November 24th, 2014

Ferguson thread

The Ferguson grand jury decision is expected to be announced today.

I’m busy for the rest of the day, so I’m providing this thread for discussion of whatever might be decided, and whatever might ensue.

November 24th, 2014

Buh-bye, Hagel

I’m certainly no Hagel fan. Just do a search for “Hagel” on this blog and you’ll see what I think of his competence, intelligence, and fitness for the job of Secretary of Defense.

Now Hagel has been fired—or rather, submitted a forced resignation. The spin is that he was hired during a period of downsizing and pullback, and now Obama wants get tougher on groups such as ISIS.

Perhaps, but I wonder. I really, really, really wonder. And so does Bryan Preston:

Departing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel may have sealed his exit in this interview with Charlie Rose last week. Rose conducted the interview at the Pentagon…

Rose asked Hagel to elaborate on comments that he made in a speech at the Reagan Library last weekend. In that speech, Hagel said that America’s military capability, while still the best in the world, is being threatened.

Hagel re-iterated that to Rose, but also left viewers to wonder about the direction that President Obama is taking the military.

“I am worried about it, I am concerned about it, Chairman Dempsey is, the chiefs are, every leader of this institution,” Hagel said, including Pentagon leadership but leaving both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s names out of his list of officials who are worried about the U.S. military’s declining capability. Hagel said that the Congress and the American people need to know what while the U.S. military remains the strongest, best trained and most motivated in the world, its lead is being threatened because of policies being implemented now.

Hagel went on to note that a good leader prepares their institution for future success, saying that “the main responsibility of any leader is to prepare your institution for the future. If you don’t do that, you’ve failed. I don’t care how good you are, how smart you are, any part of your job. If you don’t prepare your institution, you’ve failed.”

In the past couple of years, Hagel has warned that defense budget cuts implemented under President Obama were hurting readiness and capability. The “how smart you are” line may be a veiled shot at President Obama, who basks in a media image that he is a cerebral, professorial president…

While President Obama has downplayed the ISIS threat, even calling the group “jayvee” as it rose to power, Hagel warned last week that it is a threat unlike any other we have ever faced.

My guess is that Hagel was asked to leave by Obama because he’s not enough of a yes-man. Whether Obama’s policy is downsizing the military and pulling back from engagement with ISIS, or the opposite of both, the approaches are not really the issue. The issue is insufficient agreement with the constantly shifting sands of policy on which the leader, Obama, stands.

November 24th, 2014

The Obama immigration executive order and Congress as enabler

Here’s a great piece written by Charles C. W. Cooke. It emphasizes a point I’ve tried to focus on as well—the fact that Congress is acquiescing in its own loss of power to the executive branch.

Astounding, deeply disturbing, and enabling (I mean that in the historic sense). This would not be happening without the collaboration of the Democrats in Congress:

Last night, in Las Vegas, the head of the executive branch announced what amounts to a remarkable usurpation of legislative authority — and a significant portion of the legislature applauded. Before his speech, a raft of House Democrats had urged Obama to go as far as he pleased, comparing his impending behavior to that of Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman and recording for posterity that they had his back. “What we want the president to do,” Luis Gutierrez confirmed, “is act big, act bold, act broadly, and act soon.” In the Senate, meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren expressed her approval, as did power-players Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer, Patty Murray, Bob Menendez, and Michael Bennet. With a few virtuous exceptions, those that did not champion the action elected at best to remain silent…

This acquiescence is of great consequence. For all the hand-wringing and the righteous indignation that will presumably now be forthcoming, the root cause of the Republican party’s present dilemma is that the body that it leads has largely elected to abdicate its constitutional role — not, as President Obama likes to imply, because it has failed to do what the White House wishes it to do, but because it is proving so shamefully unwilling to defend its authority.

Please read the whole thing. And send it around.

The summary quote:

As the Founders understood well, the continuing integrity of a free republic is heavily reliant upon the goodwill of its political actors.

[NOTE: In related news, the WaPo has given Obama four Pinocchios for the assertion that George Bush expanded the law by executive order to protect 1.5 million illegal immigrants. Will anyone except the right care? Perhaps, but if Congress won’t act to further the will of the people and to protect the Constitution and its own powers, we are sunk.]

November 24th, 2014

New York City prepares myriad services for illegal immigrant children

Coming soon to a city near you:

The city Department of Education has told principals it plans this year to enroll 2,350 migrant children from Central America who crossed into the United States unaccompanied — with many more to come.

“It is expected that children will continue to arrive in large numbers in the coming years,” says a DOE memo to principals obtained by The Post.

The notice comes as the city rolls out a $50 million red carpet for 1,662 minors who crossed the border this summer to escape ­violence and gangs in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

In the “surge,” 5,000 of the 63,000 migrant kids caught trying to cross US borders — or who turned themselves in for refuge — have been released to relatives or other “sponsors” in New York state. Most live with other illegal immigrants.

Now, that’s what New York needs. That’s what we all need.

And the new arrivals will get what they need:

But the costs could soar, because the youths — many of them victims of poverty and abuse — will need state-mandated English-language instruction, free or reduced-price lunch, and a range of other services, including psychological counseling, medical and dental.

November 22nd, 2014

The holidays are coming: order from Amazon through neo-neocon!

[BUMPED UP]

Yes, it’s that time. Again.

It’s almost Thanksgiving. And that means that Christmas, Chanukah, and whatever other holiday might suit your diverse fancies are all coming up sooner than you think.

So I’m encouraging you to feel their hot panting breaths on your neck, and to solve all your gift-giving dilemmas by turning to that online colossus, Amazon.

And if you use those widgets on my right sidebar to click through for all your Amazon purchases (now and at any other time of year) you will also be giving a small but still not insignificant gift to neo-neocon (it adds up, folks), and all without spending any extra money yourself. What could be more wonderful?

I thank you all in advance.

[NOTE: In case you have ad blocker or something of that sort, and the Amazon widgets don’t show up on your computer, go here. You can also click on any Amazon book link within a post and anything you order during that click-through gets credited to me. I believe it’s true even for things you put in your cart but don’t order till a bit later, although there’s a time limit on how long they can be there and still get credited when ordered (I’m not sure what that limit is, though, so best to order sooner rather than later).]

November 22nd, 2014

Breaking up isn’t hard to do

So, here’s my question: This was written by a guy?

In particular, I find it hard to believe that reason #3 for the breakup emerged from the mind of a man:

You are rude to my cat and that makes me feel uncomfortable.

Perhaps things have changed even more than I realize.

Plus, what does rudeness to a cat look like? Forgetting to say “please” and “thank you”? Kicking it across the room? Making fun of it?

November 22nd, 2014

The NY times calls Obama’s new policy on immigration “wise”

This editorial reaches a new level of sycophancy even for the fawning Times, especially considering the very real and very significant problems related to every aspect of what Obama did, and the criticism he has drawn even from some sources usually sympathetic to him.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the editorial (to me, at least) is not just that word “wise” in the title. It’s the perfunctory dismissal of the constitutional issues as settled and obviously in Obama’s favor, and merely the result of the Republican’s usual unjustified pique at him:

Mr. Obama’s initiative is a real gain, which must be held against the blowback from Republicans, who are grasping for justification to match their outrage and to block him on legal grounds. Presidential precedent, the law and Supreme Court affirmation all favor Mr. Obama.

And that’s the entirety of what the Times has to say in the piece on that subject, although it contains well over 600 words. If anyone needed more proof of the total morphing of the Times into the old Pravda, there it is. And if anyone needed more proof that their devotion to Obama has not waned in recent years, there it is.

The Times, of course, is not alone. And although we may mock and revile it, it still is highly respected by many people, and therefore highly influential.

November 22nd, 2014

Why, fancy that

About 30,000 of Lois Lerner’s permanently missing, absolutely positively disappeared-forever emails have been found by the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), who has been investigating the case.

It turned out to be rather easy, once someone wanted to do it:

“They just said it took them several weeks and some forensic effort to get these emails off these tapes,” a congressional aide told the Washington Examiner.

This was the line the IRS originally gave out:

In June Koskinen told Congress the emails were probably lost for good because the disaster recovery tape holds onto the data for only six months. He said even if the IRS had sought the emails within the six-month period, it would have been a complicated and difficult process to produce them from the tapes.

It is unclear, say chairman Issa of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, whether all her missing emails have been recovered.

I would lay money that they have not.

November 22nd, 2014

Jonestown reflections: 36 years later

[NOTE: Yesterday a comment that referenced Jonestown caused me to revisit this post from six years ago. It was written on the 30th anniversary of the suicide/massacre; just a few days ago was the 36th anniversary. I think it holds some lessons for today, perhaps even more than when I first wrote it: about mind control, charisma, susceptibility to propaganda, idealism, the left, totalitarian systems, and press ignorance. You may think you remember, and yet the details could surprise you. So here it is again, slightly edited.]

The other evening I turned on the TV and came across this CNN documentary entitled “Escape from Jonestown.” I watched for the next two hours, because to my surprise it turned out to be riveting.

Even though I recall Jonestown well, and thought I had remembered most of the salient facts about it, there was still much more to learn. The story contains facts of tragic relevance even today, November 18, 2008, which is the thirtieth anniversary of that terrible mass suicide.

We call it a mass suicide because the evidence (and there is plenty of it, including an audiotape of the horrendous proceedings) indicates that many of Jones’ followers cooperated in their own deaths. In fact, the term “drink the Kool Aid” derives from that fact.

But what most people don’t know is the extent of the psychological and physical pressure that was placed on these people from the moment they entered the cult, as well as the fact that fully one-third of the nearly one thousand who died there were children who could hardly be said to have freely cooperated. There is also forensic evidence that those adults who did protest or try to escape were forcibly injected with cyanide as they attempted to flee.

So I prefer to call it a suicide/massacre. That places most of the blame where it belongs, on Jim Jones himself.

The first relevant lesson to be learned is the danger of blindly following a charismatic leader. Jones became more deranged later on, but as his congregation grew in the 60s and 70s, he was a respected member of the San Francisco community, with connections to Democratic politicians (I’m not sure there’s any other kind in San Francisco) and a strong reputation for racial equality.

The second lesson is to beware of the trust that gullible and trusting human beings can place in that charismatic leader. Jones required that people give over their lives and their assets when they became followers—a danger sign. Members had varied reasons for joining, but it can probably be safely said that most of them were exceedingly idealistic. According to the testimony of many of the survivors (a small group, but an articulate one), once they realized the true character of the man in whom they’d placed such hope and faith, it was too late. They were in a prison, subject to various forms of physical and psychological torture in Jones’ attempt to control the inmates. And in the final year before the terrible end, the prison we know as Jonestown was at least as isolated as Alcatraz, because it was located in the heart of the Guyanese jungle.

Two forms the psychological torture/indoctrination took are especially instructive. The first is that as Jones became increasingly paranoid, he regularly harangued his followers that they would be under attack soon, either from the CIA or the Guyanese authorities, and that mass suicide would be the only way out. In fact, he had many rehearsals for the killings, which had the effect of getting people used to what would be happening and more ready to accept it, as well as more doubtful when the real thing began to happen that it actually was the real thing; maybe it was another rehearsal?

The second was a particular type of psychological coercion described in Deborah Layton’s very fine and highly recommended book Seductive Poison. I am describing this from memory (I read the book many years ago), but my recollection is that they were encouraged to inform on each other if they heard anyone complain about or criticize Jones or Jonestown. The tattler was then publicly praised, while the complainer was subject to public harangues, physical punishment, withdrawal of privileges, and ostracism. In a totally controlled environment, this was especially difficult to take, even for those with strong personalities.

What was even more terrible—and diabolical—was the fact that Jones made some of his close confederates pretend to be be discontented, confiding their criticism of Jones and Jonestown to others. The listeners had no idea that these were false “confessions.” If they listened sympathetically and perhaps shared their own discontent, they were reported and punished. But worse, if they failed to report the confidences of their “friends”—who were actually, unbeknownst to them, Jim Jones plants—then they were punished as well.

The entire system encouraged extreme distrust of sharing any complaints with or confiding in anyone. Therefore no mass rebellion or escape plans could be hatched. A resident never knew who was telling the truth, or who would go straight to Jones with the news. Even those who hated Jones and Jonestown had to wrestle with their consciences about whether to report on a friend; the consequences for failure to do so could be dire.

I doubt that even the KGB or the Stasi were quite as able to control all aspects of their subjects’ personal lives as Jones was. I mention the latter two organizations because it is not insignificant that Jim Jones was a Socialist/Communist, who greatly admired Cuba and the USSR. This little fact had escaped my memory as well, but it takes on a greater significance in retrospect. It is, quite simply, no accident.

One of the things Jones had been planning and contemplating in his last year was a possible mass exodus to the Soviet Union. He also instructed the Temple’s money to be left to the Soviet Union. Some of the dead left handwritten notes to that effect as well.

Watching the CNN documentary and hearing the survivors’ tell their fascinating stories, it became clear that they (like Deborah Layton) are hardly lacking in brainpower. This is the next lesson: intelligence has nothing to do with it. If these people were susceptible (and they were), it was not because they were not smart. It was because they were insufficiently skeptical of a charismatic demagogue, and of the limits of idealism.

Another lesson is how connected many on the Left were to Jones’ movement. Angela Davis and Huey Newton were involved, for example, in the rehearsals for suicide:

[Jones] set up a false sniper attack upon himself and begin his first series of White Nights, called the “Six Day Siege”, where Jones spoke to Temple members about attacks from outsiders and had them surround Jonestown with guns and machetes. The fiery rallies took an almost surreal tone as Angela Davis and Huey Newton communicated via radio-telephone to the Jonestown crowd, urging them to hold strong against the “conspiracy.”

Mark Lane, the Kennedy assassination conspiricist, was also quite influential as Jones’ lawyer, which I also hadn’t before realized. He helped fan the flames of paranoia:

In 1978, Lane began to represent the Peoples Temple. Temple leader Jim Jones hired Lane and Donald Freed to help make the case of what it alleged to be a “grand conspiracy” by intelligence agencies against the Peoples Temple…

In September of 1978, Lane visited Jonestown, spoke to Jonestown residents, provided support for the theory that intelligence agencies conspired against Jonestown and drew parallels between Martin Luther King and Jim Jones. Lane then held press conferences stating that “none of the charges” against the Temple “are accurate or true” and that there was a “massive conspiracy” against the Temple by “intelligence organizations,” naming the CIA, FBI, FCC and the U.S. Post Office. Though Lane represented himself as disinterested, the Temple paid Lane $6,000 per month to help generate such theories….Lane later wrote a book about Jonestown that repeated his paranoia about CIA involvement, parroting the Jones party line.

Another important lesson that’s also forgotten is that Ryan and his entourage, including the reporters, seem to have been fooled by Jones and Jonestown. This has happened time and again in history, when people go to investigate a controlled environment. Although Ryan, his aides, and the reporters who went with them (almost all of whom were killed by Jones) are to be commended for their heroism and are deeply mourned, they also showed naivete in failing to understand the total control Jones had over his flock, and the depths of his evil. The extent of true evil, and the techniques it can use to coerce and silence, can be difficult for the good to understand:

Before leaving Jonestown for the airstrip, Congressman Ryan had told Temple attorney Charles Garry that he would issue a report that would describe Jonestown “in basically good terms.” Ryan stated that none of the sixty relatives Ryan had targeted for interviews wanted to leave, the 14 defectors constituted a very small portion of Jonestown’s residents, that any sense of imprisonment the defectors had was likely because of peer pressure and a lack of physical transportation, and even if 200 of the 900+ wanted to leave “I’d still say you have a beautiful place here.” Similarly, Washington Post reporter Charles Krause stated that, on the way back to the airstrip, he was unconvinced that Jonestown was as bad as defectors had claimed because there were no signs of malnutrition or physical abuse, while many members appeared to enjoy Jonestown and only a small number of the over 900 residents elected to leave.

It is tempting to think “it couldn’t happen to me.” We all like to think of ourselves as strong, both psychologically and physically. I have very little doubt, for example, that I would never join such a group in the first place. But I can see how anyone would be vulnerable once placed in that environment, with no way out.

I hope and trust I could resist, even then. But extreme isolation, brainwashing to stir up paranoia, constant rehearsal for death, and the sort of coercion and control Layton describes to isolate each person and make him/her think there is no escape, could take an enormous toll. In the case of the Jonestown inhabitants, they were extreme idealists who had ceded a great deal of autonomy to a leader and a group at the outset. Very few of them had a chance.

The survivors are suffused with guilt, and continue to mourn every day of their lives. Time has not healed these wounds. Some of them still live in the San Francisco area, and those who do sometimes visit the site of the mass grave in Oakland, the final resting place of those who died at Jonestown whose bodies were never identified. Many of these were children.

This is a moment to remember them and all who died there, as well as the suffering survivors. We can honor them by attempting to learn the lessons of their lives and deaths:

jonestowngrave.jpg

November 21st, 2014

Spambot of the day

Not sure what this means, but it sounds tres intense. I think maybe this bot is in love with me:

You are my breathing in, I possess few web logs and infrequently run out from brand :).

November 21st, 2014

How the left wins political arguments: keep it simple, stupid

Commenter “Mrs Whatsit” send me a link to this article by Megan McArdle about the influence of elite insiders on the making of policy recommendations and explaining the rationale behind them to the public. Worth reading.

I want to highlight the following:

The net effect…was that the administration could make claims that were impossible to effectively refute in debate, because doing so required voters to follow lengthy technical discussions, and the readers had whole lives to live and didn’t have time to master the arcane art of…

The actual ending of the sentence was “CBO budget rules,” because McArdle is talking here about the passage of Obamacare. But it occurs to me that you could fill in the blank with almost anything politicians do and that the MSM covers, actions that neither the politicians nor the MSM actually want the public to understand in any deeper meaningful way. You would be talking about one big reason why spin and propaganda work.

I often make efforts on this blog to get the story behind the story, to research my posts and write in enough depth so that I’m not just repeating talking points or slogans. If it sometimes helps to make what I write tedious or long, so be it, but I tell myself that at least the process of doing the research has helped me understand the truth better, although never completely.

It happens all the time that I find the story behind the story to be fascinating, and very different from the spin. I came across that yesterday with the “Reagan and Bush gave executive orders on immigration, so what’s the big deal if Obama does the same thing?” argument Democrats were making. It’s the talking point you see everywhere from Democrats and the left and their minions in the MSM, sometimes accompanied by photos of Reagan. Obama last night alluded to the idea that he was only doing what all presidents have done (the unspoken corollary, by the way, being that acting as though it were different could only come from animus and/or racism towards him in particular).

It is completely untrue that he is only doing what Reagan or Bush or other presidents have done before him. Not all executive orders are alike. Not all executive orders that deal with loosening or extending a rule on immigration are alike, either, as I explained in this post yesterday. But understanding the reasons why what Reagan and Bush did was not at all the same as what Obama did would “require voters to follow lengthy…technical discussions” (in McArdle’s phrase about Obamacare). Obama and the Democrats and their supporters are bargaining right now, in the constitutional crisis over immigration that Obama has initiated, that (exactly as Gruber admitted re Obamacare) the majority of American voters are too stupid and/or too lazy to understand what’s really happening, and will passively accept the “Reagan and Bush did it” argument.

Therefore, especially if the MSM is on your side, it’s easy as pie to tell effective lies, if you’re bold and blatant enough, and no one has an interest in checking up on you.

Because the “Reagan and Bush did it” argument will be heard over and over again, it’s a good idea to revisit some of the salient facts, and the discussion isn’t really all that “lengthy and technical” (although perhaps more lengthy and technical than most people are willing to follow). I wrote some of the facts in my post yesterday, as I said, but I think the most interesting ones were actually quotes from Powerline in the “addendum” to that post. I’m going to repeat those quotes here, because I think it really shows how shameless the MSM is in ignoring and/or distorting history in order to influence people politically. Here’s Paul Mirengoff with a little history lesson:

The Act [passed by Congress in 1986] also authorized the Attorney General to allow other illegal immigrants who did not qualify for the amnesty to remain in the U.S. if needed “to assure family unity.”

Accordingly, in May 1987, the Justice Department issued regulations that interpreted the the term “family unity” as calling for the maintenance of the “family group.” Family group was defined as including “the spouse, unmarried minor children under 18 years of age who are not member of some other household, and parents who resided regularly in the household of the family group.” Thus, not all spouses and children were included.

This regulation was not an exercise of prosecutorial discretion or the assertion of a generalized right to suspend “oppressive” immigration laws. Rather, the administration made it clear that it was carrying out the direction of Congress. It even cited the section of the law that provided this direction (section 245(d)(2)(B)(i) of the 1986 Act).

House Democrats, including one of the authors of the 1986 Act, criticized Reagan for interpreting too narrowly the executive authority they had granted him. They wanted all spouses and children to receive amnesty in the name of family unity. If anything, then Reagan acted too cautiously, exercising less than the full discretion afforded him by Congress.

Enter President George H.W. Bush. In 1990, he expanded the Reagan DOJ’s interpretation of “family unity” to encompass all spouses and children. Like Reagan, Bush merely interpreted the 1986 Act, as Congress called on the executive to do.

There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

November 21st, 2014

Well, now we know: there is nothing Obama’s enablers wouldn’t excuse and justify

We used to ask the joking question: what could Obama do that would get his supporters to cross that imaginary line from defending him to condemning him?

The joke was that the answer was “nothing.” There was nothing he could do that they would not try to justify.

It was a joke, but not really a joke. The very harsh reality is that it seemed clear that almost all Democrats, pundits on the Democratic side, liberals, and the left were so in the tank for the man that they had abandoned all principle—that is, those who had ever cared about principle in the first place (other than “power forever”), or had seemed to care about principle, or had mouthed words that sounded like caring about principle. They would now find other words to explain why those principles were really not being violated by things Obama was doing that obviously violated them, or why this or that violation had to happen because somehow the opposition (Republicans, conservatives) had driven Obama to it.

And so, if Obama literally had crowned himself king last night instead of merely doing it figuratively, his enablers would say that Reagan had done the same thing, since he once wore a crown on Halloween.

If Obama had called a Republican senator into the Oval Office for a talk and then had taken out a gun and shot him dead, Obama’s enablers would say that Reagan had done the same thing, since he once spoke harshly to a Democratic senator. What’s more, they would say, the Republican made Obama do it by being so mean and racist to him—and, furthermore, it shows the need for more gun control.

You get the idea.

Obama has crossed many many important and heretofore sacred lines; too numerous to mention them all. This blog is one of many that describe/demonstrate the reaction of the right in real time. But the line he crossed last night into trashing the Constitution and dictatorship was the most important line of all that he’s leapt over—so far, that is. I have little doubt that he has other lines he intends to violate, especially if there is no effective pushback to this action of his.

It was midway in Obama’s first term that it suddenly occurred to me that in a second term (if he managed to win one) he would be far, far worse in terms of boldness and willingness to act out his radicalism, because no fear of the public in a future presidential election would check him, and he felt himself to be unimpeachable. What I didn’t think about was that the radical nature of what he was willing to do would take still another leap after the 2014 election, because then there would be no more voter feedback towards Democrats in Congress during the rest of his term, and time would be getting short for him to accomplish that Hope and Change stuff (that is, changing America into a leftist dictatorship with a permanent Democratic majority dependent on Big Government).

Obama would be nothing without his enablers in his Party, in the press, in the schools, in entertainment, and in the public at large. They are legion.

So here we are.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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