Liberalism Reaches Its End by Making People Get Off of Theirs

Well, at least prohibiting people from sitting on the streets, as San Francisco just did:

A new law targeting those who hang out, and lie down, on the sidewalks and streets of San Francisco has some asking whether this city, known for its “love thy neighbour” attitude, has perhaps decided some neighbours aren’t welcome.

In November, 53% of voters here passed Prop. L, which forbids people from sitting or lying on public sidewalks from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. The ordinance is very similar to anti-sit/lie laws in Berkeley, Seattle, and other liberal cities, and received strong support from Mayor Gavin Newsom and Police Chief George Gascon.

After civil rights advocates and the progressive majority on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors opposed the idea, Mayor Newsom pushed to get it on the ballot.

Critics like Andy Blue call it cruel and heartless, words not normally directed at “The City by the Bay.”

There’s enough of the ’60’s radical in me that finds this hard to take.  Whatever happened to the city that turned our culture upside down?  (They even gave the “Jesus Music era” classics such as Cookin’ Mama’s New Day and Glide Memorial’s Bobby Kent. If you want to see how a San Francisco hippie is supposed to live, visit Kent’s site and view the photos).  How could they do this?  Worse, how could People’s Republics like Berkeley and Seattle do it?

Although the Board of Supervisors attempted to “keep the faith”, the duplicitous Gavin Newsom did not.

I’ve always said that Boomer liberals sold out, which is one reason why I cannot stomach their continued influence in our society.  This is additional proof.  The next thing you know, they’ll want to cut off welfare and really make people get off of their end.  But wait, Bill Clinton did that in the 90’s…

Wikileaks Reveals the Obvious: The Saudis Knew of Iran’s Objectives, and Wanted the U.S. To Do Something About It

Back in 2006, I stated the following:

Last year we stated that Iran’s greater objective than wiping Israel off of the map was to take control of both sides of the Persian Gulf, which would include Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the other Gulf states. Such an assesment was and is a minority view, both by those who support Israel (the evangelicals) and Americans who would as soon see Israel wiped off of the map themselves (James Baker.)

It looks like this is in point of fact the case, and that Saudi Arabia has no intention of allowing this to happen. This explains their support of the Sunnis in Iraq and the Christians and other non-Shi’a groups in Lebanon. The Sunni-Shi’a divide is not only religious but geopolitical.

This kind of thing does in fact screw up a lot of people’s plans for the Middle East. It makes the Islamicists job impossible because it calls into question who in fact is the real leader of Islam (and that is the central problem of Islamic politics.) Oil people dislike the endless instability of their product’s supply. And those who are looking for democracy in the Middle East can’t handle the fact that holding power is like winning to Vince Lombardi: it isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. Democracy and representative government are real nuisances to power holding, something the U.S. will find out the hard way if it ever elects Hillary Clinton as President.

Making her Secretary of State didn’t help either…

Well, the “minority view” was shared by the Saudis and their neighbours:

Arab rulers secretly lobbied the US to launch air strikes to destroy Iran’s nuclear programme, leaked US diplomatic messages reveal…

The most striking of the initial disclosures is that Arab leaders have been privately urging the US to take military action to halt Iran’s nuclear programme before it is too late.

The King of Bahrain was quoted as telling US diplomats that Tehran’s nuclear drive “must be stopped”.

He was said to have been backed by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who was said to have repeatedly urged Washington to “cut off the head of the snake” while there was still time.

The cables are said to include a US assessment that Iran has obtained advanced missiles from North Korea that could enable it to strike Western European capitals and Moscow.

As David “Spengler” Goldman has dryly observed, “…From the first batch of headlines there is little in WikiLeaks’ 250,000 classified diplomatic cables that a curious surfer would not have known from the Internet.”  But there are few really “curious” surfers on the Internet in this country, only delusional ones who cannot bear to see their idea sidetracked by reality.  And that runs from top to bottom, as I also noted four years ago.

Hitchens vs. Blair: The Result Depends Upon the Premises

It’s not surprising that the Guardian has trumpeted the result of the Munk Debate in Toronto as Hitchens 1 Blair 0.   (For a more reasonable take on the debate, one should turn to His Grace.)  The results of the polls aren’t surprising either; Hitchens went into the debate with a lead amongst those polled, and he and Blair split the undecideds; Blair’s result in that respect is better than the Democrats managed to do in the recent U.S. elections.

Nevertheless it strikes me that the whole debate is based on a faulty premise, one that can be seen by looking at the debate’s subject: “Be it resolved, religion is a force for good in the world”.

Atheists these days love to portray themselves as guided by reason.  I’ve always said that reason is only as good as the premises upon which it is based.  So let’s ask the simple question re the subject: what is good?  Or, put another way, good for what?

The fastest way to end such a debate is for one of the debaters to do one or two things: either force his opponent to agree with his idea of the good, in which case the first debater is the automatic winner, or for the two debaters to come to an impasse on the definition of good, in which case the debate is over except for the shouting and the audience finds itself with a decidedly unsettling result.

To some extent Hitchens has the upper hand because atheists have in recent years adopted a “humanitarian” idea of good where suffering is to be eliminated and “science” rules.  It has not always been so with the godless, especially regarding the former, and there’s nothing in a purely materialistic construct that would lead us to accept this idea and no other.  In any case humanitarianism of this kind–especially in an age where Westerners feel guilty about their self-centredness and have made volunteerism a religion in and of itself–plays well, which may do wonders for atheists’ reputation but does nothing for their reality as scientific.

The simplest way of illustrating this is to look at some alternate ideas of what is “good”.

Some have posited that there are about 6 billion too many of us, and that extermination of same would make things better.  That’s one concept of good.

Others, especially revolutionaries from the Bastille to Beijing, have thought that their nations would be cleansed by the blood of the opponents of the revolution.  (Franophones who doubt this should sing the words of La Marseilleaise to themselves).

Then there are those who think that the working of the free markets would bring a lot of good to the world, especially regarding the conception and encouragement of small businesses.  But socialists on both sides of the Atlantic reach for their barf bags at the thought.

There are the pro-life people who think that those conceived should have a chance at a full human life.  But many conceived are inconvenient for those who deal with the results, and in any case it’s an impediment to sexual freedom, so they resist unto death.  (Or, at least, the next Supreme Court nomination).

On the other end, we have pro-life people and we have those who feel that elderly people are an expensive burden on the state and should be eliminated, either by force or by making them feel they’re doing themselves a favour.

These are just a few examples.  All of them have both religious and political dimensions.  But all of them illustrate the simple fact that what kind of good religion (and that also assumes that all religions are about the same thing) can or cannot do depends upon how we define good.

Which is why debates such as the Munk Debate are basically stupid.

Living on Z (Zionist) Street: The IRS Takes a Hard Look at Religious and Political Beliefs

I first saw this story on Politico, but when Rubin on Tax took it up I knew it was serious:

According to pleadings filed in a civil action, Z Street is a nonprofit organization which educates the public about Zionism, and about the State of Israel and its battle with terror.  As a nonprofit educational organization, Z STREET has applied for certification that donations made to it are charitable, and therefore exempt from federal income tax, under Code §501(c)(3).

Z Street is contending that the IRS is asking improper questions and unduly delaying its exempt organization application. As part of its court filing, Z Street has indicated that an IRS agent has informed it that the IRS is “carefully scrutinizing organizations that are in any way connected with Israel,” and that there are such “cases… being sent to a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.”

If true, such inquiries by the IRS should not be permitted (as not relevant to the “educational” aspects of the organization). Further, it raises that the specter that the IRS may be denying exempt organization status because an organization’s activities are not in accord with the Administration’s policies – an improper, if not unconstitutional, politicization of what should be a policy-neutral exempt organization review.

So what happens when we change administrations, and get a new policy towards Israel?  Or is this administration planning to stick around longer than anticipated?  We all know that any non-profit organisation has one or more positions as part of its raison d’être, and we also know that our government is so all-encompassing that, somewhere along the line, one or more of these positions will contradict public policy.  That is, if the government has a clear understanding of what that public policy is…

I’d like to remind my Christian readers of this, from the Politico piece:

The IRS can deny tax exempt status to groups that work against “established public policy,” a precedent established in its denial of a tax exemption to Bob Jones University over racial discrimination, and Z Street is suggesting that the IRS has begun applying some such policy to pro-Israel groups. The State Department has complained of tax exempt contributions to groups that fund weapons and equipment for West Bank settlers, which Z Street co-founder Lori Lowenthal Marcus said Z Street has never come close to doing.

It’s not much of a stretch to see churches and other non-profit, tax-exempt organisations lose same tax-exempt status because what they advocate as part of their mission is against current public policy, such as being pro-life, opposing same-sex civil marriage (or civil marriage period), or any other myriads of causes.  It’s mostly a matter of  having a government with the will to oppose tax-exempt status for organisations such as Z Street which aren’t to its taste, and a judiciary which is in agreement with its idea.

Now He Tells Us: Al Gore Admits Corn Ethanol Not Such a Good Idea

It took long enough:

Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore said support for corn-based ethanol in the United States was “not a good policy”, weeks before tax credits are up for renewal.

U.S. blending tax breaks for ethanol make it profitable for refiners to use the fuel even when it is more expensive than gasoline. The credits are up for renewal on Dec. 31.

Total U.S. ethanol subsidies reached $7.7 billion last year according to the International Energy Industry, which said biofuels worldwide received more subsidies than any other form of renewable energy.

“It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for (U.S.) first generation ethanol,” said Gore, speaking at a green energy business conference in Athens sponsored by Marfin Popular Bank.

“First generation ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small.

“It’s hard once such a programme is put in place to deal with the lobbies that keep it going.”

This is abject.  But it’s one reason why the environmental movement struggles for credibility–so much of what they propose just doesn’t make sense, scientific or otherwise.

HT to Greg Griffith at Stand Firm.

There are Good Reasons Why the Obama Administration Doesn’t Prosecute People for Torture

David Cole at the New York Review of Books (along with many other on the left) would like to see some prosecutions:

In the face of overwhelming evidence that numerous US detainees were tortured during the Bush years, President Barack Obama has famously said he wants to “look forward, not back.” He prohibited the use of torture and cruelty in one of his first executive acts, but since then he has consistently resisted all efforts to hold accountable those who, under the prior administration, authorized such mistreatment. He has opposed a commission of inquiry, failed to order a criminal investigation of high-level officials who authorized—and concocted legal justifications for—torture, and successfully defeated all suits seeking damages for victims. Unacknowledged guilt, however, has a stubborn way of sticking around. In recent days, torture has been back in the national conversation, raising once again the issue of what we (and others) should do about it.

To be honest, I expected this kind of legal assault after Obama’s inauguration.  The plusses are as follows:

  1. It would have appealed to his base, and Cole’s article is an example of this.
  2. It would have filled the cable news time with the sins of his opponents, giving him cover to do many other things he would like to do.
  3. It would have lessened his dependence upon Congress to further his agenda, which is the main source of the disaster of the 2010 election cycle.
  4. It would have criminialised his opponents, which would make perpetuation of his legacy much easier.

But he hasn’t, and I think the reasons for this are as follows:

  1. Using international law to criminalise opponents would have the long run effect of undercutting American autonomy and thus the power of the American state, which could backfire in future situations.  This is why the left, for all of its ostensible internationalism, is reluctant to “cross the Rubicon” on this; diluting the power of the American state dilutes their own power as well.
  2. Going after torturers would make the use of torture yourself problematic.  And, for all of their moralism on the subject, I still think the left will someday use torture on their political opponents, given the opportunity and perceived need.  You just don’t get as self-righteous as they are on the left and then turn around and restrain yourself when you have your opponents where you want them.  A quick look back at the history of leftist states will confirm this.
  3. Prosecutions under American law would be long and complicated and, with the complex rules of evidence and procedure we have, have an unpredictable result short of suspending the Constitution.  That’s the key lesson of the outcome of the Ghailani trial, which is why the Guantanamo detention facility exists and why the Obama Administration hasn’t gotten around to closing it.
  4. He would need a stronger AG than Eric Holder to carry such a programme out.  To some extent this is a result of the reticence from (1) and (2).

If the left plans to put away their opposition via the use of war crimes trials, they’re going to need a lot more nerve at the top–and elsewhere–than they’ve got now.

Roundabouts, the Next Redneck Personal Challenge

The Old Grey Lady catches up with a new reality in the U.S.:

Traffic is going in circles. Armed with mounting data showing that roundabouts are safer, cheaper to maintain and friendlier to the environment, transportation experts around the country are persuading communities to replace traditional intersections with them.

Appearances notwithstanding, roundabouts, such as the one in Mt. Rainier, Md., are not the same thing as rotaries or traffic circles, experts say.

There’s just one problem: Americans don’t know how to navigate them.

“There’s a lot of what I call irrational opposition,” said Eugene R. Russell Sr., a civil engineering professor at Kansas State University and chairman of a national task force on roundabouts, sounding mildly exasperated in a telephone interview. “People don’t understand. They just don’t understand roundabouts.”

Back in 1972 David Pope and the Alethians did a song entitled “Darkness” where they sang, “Why this sense of missing out?/My life’s just a roundabout”.  (And if yours is just that, click here).  Four years later I found out what they were referring to: driving in the UK means navigating one roundabout after another.  So I had to learn.

My roundabout technique involved the following:

  1. Approach the roundabout by putting the clutch in, only applying the brake if necessary (I was driving manual shift cars, Fords as it turned out).
  2. Drop the shift into second.
  3. Take a quick look to the right (remember that they drive on the left in the UK, so roundabouts go clockwise, not anti-clockwise as they do here).
  4. If nothing was in the half or so of the roundabout that presented itself to me, pop the clutch and tear into the roundabout, making sure that, if it was one of those two lane jobs, that I had an exit strategy.

I managed to terrify two Englishmen with this description, which is no mean feat considering that, on the whole, people in the old country tend to drive more aggressively than we do here.  But I got the job done (both UK driving and terrifying Englishmen).

We now have a scattering of roundabouts here in Chattanooga.  And, yes, there was a transition.  The biggest problem here is that the Christian ethic is deeply rooted here to the extent that people tend to give way more readily than they do elsewhere.  Roundabouts require a more forceful approach to driving.

But this isn’t Scots-Irish Appalachia for nothing, and, as Jeff Foxworthy notes about interstate on ramps, people are starting to look at these as personal challenges.  They also make more sense in cities that, on the whole, tend to be more “European” in they layout (according to the terrain, not a grid) than their Northern (esp. Midwestern) counterparts.

Personally I think roundabouts are great.  Anyone who has driven in the UK or Europe knows that it’s a different pace of driving, but also know that it, in many ways, flows better, especially given the less spacious road system.  I just miss taking them in a standard shift, although no one else does…

TSA Strip Searches: The Old “B&O” Is Looking Better Than Ever

The recent fracas over the strip searches (that’s what they amount to, no matter how they’re done) the TSA has instituted for the flying public in the U.S. reminded me of something I posted a long time ago.

My family business celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1952 with a celebration in Chicago.  One of my grandfather’s friends coming from Washington responded to the invitation as follows:

We leave Washington on the Capital Limited at 5 o’clock Wednesday afternoon…and on our arrival in Chicago the next morning, we will take a taxi…Bob is talking about flying back, but the air service is too uncertain at this time of year…I think I’ll stick to the old B&O.

His concern at the time was the weather, but now we have other concerns.   Although the Madrid bombing took off some of the lustre of train travel for security purposes, these days the “old B&O” is looking better than ever.

Below: the tracks of the old B&O as they passed the College Park airport in Maryland in the early 1930’s.  The airport itself was nearly closed after 9/11 because of its proximity to the capital, even though those who ran the plane into the Pentagon flew out of Dulles.  It is now primarily a museum, but still remains the oldest continuing operating airport in the world.

Does Hillary Clinton Care if the Christians in Iraq are Wiped Out?

It sure doesn’t look like it:

Now that a new government has finally formed, it is time for Maliki to switch his focus from trying to remain prime minister to fulfilling his duty as head of state to protect the most vulnerable among his population. But let’s be honest—without enormous pressure from his backers in the U.S., Maliki has little incentive to turn his attention to this problem. And yet the U.S. and the international community thus far have barely managed to muster the most muted response to anti-Christian violence in Iraq. This week the United Nations Security Council and the United States released a bland and utterly ineffectual statement condemning the attacks on Iraq’s Christians “in the strongest terms,” while at the same time reaffirming its support “for the people and government of Iraq.”

That is not nearly enough to get the attention of the Iraqi government. What is needed is a firm condemnation by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reacting specifically to al Qaeda’s explicit plans to rid Iraq of its Christian communities and warning the Iraqi government that there will be dire consequences to its continuing inaction on this urgent matter. A number of online petitions have sprung up on the Internet urging Clinton to do just that, but so far there has been no official statement by the U.S. government.

This silence cannot stand. Americans of all faiths must band together and pressure the State Department to do something about the wanton murder of Iraqi Christians before it’s too late and there are no more Christians in Iraq to protect. What is happening in Iraq is genocide, plain and simple. It must be stopped now.

I discussed the symbiotic relationship between liberals and Islamicists in Strange Bedfellows: Liberals and Muslims. I honestly think that the Obama Administration has swallowed hook, line and sinker the idea that the Middle East is the property of Islam and all others are intruders.  Never mind that, back when there really was an operating caliphate (Ottoman Empire),  the Porte had no problem until the very end using its Christian subjects to its greatest advantage.  Now ethnic and religious cleansing is the deal in the dar-al-saalam and that’s what’s going on in Iraq.

Be sure that Bibi Netanyahu and his colleagues in Jerusalem are taking note of this, which is one reason why the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are going nowhere.  But at least the Israelis have, person for person, the finest military in the world to defend themselves.  The Christians in Iraq don’t.

I think it’s also fair to say that the Obama Administration has a talent in convincing large populations of people that it has no intention of defending them against their enemies.  That’s part of the reason why we got the result we did earlier this month.  Jimmy Carter had the same talent and got to boot for it in 1980.  Whether this is possible in a country where so many are so dependent on so much government largesse remains to be seen.

TSA Gearing Up for Trade Union Election

As if the flap over full body scans–physical and otherwise–wasn’t enough, the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) is about to have elections for union representation:

The Federal Labor Relations Authority on Friday accepted a petition from the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union to hold an election to determine which group will represent TSA workers. Petitions filed by AFGE and NTEU earlier this year were denied by an FLRA regional official, but Friday’s decision reverses that ruling. Both unions have been vying for exclusive representation of 40,000 TSA employees. FLRA will set the timeline for the election, count the votes and certify the results.

The next step is to grant whatever union wins this election–assuming that one will, which is almost a given–collective bargaining rights.  As the article goes on to note:

Created in 2001, TSA was excluded from federal regulations granting workers collective bargaining rights. TSA administrators have the authority to grant those rights but have chosen not to act on the issue.

My guess is that the Obama Administration (“Big Sis”) will grant these rights.

Government unions are always a conundrum.  One the one hand, government employees are more subject to be victims of favouritism and politics than private sector ones (companies which do this on a regular basis will eventually damage their productivity and go out of business). This both encourages and justifies the formation of trade unions in the government (I wouldn’t take the union pap about “…the morale of the TSO workforce is terrible as a result of favoritism, a lack of fair and respectful treatment from many managers, poor and unhealthy conditions in some airports, poor training and testing protocols, and a poor pay system” as seriously as they would like us to).  On the other hand, as with any union, over time one ends up with a rigid, seniority driven workforce where innovation is discouraged, something that is fearful when it comes to transportation security.  And, of course, one must factor into consideration how dreadfully expensive unionised labour forces have become, California being the poster child for this problem.

If the Republicans want to do something significant rather than silliness like dickering over earmarks, they will put pressure on the administration to block collective bargaining rights.