State of the Union

Obama Becomes a President

If the Pelosi-Reid liberals are in a hissy fit over the tax-cut deal negotiated by Barack Obama, they have only themselves to blame.

With their three-to-two majorities, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid could have forced the Republicans to vote again and again during the election for “tax cuts for the rich.”

They never did. Now, what else could Obama do after his own party left him with lousy field position and the clock running out?

“He could have fought!” the left howls. “He could have told the Republicans, ‘No way do I sign a bill that gives tax cuts to the rich.'”

Had Obama thrown down that gauntlet, Republicans would have blocked all action in the Senate until Dec. 31. The lame-duck session would have ended in deadlock. There would have been no extension of tax cuts for the middle class, no START treaty on nuclear weapons, no extension of unemployment benefits, no vote on the DREAM Act for amnesty for illegal aliens, no vote on “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Obama’s defiance would have accomplished — exactly nothing.

In January, a Republican House and more conservative Senate would have passed an extension of all the Bush tax cuts, and Obama would have had to veto the bill and let them all expire. The resulting tax surge would have caused chaos in the economy and been a disaster for the president who is supposed to be running the country.

But the Republicans would have caved, claims the left.

Don’t bet on it. Mitch McConnell and the GOP senators know — after what happened to Charlie Crist, Arlen Specter, Michael Bennett and Mike Castle — that the retribution of the Tea Party is the threat they face, not the anger of Barack Obama. Read More…

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Interpol WikiLeaks PSA Ad

title: When More than the Wiki Leaks

This artwork is from Tom Blanton, the mastermind of The Project for a New American Revolution.

Tom has other top notch libertarian-themed political art work at his Flickr page here.

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More Money for Nothing

Yesterday the US Congress approved $205 million for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system.  That was on top of $200 million previously allocated for Israel’s Arrow and David’s Sling development programs.  Now, one might question approving nearly half a billion dollars for a foreign country at a time when budgets for programs in the United States are being axed, so it is definitely convenient that the US public will not know about the vote as it has not been reported anywhere in the US mainstream media.  The article I saw was in today’s Haaretz

But the most interesting part of the story was the vote itself:  212 in favor and 206 against.  Israel is accustomed to 400 yes’es nearly all the time.  Is it possible that the US Congress is finally developing a backbone?  Or a conscience?

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Democratic Aristocracy

It’s rather dismaying to see the thoughtful and well-regarded online magazine Front Porch Republic being roiled by a series of articles written by editor John Medaille celebrating the virtues of monarchism as compared to democracy. I don’t believe John’s point was call for the U.S. to build its own Buckingham Palace or design its own crown and scepter, which will never happen in a million years. It was to simply show the follies of democratism as a guarantor of the public’s liberties compared to an enlightened king (one tyrant 3,000 miles away as compared to 3,000 tyrants one mile a way), not to mention democracy’s effects upon the society. Recent elections in both Haiti and the Ivory Coast have left their capital cities on fire in rioting and hooliganism by the losing side. Elections nearly brought genocide to Kenya, and they nearly tore apart Ukraine. And of course we have Iraq and Afghanistan as a prime example of the stability democracy is supposed to bring, or lack thereof. Far from being a cure all, democracy has often left violence, murder and destruction in its wake.

No one, it seems, complains more about the shortcomings of democracy or its imperfections in the U.S. than those on the Left, and yet their own answer is more democracy, just like the answer to not liking green eggs and ham is more green eggs and more green ham (as David Frum would put it). Their vision of every election as a replay of the Lincoln-Douglas 1858 U.S. senate race is a Utopian ideal in the often messy world of U.S politics. In fact some, like the Obama Administration’s virtual in-house blog at the Washington Monthly, have made demagogic attacks upon those who question whether more democracy is a good thing. Indeed, the line between them and the original democracy freaks among the neoconservatives is becoming more and more blurred all the time (especially when it comes to foreign policy). Campaign finance reforms laws and contribution transparency are nice things, but they do not address the fundamental flaws in the democrat’s arguments. As Medaille points out: 1). Winning an election does not automatically grant legitimacy (as the whole Birther movement clearly shows); 2). Elections don’t fully express the “will of the people,” only those who voted assuming they knew what they voted for and 3). Some nation-states are utterly incapable of being democratic societies.

Plato’s Republic was never meant to be an empire–nor St. Augustine’s City of God. Those who celebrate small “d” democracy can find common ground with those looking for monarchical virtue and dignity among all the would-be statesmen by supporting a repeal of the 17th Amendment, which directly elected U.S. Senators. The institution has been warped by democratic elections (witness the TV commercials last fall), a partisan body where political self-interest rules all, and where individual Senators have more and more become pawns to their party leaders’ strategy games–rather than being their own person. If Senators were appointed rather than elected, would the body be as bogged as it is right now by filibusters that are clearly used for partisan maneuver? And what of the state legislatures that would appoint such persons? By no means are they perfect, but certainly those who would make such decisions are elected in small districts where citizens have a better chance of organizing and affecting such politics than they do on the national level. Time and again, big money controls the process of election and non-entities can get elected in statewide campaigns with just the right amount of television commercials. Is it any wonder the movie “The Candidate” was about a Senate campaign?

The Founding Fathers modeled the Senate after the House of Lords just as they modeled the House of Representatives after the House of Commons. The Founders wanted an aristocratic Senate in style (without having a natural aristocracy), one which served as a check to the directly elected House. Removing this check in the name of “popular democracy” has done exactly that, made Senate elections popularity contests that are easily manipulated by money and cynical “message shapers” of mass media, in the same fashion the popular democracy of the referendum process in California has been vulgarized by big money interests fighting and winning their campaigns on television. The only way to fight back is to truly restore localism by making the U.S. Senate accountable to the thousands of state senators and assembly members across the country, by giving their citizen legislators a say in our national government once again–rather than the corporate lobbyists who are now going to work for our new “popularly” elected Senators.

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The Conservative Case for WikiLeaks

Lovers necessarily keep or share secrets. Being in a healthy relationship means achieving a certain level of intimacy, where shared knowledge of each others’ weaknesses and insecurities is protected by a bond of mutual trust. Sometimes lovers might do devilish things that outsiders wouldn’t understand, or shouldn’t be privy to, and this is fine. But by and large, what they do is simply no one else’s business.

But imagine that the man in the relationship kept it a secret that he had other women on the side, kids, a criminal record, venereal disease, and basically betrayed his lover in every way imaginable, unbeknownst to her?

Now imagine a third party felt it was their moral duty to reveal it?

No one questions that governments must maintain a certain level of secrecy, including WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who told Time that “Secrecy is important for many things … [but it] shouldn’t be used to cover up abuses.” The entire premise of Assange’s whistleblower organization is this: To what degree is government secrecy justified? And when particular secrets could be damaging to the other partner in the United States government’s relationship — the American people — should these secrets be revealed in the name of protecting the public? Read More…

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Was George Washington a Christian?

One of the stupidest historical debates I’ve ever tried to follow concerns the personal religious conviction of our founding father George Washington. Presently there seem to be two opposing schools of propagandists. They can be divided more or less into Beckites and Obamaites, and both seem obsessed with Washington’s theological leanings. The generally leftist historian Joseph Ellis is eager to tell us in his relevant work that Washington was not on the evidence a Trinitarian Christian. Although he dutifully attended Anglican-Episcopalian services with his wife Martha, he avoided taking communion after the American Revolution.

This lack of ritual practice, which was clear to Washington’s minister in Philadelphia (and the local Episcopal bishop), William White, supposedly reveals a great deal about the American founding. Like Jefferson and Franklin, Washington was a free-thinker influenced by the European Enlightenment, and to whatever extent Washington and his fellow founders went along with popular religious enthusiasm, they were simply masking their true feelings. If alive today, they would all no doubt be welcoming the removal of Christian religious symbols from the public square, and in all probability they would be cool with gay marriage and with substituting “holiday greetings” for a “blessed Christmas.”

The other side, following Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and other authorized “conservative” voices, insist that Washington was a pious Christian, who spent his time in solemn religious meditation. The reason his gravestone and his last will and testament are full of references to Christ as well as to God the Father is that George was in fact a believing Christian. Presumably if still around, our first president would by now would be rallying to the GOP. He might even be on the Glenn Beck show, seated next to Rabbi Daniel Lapin and Martin Luther King’s niece. Here he would join the other guests in decrying abortion and calling for “family values.”
Read More…

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Assange headed for Gitmo?

Julian Assange is finally in custody. Not for releasing classified information to the press mind you, but for “sex crimes” that he hasn’t been charged for yet. But they got him. And through him, they (the power structure, the establishment, be it the British government, the U.S government, the Swedish government, etc) will hope to get to WikiLeaks.

For an international outcry so concerned about “the law,” there has certainly been a variety of extra-judicial attempts to kill the messenger. So says Glenn Grennwald this morning:

…whatever you think of WikiLeaks, they’ve never been charged with a crime, let alone indicted or convicted. And yet, look at what has happened to them. They’ve been essentially removed from the internet, not just through a denial of service attacks that are very sophisticated, but through political pressure applied to numerous countries. Their funds have been frozen, including funds donated by people around the world for his—for Julian Assange’s defense fund and for WikiLeaks’s defense fund. They’ve had their access to all kinds of accounts cut off. Leading politicians and media figures have called for their assassination, their murder, to be labeled a terrorist organization….

If they want to prosecute them, they should go to court and do it through legal means. But this extralegal persecution ought to be very alarming to every citizen in every one of these countries, because it essentially is pure authoritarianism and is designed to prevent the internet from being used as its ultimate promise, which is providing a check on unconstrained political power.

Politicians who command mass media attention — like Sen. Mitch McConnell, Rep. John Peter King in New York and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich —  have called Assange “a terrorist” in recent days (Gingrich actually used the words “enemy combatant”), and that he should be “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” We might be seeing the first real test of the First Amendment in regards to the Global War on Terror since the Patriot Act was signed by President Bush in October 2001.

In the meantime, Greenwald is right about all of the hysteria. Today, we heard that the Australian government is closing down an entire postal office that receives WikiLeaks mail; Visa has joined MasterCard and Swiss Bank and Pay Pal in its morally righteous stand against dirty WikiLeaks money. Funny, they don’t have the same problem with kids who, say, use mommy’s credit card to rack up thousands on Farmville, but that’s another story …Then there is Assange’s “arrest” on a warrant, which is not related to any criminal charges, per say, but to an angry Swedish prosecutor who demands he answer more questions about the consensual sex he had with two women last summer. News just in that he has been denied bail and will have to fight a lengthy battle against extradition. The details of this case are certainly awkward, and the Swedes ought to have the ability to wrap this thing up after four months, but does it rise to the level of an international “manhunt”? Jail? You decide.

It really does make one wonder what is in the 99 percent of the State Department cable trove that has yet to be made public.

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The Scoop on Gary Johnson

John McCormack of the Weekly Standard has a very interesting interview with the former New Mexico governor here. The headline draws attention to Johnson’s recent drug use, following a 2005 paragliding accident. As a prospective 2012 presidential candidate he was going to face an uphill battle with social conservatives to begin with. This disclosure, coupled with his straightforward support for abortion rights (“I support a woman’s right to choose [abortion] up until viability of the fetus. …. I don’t personally have a sense that life starts at conception”), is a kiss-off to values voters.

The more surprising news in McCormack’s piece concerns Johnson’s foreign-policy ideas. He confirms his opposition to the Iraq and Afghan wars and that he’d like to downsize the Pentagon, but he also reveals a penchant for humanitarian intervention: “If there’s a clear genocide somewhere, don’t we really want to positively impact that kind of a situation? … Isn’t that what we’re all about? Isn’t that what we’ve always been about? But just this notion of nation building—I think the current policy is making us more enemies than more friends.” On Israel, he tries to sound a conventional Republican note: “I think that we really do have a vested interest in Israel and that we shouldn’t walk away from that interest.” I don’t think that’s going to go very far with AIPAC.

Johnson comes off as ingenuous bordering on naive. Ron Paul’s conservative qualities made it hard for the Dobsonites to demonize him — not that they didn’t try — but Johnson is setting himself up to play the libertarian stock villain in the GOP’s quadrennial opera buffa. If Rep. Paul runs as well, the opposite of what many conservative libertarians have been hoping for might happen: instead of the Johnson-Paul tag team making anti-statist and anti-interventionist views more mainstream, Johnson might sidetrack Paul into discussions that would make it easier for the party establishment to marginalize both of them.

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Israel burning

Have read a fair amount about Israel’s forest fire (my wife said to me she didn’t know Israel had forests) and the various reports about which countries helped and did Israel’s foreign minister thank the Palestinian Authority and the diplomatic ramifications. But nothing as searing or to the point as this:

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Art and the Moral Community

What in the name of Gilbert Stuart is going on at the National Portrait Gallery?

A week ago, CNSNews’ Penny Starr reignited the culture war with an arresting story about the staid old museum that began thus:

“The federally funded National Portrait Gallery, one of the museums of the Smithsonian Institution, is currently showing an exhibition that features images of an ant-covered Jesus, male genitalia, naked brothers kissing, men in chains, Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her breasts and a painting the Smithsonian itself describes in the show’s catalog as ‘homoerotic.'”

Film of the crucifix with ants crawling on Jesus is from “A Fire in My Belly,” a video by David Wojnarowicz, who died of AIDS in 1992, that expressed his rage and anguish at the death of a lover who also died of AIDS.

As this is a Christmas-season exhibit, it came to the attention of William Donahue of the Catholic League. He called the ants-on-Jesus image “hate speech” and demanded its removal.

The rest of the four-minute video of “A Fire in the Belly,” writes Starr, portrays “the bloody mouth of a man being sewn shut … a man undressing a man’s genitals, a bowl of blood and mummified humans.”

One wonders: Why has this exhibit not received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts? Read More…

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