Tag Archives: Ricochet

And The Verdict Is… Open!

Eli Lake at The Washington Times:

President Obama on Monday lifted the ban he imposed two years ago on military trials for detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison, ending his bid to move most terrorism trials to civilian courts and pushing his already busted deadline for shuttering the island prison indefinitely forward.

The reversal came as Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates visited Afghanistan and indicated that he was willing to keep a presence of U.S. forces in the war-torn country beyond the Obama administration’s 2014 pullout goal, highlighting again the difficulty the president has had moving from the policies of President George W. Bush.

Mr. Obama announced the Guantanamo decision in an executive order that also sets forth a periodic review process for detainees who have not been charged or convicted but are still considered threats to the U.S.

White House aides stressed that Mr. Obama remains committed to closing the prison, which he has described as a key recruiting tool for terrorist groups, and pursuing some cases in civilian courts. Mr. Obama vowed during the campaign to close the prison by the end of 2009, his first year in office.

Massimo Calabresi at Swampland at Time:

All of this responds to Obama’s archives speech of May 2009, where he walked back his more progressive January 2009 position but tried to retain a bulwark of detention and prosecution principles for terrorism detainees. Since then, Congress has passed laws blocking the closure of Gitmo by preventing the transfer of detainees by the executive branch. House and Senate Republicans (McKeon and Graham) are expected to introduce bills further blocking detainee access to U.S. courts in the coming week.

On a conference call Monday, Obama senior advisors said the president remains committed to closing Gitmo by diminishing the number of detainees held there. But the moves announced today could have the opposite effect, admits a senior White House official. The Bush and Obama administrations have faced repeated habeas corpus challenges to their detention of alleged terrorists at Gitmo. Last I checked, detainees bringing habeas cases were winning by a 4-to-1 ratio. By increasing due process at Gitmo, the new measures make it more likely judges will defer to the executive branch and rule against detainees claiming they are being held unfairly at Gitmo. One administration official argued that judges would not be affected by the new procedures.

The habeas releases remain the only way that Gitmo’s numbers can decrease these days. The administration is still debating how to comply with the Congressional ban, but as long as it is in place even a detainee who uses his new due process rights to challenge his detention in military commissions and wins will stay in Gitmo forever… or until Congress changes its mind about closing it down.

Amy Davidson at The New Yorker:

Who wins in this? Do we think that “American system of justice” means whatever it is Americans do, as long as some court-like trappings are present? The order acknowledges that the “privilege of the writ of habeas corpus” is available to inmates, but also sets up a routine for holding prisoners indefinitely without charges (what the order calls “the executive branch’s continued, discretionary exercise of existing detention authority”). In statements today, Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates all mentioned how highly they thought of the federal court system. Gates said,

For years, our federal courts have proven to be a secure and effective means for bringing terrorists to justice. To completely foreclose this option is unwise and unnecessary.

So this order doesn’t “completely foreclose” on the rule of law—is a partial foreclosure supposed to count as a moral stand? Given all the nice things the Administration has to say about the federal court system, one would think that it might find it wise, and even necessary, to actually use it a bit more. Instead, the statements seem more concerned to note that the President is not giving up any options or powers—as if bringing accused murderers to court were a prerogative, rather than an obligation. No doubt, Republicans, and some Democrats, have made it hard for Obama to close Guantánamo. But it might be easier if he wanted to do it; the order today makes it sound like he considers it a somewhat useful place. It is not.

Speaking of questionable detention measures: Can someone in the Administration explain, slowly and clearly, why Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of leaking the WikiLeaks cables, is required to stand naked in front of his cell in the morning and sleep naked, ostensibly for his own protection? The military’s explanations so far—that he could somehow harm himself with underwear (though he is not on suicide watch and is being monitored by video) so he can’t sleep in any, and then there is just no time for him to put underwear on in the morning before they get him out of the cell—are just not plausible. (By coincidence, a case about Americans being strip-searched after being arrested for minor offenses may be coming before the Supreme Court.) A naked man who hasn’t been convicted of a crime—that shouldn’t be what American justice looks like.

Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy

Bryan Preston at PJ Tatler:

Only two years into his presidency, Barack Obama has learned that there are no easy answers to dealing with captured transnational terrorists. It’s easy to create sound bites decrying the evils of holding terrorists at Gitmo, and it’s easy to create sound bites about how awful it is to try them in military tribunals (even though that’s where illegal enemy combatants should rightfully be tried), but it’s very hard to change reality. So bowing to reality, Obama has authorized the re-start of military trials for captured terrorists.

John Yoo at Ricochet:

The Obama administration’s anti-war campaign rhetoric and naive first-year promises continue to collide with reality.  And happily, reality continues to prevail.  The Obama administration has finally admitted, I think, that the Bush administration’s decision to detain al Qaeda operatives and terrorists at Gitmo was sensible.  It wasn’t driven by some bizarre desire to mistreat terrorists, but instead was the best way to address security concerns without keeping them in Afghanistan or inside the United States.

It also turns out that the military commission trials too were a sensible decision.  Civilian trials threaten the revelation of valuable intelligence in a covert war where hostilities are still ongoing. Military commissions allow a fair trial to be held but one that does not blow our wartime advantages.  Meanwhile, the Obama administration’s track record has been poor — it was lucky to get the limited convictions that it has.  Obama folks owe an apology to the Bush administration for their unjust criticism of military trials.

It should also be noted that Obama did not come to this turnabout after reasoned consideration alone.  I think there are significant figures in the administration that would still love to close Gitmo tomorrow and give every terrorist the same exact trials reserved for Americans who commit garden-variety crimes.  Congress dragged the administration kicking and screaming to this destination by cutting off funds for the transfer of any detainees from Gitmo to the U.S.  This effectively used Congress’s sole power of the purse to prevent Obama from making a grievous national security mistake.  The new Congress should continue to keep the ban in its Defense spending bills to prevent Obama from another 180 degree turn.

Adam Serwer at Greg Sargent’s place:

Conservatives committed to burnishing Bush’s legacy were quick to claim vindication, arguing that the decision proved that the detention camp at Gitmo was a good idea all along. But Obama’s decision doesn’t prove this at all.

The administration also released an executive order outlining its new indefinite detention policy. Not much has changed from when I first wrote about it a few months ago — the new procedures formally adopt what Karen Greenberg referred to as “the heart of Bush policy” while making the process marginally fairer by allowing individuals detained indefinitely who have lost their habeas cases to be represented by counsel during periodic reviews every six months.

The president and the secretary of defense also reiterated the importance of trying terrorists in federal courts, but they might as well be shouting into the wind. The ban on funds for transfers of Gitmo detainees to federal court won’t be going away any time soon, but it’s worth remembering that ban actually ensures that fewer terrorists would be brought to justice than would be otherwise. Only six terrorists have ever been convicted in military commissions, compared to hundreds in federal court.

Failing to close Gitmo remains the most visible symbol of the president’s failure to reverse the trajectory of Bush-era national security policy, but the reality, as Glenn Greenwald notes this morning, is that most of the substantive decisions adopting Bush policies were made long ago. The new policies don’t amount to a “reversal” on the issue of whether Gitmo should be closed. Republicans are eager to portray Gitmo staying open as a “vindication” of the prison’s usefulness, but the fact that the indefinite detention order is limited to detainees currently at Gitmo means that the administration won’t be reopening the facility to new detainees, as Bush apologists have suggested doing.

Gitmo isn’t open because the administration doesn’t want to close it, although its efforts in this area are ripe for criticism. It’s still open because Republicans in Congress successfully frightened Democrats in Congress out of giving the administration the necessary funds to close it when they had control of Congress. In the process, they’ve managed to obscure the original reason detainees were brought to Gitmo — to keep them away from the scrutiny of the federal courts. Once the Supreme Court held that federal courts had jurisdiction and even habeas rights, the facility was useless for that purpose. Republicans are determined to keep it open not because we can’t safely imprison terrorists in the U.S., but because they feel its ongoing presence vindicates Bush in the eyes of history.

Glenn Greenwald

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under GWOT, Political Figures

I Have A Dream, You Have A Dream, Glenn Beck Has A Dream

Amy Gardner at WaPo:

When Fox News and talk radio host Glenn Beck comes to Washington this weekend to headline a rally intended to “restore honor” to America, he will test the strength – and potentially expose the weaknesses – of a conservative grass-roots movement that remains an unpredictable force in the country’s politics.

Beck, who is both admired and assailed for his faith-based patriotism and his brash criticism of President Obama, plans in part to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. as an American hero. He will speak on the anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech, from the spot where King delivered it.

Some “tea party” activists say the event, at which former Alaska governor Sarah Palin is also scheduled to speak, will have a greater impact than last September’s “9/12” march along Pennsylvania Avenue. Though the attendance figures for that anti-tax rally are disputed, it was the first national gathering to demonstrate the size and influence of the tea party movement.

But with just a few days before the Beck rally, basic questions linger, including how big it will be and whether the event, which Beck says is nonpolitical, will help or hurt Republicans in November. Also unanswered is whether Beck can pull off the connection to King without creating offense – or confrontation with another event the same day led by the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Max Fisher at The Atlantic with a round-up

Kate Pickert at Swampland at Time:

Glenn Beck’s 8/28 Restoring Honor Rally has already drawn all sorts of criticism. It’s scheduled to take place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech – which he delivered on the steps of the memorial in 1963. Given that Beck has said President Obama has “a deep-seated hatred for white people,” some black civil rights feel the rally’s location and scheduling are offensive.

What’s gotten less attention, however, is the group that will financially benefit from the event, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF). All proceeds raised through Glenn Beck’s promotion of the event go to SOWF – once costs for the rally itself are covered.

The charity, founded in 1980, provides college scholarships for children of special operations personnel killed in action or in training. SOWF is very well-run, with low administrative costs and a four-star rating from the watchdog group Charity Navigator. Some 160 of its scholarship recipients have graduated from college in the past 30 years and there are more than 100 students in college now.

Joan Walsh at Salon:

Beck claims he didn’t know Aug. 28 was the anniversary of King’s most famous speech when he chose the day, and I’m not sure what’s worse — that he’s lying, or that he’s telling the truth. My gut says he’s full of crap: You don’t schedule an event at the Lincoln Memorial, on the same day of one of the most famous events ever held there, and not know of the coincidence. Besides, Beck has been comparing himself to King, and his acolytes to civil rights strugglers, at least since the Obama administration began. He’s too big a megalomaniac not to know the symbolism of his choice.

But let’s say he’s telling the truth: Can someone who purports to be knowledgeable about our political and social history really not know about the 1963 March on Washington? Was Beck even paying attention when Obama accepted the Democratic nomination in Denver just two years ago, and every news organization in the world noted it happened to be on the 45th anniversary of the King speech — that’s right, Aug. 28. It’s hard to believe.

When the “coincidence” was called to his attention, Beck exhibited his trademark megalomania and paranoia. It was “divine providence,” he said — and besides, he snarled, “black people don’t own Martin Luther King!” It seems a little tone-deaf to talk about “owning” someone when King was fighting to undo the legacy of slavery, when African-Americans were literally owned by white people. A final fun fact: Beck insists he only chose the date because that was the only open Saturday before 9/12, and of course he couldn’t ask people to rally on a Sunday, “the Sabbath.” Of course, Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, but I guess Jews weren’t high on the outreach list for Beck’s big event. But that’s our Beck, who has shown he subscribes to one of the ugliest anti-Semitic canards, that Jews bear the blame for killing Jesus.

Jillian Bandes at Townhall:

We can’t ignore the controversy: Beck is holding the rally at a time and place that is sure to draw scorn from a multitude of people. He’s doing it in the middle of election season, adding additional political weight to his avowed apolitical rally. Beck is a huge talker, and talks a lot about things that no one else does.

But that’s just one side of the coin. There are a multitude of people who believe that Beck is perfectly justified in holding the rally at that time and place, and even consider it an well-executed move. He’s got solid Christian credentials, so even if the rally does leak into politics, he’s built a firm foundation on which to honor our troops and focus on values. And Beck’s talking isn’t just background noise: his audience of over 3 million cable viewers are dedicated to his cause, and eager to spread the word.

Most importantly, lets not loose sight of the forest in the trees. Beck is motivating hundreds of thousands of Americans to get off their couch and get inspired. He’s providing a venue to praise our military and focus on what’s important, and no matter what your view of his political maneuverings, he’s doing a very effective job.

David Swerdlick at The Root

Greg Sargent:

Dems are gleefully noting to reporters that Beck intends to rally the faithful from the Lincoln Memorial — the very spot where King gave his speech 47 years ago. And with turnout estimates running as high as 300,000, Dems say they hope they can wrest some political advantage from what they hope will amount to a massive show of Tea Party force that’s rife with ugly Obama-bashing.

Though there are good reasons to wonder how effective it is, Dems have doubled down on a strategy of relentlessly elevating Tea Party whack-jobbery to turn moderates independents against the GOP. Several Dems cheerfully noted to me this morning that a raucus Tea Party rally staged on the anniversary of one of the turning points in the Civil Rights movement can only help in this regard.

To buttress the case that the rally is bad for the GOP, Dems are circulating a report in this morning’s Post claiming that officials with the Republican party committees are distancing themselves from the rally:

“In general, people coming to Washington, being organized and active is a good thing,” said Doug Heye, a spokesman for Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele.

“But I gotta be honest with you — I don’t know about any Glenn Beck event.”

Given the awful job numbers and the nation’s other myriad problems, it’s hard to imagine that using the Beck rally to tar the GOP will do much to alter the Dems’ electoral fortunes. But the sight of Beck trying to coopt the legacy of King while crazed Tea Partyers bash the first African American president in the ugliest of terms may well go down as an iconic moment in the history of this movement.

David Weigel:

Yeah, because bashing the tea party has done them so much good so far. I remember the Democrats begging, begging for Sarah Palin to endorse Scott Brown in the January 2010 U.S. Senate special in Massachusetts, in the apparent hope that she’d pass her crazy cooties on to him. How’d that turn out for Senator Coakley?

Beck isn’t stupid, and he’s trying to cut down on the easy shots from liberals with a rule: No signs.

Digby:

If the Triumph of the Wingnut rally does attract 300,000 people, keep in mind it’s because they believe this:

Media Matters describes it this way:

In a new promo posted on a “Producers’ Blog” at his website, Beck humbly places the rally in the context of the moon landing, the Montgomery bus boycott, Iwo Jima, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and other landmark historical events. It also not-so-subtly suggests that Beck is following in the tradition of Martin Luther King (which is a farce), Abraham Lincoln, most of the Founding Fathers, Martha Washington, the Wright Brothers, and other notable historical figures.

To give you some sense of the egomania on display here, it starts with the line, “Every great achievement in human history has started with one person. One crazy idea.”

And it’s “brought to you by Goldline.”

Greg Sargent says that Democrats are gleeful about the “I Have A Nightmare” gathering because they think these people will expose themselves to America as the kooks they really are and the people will reject them. But what if they don’t? There’s ample historical precedent for kooks to break through into the mainstream and it can lead to some very unpleasant outcomes. Yes, Beck is nuts. But he’s also the most important figure in the Tea Party movement, which in case anyone hasn’t noticed is in the process of taking over one of the two major parties in the most powerful nation in the world. You can deride these people, as I do every day. But it’s a mistake to not take them seriously or underestimate their appeal in times like these.

No one should ever count on the people naturally seeing through demagogues. Their power lies in their ability to be convincing even when it doesn’t make rational sense and the truly talented ones can change the world. It remains to be see if Beck and his fellow travelers have that kind of juice. But I wouldn’t be so sanguine that they don’t.

Anthony G. Martin at The Examiner:

In a demonstration of the overwhelming support of mainstream America for conservative principles, Glenn Beck’s ‘Restoring Honor’ rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. is drawing ‘hundreds of thousands,’ according to McClatchy Newspapers.

Early reports indicate that so large is the crowd that attendees were having difficulty hearing the speakers. A quick scan of mainstream news outlets that have done actual estimates this morning indicates that attendance at this point is between 300,000 and 500,000 people.

And attendees are still arriving at the rally, which began some 90 minutes ago.

Newsbusters is live-streaming the event.

Michelle Malkin reports that as early as 7:30 AM there were already 100,000 peope gathered at the site.

Reporters on the ground, however, state that the claim of 500,000 attendees is grossly underestimated. A more accurate assessment of the crowd may well turn out to be between 500,000 and 1 million.

Speakers at the event represent a broad cross-section of America–civil rights leaders who were present at the Martin Luther King, Jr. rally in 1963, baseball manager Tony LaRusa, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, a host of black preachers, and Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., among others.

Update–Glenn Beck is speaking.  Passionate, eloquent, fervent defense of the Founders’ vision of America–faith, liberty, truth.

Update 2–Beck concludes by saying our hope as a nation is in God–a concept that is entirely consistent with the numerous writings of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin.  They may not have agreed on points of doctrine, but  in one accord they looked to God as the author and sustainer of LIBERTY!

Update 3–Country singer JoDean Messina sings ‘America the Beautiful.’

Update 4–More music from Messina and others.

Update 5–This aerial photo indicates the crowd may well number upwards of 1 million!

Updates on the rally will be reported as they become available.

Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit:

The state-run media is predictably annoyed with this patriotic rally.

The rally is streaming live at the Restoring Honor homepage and is also playing on C-SPAN.

A crowd shot from C-SPAN


Freedom’s Lighthouse
has lovely Sarah Palin’s speech at the rally.
What an awesome speech!

Meanwhile, Al Sharpton’s counter freedom rally managed to attract only 3,000 supporters.

Doug Mataconis:

After listening to the Beck rally this morning, though, I think the charges of racism were clearly over the top. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a political rally, though. Regardless of whatever Beck might say, the political undertones were rather obvious, and the degree to which it mixed religion and politics should quite honestly be disturbing to anyone who believes in the value of secularism in politics.

I’m not sure what the impact of this rally will be. I’m sure Beck has something more planned, he always seems to, stay tuned.

UPDATE: Ross Douthat in NYT

David Weigel

Douthat on his blog

Michael Kinsley at The Atlantic

Adam Serwer at Greg Sargent’s place

UPDATE #2: Russell D. Moore

Joe Carter at First Things

Daniel Larison

Reihan Salam at Daily Beast

Adam Serwer at The American Prospect

E.D. Kain

UPDATE #3: Nick Gillespie at Reason

James Poulos at Ricochet

John Tabin at The American Spectator

More Larison

1 Comment

Filed under Mainstream, Political Figures, Politics, Race

Liberaltarians Are So 2006

Will Wilkinson:

Of Matt Yglesias’s sensible approach to regulation, Conor Friederdorf writes:

Being someone who understands progressives, Mr. Yglesias makes the case for deregulation in terms likely to appeal to his colleagues on the left. What would be nice is if more people on the right could be similarly persuasive. Of course, capitalizing on common ground or winning converts on individual issues requires an accurate understanding of what motivates people with different ideologies, so it isn’t surprising that a Yglesias fan invoked Cato in that Tweet. It’s a place where several staffers are daily deepening our understanding of where liberals and libertarians can work together.

I’m glad Conor recognizes the value of the work some of us at Cato have been doing to make productive liberal-libertarian dialogue and collaboration possible. Alas, all good things must come to an end.

Via the Kauffman Foundation

Brink Lindsey Joins Kauffman Foundation as Senior Scholar

Economic researcher and author to contribute to Kauffman’s growing body of work on firm formation and economic growth

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Aug. 23, 2010 – The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation today announced that Brink Lindsey has joined the Foundation as a senior scholar in research and policy. Lindsey will use his expertise in international trade, immigration, globalization and economic development to identify the structural reforms needed to revive entrepreneurial innovation, firm formation and job creation in the wake of the Great Recession.

As for me, my official last day at Cato is September 15. Expect more blogging and sketches.

David Weigel:

The libertarian Cato Institute is parting with two of its most prominent scholars. Brink Lindsey, the institute’s vice president of research and the author of the successful book The Age of Abundance, is departing to take a position at the Kauffman Foundation. Will Wilkinson, a Cato scholar, collaborator with Lindsey, and editor of the online Cato Unbound, is leaving on September 15; he just began blogging politics for the Economist.

I asked for comment on this and was told that the institute does not typically comment on personnel matters. But you have to struggle not to see a political context to this. Lindsey and Wilkinson are among the Cato scholars who most often find common cause with liberals. In 2006, after the GOP lost Congress, Lindsey coined the term “Liberaltarians” to suggest that Libertarians and liberals could work together outside of the conservative movement. Shortly after this, he launched a dinner series where liberals and Libertarians met to discuss big ideas. (Disclosure: I attended some of these dinners.) In 2009 and 2010, as the libertarian movement moved back into the right’s fold, Lindsey remained iconoclastic—just last month he penned a rare, biting criticism of The Battle, a book by AEI President Arthur Brooks which argues that economic theory is at the center of a new American culture war.

Did any of this play a role in the departure of Lindsey and Wilkinson? I’ve asked Lindsey and Wilkinson, and Wilkinson has declined to talk about it, which makes perfect sense. But I’m noticing Libertarians on Twitter starting to deride this move and intimate that Cato is enforcing a sort of orthodoxy. (The title of Wilkinson’s kiss-off post, “The Liberaltarian Diaspora,” certainly hints at something.)

Ilya Somin:

There are two big problems with Weigel’s insinuation. First, Cato has not changed or even deemphasized any of its positions on those issues where they have long differed with conservatives including the war on drugs, immigration, foreign policy, and others. If they were trying to move “back into the right’s fold,” one would think they would pulled back on these positions at least to some noticeable extent. Yet a quick glance at Cato’s website reveals recent attacks on standard conservative policies on Afghanistan, and the “Ground Zero mosque,” among other issues.

Second, it is strange to claim that Cato got rid of Lindsey for promoting a political alliance with the left at the very time when Lindsey himself recently disavowed that very idea, stating that “it’s clear enough that for now and the foreseeable future, the left is no more viable a home for libertarians than is the right.” If Cato objected to Lindsey’s advocacy of an alliance with the left, one would think they would have purged him back when he was actually advocating it, not after he has repudiated it. Wilkinson does still favor liberaltarianism, but apparently only as a philosophical dialogue. He holds out little if any prospect of an actual political coalition between the two groups.

Both Lindsey and Wilkinson have done much important and valuable work, and Cato is the poorer for losing them. At this point, however, there is no evidence that their departure was caused by a “purge” of liberaltarians intended to bring Cato “back into the right’s fold.”

CONFLICT OF INTEREST WATCH: I am a Cato adjunct scholar (an unpaid position). However, I am not an employee of Cato’s, and have no role in any Cato personnel decisions. In this particular case, I didn’t even know it was going to happen until it became public.

Daniel Foster at The Corner:

I won’t speculate on what’s going on at Cato. But, as much as I respect Brink Lindsey, both he and Wilkinson often expressed contempt for conservatism andconservative libertarians — Cato’s base, as it were — that probably didn’t help their causes. In Lindsey’s case, it was tempered by a kind of anthropological aloofness; in Wilkinson’s, less so.

American libertarianism is queer in that it can admit both rationalists and conservatives in the Oakeshottian senses. Reading Wilkinson it becomes clear that he is a classic rationalist. He derives his libertarianism a priori — a set of propositions on a chalkboard. Contrast with, for example, the average tea partier, who gets his as a uniquely American historical inheritance — a full-blooded tradition. Like most rationalists, Wilkinson thinks this is not just silly and sentimental but pernicious (one of his biggest bugaboos is patriotism).

And so, holding the same set of basic principles, but with different reasons, sends these two kinds of libertarians in two very different directions: the rationalists off toward liberaltarianism; the conservatives the classic Buckley-National Review fusionism.

Matt Welch at Reason

Alex Pareene at Gawker:

Various libertarians (and, to a much lesser extent, liberals) have wondered, as Lindsey did in that 2006 piece, why libertarians so often align themselves with conservatives instead of liberals. Considering the number of anti-libertarian policies the conservative movement fights for, it seems slightly odd that libertarians would act as an arm of that movement. But I think the answer is sort of obvious: While some outlets, like those leather jacket-wearing rebels at Reason, just tend to go after whoever’s currently in power, most of the big libertarian institutions are funded by vain rich people. And these vain rich people care a lot more about tax policy (specifically a policy of not having to pay taxes) than they do about legalizing drugs or defunding the military-industrial complex. And if they’re keeping the lights on at Cato and AEI, they want Cato and AEI to produce research that relates more to hating the IRS and the EPA than to hating the NYPD or the FBI.

And Cato was born as a Koch family pet project. As in the Koch family that is bent on the political destruction of Barack Obama.

Anyway, Lindsey and Wilkinson aren’t saying anything about their departures, but, as Dave Weigel writes, it looks for all the world like “Cato is enforcing a sort of orthodoxy.”

A libertarian influence on the Democratic party in the realms of law enforcement, drug policy, and civil liberties would definitely be a good thing. But the big libertarian institutions are not really amenable to working with liberals.

Steve Benen:

But what’s especially interesting to me is how often we’ve seen moves like these in recent years. David Frum was forced out at the American Enterprise Institute after failing to toe the Republican Party line. Bruce Bartlett was shown the door at the National Center for Policy Analysis for having the audacity to criticize George W. Bush’s incoherent economic policies.

In perhaps the most notable example, John Hulsman was a senior foreign policy analyst at the right’s largest think tank, the Heritage Foundation. Hulsman was a conservative in good standing — appearing regularly on Fox News and on the Washington Times‘ op-ed page, blasting Democrats — right up until he expressed his disapproval of the neoconservatives’ approach to foreign policy. At that point, Heritage threw him overboard. Cato’s Chris Preble said at the time, “At Heritage, anything that smacks of criticism of Bush will not be tolerated.”

A few years later, Cato seems to be moving in a very similar direction.

Intellectually, modern conservatism is facing a painfully sad state of affairs.

John Quiggin:

These departures presumably spell the end of any possibility that Cato will leave the Republican tent (or even maintain its tenuous claims to being non-partisan). And Cato was by far the best of the self-described libertarian organizations – the others range from shmibertarian fronts for big business to neo-Confederate loonies.

On the other hand, breaks of this kind often lead to interesting intellectual evolution. There is, I think, room for a version of liberalism/social democracy that is appreciative of the virtues of markets (and market-based policy instruments like emissions trading schemes) as social contrivances, and sceptical of top-down planning and regulation, without accepting normative claims about the income distribution generated by markets. Former libertarians like Jim Henley have had some interesting things to say along these lines, and it would be good to have some similar perspectives

Chris Bodenner at Sully’s place:

With Lindsey and Wilkinson out, perhaps there’s a chance for Nick Newcomen, the Rand fan who drove 12,000 miles with GPS tracking “pen” to scrawl the message above?  If nothing else, his ideological chops are unassailable.

UPDATE: Heather Hurlburt and Daniel Drezner at Bloggingheads

Arnold Kling

Tim Carney at The Washington Examiner

Tim Lee here and here

James Poulos at Ricochet on Lee

UPDATE #3: David Frum at FrumForum

1 Comment

Filed under Conservative Movement

Aw, Aren’t You A Cute Little Objectivist? Aren’t You? Aren’t You?

Eric Hague at McSweeney’s:

I’d like to start by saying that I don’t get into belligerent shouting matches at the playground very often. The Tot Lot, by its very nature, can be an extremely volatile place—a veritable powder keg of different and sometimes contradictory parenting styles—and this fact alone is usually enough to keep everyone, parents and tots alike, acting as courteous and deferential as possible. The argument we had earlier today didn’t need to happen, and I want you to know, above all else, that I’m deeply sorry that things got so wildly, publicly out of hand.

Now let me explain why your son was wrong.

When little Aiden toddled up our daughter Johanna and asked to play with her Elmo ball, he was, admittedly, very sweet and polite. I think his exact words were, “Have a ball, peas [sic]?” And I’m sure you were very proud of him for using his manners.

To be sure, I was equally proud when Johanna yelled, “No! Looter!” right in his looter face, and then only marginally less proud when she sort of shoved him.

The thing is, in this family we take the philosophies of Ayn Rand seriously. We conspicuously reward ourselves for our own hard work, we never give to charity, and we only pay our taxes very, very begrudgingly.

Since the day Johanna was born, we’ve worked to indoctrinate her into the truth of Objectivism. Every night we read to her from the illustrated, unabridged edition of Atlas Shrugged—glossing over all the hardcore sex parts, mind you, but dwelling pretty thoroughly on the stuff about being proud of what you’ve earned and not letting James Taggart-types bring you down. For a long time we were convinced that our efforts to free her mind were for naught, but recently, as we’ve started socializing her a little bit, we’ve been delighted to find that she is completely antipathetic to the concept of sharing. As parents, we couldn’t have asked for a better daughter.

That’s why, when Johanna then began berating your son, accusing him of trying to coerce from her a moral sanction of his theft of the fruit of her labor, in as many words, I kind of egged her on. Even when Aiden started crying.

John Hudson at The Atlantic:

In a clever critique of libertarian novelist Ayn Rand, Eric Hague at McSweeney’s imagines what it would be like to raise one’s child based solely on Rand’s Objectivist principles. The work of satire begins with a proud parent explaining why her child, Johanna, won’t share on the playground

John Aravosis at AMERICABlog:

If you haven’t read Atlas Shrugged, you likely won’t get it.

Alex Knapp:

Good parenting, Objectivist style.

Ezra Klein

Todd Henderson:

I’ve read and enjoyed all of Ayn Rand’s fiction, especially “We the Living,” but I’ve always wondered how I can convey her ideas to my children before they are able to read the books for themselves. What is a Randian to do when the hippies at the local playground sermonize about sharing and winning not mattering? Finally, here is a helpful guide for how to raise your child as an Objectivist. A taste: “You should never feel guilty about your abilities. Including your ability to repeatedly peg a fellow toddler with your Elmo ball as he sobs for mercy.”

Mollie Hemingway at Ricochet:

I’m no Objectivist but even my mere libertarianism took a hit when I became a parent. So oh how I loved this McSweeney’s post “Our Daughter Isn’t a Selfish Brat; Your Son Just Hasn’t Read Atlas Shrugged.”

It tells the story of a playground scuffle. A sample:

When little Aiden toddled up our daughter Johanna and asked to play with her Elmo ball, he was, admittedly, very sweet and polite. I think his exact words were, “Have a ball, peas [sic]?” And I’m sure you were very proud of him for using his manners.

To be sure, I was equally proud when Johanna yelled, “No! Looter!” right in his looter face, and then only marginally less proud when she sort of shoved him.

The thing is, in this family we take the philosophies of Ayn Rand seriously.

In all seriousness, nothing so much as raising children has made me more aware of the importance of virtue — not just in my own family but in my community as well. Now excuse me while I figure out what incentives to use for potty training.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bloggy Funnies, Books

“I’m Crazy For Trying And Crazy For Crying…”

David Klinghoffer at Los Angeles Times:

Once, the iconic figures on the political right were urbane visionaries and builders of institutions — like William F. Buckley Jr., Irving Kristol and Father Richard John Neuhaus, all dead now. Today, far more representative is potty-mouthed Internet entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart, whose news and opinion website, Breitbart.com, is read by millions. In his most recent triumph, Breitbart got a U.S. Department of Agriculture official pushed out of her job after he released a deceptively edited video clip of her supposedly endorsing racism against white people.

What has become of conservatism? We have reached a point at which nothing could be more important than to stop and recall what brought us here, to the right, in the first place.

Buckley’s National Review, where I was the literary editor through the 1990s, remains as vital and interesting as ever. But more characteristic of conservative leadership are figures on TV, radio and the Internet who make their money by stirring fears and resentments. With its descent to baiting blacks, Mexicans and Muslims, its accommodation of conspiracy theories and an increasing nastiness and vulgarity, the conservative movement has undergone a shift toward demagoguery and hucksterism. Once the talk was of “neocons” versus “paleocons.” Now we observe the rule of the crazy-cons.

Donald Douglas:

I can’t speak for Andrew Breitbart, and I actually reject a good bit of the “craziness” on the right, but as you finish Klinghoffer ask if American politics, realistically, will be returning to a more wistful, respectful era? (And also ask if being “crazy” is code for being “racist”?) Besides, National Review‘s not my top source for right wing news. I prefer Commentary and Weekly Standard, to say nothing of Ace of Spades HQ, Instapundit, and The Other McCain. And I read these sources, among others, because they provide me with the intellectual sustenance to “save civilization,” which is what Klinghoffer suggests is “what he signed up for” when he became a conservative.

And here’s the thing: A lot of us became conservative because we saw society’s moral foundations in tatters, and it was the Democratic-left holding the shears. You can always hold up your hands and scream “clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right,” but you still have to choose. We have no viable third party movement, and the GOP at present is the best place to form a conservative-libertarian coalition for political victory. And as a party out of power, the most strident voices at the base are going to get a lot of play, especially when new media is driving most of the key political memes. I choose conservatism. It’s a no-brainer. But notwithstanding the citations above, I’m not wedded to any particular talking point. I think for myself, thank you. For example, is it crazy to call President Obama a socialist? I think he is (but on an intellectual level, e.g., see Jonah Goldberg, “What Kind of Socialist Is Barack Obama?“). But that kind of talk gets one attacked as an extremist by the left-wing media machine. How about if you don’t submit? Breitbart’s attacked mercilessly as a “liar” and a “unprincipled” scoundrel because he gets results. Yet, almost daily I find some MSM outlets reporting not just factual errors, but outright lies, and then people like me are crazy for calling out this sh*t? I don’t think so. People are mad. And when people get mad they starting gravitating to more polarizing messages, and some of it can get heated. For me though, Klinghoffer and others like him (which no offense to him, would include idiots like Charles Johnson) simply prop up the left’s Media Industrial Complex, and in that sense they’re enabling the very anti-conservative forces Andrew Breitbart is finally beginning to take down.

Rick Moran:

Maybe it’s the heat. Perhaps it’s an al-Qaeda plot that has dumped LSD in public cisterns throughout the country. Or, it could be simple, old fashioned, bat guano crazy wishful thinking.

Whatever it is, the very silly season has arrived on the right and with it, diminishing chances that the American people will drink the same flavor of Kool Ade and join conservatives in giving the Democrats a well-deserved paddling at the polls.

A kind of irrational combination of fear and exuberance has infected the right in recent weeks as the number of vulnerable Democrats grows and the realization that at the very least, the House may fall into their laps takes hold. And if the hysteria was limited to the fringes, one might dismiss it as not worthy of discussion.

Instead, illogical ranting has gone mainstream with a call by former Rep. Tom Tancredo in the Washington Times for the president to be impeached, and now the belief that there may be another American Revolution on the way emanating from the pages of the staid, and usually rational Investors Business Daily.

The probable response of those two media organs would be that these are valid points of view and they are performing a public service by airing them. At least, that’s what the New York Times says when they publish off the wall looniness from liberals.

In truth, they are not valid. They are not rational. They are not sane. Tancredo especially, forces one to ask the question; what country is he talking about?

For the first time in American history, we have a man in the White House who consciously and brazenly disregards his oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution. That’s why I say the greatest threat to our Constitution, our safety and our liberties, is internal. Our president is an enemy of our Constitution, and, as such, he is a danger to our safety, our security and our personal freedoms.

Now, if you’re familiar with the conservative internet, this is not an uncommon idea. All that’s missing is the charge that President Obama is a Marxist.

Oh, wait…

Mr. Obama’s paramount goal, as he so memorably put it during his campaign in 2008, is to “fundamentally transform America.” He has not proposed improving America – he is intent on changing its most essential character. The words he has chosen to describe his goals are neither the words nor the motivation of just any liberal Democratic politician. This is the utopian, or rather dystopian, reverie of a dedicated Marxist – a dedicated Marxist who lives in the White House.

That’s right. Tom Tancredo believes the president of the United States is a Commie. He’s not even a pinko. He is a dead red, dyed in the wool, “dedicated Marxist.” Left unsaid, but easily inferred from Tacredo’s unbalanced rant, is that President Obama is deliberately out to destroy the country. This is a Rush Limbaugh talking point and many of his 17 million daily listeners fall for it. One would think a former congressman should know better, but evidently, such rationality requires adherence to a worldview that doesn’t see the political opposition as the reincarnation of the Devil.

Is President Obama intent on “changing [America’s] most essential character?” Unfortunately, yes he is trying. He is doing it not because he wants to destroy America but because he thinks he is improving her. This misguided, imprudent, and ultimately doomed attempt to alter the relationship between the people and the government can be opposed rationally (as defending it can be argued without resorting to hyperbole or name calling). Tancredo chooses to believe (or lets on that he believes) that in order to oppose the president, one must resort to hysterical exaggerations and deliberate misinterpretation of Obama’s motives. But doing it the logical way will not garner him headlines or make him a hero on the right.

Such is the level to which conservatism has sunk in some quarters.

Doug Mataconis:

Indeed, and as I’ve said to many of my friends on the right upset by the latest news from Washington, it was the failures of George W. Bush and the Republicans that made Barack Obama’s election not only possible, but likely. Obama’s mistake, it would appear, is assuming that his election constituted an endorsement of his agenda rather than a rejection of the other guy.

Moran is concerned that rhetoric like this will hurt the GOP at the polls in November. While I don’t know that ranting by a guy like Tom Tancredo or an op-ed at Investors Business Daily are going to have that much of an influence on the electorate. However, as the examples of Sharron Angle and Rand Paul show us, one of the most viable Democratic strategies over the next 90 days may be the argument that “Yea we’re bad, but look at them. They’re crazy.

Will it work ? Maybe not in 2010, but if the right continues down this road then it will be handing Barack Obama back the White House on a silver platter.

Steve Bainbridge:

These days it’s getting increasingly embarrassing to publicly identify oneself as a conservative. It was bad enough when George Bush 43, the K Street Gang, and the neo-cons were running up spending, fighting an unnecessary war of choice in Iraq, incurring massive deficits, expanding entitlements, and all the rest of the nonsense I cataloged over the years in posts like Bush 43 has been a disaster for conservatives.

These days, however, the most prominent so-called conservatives are increasingly fit only to be cast for the next Dumb and Dumber sequel. They’re dumb and crazy.

[…]

Let’s tick off ten things that make this conservative embarrassed by the modern conservative movement:

  1. A poorly educated ex-sportwriter who served half of one term of an minor state governorship is prominently featured as a — if not the — leading prospect for the GOP’s 2012 Presidential nomination.
  2. Tom Tancredo calling President Obama “the greatest threat to the United States today” and arguing that he be impeached. Bad public policy is not a high crime nor a misdemeanor, and the casual assertion that pursuing liberal policies–however misguided–is an impeachable offense is just nuts.
  3. Similar nonsense from former Ford-Reagan treasury department officials Ernest Christian and Gary Robbins, who IBD column was, as Doug Marconis observed, “a wildly exaggerated attack on President Obama’s record in office.” Actually, it’s more foaming at the mouth.
  4. As Doug also observed, “The GOP controlled Congress from 1994 to 2006: Combine neocon warfare spending with entitlements, farm subsidies, education, water projects and you end up with a GOP welfare/warfare state driving the federal spending machine.” Indeed, “when the GOP took control of Congress in 1994, and the White House in 2000, the desire to use the levers of power to create “compassionate conservatism” won our over any semblance of fiscal conservatism. Instead of tax cuts and spending cuts, we got tax cuts along with a trillion dollar entitlement program, a massive expansion of the Federal Government’s role in education, and two wars. That’s not fiscal conservatism it is, as others have said, fiscal insanity.” Yet, today’s GOP still has not articulated a message of real fiscal conservatism.
  5. Thanks to the Tea Party, the Nevada GOP has probably pissed away a historic chance to out=st Harry Reid. See also Charlie Crist in Florida, Rand Paul in Kentucky, and so on. Whatever happened to not letting perfection be the enemy of the good?
  6. The anti-science and anti-intellectualism that pervade the movement.
  7. Trying to pretend Afghanistan is Obama’s war.
  8. Birthers.
  9. Nativists.
  10. The substitution of mouth-foaming, spittle-blasting, rabble-rousing talk radio for reasoned debate. Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Hugh Hewitt, and even Rush Limbaugh are not exactly putting on Firing Line. Whatever happened to smart, well-read, articulate leaders like Buckley, Neuhaus, Kirk, Jack Kent, Goldwater, and, yes, even Ronald Reagan?

Jonathan Adler:

Professor Bainbridge lists “ten things that make this conservative embarrassed by the modern conservative movement.”  I’m not as enamored with David Klinghoffer’s lament (see also here), nor would I equate Hugh Hewitt with Michael Savage, but I largely agree.

Mike Rappaport:

Bainbridge seems to be missing something here.  Yes, the Republicans of 2000-2006 were excessively big government.  Now, why does the Tea Party want to see Marco Rubio instead of Charlie Crist, and the others?  Because the Tea Partiers believe, quite rightly, that Charlie Crist supported Obama’s stimulus and would behave much like the Republicans of 2000-2006.  I would take my chances with Rubio and the possibility of real constraint.Bainbridge can’t really have it both ways.  You can’t criticize the Tea Partiers for wanting better conservatives and also criticize the old Republicans who were elected based on the idea of “not letting perfection be the enemy of the good.”

You can count Professor Bainbridge among the folks who love David Klinghoffer’s L.A. Times piece (criticized here earlier today). Via Jonathan Adler at Volokh, Bainbridge offers a remarkably unconvincing set of ten reasons that he claims are reasons that “It’s getting to be embarrassing to be a conservative.” Upon closer inspection, however, the “reasons” turn out mostly to be reasons that conservatives should not support the Republican party — a quite different proposition entirely. Added in there, for good measure, is a heaping helping of overly broad generalizations about Tea Partiers.

Bainbridge’s complaints include: a lament that Palin is being considered a leading contender for the 2012 GOP nomination; complaints that the GOP is running candidates that are too extreme to take seats that should be ripe for the picking; complaints that certain Republicans have (in Bainbridge’s view) criticized Obama unfairly and too harshly; and criticism of birthers, “nativists,” and the “anti-science and anti-intellectualism that pervade the movement.”

Heavens! T. Coddington Van Voorhees VII would most certainly agree!

Bainbridge also moans about “mouth-foaming, spittle-blasting, rabble-rousing talk radio” including . . . Hugh Hewitt (?!). (Really? When is the last time Bainbridge was on Hewitt’s show?)

In addition to the above nonsense, which has nothing to do with conservatism and everything to do with the shortcomings of the GOP, Bainbridge also has a perfectly legitimate complaint regarding the GOP’s lack of fiscal restraint during the Bush years. But, again, why should that GOP failure to act in line with true conservative principles make anyone ashamed to be a conservative??

Jonah Goldberg at Los Angeles Times:

Conservatives, being conservatives, have a soft spot for the good old days, but this is getting ridiculous. It seems every day another colleague on the right wants to click his ruby red slippers — or Topsiders — and proclaim, “There’s no place like home” — “home” being the days when conservatism was top-heavy with generals but short on troops.

The latest example comes from my old National Review colleague David Klinghoffer in this paper. “Once, the iconic figures on the political right were urbane visionaries and builders of institutions — like William F. Buckley Jr., Irving Kristol and Father Richard John Neuhaus, all dead now,” Klinghoffer lamented. “Today, far more representative is potty-mouthed Internet entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart.”

As someone who knew Buckley and Kristol (and was a brief acquaintance of Neuhaus), I think David’s got it wrong. For starters, no one confuses Breitbart for Buckley — first and foremost, Breitbart himself — and the only people making that comparison are those wishing to indict contemporary conservatism for one reason or another.

Let’s start with the left, which certainly has different motives than Klinghoffer’s. The urge to lament how far today’s conservatives have fallen from the “golden age” of Buckley & Co. is a now-familiar gambit. You see, this is what critics on the left always say: “If only today’s conservatives were as decent or intellectual or patriotic as those of yesteryear.”

The best conservatives are always dead; the worst are always alive and influential. When Buckley and Kristol, not to mention Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, were alive, they were hated and vilified by the same sorts of people who now claim to miss the old gang. The gold standard of the dead is always a cudgel, used to beat back the living.

As for the right, there are many competing agendas among those lamenting the populist enthusiasms of the right today. Some seem to want to displace and replace today’s leaders; others are simply beautiful losers in forgotten struggles eager to tear down the winners.

But what undergirds a lot of this is simply nostalgia. A conservative populism is sweeping the land, and although I think it is for the most part justified and beneficial, you cannot expect millions of people to get very angry — deservedly angry — and expect everyone to behave as if it’s an Oxford seminar.

James Poulos at Ricochet:

Jonah’s reminder that the right’s intellectual lions actually deigned to have a practical political project is more than helpful: it’s needful. Yet there’s a danger that he and Klinghoffer — and, more broadly, the loose camps they each represent — will wind up talking past each other. To be sure, yesterday’s deep thought and institution-building created the preconditions for today’s popular political activity. And we all know that popular political activity, even (or especially) in America, makes plenty of room for demagogues, hucksters, opportunists, and careerists. The question is whether a fresh crop of erudite heroes, very unlike the technocratic eggheads who set the agenda for the left, would be of any help in pressing what Jonah calls “the battle” that’s been joined.

Few on the right would respond in the negative. But for a number of those like Klinghoffer who answer yes, a suspicion is growing that new intellectual heavyweights are not only helpful to partisan conservatism today but essential. The trouble is simple: these mental mandarins are nowhere to be found on the right. Or the left. Or somewhere in the middle, or off in some unclassifiable corner of our political map. No wonder their influence is nil. Jonah would likely insist that this is nothing, necessarily, for anyone to be ashamed of. True; it’s entirely possible that one or two or two dozen will burst or creep onto the scene over the next, say, ten years. Really, there are too many names to watch to name. The issue, now, isn’t nostalgia versus populism. The kind of public theorists who dominated the American right in its contemporary infancy aren’t available to lead conservative politics. Why waste any time crying out for them, or crying over their absence? Ask, rather, what kinds of smart people are most needful today. Some of them, I imagine, will be better suited to calling and running plays on the ground. Others will remain pretty high up in pretty narrow towers. And a third kind of genius will do the most good explaining precisely what kind of intellectual leadership conservatives require most today.

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics

Alpha, Beta, Charlie

S.G. Belknap at The Point:

So how does it work? It begins in a bar. PUAs (pickup artists; this will be the first in a long line of acronyms and other assorted jargon) do often ply their trade during the day, sometimes even on the street—this is called “day game” and has its own nuances—but the classic location for seduction is the trendy club or bar. For the most part the pickup artist “sarges” alone (i.e., operates alone—the term comes from the name of one of the cats of an early pickup artist), but a “wingman” or “wing” can play a role as well (among other things, he makes the pickup artist who is “running the set” look good). After a target is chosen, she must be approached within three seconds—this is the “three-second rule,” one of Mystery’s inventions. The thought behind it is twofold: first, if a man looks for too long at a woman, she might begin to think he is creepy, or, possibly worse, a coward; and second, if a man looks for too long at a woman, he might indeed become a coward, he might lose his nerve. When it is time for an approach, the approach always comes from an angle, from ten o’clock; this is less intimidating, but also conveys sufficient confidence. The pickup artist always smiles.

The first words spoken to the group (and it will usually be a group, because “women of beauty are rarely found alone”) are an opener, which is delivered along with a false time constraint. The time constraint—”my friends are waiting for me so I have to go in a few minutes, but…”—serves to eliminate anxieties that the pickup artist will never leave; anyone who has been approached in a bar, male or female, knows this feeling. The PUA opener—what follows the “but” in the time constraint—is unlike the come-on lines we have always heard: “Come here often?”; “What’s your sign?”; “I must be in heaven, because you are an angel.” The PUA opener seeks instead to start a conversation, nothing more, nothing less. Typically, it asks for an opinion, which both makes the intrusion plausible and, even better, allows women to offer their advice (because who doesn’t love giving advice?). One opener that has been “field-tested,” the “jealous girlfriend” opener, asks the group what a friend (imaginary, of course) should do in the following situation: his new girlfriend has become more and more opposed to his continuing contact with his ex-girlfriend from college. Now, of course it makes sense that the current girlfriend should have pride of place. But the ex-girlfriend is just a friend at this point—and anyhow, they are still such important figures in each other’s lives! Is that really fair?

In the meantime, of course, the pickup artist needs to watch his body language—or train himself into the proper body language beforehand. PUAs are quite fond of watching movies with famously “alpha” protagonists—James Dean, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt—and routinely copy their stances and gestures, practicing in front of a mirror. They seem to know everything that one could possibly desire to know: where to put their hands, where to put their feet, what to do with their weight. They know how to manipulate a woman out of her barstool so they can slide into the seated position (the position of power). They know how to rock backwards slightly when delivering openers—again, so that their interlocutors fear they might leave at any moment.

Soon it is time for a “neg.” Here is the insulting, the teasing—the alienation, as Mystery put it. When the opportunity arises, the pickup artist finally acknowledges his target, whom he has either been ignoring or only addressing as part of her group. But it is hardly an acknowledgment: it is a mild insult, or a backhanded compliment, and always delivered in as casual a way as possible so that the intention to insult can never be detected. At the target’s first attempt to join the conversation: “Whoa, your friend is pushy guys, is she always like that?” Or after she smiles: “Your nose is so cute; I love the way it wrinkles up.” The thought is that depriving a woman of attention and validation will lead her to seek it from you; Strauss puts it best when he says that to neg a woman is to treat her like a bratty little sister.

But the victory of the pickup artist can only be guaranteed by demonstrating value. In the abstract, this involves establishing that the pickup artist is different from other men, intriguing in some way, superior. Most of the time, however, because of the historical accident of the culture’s foremost practitioner having been interested in magic as a child, this is achieved via a number of pseudo-mystical “routines”: ESP, handwriting analysis, various personality tests. (In Mystery’s own case, there are actual magic tricks involved, but he knows better than to introduce them as “magic tricks.”) In one routine, “the cube,” the target is asked to picture a cube in the desert. Then she is asked: How big is it? What is it made of? What color is it? Then she pictures a ladder, a horse, flowers, a storm. Sure enough, the cube represents her ego, the ladder her friends, the horse her lover (or her own sexuality), the flowers children, the storm her problems. Is the ladder leaning on the cube? Her friends depend on her. Is the horse bigger than the cube? She wants her lover to dominate her. And so on. That the details of the routine are purely arbitrary is not lost on the pickup artists—there exist bountiful variations, in which the terms are shifted around according to whim, the flowers representing one thing, the ladder another. The idea is just to get the target talking about herself, and in a style that comes naturally; after all this is “chick crack,” catnip to women, who according to the pickup artists love any and all psychological speculation, particularly when tinged with the supernatural. And the pickup artist displays his value by engaging the opposition precisely in that territory, the realm of fog and intuition; but he doesn’t just engage her in this realm, he dominates it, beating her at her own game. That is value.

The playbook has many, many pages left at this point: the target must be isolated; a connection must be made (something traditionalists try to do first but the pickup artist knows to do later); and comfort must be built to allow for an eventual transition to the “sex location.” (And on all of these subjects, and indeed on those above as well, there are thousands and thousands of posts on various internet forums.) But there is one more wanton and controversial play in the book that deserves mention: the neutralization of LMR—last-minute resistance. When the time comes, returning to the pickup artist’s house should be easy, since the target is familiar with the place from dropping by earlier in the night (the pickup artist needed to stop off quickly for something he forgot). Once she is in the front door, he accomplishes her transfer from living room to bedroom through an excuse like “I want to show you a video—but the television is in my room.” At this point in the seduction both parties know what is going on, but excuses do need to be made. In the bedroom (where there are no chairs), the pickup artist sits on the bed with the target, but nowhere near her (how confusing). When the time comes for physical escalation, he makes sure to always take two steps forward and one back. But at some point he could hit a wall—this is LMR. A woman, the pickup artists tell us, desires sex just as much as a man does; but because sex represents more of an investment for her, and because she has been culturally “programmed” to avoid the label “slut,” she will resist right up until the end. At the first sign of obstruction of this kind, the pickup artist can “blast” it with a “freeze-out.” The pants go on, the light goes on, the candles go out. The pickup artist is sorry, but when a woman tells him to stop, it kills the mood for him; he knows very well that no means no. Teased by something just out of her reach, the girl will eventually relent. If necessary, the pickup artist will again let his words take care of political correctness while his body takes care of what it wants: he will agree with her—”I know, this is so wrong, we shouldn’t be doing this”—all the while removing her clothes and encouraging her body along the path of its desire. In this as in all things the pickup artists are closers; they close the deal. They number-close, they k-close, they f-close. Number closing is getting a number from a girl; k-closing is short for kiss-closing; and f-closing, officially, is short for full-closing. But the “f” stands for that other word as well.

Megan McArdle:

I find it hilarious that the pick-up artists think of themselves as especially manly.  When I read this piece, what they sound like to me is girls–specifically, girls in the 14-17 age group.

[…]

Spending all of your time thinking about how to attract the opposite sex?  Check.  Practicing poses in the mirror to figure out which ones are most attractive?  Check. Talking about it endlessly with your friends who only seem to care about the same, one, thing?  Check. Increasingly elaborate strategems for getting attention?  check.  Eventual evolution of said strategems into rituals as mechanical as playing the opening levels of an old-style video game?  Check.  If I close my eyes, I can still smell the bubble-gum scented lip gloss . . .

Do they send out for pizza while they talk, or would that just make Erik cry because he looks so fat in his new jeans?

More McArdle:

Incidentally, I’m being accused in the comments of engaging in some sort of conspiracy to keep the Beta Man down.  More on primate theory later, but for now let me point out that as a married woman in her thirties, I have very little possible interest in the behavior of the PUAs; I’m not their target, and they’re sure not mine.  To a person with a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail, and to a person with a sociobiology theory, everything starts to look like some primeval competition for resources on the veldt.  This tendency should be strenuously resisted; not everything fits into a neat primate model, whether your Preferred Primates are bonobos or silverback gorillas.

My off the cuff observation was a genuine one; this whole thing sounds like what girls used to do.  And in fact, at some level the PUAs have to know that it’s not really particularly manly.  Why do I think this?  Because if your girlfriend (however temporary) caught you mimicking Tom Cruise in front of the mirror, or spending your spare time trolling message boards for magic tricks to impress women with . . . well, would she be more enamored, or would she slither out of bed in disgust and start looking for her clothes?

I am not against people attempting to upgrade their social skills, nor am I horrified at the thought that “beta” males will somehow sneak into the gene pool; after all, I live in the city often called “Hollywood for Nerds”.  But the combination of artificiality, superficiality, and manipulation in the PUA manifestos makes it really hard not to snicker.

Andrew Klavan at Ricochet:

Megan links to this piece, but if you want to read some great stuff on the subject, try my City Journal colleague Kay S. Hymowitz especially here. Kay is a wonderful writer and her stuff is great but, when I finally met her at a CJ party, I did feel obligated to introduce one cavil: she refers to these pick-up shnooks as alpha-males. There’s nothing alpha about them. John Glenn is an alpha male. Spartacus is an alpha male. Even Tony Soprano is an alpha male, until the feds catch up with him. Alpha males are leaders of men, which requires that they have control over their sex lives not the other way around. I mean, good heavens, have these pick-up boys never heard this sage advice?

Roissy In DC:

Yet another churlish, resentful SWPL broad is on the warpath against game, armed with the same primitive stone tools all the other anti-game broads wield.

Reading the half-baked hate, I can’t help but get the impression of a very nervous woman. A woman apprehensive that men are gaining power in the sexual market and perhaps appalled that she is not any longer the primary target of that invigorated male sexual power. I can imagine her speaking truth to her indignation by assuming the role of the wise SWPL lady to a generation of younger women, admonishing them to never settle and scolding men to grow up.

But, you know, the times they change. The cock has no interest in your feeble hate. It doesn’t believe in synthesis, or syllogism, or in any absolute. What does it believe in? Pussy. And whatever it takes to get it. It’s self-evident.

The hater, McArdle, read an article by S.G. Belknap in The Point Magazine about pickup artists and seduction technology. McArdle sneers that men who learn game to attract women are “girly”.

I find it hilarious that the pick-up artists think of themselves as especially manly.  When I read this piece, what they sound like to me is girls–specifically, girls in the 14-17 age group.

The “learning seduction is girly” sneer is one of the most tedious repressed neoVictorian sniffs at game. It’s almost as if McArdle reads the comments here and sent a private shout out (and a pizza) to a bunch of my haters (hi, spoogen!) to agree on what they thought would be the most cutting sort of jab with which to poke the PUAs.

[…]

Game, by stripping the seduction process into a flowchart for ease of learning and applying in the field, offends women’s sense of mystery and prerogative to act on intuition. Things better left shrouded in the unknown is the working preference of most women, not because they are more romantic than men (just the opposite is true), but because women are constitutionally wired to abhor the thought that men can exert calculated influence on women’s sexual desires and choices. Women want total and untrammeled choice in the dating market, and they want to prohibit men from enjoying the same extraordinary power. Game brings balance to the force, and that is highly threatening to women, particularly aging women for whom options are rapidly running out. (Reminder: Maxim #98: Marriage is no escape from the sexual market and the possibility that you may be outbid by a competitor with higher value.)

Ultimately, women hate the thought of game, (not game itself; that they love), because they want their alpha male – beta male distinctions predigested and unsullied by interference from proactive men intent on bringing chaos to the male hierarchy. This is why women love royalty and kings and princes so much; in that world, the alphas are identified and known. There is little churn. The women have only to concern themselves with competing with other women for the cocka of the top dog. But in a world of game, where the status of men is in a constant state of flux, ever-shifting and spoiling the tidiness of the women’s preferred caste systemed zero sum sexual market, there are additional stresses and concerns. Now the women have to figure out who among the millions of men trundling through their gleaming anonymous urban jungles tingling ginas left and right are the alpha males of their dreams and expectations. By muddying the waters, game makes this filtering process more difficult for women. More exhilarating, too.

Austin Bramwell at The League:

For the record, I have no idea whether women prefer rigid hierarchies.  Still the theory makes sense.  Only the most blinkered or perverse observers would deny that women generally gravitate to high-status males.  Even feminists like Naomi Wolf, Martha Nussbaum and Samantha Power have married up.  (This is ironic because feminism can never achieve its goals until women are willing to marry down.  After all, the low-earning, low-status partner will have a strong tendency to let the other climb the greasy pole while she finds better things to do with her life.) A caste system does clarify who the high-status mates are, and therefore makes it easier for women to make the “correct” sexual choices.  Women resent an sexual marketplace where they can easily be duped into mating with a low-status male. Roissy’s observation that women swoon for royalty neatly illustrates the hypothesis.  As I said, I’m not sure if it’s correct, but I do think it’s plausible and quite trenchant.

But then Roissy commits a fallacy.  He dubs the “Fallacy of Misdirected Hate” the proposition that “A guy who spends his life obsessing over how to get women is a loser.” Roissy gives the following reductiones ad absurdum:

A guy who spends his life obsessing over climbing the corporate ladder to get more attention from women is a loser.
A guy who spends his life obsessing over mastering guitar and playing in a rock band to get more attention from women is a loser.
A guy who spends his life obsessing over pursuing financial rewards and acquiring resources to get more attention from women is a loser.
A guy who….. ah, you get the point.

In other words, obsessing over seduction techniques is an intellectual or career obsession like any other.  From a genetic perspective, according to Roissy, the reason that men devote decades of effort to the pursuit of a single goal is that becoming the best at something will ultimately improve their mating prospects. (Of course, men are usually unconscious of the ultimate genetic reasons for their obsessions.)  A obsession with seduction techniques just so happens to produce improved mating prospects directly as well as indirectly.  It is no less a waste of time than any other pursuit.

The fallacy here is this: Let us grant that the men are genetically programmed to focus single-mindedly on a single goal.  That does not mean that all single-minded goals are equal.  On the contrary, an obsession with, say, string theory, is superior to an obsession with, say, bull-riding, which in turn is superior to a truly destructive obsession such as with, say, winning political elections. I suppose that learning seduction techniques is not the most harmful thing one could do with one’s time.  But it is clearly not the most worthy obsession imaginable.

Nor does a study of seduction lead to more satisfaction of one’s desires.  Like any other ascetic discipline, seduction requires you to master your emotions and fundamentally reshape your character.  The “natural” tendency of men is to be utterly awed and stupefied by female beauty, and to grovel and plead in order to have access to it.  There is surely no more chivalrous a creature than the 13 year old boy! How disappointing it is for him to learn that his love and respect for beautiful women is precisely what makes him contemptible in their eyes, while the callousness of the 18-year-old Big Man on Campus is precisely what makes them admire him.  The seduction community tells men to overcome their chivalrous tendencies and instead to treat women like clockwork oranges.  To be sure, seducers revel in their orgiastic conquests. But the last they thing they should ever do is lose control; the seducer must continually squelch any desire to truly love and admire a woman. The life of the seducer is rather like that of the married man: in both cases, you have to learn to control and sublimate your instincts.

EARLIER: All You Do Is Neg, Neg, Neg

Leave a comment

Filed under Families

Big Brother And The Hamster Company

Amelia Glynn at San Francisco Chronicle:

The sentiment has been expressed in different words and languages by the likes of Winston Churchill, Pope John Paul II, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, President Harry S. Truman and (perhaps most dubiously) Mahatma Ghandi:

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

In 1998, Cardinal Roger Mahony famously said: “Any society, any nation, is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members; the last, the least, the littlest.”

Enter San Francisco’s newly proposed and seemingly well-meaning ban on the sale of companion-animals within city limits, which aims to protect pets, down to the littlest guinea pig. More than 630 comments have already been posted to the original Chronicle article that was published this morning. They run the gamut from anger and cries of “Nanny state” (“Where does this madness end? I for one am sick of how our liberties are being violated each and every day”) to general predictions of doom (“When pet-selling is outlawed, only outlaws will sell pets”) to, my favorite, humor (“When hamsters are outlawed, only outlaws will have hamsters”).

I adopted my dog from a rescue group in the city and do not consider myself a “designer breed” kind of gal. And while I may be impulsive about handbags, I’ll never take a hamster home without giving it a lot of thought in advance. To be truthful, I’ve never been a big fan of rodents. The neighbor’s hamster took a chunk out of my thumb when was I was a kid and I never looked back. Reading Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH in grade school gave me a greater appreciation for rats, but after having a pair in the classroom (aptly named Nicodemus and Jennifer), I never wanted one as a pet. But I still care about their beady-eyed well-being.

I find it interesting that the ban only targets pet stores and does not include our fine, finned friends. (I guess it’s still okay to flush fish down the toilet because they can’t feel anything anyway. Or can they?) True, an astonishing number of pet stores get their animals from mills where breeding practices and overall conditions are spotty at best, but many online classifieds are also selling overproduced and under cared for animals. So why is one kind of pet business deemed acceptable whereas the other is not?

Jeff Blyskal at The Consumerist:

The impetus for this is not stray cats, dogs, as you might expect. Their welfare and rights are protected from Dickensian puppy mills, animal abuse, and life on the mean city streets, thanks to plenty of compassionate citizen rescue groups. Rather, the real problem, ferreted out by reporter Carolyn Jones, is that too many San Franciscans buy hamsters as an impulse purchase!

Now I, personally, have never seen any buy-me bins of hamsters at the checkout next to the candy, gee-gaws, TV Guide, and supermarket tabloids in my 10 years of travels in this city, home to Consumers Union’s West Coast office. But I take CACW’s word about the secret of hamster hoarding. Unfortunately, the novelty of owning a hamster soon wears off, and folks abandon them at the San Francisco’s animal shelter, where they are euthanized at a rate of 30 percent vs. just 13 percent for cats and dogs, the Chron reports.

Pet store owners and their Washington lobbyists are fit to be tied over this nanny commission proposal, and  rightly so. This ill-conceived law annihilates the convenience and free choice of all responsible pet buyers to prevent the poor judgment of only a few customers. That’s like banning parking for all cars in this city (where finding an empty parking space is a nightmare) because some drivers park illegally.

Might I propose a simpler solution that preserves consumer free choice and shopping convenience and more directly attacks the actual problem? Ban the sale of hamsters only, if necessary, but leave alone people’s freedom to responsibly buy other pets, thank you.

James Joyner:

Granted, this is inspired by a reasonable concern and driving to another town isn’t exactly an arduous burden for most people.   Still, this seems rather silly.

Why not, instead, have some sort of cooling off period?   Say, you have to leave a deposit and then come back three days later if you really want that puppy?   Surely, that would be both less an infringement on liberty and more effective than making people go to Oakland for their hamsters?

Dan Riehl:

Well, I half-way expected to read the argument that pets were akin to slavery, so it isn’t as bad as I thought Heh! It’s simply to control the behavior of consumers because they are such impulse buyers when it comes to pets – all except those purchasing pet fish. Evidently, fish keepers are well disciplined deep thinkers when it comes to pet purchases, so their actions don’t have to be controlled. There is no action the uber-liberal does not wish to control through government.

Nick Gillespie in Reason:

This comes on the heels of a ban on sodey-pop in City Hall vending machines and Commandante Newsom’s bold attempt to grow food on road medians while cutting bagel halves into quarters. Seriously.

Hell, even former SF Housing Authority Commission member and cult killer Jim Jones let his followers have Kool-Aid.

As Eric Burdon could tell you, if you can’t understand what’s going on there, save up all your bread and fly Trans-Love Airlines to San Francisco, USA. Just make sure to bring your own stash of Coca-Cola, full-size bagels, and chinchillas.

James Lileks at Ricochet:

Is there a larger issue? There’s always a larger issue when government regulates in the littlest things. Every little ban is a reminder that any theoretical goodness, however indistinct, is a sufficient reason to deny you a freedom you currently enjoy. Of course, if the Goodness does not materialize in sufficient quantities, it only proves that the initial ban was too narrow, and must be expanded; hence the ban on selling hamsters becomes a ban on having them.

Two: even the advocates for the littlest among us have to respect the imperatives of nature. Snakes eat rodents, you know, and the ban would be unfairly impactful to the Snake-American Community – so they’re considering letting stores sell rodents if you want to feed them to your 10-foot reptile.

The ideal solution: require the Humane Society to feed hamsters to snakes, squealing with horror, instead of putting them down by gaseous means. Perfect. I’d make a reductio ad absurdum line here about government health care, but I don’t speak Latin.

Claire Berlinski at Ricochet, responding:

James, I’m guessing you haven’t spent much time in animal shelters. Every year in America, five million cats and dogs are gassed to death or lethally injected with sodium pentobarbital in these shelters. The word ‘euthanasia’ is a grotesque euphemism. There is no mercy in these deaths. Most of the animals are healthy, rambunctious, and young. They die terrified, and they die pointlessly: very few are vicious; most are capable of forming deep affectionate bonds with humans. This is what happens — what really happens — every day in these shelters. The links are graphic and upsetting. They’re also reality.

Concern for the welfare and dignity of animals is not confined to nihilist Leftists such as Peter Singer or local totalitarians who seek to regulate pets out of existence. Have you read Matthew Scully’s immensely moving, immensely disturbing book Dominion? A completely conservative case can be made, should be made, for treating animals with mercy and respect. Animals are not ordinary commodities, they are living creatures, and they feel pain and fear. No one need suggest that a kitten’s life is morally equivalent to a human’s to observe that something is terribly wrong when we casually dispose of one much as we would the butane in a Bic lighter: that is the mark of a callow society, a cruel society. It does not speak well for us that we kill millions of sentient, sensitive animals every year through grotesque, painful methods such as gassing and heart-sticking. Pet stores are one of the main reasons we do this.

Now many people may wonder and ask, just why are are there so many unwanted pets in the first place to create this tragic situation and where so many unwanted pets are killed in shelters, whether by gas chamber, heartstick or even by injection to begin with? First, there are the puppy and kitten mills that are still prevalent and where animals are bred and bred and bred, over and over again. Thankfully more and more of these mill type breeders are being shut down. These breeders crank out animals like an assembly line and usually wind up in pet stores for sale. And don’t kid yourself, it’s not just a little local pet shop that sells puppies or kittens from these mills, but also some of those fancy high-priced pet stores in Beverly Hills, California where the likes of celebrities will get their dogs from, and they aren’t even aware that those animals are coming from mills.

Yes, snakes eat rodents. Yes, tigers eat gazelles, and yes, nature is savage and cruel. That doesn’t mean we need to add to the misery. They have no choice but to be beasts: We do. If air conditioning is the mark of an advanced civilization that has elevated itself above the State of Nature, even more so is the mercy we display toward animals.

E.D. Kain at The League on Berlinski:

This is a compelling argument, I think, and one that we should take seriously. Obviously people would still go elsewhere to buy pets, but maybe more people would also go to puppy rescues (where we once found and adopted a beautiful little puppy) or human societies and save some of these animals from senseless death. Shutting down puppy mills and other animal mass-producers might go against the libertarian grain, but then again I find that questions of life often do. And perhaps they should.

Life and liberty are anything but mutually exclusive, but there is certainly a tension between the two, whether we’re talking about abortion, slavery, or the pet trade. These are not easy questions, and they don’t have easy answers packaged neatly in comfortable ideological wrapping paper. If there is a market solution to this problem, perhaps it needs to be nudged along.  Could a temporary ban be coupled with some sort of new standards for pet sales including requirements that pet stores and shelters coordinate efforts?  I think there are a number of solutions to make this work, but something certainly does need to change. Whether a ban is the right ticket is a harder call, but it’s a start at least and a good enough time to have the conversation.

Leave a comment

Filed under Animal Rights, Legislation Pending