Monday, October 04, 2010

The anti-authoritarianism element in the tea party movement has the establishment in jitters

So, using an old strategy, they try to paint the tea-partiers as psychological misfits -- without any proof, of course

I’m not a member of the Tea Party. For one thing, no coherent philosophy has emerged from its activities, which explains its grab-bag of positions, some good, some not so good. As a result, it’s not entirely clear what this collection of individuals fundamentally is for and against. Nevertheless, it is built around a concern that government and its “private sector” cronies wield an intolerable amount of power over our lives. They don’t like bank bailouts and health care bureaucracies, for example — so we can hope that it might evolve a consistent program in favor of voluntary association and against government intervention in our peaceful affairs.

It’s easy to point out flaws in the Tea Party. What is getting old quickly is the political elite’s criticism, which exhibits an intolerance and bad faith that it often attributes to the tea partiers. You don’t have to read too much of this criticism to see that the powers that be and their fawning admirers in the media and intelligentsia dislike one thing in particular: the movement’s apparent anti-authoritarianism. To be sure, at best it’s an imperfect anti-authoritarianism.

But let that go for now. What’s noteworthy is that the movement’s anti-authoritarian tone has establishment statists so upset. They seem really worried that this thing could get out of control. Any legitimate criticism they may make of the Tea Party movement is undermined by their abhorrence with anti-authoritarianism per se. They are anti-anti-authoritarian.

“What’s new and most distinctive about the Tea Party is its streak of anarchism — its antagonism toward any authority, its belligerent style of self-expression, and its lack of any coherent program or alternative to the policies it condemns,” Jacob Weisberg writes in Slate. Note what’s first on Weisberg’s list.

“In this sense, you might think of the Tea Party as the Right’s version of the 1960s New Left. It’s an unorganized and unorganizable community of people coming together to assert their individualism and subvert the established order.”

I’m happy to see Weisberg acknowledge that the established order is not individualist. The political elite typically pretends the current system is free (“deregulated”) and individualistic in order to justify the expansion of power. Here’s a rare concession that it is not.

The “most extreme” faction in Weisberg’s eyes “would limit the federal government to the exercise of enumerated powers.” (So much for anarchism.) For him, limiting government power to a finite set of explicit responsibilities would be an intolerable setback. (Not that the Constitution actually does that.) Imagine how he would react to a movement determined to uproot the corporatist State.

Likewise, Mark Lilla, writing in the New York Review of Books, notes: "A new strain of populism is metastasizing before our eyes, nourished by the same libertarian impulses [!] that have unsettled American society for half a century now. Anarchistic [that word again] like the Sixties, selfish like the Eighties, contradicting neither, it is estranged, aimless, and as juvenile as our new century. It appeals to petulant individuals convinced that they can do everything themselves if they are only left alone, and that others are conspiring to keep them from doing just that".

Note the phrases “estranged, aimless, and as juvenile as our new century” and “petulant individuals.” Tea Party critics must enjoy this sort of psychological profiling. Tea partiers are also frequently described as angry.

As a common-sense description, there’s nothing objectionable about that. Who wouldn’t be angry after being pushed around by big institutions over which one has no real control? But notice that advocates of the all-State never describe their allies as angry when they vote out their rivals for power. I suspect that “anger” is just another arrow in the psychologizers’ quiver, as if to say, “No need to listen to that guy’s complaint. He’s just angry.” Weisberg says tea partiers have “status anxiety.” Don’t you need a license to make such a diagnosis?

Lilla adds that “we need to see it [the Tea Party] as a manifestation of deeper social and even psychological changes that the country has undergone in the past half-century. Quite apart from the movement’s effect on the balance of party power, which should be short-lived, it has given us a new political type: the antipolitical Jacobin. The new Jacobins have two classic American traits that have grown much more pronounced in recent decades: blanket distrust of institutions and an astonishing — and unwarranted — confidence in the self.” (As opposed to a warranted confidence in the ruling class.)

He cites polls that show a majority of Americans don’t expect the government to act in their interest. They feel they have no voice in the halls of power. “As the libertarian spirit drifted into American life, first from the left, then from the right, many began disinvesting in our political institutions and learning to work around them, as individuals.”

Oh horror! Nothing offends the power elite as much as disinvesting in our political institutions and learning to work around them, as individuals. Do they fear that regular people might discover they can manage nicely without them?

The proof for Lilla is all the home-schooling going on! “What’s remarkable is American parents’ confidence that they can do better themselves,” Lilla writes. Better, that is, than the experts who have delivered the “public education” system we suffer in myriad ways.

Lilla implies that these are atomistic individualists. But they’re not. They’re what I call “molecular,” or communitarian, individualists — that is, individuals cooperating with others to achieve what the politicians promise but can’t deliver.

Here, apparently, is the Tea Party’s greatest offense: it resents the elites who presume to run their lives. How dare these know-nothings resist our good intentions and earnest efforts?

As I’ve said, the folks who identify with the Tea Party are far from consistent about this. Some of the contradictions are stunning. Still, it’s revealing that their critics are so concerned that through the Tea Party, anti-authoritarianism, anti-elitism, and anti-corporatism appear to be on the rise.

The elitist critics can’t imagine a good reason for people distrusting big institutions that have wronged them. But whose problem is that? Is it really so hard to fathom why people would be angry at government and other institutions, such as banks and corporations, that derive what power they have from government? Only someone who finds power attractive would have a hard time understanding that.

Those who wish to run their own lives in mutual association with others have no trouble understanding it at all.



Progressive values are not American values

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One, deputy White House spokesman Bill Burton said that Obama believes those media people who support "progressive values" provide an "invaluable service." OK. But what exactly are the "progressive values" the president believes are so important? Depends on who you talk with, but there is some consensus.

Above all, progressives believe that the federal government should have a mandate to impose "social justice." That means the country's resources should be shared to elevate conditions for the have-nots. Thus, high taxation to fund government-run entitlement programs are a must. And not only that. Progressives also believe that things like welfare should be granted with no strings attached. The poor must be provided with decent housing, food, health care and even spending money upon demand.

Progressives also embrace unfettered immigration and abortion. Few if any restrictions should be put on those controversial situations. Also, working Americans should be guaranteed a "fair" wage and generous benefits by the government.

As far as foreign policy is concerned, progressive values put peace above all. The far left generally believes that America is an aggressive bully that has exploited people all over the world for its own benefit.

It is hard to ascertain just how deeply Obama embraces the progressive vision, but he certainly has not refuted much of it. He is, however, running into big problems with the massive spending his administration has imposed on the nation. In fiscal year 2009, the Obama administration spent a record-breaking $3.52 trillion, racking up a breathtaking $1.4 trillion deficit. That kind of balance sheet cannot be sustained.

The truth is that most Americans couldn't care less about progressive values, as they are locked in on their financial futures. If the United States can't meet its fiscal obligations, every single one of us will suffer grievously. The folks are beginning to understand the danger of massive debt.

So Obama has a dilemma. While he is moving to the left on his social justice agenda, the voters are clearly not following. All the polls show that. We are a generous nation; most of us want people to have good lives. But there comes a time when theory bangs up against reality. And in order to secure a second term, Obama will have to get real.



Using Drones To Counter IEDs

A military task force tries a new method against bombers in Afghanistan

American commanders in Afghanistan are for the first time systematically using aerial drones to kill militants planting roadside bombs, the low-tech, low-cost weapon that has emerged as the biggest threat to U.S. and coalition forces throughout the country. The shift, the details of which have not been reported previously, represents a sharp escalation in the military's ongoing fight against improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, which account for nearly 60 percent of coalition battle deaths in Afghanistan.

The push is being led by a new military unit called Task Force Falcon Strike. It began operating in southern Afghanistan late last year and expanded over the summer to eastern Afghanistan, a violent, insurgent-dominated area along the porous border with Pakistan.

In recent weeks, Falcon Strike drones have been targeting bomb-planters in the eastern provinces of Ghazni and Logar, according to a Defense official with knowledge of the group's activities. Between June 27 and July 7, Falcon Strike helped kill at least 26 militants burying IEDs in the two areas, while also reducing the number of roadside bombs there by 62 percent, the Defense official said.

Falcon Strike is working closely with Task Force ODIN, a once-secret Army unit that has been at the forefront of the military's fight against IEDs in both Iraq and Afghanistan. ODIN drones and aircraft killed hundreds of bomb-planters in Iraq, but in Afghanistan, the task force had been limited for years to what amounted to a pure surveillance mission. ODIN drones monitored key Afghan roads for signs of new bombs, but the robotic aircraft weren't being used to target individual militants.

That's all changing, according to senior military officials. Lt. Gen. Michael Oates, who heads the military's Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, said in an interview that drones were now being used for "find, fix, finish" missions designed to kill bomb-planters or to help ground units track and arrest them.



Pastors For ObamaCare?

If the White House office of faith-based initiatives is going to be used as propaganda unit, it might as well be shut down


I was George W. Bush's director of faith-based initiatives. Imagine what would have happened had I proposed that he use that office to urge thousands of religious leaders to become "validators" of the Iraq War?

I can tell you two things that would have happened immediately. First, President Bush would have fired me—and rightly so—for trying to politicize his faith-based office. Second, the American media would have chased me into the foxhole Saddam Hussein had vacated.

Yet on Tuesday President Obama and his director of faith-based initiatives convened exactly such a meeting to try to control political damage from the unpopular health-care law. "Get out there and spread the word," reported the president as saying on a conference call with leaders of faith-based and community groups. "I think all of you can be really important validators and trusted resources for friends and neighbors, to help explain what's now available to them."

Since then, there's been nary a peep from the press.

According to the White House website, the faith-based office exists "to more effectively serve Americans in need." I guess that now means Americans in need of Democratic talking points on health care. Do we really want taxpayer-funded bureaucrats mobilizing ministers to go out to all the neighborhoods and spread the good news of universal coverage?




Ruling centre-right wins Latvia election: "The embattled Baltic state of Latvia braced for talks on forming a new coalition government, after voters gave the ruling centre-right a mandate to pursue a draconian austerity drive. Near-complete results gave Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis's coalition 60.26 per cent of the vote, the national electoral commission said. The Moscow-tied left-wing opposition Harmony Centre scored 23.92 per cent."

UN suppressed report on rights violations in Afghanistan: "The United Nations buried a report into rights violations in Afghanistan between 1978 and 2001 that accused Soviets, Islamists and US forces of "atrocities", a Swiss newspaper said. The revelations emerged a day after the UN published a hotly contested report into crimes committed by armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic Congo at the end of the 1990s. A UN report "on crimes committed in Afghanistan between April 1978 and December 2001 was deliberately suppressed by the United Nations for political reasons", Le Temps said after obtaining a copy of the 300-page document."

German freedom and the enduring danger of socialism: "The wall was gone, but ‘no man’s land’ remained — a barren strip a hundred yards wide, across which East Germans who climbed the wall had to scramble before they reached West German soil, safety, and freedom. Many were shot before they got there. No one died trying to go the other way. The lesson was pretty clear to everyone other than western intellectuals, who needed to marshal all of their impressive intelligence to devise explanations of why the communist system was superior to the free economies of the West. Yet, in ringing contradiction to the apocalyptic claims of some, history did not end in 1990. The choice laid before societies — freedom or serfdom — remains.”

Stoned on righteousness: "The ‘war on drugs,’ like the war on terror, is a simplistic and brutally stupid solution imposed on a complex, multifaceted human problem, born out of the notion that you can take evil out of context and eradicate it with the firepower of righteousness. Science and the arts have long ago moved on to new realms of awareness, but we’re still playing politics the way we did in the 19th century — or the 12th or 1st — with the primary difference being that we have the capacity to do far more harm these days.”


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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)


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