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Tag Archive: Barack Obama

A Belated Clarification

Posted: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 (1:12 am), by John W Gillis


Circumstances compel me to issue a clarification to a notion rendered in my last entry, from late December, lamenting the re-election of Barack Obama. My expressing a similar idea in a conversation prompted a sharp rebuttal that I was (wrongly and uncharitably) entertaining a conceit that everyone who voted to re-elect Obama did so either for trivial reasons, or out of naked self-interest. It is not true that I believe that, but I can understand how someone could come to that conclusion, given the cynical tone of my harangue.

I made two offending comments: one that “many people” had voted for him in 2008 because of the color of his skin (from which it was inferred that I therefore also meant to imply that the same occurred last November, which I did not say, but which I have no good reason to doubt happened on some scale, although I suspect it was not nearly the factor it was in 2008), and the other that “a majority of citizens are [now] willing to vote themselves other people’s money”, which I did say had appeared to have become a real possibility. What I said, I maintain, is true – in both cases. The first is demonstrable – nobody even tries to hide it until someone impolitic like myself is uncultured enough to point out its unseemliness in plain speech. The second I did not and do not assert as an accomplished fact, but did and do assert as either a real or near and impending crisis of political morality, representing the inevitable culmination of a century of domination of the American polity by political and social progressivism.

Neither of these claims, however, precludes the possibility of a principled support for Obama. I certainly have asserted that not all political support for Obama was of a principled nature, but that is not the same thing as saying that none of it was. I have no doubt that there is a core of true believers in the cause of progressivism who got behind Obama – as they get behind many other politicians from the Democrat Party, or other members of the left wing of the political landscape. In other words, there are people who actually believe this stuff. In fact, it’s silly to think that I think they don’t exist. So if you want to accuse me of claiming that all Obama supporters are either fools or knaves, I stand guilty as accused; I think it is utterly foolish to believe that the utopian nonsense of progressivism will produce anything but increased misery, impoverishment, dependence, enslavement, and social disorder, as it systematically funnels all the levers of social power into an ever-expanding, all-powerful state bureaucracy. But I categorically deny the charge that I think they are all knaves. There’s a difference.

Nonetheless, the point I was making, which referred to the crisis of political morality mentioned above, is that the Democrat Party, as the torch bearer for progressivism in America, has quite intentionally and systematically constructed an ever-growing constituency of self-interest, significantly augmenting that ideological core, through the enactment of policies that constantly increase dependence upon governmental “services” (e.g individual welfare subsidies; management of social crises) and “largesse” (e.g. institutional welfare; “friendly” tax code manipulation; grants and other funding), while simultaneously creating an ever-expanding constituency of direct dependents in the form of public sector employees whose livelihoods depend  on the secure growth of governmental reach into society.

Taking, as the most egregious example, public sector unions, the Democrat Party has assumed the role of sophisticated money launderer on behalf of the unions (or perhaps it would be even more accurate to say the unions act as money launderers for the Democrat Party), when, sitting as public officials and ersatz agents for the commonwealth, they allow the unions to fleece their neighbors through budget-breaking contract agreements (typically overloaded with sugardaddy-like risk removal) that quite transparently come attached with an implicit quid pro quo of solid political support for the Democrats, including the transference of public funds from tax revenues, through union salaries, to (mandatory) union dues, which finally make their way to political campaign contributions to the Democrat Party. The public sector unions are the largest political contributors in the U.S. (The NEA is consistently ranked #1), and virtually 100% of their “contributions” go to their sponsors: the Democrats. Every cent of that is tax dollars that are re-routed through the unions to the Democrats for campaigning against Republicans. Every cent. And this is legal.

But I digress. All of the government-dependent constituencies of the Democrat Party have similarly, if sometimes less radically, incestuous relationships in place with the party of the political class, cemented in place by the trading of tax revenue “allocations” for political support at the ballot box, an arrangement that seems to me to represent the very definition of political corruption. My complaint is that this arrangement promises to cannibalize the social contract that liberal society assumes as its foundation.

Furthermore, I have to say that I am simply not naïve enough to suppose that the vanguard of the political enterprise willing to use such means to achieve and consolidate power is necessarily to be found comprised of a full slate of idealistic but foolish true believers, who only want to see the flowering of the utopian future of “equality” and “justice” – and none who might better fit the description of knaves. The idealists may not be able to see it, but the truth of the matter is that when and if the leftist takeover is complete, the land will not be ruled by educated and sensitive idealists sipping wine in tweed jackets. Just saying…

Some Concluding, Year-End Musings on 2012

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012 (11:59 pm), by John W Gillis


Logos: Logos Bible Research scored huge in my estimation this year. I had struggled to be productive with earlier versions of their software, but version 4, released just about 3 years ago, represented a dramatic improvement in usability and performance, and I started drifting toward it then – especially since they were also beginning to release quality Catholic resources (e.g. works by Aquinas). Then, this Spring, they put together a series of terrific Catholic base packages, all of which included an outstanding edition of the CatechismCatechism of the Catholic Church. Logos version 5, released a couple months ago, adds some nice capabilities to an already terrific product, and has also been published in a separately-branded Catholic product line called Verbum.

Like the standard Logos 5 offerings, the base packages seem disproportionally weighted toward the upper end of the price range, but the entry-level Catholic package, The Catechism of the Catholic Church Collection (in the $50 range), is simply the best set of resources available at anywhere near that price for Catholics looking for a digital study platform. Check it out. It lacks an NAB, but that can be surmounted – and the versions it contains, the RSVCE and Douay, are better versions, anyway. Besides the CCC, it includes the Roman Catechism, the conciliar documents from both Vatican Councils as well as Trent, the essential dogmatic reference works of Denzinger and Ott, and the (daily) Catholic Lectionary. It is an outstanding value, and the resources work together brilliantly. I’m really impressed.

WORDsearch: Continuing the Bible Study Software theme… After rushing WS10 out the door last Christmas week, Lifeway finally got the product to the right spot with a series of version 10.5-enumerated updates released to WS10 owners beginning in June of this year. With a (Greek only) morphological search tool, user-created book types, a History window, and a sermon management tool, WS finally filled some long-standing functionality gaps. But for me, it’s too little, too late. I’ve been a loyal WS user since 1992 – my first (DOS) version of WS came with the NAB, NJB, NRSV, and a Strong’s-tagged KJV, plus TSK; it was Bible Study bliss. No application has served me better over the past 20 years, but it’s time to move on. This program simply cannot compete with the heavyweights. New owner Lifeway (i.e. the Southern Baptist Convention) has had a year and a half to demonstrate a commitment to improved professionalism with the product, and it has not materialized. The only changes I’ve sensed are an increased interest in chasing the latest cultural fads (you can now tweet your Bible Study results from within the program, if that’s your thing), and a decreased likelihood that the platform will be seeing anything like the excellent Catholic resources that are showing up steadily from Logos. On the increasingly rare occasions that I’ve opened the app to work with it recently, it has usually been crashing. Forget it. Thanks for everything; it was great while it lasted.

New English Translation of the Roman Missal: It’s been just over a year now since the introduction of the new translations of many of the prayers in the Liturgy of the Mass. Although they can be awkward and clumsy at times, and although I still haven’t memorized the new versions of the Gloria or the Creed, I think they are overall a big improvement, and are working quite well, with the exception of the Sanctus. I get the Isaiah basis for the change, and consider it an important corrective, but of the half-dozen or so churches where I worship with some regularity, there is not a single congregation that proclaims it smoothly. There’s even one where the priest himself still says “God of power and might” – probably because of the difficulty of getting his people to use a common cadence in proclaiming the new version. It needs attention.

On Obama’s Reelection: I have to admit, I was stunned by the election results. I was quite confident the country would reject Obama, after having four years to see for themselves what you get when you vote for someone based on the color of his skin – as so many people have openly (even gleefully) admitted to doing during the messianic frenzy of 2008. Mitt Romney was admittedly not the easiest guy to get behind, but he offered a genuine chance to correct some of mistakes that have been made, get the economy growing again, and bridge some of the rancor that has afflicted US politics since the Nixon years, but which has reached utterly dysfunctional levels now under this most divisive and partisan of chief executives.

Romney’s loss was disheartening. Partly, that’s because the “kill Romney” character assassination campaign strategy worked for the Democrats, despite the fact that Mitt Romney might just be the most decent guy to have ever run for that office – he’d certainly have to be a serious candidate in any such ranking. That is not a good omen for the future state of presidential politics in this country. But it’s disheartening also partly because of the sheer political force displayed in it by the progressive movement. The Democrats didn’t just convince too many potential Romney supporters to stay home, they wielded a large voting bloc that was willing to support the progressive agenda in plain daylight, not just as a kneejerk reaction to Bush burnout.

It could very well be that we’ve reached – or at least come close to – a tipping point as a culture, where a majority of citizens are willing to vote themselves “other people’s money” from the public till, and to delegate to the state the responsibilities of human freedom, from citizenship to family to personal health and well-being. If this is so, then we have reached the end of the usefulness of the great democratic experiment, and are descending into tyranny – one that will surely tout the infamous conceit of manifesting the will of “the people”. I wouldn’t expect it to end any better than its leftist forerunners have.

On perhaps a bright note, this debacle has produced in me a certain loss of faith in both the American people and in the political process – faith that was in reality misplaced to begin with. It has caused me to lose a good deal of interest in politics – or more accurately, in current events – which should serve both to free up time for less ephemeral concerns, and to orient my priorities more meaningfully.

On the Vapidity of the American “Opinion” Bureaucracies: Related to the collapsing opposition to leftist thinking in America is the success on the part of the progressive movement to establish a fifth column focused on the formation of opinion and the control of knowledge for political ends. I refer, of course, to the thorough progressive domination of the agenda-setting and opinion-defining institutions of education (both mandatory K-12and university-level) and mass media. As it is abundantly clear to me that the greatest threat to America as a place of “liberty and justice for all” comes from a combination of the “news” media and the educational institutions, I’m all in here with Pat Caddell, in his rant from this past autumn:

On Gun Control Hysteria: On this, the Feast of the Massacre of the Holy Innocents, it seems appropriate to complain that I was deeply distressed by the (media-driven) national meltdown of propriety and circumspection following the dreadful grade-school massacre in Newtown CT a few weeks ago. The notion that so many people were ready and willing to exploit the situation for dubious political purposes before the bodies of the dead children were even cold is chilling. Perhaps especially galling is the site of notoriously pro-abortion politicians crying crocodile tears over the carnage while intoning that “we must get serious” and “something must be done” to “protect the children”. Would it be impolitic to point out that during that very day, well in excess of 3,000 children were murdered in this country using devices – and furthermore, in the performance of acts! – that were not only perfectly legal, but which boast the unbending political protection of the very hypocrites who wailed the most loudly into the megaphones of self-righteous convenience on that sorry day? I hope those of us who retain some semblance of intelligence will be permitted a healthy degree of skepticism at the proposal that the repetition of such senseless bloodshed might be avoided by limiting the capacities of ammunition clips available to law-abiding citizens, causing mass murderers (of the gun-toting type, not the forceps wielding sort) to have to either buy their clips on the black market, or stop to reload a few times in the middle of mowing down a screaming group of defenseless women and children.

On Christmas: I’ve disliked the holiday we call Christmas at least since I was a young father without two spare nickels to rub together. As I’ve gotten older, my financial wherewithal has (predictably) improved significantly, and my Catholic faith has taken root and flourished into a principal self-understanding, but I don’t like the holiday any more. I refer to the holiday celebrated a few days ago that marked the close of the “Christmas Season”, a largely secular and irreligious period of consumer indulgence that began some time around Thanksgiving.

There is another day, a Christian Holy Day, also celebrated a few days ago, at the conclusion of the Advent season, and which marks the beginning of a Christian Christmas season, which has several permutations, being in the first place an Octave that concludes on January 1st, the Feast of Mary, Mother of God; in the second place a traditional period of gaiety extending twelve days, until the eve of the Feast of Epiphany (January 6th, though this can get moved to a Sunday), and thirdly as a liturgical season extending through the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, on the Sunday following Epiphany. This Holy Day and season celebrates the most remarkable thing that ever happened: the Incarnation of God in human flesh – in the flesh of a baby borne of a woman.

I’ve never been able to figure out how to celebrate the Holy Day amidst all the silly hoopla of the holiday, and I need to figure it out before I find myself thrown in to deep depression some one of these years.

In Case You Need to Know How to Vote on Tuesday…

Posted: Saturday, November 3, 2012 (9:51 pm), by John W Gillis


The coveted MaybeToday.org Election 2012 endorsements and voting guidelines are here at last. Readers will certainly want to use these statements to inform their own decision-making prior to the upcoming election. For example, any of my neighbors in Precinct 8 of lovely Natick Massachusetts could print out this post and take it with them to the Morse Room in the Morse Institute Library next Tuesday, for use as instructions on precisely how to cast one’s votes (I think that would be legal, but I have to admit I’m not sure – please check with the voting officials before pulling this out at the polls! It might be classifiable as campaign-related material, although I have no involvement with any campaign). Others may find it less directly applicable to them in places, but hopefully still plenty helpful. Don’t forget to share it with your friends – or enemies, I’m not picky – I’m bi-partisan!

For President of the United States: Republican Mitt Romney gets my vote, and my unhesitating endorsement. I admit to starting out this campaign season as a simple anti-Obama voter (sensibly enough, I would hope the reader would admit), but I have grown considerably in my opinion of, and confidence in, Mr. Romney, and I look forward to seeing him inaugurated in January, which I am quite confident will be the outcome of this election. I have been particularly impressed with the graciousness with which he has tolerated the slanderous campaign against him by the Democrats. He has been a model of the idealized leading citizen envisioned by America’s Founding Fathers. Go Mitt!

For U.S. Senator from Massachusetts: incumbent Republican Scott Brown gets my vote, as well as my reluctant endorsement. I’m not a big fan of Scott Brown, but as was also the case when he ran for this seat in the 2010 special election, he represents the only even remotely sane option on the ballot. Of course, this is often the case with Republicans running against Democrats, but challenger Elizabeth Warren truly represents the worst of the Democrat Party. She is a relentless “I’m on the side of the little guy” demagogue who, as a professor at Harvard Community College University, pockets a salary of over $300,000/year for teaching a single course, while calling for the government at all levels to increase tax-supported “funding” to schools in order to make education “more affordable” to the kind of people who do her laundry. At the risk of sounding “sexist” by mentioning her physical appearance, I must say that her startlingly high cheekbones remind me of a legendary American cultural hero I once saw on a $3 bill (I think it was Chief Wild Eagle), but that’s just not enough to convince me she has what it takes to execute an honest political office. Good grief.

For U.S. Representative from the Fifth Massachusetts Congressional District: Framingham Republican Tom Tierney gets my reluctant vote, over perpetual incumbent Ed Malarkey. I would vote against Ed Malarkey purely on account of his idiotic (hence, predictably successful) campaign to double-down on the screwball idea of Daylight Saving Time – a social engineering adjustment that cost businesses billions of dollars in wasteful compliance costs when it was implemented a few years ago, and continues to screw up the works for various information systems today. However, Ed has much more to answer for than that. Tierney, for his part, looks to be almost as bad a candidate as Malarkey. He’s the very definition of a RINO, who I have to assume registers as a Republican only for the chance to (repeatedly) get on the ballot and garner some anti-Malarkey votes. On the other hand, at least he’s had a real job. Nonetheless, he will be trounced once again by party-line voters who have no idea who he is, and that will be no great loss, except as an opportunity to put a genuine alternative to insipid progressivism on the ballot for this important seat.

For Governor’s Councilor, Second District: I will be abstaining, as this Council should simply be abolished.

For Massachusetts State Senator, Second Middlesex & Norfolk District: I will also be abstaining on this choice, as incumbent Democrat Karen Spilka is running unopposed for her fifth term in the Massachusetts Senate. As a rule of thumb, I do not vote for candidates running unopposed, unless I specifically want to encourage them. I have no such desire to encourage Ms. Spilka.

For Massachusetts State Representative for the 5th Middlesex House District: Republican challenger William Callahan of Natick gets my vote, although I’m not sure why, except that he’s not seven-term incumbent, Natick Democrat David Linksy. Linsky isn’t a bad guy, but he’s very much the insider, and he strikes me as too much of a typical liberal: the sort who seem incapable of understanding that there might be actual alternatives to threadworn liberal solutions, habitually dismissive of those who don’t “get it”, where “it” is nothing but the pious orthodoxies of post-modern liberalism. It’s time for David to return full-time to private law practice. As for Callahan, he told a local newspaper that he was running on a “transparency” message, but I’ve found it almost impossible to find out anything about him other than that he’s ex-military (National Guard – retired as a colonel). Whatever. If he’s willing to run and serve, he’s worth a shot.

For Middlesex County Sheriff: Ernesto Petrone gets the nod over Democrat Peter Koutoujian, for no other reason than that Petrone is unaffiliated with any political party, which means that we belong to the same non-party. Let’s face it: one less Democrat occupying a political office in Massachusetts is a step toward establishing a more truly democratic (small-d) political environment in the state.

For Middlesex County Clerk of Courts: Democrat Michael A. Sullivan is running unopposed, and the “No Voting for the Unopposed” rule is to be applied.

For Register of Deeds, Middlesex Southern District: Maria Curtatone is running as an unopposed Democrat, which almost disqualifies her from consideration on two counts right away. But she goes down swinging wildly on strike three, when the 48 year-old identifies herself in a biographical sketch provided to e-the-People as “the proud parent” of two children. This smacks very clearly of the fashionable, transgressive, “post-gender” pieties that are coursing through the atrophied veins of the Democrat party and other lodes of progressive group-think these days. Any woman who has neither the sense nor the decency to identify her relation to her children as “mother” should be kept out of public positions of influence, as far as I’m concerned.

On QUESTION 1 – Right to Repair: I am advocating a NO vote on this question, seeing as compromise legislation has been worked out and signed into law since this question went on the ballot – otherwise, I would have supported this effort. The compromise agreement should be honored.

On QUESTION 2 – Legalizing “Doctor Assisted Suicide”: NO. This is such bad law that it is hard to know where to start in criticizing it. The sick, the despairing, and the dying do not need to be told that it is time for them to put themselves out of our misery. The medical profession is already fatally compromised by its embrace of abortion, but this would further erode the premise of its existence. Suicide is a tragedy, and those who destroy themselves – and mark my words: suicide destroys the self, not the evil circumstances of pain, suffering, and whatnot – they have absolutely no idea of what the personal consequences of such a self-repudiation are. I imagine they suppose it “ends it all”, but that would require that the human being be purely material, having no spirit (i.e. intellect and will). That is a dubious assumption, to say the least, and you cannot make the spirit to be as if it never was, simply by killing the body. This is beyond foolishness; the worst sufferings are spiritual, and everybody with a shred of honesty and self-awareness knows it. Why is it that, just when the human race finally has the technology to effectively ameliorate so much of the pain and suffering that have long defined the descent into death for the ill, it has suddenly become fashionable and “compassionate” to promote self-obliteration on account of the fear of pain and suffering? I smell a rat.

On QUESTION 3 – Medical Use of Marijuana: NO. That this is nothing more than a Trojan Horse should be fairly evident to everyone eligible to vote on Tuesday, unless they’re stoned. The War on Drugs might be a disaster, but marijuana’s War on Intelligence is no suitable replacement.

Alan Keyes Schools a Journalist on the Distinction Between Principles and Particulars

Posted: Friday, September 28, 2012 (1:12 pm), by John W Gillis


Alas, how different the world might be today if that 2004 Illinois U.S. Senate race had turned out differently:

 

The video provider labels this “A strong argument against gay marriage”, though I would be inclined to call it something like “A simple elucidation of the fundamental error of gay marriage”.

For what it’s worth, Alan Keyes is the only presidential candidate I’ve ever donated money to (in the 2000 election), though I very well may have donated to Rick Santorum this year if he had been the GOP nominee.

I love the look on Obama’s face when they cut to him near the end. It looks like he’s hoping he won’t get called on. He’s clearly out of his league with Keyes intellectually, but intelligence, unfortunately, does not win elections: politics does. And don’t we know how much craftier a politician Obama is than Keyes. Keyes never really had a chance as a politician, but he sure elevated the conversation.

Update: Video fixed, I hope.

The MSM has embarrassed itself to a near-fatal degree

Posted: Friday, August 31, 2012 (11:26 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Friday, August 31st, 2012:

Who better than J. E. Dyer to inspire me to rekindle my moribund blog, in a blog post entitled Are the American voters idiots?, which ultimately tackles several of my favorite hobby horses:

There were so many reasons to know in advance that Obama would be a poor president.  Yet many of the voters were taken in by the media hype surrounding Obama.  The president’s associations and recorded statements were played down.  The record was there for a number of investigative authors to find, from Michelle Malkin to Stanley Kurtz and Aaron Klein.  But the mainstream media presented a very selective picture of the Democratic candidate.

The MSM, in fact, has embarrassed itself to a near-fatal degree with its remarkable coverage of the Obama administration, whether it is amplifying the cries of “racism!” that erupt whenever there is criticism of the president, or credulously reporting whatever the administration puts out, word for word, as if there is no previous record or any set of facts to be counter-checked.  (The latter pattern is especially strong when it comes to reporting about defense and national security.  Reporters have regularly retailed administration talking points about the unprecedented “shows of strength” the Obama administration is making, when a little research would reveal that the US had already been doing whatever the “unprecedented” thing is, for 5, 20, or even – in the case of North and South Korea – 60 years.)

There has been a tremendous growth in vague, elliptical, and/or tendentious narration of what’s going on in the nation and the world.  The people can be pardoned for being tired and confused.

But the inability to distinguish fantasy-news and talking points from reality is a product of the US education system.  That system has taken millions of people with plenty of native smarts and indoctrinated them with a set of ideological trigger-concepts, all while declining to teach them to think critically.  Developing judgment through critical thinking is one of the hallmarks of adulthood, and the US education system has been making that harder for Americans, rather than fostering their abilities.

I have this lingering sense, which I honestly suspect is nothing but delusion, that the producers of mainstream “news” product really are making themselves progressively (!) more and more irrelevant by alienating their audiences with increasingly transparent cultivated stupidity, and un-reflexive progressive bias and partisanship. I hope it’s not just the projection of wishful thinking on my part. And although I agree with her assessment of the typical results of the US education system, I think the actual contributions of the schools to those results might entail a smaller and more collaborative role than Dyer seems to be suggesting. The entertainment industry plays no small part, independently of the schools, as does the overall entitlement ethic of society.

Dyer’s article gets to that in its own way later on, where she speaks critically of “the modern American pathology-network” of dependencies, addictions, disorders, and despair. She remains confident in the redeeming value of the free exchange of ideas in the public square, though the history of progressives and other leftists in power does not fill me with the same confidence that the square will remain open for dissent indefinitely.

The Communist Party was my Nurse Ratched

Posted: Monday, July 16, 2012 (11:49 pm), by John W Gillis


Movie Director (e.g. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”) and Czechoslovakian expatriate Milos Forman had an op-ed in the NY Times last week, using his experiences under communism as a context for criticizing the use of the term “socialist” to describe President Obama:

The Communist Party was my Nurse Ratched, telling me what I could and could not do; what I was or was not allowed to say; where I was and was not allowed to go; even who I was and was not. Now, years later, I hear the word “socialist” being tossed around by the likes of Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and others. President Obama, they warn, is a socialist. The critics cry, “Obamacare is socialism!” They falsely equate Western European-style socialism, and its government provision of social insurance and health care, with Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism. It offends me, and cheapens the experience of millions who lived, and continue to live, under brutal forms of socialism.

Mr. Forman relates several anecdotes that paint a picture of just how disordered life was under Soviet domination, and how foreign it was to anything westerners experience as society, and at first blush, his seems like a very reasonable complaint. But when was the last time anyone sober suggested that Obama was trying to directly implement a Soviet-style order? Forman claims that Obama’s critics are “falsely equat[ing] Western European-style socialism … with Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism”, but that is an entirely false claim. I think the word “equating”, used in this sense, is one of the two or three stupidest words in modern parlance, but if Obama is being “equated” to anybody, it is to the Western European socialists whom Forman himself identifies by that very term! But he’s offended. Forman is either confused, or worse. After all, should we wait for him to criticize himself for calling the Western European-style practice “socialism”, when it clearly differs from Soviet-style communism? Does that usage also “cheapen the experience” of those who’ve lived under “brutal forms of socialism”? If we can’t call Obama a socialist without having to answer to the standard of Stalin, why don’t we have to answer to the standard of Stalin when we refer to the socialists whom Obama is actually “equated” to?

It turns out one can legitimately use the term “socialism” to refer to a whole trajectory of political thought and circumstance, some of which take on more brutal form than others. The point Obama’s critics bring to light, much to the chagrin of folks like Forman who don’t want to hear it, is that the, yes, socialist vision of Obama, and his Western comrades, differs from the brutal form of Soviet-style socialism in degree, not in kind – and that owing at least partly to method of implementation (what we could call evolution vs. revolution).

A later paragraph from Forman shows just how little he understands what’s at stake in the current struggle for America’s political soul:

I’m not sure Americans today appreciate quite how predatory socialism was. It was not — as Mr. Obama’s detractors suggest — merely a government so centralized and bloated that it hobbled private enterprise: it was a spoils system that killed off everything, all in the name of “social justice.”

Taking the ObamaCare debacle as a jumping-off point, do Forman, Obama, and the rest of the political left in America really not understand that the opposition to Obamacare is rooted not only in the valid fear of the thinly (if at all) disguised intent to hobble private enterprise through the centralization of government power, but also precisely in  disgust at the spoils system it inevitably creates, threatening to “kill off everything”, all in the name of “social justice”? Indeed, what a perfectly phrased indictment of the entire “tax and spend”, public-sector-centric, entitlements and subsidies mentality of the post-liberal left – whether American or Western Europe: a spoils system that kills off everything in the name of “social justice”. All we need now is a political movement aiming at establishing a classless society – one maybe where the “99%” decry the “inequality” represented by the “1%”, and begin the predative push to have them brought down to “our” level, and their un-equal privileges democratized… Forman, scarred by the crudeness of socialism’s full-bore frontal assault in Eastern Europe, can’t see it growing under his feet in the sophisticated West.

Initial Thoughts on Reactions to Fast & Furious and Obamacare Developments

Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012 (11:48 pm), by John W Gillis


Very interesting day in the political world, with the Supreme Court handing down its judgment on Obamacare, and Congress finding Attorney General Holder in contempt of Congress for his evasive shenanigans trying to cover up the background to the “Fast & Furious” program – the first sitting US Attorney General to receive such an honor. How now to prosecute him becomes quite a conundrum, since the department he runs is responsible for such prosecutions, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Neither finding is very surprising to me (the first admittedly more than the next, however). But I find the behavior around the situations fascinating – and pretty much irrational. For starters, the big topic of conversation in the news space and blogosphere has been the Obamacare decision. Now, I’m not surprised by that in the least, and there are even some very good reasons for it (such as the fact that the contempt vote happened late in the afternoon, in contrast to the SCOTUS decision, which was read shortly after 10:00 AM).

Then there are the blatantly partisan motivations to factor in. For example, The Boston Globe’s boston.com site had a Breaking News!!! alert at the top of their page as soon as the Obamacare finding was released, where the story has remained all day – now complete with “analysis” of how “Obama scores win”. Well, not so fast, but I’m getting ahead of myself again. In contrast, news of the Holder verdict took the better part of an hour to show up at all, and was presented as a small, second-rate story, which at this point late in the evening – though still amazingly on the home page – has slid down below not only about a dozen and a half Obamacare story links, but half a dozen links (plus embedded video) concerning the Boston Celtics’ draft picks, and a story about US Rep John F. Tierney’s brother-in-law calling him a liar. At least it still ranks above the MBTA reversing a commuter rail surcharge decision. It’s just hard not to picture cowardly ideological snake oil salesmen (propagandists) laying out the pages of that august publication.

But the truth is that the Holder story is a much bigger deal. Despite the incessant protestations of the professional leftists that the contempt vote was politically or even (may God heal their shriveled little souls) racially motivated, this criminally insane operation Holder is trying to hide the origins of is a very big deal. If this ends up being traced back to Obama himself, which is looking more and more likely every time the stakes are raised and Holder doesn’t buckle, it will be Obama’s Watergate – especially if any evidence surfaces that it was even partially motivated by a cynical desire to advance the left’s agenda of opposition to gun ownership by citizens. A good man is dead, and the entire republic is not stupid enough to get buried under a dump truck full of liberal smokescreens about a “botched operation” that actually went pretty much according to plan, even if the corpses were not supposed to include border patrol officers.

The self-proclaimed Most Transparent Administration Evah is going to have to release those documents they’re hiding to Congress, or risk a serious constitutional crisis. The only real question will be whether they are damaging enough to sink Obama’s presidency (and, needless to say, his reelection chances). Fast & Furious (or Gunwalker, as I first heard it called last year) might turn out to be the one thing schoolchildren know about Barack Obama 100 years from now (or more likely the only thing besides the fact that he was the first black president of the USA, a fact which will eventually be the answer to a trivia question). That would be a shame, because he has done so many other things to advance the cause of statism against the commonweal of human freedom and lawfulness, and those lessons should be learned and not forgotten.

On the contrary, the SCOTUS decision this morning, despite all the public hoopla, was really pretty much a non-event in terms of the ACA act itself. I’m not saying important decisions weren’t made, but everything remains pretty much the way it was yesterday, except that the Feds don’t have the power to punish non-conforming states by withholding Medicaid funds under Obamacare, and Commerce Clause activism has been legally circumscribed in a manner that departs significantly from the court’s trajectory over the past several decades. The first change very well might (further) doom the program fiscally, and the second establishes a much-needed, critical restraint on the cancerous spread of federal statism on the whole. Not insignificant points, either, but hardly fodder for naïve leftist victory dancing, or for anti-leftist tirades against Chief Justice Roberts for his “betrayal” of conservatism (which, of course, completely misses the point of his or SCOTUS’ role as constitutional referee). While I admit that it would have been easier if the whole law were shot down by the court, and that legislative repeal is likely to be difficult and at best partially successful, the fact is that Obama is going to have to carry this “tax” law with him as a political albatross through November, while Mitt Romney can stand on the side and say: “If you want to get rid of Obamacare, you have to get rid of Obama”. Sometimes the easiest answer is not the best.

Time permitting, I will try to take up these SCOTUS decision reactions in more detail later on, because I do find them fascinating, and almost universally wrong-headed in just about every conceivable way.

Good Riddance, 2011

Posted: Saturday, December 31, 2011 (8:03 pm), by John W Gillis


This year sucked. It began with my little sister’s funeral, and ended with a malaise lingering on from my mother’s funeral.

For my sister, Mary, death came quickly, and then it came slowly. She was very busy living a vibrant life, when she was suddenly smitten with a terminal cancer. Then she spent a year and a half dying. She tried to keep up the appearances of optimism, but everyone around her knew how the dance was going to end; we just didn’t know quite when. When it came, death came slowly, bleeding her life away as her ministering aunt and other loved ones waited in vigil for the end, which came in the third watch of the night after Christmas Day. She was 49, and left no children to carry her line forward on the Earth.

For my mother, Edna, death came slowly, and then it came quickly. Dying at 79, she had lived a good and full life, touching the lives of many, and leaving a legacy of kindness that, pray God, will redound to her name for generations, even when she herself is forgotten. Having been born with a collapsed lung, her breathing organ was never quite right, and she’d been living with a progressive case of acute Pulmonary Fibrosis for some time, before she up and died on us. Of course, we knew it was coming sooner or later, and she had gotten “old” recently, but still it seemed to come almost out of the blue. True, she had given us a scare the day before, and the family spent Sunday afternoon in the emergency room, wondering if she’d perhaps had a stroke, but she seemed fine by afternoon, had checked out OK medically, and was sent home in the evening. On Monday morning, she died. Just like that. It was October 3rd, the original feast day of St Therese of Lisieux, the saint credited by the family with saving Mom’s life as a newborn, and whose name she was thus given in tribute.

Whatever else may have happened this year seems almost lost in the shadows of these two bookends of death & grief. I’ve looked upon the sorrowful , resigned faces of yet a couple more friends who have had their verdicts of terminal cancer pronounced to them. I’ve watched dozens of co-workers jettisoned from their source of material well-being, as the business world atrophies under corporate & government mismanagement and corruption. I’ve seen the U.S. government run up a debt of unprecedented magnitude – one poised to crush the commonweal of my children and their peers – for the sake of a filched political placidity, while the ruling party successfully smeared the opposition as extremist and non-cooperative for the sin of (futilely) demanding a roadmap to fiscal sanity as the price for complicity in the mortgaging of the futures of those we have a moral duty to protect & defend. Shameful.

As for myself, I can’t get out of my own way: I had targeted early December for completion of my prerequisite course work at Franciscan University, but have been scuffling badly since mid-October, and don’t even know how to get back on track at this point.

On the bright side, this was the year that Joyce leveraged her imposed unemployment into an opportunity to pursue her long-time desire to get into professional dog grooming. The Boston Bruins are suddenly the best hockey team in the world for the first time since I could sing alto, and last spring they gave us one of the greatest hockey games I’ve ever seen (Game 7 of the Conference Finals against Tampa Bay).

Furthermore, as of yet at least, no crowd of self-entitled, self-righteous, unemployed ne’er-do-wells have converged to “occupy” my backyard, demanding that I succor them by paying off their insane student loans for stupidly bloated college tuitions I could never afford for either myself or my own kids (we found other ways to achieve what we needed to achieve). That’s a plus. And I still have my own job; my kids are all healthy and safe; we’re coming up on a leap-year – which means a “real” anniversary for Joyce and I on Feb 29th; Congress reversed the moronic ban on incandescent light bulbs; and Rick Santorum actually appears to have an outside shot at winning the Iowa caucuses, putting the only candidate I actually like from the Republican field in a position to at least temporarily receive some media attention before the big-money candidates get around to burying him under a torrent of glitzy drivel (OK, I also really like and admire Michelle Bachmann, but I’m afraid she would be almost as out-of-her-league in that job as Obama is, speaking of torrents of glitzy drivel from big-money candidates…).

And, lastly, the garage ceiling light bulb is still burning faithfully, almost 40 years after being installed. Yes, the very same light bulb that greeted my mother and father the first time they illuminated their new garage with electricity in June of 1972 continues to shine its light every time I flip the switch. To me, it’s become a symbol of faithfulness and perseverance, and it reminds me unfailingly of my dad. Would that we all could be relied upon so faithfully, as that bulb, to shine forth the light entrusted to us for the sake of others’ seeing their way in the world! I dread the day that bulb blows; I pray it’s not in 2012.

Happy New Year, planet Earth. Choose carefully; choose well. Peace, from here.

The go-to tool for a go-to method of simply killing as many jihadis as possible

Posted: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 (9:42 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Tuesday, September 27th, 2011:

 

J.E. Dyer, posting over at HotAir’s Green Room, on the implications of the increasing and expanding reliance of the United States’ military efforts in the Middle East on assassination via drone strike:

To use this kind of force, the implication is that you don’t need to have a traditional-warfare justification.  Alternatively, you could say that this kind of force – drone-targeting; anti-personnel tactics untethered to the idea of securing a “better peace” – is now a way war can be defined.

In either case, these suppositions raise questions in terms of the Geneva Conventions and the law of armed conflict.  More fundamentally, they raise questions as to what we are, in effect, doing.  It’s one thing if drones are used as an adjunct to an overarching strategy of closing in on militant jihadism by denying it territory and transforming the political conditions in which it has thrived.  But it’s something else when drones become the go-to tool, for a go-to method of simply killing as many jihadis as possible.

The latter model begins to resemble the methods of guerrilleros and the bloody conflicts of crime syndicates.  What those models presuppose is the absence of a possibility of strategic resolution:  a felt need to keep killing because, when baseline conditions aren’t expected to change, it’s the only option for harassing, culling, and deterring the enemy pack.  Is that the light in which we see this “war on terror” conflict?

Accountable nations fighting to win – fighting for what B.H. Liddell-Hart called a “better peace” – fight differently.  Their objective is not to kill as many people as possible but to transform the conditions of people on the territory they inhabit.  Bill Roggio is right:  if you don’t transform what’s going on on territory, the important things – the things that produced the need to fight in the first place – will not change.  That transformation need not involve forcibly changing foreign regimes, but it unquestionably involves changing foreign regimes’ will and intentions.

As usual, Dyer has produced a well-thought-out piece, and she asks some very important questions. It’s worth reading the entire (short) piece. Even the discussion in the combox is worth reading – and I don’t find myself able to say that too often!

Myself, I’ve been troubled for quite some time, from a strictly moral perspective, by this administration’s clear preference for using assassination techniques – whether by unmanned drones or more conventional tactics – to achieve its goals. I’ve been reluctant to say anything publicly because I don’t want to come across as a partisan hypocrite. A partisan, maybe; a hypocrite, sure; but not a partisan hypocrite, please.

It’s true that the Obama administration can pretty much do no good in my eyes, but the simple fact that this drone issue might be just another platform from which to clobber Obama with fault does not change the fact that it is so for morally valid reasons – perhaps especially since it appears to me to be of a piece with his overall approach to moral reasoning. One could reasonably ask why I didn’t similarly criticize George Bush for similar techniques, but the truth is, I can’t remember how drones and such were used during the Bush administration, and I haven’t bothered to find out. I simply don’t remember what I thought – assuming I paid attention. Beyond that, I will only make three brief points: (1) If I had said anything at all, I would have been similarly critical of their use by Bush in similar circumstances, though regarding circumstances, see Dyer’s main point on the strategic imperative, and also my following point. (2) For all his failures and mistakes, I understood Bush to be a fundamentally good, decent, and moral man who grappled deeply with the moral implications of his decisions, whereas I understand Obama to be the most cynical, calculating, and utilitarian politician to occupy the White House since Richard Nixon. I trusted Bush; I don’t trust Obama, and so my antennae are up – what can I say… (3) Neither Bush nor his supporters ever tried to pass him off as a “peace candidate” – talk about partisan hypocrisy!

Anyway, getting back to Dyer, she hits the nail on the head when she reminds her readers that, regardless of what they may think, either strategically or morally, of the use of this tactic in the current crises, it is behavior that is opening up a Pandora’s box of payback and proliferation of pre-moral, savage violence, untethered to anything remotely resembling just war.

It is hard to imagine zero-tolerance bullying prevention without schools becoming mini-bureaucratic-police states

Posted: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 (3:10 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Wednesday, September 14th, 2011:

Mary Rose Somarriba, writing yesterday at Public Discourse, on the recent anti-bullying legislation recently enacted in New Jersey (hewing closely to Obama administration policies), in an article called “A Bully-Free World?”:

Why, one might ask, would the president lead a conference on preventing something like bullying, which is ultimately impossible to prevent? It could be, perhaps, because bullying is something that everyone agrees is wrong, and it is something that everyone can relate to, because everyone has been bullied at some point.

But sadly, bullying is like any unfortunate human conflict and will exist as long as humans do. This does not mean it is okay to bully; it means it is problematic to imagine that we can create a world in which conflict doesn’t exist. It is hard to imagine zero-tolerance bullying prevention without schools becoming mini-bureaucratic-police states—the likes of which only belong in films like Minority Report or Adjustment Bureau—where kids could be criminally charged for hurting each other’s feelings, “different” kids could be targeted as “likely to be bullied,” and so on. But that is exactly what this boils down to: a child’s version of hate crimes.

In reality, laws like New Jersey’s risk worsening the problems of bullying. There is reason to believe that hotlines where kids can anonymously text-message tips to incriminate bullies are yet another technology that kids will abuse for the purposes of bullying. Further, bullying prevention is arguably the wrong goal altogether. It would be better to focus on conflict resolution than on conflict prevention. Devoting all effort to preventing the inevitable is not only wasteful policy; it is a failure to do what actually might lessen the damage of real-life conflicts.

One of my kids – probably the youngest one – mentioned something during dinner the other night about the latest anti-bullying campaign at her school, and I was too tired and cranky to resist letting out a snort. The kids were a little flabbergasted when I said I thought the current anti-bullying hysteria is moronic. Of course, they assumed that anyone who didn’t “like” anti-bullying must therefore “like” bullying – that’s the way these things are framed society-wide, the way immature minds tend to work naturally, and certainly fits the Facebook zeitgeist we and they inhabit. I pointed out the hypocrisy of adults shoving anti-bullying propaganda down the throats of helpless populations of schoolchildren, and made some references to the long stream of social do-goodism in the schools, of which anti-bullying is not merely the latest fashion, but an almost inevitable consequence of previous efforts by the same kinds of “progressive” people to coddle school children, eliminate discipline, abandon authority, and eradicate the stain of “judgmentalism”.

I don’t think I did a very good job of explaining myself, and fortunately, Somarriba does a pretty good job in this article of explaining at least why the anti-bullying agenda is impractical. But I really dislike the agenda for reasons she comes close to, but doesn’t address. She suggests that perhaps President Obama wants to get out in front of this because everybody agrees that bullying is wrong, and she’s dead right about that: it’s a convenient platform for cheesy moralism. You won’t lose any votes by thundering denunciations against bullies, after all. And that’s the real problem here: it’s symptomatic of a culture that feels the need to find something phony with which to fill a glaring void, a void where genuine morality deserves to be found, but cannot be allowed expression lest it upset the libertarian apple cart of mutually assured disregard of vice.