cannot help but think that, consequently, our U.S. military, supposedly
dedicated to defending this country and the Constitution, has become a toy of Obama’s
 ambitions. There is, of course, his
friendship with the Muslim
Brotherhood
and his sending Marines
to Saudi Arabia
to train Syrian “rebels” or
“insurgents” (aka jihadists)
fighting in the civil war. There is the ongoing indoctrination
of American military personnel – as the Balkan adolescents were – on the
“beneficent” nature of Islam. Let us not forget his 2012 order to the
FBI
to excise all references to Islam and Muslims
from the agency’s training
materials, and his “open
immigration
” policy that allows tens of thousands of Muslims to settle
in this country. The instances are legion.
So,
the question is: If it walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and looks like a
duck, is it a duck?
That
is: If, aside from his hateful moves against the military, Obama regards it as
his personal palace guard ready to do his bidding, can it be said that he is
treating our military as a instrument of his own personal foreign policy? Given
the pro-Islam character of that foreign policy, are there not grounds for
suspecting or thinking that?
This
is a theme, not a charge. An analogy, not an accusation. But all the
ingredients are there, and they comport with Obama’s character and agenda, an
agenda that is overtly pro-Islamic, proto-totalitarian, and designed to ally
this country with its ideological enemies.
If we
can characterize our military as a pliable force of Janissaries, why not our
intelligence agencies, and law enforcement entities, as well, from the FBI on
down to the local police? In Britain, local police forces act as arms of the
Home Office and its policies vis-à-vis government speech codes and immigration.
For
example, in 2012, the Guardian
reported on the constraints on freedom of speech in Britain, citing the Public
Order Act of 1986:
Section
5 of the 1986 Public Order Act says a person “is guilty of an offence if
he (a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly
behaviour, or (b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation
which is threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a
person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby”.
There
are two things wrong with this catch-all wording. First, unlike section 4 of
the same act, and Britain’s legislation on incitement to hatred on
grounds of religion or sexual orientation, it does not require evidence
of an intention to cause harassment, alarm or distress. The standard is just
“likely to”. Who decides what is “likely to” be caused
harassment, alarm or distress? On the street, the police do.
This
would account for British newspapers refusing to refer to Muslim murders, gang
terrorism, rapes, and the like, but adopting instead the euphemism
“Asian.” It also accounts for the victims of Musim crime being
harassed by the government and by Muslims, such as the woman who confronted Lee
Rigby’s killers
in May of this year.
Is
such a law possible here in the U.S.? Yes, if the Department of Homeland
Security has any say in the matter. The DHS,
governed for years by retired Janet Napolitano, regards itself as sacrosanct
and above the law, although some journalists have attempted to uncover the
corruption and waste endemic in the agency. Recently, The Daily Caller reported
that a journalist’s home was raided in the wee
hours of the morning by federal agents
, ostensively looking for guns, but
actually after the journalist’s notes about corruption in the Air Marshall
program.
An
investigative reporter in the Washington, D.C., area says armed federal agents
stormed her home in August and confiscated stacks of confidential documents,
leading her to fear that her undercover government sources have been exposed.
Audrey
Hudson, a freelance reporter for Newsmax and the Colorado Observer, said the
Department of Homeland Security and the Maryland State Police raided her home in
Shady Side, Md., in August….
But
Hudson told the Daily Caller that agents also confiscated documents containing
information on sources within the Department of Homeland Security and the
Transportation Security Administration. She said no subpoena was presented for
the documents and said the confiscation was outside the bounds of the warrant.
She
said about seven officers dressed in full body armor arrived at her home at
4:30 a.m. Aug. 6 and presented her with a search warrant. Hudson said an
investigator with the Coast Guard’s Investigative Service identified her as the
reporter responsible for writing a series of articles critical of air marshals
for The Washington Times newspaper.
Is
this the wave of the future? Pre-dawn raids on journalists, or even on bloggers
like me? An administration that would side with totalitarian Islam would have
no qualms about establishing a police state in this country. It would be
imposed under the rubric of “law and order,” or “public
safety.” It wouldn’t be fair to charge the Democrats exclusively with that
predilection. Most Republicans are just as capable of wanting to set our minds right
with a law and a billy club and a “night in the box.”
As part of the indoctrination of our military
about how Islam is a “religion of peace,” and how to behave in the
presence of Muslims, the Army
has been calling Christian groups
, as well as the Tea Party, “extremists”
capable of terrorism, and warned that any soldier discovered contributing to
any of those groups would be punished according the Uniform
Code of Military Justice
. The most bizarre instance of the military’s
brainwashing of its ranks was its deeming the Founders
as “extremists.”
Infowars reported on August 24th in
its article, DoD Training Manual:
‘Extremist’ Founding Fathers ‘Would Not Be Welcome In Today’s Military
:
Conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch
recently obtained a Department of Defense training manual which lists people
who embrace “individual liberties” and honor “states’ rights,” among other
characteristics, as potential “extremists” who are likely to be members of
“hate groups.”
Freedom as an “extremist ideology”? Does
anyone still remember Napolitano’s 2009
internal memo
about the dangers posed by “right-wing extremists”?
As the Washington Times reported then:
The Department of Homeland Security is warning
law enforcement officials about a rise in “rightwing extremist activity,”
saying the economic recession, the election of America’s first black president
and the return of a few disgruntled war veterans could swell the ranks of
white-power militias. A footnote attached to the report by the Homeland
Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis defines “rightwing extremism in
the United States” as including not just racist or hate groups, but also groups
that reject federal authority in favor of state or local authority.
“It may include groups and individuals that are
dedicated to a single-issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration,”
the warning says….
The nine-page document was sent to police and
sheriff’s departments across the United States on April 7 under the headline,
“Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence
in Radicalization and Recruitment.”
It
says the federal government “will be working with its state and local partners
over the next several months” to gather information on “rightwing extremist
activity in the United States.”
Finally,
suppose things reached a point under Obama that the government sensed there was
an uprising afoot against his policies, or at least mass civil disobedience vis-à-vis
ObamaCare or illegal immigration? The Small Wars Journal in July 2012 published
a paper, by Kevin Benson and Jennifer Weber, “Full
Spectrum Operations in the Homeland: A ‘Vision’ of the Future
.” The
authors project a Tea Party-aligned group seceding from the Union by taking
over a South Carolina town, and how the federal government would deal with it. It
discusses in detail how to quell a rebellion against “big
government.”
In this paper, we posit a scenario in which a
group of political reactionaries take over a strategically positioned town and
have the tacit support of not only local law enforcement but also state government
officials, right up to the governor.  Under present law, which initially
stemmed from bad feelings about Reconstruction, the military’s domestic role is
highly circumscribed.  In the situation we lay out below, even though the
governor refuses to seek federal help to quell the uprising (the usual channel
for military assistance), the Constitution allows the president broad leeway in
times of insurrection.  Citing the precedents of Abraham Lincoln during
the Civil War and Dwight D. Eisenhower sending troops to Little Rock in 1957,
the president mobilizes the military and the Department of Homeland Security,
to regain control of the city.  This scenario requires us to consider how
domestic intelligence is gathered and shared, the role of local law enforcement
(to the extent that it supports the operation), the scope and limits of the
Insurrection Act–for example maintaining a military chain of command but in
support of the Attorney General as the Department of Justice is the Lead
Federal Agency (LFA) under the conditions of the Act–and the roles of the
local, national, and international media….
The
design of this plan to restore the rule of law to Darlington will include
information/influence operations designed to present a picture of the federal response
and the inevitable defeat of the insurrection. 
Forbes Magazine’s Michael Peck, in his November
15th, 2012 article, “How the U.S. Military Would Crush a Tea
Party Rebellion,” notes:
Curiously, the authors don’t really delve the
fundamental issue of American soldiers firing on American civilians, except to
note that troops would have to comply with standing rules on force, which
require graduated levels of violence. Civil support in South Carolina makes
counterinsurgency in Kabul look like a picnic.
The old gun lobby line that a pack of civilians
with hunting rifles will stop a tyrannical federal government is silly. This
isn’t 1776, the U.S. military is a tad better equipped than King George’s
redcoats, and if the U.S. Army decides to crush an insurrection, it will do so.
However,
the real question is this: under what circumstances should federal troops
conduct military operations against American citizens on American soil? Is this
scenario likely enough that the U.S. military prepare for such operations, or
should we worry that preparation will inevitably lead to action?
And
there we are. Have the rank-and-file of our military been so thoroughly
brainwashed by politically correctness and fear-mongering propaganda that they
would act as American Janissaries against their fellow citizens? Most of the
officer corps, regardless of the service, has already been suborned and
co-opted. Americans face a dark future if our military no longer exists to
defend our freedoms, but to quash them.
A
police state established to “protect our liberties” is an ideological
non sequitur and an ideational
obscenity.
America
has three more years of Obama. Anything can happen between now and 2016.
 *Translation: Wake up, slow-witted one!

Freedom vs. Compulsion: Bramwell vs. Roberts

Reading
through the 1,092-page Oxford Book of
English Prose
as a respite from current events (published in 1925, it is
little less  than an inch thick, and
probably weighs less than two ounces), I came upon an essay by the Tory
lexicographer, Samuel Johnson, and was struck by one of his comments. Writing in
1760, five years after completing his Dictionary
of the English Language
, about terminating his critical magazine, ‘The
Idler
,’ he noted:
Value
is more frequently raised by scarcity than by use. That which lay neglected
when it was common, rises in estimation as its quantity becomes less. We seldom
learn the true want of what we have till it is discovered that we can have no
more.*
What
struck me was the appropriateness of Johnson’s comment. Here in the U.S. we are
losing our liberties by the dozen with each passing week. For over a century, a
succession of administrations and Congresses have been carving them out and
tossing them into a black hole. Most Americans today, having been raised in a
mixed, regulated, welfare state economy, cannot imagine, much less claim to
miss what they never knew: true, laissez-faire
capitalism and a government that did not habitually prey on their freedom,
wealth, and happiness. Those who took their liberties for granted are today now
realizing the value of what is “no more.”
Further
on in the pocket-size volume, I encountered a startling legal opinion,
delivered by British Lord Justice
Bowen
(Charles Synge Christopher) in the Court of Appeals in 1889 about a
suit brought by a steamship company against an “association,”
claiming that the association engaged in a “conspiracy to injure” and
so was guilty of “restraint of trade.”**
We
were told that competition ceases to be the lawful exercise of trade, and so to
be a lawful excuse for what will harm another, if carried to a length which is
not fair or reasonable. The offering of reduced rates by the defendants [McGregor
& Gow.] in the present case is said to have been “unfair.” This
seems to assume that, apart from fraud, intimidation, molestation, or
obstruction, of some other person right in
rem
or in personam, there is some
nature standard of “fairness” or “reasonableness” (to be
determined by the internal consciousness of judges and juries) beyond which
competition ought not in law to go. There seems to be no authority, I think, with
submission, that there is no sufficient reason for such a proposition.
It
would impose a novel fetter upon trade. The defendants, we are told by the
plaintiffs’ counsel, might lawfully lower rates provided they did not lower
them beyond a “fair freight,” whatever
that may mean
. But where is it established that there is any such
restriction upon commerce? And what is to be the definition of a “fair
freight”? It is said that it ought to be a normal rate of freight, such as
is reasonably remunerative to the shipowner. But over what period of time is
the average of this reasonable remunerativeness to be calculated?….[U]ntil
the present argument at the bar it may be doubted whether shipowners or
merchants were ever deemed to be bound by law to conform to some imaginary
“normal” standard of freights or prices…To attempt to limit English
competition in this way would probably be as hopeless an endeavour as the
experiment of King Canute. Law Reports.
[Punctuation Americanized, Italics
mine]
Justice
Bowen found for McGregor & Gow and dismissed Mogul Steamship’s suit. In
short, he wrote that because force in
any form had not been employed by the defendants against the Mogul Steamship
Company, Mogul had no lawful grounds to claim “economic injury” or a
plot by McGregor  & Gow to
consciously injure Mogul. Note that he questions whether definitions of fair and reasonable would even be valid, possible or admissible, and that if
any judge attempted to adjudicate such a case based on those terms, it would be
wholly subjective and not objective (and likely open to appeal by McGregor
& Gow.).
There
were no American opinions excerpted in the volume that I could compare with
Bowen’s. But, intrigued by the case and Bowen’s reasoning, I investigated Mogul
Steamship vs. McGregor et al., and
found that Bowen’s opinion was upheld three years later, in 1892, by Lord
Bramwell
(George William Wilshere
Bramwell
) in the House of Lords (acting as a kind of Supreme Court at
that time), when the same case wended its way there on appeal by Mogul
Steamship, with Bramwell echoing much the same logic and language as Bowen’s.
Bramwell
said:
My
Lords, the plaintiffs in this case do not
complain of any trespass, violence, force, fraud, or breach of contract, nor of
any direct tort or violation of any right of the plaintiffs
, like the case
of firing to frighten birds from a decoy; nor of any act, the ultimate object
of which was to injure the plaintiffs, having its origin in malice or ill-will
to them. The plaintiffs admit that
materially and morally they have been at liberty to do their best for
themselves without any impediment by the defendants
. But they say that the
defendants have entered into an agreement in restraint of trade; an agreement,
therefore, unlawful; an agreement, therefore, indictable, punishable; that the
defendants have acted in conformity with that unlawful agreement, and thereby
caused damage to the plaintiffs in respect of which they are entitled to bring,
and bring this action….
It is to be remembered that it is for the
plaintiffs to make out the case that the defendants have committed an indictable
offence, not for the defendants to disprove it.
There needs no argument to prove the negative. There are some
observations to be made. It is admitted that there may be fair competition in
trade, that two may offer to join and compete against a third. If so, what is the definition of “fair
competition”?
What is unfair that is neither forcible nor fraudulent? It
does seem strange that to enforce freedom of trade, of action, the law should
punish those who make a perfectly honest agreement with a belief that it is
fairly required for their protection….[Italics
mine]
Steady
the Buffs. Bramwell saw no evidence of force being used against Mogul
Steamship, nor any “conspiracy” to obstruct it from engaging in any
trade whatsoever, and dismissed the hypothetical question of a
“conspiracy” that would prevent the hypothetically
“injured” from engaging in trade.
Further,
he questioned the validity of a charge that the defendants, McGregor & Gow,
had acted against “public policy,” which ostensively prohibited
“restraint of trade.” He quotes another justice:      
“Certain
kinds of contracts have been held void at Common Law on the ground of public
policy; a branch of the law, however, which certainly should not be extended, as judges are more to be trusted as interpreters
of the law than as expounders of what is called public policy
.” I
think the present case is an illustration of the wisdom of these remarks. [Italics mine]
At
the time, the idea of “public policy” had not yet ossified in
political thinking. Today, “public policy” is a club used to beat the
citizenry into submission and obedience. “Public policy” – that is,
government policy – covers a virtually infinite number of actions and things,
from smoking to consumer prices to stock trading to medical care to
immigration. More on that issue later. Returning to the question at hand,
Bramwell wrote:
See
in this case the judgment of Lord Esher, that the plaintiffs might recover for
“damages at large for future years.” Would a shipowner who had intended to send
his ship to Shanghai, but desisted owing to the defendants’ agreement, and on
being told by them they would deal with him as they had with the plaintiffs, be
entitled to maintain an action against the defendants? Why not? If yes, why not
every shipowner who could say he had a ship fit for the trade, but was deterred
from using it?….
The
Master of the Rolls cites Sir William Erle, that “a combination to violate a
private right in which the public has a sufficient interest is a crime, such
violation being an actionable wrong.” True. Sir William Erle means that where
the violation of a private right is an actionable wrong, a combination to
violate it, if the public has a sufficient interest, is a crime. But in this
case, I hold that there is no private
right violated
. His Lordship further says: “If one goes beyond the exercise
of the course of trade, and does an act beyond what is the course of trade, in
order—that is to say, with intent—to molest the other’s free course of trade,
he is not exercising his own freedom of a course of trade, he is not acting in
but beyond the course of trade, and then it follows that his act is an unlawful
obstruction of the other’s right to a free course of trade, and if such
obstruction causes damage to the other he is entitled to maintain an action for
the wrong.” I may be permitted to say that this is not very plain. I think
it means that it is not in the course of trade for one trader to do acts the
motive of which is to damage the trade of another. Whether I should agree
depends on the meaning to be put on “course of trade” and “molest.” [Italics mine]
Where,
Bramwell is asking, is the initiation of force? Where is the
“molestation”?And, the whole notion of projected or
“potential” losses incurred by someone not engaging in trade because of an external force – in this
instance, a competitor’s actions – was to Bramwell utterly inadmissible as
grounds for charging McGregor & Gow with “restraining” trade. “Potential,”
reasoned Bramwell, was not the “actual.”
But
it is clear that the Master of the Rolls means conduct which would give a cause
of action against an individual. He cites Sir William Erle in support of his
proposition, who clearly is speaking of acts which would be actionable in an
individual, and there is no such act here. The Master of the Rolls says the
lowering of the freight far beyond a lowering for any purpose of trade was not
an act done in the exercise of their own free right of trade, but for the
purpose of interfering with the plaintiffs’ right to a free course of trade;
therefore a wrongful act as against the plaintiffs’ right; and as injury to the
plaintiffs followed, they had a right of action.
I cannot agree.
If there were two shopkeepers in a village and one sold an article at cost
price, not for profit therefore, but to attract customers or cause his rival to
leave off selling the article only, it could not be said he was liable to an
action. I cannot think that the defendants did more than they had a legal right
to do. I adopt the vigorous language and opinion of Fry L.J.: “To draw a line between fair and unfair
competition, between what is reasonable and unreasonable, passes the power of
the courts
.”  It is a strong
thing for the plaintiffs to complain of the very practices they wished to share
in, and once did. [Italics mine]
Briefly,
Bramwell as much as said that Mogul Steamship claimed to be able to somehow get
inside the heads of McGregor & Gow. and see a conscious conspiracy to
“injure” Mogul Steamship, when in fact McGregor & Gow. were
simply acting freely in the course of regular business, with no intention of
“molesting” Mogul or obstructing its ability to engage in trade. It
had no ulterior motive. Clearly, neither Bowen nor Bramwell subscribed to the notion
of “platonic competition,” and doubtless would have regarded the
notion of “hate crimes” beyond the pale of rationality. And,
doubtless, neither of them would be allowed to sit on any British bench, nor on
any in the U.S.
This
brings us to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ bizarre opinion on the
legality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care
Act
of March 2010, or ObamaCare, and the question of “public
policy.”
President
Barack Obama’s “public policy” was to impose socialized medicine on
the country by compelling Americans to buy health insurance (the
“individual mandate”). To this end he had the help of much of
Congress and numerous “public policy” advocates in the private
sector. The official “launch” of ObamaCare on October 1st
was fraught with too many technical
issue
s to recount here. This is aside from the evil of the legislation and
the exponentially catastrophic consequences of its implementation, among which
will be the degradation of medical care in this country, a reduction in medical
personnel who opt out of the system or simply retire, and the politicization of
one’s choices and life.
There
are lawsuits
challenging the legality of ObamaCare pending or already in the courts. Earlier
court
decisions on the unconstitutionality of Obamcare have been ignored or
overturned or are winding
their way up
the judicial ladder to the Supreme Court, in addition to individual
state
actions to limit or oppose the ACA. The major current challenge is Halbig v.
Sebelius
, which has not yet reached the Supreme Court. It challenges the
power of the federal government to cajole states through federal
subsidies
to establish “insurance
exchanges
,” and also the power of the Internal Revenue Service to act
as the primary “enforcer” of the individual mandate. 
Unfortunately,
no lawsuit against ObamaCare is grounded on any moral argument, to wit, that
compelling individuals to buy a product is plain-language force and a violation
of his freedom of association and his volition, that is, to engage in trade and
to choose or not to engage in that trade. Instead, most lawsuits are focusing
on technical issues of policy agendas and the constitutionality of those technical
issues. For example, the British
Daily Mail
, in its October 22nd article, “Bombshell:
Federal judge suddenly green-lights lawsuit that could stop ObamaCare in its
tracks,” wrote, in highlighting the fact that the IRS is summarily violating
provisions of the ACA that forbid the government from offering premium
subsidies to states that refuse to establish exchanges:
The
Affordable Care Act forbids the federal government from enforcing the law in
any state that opted out of setting up its own health care exchange, according
to a group of small businesses whose lawsuit got a key hearing Monday in
federal court.
The
Obama administration, according to their lawsuit, has ignored that language in
the law, enforcing all of its provisions even in states where the federal
government is operating the insurance marketplaces on the error-plagued
Healthcare.gov website.
Thirty-six
states chose not to set up their exchanges, a move that effectively froze
Washington, D.C. out of the authority to pay subsidies and other pot-sweeteners
to convince citizens in those states to buy medical insurance.
But
the IRS overstepped its authority by paying subsidies in those states anyway,
say the businesses and their lawyers.
The
one court decision that left everyone breathless in anticipation, and then
jaw-dropping stunned when it was delivered, was the Supreme Court decision
that both upheld and struck down the constitutionality
of ObamaCare. In the 5-4 decision of June 28th, 2012, Chief Justice
John Roberts wrote the majority
opinion
in the matter of the National
Federation of Business v. Sebelius Secretary of Health and Human Services et
al.
[sic, should be National Federation
of Independent Business], opining, among other things:
CHIEF
JUSTICE ROBERTS concluded in Part III-B that the individual mandate must be
construed as imposing a tax on those who do not have health insurance, if such
a construction is reasonable. The most straightforward reading of the
individual mandate is that it commands
individuals to purchase insurance
. But, for the reasons explained, the
Commerce Clause does not give Congress that power. It is therefore necessary to
turn to the Government’s alternative argument: that the mandate may be upheld
as within Congress’s power to “lay and collect Taxes.” Art. I, §8,
cl. 1. [Italics mine]
Much
was made in the news media and by critics of the notion of interpreting the
Commerce Clause as a means of forcing individuals to engage in trade. Force, to these interpreters, means regulation – which is not what the
Founders meant. 
On
one hand, Roberts invalidated Congress’s power to force individuals to purchase
health insurance. On the other hand, he upheld the power to tax as a means of
compelling individuals to purchase the insurance under penalty of a tax. But,
more of Roberts’ “reasoning”:
CHIEF
JUSTICE ROBERTS concluded in Part III-A that the individual mandate is not a
valid exercise of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary
and Proper Clause. Pp. 16-30.(a) The Constitution grants Congress the power to “regulate
Commerce.” Art. I, §8, cl. 3 (emphasis added). The power to regulate commerce
presupposes the existence of commercial activity to be regulated. This Court’s
precedent reflects this understanding: As expansive as this Court’s cases
construing the scope of the commerce power have been, they uniformly describe
the power as reaching “activity.” E.g.,
United States v. Lopez, 514 U. S. 549, 560. The individual mandate, however,
does not regulate existing commercial activity. It instead compels individuals
to become active in commerce by purchasing a product, on the ground that their
failure to do so affects interstate commerce.
The
only way failure to purchase health insurance would “affect interstate
commerce” would be to reflect an absence of demand for a ridiculously
overpriced commodity. Roberts seems to catch his breath and backtracks to make
sure everyone understands his “reasoning” and reservations.
The
Framers knew the difference between doing something and doing nothing. They
gave Congress the power to regulate commerce, not to compel it. Ignoring that distinction would undermine the principle
that the Federal Government is a government of limited and enumerated powers.
The individual mandate thus cannot be sustained under Congress’s power to “regulate
Commerce.”
 This should be news to anyone concerned that
the current Federal Government is not now one of limited and enumerated powers,
and that most presidents and Congress for over a century have blithely ignored
the distinction established by the Framers. Let’s look at his conclusion again.
After dealing with the Necessary and Proper Clause, Roberts concludes:
CHIEF
JUSTICE ROBERTS concluded in Part III-B that the individual mandate must be
construed as imposing a tax on those who do not have health insurance, if such
a construction is reasonable. The most straightforward reading of the
individual mandate is that it commands individuals to purchase insurance. But,
for the reasons explained, the Commerce Clause does not give Congress that
power. It is therefore necessary to turn to the Government’s alternative
argument: that the mandate may be upheld as within Congress’s power to “lay
and collect Taxes.” Art. I, §8, cl. 1.
Let
us not quibble. Whether one calls it a tax, or a penalty, or a fine, it is
legalized extortion.
After
the decision, President Obama
proclaimed
, “In this country, an accident or illness should not cause
financial ruin for anyone.” But now that many Americans have seen what
“is in it,” all they see is financial ruin.
The
insurance companies that stand to “profit” most from the compulsory
element of ObamaCare were listed by Forbes Magazine in its October 14th
article, “
Obamacare’s Website Is Crashing Because
It Doesn’t Want You To Know How Costly Its Plans Are”:
The
biggest publicly-traded players in Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges are
Aetna (NYSE:AET), Humana (NYSE:HUM), Cigna (NYSE:CI), Molina (NYSE:MOH), WellPoint (NYSE:WLP), and Centene (NYSE:CNC), in order of the percentage of
uninsured, exchange-eligible Americans for whom their plans are available.
For
the longest time, ever since the federal government began persecuting large
companies, accusing them of taking advantage of “captive markets” and
enacting the Sherman
Antitrust Act
of 1890 and the Clayton
Antitrust Act
of 1914 (Pub.L. 63–212, 38 Stat. 730),
enacted October 15, 1914, by seeking to prevent anticompetitive practices
considered harmful to consumers (monopolies, cartels, and trusts). The Clayton
Act specified particular prohibited conduct, the three-level enforcement
scheme, the exemptions, and the remedial measures.
The
U.S. Supreme Court has played a central role in establishing controls over
success and legitimate business activities. The Court’s role in sanctioning
ObamaCare is just the latest episode.
What
accounts for the difference between the honest, clear reasoning of British
justices Bowen and Bramwell, and the evasive, pretzel-like rationalizations of
our Chief Justice John Roberts? There is speculation that Roberts was pressured
to cast the swing vote in favor of upholding ObamaCare. That is mere
speculation, although, given the conduct of the Obama administration these five
long, ghastly years, that is not too incredible an hypothesis. After all, the
ACA is supposed to be the crowning achievement Obama’s years in office. No
level would be too low for him to stoop to resort to arm-twisting a Chief
Justice.
Another
explanation would be the corrosive miasma of big government and the welfare
state, a corruption that encourages fabulous interpretations of the
Constitution and its original intent and language. Still another explanation
would be purblind fear of opposing an imaginary national consensus, or defying a
reckless, ambitious politician in the White House.
Perhaps
it was just a reluctance to challenge the philosophy that Americans are charges
or wards of the state, with no guaranteed rights but the “right” or
obligation to serve the public.
Whatever
the explanation for Roberts’ action, he missed an opportunity to make it his
finest hour, and chose to make a decision that will live in infamy.
*Samuel Johnson, “The Last ‘Idler’,” in The Oxford Book of
English Prose
, ed. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. London: Oxford, Clarendon
Press, 1925. p. 400.
**Ibid. Lord Justice Bowen, “Mogul Steamship Company v. McGregor
Gow & Co.: Judgment,” pp. 853-854.

The Ghouls of Grammatical Egalitarianism

In
his FrontPage article of October 19th, “Why
Charles Krauthammer Gets It Wrong on the Redskins
,” Daniel Greenfield
corrected columnist Charles Krauthammer over the storm-in-a-teacup issue of the
allegedly derogatory name of the Washington football team.
Krauthammer,
in his October 17th Washington Post Opinion article, “Redskins
and Reason
,” wrote in defense of his opposition to the team name
“Washington Redskins.” He claims it is a racial slur, whether or not
Indians object to it:
I
know there are surveys that say that most Native Americans aren’t bothered
by the word. But that’s not the point. My objection is not rooted in pressure
from various minorities or fear of public polls or public scolds.
What
is his objection? It’s a personal, subjective objection. Krauthammer’s usual
prescience on hard politics has abandoned him on the issue.
Years
ago, the word “retarded” emerged as the enlightened substitute for such cruel
terms as “feeble-minded” or “mongoloid.” Today, however, it is considered a
form of denigration, having been replaced by the clumsy but now conventional
“developmentally disabled.” There is no particular logic to this evolution. But
it’s a social fact. Unless you’re looking to give gratuitous offense, you don’t
call someone “retarded.”
In
a feeble attempt to find a substitute name that would omit the term
“red,” he suggests:
How
about Skins, a contraction already applied to the Washington football team? And
that carries a sports connotation, as in skins vs. shirts in pickup basketball.
A
fair try, but unfortunately, the term skin
has too many “negative” meanings, as well, among them the British
term for the paper used to roll a joint, a condom, nudity, and so on. Krauthammer
seems to be rebelling against the concept of identity, in Standard English and
in slang.
Greenfield
noted:
The
people most obsessed with this question are white people. Mostly white
liberals. This is a debate that white liberals and white conservatives are
having over political correctness.
And
that’s the point. Krauthammer, whether or not he admits it, has succumbed to
the bogyman of Marxism-driven
politically correct speech. And politically correct speech (and thinking) is
the subject of an essay I wrote in 1997, originally published in the November/December
number of The Social Critic of that year. It is republished here with
some minor editing.
__________________________________________________________________________
A small, innocuous-looking book appeared in bookstores recently,
published under the auspices of the Association of American University Presses
(AAUP), an organization which claims to be devoted to the dissemination of
knowledge and scholarly research. Its title is Guidelines
for Bias-Free Writing
, by Marilyn Schwartz and the Task Force on
Bias-Free Language (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995). It is little
more than 100 pages long, weighs less than a pound, yet its contents are more
potent than the Oklahoma City bomb. Its ingredients are politically correct
jargon, multiculturalism, and the phenomenon of what may be called “grammatical
egalitarianism.”
It
is important to note at the start that the Association boasts a membership of
114 institutions, mostly university presses, but includes such diverse
organizations as the National Academy Press, the National Gallery of Art, the
Modern Language Association, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the J. Paul Getty
Trust. Its membership includes all major American and Canadian universities,
plus Oxford University Press and presses in Tokyo, South America, and
Scandinavia. This is an organization with significant cultural clout.
What
is “bias-free” writing? The Guidelines’ definition of it is “writing
free of discriminatory or disparaging language.” It should be stressed that the
object of Guidelines’ concerns is not primarily racial slurs. The AAUP
is not referring to the language to be found in the pathological hate
literature published by the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Nation, or the Black
Muslims, but to staid university publications. Its focus is common,
inoffensive usage, and the implication throughout the book is that scholarly
works that are not “sensitized” and “sanitized” may in the future be demoted to
the rank of hate literature, and treated with the same disdain, regardless of
their intellectual merit or significance.
The
following is a short selection of terms, phrases and usages from Guidelines,
found by its authors to be discriminatory, disparaging or otherwise “biased”:
Man, the singular pronoun none
coupled with his; girl, mother nature, the alleged association of
he and she with good and bad and great and small;
born-again, retard, idiot, redneck, city slicker, Siamese twins,
Dutch treat, deprived, needy, underprivileged, well-dressed, ghetto,
indigenous, tribe, teenager, juvenile
and elderly.
Also
on its list of “offensive” terms are able-bodied and intelligent,
which are considered discriminatory by implication and disparaging in any
instance of comparison.
Guidelines includes the
disclaimer, “there is no such thing as a truly bias-free language” and stresses
that the advice it offers is only “that of white, North American (specifically
U.S.), feminist publishing professionals.” The Task Force, which is composed of
21 university press editors (two of them men), recommends euphemistic proxies
for all of the terms on its “hit list.”
“Books
that are on the cutting edge of scholarship,” reads the AAUP Board of
Directors’ position statement, “should also be at the forefront in recognizing
how language encodes prejudice. They should also be agents for change and the
redress of past mistakes.” By “prejudice” Guidelines means an operative
hierarchy of values, not racist premises or gender “chauvinism.” While the term
“encodes” suggests that the authors of Guidelines regard the human mind
as a kind of computer chip that must be sterilized before “correct” encoding
can be applied (and who therefore imply that the mind is a mere passive
receptor and mirror of its cultural environment), another statement deserves
still closer scrutiny:
“The
term normal may legitimately refer to a statistical norm for human
ability (such as 20/20 vision), but should usually be avoided in other contexts
as…invidious.”
If
one sets as his standard of normalcy an individual who is in full
possession of his mental faculties, who is not debilitated by disease or
physical impairment, who is able to take responsibility for his own life, can
think and act without special “accommodation,” then by definition most people
are normal, and any limitation in any
of these criteria is a measure of subnormalcy.
In
private conversation, one might say of another, “He’s feebleminded.” In public
– e.g., in a “sanitized” book or in a speech – one may be allowed to say, “He’s
cognitively challenged,” or “He’s conceptually arrested,” or “He’s differently
conscious.” But assuming an absence of malice or cruel intent, the use of the
adjective “feebleminded” represents a conclusion reached from an evaluation or
a judgment of a person who, for whatever reason, chooses not to exercise his
mind, and thereby renders himself comparable to a feebleminded person who has
little or no choice in the range or depth of his thinking.
The
same argument can be applied to any of the supposedly discriminatory or
disparaging terms targeted by Guidelines. Suppose one said, “He’s an
idiot,” or “He’s a moron,” or “He’s a retard”; or was more inventive: “His mind
is on crutches,” or “His brain is in a wheelchair” – assuming that one has made
an accurate observation and a just evaluation, the terser or colorful one’s
descriptive prose, the more heinous one’s act of disparagement. But, in fact,
one is not mocking or disparaging idiots, morons, or non-ambulatory men: they
are merely being used as referents of normalcy.
In
essence, Guidelines advocates abolishing human comparison by prohibiting
the identity of referents. In the foregoing example, one would be discouraged
from expressing a judgment or evaluation of a person who has offered abundant
evidence of his inability or unwillingness to think normally or to perform some
task. Such a person is simply there, like a rock or a tree, beyond
discrimination (in the strict, nonracial, nonsexist meaning of that word), beyond
evaluation, beyond recognition. He is not incomparable; more precisely, he is non-comparable.
To compare the inventor of the steam engine with a man who is unable to do
simple math or boil a kettle of water without harming himself is, by
egalitarian anti-standards, a grave breach of “social justice” and an
unforgivable faux pas.
According
to Guidelines, “[a]djectives such as poor and unfortunate
have a similar [negatively connotative] effect and are patronizing, as are such
epithets as heroic and courageous.” Thus, if Guidelines’
authors have their way, not only will it be considered a breach of egalitarian
etiquette to make a distinction between heroism and cowardice, but it will not
be permitted to establish distinctions between normalcy or abnormalcy by which
to measure anyone’s character, ability or physical condition. There will be no
such thing as normalcy or any hierarchy of values, or value-measurement, just
whatever the slot machines of egalitarianism and multiculturalism happen to
disgorge from an eclectic, random stew of humanoids. A genius and an idiot are
not to be distinguished, discriminated, or even recognized; each is
“differently abled” or “specially conscious,” and no value may be placed on one
over the other.
This
is not the pursuit of “social justice,” even if one could assign a benign
intent to the concept. It is a formula for the manufacture of politically
correct automatons.
Strictly
speaking, measures of subnormalcy are not moral judgments. Neither are
they absolute measures of one’s potential for achievement. Helen Keller was
both blind and deaf. John Steinmetz, the brilliant electrical engineer, was a
hunchback. Toulouse-Lautrec, the painter, was a dwarf (injured by a fall down
the stairs when a youth). Neither is gender an obstacle to achievement, nor is
race, especially not in regards to intellectual accomplishment or to any field
of productive work that entails a greater than average measure of mental labor.
The numbers represented by women and individuals of other races or cultural
backgrounds in this respect are so great that they do not represent exceptions
to the rule – the rule simply does not exist.
(Parenthetically,
the act of blacklisting supposedly disparaging terms is self-defeating. Readers
will recall how quickly the first wave of politically correct euphemisms was
met with disdainful humor. What occurred was the transfer of the intended
evaluations or judgments from the banished terms to the euphemisms. The intent
of the evaluations or judgments found a new mode of expression – with the
added, stressed note of contempt for the euphemism itself, for its stumbling,
awkward redundancy, for its ill-disguised role of shielding the subject of the
euphemism from true identification or evaluation.)
Grammatical Egalitarianism

Webster’s defines egalitarianism as “a belief in human equality,
especially with respect to social, political and economic rights and
privileges.” Grammatical egalitarianism is the systematic culling of
“offensive” words and phraseology from the English language and the
substitution of innocuous or “preferred” argot, at the expense of clarity,
economy and logic, for the sake of protecting the feelings of real or
imagined “victims” of such offending language.
In
economics, egalitarianism is the philosophical root of antitrust laws and
graduated taxation; in politics, of the welfare state and modern university
admissions standards. If we treat the identification of individuals or of
specific human conditions as “social” elements of some egalitarian ideal, then
grammar has lagged behind economics and politics – until now. Grammatical
egalitarianism would be employed to “catch up” by leveling people’s conceptual
and evaluative criteria, so that by law, etiquette or custom, no person can be
distinguished from another, and to no one’s advantage but the lowest common
denominator’s.
Perhaps
the most troubling aspect of Guidelines is that its contents are not at
all shocking or revolutionary. The “guidelines” contained therein are already a
matter of ubiquitous, if uneven, conformity in business, government and the
news media. In its bibliography are listed more than a dozen other
publications, by university and trade publishers alike, that serve as guides
for “nonsexist” and “bias-free” writing. While this would imply that the AAUP
Task Force’s effort is redundant, perhaps merely a postscript to a culture-wide
phenomenon, it is in fact much more. The welfare state introduced new meanings
to such terms as deprived, disabled, and handicapped. As a
politically correct metathesis, grammatical egalitarianism strives to purge
language of all human distinctions and measures, regardless of their
origin.
To
illustrate the potential influence of Guidelines, imagine that a scholar
whose field of study is American political history has, after years of work,
finally completed his magnum opus on modern political trends. His thesis
is that, with very few exceptions to the rule, the character and capabilities
of political officeholders tend to diminish in direct proportion to the growth
of statism. This scholar’s work is being seriously considered for publication
by a university press. In his manuscript, however, are several statements of
questionable egalitarian taste, one of which, summarizing chapters of dry
commentary and rigorously researched proofs, reads, “Modern politicians are
moral and intellectual midgets, when compared with the moral and intellectual
stature of the Founding Fathers.”
His
editor at the university press might feel compelled to ask the historian to
rewrite that and other allegedly offensive sentences, or to substitute bland
proxies for midget and other red-flagged terms. The scholar cannot use dwarf,
or cripple, or any other term which, either as a simile or a metaphor,
implies a subnormal human condition; yet subnormalcy is the point he wants to
stress and the Founding Fathers are his measure of integrity and intellectual
achievement. He harbors no ill feeling toward or prejudice against midgets,
dwarfs or the handicapped; he was not even conscious of them when he wrote the
sentence. He senses that he had been expected to be conscious of them, but he
dismisses that thought as too fantastic. He consults a dictionary of etymology,
and learns that midget is derived from a variety of long-dead languages, and
that its original meaning was a gnat-like insect or sand fly; that is, the word
existed long before it was modified to name a human condition.
What
can the scholar do? Should he try to rewrite the sentences? Find substitutions?
Remove the sentences altogether? Work out some kind of compromise? Or take a
stand and insist that his words remain unaltered?
The
answer depends on a host of unknowns. If the scholar does not want to risk
reducing his chances for publication – and his career as a historian would
depend on publication – he may not want to take a stand for the sake of a few
words. Furthermore, he cannot know whether his editor is a staunch advocate of
“bias-free” writing; or is indifferent to the issue and so not likely to risk
offending his managing editor and coworkers, who may be advocates; or is a
loner who is contemptuous of “bias-free” writing, but who is certain that he
would be voted down in an editorial meeting.
And
there is always the AAUP in the background, ready to reconsider the status of
recalcitrant members who publish books whose texts “encode prejudice.” If the
editor manages to push through the historian’s “unsanitized” work, the
publisher may be upbraided by the AAUP or subjected to other unknown pressures.
If
the scholar caves in and accommodates the editor and publisher, he sets a
precedent for himself and other publishers and writers. “See? Even the champion
of liberty and enemy of collectivism had the decency to compromise. Why can’t you?”
And if the scholar takes a principled stand against having his work sanitized –
if he does not wish to become an “agent” for a change he does not endorse, if
he does not want to become a “redresser” of mistakes he either does not concede
or had no role in – he will do so with the knowledge that he risks rejection of
his work, for there are other, less troublesome authors willing to be published
under almost any conditions.
This
scenario depicts the conflict faced by an accomplished adult who presumably, in
his formative years, could avail himself of the Oxford English Dictionary,
Roget’s Thesaurus, and Webster’s Synonyms and Antonyms before
large sections of these reference works were X’d out by grammatical
egalitarianism and declared off-limits by his teachers. It is a dilemma in
which many authors might soon find themselves, unless they are fortunate enough
to have courageous publishers willing to place paramount value on an author’s
ideas and competency, and none on his capacity for obsequious thought
orthodoxy.
In
her 1972 essay “The Establishing of an Establishment,” Ayn Rand notes that:
Private cliques have always existed in the intellectual field,
particularly in the arts, but they used to serve as checks and balances on one
another, so that a nonconformist could enter the field and rise without the
help of a clique. Today, the cliques are consolidated into an
Establishment….Rule by unofficially privileged groups spreads a special kind of
fear, like a slow poison injected into the culture. It is not fear of a
specific ruler, but of the unknown power of anonymous cliques, which grows into
a chronic fear of unknown enemies. [1]

The relevance of her remarks as regards grammatical egalitarianism should be
apparent.
The Atomization of Concepts

To atomize a concept for the purpose of destroying or repressing it is
to explode a term into its constituent parts, treat the constituents as wholes
in and of themselves, and finally to inhibit the rediscovery or usage of the
atomized concept with cognitive barriers. Well-known among logicians as a
“reductionist” fallacy, this process repeals the law of Occam’s Razor, which
states that entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity.
Guidelines, which devotes almost
half of its page count to the subject of how to achieve “gender-inclusiveness”
in writing, focuses on the terms he and man. Reading the
recommendations in Guidelines on how to atomize these terms is, at
times, amusing:
“[I]n
subjects and traditions of discourse where he has been universally
employed and men are assumed to be present, it [she] may temporarily
redress the traditional omission of women.”
And:
“Using
words like mankind and man to refer to men and women, while
convenient shorthand, embodies bias and introduces that bias into our
perceptions of history and self. Use of the masculine singular pronoun [he]
to refer to all people is misleading and exclusive.”
Thus,
the concept man must be atomized into numerous phantom concepts which
are never reunited under that term again by their essential attributes.
If
one consults the etymological source of the term he and remembers how it
is used in the generic sense, one will see that it is derived mostly from an
amalgam of Old German and Old English, and has come to be used so that it and
its derivatives, such as his, refer to a person of either gender. The
terms man and men have similar histories, and have been used
accordingly since the Enlightenment.
What
the feminists are really objecting to are these terms’ secondary but
unavoidable masculine connotations. The only answer to their objection is that
the terms he and his and man must refer to some
abstraction, or to some personified image of a human being. And since one of
the attributes of the male gender, virility or potency, has been metaphorically
linked to the physical and mental behavior of the human race, for better or for
worse, the personified image or abstraction naturally defaults to man.
Unless one is willing to settle for a circus freak, or a hermaphrodite, or even
an “it” as an alternative to man or he, there is no other term
that performs the same task.
And
why would the grammatical egalitarians wish to atomize the term man? For
two reasons: First, discarding the term gives them the rationale and precedent
to perform the same vivisection on other, less complex terms; second, the term man
does not include, and certainly does not evoke the image of, any of their pets:
the handicapped, racial minorities, the elderly, homosexuals, or women. The
term man is an ennobling term; it does not admit ciphers who refuse to
poke their heads out of their particular group or tribal shells. The concept is
a reproach to the egalitarians, for they see nothing noble or glorified within
themselves that correlates to the concept, and nothing in the concept that can
be applied to them.
“Insensitivity
to racial and ethnic identities” continues the AAUP position statement, “and to
differences of religion, age, ability, and sexual orientation reinforces the
conscious and unconscious attitudes that allow us too often to reproduce
ignorance.”
Both
in the AAUP position statement, and in Guidelines’ table of contents,
are cited as victims of discrimination, disparagement and injustice almost
every group that has benefited from governmental social or economic
legislation: minorities, women, the elderly, the handicapped, and homosexuals.
However, that grammatical egalitarianism is being sanctioned and promoted by a
quasi-governmental organization is not a fundamental cause of the phenomenon.
Subjectivist art usurped representational art as part of a cultural trend whose
root cause was the disintegration of philosophy. It was private foundations and
a coalescing art Establishment which over decades banished representational art
from parks, museums and business offices. The National Endowment for the Arts
(NEA) did not appear until long after the fact.
Similarly,
objectivity and clarity in language have been under attack from academe for
decades, as ambiguity and imprecision in language gradually became hallmarks of
sophistication and wisdom among the pseudo-intelligentsia. It was only a matter
of time before the sewer lines through which the universities have been spewing
effluvia into the culture themselves became rotted. The proposed
“homogenization” of language by grammatical egalitarianism is merely another
feature of a wider phenomenon, with government nomenclature and subsidies
abetting and accelerating the trend.
Thought Orthodoxy

Thought orthodoxy is not synonymous with thought control. There
is no Federal Board of Language Usage to which publishers must submit their
books and journals to be tested for discriminatory of disparaging language
before they can be put on the market for sale to the public. However, while no official
agency of control exists, there is a kind of interlocking directorate of
semi-public institutions and organizations which accomplishes the same purpose
by presenting a united front against freedom of expression and imposing
orthodoxy on our culture’s intellectual and literary pacesetters.
“Say what you please, we’re not censors!” proclaims the AAUP’s
unspoken credo. “But say it our way, or do not bother to say it.” Short
of overt government repression, I cannot imagine a more insidious form of
thought control than this, which is to thrust independent minds of whatever
professional suasion or degree of ability into a purgatory that is not quite
freedom and not quite slavery.
The goal of the grammatical egalitarians is not to diminish our
range of thought, but to homogenize it. To homogenize the contents of a
mind, however, is to accomplish the same end: unquestioning, knee-jerk
obedience to the authority of orthodoxy. Such a mind may be able to produce a
“sanitized” book without prompting by the czars of goodthink, but it
would never venture to extend its range of thought. Instead of reducing the
number of words available to people in an ever-shrinking Newspeak dictionary
(as described in George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen
Eighty-Four
), Guidelines and its proponents advocate swelling
the number of “value neutral” euphemisms for the ostensible purpose of
preserving the “self-esteem” of the beneficiaries of collectivism and altruism
(and, indirectly, to preserve the “moral” aura of the welfare state by
squelching any incipient criticism of it). [2]

What of young minds? Discussing the issue of reprinting old or classic texts or
collections of historical and literary documents, Guidelines advises
that “Educated readers generally understand that scholarly publishers may not
revise the language in a reprinted text…unless the text is intended for
classroom use in the primary and secondary grades
.” [Emphasis added.] Thus,
an educated adult may be permitted to read unexpurgated, unsanitized reprints,
because he will somehow know better than to be “prejudiced” by whatever
“disparaging” language he may encounter. The minds of children and adolescents,
however, must be homogenized before “encoding” sets in, and so it is
permissible to tamper with old or classic texts.

In the scholar’s case, the cognitive obstacle is fear – fear of recrimination
from unknown powers and influences in the realm of publishing. In the school textbook
case, the cognitive obstacle is engineered ignorance by schools in
concert with the publishers of textbooks – a practice that has been unofficial
policy in public schools for decades.

Ayn Rand concluded her 1972 essay, “Censorship: Local and Express,” with a
dedication to Jefferson’s vow, inscribed in marble above his statue: “I have
sworn…eternal hostility to every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”[3] She
wondered how conservative members of the Supreme Court could bear to look at
the Jefferson Memorial in light of their decisions. In 1996, the grammatical
egalitarians are neither blind to the magnificence of the statue, nor deaf to
the meaning of the words. They would prefer to see the statue and the words
replaced with an NEA-financed androgynous hulk who humbly swears subservient
deference to any random cipher who chances by.

Guidelines reflects almost every collectivist trend that has come to
fruition over the past thirty years: gender conflict, egalitarianism, the
elevation of mediocrity, the indulgence of the irrational as a right, and the
theft of physical and spiritual wealth under the rubric of “social justice.”
The grammatical egalitarians have assigned themselves the task of concealing
the destruction caused by these and other trends behind a wall of words
designed to exclude reason, inquiry and truth. This wall is composed mostly of
euphemistic, concept-destroying argot; lining the top of it is the barbed wire
of envy and the broken glass of malice. The wall will remain intact for as long
as men consider it their altruist duty neither to question its existence, nor
to wonder what it hides, nor to speculate whether it is meant to protect or to
imprison them.

Under the entry “The Aggrandizement of Mediocrity” in Usage
and Abusage
, the late lexicographer and grammarian Eric Partridge
concluded a poignant commentary on the decline of standards in literature, the
arts and language with the observation that
“[a]nyone who believes in civilization must find it difficult to
approve, and impossible to abet, one of the surest means of destroying it. To
degrade language is finally to degrade civilization.” [4]
Had he lived long enough, Partridge might have made the astonished
observation that there exist those who do not believe in civilization, who
approve and abet its destruction, and who are dedicated to diminishing men’s
minds by degrading language as a means of finally degrading civilization, not
by reason of ignorance or ineptitude, but as a conscious, informed policy.

Notes:

1. “The Establishing of an Establishment”, in Philosophy:
Who Needs It
. New York: Signet, 1984. P. 168

2. See Orwell’s “The Principles of Newspeak” in the Appendix following the
conclusion of the novel. While it is a brilliant essay on the methodology of
the deliberate epistemological stunting of minds, there is a distinct
difference in goals between the grammatical egalitarians of today and the
totalitarians of the novel. Ayn Rand rightly remarked that such a society as
Orwell describes could not long survive even as a semi-industrialized one,
chiefly because the minds that could make it function would perish. And, there
is another difference between the grammatical egalitarians’ purpose and that of
the minions of Big Brother, which is that the former wish to impose thought
orthodoxy on everyone, while the latter imposed orthodox thought and language
only on ruling Party members. Rulers who reduced their range of concepts to the
parroting vocabulary of an autistic person would not be able to continue making
and maintaining telescreens, helicopters or any other product of free, thinking
minds, nor would they be able to indefinitely retain their power, as Orwell
suggests such a dictatorship could, regardless of the degree of their
brutality.

3. In Philosophy: Who Needs It, p. 188.

4. “The Aggrandizement of Mediocrity” in Addenda, Usage and Abusage: A Guide
to Good English
, by Eric Partridge. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1947.
Reprinted by Penguin, 1981. P. 379

Obama Says: “Shut Up!”

While blaming the federal
government’s shutdown on the House’s dragging its feet on a budget bill that
would raise the debt ceiling and defund Obamacare, and not himself or the
government itself for “shutting down,” President Barack Obama during an
addres
s to Congress in the White House State Dining Room on the morning of October
17th displayed his true anti-freedom and anti-freedom of speech
colors by blaming bloggers, talk radio hosts and “activists” for the
shutdown. It demonstrated his core hostility to freedom in any realm. In short,
he would just rather we all shut up and let him get on with destroying the
country, and not bother him or anyone else with the least squeak of opposition.
This is the portrait of a
wannabe tyrant.
On Thursday Obama took a swipe
at freedom of speech. Of the 2,464 words he uttered, these were the most
ominous and relevant:
And now that the government has
reopened and this threat to our economy is removed, all of us need to stop
focusing on the lobbyists, and the
bloggers
, and the talking heads on radio and the professional
activists who profit from conflict, and focus on what the majority of Americans
sent us here to do, and that’s grow this economy, create good
jobs, strengthen the middle class, educate our kids, lay the
foundation for broad-based prosperity and get our fiscal house in order for the
long haul. That’s why we’re here. That should be our focus.
It’s a statement so loaded with
hypocrisy and venality and undisguised dissimulation, that if awards were given
for secular taqiyya, Obama would win
it hands down. He would easily trounce Richard Nixon, who, in 1973, declared,
I
am not a crook
.”  
Andrea Peterson of the Washington
Post
criticized Obama’s remarks, ending her article with:
But blaming the blogging field
for the way the Internet and the entire journalism industry works seems like a
bit of a reach — especially lumping them in with professional activists and
lobbyists who are literally paid to advocate one side or another, as well as
partisan talking heads. Is the president trolling us?
He
is doing more than “trolling” us, more than challenging us to shut up
and be quiet. For the umpteenth time he has bared his teeth at America.
Noah
Rothman on Mediate
also reported on Obama’s “victory” speech:
Obama went after what he called the “rhetoric” which
“gets worse” annually, and for members to focus on where they agree. He cited a
“balanced approach” to a budget process as one of these areas of agreement
between Democrats and Republicans.
“Had one side not decided to pursue a strategy of
brinkmanship, each side could have gotten together and figured out how do we
shape a budget that provides certainty to businesses, and people who rely on
government?” Obama said.
He added that “comprehensive immigration reform” and a
farm bill should also be the focus of the Congress for the rest of the year.
Can
you believe the hubris of this man? Guess which side is guilty of
“brinksmanship”? Obama. And the Senate. And that “should”? It
sounds more like “You’d better focus on a farm bill and immigration reform,
or I’ll be very, very angry.”
Kurt
Nimmo of InfoWars
came closest to construing what Obama really meant:
Following the deal to end the government non-shutdown,
Obama took to the podium and teleprompter to excoriate Americans opposed to the
staggering bankster and Federal Reserve debt destroying the country.
…In other words, Obama demands that the American
people stop reading sites like Infowars.com and flock over to the corporate
Mockingbird media where they can consume a standard fare of government
propaganda and lies.
James
Taranto at the Wall
Street Journal
had this to say about Obama’s forked tongue:
Yesterday Obama delivered remarks
at the White House
, in which he made only an oblique reference to
ObamaCare: “You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president,
then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election. Push to change
it. But don’t break it. Don’t break what our predecessors spent over two centuries
building. That’s not being faithful to what this country is about.”
This is galling for multiple reasons. For one, he was
lecturing members of Congress, every one of whom (with the exception of three
appointed senators) holds his office by virtue of having won his most recent
election. Granted, Obama won his too, but with the help of an abusive IRS. And
the country now faces a crisis because in 2009 and 2010, when it came to health
care, Obama and his fellow Democrats failed to act in accord with the advice he
now dishes out: “Don’t break it.”
Our
predecessors didn’t spend over two centuries preparing the way for Obamacare or
any other statist legislation. Who’s really doing the “breaking”? Obama
and the Senate. And, but for a pitiful few in Congress, there isn’t a single
politician or bureaucrat or Cabinet appointee who either knows what this country
is about, or would be faithful to it if he did know.
Unfortunately,
the only member of the GOP who came close to arguing against Obamacare in terms
of its violation of individual rights was Ted
Cruz
during a 22-hour
standup
speech.
I
would be thrilled to see Obama, seated with a smug look on his face in the Oval
Office, being instructed by Thomas Sowell
on the workings of the Constitution, with Harry Reid and all the Democratic
Senators standing by, trying not to hear what Sowell was saying:
There is really noting complicated about the facts [about
who was responsible for the shutdown]. The Republican-controlled House of
Representatives voted all the money required to keep all government activities
going – except for ObamaCare. This is not a matter of opinion. You can check
the Congressional Record.
As for the House of Representatives’ right to grant or
withhold money, that is not a matter of opinion, either. You can check the Constitution
of the United States. All spending bills must originate in the House of
Representatives, which means that Congressmen there have a right to decide
whether or not they want to spend money on a particular government activity….
The Senate chose not to vote to authorize that money
to be spent, because it did not include money for ObamaCare.
It’s
as simple as that. The House did not shut down the government. The Senate did,
with the encouragement of the White House.
Obama
said last Thursday morning:
Now, there’s been a lot of discussion lately of the
politics of this shutdown.  But let’s be clear:  There are no winners
here.  These last few weeks have inflicted completely unnecessary damage
on our economy.  We don’t know yet the full scope of the damage, but every
analyst out there believes it slowed our growth. 
Speaking
of damage to the economy, there is the matter of the fabulously expensive
clunker of a website that was supposed to enable citizens to sign up for
coverage at the speed of light, beginning with the October 1st
“launch.” Never mind the fraud behind Obamacare that you can
“keep yourplan.” That’s not true, as a former Secret
Service man
discovered and had the spine to say publically.
Mr. President,
In one of your famous Obamacare speeches you stated,
“If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” Well, as evidenced by the
below letter, which my wife and I just received, you lied.
Apparently
the former Secret Service man was one of the very, very few able to negotiate
his way through the Obamacare website and see the bad news, as well. Daniel
Greenfield in a FrontPage
article
calls it the most incompetent thing Obama has ever done.
The ObamaCare
website, which estimates have placed at anywhere from under 100 million to 400
million to just under 300 million to 634 million dollars, not only tops 
even Solyndra, but couldn’t have been designed any worse if Joe Biden had tried
making it in his spare time.
The federal health care exchange was built using
10-year-old technology that may require constant fixes and updates for the next
six months and the eventual overhaul of the entire system, technology experts
told USA TODAY.
The root cause of the problems was a pivotal
decision by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services officials to act as
systems integrator, the central coordinator for the entire program. Usually
this role is reserved for the prime information technology contractor.
As a result, full testing of the site was delayed
until four to six days before the fateful Oct. 1 launch of the health care
exchanges, the individual said.

For
those wanting to entrap themselves in the Obamacare website’s netherworld, it’s
a matter of hurry up and wait. The website is worthy of a Road Runner cartoon.
Guess who would get to play Wiley Coyote?
On
a last economic note, Obama delivered another passel of bare-faced lies.
Let me be specific about three places where I believe
we can make progress right now.  First, in the coming days and weeks, we
should sit down and pursue a balanced approach to a responsible budget, a
budget that grows our economy faster and shrinks our long-term deficits further…. 
And remember, the
deficit is getting smaller, not bigger
.  It’s going down faster than
it has in the last 50 years. The challenges we have right now are not
short-term deficits; it’s the long-term obligations that we have around things
like Medicare and Social Security.  We want to make sure those are there
for future generations. [Italics
mine]
Come
again? Mr. President, if you are reading this, please go to this link and watch the climbing numbers in
the U.S. Debt Clock. Words fail me. But they apparently don’t fail you. Words mean
nothing to you. They’re just devices to fill space and deflect reality.
Au contraire, we bloggers, talking heads, writers, critics, thinkers,
and professional activists will not
shut up. It isn’t a president’s business to tell people to keep quiet and let
the juggernaut of statism roll over them unopposed. And if you try to shut us
up…well, Patrick Henry had a few choice words for tyrants who wished to
silence his critics. You would do well to remember them.
 “Caesar,”
said he, “had his Brutus, Charles his Cromwell, and (pausing) George the
third (here a cry of treason, treason was heard, supposed to issue from the
chair, but with admirable presence of mind he proceeded) may profit by their
examples. Sir, if this be treason,” continued he, “make the most of
it.”

John Locke and Liberty

 

“Thus in the beginning all the world was America….”
 
I was inspired by the numerous references to John Locke in Denise Spellberg’s Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: The Founders and Islam and by my review of that disreputable attempt to affiliate Jefferson with Islam to republish here my original essay on John Locke as a form of corrective to Spellberg. It was first published in the Spring 1999 issue of the Journal of Colonial Williamsburg, and subsequently in McGraw-Hill/Dushkin’s Western CivilizationII college textbook in September 2000 and again in September 2002.
The original title of the article was taken from Locke’s Second Treatise on Government, towards the end of Chapter V, in which he wrote:
“Thus in the beginning all the world was America, and more so than that is now; for no such thing as money was any where known. Find out something that hath the use and value of money amongst his neighbours, you shall see the same man will begin presently to enlarge his possessions.”
 
 
I have reformatted the original article to conform to the style I have established over the years, with quotations from Locke and others highlighted in indentations. I have also edited out references to individuals and places which may confuse new readers and seem to them esoteric.
 
Without further ado, here is the essay.
 
 
________________________________________________________________________________
 
 
 
The two men most responsible for the founding of the United States never
set foot in it, though their intellectual signatures are stamped on the Declaration of Independence as indelibly as any of the signers’ flourishes:
Aristotle and John Locke.  It was the Greek philosopher who bequeathed to the West – via Thomas Aquinas – the fundamental rules of reason and logic and the means for men to determine their purpose for living on earth.  It was
Locke who applied reason to politics more thoroughly and convincingly than had any political thinker before him. And it was to Locke that the Founders turned for their most trenchant arguments in the conflict with Britain.  As Dr. Harry Binswanger, a lecturer on Locke’s importance in the history of ideas, has said, “As far as I can determine, Locke is the originator of individual rights.”*
 
Locke may even be granted indirect credit for the naming of Williamsburg – and even for its founding. It was during the reigns of Charles II and James II (the Restoration) that he wrote his most important works in response to the struggles between Parliament and the Stuarts, which culminated in 1688 with the abdication and flight of James II and with the Convention Parliament’s welcome of William and Mary as regents of England, Scotland, Ireland and France in 1689.  The College of William and Mary, founded in 1693, was named in their honor. Locke’s Two Treatises of Government and A Letter concerning Toleration, written between 1680 and 1685, contributed at least part of the intellectual basis for that “Glorious Revolution.”  They were to have a more profound influence on the thinking of another generation of
revolutionaries.
 
Almost 100 years later, Samuel Adams wrote to a friend: “Mr. Locke has
often been quoted in the present dispute between Britain and her colonies, and very much to our purpose. His reasoning is so forcible, that no one has even attempted to confute it.”  Thomas Jefferson displayed the portraits of Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, and Locke on the walls of his Monticello home. In a letter to Benjamin Rush, he wrote that these “were my trinity of the three greatest men the world has ever produced.” Lockean phraseology and style of expression color many of the most eloquent statements in the Declaration, which Jefferson composed.
 
Politics has dominated history books and commanded men’s first concerns
because it is the most immediate, tangible application of philosophical inquiry; the effect of a tax, a law, or an injustice is more obvious and personal than that of a proposition, a syllogism, or an abstract deduction in
metaphysics or epistemology, even though the latter two fields can determine the ultimate efficacy or tragedy of any political system.  Locke lived, thought, and wrote in the tempestuous world of 17th-century England and formulated a political philosophy that would accelerate the pace of men’s progress from abject deference and servility to kings and bishops to valuing life, liberty, and property as norms to be championed and defended.  Locke began his thinking life as a “conservative” and ended it as a “radical” in both political theory and epistemology, thanks to his commitment to truth, which made possible his intellectual honesty. 
 
“[He] who has raised himself above the Alms-Basket, and not content to live lazily on scraps of begg’d Opinions, sets his own Thoughts on work, to find and follow Truth,” he observed in “The Epistle to the Reader” of An Essay concerning Human Understanding. 
 
Locke did not regard himself as a formal philosopher or even much of an
innovator in the realm of ideas. This was not false modesty but an integral
part of his character. “There was an introverted, valetudinarian component in Locke’s nature,” writes Peter H. Nidditch, editor of one edition of the Essay.  “He was a careful, cautious man possessed of a good sense of business and method.” Carefulness and caution were Locke’s bywords, inculcated in him in the often perilous times of the Civil War, Cromwell’s Commonwealth and Protectorate, and the Restoration.
                                                 
Locke was, if not a philosopher, then an intellectual. As Adam Smith did in the field of economics nearly a century later, he drew together all the disparate threads of thought on rights, liberty, and property that preceded him – by a legion of thinkers who included James Harrington, John Milton, Henry Neville, John Hampden, to name but a few – and weaved the best of them into a single, comprehensible fabric in the Two Treatises. 
 
Like the Founders, he held that reason or rationality was men’s only means of living alone or in society, and that this attribute of men was as much
“endowed by their creator” as were certain unalienable rights.  The attempt by a criminal or a magistrate to force man to think or act against his own reason was a violation of the “law of nature.” 
 
Reason was the antithesis of “innate” ideas, which Locke argued in his Essay
could not exist, thus robbing the advocates of absolute monarchy of a key tenet of their arguments. It could be argued that the Essay and the Two
Treatises
are affirmations of and companions to each other. By the time the
Founders were impelled to compose thoughtful rebuttals to king and Parliament, Locke’s works were near-gospel in the colonies. Hardly a library existed – private or college – in 18th-century colonial America that did not
boast at least one title by Locke. He had made nearly everything “self-evident.”
                                                 
Locke’s importance to the Founders cannot be appreciated without first
painting a miniature of his times. As the sun of the Enlightenment slowly
burned off the heavy, clinging fog of the Medieval Age, men began to see the
possible in all realms of human thought and action, particularly in politics.  They were emerging from the miasma of edict-and sword-enforced ignorance, and they were dazzled. Obstructing their way, or waiting in doctrinal ambushes to pounce on the least hint of blasphemy or treason, were the forces of the Medievalists – or their royalist or secular
descendents, whose notion of a stable polity was a monarch wielding absolute, unquestioned dominion over his realm, with a bishop on his right hand ready to field any questions he himself could not answer.
 
The political fact of Locke’s time was that religion was inextricably tied to politics.  Locke did not separate the two realms, but he laid the groundwork for it to be accomplished later.  To question the political status quo, however, was to question religious orthodoxy – and vice versa.
 
The genesis of this alliance in Britain was the English Reformation,
precipitated by Henry VIII’s break with the Roman Catholic Church over his
marriage to Anne Boleyn and the establishment of the Church of England in 1534.  Leap ahead over nearly a hundred years of roiling English history to the abrupt transition from the Tudor era to that of the Stuarts, marked by the machinations of James I and Charles I to amass more money, power, and influence than Parliament wished to grant them.
 
There were two civil wars, the first between the Roundheads and Cavaliers, the second between a Presbyterian Parliament and the Independent army of Oliver Cromwell.  Cromwell’s own brand of “republicanism” began with Pride’s Purge of Presbyterians from Parliament by the army (Algernon Sidney refused to vacate his seat, until a soldier put a hand on his shoulder) and the gradual establishment of a dictatorship that nominated and controlled a complaisant “Barebones” Parliament. It was Cromwell’s Rump Parliament that passed the first Navigation Act in October 1651.
 
Religious passions moved most of these events. Royal or Parliamentary
toleration of Catholics, Nonconformists – this time the outlawed Anglicans or Episcopalians – Jews, or Dissenters was viewed as a political act fraught with danger. Catholicism in particular was an anathema to most Protestant
Englishmen, whatever their sectarian suasion, whether they were well-read lords or gentry, or illiterate publicans or chimney sweeps; they had only to nod across the Channel to France or Spain to prove the consequences of a Catholic monarchy.  Papist sympathies from any quarter were regarded as cryptic designs on the liberties and privileges of Englishmen and Parliament. This animus, based partly on bigotry but mostly on demonstrable fact in England’s own history, and on events on the Continent, would survive well into the 19th century.
 
Before Locke published his Two Treatises, those who championed rights – to life, liberty, and property – floundered on the shoals of custom, precedent, tradition, or convention.
 
Or on Scripture, which the enemies of liberty were as adept in employing as their opponents.  Some of the most eloquent and incisive statements in favor of liberty were recorded in the Army Debates of 1647-49, conducted while a Puritan Parliament negotiated with astubborn Charles I.  Both sides of the
issues – which included toleration, freedom of conscience, and security of
property – brandished their Bibles (ironically, the King James Version,
completed in 1611) and assailed each other with book, chapter, and verse in
support of myriad positions, accusations, and compromises.
 
But the revolutionaries had no Locke to show them the way out of the
intractable dilemma. When Cromwell died in 1658, the “republic” collapsed
tiredly on its own contradictions and for lack of a common moral base. The Rump Parliament invited Charles II – whose father had been beheaded in 1649 – to resume the throne. Countless Puritans rushed to conform to the Anglican Church. If they could not agree on a moral base, at least England would have a moral authority.
 
But history was to repeat itself less than 30 years later.
                                                 
Enter John Locke, philosopher.  Most portraits of him stare intensely back at the viewer, challenging one to be as thoughtful or serious as he, or daring one to be fatuous or insincere. In the first instance, one would gain a friend, even if he disagreed with you; in the second, one would gain a disdainful enemy, or worse, an enemy who would dismiss you and never think of you again. Locke was a retiring man who grew to believe that ideas had a more profound effect on men’s actions, lives, and fates than bullets.  He was a dark, thin, plainly-dressed man who preferred quiet, civil conversation to
boisterous company.  Once he broke up a card game by taking out his notebook and proposing to record the verities of the players.
 
Locke was a shrewd manager of his money and died a rich man. Even in the most unsettling periods of his life, he kept exact accounts of his financial dealings. He preferred country life to life in London, chiefly because prolonged stays in the city aggravated his asthmatic cough – as did the
stress of political crises.  Travel for his health, coinciding often with Restoration turmoil, more than once saved his life.
 
Locke was born in August 1632 and raised in the bucolic setting of rural Somerset near Bristol. He was the son of John Locke, Senior, clerk to the
justice of the peace in the parish of Chew Magna. The father served in the
Civil War as captain of a troop of horse with the Parliamentarians, and he was also an attorney for the commander of that unit, Alexander Popham. An
influential Presbyterian, Popham later arranged to send young Locke to
Westminster School in London in 1646.
 
Raised in a Calvinist household, Locke spent the next six years in this royalist and largely high-church school, mastering Greek and Latin by way of
Cicero, Livy, Plutarch, and other classical authors. Charles I was executed in
Whitehall Palace Yard, a stone’s throw from the school. It is tempting to
imagine that Locke witnessed the event. But the school’s headmaster was a
staunch royalist and opponent of Cromwell. On that somber January 30, the
student body was made to pray all day for the tried and convicted king’s soul, and it is doubtful that any student was permitted to venture outside
Westminster Abbey’s enclosure.
 
It was not until Locke went to Christ Church at Oxford in 1652 that his
reading began to venture beyond the college’s scholastic curriculum of
rhetoric, logic, grammar, moral philosophy, and more classical studies. Oxford had been purged of its royalist faculty and was under firm Calvinist control. As an undergraduate, Locke was obliged to attend two sermons a day and to pray every night with his tutor. His first published work was an ode to Cromwell included in a book of poems issued by the college in 1655.  Five years later he would pen, in a similar volume, a poem praising Charles II on the occasion of the restored Stuart’s entrance into London.
 
Locke was made a fellow of Christ Church the year Cromwell died and
would continue his Oxford association until he was ordered expelled in 1684 by Charles II for his suspected role in the Rye House Plot to assassinate the
king. Locke had welcomed the Stuart’s return, if only because it brought an end to the dour, stifling regime of the Puritans. When a lecturer in Greek,
rhetoric, and moral philosophy, he wrote the Two Tracts on Government, in which he asserted that a “magistrate” – or a sovereign – had every right to impose conformity on his subjects; since the rituals and times and places of worship were “indifferent,” there was no good reason for a subject to resist conformity, as the object of worship was universal.  Locke did not believe, at
that time, that civil upheaval was justified over what he asserted were picayune differences in the style and content of religious services.
 
In his future Two Treatises and Á Letter concerning Toleration, Locke was to advance the opposite of this position: That a magistrate’s power to impose conformity in “indifferent” matters was not only morally wrong but accomplished little but fraudulent uniformity. Force could not compel a man to be any more or less devoted to his beliefs. The object of worship, God, Locke would maintain, was too important to be the subject of insincerity. Men must find their own way according to their own lights. He would extend this line of reasoning to secular or civil matters. At the time, though, it would not be inaccurate to say that early in his career, Locke was as much a skeptic as was Thomas Hobbes, whose major work, Leviathan, he undoubtedly read and must have agreed with it that “sovereign power is not so hurtful as the want of it.”
 
Like many other lukewarm Calvinists then, Locke conformed to the Anglican
Church at the Restoration. It was an expedient action and cost him nothing of his convictions; the ceremonies were “indifferent.”  But in the second year of his fellowship, he wrote a friend that “Phansye” ruled the world, and he wondered, “where is that great Diana…Reason?”  He would find it, at first, at Oxford.
 
Contributing to the development of his later views were Locke’s friendships with Robert Boyle (of Boyle’s Law fame) and other prominent British empiricists of the time, many of whom would become charter members of the Royal Society of London for the Improving of Natural Knowledge.  Boyle, a noted chemist, physicist, and essayist on theological issues, had declined many lucrative clerical appointments to devote himself to scientific investigation and experimentation. This unconventional but respected thinker helped to influence Locke’s unconventional decision not to follow the path of most other Christ Church Fellows and take orders for the Church of England, but instead to pursue the study of medicine. Although he never took a medical course and pursued his studies independently, he attained a bachelor’s degree in medicine in 1674. His knowledge of the subject, together with the apparent efficacy of his advice to others on their health, were to garner him a reputation as a physician second only to his reputation as a political theorist.
 
In 1663, Locke wrote a series of Essays on the Law of Nature, which discussed the reality-based ethics he claimed ought to govern the actions of rational men. These Essays were a kind of overture to the Two Treatises and the Essay concerning Human Understanding, as they reveal the development and direction of his thinking. At the same time, he practiced medicine with a Dr. David Thomas of London, a close friend, until 1666.
 
As a respite from his lecturing duties at Oxford, Locke went abroad in
1664 as secretary to Sir Walter Vane, Charles II’s envoy to Frederick William, the Great Elector of Brandenburg.  In a letter to John Strachy, a boyhood friend, Locke described Christmas visits to several churches near Cleve, including Catholic ones, and expressed pleasant surprise that so many religious sects could reside peacefully in one town. “I have not met with any so good-natured people, or so civil, as the Catholic priests,” he wrote. These were not the ogres he had expected to encounter. His observations abroad would lead him to compose and publish anonymously in 1689 A Letter concerning Toleration, perhaps the most important and effective argument for the separation of church and state ever written.
 
Locke returned from the diplomatic mission in May 1666 and resumed his
duties and studies at Christ Church. In July he received a letter from Dr.
Thomas, asking him to give medical advice to Anthony Ashley Cooper – later the first earl of Shaftesbury – who was in Oxford to drink the supposedly healthy waters of nearby Astrop.  Lord Ashley had fought with the Royalists in the Civil War, then in 1643 went over to the Roundheads and had been a member of Cromwell’s Council of State. He was known to his contemporaries, writes Lockean scholar Richard Ashcroft, to be “opposed
to religious persecution in general and to popery in particular, and as an
advocate of the rights of Dissenters and of Parliament” – that is, he argued in the House of Lords and among friends and ideologues against state enforced Catholicism, absolute monarchy, and the theory of the divine right of kings.  Locke said Shaftesbury was “a vigorous and indefatigable champion of civil and ecclesiastical liberty.”
                                                 
The two men formed such a warm friendship that Locke moved into
Shaftesbury’s London household the next year and acted as his personal
physician and confidential advisor. In 1668, he performed a successful
operation on his patron’s abscessed liver, saving Shaftesbury’s life and
earning his constant gratitude.
 
Shaftesbury was the most important member of the Lords Proprietors of
Carolina and appointed Locke secretary of that organization. When it drafted a new constitution for the colony, the two men coauthored a document that provided for an elective assembly and religious freedom. Shaftesbury was named Lord High Chancellor in November 1672, and he subsequently made Locke secretary for the Presentation of Benefices and a year later secretary to the Council of Trade and Plantations.
 
This last office introduced Locke to the realm of finance and economics; and what he learned during his year-and-a-half tenure enabled him to offer intelligent advice to Parliament, as it debated the Coinage Act of 1696.
In his pamphlet Some Considerations of the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest and Raising the Value of Money, Locke argued that laws which lowered interest rates on private loans in favor of debtors amounted to theft. And although he was an original subscriber to the Bank of England (for
£500, in 1694), Locke wrote that “I cannot but think a monopoly of money
by the bank, as well as a monopoly of merchandising by the Act of Navigation, must prove a great prejudice to the trade of the nation.”
 
While Locke was beginning to take and develop copious notes for his Essay
concerning Human Understanding
– in 1671, after a meeting with a small
group of friends who could not agree on why they knew what they knew – the match was struck that would lead to a major political conflagration. Shaftesbury, an implacable advocate of toleration, had been influential in moving Charles II to proclaim, in March 1672, the Declaration of Indulgence, whose purpose was to free Nonconformists and Catholics from political and religious restrictions.  Parliament responded by forcing the king to withdraw it, on the rationale that such an edict did not lay within proper royal power. 
 
The next year brought the revelation that James, the duke of York and
the king’s brother, had already converted to Catholicism.  Little more than a year before, Charles had signed a secret “first” Treaty of Dover with France; among its provisions was an agreement that should Charles II convert to Catholicism, Louis XIV would give him
£200,000 a year for his wars with Spain and Holland and 6,000 troops in the event of an English insurrection against Charles’s conversion.
 
Shaftesbury, who had helped negotiate the “second” Treaty of Dover, a mere pact of alliance with France, now saw the ulterior motive behind the Declaration and began balking at the king’s policies. He was dismissed as
chancellor in November 1673 and a few months later imprisoned in the Tower of London for a year for having opposed the king and his court party. When he was released, he became the leader of the opposition to the king.
 
When his term as secretary to the Council of Trade expired (or was terminated), Locke departed for France on a four-year sojourn, ostensibly for his health, which had always been precarious. Or, as some maintain, he wasdeeply involved in anti-court intrigues in this period – 1675-1679 – and had decided to get out of harm’s way. Locke’s journals are a record of his travels, medical and scientific observations, and meeting with many of France’s intellectual lights. It is plausible that he had a hand in the composition of the anonymously published A Letter from a Person of Quality to His Friend in the Country, a pamphlet attributed to Shaftesbury, which suggested a conspiracy by the king, the church, and certain government ministers to extend royal powers and reduce Parliament and the church to money-raising devices for the king. Locke may have left for France if he believed he was suspected of having authored the pamphlet, condemned and burned in November 1675; Locke left in December. 
 
He returned from France in April 1679 in time to witness the unfolding
of the Exclusion Crisis – and undoubtedly contribute to it. After a brief stop
at Oxford, he moved back into Shaftesbury’s household in London, again as the peer’s physician and advisor.  In May the Scottish Covenanters rebelled against the crown and the repressive measures of John Maitland, the duke of Lauderdale and Charles’s secretary of state for Scottish affairs. The revolt was eventually put down by James Scott, the duke of Monmouth and Charles’s natural son.
 
Shaftesbury, now a member of the king’s new Privy Council, not only
pushed through Parliament the landmark Habeas Corpus Act, but sponsored a succession of exclusion bills, whose aim was to prevent Charles’s Catholic
brother from inheriting the throne. Charles dissolved two Parliaments for their attempts to get the bills passed. In this period the opposition “country” party and the pro-monarchy “court” party began to coalesce into what would become known as the “Whig” and “Tory” parties – Scottish and Irish terms of derision respectively for “horse drover” and “outlaw.”
 
In March 1681, Charles opened the third and last Exclusion Parliament;
he dissolved it after eight days, when it would not do his bidding. His opponents now grasped that the king wished to rule without a legislature. In
July a Shaftesbury supporter, Stephen College, was arrested for having
entertained exclusion bill supporters with a “cartoon” depicting Charles’s
tyranny and his removal by Parliament. When a London jury rejected the charges of treason against College, the crown moved his trial to Oxford, where he was convicted and executed. Shaftesbury was arrested for high treason and again put into the Tower.  The crown, reading his seized papers, saw that he was at the center of an “association” or confederacy.  Not only did it oppose Charles and his brother, but it also advocated the subordination of the throne to Parliament and the resort to a force of arms to accomplish it.
 
This was a separate conspiracy from the Rye House plot, and the duke of
Monmouth, Lords Russell, Grey, and Essex, and Algernon Sidney were arrested in connection with it. Shaftesbury was acquitted and released from the Tower at the end of the year but knew that he could be rearrested at any time. Subsequently, Charles revoked the charters of the City of London and other corporations and had them rewritten to purge the courts and elective offices of Whig juries and the Whig sheriffs who empanelled them; he replaced them with Catholics, Tories, and other pro-monarchy men.
 
The trials and executions continued with a vengeance. Essex committed suicide, the duke of Monmouth was pardoned and fled to Holland, and Lord
William Russell was beheaded.  Algernon Sidney, who knew Shaftesbury but not Locke, long ago had refused to leave his seat in Parliament when Cromwell dissolved the Rump in 1653.  Now he was tried for treason with a known liar as the sole witness to his crime; the prosecution needed two witnesses for a conviction.  The court turned to Sidney’s Discourses on Government, finished in prison, and argued that the anti-monarchy, pro-liberty tract was proof of a conspiracy.  Like Stephen College, Sidney was convicted on what he had written, not what he had done.  On the scaffold, he refused to recant his claim that resistance to tyranny was a right, and he was beheaded in November 1683.
 
Locke, busy fighting the battle of ideas, composed in this period the Two
Treatises of Government
.  For a long time scholars believed that they were written as an apologia for the Glorious Revolution of 1688. A Lockean scholar, Peter Laslett, in 1960 proved that Locke wrote the essay chiefly in response to events of 1679-83.  Shaftesbury’s “association” manifesto was a watered-down version of the Two Treatises and not nearly as radical as Locke’s work.  The Second Treatise especially was part answer to the growing despotism of Charles and part answer to a pro-monarchy tract written in 1631, Sir Robert Filmer’s Patriacha, trotted out in 1680 by Tory ideologues to counter numerous Whig publications.  Filmer’s fundamental
premise was that “men are not naturally free” but that the sovereign was. 
 
Locke’s fundamental premise was that “every man has a property in his
own person. This nobody has any right to but himself.”  Nobody included sovereigns and other men, and a man whose life or property was threatened by force had a right to resist, even as far as armed rebellion – a “treasonous” notion.
 
Shaftesbury had fled England; he died in Holland in January 1683. Locke
probably had already finished the Two Treatises before Sidney was executed. He knew most of the men implicated in the Rye House Plot. At Oxford
University, all books asserting the right of resistance to tyranny were burned. Watching the course of events, Locke must have concluded that his days as a free man were numbered. After hastily arranging his private affairs, he sailed for Holland and settled in Amsterdam in September 1683.  He would not see England again until he accompanied Princess Mary, wife of William of Orange, to Greenwich in February 1689.  William and Mary were proclaimed king and queen the day after his return.
 
During his five and a half years in exile, Locke lived in Amsterdam,
Rotterdam, and Utrecht. The Dutch province contained such a large number of English expatriates that Amsterdam was often called “little London.”  There were enough of them so that not only did Locke feel at home, but his friends could establish a network of “safe” houses for him to move between to elude the prying eyes of Charles II’s spies and later James II’s. 
 
Kidnapping and murder by the two kings’ agents were distinct possibilities.  Charles had Locke expelled from Oxford, which itself summoned Locke to return to answer charges of libel, and James II included his name in a list of 85 men to be extradited from Holland to stand trial.  Charles died in February 1685, converting to Catholicism on his deathbed.  The duke of Monmouth’s subsequent rebellion against the accession of James II to the throne was crushed, and Monmouth was beheaded.  Judge George Jeffreys embarked upon the Bloody Assizes, sentencing 200 men to death and 800 to slavery in the West Indies.
 
In his exile, Locke completed the Essay, A Letter concerning Toleration¸ and Some Thoughts concerning Education.  In addition to these and other minor works, he must have been in correspondence with those who would orchestrate the Glorious Revolution. His ideas influenced the content and purpose of the Declaration of Rights, issued by the Convention Parliament of 1689-90.  The Declaration, in effect, set the terms of rule accepted by William and Mary that severely curtailed a sovereign’s power over the national purse, the courts, and legislation.  The Act of Settlement of 1701 underscored the Declaration in addition to mandating a Protestant succession.
 
On his return to England, Locke set about the publication of his works.
His Essay and Education were published under his own name. The Two
Treatises
and Toleration, including two later essays on toleration,
however, were published anonymously. Whether this was from modesty or from fear of reprisal by the still powerful Tories has been a subject of speculation; Locke would admit his authorship only in his will, in which he directed that his name appear under the titles in future editions of these works.
 
While he was in exile, Locke, with grave panache, declined offers from friends to plead on his behalf to the king for a pardon, saying that he did not
think he had committed any action for which he needed to be pardoned. With equal verve, he declined King William’s offer in 1689 of the ambassadorship to the Elector of Brandenburg on the grounds of his health and his inexperience in diplomatic affairs, adding that he would be at a disadvantage for being “the soberest man in the Kingdom”; he had abstained from liquor most of his life. 
 
He did accept the post of commissioner of appeals in excise and later served as commissioner on the Board of Trade until 1700.  These positions allowed him to stay home and oversee the publication of his works.  His powers of persuasion influenced the government’s coinage policies, and his connections in Parliament and the book trade convinced Parliament to let the ancient Licensing Act lapse without renewal in 1695, thus ending press
censorship and the Stationers Guild’s monopoly on book printing.
 
His last major conflict was over The Reasonableness of Christianity, published in 1695. It was furiously assailed by theological authorities, and Locke was embroiled in the controversy until his death. “Locke’s version of
Christianity,” writes Lockean scholar David Wootton, “appeared to leave no
place for the doctrines of original sin or the Trinity. Its stress upon reason
seemed to make revealed truth subject to human judgment.” 
 
Locke, friends with many of the prominent men of his age, corresponded
with such figures as William Penn, James Blair, and Isaac Newton. But there was only one woman in his life. He spent his last years as a permanent guest of Sir Francis and Lady Masham, in Oates, Essex. Lady Masham, whom he had met in 1681 when she was Damaris Cudworth, seemed to be his intellectual equal – and an early, unrequited romantic interest. She was the daughter of Ralph Cudworth, a noted Cambridge philosopher.  Locke had
converted her from her father’s Platonism to his own Aristotelianism. Perhaps she was the only person whose agreement he treasured.
 
He was sitting in a chair at Oates, listening to her read from the
Psalms, when he died quietly in October 1704.
                                                 
Without Locke, there likely would have been no American Revolution; or,
if there had been one, it would have suffered the fate of the English republic
of the mid-17th century and collapsed into a heap of grand but unconnected and unsupportable ideas.  But even though Locke sits at his age’s pinnacle of political thinkers who championed life, liberty, property and happiness, neither he nor his predecessor and contemporaries, nor even many who followed him, could imagine a politics without a monarch.
 
The Founders were descendants of colonists who had carved a civilization out of a wilderness without the guidance of kings, bishops, or parliaments; in fact, had accomplished that feat despite their hindrances and obstructions. Thus, the Founders could imagine a politics without a monarch, without royal prerogatives, without parliamentary privileges, and insist, among many other things, upon a separation of church and state.  To their credit, they built upon Locke’s thought, and more than once they acknowledged their debt to him.
 
 
*Some political theoreticians dispute this claim, and credit John “Freeborn”
Lilburne
(1614-1657) with originating or formulating the concepts of individual rights and of the separation of church and state. Others credit jurist Edward Coke (1552-1634) or Robert Grosseteste (1175-1253).
 
© 1999 by Edward Cline. Excerpts are permitted with proper
accreditation. Reprints are permitted with proper accreditation.

 

 

Poison Ivy: The Islamification of Thomas Jefferson

Modern academic “scholarship” is similar to kudzu, that uncontrollable weed
or vine that can grow from a single planting and eventually entwine every trunk
and branch within its reach, and link from shrub and hedge to form a canopy
over even a forest that will deny other plants sunlight and rain. Wild kudzu
suffocates and kills. Much like big government. Much like statism.
There has been an ongoing campaign over the decades to find
feet of clay in Thomas Jefferson, in order to discredit and obviate his
position on freedom (e.g., the whole Sally
Hemings
and Jefferson “affair,” the subject of books and movies),
or, failing that, to appropriate him and his reputation for un-Jeffersonian
purposes. The ivy-grown towers of modern academe are really bastions of kudzu. One
must ascend the dying trees with a machete and hack down the canopy, and then
descend again to uproot the killer weed. Vipers like cane snakes and rattlers
hide in the dense scholarly foliage, and even black widows and brown recluses,
ready to strike at anyone careless enough to step on or disturb them. However,
academic kudzu can be further contained and eliminated with the herbicide of
reason.
But, imagine Rudolph Evans’s magnificent statue of Jefferson
in the Jefferson Memorial smothered in kudzu. That’s what academia has been
doing to his life and reputation.
Earlier this month, a very odd and alarming book fell from the
dense foliage, Denise Spellberg’s Thomas
Jefferson’s Qur’an
: The Founders and Islam
.* It purports to prove, or
at least give the public the impression, that Jefferson smiled benevolently
upon Islam, that Islam played a role in the formation of his political
philosophy, that the wisdom to be found in the Koran somehow found its way into the Declaration of Independence.
This is as bizarre a thesis as one which would claim that
Mao’s Little Red Book, Marx’s Das Kapital, and Hitler’s Mein Kampf somehow contributed to the
corpus of literature upholding individual rights, laissez faire capitalism, and
limited government, and that in Mao’s, Hitler’s and Marx’s books can be can be
found the principles which moved Jefferson to compose the Declaration and the
Founders to create the Constitution of the United States.   
When I recently spotted the cover of Spellberg’s book in a bookstore,
the author’s name tickled my memory. Then I remembered: Denise Spellberg was in
the center of a controversy in 2008 about a novel, The
Jewel of Medina
, whose publication in this country was cancelled
because she recommended to the publisher, Random House, that
it not be published lest it offend Muslims and cause more riots and
demonstrations, riots and tumult such as followed the publication of the Danish
Mohammad cartoons. (The novel, whose literary merits or lack of them are not
discussed here, was eventually published by Beaufort Books.)
She recommended, in effect, that Random House self-censor itself by refraining
from publishing a book which Muslims might find offensive. It was
“soft-core pornography, and “ugly” and “stupid” and
was bound to become a “national security issue.”
I had already twice written in 2008 about Spellberg and her
role in that disgraceful episode of cowardice and dhimmitude, in The
Sensitivity Syndrome
and The
Sensitivity Syndrome II
. I did not expect to revisit her career in
2013. 
In 2008, Spellberg, an associate professor of history and
Middle Eastern studies at the University of Texas-Austin, where she teaches
courses on Islamic civilization and Islam in Europe and America,
[h]aving been sent an advance copy [or galley proofs] of The
Jewel of Medina
by Random House, in hopes of her writing a jacket blurb
endorsing the novel, Spellberg’s first action after reading it was to call a
Muslim and guest lecturer in Spellberg’s classes, Shahed Amanullah, to warn him
about the book because, she said, according to the WSJ article, the novel
“made fun of Muslims and their history” and that she found the novel
“incredibly offensive.” Amanullah subsequently emailed other Muslims
about the book, even though he had not read it and was taking her word for it.

The next day Spellberg called Random House/Knopf editor Jane Garrett with dire
warnings about the consequences of publishing the book, calling its scheduled
publication a “declaration of war,” a “national security
issue,” and claiming that the novel was “far more controversial than
[Salman Rushdie’s] The Satanic Verses and the Danish cartoons.”
How anyone could imagine that Jones’ novel could have been any
of those things is only a clue to the inflated importance Spellberg must place
on her role in “building bridges,” multiculturalist
“bridges” which she would not want to see burned in defense of
someone else’s freedom of speech. (And this is one example of how
multiculturalism is anti-Western and a destroyer.)
Denise Spellberg is a
“feminist” and a leftist, and, as with other leftists, has allied
herself with Islam because Islam is copasetic with the left’s totalitarian
mindset, in which all misogynic elements of the creed/ideology are forgiven. She
has appeared at seminars
and conferences over the years with known academic shills for Islam in this
country (e.g., John Esposito of Georgetown University, the director of the Prince
Alwaleed Center for Muslim–Christian Understanding
).  She also wrote Politics,
Gender, and the Islamic Past
: The Legacy of ‘A’isha bint Abi Bakr
, published by Columbia
University Press in 1996.

A Washington Post editorial, “Random
Error
,” of August 22nd, 2008, castigated both Random House
and speech-interventionist Spellberg:
“LIBERTY LIES in the hearts of men and women,” the
great federal judge Learned Hand once wrote. “When it dies there, no
constitution, no law, no court, can save it.” And he was right: Free
societies survive not only because of good government; they also survive
because citizens assert their rights, even when government, or a mob, may
object. Alas, the spirit of liberty needs reinforcement at one distinguished
American book publisher. Random House has canceled publication of “The
Jewel of Medina,” American writer Sherry Jones’s romance novel about the
prophet Muhammad and his wife Aisha. The publisher says it feared a repeat of
the death threats from Iran that greeted Salman Rushdie’s book “The
Satanic Verses” — or riots such as those that broke out in the Muslim
world after a Danish publication printed cartoons of Muhammad.
Lorraine Adams, in her New York Times story about the
capitulation of Random House to Spellberg’s Halloween-like trick on the
publisher (“Thinly
Veiled
,” December 12th 2008), quoted a stung Spellberg from
an August 2008 Wall Street Journal 
article by Asra Nomani (link unavailable unless you pay for it):
The most authoritative contemporary English-language account
of A’isha — “Politics, Gender, and the Islamic Past: The Legacy of A’isha Bint
Abi Bakr” [by Spellberg] — is not listed as one of Jones’s sources. But its
author, Denise Spellberg, played a role in Random House’s decision to abandon
the book. According to a Wall Street Journal op-ed essay last August, “You Still Can’t Write About Muhammad,” Spellberg received
an advance copy, usually sent to solicit a blurb, and responded instead with a
warning that Jones’s novel could incite violence from Muslim extremists. An
associate professor of Islamic history at the University of Texas,
Austin, Spellberg also emphasized that she supported freedom of expression. “I
walked through a metal detector to see ‘Last Temptation of Christ,’ ” she told
the [Wall Street Journal] essay’s author, Asra Q. Nomani. “I don’t have a
problem with historical fiction. I do have a problem with the deliberate
misinterpretation of history. You can’t play with a sacred history and turn it
into soft-core pornography.”
One wants so ask her: Well, darling, which do you really
support? Freedom of speech, or self-censorship in the name of violence
deterrence and not offending Muslims who weren’t likely to read Jones’s book
anyway? You seem to have shouted “Fire!” in a theater when there was
no fire. Is your standing in academia so poor that you felt compelled to
manufacture a crisis, and instill terror in a publisher, in order to draw
attention to yourself?
Interestingly, one jacket blurb on Spellberg’s Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an was written by
Ali Asani, professor
and director of the Prince
Alwaleed bin Talal Islamic Studies Program at Harvard University
and is also
on the board of directors of Esposito’s “princely” Georgetown Center.
Both entities were founded with Saudi money.
Spellberg’s new book is replete with “maybe’s” and
“perhaps’s” and “it is not known that Jefferson thought this or
that, but…’s” and similar unsubstantiated conjectural statements and
qualifiers about Jefferson and the Koran.
That is, it is a volume of bilious “scholarly” gas that seeks to
sanction Islam by inferring and insinuating, without a scrap of hard evidence,
that Jefferson was friendly to Islam. Which he certainly wasn’t.
Conjectural statements and “imaginings” are the
stuff of fiction, fantasy, and “alternate” histories in the way of Harry Turtledove. But
those, in a nutshell, are what comprise Spellberg’s book. It is a collection of
such statements posing as “scholarship,” the numerous notes and
impressive bibliography to the contrary notwithstanding. They are intended to
pass as evidence, couched in the language of fact, that Islam was a very
special interest of Jefferson’s, and even on the minds of other Founders, so
much so that they went out of their way to ensure that Islam was included in
any legislation that guaranteed religious freedom.
Let us take a look at a few instances. They can represent
others throughout her book.
In the Introduction of Spellberg’s book, “Imagining the
Muslim as Citizen at the Founding of the United States,” she quotes
Jefferson quoting English political philosopher John Locke’s A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689).
[He] said “neither Pagan nor Mahamedan [Muslim] nor Jew ought
to be excluded from the civil rights of the Commonwealth because of his
religion.”
—Thomas Jefferson, quoting John Locke, 1776

As one Amazon reader points out, the pivotal quotation Jefferson noted from
John Locke may be found in Chapter 3, p.106, note 183. The reference is
directly to the Papers of Thomas
Jefferson
, Volume 1, p. 548. To prove that Jefferson considered Muslim
civil rights, Spellberg includes an illustration of Jefferson’s actual
handwritten reference to Muslims from John Locke reproduced on p. 107.
It passes for Spellberg’s trumpeted insinuation that Jefferson
was obsessed with Islam. It is the core premise of her book. Her book is top-heavy
with insinuations. But Jefferson’s reference to Locke in no way supports the
contention that Jefferson was an early Islamophile looking out for the civil
rights of Muslims, and also anticipating the “Islamophobia” that
would exist in the 21st century. She goes on with her
“imaginings,” writing about Jefferson and other Founders:
They did so, however, not for the sake of actual Muslims,
because none were known at the time to live in America. Instead, Jefferson and
others defended Muslim rights for the sake of “imagined Muslims,” the promotion
of whose theoretical citizenship would prove the true universality of American
rights. Indeed, this defense of imagined Muslims would also create political
room to consider the rights of other despised minorities whose numbers in
America, though small, were quite real, namely Jews and Catholics. Although it
was Muslims who embodied the ideal of inclusion, Jews and Catholics were often
linked to them in early American debates, as Jefferson and others fought for the
rights of all non-Protestants.

Later in her book she contradicts herself by claiming that possibly – just possibly – some of the African
slaves brought to North America may have been Muslims, and that perhaps George Washington knew that some
of his slaves were Muslims.
In another instance, under the subtitle, “The First American
Muslims: Race, Slavery, and the Limits of Jefferson’s ‘Universal’ Legislation,”
Spellberg subtly upbraids Jefferson and qualifies her esteem for his Bill for
Establishing Religious Freedom (p. 115). She notes that
While his bill would retain enormous importance for future American
Muslim citizens in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries, his universal
vision never included the first American Muslims, who in the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries were West African slaves transported to North America against
their will. Considered by Jefferson to be property rather than citizens, a view
his hero [John] Locke endorsed, these Muslims of African descent enjoyed no
freedoms of any kind. (p. 120)
Jefferson, like other slave-owning Founders, was in the mercantilist
colonial period locked into the role of slavery and even indentured servitude
by British and colonial laws, whether or not he approved of the institution. Other
than by a last will and testament (and this occurred after the U.S. has secured
its independence), in Virginia at least, a slave-owner could manumit or free a single
slave solely by having a bill introduced into the colonial legislature, where
it may or may not have been debated, and, if passed, it was sent to the
Governor’s Council, where it stood the same risk. Then it depended on the veto
or signature of the royally appointed Governor. Slaves could not be freed en masse. Quakers could buy a slave and
free him, but such a former slave had to carry a paper on his person proving he
was a freedman. And he would likely migrate to the north.
Anyway, to return to the issue of slaves and their religion,
Spellberg goes on:
There were certainly more Muslim slaves in eighteenth-century America
than Jews, and possibly more than the twenty-five thousand Catholics in the
United States at its inception. How many Muslim slaves? Their numbers while significant
remain difficult to specify exactly. The historian Michael Gomez observed that
“53 percent of all those imported to North America” were taken from
four areas of West Africa in which “Islam was of varying
consequence.” Of the estimated 481,000 West Africans “imported into British
North America…nearly 255,000 came from areas influenced by Islam.” (p.
121)
I was not familiar with Michael Gomez. I looked up Spellberg’s
citation, and saw that she got her figures from Gomez’s book, Black
Crescent
: The Experience and Legacy of African Muslims in the Americas
.
Then I looked up Gomez,
and was startled to learn that he is a professor of history, ensconced in the Middle
East and Islamic Studies department at New York University. What is his special
interest? Professor Gomez
…continues with the study of the African diaspora by looking
at the ways in which African Muslims negotiated their bondage and freedom
throughout the Americas, but in a way that allows for significant integration
of Islamic Africa. Primarily a cultural and social historian of both Africa and
its diaspora, Gomez is currently in the writing stages of a book on the history
of early and medieval West Africa, with a focus on imperial Songhay. Upon its
completion, he plans to write a comprehensive study of the African diaspora,
within which he will address all attendant arguments and debates. Throughout,
he will remain connected to the Arabic manuscript project underway in Mali,
arguably one of the most important endeavors to develop in the twentieth and
twenty-first centuries.
I looked up his other titles. His work falls under the aegis
of Louis Farrakhan’s racist and super-bigoted Nation of Islam. I suppose his oeuvre
justifies the label “Black Studies.” See here,
here,
here,
and here,
and draw your own conclusions. Could Spellberg not find a more reputable source
for her numbers than a writer vested in a collectivist racist victimhood identity?
On that same page, Spellberg writes:
In contrast, at Mount Vernon plantation, where Jefferson’s
Virginian neighbor George Washington owned more than three hundred slaves, at
least two and possibly four names register a distinct Islamic identity. These include
a mother and daughter, named ‘Fatimer’ and ‘Little Fatimer,’ after the
Prophet’s daughter….
This does not prove that the mother and daughter were wrested from
their Islamic homeland. It was the common practice among slave-brokers or
sellers and also slave-holders to name their slaves for their own convenience.
And Jefferson and Washington were hardly
“neighbors.” The distance between Monticello and Mount Vernon is about
105 miles, as the crow flies, or a two-hour drive. In their time, it might have
taken two-to-three days to travel from one plantation to the other, barring bad
weather and bad roads.
Spellberg devotes time to the negotiations between John Adams,
Jefferson, and the ambassador from Tripoli, Abd al-Rahman, to reach a
settlement concerning Muslim pirates and the status of American seamen captured
by those pirates and put to work as slaves. Here she had a chance to highlight
the treatment of Jews in Western and Islamic nations:
Jews were a significant group in North Africa [they might have
been then; today they are a nearly extinct group on that continent], especially
after their expulsion from Spain in 1492 and from Portugal in 1496. Estimates suggest
that almost two hundred thousand settled in Ottoman territories, encouraged by Muslim
sultans. In contrast to their medieval and early modern persecution throughout
most of Catholic and Protestant Europe, Jews in Islamic lands were defined as
People of the Book according to the Qur’an,
and allowed to practice their faith, often rising to positions of influence at Muslim
courts, whether in medicine, commerce, or diplomacy….(p. 142)
This, of course, has nothing to do with Jefferson. And the
catch, not noted by Spellberg, is that whenever Jews did rise to positions of prominence
in Islamic régimes, it was a status conditional on their knowing their place
and not presuming to see themselves as equals of any Muslim. That rule also
applied to Christians.
The Tripoli ambassador gave Adams and Jefferson an education
in the workings of the Koran and of
the term jihad. From the Papers of Thomas Jefferson, she quotes:
“Tripoli’s bellicosity toward the United States, he allowed,
was founded on the Laws of the Prophet, that it was written in their Koran,
that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners,
that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be
found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every
Musselman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.” (p.
147)
Spellberg notes that
In fact, all of the ambassador’s references to the Qur’an were
accurate, including the precedents for preemptive war against People of the
Book, meaning Christians and Jews (Qur’an 9:29); the taking of captives (Qur’an
47:4); and the heavenly rewards for slain Muslim warriors (Qur’an 2:154). (pp.
146-147)
She then discusses the term jihad:
Variants of the word “jihad” occur in thirty-six
verses of the Qur’an, covering various forms of religious exertion, but there
are only ten explicitly on warfare. Traditionally, jihad is not considered in reference to warfare and killing, the
justification of which was limited to righting wrongs or self-defense. (p. 147)
However, the term “jihad” can be interpreted any way
a Muslim cleric of jihadi wishes to
interpret it. To Hamas, to Hezbollah, to the Muslim Brotherhood, to any number
of “extremist” Islamic gangs, “righting a wrong” means
waging continuous warfare against Israel (which “wrongly occupies”
Palestine, a nation that never existed), and against Jews and infidels
everywhere. And if jihadist clerics and “warriors” (aka terrorists)
wish to adopt the mantra of “self-defense,” they can claim that Islam
is under attack and they are resisting or fighting back.
Spellberg has a sister
feminist
and sister Islamophile at the
College of William and Mary, in Williamsburg, Virginia, Alexandra Méav Jerome. Jerome posted her 2012 paper, “The
Jefferson Qur’an,” on the Oxford
Islamic Studies Online site
. It, too, is full of speculation passing for
scholarship that would be the envy of Mr. Puff, of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s
comic play, The Critic. Mr. Puff
instructed his auditors with his armory of fraudulent flummery and disingenuous
dissimulations: the puff collusive, the puff oblique, the puff by implication, the
puff direct, the puff preliminary, and the puff collateral. Both Spellberg and
Jerome make generous use of that whole war chest. Footnotes and the like fill
the spaces like distracting kudzu.  
She ends it with more
“we may never know’s” and “may well have’s” and “imaginings”
of her own (Italics are mine):
Thomas Jefferson rarely spoke on the topic of religion and did
not leave us any written record of his opinion of Islam. But, based on how he
used the Qur’an politically, we can
conjecture
about his attitudes toward what his colleague George Washington
called “the children of the Stock of Abraham.” He was certainly
sympathetic to Islam and to those in the borderlands of the Christian West, but
he was also keenly aware of the effect of scripture, whether Biblical or Qu’ranic,
on the politics, motivations, and aspirations of nations and empires. At the
same time, Jefferson was perhaps
influenced
by the moral, humanitarian elements of the Qur’an and, as
mentioned above, the Constitution of Medina, which may have accompanied his study of Islam. We may never truly know what Jefferson thought about Islam, but
what we do know is that the Qur’an served not simply as an exotic book
occupying the shelves of Jefferson’s Monticello….
If we excavate the volumes of documents authored by Jefferson
and his contemporaries in the early days of the new republic, we find moments
wherein Jefferson’s Qur’an may well have
even influenced the founding
, shaping, and sustenance of a newly sovereign
nation.
Bottom of Form
And then there’s the contradiction in that closing paragraph:
Jefferson “did not leave us any written record of his opinion of
Islam” vs. “He was certainly sympathetic to Islam.” Well, how
does Jerome know that he was, if Jefferson left no record? Go figure.
As for Spellberg, to reprise, she sputtered in rebuttal to the
Wall Street Journal critique of her actions: “I don’t have a problem with
historical fiction. I do have a problem with the deliberate misinterpretation
of history. You can’t play with a sacred history and turn it into soft-core
pornography.”
But apparently she has no problem with ascribing to Thomas
Jefferson and the Founders an over-concern about the civil rights of Muslims,
and fabricating an elaborate, footnote-laden narrative about how Islam
contributed to the creation of the republic.
The truth is that Jefferson’s inclusion of Muslims as
deserving of civil rights protection, together with Jews, Hindus, and
dissenting sects of Christianity, was wholly incidental. He did not think
Muslims deserved any special attention. At least, there apparently is no record
that he thought so. So there is no reason to “imagine” that Jefferson
bit his nails raw over the treatment and future “perceptions” of
Islam and Muslims, which is the impression one gets in Spellberg’s book. According
to her and Jerome’s own notes (once one has brushed aside the kudzu), Jefferson
paid Islam and Muslims no more attention than he paid to the flora and fauna of
Virginia. In fact, far, far less attention.
Both Spellberg and Jerome highlight the fact that Jefferson
held the first iftar in the White
House in 1805. But that was a matter of discretion and diplomacy on Jefferson’s
part. It was not an act of submission (Islam)
nor even necessarily an act of “respect.”
Forgive me while I indulge in a bit of “imagining”
myself. Picture Jefferson confounded by the record of Islam as we know it
today. How was he going to reconcile the violent verses in the Koran, which abrogated the
“peaceful” ones
? How was he going to account for the estimated
1.5 million Europeans abducted from Western coastal towns by Muslim raiders and
who disappeared into the maw of Islamic slavery from the 16th
through the 19th centuries, never mind all those America seamen?
What conclusions would he reach once he grasped that Islam is
at root a totalitarian ideology strutting about in the vestments of religion,
and demanding that Western nations accommodate Islam Sharia law at the price of
subverting and suborning Western jurisprudence and freedom of speech? How would
he explain Syria, and Egypt, and Libya, Indonesia, and Malaysia, and Kenya, and
all the murders, beheadings, stonings, amputations, massacres, rapes, honor
killings, female genital mutilations, the marriages of pubescent girls, and
destruction committed in Allah’s name, not only in the Mideast, but in Europe,
as well?
How would he view Mohammad the “prophet” when he
learned that his actual existence is in dispute, and that anyway, if he did
exist, he was an illiterate, rapacious, murdering brigand and warlord given to
“hearing” voices, and hardly the sagacious “lawgiver” on a
par with Solon? What would he think when he read contemporary accounts of
Mohammad’s conquest of the Arabian Peninsula, accounts that portrayed him as a
kind of Al Capone of his time?
Perhaps a fairer “imagining” would be to put
Spellberg and Jerome in Jefferson’s shoes, without the benefit of the camouflage
of scholarly kudzu.
*Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders, by Denise
A. Spellberg. New York: Knopf, 2013. 416 pp.

Just Like a Tyrant: Obama’s Executive Extortion

Like King Canute, President Barack Obama is ordering the tide
of disaffection to cease and roll back into the ocean. He has even closed
the ocean
. Obama does not subscribe to Francis Bacon’s dictum that “Nature,
to be commanded, must be obeyed.” No, his power-lusting ambition allows
him to assert: “Nature and men will obey me because I command it.”
The malicious, vindictive character of President Barack
Obama’s behavior over the refusal of the House to pass a budget that would fund
Obamacare (or the Patient Protection
and Affordable Care Act
) and also raise the debt ceiling is open for all to
see. He has ordered all national parks, and even private parks and businesses
that do not receive federal funds but which are on federal property or even
adjacent to it, closed, with cement or metal barricades, orange cones, and
National Park “rangers” stationed to stop people (when they can) from
entering any of those venues.
His actions are nothing but petty, extortionate, and venal.
“I will have my way, and you will suffer pain until I get my way,” is
his message. “I don’t care if you’re WWII vets or Korean War vets or just
tourists who have suddenly found their vacation plans literally barricaded,
until you press the House to let me have my way, you won’t be enjoying those
parks, even though your tax dollars pay for them. Tough. I’m the boss. Deal
with it.”
Although the federal government’s shutdown is the first in
seventeen years, Obama’s actions are evocative of the Crown’s policies over the
American colonies 248 years ago, when, against the advice of many members of
the House of Commons and even some members of the House of Lords, Parliament
passed the Stamp Act. Chief Justice of the King’s Bench Lord
Mansfield
(William Murray) approved of the Stamp Act as within
the powers of Parliament and the Crown. The Gentleman’s
Magazine
of March 1765 noted:
“Lord Mansfield, as speaker,
and the Earls Gower and Marchmont, by virtue of a commission from his majesty
gave the royal assent to the following bills:…”
and about nine are
listed, one of which reads: “for laying a stamp duty in the British
colonies in  America.”

Although a brief & somewhat inconspicuous report,
it is an exceedingly historic one, as this is the official notice–in a British
publication no less–of the King’s approval of the Stamp Act. Schlesinger
has under the date of March 22, 1765 a lengthy entry which begins: “In
passing the Stamp Act, the English Parliament sets its first direct tax on the
American colonies. The intent of this act is to raise adequate funds, together
with the revenues from the 1764 Sugar Act, to support at least one-third of the
total cost to British of maintaining a military organization in the
colonies…”
As early as December, 1764, Prime
Minister George Grenville, author and advocate of the Stamp Act of March 1765,
sought Mansfield’s opinion on the legality of the tax. Mansfield replied*:
“…Though the question
certainly does not want this, or any other authority, yet it will be a striking
alteration to ignorant people, and an unanswerable argument ad homines; and, therefore, I wish you
would employ somebody to look with this view into the origin of their power to
tax themselves and raise any money at all.”
Now, let’s look at the Supreme Court ruling
on the legitimacy or legality of Obamacare, and the key statement of Chief
Justice John Roberts’s majority opinion. The
New York Times
reported on June 28th, 2012:
“The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain
individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may
reasonably be characterized as a tax,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the
majority opinion. “Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass
upon its wisdom or fairness
.” [Italics
mine]
You really never expected even a
liberal judge to allow those words to escape from his mouth and pen: Who am I to judge?
But that is the
state of the judiciary today, of the highest court in the land.
About Roberts’ opinion, William A. Jacobson of Legal
Insurrection
wrote:
Justice Roberts engaged in mental contortions to hold that the
individual mandate exceeded Congress’ Commerce Clause power (agreeing with
the dissent), but was constitutional under Congress’ taxing authority (joining
with the four liberal Justices).  His was the swing vote.  While
there were reports he originally intended to vote otherwise, and was swayed by
the pressures, those reports never have been verified and probably never will
be given the secrecy that attaches to Supreme Court deliberations.
The mandatory requirement to purchase health insurance was the
key point of contention about Obamacare, not whether or not it was a sanction
to “regulate” interstate or intrastate commerce. Without the elements
of compulsion and punishment, the law would have remained toothless and
unenforceable. In fact, it would never have been passed, never introduced,
never even read – as most politicians who voted for the legislation never read
the thousands of pages of it.
People who supported Obamacare are now suffering “sticker
shock,” once they have gone onto the Obamacare site and saw for themselves
the consequences of the law.
The Wall
Street Journal
noted:  
Health-insurance premiums have been rising—and consumers will
experience another series of price shocks later this year when some see their
premiums skyrocket thanks to the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare.
The reason: The congressional Democrats who crafted the
legislation ignored virtually every actuarial principle governing rational
insurance pricing. Premiums will soon reflect that disregard—indeed, premiums
are already reflecting it.
While ObamaCare won’t take full effect until 2014,
health-insurance premiums in the individual market are already rising, and not
just because of routine increases in medical costs. Insurers are adjusting
premiums now in anticipation of the guaranteed-issue and community-rating
mandates starting next year. There are newly imposed mandates, such as the
coverage for children up to age 26, and what qualifies as coverage is much more
comprehensive and expensive. Consolidation in the hospital system has been
accelerated by ObamaCare and its push for Accountable Care Organizations. This
means insurers must negotiate in a less competitive hospital market.
Although President Obama repeatedly claimed that
health-insurance premiums for a family would be $2,500 lower by the end of his
first term, they are actually about $3,000 higher—a spread of about $5,500 per
family.
I have no sympathy for anyone who voted for Obama (twice) with
stars in their eyes and minds. These are the people who can live with a welfare
state, who want to be taken care of by the government. Well, now they can see
that they’re being “taken care of,” in the way of being taken to the
cleaners by an omnivorous government.
In the meantime, in order to force the House – the Democrat-controlled
Senate is a washout, our Senate was established to block rights-violating populist
legislation from ever reaching the Oval Office – to let Obama have his way, Obama
has punished Americans by ordering the closing of federal parks and even of businesses
and private
homes
in or adjacent
to federal parks, to block roads that pass through federal lands to private businesses and
restaurants.
The Republican-controlled House, however, while defying Obama,
defies him for no rational
reason
. It could make the counter-offer to Obama and the Democrats by
saying: “We’ll agree to pass
the budget
and fund Obamacare, but only if every federal employee,
including the White House, including Congress, is mandated to buy the insurance,
and to offer Americans a year from now the referendum to abolish the law if it
is proven that it is an economic and civil rights disaster.”  The onus would then be put on Obama and the
Democrats and also the blame for the hardships and economic costs of the
shutdown.
But, Speaker of the House John Boehner and his allies remain
clueless on how to effectively out-maneuver our wannabe dictator. They think
this is a “who’ll blink first” contest. It isn’t. They should be
warned: If they fall for an Obama-offered cup of reconciliation, they should
beware of the drop or two of arsenic he and the Democrats would slip into it,
plus a pinch of strychnine added for good measure. A Republican capitulation
would spell the end of the Republican Party.
In fact, the House can kill Obamacare without lifting a
finger. As the Examiner
reports:
On Monday, Dr. Harold Pease, an expert on the United
States Constitution, stated that the authority in dealing with Obamacare funding
belongs to the U.S. House, not the U.S. Senate and that the House is doing this
all wrong.
Pease said, “Everything hinged upon funding which was given
exclusively to the House of Representatives, the only power that they alone
had.”
Pease went on to say, “All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the
House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments
as on other Bills. To fund anything, in this case Obamacare, first approval is
required by the House of Representatives.”
Are Boehner and his allies aware of this? Possibly. Why aren’t
they acting on what is so clearly stated in the Constitution?
Americans are not taking the shutdown sitting
down
. Many are acting, storming the barricades, and simply defying the authorities
sent to shut them down or refuse them entry into what Americans have paid for
over and over again in taxes.
But, all this is lost on Obama. He is behaving like a tyrant,
and his Democratic allies are hoping he wins this political tug-of-war.
Our futures depend on his losing, and losing big. Americans should
not submit to his extortionate and wholly unconstitutional actions.
*See Chapter 10: The Purgatory
Tavern, in Sparrowhawk:
Book Four, Empire.


Netflix’s Turkey Farm

I have taken some time away from Islam, the government
shutdown, Obamacare, the buffoonery in Washington D.C., the news media, and
other pressing issues to report on that great alternative to programmed TV and
exorbitantly priced big screen theaters: Netflix.  My mind needed a rest, or a change of
scenery.
Netflix is a priceless (well, a relatively cheap) way to watch
recent movie releases and TV series or miniseries. Its chief value to me is to
be able to watch “oldies” without commercial interruption and on my
own viewing schedule. YouTube carries many of those oldies, as well, but
usually in parts that often don’t match up or are missing.
But I couldn’t help but notice, when I scroll through all the
categories of choices that Netflix offers, that it carries dozens and dozens of
turkeys. Netflix seems to be the final resting place for films that couldn’t earn
their keep on the big screen or were never seen there, or were released as TV
specials, or not released anywhere at all except on DVDs. It is also the graveyard
or retirement home of many a TV series.  
One reason I watched these turkeys (and also many of their
bigger-budget parents), and never will again, is to see how directors and
screenwriters deal with emergency ethics,
which is what all these films deal with. How those ethics are dramatized is a
reflection on the state of reason in the culture as a driving force. Which, at
least from a moral standpoint, is virtually nil.
Emergency ethics entails problem solving. Reason apparently
played no role in either the decisions to make these turkeys or in imbuing
their characters with reason. Rational problem solving, in turn, entails the
weighing of values, one’s own values,
not the values expressed by a consensus, a majority, a group, or by
“mankind.”
A “turkey” in my cinematic lexicon can be defined
as: A low-budget, independently financed and produced film cranked out to cater
to filmgoers or couch potatoes obsessed with natural or manmade
“environmental” disasters, apocalypses, the price of fooling with or
“raping” the “ecosystem,” ends of civilization, ends of the
world, science fiction dystopias, and any other theme that blames man for his
particular perilous circumstance or for his hubris or arrogance or for his mere
existence.
I’ve already written about two Netflix blockbusters,
productions that have measurably higher standards of directing, acting, cinematography,
and scripting: the Kevin
Spacey
House of Cards
and Jenji Kohan’s Orange
is the New Black
. In terms of all secondary attributes, they are far
and away superior to the turkeys, past and present. But they all have one or
more things in common. Fundamentally, they are the celluloid or digital
offspring of liberal/leftist politics, and liberal/leftist morality. Netflix
has picked up the Spacey and Kohan series for new rounds of viewing.
What follows are the titles and their Netflix synopses in
italics, accompanied by my own notes.
The Road, 2009:  Set in
a post-apocalyptic future, this end-of-days tale follows two survivors, a
father and son, who navigate an ash-covered wasteland in search of a better
life — with only a sliver of hope that salvation awaits them at the end of
their journey.
This is the oddest of the lot. No explanation is given for
the desolate landscape that the two main characters wander through in search of
food and shelter. It was shot mostly through a filtering gray lens to emphasize
the dreariness, with occasional flashback color footage of the lives of the
characters before the apocalypse. The characters are always complaining about
the cold, and the sky is an unrelieved gray, so it must be because of
“global cooling.” There are no live trees, no birds or animals. I’m
guessing that Detroit was where much of the urban devastation was filmed. The
story is a struggle leading up to ultimate defeat with no attempts at
profundity. Episodes of survival are unconnected. Emergency ethics moral: Live
like a cave man, or a homeless person with a shopping cart.  Mutter or whisper inaudibly platitudes about
love and hope.
Apollo 18, 2011: If you buy in to official statements, Apollo
17 was NASA’s last manned mission to the moon. But what if found footage of a
secret Apollo mission that had taken place the following year could prove
otherwise — and explain why we haven’t gone back?
A kind of conspiracy
theory story about an Apollo mission that went to investigate a Soviet moon
landing. The astronauts are attacked by roach-sized insects that live as rocks
in a crater. They can turn over moon buggies and chew up flags and skitter into
your space helmet. Jerkily shot as though through personal video cameras, à la Cloverfield (2008), its CGI
is passable but the story is banal. Emergency ethics: Lose your mind when the
irrational suddenly appears.
Under the Dome, 2013:
An invisible and mysterious force field
descends upon a small fictional town in the United States, trapping residents
inside, cut off from the rest of civilization. The trapped townsfolk must
discover the secrets and purpose of the “dome” and its origins, while
coming to learn more than they ever knew about each other.
The synopsis
says it all. The characters are so “ordinary” and their dialogue so
banal that one really doesn’t want to know more about them. By the end of the
miniseries, the impregnable transparent “dome” remains inexplicable.
Is it an alien experiment? A secret government program? An act of God? Mother
Nature punishing man? The series was renewed
for a second season in 2014, with metaphysics-gone-mad horror writer Stephen
King to script the premiere episode.
The Walking Dead,
2010-2013: In the wake of a zombie
apocalypse that desolates the world as we know it, a group of survivors led by
police officer Rick Grimes holds on to the hope of humanity by banding together
to wage a never-ending fight for their own survival.
This series, renewed
by AMC, actually features some mature albeit erratic adult introspection and
value judgments, though the metaphysically impossible conflict, with zombies,
is unfortunately the venue. Filmed mostly in Georgia, it isn’t a cheap
production. It’s the only series in this genre that incorporates some actual
non-zombie human conflict and resolution.
Category 8, 2013: When a government experiment to harness the
sun’s power goes horribly awry and sends a massive fireball hurtling toward
Earth, it’s up to a renegade scientist to save the planet by reversing the
cataclysm — against seemingly impossible odds.
Straight off, the bad guys
are identifiable, such as the Secretary of Defense and a private firm
contracted by the DOD to develop an energy concentrator that shoots the sun and
can somehow collect the energy of the resulting solar flare to blast enemy
satellites. The “renegade” scientist is a snarky, anti-war,
anti-establishment aging hippy creature working out of a barn powered by solar
panels, and who has boring and distracting personal issues with his daughter’s
fiancé, a cadet cop. Satellites fall from the sky by the hundreds, even the
space station, the earth’s core stops spinning, but, somehow, cell phones work
perfectly. The snarling, hippy-dippy scientist saves the day, twice, with his
outside-of-the-box physics. Emergency ethics? At series end, the
“renegade” scientist almost seems to regret having saved mankind.
Survivors,
2008-2010: When a deadly strain of flu
decimates the world’s population, a scrappy group of survivors find themselves
struggling to exist in a world devoid of electricity, running water and
government services.
Distributed by the BBC, this British series is slow to
reveal its anti-business agenda. In one episode, an Oxford classics professor
becomes a slave-owner running a coal mine, and it’s revealed at the end that
the virus was manufactured by a pharmaceutical company and it got loose. The
series develops several subplots to which it devotes considerable footage –
such as the insidious designs of a government survival colony, and a gang of
boy-scroungers lorded over by a Fagin-like murderer – and then forgets them by
series end. Emergency ethics? Gotta find my son, who may have survived the
plague. Everyone else subordinates his values to the plus-size heroine’s.
100ᵒ Below Zero,
2013: When a series of volcanic eruptions
rips through Europe, the subsequent ash cloud blocks out the sun. As the
continent plunges into a new ice age, an American couple must find their
college-aged kids and get them out of Paris before it freezes over.
This is
the cheesiest of the lot, an American-Canadian production, with
characterizations, dialogue, and special effects so flat and bogus one can’t
help but think that the staff in the cutting room laughed their heads off as
they put it together tongue-in-cheek, or perhaps even blindfolded. Emergency
ethics? Gotta find my kids in Paris. Never mind the Styrofoam bricks and
concrete that bounce on the streets of Paris during an earthquake, which is
simulated by someone shaking the camera, and the character claiming it’s really
cold, with no visible breath in the supposedly frigid air.
The Core, 2003: The Earth’s inner core has stopped spinning, and scientist Josh Keyes
must discover why — before the world literally falls apart — by burrowing into
the planet’s center in a vessel piloted by Maj. Beck Childs and Col. Robert
Iverson.
Why did it stop spinning? No answer, but man must have had
something to do with it. A plucky band of stereotyped characters plan to
detonate a nuclear bomb to nudge the core into moving again. The vessel they
ride looks suspiciously like a tricked-up cigar tube. Believe it or not, at the
end, whales save the day when they “sing” to the cigar tube trapped
at the bottom of the Marianna Trench because they think it’s another whale.
Emergency ethics? Gotta save the planet.
Invasion: Earth, 1998: Earth becomes a battleground in a full-scale
intergalactic war when the Royal Air Force erroneously shoots down an
unidentified flying object. With the planet’s future at stake, can the world
work together to protect itself?
This older series had an interesting opening,
the London Blitz, shot in period black and white, when an alien spacecraft’s
escape pod crashes into the rubble of a bombed section of the city during an
air raid. Why did it crash? Did the Luftwaffe shoot it down? Did it get snagged
by one of the dirigibles? No answer. Fast forward to the present when a British
fighter jet shoots down a similar spacecraft. From there, the plot becomes so
complicated, twisted, and implausible (even for space aliens) all one can do is
shake one’s head. Most of it is set in Scotland. I got the distinct impression
that the series was made exclusively to provide employment for the cast. Emergency
ethics? Gotta save the human race from those giant insects.
Revolution, 2012: Three companions go on a quest to uncover the truth about a mysterious
blackout that caused all electricity to stop working 15 years earlier.

Again, the villains are the government and contractors co-opted by nefarious
bureaucrats who want to use a technology that uses nanobots to control
electricity and as a cure for diseases. Or something. The experiment went
wrong. The nanobots ate the electricity. Lights out. Anarchy and chaos ensue.
In this one, the U.S. has collapsed into several independent republics, most of
them ruled over by brutal tyrants. I think I identified some of the cast from
the Lost super-series.
Emergency ethics? Pragmatism.  
Vanishing on 7th Street,
2011: When a power outage plunges Detroit
into total darkness, a disparate group of individuals find themselves alone.
Soon the daylight begins to disappear and as the survivors gather in an
abandoned tavern, they realize the darkness is out to get them.
This is
probably the most hilarious and unintentionally allegorical synopsis of the bunch
I’ve selected here, because it couldn’t have been set in a better place than in
bankrupt and shrinking Detroit. I did not watch this one. The synopsis warned
me off.
These films seek to cash in on the box office appeal of
Hollywood’s multi-million dollar, multi-star disaster productions (recently,
e.g., Elysium and I Am Legend,
the first about how “we” ruined the earth and started class warfare,
the second about the consequences of fooling with Mother Nature), but with less
money, working with hackneyed scripts, clunky special effects, and employing
largely unknown and therefore cheaper casts.
Until I subscribed to Netflix, I had only a vague inkling of
just how much contemporary rubbish Hollywood or “off-Hollywood” had
ever produced. Technically, in another era, the turkeys discussed here would
have been dubbed “B” films. While not as irredeemably awful as, say,
Edward Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space,
with few exceptions (those with the bigger budgets) the selections are
noticeably creaky and almost as ill-conceived and slap-dash as was Wood’s opus.
There are numerous older clunkers available on Netflix, as well,
spanning all past decades. Some of them are well done, such as Henry Hathaway’s
The Dark Corner, which,
aside from it being a “dark” detective story, is interesting
especially because it reveals that Lucille Ball was an excellent dramatic
actress, and not the addle-headed comedienne most people remember her as.
These films and series are what one Washington Post critic
would call “disposable popcorn spectacles.” I would say that about
most first-run films that have come out over the past twenty years. But, more
and more, “B” films or turkeys, in attempts to emulate the Hollywood
“blockbusters,” seem to be little more than excuses for CGI wonks to
show off their expertise (or lack of it) in creating illusions of collapsing
skyscrapers, repellent zombies, disgusting alien insects, firestorms, earthquakes,
tidal waves, and other usually man-caused natural phenomena, with the story content
secondary and usually defaulting to a collectivist or self-sacrificing template.
Well, enough of this. Someone – or something – is knocking on
my front door. Probably an Obamacare zombie or “navigator” wanting to
know why I haven’t visited the local “insurance exchange.” I knew I should’ve practiced my
decapitation skills.
Or maybe it’s just a Secret Service guy in a turkey costume on
a mission to assassinate me.

Maturity Deferred: The Death of the Grown-Up

This book review was originally written in 2008 for another
publication, some time after Diana West’s book debuted. The editor of
that publication – who shall remain nameless, as well as the publication itself
– had the hubris to edit my original review out of recognition. I withdrew the
submission and am belatedly publishing it now.
The trouble with most conservatives who write cultural
critiques is that invariably they get it only half right, or just backwards.
Diana West’s The
Death of the Grown-Up
: How America’s Arrested Development is Bringing Down
Western Civilization
is not a salutary instance of that failing. West is
not your typical “conservative.” She has analytical and observational
skills that surpass those of the typical conservative. She is acutely
intelligent and a superb writer. Most average “conservatives” I have dubbed
“CINOs” – Conservatives in Name Only – because like many political
conservatives, they invariably endorse or side with the liberal/left welfare
statists, in spite of their religious bent or allegiance to
“traditions.”
For example, Speaker of the House John Boehner is a CINO,
because other than being well-dressed, and wearing an American flag pin on his
lapel, he is a closet liberal. Being well-dressed and flaunting a flag pin are
traditions, not principles.
By half right I mean that Boehner, for example, will make a
trenchant observation with which one can agree, but then, either explicitly or
implicitly, his observation will be grounded on a religious norm or premise, or
on tradition, or custom, or just an established and wholly secondary, often
arbitrary “social rule,” and not on any rational criterion. In short, on a
non-fundamental. Boehner said,
about the bill sent to the Senate that would delay implementation of Obamacare
for one year:
“It’s time for the Senate to listen to the American
people just like the House has listened to the American people and to pass a one-year
delay of ObamaCare and a permanent repeal of the medical device tax.”
How about permanent repeal of Obamacare? Oh, no. That would
entail establishing and invoking a principle. Boehner, who looks like a former
movie action hero going to seed, would never stoop to acting on principle. Not
that he would recognize one.
Let us turn now to Diana West, who does recognize a principle,
and acts on it.
She opens The Death of
the Grown-Up
, Chapter One, “The Rise of the Teen,” with:
“Once, there was a world without teenagers. Literally.
‘Teenager,’ the word itself, doesn’t pop into the lexicon much before 1941.
This speaks volumes about the last few millennia. In all those many centuries,
nobody thought to mention ‘teenagers’ because there was nothing…to think of
mentioning.”
Historically, the first recorded use of the term teen in reference to a person’s age,
according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was in 1673 (in a
Restoration comedy by William Wycherley), and in all cited instances thereafter
of its usage up until 1941, it denoted a person who was about to enter
adulthood and who did not wish to remain a “teen.”
“In considering what I like to call ‘the death of the
grown-up,’ it’s important to keep a fix on this fact: that for all but this
most recent episode of human history, there were children and there were
adults. Children in their teen years aspired to adulthood; significantly, they
didn’t aspire to adolescence. Certainly, adults didn’t aspire to remain
teenagers.
“That doesn’t mean that youth hasn’t always been a source of
adult interest: Just think in five hundred years what Shakespeare, Dickens, the
Brontës, Mark Twain, Booth Tarkington, and Leonard Bernstein have done with
teen material. But something has changed. Actually, a lot of things have
changed. For one thing, turning thirteen, instead of bringing children closer
to an adult world, now launches them into a teen universe. For another, due to
the permanent hold our culture has placed on the maturation process, that’s
where they’re likely to find most adults.”
West’s central thesis is that our culture has ossified into a
“perpetual adolescence,” even though the Baby Boomer generation is nearing or
at the age of retirement. That generation was sired and raised by the “greatest
generation,” one of adults and even adolescents who fought World War Two in
combat overseas and in the factories at home.
The “greatest generation,” however, in turn raised a
not-so-great generation many of whose members became the creators and
proponents of or adherents to the rebellious “counterculture” of the 1960’s and
1970’s, with its pronounced leftist, collectivist and nihilist means and ends.
If members of that generation did not actively take part in the assault on the
status quo, then they passively accepted a besieged status quo as mere
powerless spectators.
But the status quo was not so “static.” The government’s role
in the economy and in everyone’s personal lives – through regulation, taxation,
progressive education, a costly, irrational foreign policy, and even in the
arts – grew and expanded and more or less co-opted the morally and
intellectually disarmed, non-rebellious, productive members of that
generation. 
Throughout her book West cites numerous instances of adults
abdicating or never discovering their responsibilities as thinking, reasoning
adults. She defines two species of this state of purported adult “adolescence,”
a condition she also claims is exacerbated by multiculturalism and diversity:
A reluctance to assert or champion “adult” values one knows
are superior, or a fear to assert them, lest one be accused of something
terrible (fascism, elitism, or racism) by the enemies of those values.
An indoctrinated ignorance of or hostility to any values that
are demonstrably superior.
She devotes Chapter Two, “The Twist,” to describing the changes
in popular music and dance from Swing to “rock ‘n roll,” cites Elvis Presley as
the progenitor of rap and worse, and does a credible job of tracing the
devolution of music from tonality and melody to rap and bass-based noise. In
Chapter Three, “Clash,” she analyzes the antiwar movement of the 1960’s and
1970’s in terms of it being simply an anarcho-Marxist revolt for the sake of
revolting against parental and establishment authority.
She quotes radical-activists-cum-neo-conservatives and
describes how most university presidents and administrators simply caved into
the demands of student demonstrators, surrendering their authority by
sanctioning their behavior with silence or verbal agreement and often by
granting them amnesty.
“Central to the surrender of the adult, then, was the collapse
of the parent. As much as any political, demographic, or economic factors, this
made the ascendancy of youth possible, and possibly inevitable, first on
campus, and, later, in the wider culture. So much for the World War II-winning
Greatest Generation, whose own offspring, spoiled ‘youths’ in the 1950s, became
everyone’s spoiled youth movement in the 1960s. Life may have been tough for
the men and women whose formative years were marred by Depression and war, but
theirs was the spawn of Dr. Spock’s ‘permissive society.’”
In Chapter Five, “Sophisticated Babies,” West notes the rise
of pornography and the exposure of teens and pre-teens to it. She prepares the
reader for that phenomenon with the revelation that Morris Ernst, “a foe of
censorship who had mounted a winning defense of [James Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness
and expletive-laden novel] Ulysses in 1933,” publicly recanted in 1970
in The New York Times, saying that, after seeing how “licentious” the culture
had become, he would “not choose to live in a society without limits to
freedom.” West then comments,
“The arguments that destroyed the legal and moral bases for
censorship of obscenity and pornography apply to trash as well as to art. By
the time the courts, in effect, declared obscenity was dead, they had killed
something vital to a healthy society: the faculty of judgment that attempts to
distinguish between what is obscene and what is not obscene—the avowedly
‘grown-up’ sensibility of an outmoded authority figure who had long relied on a
proven hierarchy of taste and knowledge until it was quite suddenly
leveled.” 
In Chapters Four and Six, “Parents Who Need Parents” and
“Boundaries,” West describes parents and adults who either succumb to,
tolerate, or encourage the whims of their children. Often, she notes, parents
indulge in irrational “juvenile” behavior themselves. Among her instances are
the parents who hired a stripper to entertain their son’s high school football
team, the male members of a branch of Rotary International who posed nude for a
fund-raising calendar, and the mother who, in opposition to her concerned
husband, came to the defense of her alcoholic, promiscuous nanny.
In Chapter Seven, “Identity,” West tackles the perilous and
destructive consequences of multiculturalism, cultural relativism, and
diversity in education and in the news media. This is where she shines best,
ascribing to adults the surrender of reality to political correctness and the
suspension of reason and their cognitive faculties in deference to pragmatic
policies of accommodation. On the multicultural indoctrination (it cannot be
called “education”) so pervasive in especially public schools, from kindergarten
on up to the university level, she notes that:
“It teaches children to sublimate the traditions and teachings
of their own civilization – those that tend to regard buffalo-tongue brushes,
for example, as being revolting or unsanitary. The repetition of this kind of
instruction – who are we to say anything about anything? – impress upon young
minds the crucial need to adopt an attitude of painstaking neutrality when
regarding other (read: less developed) cultures. In other words, it teaches
children to suspend their judgment.” 
Later, West observes that:
“’That’s their culture’ becomes the mantra of accepting the
Other [West’s reference to Islam, or any primitive, non-Western culture]. But
it also becomes the mantra of denying the Self. And in learning to turn off the
assessment process, in learning to stymie the gut reaction, we have learned to shut
it down entirely….But what happens in the face of less benign cultural
phenomena, from censorship and religious repression to female genital
mutilation, forced marriage, so-called honor killing, and suicide bombings?”
Adults, no less than children, but especially adults who were
subjected to progressive education, and not the full-scale indoctrination that
their children must endure today, are also susceptible to the same
indoctrination and “educated” repression, and very few of them attempt to
“unlearn” the habit of sabotaging their own minds.
Moving from the classroom to the newsroom, West details how
newspapers and wire services, manned largely by progressively educated adults, invest
considerable energy to evade the fact that Islamic terrorists are not just
“gunmen,” “militants,” “perpetrators,” or “activists,” but killers for a
totalitarian cause who have declared war on civilization. Since modern editors
and journalists have been taught, or have uncritically absorbed the policy,
that Islam is not to be judged or condemned – it is, after all, a “religion of
peace,” its horrible record of conquest, enslavement, and brutality to the
contrary notwithstanding – the prohibition must be extended to anyone who acts
in its name.
“…[T]he media’s studied nonjudgmentalism…gives jihadist
terrorists a perpetual benefit of the doubt. Such doubts – raised in the
language of ‘neutrality’ – reserve a crucial moral space for the possibility of
sympathetic judgment, enforcing the notion that blamelessness for terrorism is
just as possible as blame….Besides staving off condemnation and leaving room
for approval, the act of suspending judgment – and this is what may be most
significant – delivers terrorism and terrorists from the nether realm that all
civilizations reserve for taboo, anathema, and abomination.” ­­
Treating multiculturalism, diversity, and environmentalism as
religions – since any one of these is now accepted on faith without thought as
unassailable and as unquestionable as Islam is to Muslims and the Bible is to
Christians – it would be apropos to quote a prominent atheist, A. C. Grayling, about
the means and ends of any religion: “It is the business of all religious
doctrine to keep their votaries in a scare of intellectual infancy.”* Infants,
pre-teens, and most teens have not developed their cognitive powers nor
accumulated a fund of knowledge that would together enable them to make
rational judgments and to act on them. We now have an educational establishment
wholly devoted to sabotaging children’s minds to ensure that they cannot make
rational judgments.
In Chapter Eight, “The Real Culture War,” West writes
fervently and convincingly about the steady encroachment of Islam in the West
as a mortal threat to freedom and free speech. But, it should be noted the
equally perilous resurgence of Christianity in America that threatens those
same values, especially when discussing the censorial fatwahs of Islamic
ideology and how they are being insinuated into Western culture. The Church’s
history in regards to censorship is nothing to boast of. Had West been a
contemporary of Hypatia
in 5th century Alexandria, she would have shared that thinker’s fate at the hands of Christian clerics.
(At the moment, West
is being attacked
by so-called allies for having questioned the received history
of World War II and Soviet espionage in her book, American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character.)
I wish West had devoted more discussion to the subject of how
the welfare state contributes to the “death of the grown-up.” While the welfare
state was originally intended to “help the poor,” it has metastasized into a
monster from which even the wealthy insist on collecting the services and
taxable pittance paid by Medicare and Social Security. It has suborned
businessmen, parents, students, farmers and even writers and artists, sending
them on hide-and-seek numbers games through the labyrinth of the tax code. The
welfare state has compromised and made dependent anyone who claims an “entitlement”
to be taken care of as protection against the cost of sustaining a “great” or
“kinder, gentler” or “just” society, an entitlement which one either claims, or
is claimed for one by others, as a reward for one’s “contribution” to society.
West inveighs against the multiculturalist agenda in
education, and acknowledges the debilitating effects of what makes that agenda
possible, the progressive educational philosophy, almost universally in place
since at least World War One. The closest West comes to a philosophical
explanation or cause is in Chapter Seven, “Identity.”
“Maybe it was French philosopher Claude Levi-Strauss who first
sounded the call to arms to ‘fight against cultural differences hierarchically’
in the 1950s; by the 1980s, with a resounding multiculturalist victory in the
so-called culture wars, this leveling mission was accomplished.”
Actually, that “call to arms” was sounded before
Levi-Strauss’s brand of “textual analysis” and “deconstruction” became the ubiquitous
and destructive methods of American literary studies. It began with the “New
Criticism” that infested America and Europe after World War Two and with the
“beat generation’s” literature of plotless novels and formless, often
drug-induced prose. Ultimately, Levi-Strauss, his exponents, and his
practitioners were the heirs of the 18th century Prussian
philosopher, Immanuel Kant, who professed that we can’t know anything, so anything
goes.
West missed a chance to tie her thesis of “adolescence worship”
to the influence of J.D. Salinger’s 1951 novel, The Catcher in the Rye,
a novel about teenage angst in confronting modern society and how Holden
Caulfield, the anti-hero, was reluctant to take his place in a culture marked,
claims Salinger, by phoniness, conformity and corruption. The novel has been
required reading in American literature courses for decades and helped to
prepare the Baby Boomer generation and its offspring for what later has become
multiculturalism and anti-Americanism.
Two other “anti-establishment,” youth-young-adult angst
novels, Charles Webb’s The Graduate (1963, faithfully produced by
Hollywood in 1967), and Philip Roth’s Goodbye Columbus (1959, also
faithfully transferred to the big screen in 1969), could have also been drafted
by West to buttress her thesis, as well. They could have served as concrete
instances that would illustrate her principal thesis. She might have easily
contrasted these novels with one she holds up as an ideal story of a teenager
who looks forward to being an adult, Booth Tarkington’s Seventeen
(1916).
West ends Chapter Nine, “Men, Women…or Children?” with:
“Eternal youth is proving fatal; it is time to find our
rebirth in adulthood.”
Overall, West’s thesis underscores the dangerous cracks, leaks
and rot that characterize modern culture. But it is not enough to recommend
anything more profound than for Americans to reclaim the role of thoughtful and
responsible adulthood.
What accounts for America’s “arrested development” has been
and continues to be the absence of a philosophy of reason as the dominant
cultural attribute. We now have a country populated by physically mature adults
too many of whom have “regressed” over the course of more than a generation to
a state of helpless ignorance and the self-induced, institutionalized
childishness of pretending that things are not what they are.
But, is “adolescent” the proper term to describe a culture
that expresses and patronizes the irrational, the emotional, the whim, and the
“pubescent”? Is “regression” a valid diagnosis of the condition of much of
today’s adult population? It is possible that West’s “adolescence” is her
substitute concept for “pre-maturity,” and not merely physical maturity, but
mental maturity.
There was a time when reason was the dominant (though not
exclusive) mover of men. And it is the gradual “death,” disparagement, or
abandonment of reason in most fields or realms of values and action today that
can account for any ostensive “juvenile” character of the culture. It is not so
much an abdication of maturity or adulthood as it is a collapse into an
eclectically-filled vacuum when reason is siphoned from men’s minds, regardless
of their age.
The Death of the
Grown-Up
is an invaluable introduction to and diagnosis of the debilitating
anti-value and anti-reason cultural illness that is suffocating the country.
* A.C. Grayling, “Can an atheist be a
fundamentalist atheist?” in The
Portable Atheist
: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever
, edited by Christopher
Hitchens (Philadelphia: De Capo/Perseus Press, 2007), p. 474.
The Death of the Grown-Up: How America’s
Arrested Development is Bringing Down Western Civilization
, by Diana West. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2007.
256 pp.

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