Saturday, September 26, 2009
Beware the Stalin in progressive hearts
If nothing else, the Obama eruption in American politics is steadily revealing the stark reality behind the progressive movement - the totalitarian temptation is always there and, for more than a few, possessing the official power to compel sooner or later becomes irresistible.
Not everybody on the left, of course. Some of the folks I most admire in this town are liberals whose work on behalf of values like transparency in government and protecting civil liberties is remarkable and essential.
Still, that this danger is real and growing becomes more obvious as public opposition grows to the president's across-the-board campaign to turn Washington into the all-powerful, centralized behemoth that Woodrow Wilson and FDR could only dream about. Consider: Nowhere does the Constitution grant Congress authority to require every American to buy a particular private service or product on pain of forfeiture of a significant portion of their wealth. Yet, every version of Obamacare currently being discussed in Congress requires just that.
Forcing all of us to buy officially approved health insurance is essential to a functioning government-run system. As Obama told Congress, "many of insurance reforms we seek - especially requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions - cannot be achieved" without the individual mandate.
Why? Because the politicians and bureaucrats who will manage the government-run health care program know that, without the force of government behind them, they won't be able to make the rest of us do what they tell us to do.
Once the power is granted, the question becomes how severe will the enforcement be. Fines will suffice, for Obamacare, for now. For Stalin, the first choice was usually the Gulag, or a bullet. It's just a matter of degree.
But that is what government always does as it becomes more costly, intrusive and intolerant of dissent. As if to drive the point home, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a gag order this week telling all private companies participating in the Medicare Advantage program to shut up. Violators would face fines and jail time. Forget the First Amendment. The gag order was issued after Humana Corp. sent a letter to its policyholders who participate in Medicare Advantage telling them the facts about Obamacare's effect on the program. The companies were ordered "to end immediately all such mailings to beneficiaries and to remove any related materials directed to Medicare enrollees from your website."
The bureaucrats added this blunt threat: "Please be advised that we take this matter very seriously and, based upon the findings of our investigation, will pursue compliance and enforcement actions. ...." Those, my friends, are the words of soft tyranny. How much longer before it becomes a hard tyranny?
History - and the words of progressives themselves - suggest not long. Consider New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman's telling admiration for the communist thugs who run the Chinese government: "One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonabley enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century."
That in a nutshell is the totalitarian temptation that plagues all who would use the power of the state to impose their vision of the good society on the rest of us. It's the ever-present Stalin whispering in the progressive ear: "Ignore those reactionary, loud-mouthed, ignorant Tea Party protesters and decree Obamacare, Waxman-Markey, and all the rest of it. Do it now while you have the power!"
And if the dissenters won't be quiet, Bill Ayers, Obama's once-and-future colleague, can always dust off his copy of that old Weather Underground plan for FEMA re-education camps in the desert southwest.
You think I exaggerate? Read National Review Editor Jonah Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism," or historian Paul Johnson's "Modern Times," two books without which you cannot understand where we've been or where we are headed. We may have only two more chances to turn things around, in 2010 and 2012.
Can the Republicans win the House in 2010?
By: Michael Barone
There’s starting to be some speculation that Republicans might recapture a majority in the House in 2010. That would require them to gain 40 seats—the exact number they needed to gain in 1994, the last time they recaptured a majority from the Democrats. Interestingly, I don’t recall anyone predicting the Republicans would win a majority, much less gain the 52 seats they actually did that year, until July 1994, when I wrote an article in U.S. News & World Report suggesting there was a serious possibility they would do so. One reason the commentariat was so late in making such a prediction was that almost no one had been around the last time the Republicans won a majority of House seats, in 1952. In contrast, today’s commentariat remembers that there was a Republican majority in the House just three years ago.
One reason it’s hard to predict who will win which party will win a majority of House seats is that it’s impossible, or at least impracticable, for national pollsters to ask respondents in each of the 435 congressional districts which of the two major party candidates they’ll vote for. Challengers are typically little known even in the weeks just before the election, much less 14 months before—when most challengers haven’t even been picked and many haven’t started running. So pollsters ask the generic ballot question—which party’s candidate will you vote for in the election for House of Representatives. Currently Real Clear Politics reports that Democrats lead Republicans by only 41%-39% in the generic ballot. But there’s a clear difference between the results shown by pollster Scott Rasmussen, who limits his surveys to those he determines to be likely voters, and other pollsters. Rasmussen currently shows Republicans leading 42%-38% and has had them ahead every week since the results he reported June 28—just about the time the House was passing the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill by a 219-212 margin. Other pollsters during the same period have, on average, shown Democrats ahead 44%-39%, with Democrats leading in nine of ten such polls and Republicans ahead by just 1% in the other.
Now comes political scientist Andrew Gelman, on the 538.com blog run by the Obama enthusiast and gifted numbers cruncher Nate Silver, saying that the generic polls suggest that Republicans could recapture a House majority in 2010. I have noticed that over the years generic vote questions have tended to understate the ultimate Republican percentage of the popular vote for the House; Gelman says his research indicates “the out-party consistently outperforms the generic polls.” Gelman says that in current generic polls Democrats get 52% of the two-party vote, comparable to what they got in 1946, 1994 and 1998—all years in which Republicans got more popular votes and won more House seats than Democrats.
Wisely, Gelman notes it’s still early; opinion which has shifted away from the Democrats during the first eight months of the Obama term could shift the other way in the next 14 months. He also notes, again I think wisely, “the general unpopularity of the Republicans.” But I think there’s less to his third caveat, that “it will be year 2 of the presidential term, not year 6 which is historically the really bad year for the incumbent party.” Historically, yes, but not in recent times. Ronald Reagan’s Republicans and Bill Clinton’s Democrats lost more seats in year 2 than in year 6; only George W. Bush of the presidents of the last 30 years saw his party do worse in year 6 than year 2. Reagan’s Republicans suffered from recession and high unemployment; Clinton’s Democrats suffered from liberal overreach. Both factors could—not necessarily will, but could—work against Barack Obama’s Democrats next year.
Having said all that, I think the chances of the Republicans recapturing the House have to be rated now at well below 50%. But I think they’re not as negligible as I thought even a few weeks ago.
At the U.N., Terrorism Pays
It was my duty as defense minister to stop Hamas rockets, says EHUD BARAK below
This week the United Nation's Human Rights Council produced a 600-page report alleging that Israel carried out war crimes in Gaza. The Goldstone Report —named for its chief investigator Richard Goldstone— also asserts that Israel's motives for its operation against Hamas nine months ago were purely political. I am outraged by these accusations. Let me explain why.
It is the duty of every nation to defend itself. This is a basic obligation that all responsible governments owe their citizens. Israel is no different. After enduring eight years of ongoing rocket fire —in which 12,000 missiles were launched against our cities, and after all diplomatic efforts to stop this barrage failed— it was my duty as defense minister to do something about it. It's as simple and self-evident as the right to self-defense.
While such logic eluded Mr. Goldstone and his team, it was crystal clear to the thousands of Israeli children living in southern Israel who had to study, play, eat and sleep while being preoccupied about the distance to the nearest bomb shelter. When I accompanied then-presidential candidate Barack Obama on his visit to the shelled city of Sderot, he said "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing." Too bad the Human Rights Council wasn't listening.
Whenever we are forced to defend our own lives, it is our obligation to do so in a way that ensures that the lives of innocent civilians on the other side are protected. This duty becomes extremely difficult when we have to face an enemy that intentionally deploys its forces in densely populated areas, stores its explosives in private homes, and launches rockets from crowded school yards and mosques. In Gaza, we reached out to the civilians via millions of leaflets, telephone calls and text messages urging them to leave areas before we acted.
So when the Goldstone mission gathers testimony from local residents in Hamas-ruled Gaza, but forgets to ask them whether they happened to notice any armed Palestinians during the Israeli operation, or didn't realize that its impartially chosen witnesses happened to be known Hamas operatives according to Israeli intelligence, I begin to question the methodology of such a "fact-finding" effort.
Although I am incensed by the Goldstone Report, I must admit that I was not surprised. It is, more than anything else, a political statement —not a legal analysis. This shameful document was produced by the Human Rights Council, a body whose obsession with Israel has led it to produce more resolutions condemning Israel than all other countries combined. By its lights, the evils of Israel far outweigh those of countries like Burma, Sudan and North Korea.
In its blind zeal to demonize Israel, the council has produced a document that undermines every other democracy struggling to defend itself against terrorism. The message broadcast by this report to the new world order? Terrorism pays.
Yet, an accusation, however ludicrous, is still an accusation, and it mustn't remain unanswered. If the U.N. or anyone else has complaints, they should direct them towards the Israeli government. I have in-depth knowledge about the extent of the Israel Defense Forces' (IDF) efforts to reduce civilian casualties, and I am convinced that the actions our government took are equal to or exceed actions taken by the armed forces of any other democratic nation. Strikes against extremely valuable Hamas targets were aborted in mid-operation due to the unexpected presence of civilians.
Hundreds of thousands of warnings of impending IDF activity were provided to the population by leaflet, radio, telephone and text messages. Humanitarian supplies were allowed to flow into Gaza despite the fact that Hamas shelled the convoys and confiscated the aid they carried.
Israel is not perfect. As much as we as a society try to uphold the IDF's ethical code, mistakes sometimes happen and deviations from procedure occur. Whether we like it or not, Israel is one of the most scrutinized countries in the world. And when we are told that things may not be right, we check it out and, when necessary, prosecute those involved. We are now pursuing two dozen criminal investigations regarding events that occurred in Gaza. We don't need the Human Rights Council, Richard Goldstone, or anyone else to teach us how to maintain the democratic principles which are our lifeblood.
As sobering as the thought may be, terrorists will welcome this report. It has made their work much easier, and the work of their potential victims more difficult. I believe that the time has come for us to put an end to this calculated erosion of common sense. The nations that share democratic values must not allow themselves to be handcuffed by the abusive application of lofty ideals. Democracies should be concentrating on defending themselves from extremism —not from accusations by kangaroo courts.
Veterans' promised tuition checks AWOL: "The U.S. government failed to send promised college tuition checks to tens of thousands of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars before they returned to school this fall, even after being warned that it was inadequately staffed for the job. The Veterans Affairs Department blamed a backlog of claims filed for GI Bill education benefits that has left veterans who counted on the money for tuition and books scrambling to make ends meet. Out of more than 277,000 veterans who have filed for the college tuition benefits this semester, more than 200,000 claims have been processed and approved, but fewer than 11 percent of the veterans have received the funding, according to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). The group says it has been contacted by thousands of veterans who have not received their benefits and that they are forced to take out loans or pay the money out of their pockets. "This is absolutely unacceptable," the group said. "The men and women who so courageously served our country in Iraq and Afghanistan deserve better." A VA spokeswoman did not return a call for comment, but in a statement the agency said employees are working overtime to deliver the checks and that retired claims processors have been rehired." [And Obama wants such bunglers to look after your healthcare!]
Jury rejects family's FEMA trailer claims: "A federal jury on Thursday rejected a New Orleans family's claims that the government-issued trailer they lived in after Hurricane Katrina was defective and exposed them to dangerous fumes. A jury of five men and three women decided that a trailer made by Gulf Stream Coach Inc. and occupied by Alana Alexander and her 12-year-old son, Christopher Cooper, was not "unreasonably dangerous" in its construction. The jury also concluded that Fluor Enterprises Inc., which had a contract to install FEMA trailers, wasn't negligent in doing so. The federal government wasn't a defendant in this first of several "bellwether" trials. Gulf Stream denied its trailer jeopardized the health of Alexander and her family. Andrew Weinstock, a lawyer for the Nappanee, Ind.-based company, said FEMA had purchased thousands of trailers from Gulf Stream since 1992 without receiving any formaldehyde complaints until 2006." [Great! The lawyers have lost a goldmine]
Glenn Beck: Probe of ACORN 'bogus': "Conservative commentator Glenn Beck said Thursday the ethics investigation into the community activist group ACORN will yield no meaningful findings unless it reaches into the top levels of the organization or the White House gets involved. "I think this whole thing is bogus," said Mr. Beck, a Fox News talk-show host. ACORN on Wednesday named former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, a Democrat, to lead an independent inquiry into the liberal group's social-services program. The inquiry follows the recent release of videotapes showing undercover operatives posing as a prostitute and pimp seeking tax and housing advice at five ACORN offices. "It's a show," Mr. Beck told The Washington Times' "America's Morning News" radio show. "They moved too fast, too quietly. The president is not involved. Until you start going to the people at the top ... the people connected to the White House, you cannot clean up this mess."
Obama at the U.N.: "Barack Obama's excellent New York adventure was all he hoped it would be. He got to make a speech, pave the streets of Manhattan with harmless platitudes, bask in the admiration of various Third World mediocrities and hear himself nominated to be president of the United States for life. "It was an excellent day," he said as night fell, as it always must. All in all, he did no particular harm, and we can all be grateful for that. The messiah had a rough summer, and he was entitled to the pleasure of presiding, if only for a day, over the Children's Hour. With President Obama presiding over "the historic session," the U.N. Security Council approved unanimously an American resolution committing all nations to work for - please sit up straight for this - a world free of nuclear weapons. Somewhere in the fine print was a clause praising small babies, little puppies and chocolate candy. The resolution was so harmless that even Russia, China and several "developing" nations (the usual euphemism for the socialist satraps) voted for the resolution. A good time was clearly had by all."
Spanish Judge expels woman wearing burqah: "A Spanish judge overnight expelled a Muslim woman wearing a burka from his court for refusing to show her face when testifying in the trial of a group of Islamic extremists. "Seeing your face, I can see if you are lying or not, if you are surprised by a question or not," Judge Javier Gomez Bermudez told the woman, the sister of an Islamic radical killed in a suicide bombing in Iraq in 2005. The woman said that her religion forbade her from appearing in public without her burqah, the all-covering article of clothing worn by some Islamic women. When she refused to reveal her face, the judge expelled her from the courtroom. But after speaking to the judge later in his chambers, a compromise was reached. She said she had agreed to testify on Tuesday minus the part of her burqah which normally covers the face "between the chin and the eyebrows" and with her back turned to the public and journalists in the courtroom".
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)
Posted by JR at 12:40 AM