Friday, September 30, 2011

American Citizens and the Drift from First Principles

September 30, 2011
American Citizens and the Drift from First Principles
By Matthew May

Earlier this month I was present at a public appearance by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who had just finished touring a thriving and growing business on the North Shore. Following his tour, the governor delivered a gracious presentation to an assembly of employees. He invited questions following his remarks. What followed was an explicit demonstration of the corrosion of our political discourse.

It's not what you might think: stark-raving morons did not accuse the governor of hiding Barack Obama's original birth certificate underneath a tree in Boston Common. There were no demands that Patrick quarter state troopers in homes flying the Gadsden flag. All of the questions were politely proffered and, most likely in the minds of those asking, innocently benign.

One questioner mentioned how fortunate she was to enjoy employment inasmuch as she graduated with a degree in English. However, she wondered, what could the governor or the legislature do to encourage companies to actively hire other graduates of the liberal arts who are having difficulty finding jobs?

Another person cited a story on the Huffington Post(!) regarding a situation in which some employers in some industries are requiring that applicants for some positions be currently employed to be considered. What could the government do about this?

To his credit, Patrick deftly and diplomatically answered these inane questions about what the government could do about such nonsense with a gentle version of the correct answer: nothing. He let them down easy. But the unstated premise of the questions was frightening: any problem, no matter how anecdotal, no matter how easily solved privately or personally, no matter how irrelevant, demands a response from government. Looking to the government immediately rather than as the absolute last resort has become the default position of too many Americans.

We have a president who is currently doing everything he can to turn us in to Europe, which has been lounging on this very principle since the end of World War II. Every unoriginal solution Obama offers involves government. The government will give you health care. The government will determine what you may and may not eat. The government will determine what you may and may not drive. The government will determine how much debt your unborn children will be required to pay. In short, our president's promise to "fundamentally change" the United States is about the only promise he has kept. Too many in our midst see nothing wrong with this.

This conditioned begging for the attention of Washington or Boston -- with no thought of the consequences it entails -- is symptomatic of a citizenry that has lost its moorings. It is a misapplication of the basic reasons for and functions of government. It is a perversion of the phrase self-government. The more we expect our problems to be solved by distant central planners, the farther we drift from that which made our nation unique and the reason for its existence.

As Ronald Reagan said in 1964, there comes a time when a man who recognizes what has been sacrificed before and what is being irresponsibly risked for the future must say about those who seek to destroy from within that "there is a point beyond which they will not advance."

That is precisely why citizens who are variously known as Tea Partiers or constitutional conservatives, or who were perhaps previously politically ambivalent, are protesting and remaining silent no longer. It explains the enthusiasm for and curiosity about a politician like Texas governor Rick Perry, whose stated presidential campaign principle is to "make the federal government as inconsequential in your life as possible," or a private citizen like Herman Cain representing the non-political class.

That rhetoric resonates because it is a first principle -- perhaps the first principle -- of this republic. Citizens who defer to the government are either ignorant of or willfully blind to the first principles of our government. They have forgotten -- or were never taught -- that the brilliance of our democratic republic lies in self-reliance and charity. It lies -- or once lay -- in a reliance on local institutions, private organizations, our schools, and our churches. It lies -- or once lay -- in self-control and dignity.

Governance in America too was once primarily a local matter. As the late political philosopher Russell Kirk wrote of the way government once functioned in New England, "[g]overnment, in its simplicity, was of direct and immediate concern to most elements in the commonwealth; and since social conscience operates most rigorously when social proximity is the rule, this was, buy and large, a just society: corruption and negligence would have been too conspicuous to pervade for any length of time[.] ... Man had to look man in the eye, conscience spoke to conscience."

Or as the great observer of American life Alexis de Tocqueville put it, "[i]t is in the township that the strength of free peoples resides. Municipal institutions are for liberty what primary schools are for science; they place it within reach of the people[.] ... Without municipal institutions, a nation is able to give itself a free government, but it lacks the spirit of liberty."

It is in the spirit of liberty that there is indeed a cry for fundamental change all over the country. But that sort of fundamental change is alien to President Obama and his enablers because it is a change back to fundamentals that they flatly reject by word and deed every day. They will soon find themselves rejected.
Matthew May welcomes comments at

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Take your secret Saudi threats and shove ‘em

By Ezra Levant, QMI Agency, Toronto Sun

Saudi Arabia has hired lawyers to threaten Canadian broadcasters who dare to run a TV ad critical of Saudi conflict oil.

I know this because I am the volunteer chairman of, the non-profit website that promotes Canada’s oilsands as an ethical alternative to the conflict oil of Saudi Arabia and other OPEC dictatorships.

Alykhan Velshi, who runs, produced a 30-second TV ad comparing the treatment of women in Canada with the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia. That’s a place where women can’t drive, can’t vote and can’t even get medical care without the permission of their husbands/owners.

Compare that to Canada, where the mayor of the oilsands capital, Fort McMurray, is a young woman named Melissa Blake.

Saudi Arabia doesn’t like criticism like that, though. They are a fascist state without a free press or any opposition political parties. And now they’ve hired one of the world’s largest law firms, a 2,600-lawyer monstrosity called Norton Rose, to threaten Canada’s media into silence, too.

Rahool Agarwal, one of the lawyers at Norton Rose, has been contacting broadcasters across Canada, threatening them if they air the ad. Already two networks have capitulated in the face of such threats, including CTV, Canada’s biggest private broadcaster. Agarwal has also threatened with a lawsuit, too. He won’t say for what ­ he clearly has no legal case. But the point is silencing dissent. And it’s working.

The only way we heard about this campaign of threats was when one concerned Canadian who received a threat tipped us off. When our lawyer contacted Agarwal, he sounded genuinely surprised that he was caught. The Saudis prefer to operate under the radar.

Saudi Arabia is an enemy of Canada. They’re an enemy of the West. They’re an enemy of freedom. This is not a new revelation. Fifteen out of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 came from Saudi Arabia. Osama bin Laden was from a prominent Saudi family. Saudi Arabia continues to finance terrorism around the world.

Normally, Islamic extremists focus their hatred on the Great Satan ­ the United States. But Canada is now an enemy of the Saudis, too. Because we’re competitors to them for oil. Within ten years, the oilsands could totally replace Saudi exports to the U.S.

Recently, Saudi billionaire Prince Walid bin Talal said it was in his country’s interest not to let the price of oil get too high, lest alternative sources of oil become practical. Well, the largest unconventional oil reserves in the world are in the oilsands. He didn’t use the word, but he clearly meant it.

Like Greenpeace, the Saudis hate our oilsands. They’re usually content to let Greenpeace do the heavy lifting. But this time, the Saudis were caught red-handed.

The oilsands can take care of themselves. But what about Canada?s media? At least two broadcasters have already caved to this Saudi legal pressure. The Saudis are destroying our culture of freedom and replacing it with their sharia culture of tyranny and bullying.

Foreign Minister John Baird must summon the Saudi ambassador at once. If their foreign meddling and bullying doesn’t cease immediately, he should be expelled.

Canada is free, and our media should be free ­ no matter what some dictatorship wants, and what that dictatorship’s well-paid lawyers threaten in secret.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Distrusting The Common Man

Herbert I. London
September 16, 2011

If there was one overarching goal of the Marxist project, it was refashioning human nature. Whether in religion or politics, the Marxists argued that an obsession with God and a belief in national identity had to be challenged and defeated.

His beliefs had little confidence in the common man.. Marxists maintained they were endowed with an understanding others did not possess. While Marxism is dead, this distaste for the opinion of the common man persists.

Instead of Marxism, this belief now takes the form of "Expert Opinion," or the "Fraternity of Experts," who are eager to regulate human behavior. These are the new progressives, many of them former Marxists, and many who believe that American patriotism should be subordinated to transnational loyalty. Some call these people "Liberal Internationalists." who rely on U.N. prerogatives and other international bodies -- often under the sway of totalitarian governments with not the slightest interest in civil liberties or human rights for guidance.

On the home front, this "Fraternity of Experts" has answers for everything that ails us. If health care is a problem, the experts contend a government engineered system must be put in place, rather than rely on the the marketplace.

If global warming is a problem – a somewhat contentious point – government regulations should be imposed through a "limited carbon footprint" rather than through educating people to deliver restraint. The "Expert" always believes public choices are ignorant and therefore decisions [his) must be imposed.

Another example is the government-imposed minimum wage. Although exploitation and sweatshops are not an acceptable answer, is it not enough to argue that the market, which is primarily based on the combined needs of the producer, the worker and the consumer, is sufficient to determine wages? The experts know better; they actually think they can determine the point at which wages meet labor needs.

Of course the United States is not alone in producing members of the "Fraternity of Experts." If the French are expert at self-proclaimed experts, the European Union is the exemplar of Expert Opinion so confident in its assertions that it seeks to regulate everything from truck tonnage to the size of lawn mowers. Moreover, the EU intends to eliminate national loyalty through the imposition of a transnational entity which not only fails to represent the will of the people, but which fails to note how these "Experts" (read: bureaucrats) in Brussels might be removed should they fail to succeed in their work.

From the ashes of Marxism has emerged a class of elitists not unlike the former members of the Soviet Communist party. They claimed to know what was best for the citizens of Russia; the "Fraternity of Experts" knows what is best for us.

Former Democratic candidate for president John Edwards liked to lecture about two Americas: the privileged and the poor. But this quasi-Marxist theme does not describe the real two Americas: one, managed by "Experts," who believe they possess superior knowledge that translates into engineered regulations; and the other, common sense embodied by the common man.

How can elites demonstrate their "superior" wisdom if they are restrained? How can experts flaunt their expertise if their plans for us are rejected?

The very fact that the "Fraternity of Experts" distrusts the common man should be cause to distrust it. So when the new big idea emerges from the tombs of government, beware. The expert who wants to regulate you distrusts you and your ability to decide anything for yourself.

Herbert London is president emeritus of Hudson Institute, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book Decline and Revival in Higher Education (Transaction Books).

A Plan B for Jordan?

Mudar Zahran
September 16, 2011

The King of Jordan, Abdullah II, delivered a speech on September 11, in which he mentioned the Jordanian civil war of 1970 for the first time ever: "There are not any issues we are too embarrassed to discuss, even if there is someone who wants to discuss the incidents of 1970, this is a part of history; let us think of the future and not the past."

Commenting on the fear of Jordan's Bedouin minority -- who make up the king's military and are the protected class -- that Jordan might become the Palestinian majority's homeland -- a plan dubbed "the alternative homeland" by the local media -- the king said: "I would like to assure everyone that Jordan will not be an alternative country to anyone. Is it even logical that Jordan will become an alternative to anyone while we sit there and do nothing? We have an army and we are willing to fight for our country and for the future of Jordan, and we must speak vigorously and not ever allow this idea to remain in the minds of some of us….We have fought Israel before many times."

"Jordan and the future of Palestine," he added, "are much stronger than Israel today; the Israeli is the one who is afraid….When I was in the United States, I spoke to an Israeli intellectual; he told me that what was happening in Arab countries today is in the interests of Israel. I told him, 'I think it is the opposite: your situation today is much harder than before.'"

King Abdullah also mentioned the need to address the issue of "national identity" in Jordan -- a phrase associated with isolating the Palestinians, who make up 80% of the population, in favor of the Beduin minority, for whom he would establish Jordan as a purely Bedouin state: "We must speak with a loud voice about the Jordanian identity," he said, "yet national unity is a red line." In other words, the king openly supports talk about imposing a Jordanian Bedouin identity on the country, while at the same time prohibiting any "unity" with the Palestinians -- a notion he had previously denounced.

The king, in his speech, was using a common Arab political trick of saying an undesired thing to the public -- reminding the Palestinians of the civil war in which they were slaughtered -- and then, in the same sentence, ostensibly defusing the threat of another slaughter by adding that he would spare the Palestinians so long as they accept the situation as is, where they are citizens, but still treated as refugees and outsiders in every way.

Although it is common for Arab regimes that are pro-Western to talk tough about the US and Israel every now and then -- to rally their people behind them by threatening these cost-free targets, and thereby divert anger away from their own repressive regimes onto other countries -- this time the context was different: The King's speech, aired on Jordanian national television, came two days after Wikileaks released several US Embassy, Amman, cables that described the testimonies of some Jordanian Palestinians officials who were complaining to Embassy officers about the discrimination against the Palestinians in Jordan. One cable, entitled, "The Grand Bargain," mentioned a Palestinian political leader's belief that the "right of return" was unfeasible - signifying the Palestinians' willingness to accept a permanent home in Jordan --rather than in hoping to return to Israel, as the refugees and five generations of descendants are continually being promised -- in exchange for finally attaining civil rights in Jordan.

The government-controlled Jordanian media expressed anger at the US Embassy -- to the point of issuing calls for a protest against both the American and Israeli embassies in Amman, which they called "the espionage beehive."

The King's talk sounded provocative and terrorizing to the Jordanian Palestinians, who are already discriminated against and disenfranchised politically by the Hashemite regime. The Bedouin-dominated town of Kerak in Southern Jordan, for example, has ten parliamentary seats for fewer than 150,000 voters, while the Palestinian-dominated Amman has barely twenty parliamentary seats for three million voters.

What made matters especially threatening was the way Jordan's Bedouins seem to have understood the King's remarks. The King's statement, for instance, that he would "not feel embarrassed to address any issue including the civil war," seems to have been understood by the Bedouin military as permission to go out and target the Palestinians. Comments on Jordanian social websites, such as Facebook, appeared, with disturbing messages of incitement: Jordanian Bedouins began calling for violence against both Israel and the Palestinian majority. One of commentators said on Facebook: "We shall give the Palestinians another Black September," said one, "only this time we will make it red." Another said: "Those Palestinians are worse than Jews. I could never make out the difference. We will march to kick [the Palestinian] out [of Jordan] and we will knock down the Israeli embassy." Still another said, "You do the killing, guys, just leave the hot Palestinian chicks for me; I will rape their little girls." While this anti-Palestinian sentiment is not new in Jordan, after the King's speech it reached a new extreme.

It seemed as if the king was threatening Israel with a war, and the Palestinians in Jordan with a civil war. This perceived threat translated into protests: one against the American Embassy in Amman on September 15th, and one against the Israeli Embassy for Friday, September 16th. Both protests were called for and organized by Nahid Hattar, a Christian Bedouin writer, who has been calling for ousting the Palestinians from Jordan, and who has openly admitted his direct one-on-one connection to the former chief of the Jordanian Intelligence Department while the latter was in office.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs withdrew its ambassador and staff from the Embassy following the call for the protest. Several leaders of Palestinian refugee camps claimed they issued orders for their youngsters not to participate in protests against both embassies; eventually, the turnout rate at both events was low. Al-Jazeera TV reported tens of Muslim Brotherhood protesters opposite the American embassy on September 15th, while the Washington Post reported only around 200 protestors are expected against the Israeli embassy for September 16th. If this is a sign the Palestinians in Jordan's refugee camps have matured in their view of Israel, it is too early to tell.

The author has been receiving reports from Palestinian refugee camps' leaders, claiming that the government was arming the Bedouin Jordanian tribes, and handing out machine-guns to them -- allegedly along with anti-Palestinian incitement. These reports, whether true or not, indicate how fragile the situation is. The same fragility was also noted by Israeli officials, who reported that "Jordan is in an extremely precarious state and effectively hanging by a thread."

King Abdullah's threats of using his military to confront Israel are most likely hollow. Although he surely realizes he could not overpower Israel by force, as his grandfather and father tried to in 1947 and 1967, it is possible he believes he is in a stronger position than a few months ago, since Israel has lost significant allies in Egypt and Turkey, and therefore might feel more isolated, or regard its friendship with Jordan as more precious than ever. Or perhaps the king believes he has a Palestinian demographic card to play against Israel in his repeated emphasis on the "right of return" for his Palestinians, as he revealed in an interview on Israel's Channel 2, when he said Israel would have no clear future because of the demographic "challenge."

King Abdullah has also been placing demographic pressure on Israel, threatening to overrun it with Arabs, by stripping his Palestinians of their citizenships and ordering them to go "home to Palestine," meaning Israel, in what Human Rights Watch has described as a random and irregular manner. Human Rights Watch described stripping Palestinians in Jordan of their nationalities as "Jordan playing politics with its citizens' basic rights." The list of victims of this anti-Palestinian policy includes surgeons, academics, schoolchildren, and housewives. According to two reports by Human Rights Watch, Palestinians who have never been to Israel have found themselves with no Jordanian nationality, and often no nationality of any kind.

King Abdullah's situation should serve as a reminder that the status quo of Jordan is not necessarily sustainable. Although some might not like it, and others might wish it to remain forever, with the Arab Spring sweeping away much stronger regimes, such as that of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, it could be wishful thinking to assume that Jordan will stay the way it is.

It is not certain that King Abdullah's regime will be able to survive a revolt from the frustrated and angry Palestinian majority should one take place; or possibly even a revolt from the heavily-armed Bedouins who recently seem to have been acquiring a dislike for the Westernized king, and issuing public statements against him for over a year.

Should Abdullah be toppled tomorrow, does the United States have anyone prepared to speak with Jordan's non-Islamist Palestinians, who have been dominating the pro-reform protests, such as March 24th Movement? Or will the United States just accept anti-American Bedouins and Palestinians taking over Jordan?

It might be time to start at least considering a Plan B for Jordan -- just in case.