Where are the Shutdown Enforcement Thugs When You Need Them?

So when news came out that the exclusive House and Senate gyms and athletic facilities are still open during the shutdown, though they’re on the official list of shutdown closures, an unnamed source explained away the discrepancy with a rhetorical question, “How do you close a basketball court?”

Well, I’ve been studying the shutdown, as it has been masterfully enacted by the White House, or as some are now calling it, The Spite House, and I think I can help.  Start with armed officers  — that’s  the tack that the National Park Police are taking, and it’s working quite well, not only with our own citizens, but also non-English-speaking foreign tourists, who thought they were under arrest.  Position the officers directly under the baskets.  If the phrase “No recreating!” doesn’t work, they can shoot into the balls (the basketballs).

Cones, which are blocking drivers from pulling onto scenic overlooks to view Mount Rushmore, should likewise block members from using weight machines:  just have the Shutdown Core of Engineers attach cones with screws to every weight-machine seat.

Barbed wire and barriers have proved reasonably effective at keeping veterans’ prying eyes off their WWII memorials.  I’m thinking a little electrified fencing strung around the pools might keep Congressional swimmers ashore.  Ditto for the showers.

It would stink to high-heaven around here if Members couldn’t use those showers.  Can you imagine that?

~unnamed source

Yes, I can imagine that.  I’ve got news for you, Mr. Source — it’s stinking whether the showers are available or not.


“First the Saturday People, then the Sunday People”

 . . . all too many many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.

~Martin Luther King

Excellent piece here by Kirsten Powers on the horrors being done to Christians and other religious minorities across the Middle East and Africa, and the willful ignorance of too many of us back here in the complacent Safe-To-Be-A-Christian Zone.  I sent this article to my pastors and started a discussion — may I suggest you consider doing the same?Please share, and share ideas about strategies to pursue, too.

I’m not sure what we can, or should, do — but pressuring the State Dept. and our political class to start paying attention to religious persecution sounds like a reasonable place to begin.  And how about writing letters to our reps and the State Dept., advocating that we cut off aid to countries that promote or tolerate this evil?   We may not be able to “sell” our values of religious freedom and diversity abroad, but we sure as hell shouldn’t be subsidizing the extermination of Christians or other religious minorities.

If Only My Devices Came with a Switch Labeled “Cloaking Mode”

Fascinating interview here with cryptographer/security expert Bruce Schneier, who is helping The Guardian analyze the huge number of documents bequeathed it by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden.  (Or traitor, if you prefer.  I don’t — not yet, anyway.) Schneier argues that the potential ramifications of the NSA’s all-seeing eye are far more disturbing than most citizens realize:

They’re not just spying on the bad guys, they’re deliberately weakening Internet security for everyone—including the good guys. It’s sheer folly to believe that only the NSA can exploit the vulnerabilities they create. Additionally, by eavesdropping on all Americans, they’re building the technical infrastructure for a police state.

We’re not there yet, but already we’ve learned that both the DEA and the IRS use NSA surveillance data in prosecutions and then lie about it in court. Power without accountability or oversight is dangerous to society at a very fundamental level.

Yup.  He’s also right that His Five Tips  for protecting ourselves from government intrusion are neither simple, nor practical.  I’ve read about the encryption hoops Laura Poitras had to jump through when first contacted by Snowden.  The security procedures he insisted on didn’t sound like something the average person has the money, patience or technical know-how  to do.  Heck, I’m so “average” I can’t even figure out how to get the “Recent Posts” widget to work in the sidebar of ChickCurmudgeon.  The fact that four widgets do appear properly — most of the time — is no sign of waning widget-impairment either; I have no clue why they’re working.

If interested, more reflections on the NSA’s attempts at Snowden-mitigation are in my blog posts “On Truth and Fantasies” and the third section of “Oh, What a Tangled Web They Weave . . . ” and include a link to the NYT profile of Poitras.  Is it possible a spy thriller based on her experiences isn’t already in the works?

These are scary times, but Schneier, who will be writing future articles on the material he’s been analyzing, has a wise practical suggestion:

The Internet has become essential to our lives, and it has been subverted into a gigantic surveillance platform. The solutions have to be political. The best advice for the average person is to agitate for political change.

I have one for him too, if he hasn’t already done it:  hire bodyguards.

It All Depends on What the Meaning of “Free” Is

Check out my opinion piece below that appeared in The Modesto Bee (September 22, 2013), on MJC’s Constitution Day fiasco. You can also read  MJC President Jill Stearns’ very different take on the incident.

The YouTube video of Rob Van Tuinen being prevented from passing out  free copies of the Constitution sparked a national news story, and hopefully, an ongoing debate about “the inherent contradiction of free-speech codes.”

It All Depends on What the Meaning of “Free” Is


Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press . . .

~from the 1st Amendment, U. S. Constitution

The Colleges of the District are non-public forums, except for those areas designated as ‘free speech areas’, which are limited public forums.  The Chancellor shall enact such administrative procedures as are necessary to reasonably regulate the time, place and manner of the exercise of free expression in the limited public forums.

~ Policy 3900, Time, Place & Manner,

YCCD Policies and Administrative Procedures

Modesto is once again in the national news, only this time it isn’t for topping the car-jacking list – it’s for a YouTube video showing MJC student Rob Van Tuinen being prevented from giving away free copies of the Constitution on Sept. 17th.  The irony of stopping him on the very holiday which celebrates the enumeration of our freedoms, including freedom of speech, apparently escaped both the security officer who intercepted Van Tuinen about ten minutes into his freebie giveaway, and administrator Christine Serrano, who took refuge in a binder of rules, clinging to her mantra of  “ . . . time, place and manner . . .”

Van Tuinen is the president of a new chapter of Young Americans for Liberty, an organization which claims on its website to be “the largest, most active, and fastest-growing pro-liberty organization on America’s college campuses.”

MJC seems rather less “pro-liberty.”  It requires those wishing to commit an act of free speech to fill out MJC’s “Limited Public Forum Request Form” and allow five business days for “processing.”  If permission is granted, then the student or group is given a particular date and time in which to transact their free speech “rights,” but only in a designated “free speech” zone, which Serrano described as “over there . . .  that little cement area.” Like the security officer, she patronizingly assured Van Tuinen that she wasn’t telling him he couldn’t –he just had to follow the guidelines.   Oh – and she’d need a copy of his I.D., too.

She suggested that Sept 20th and 27th were open.  Not surprising– both are Fridays, the one day when students can actually get a parking space close to campus because only a few classes meet.  That means Van Tuinen could hang out in the “cement area” and wave at the few students who come within view.

Finally Serrano asked Van Tuinan why he wanted to pass out copies that day.

“’Cause it’s Constitution Day.”


MJC issued a statement saying that it’s investigating the incident, but admits that since it doesn’t appear as if the student was being disruptive, he ought to have been able to offer materials in any campus areas “generally available to students and the community.”  Furthermore, “The administration of the YCCD supports the peaceful distribution of the Constitution and other materials on campus, which is why our colleges support Constitution Day with activities each year.”  This is disingenuous at best – the law creating Constitution Day mandates that all educational institutions receiving federal dollars provide an educational program about the Constitution’s history, on the holiday.

YCCD Board member Anne DeMartini  sees the whole episode as  “extremely embarrassing.  I’m constantly struggling to get the college community to be more supportive of diversity of thought . . . we need to revisit this policy.”  She also explained that in the past the college has had to try to balance the desire to promote free speech with the desire to protect students from graphic photos of aborted fetuses, for instance.  “We have childcare on campus,” she pointed out, “and not all our students are over 18.”

I understand her concern, but the video illustrates the inherent contradiction of “free speech codes.” There is nothing free about them, although one wonders if Van Tuinen would have run into the same resistance if he’d stuck a free condom on every copy.  In this age of political correctness, campuses are often required by state law to have speech codes, and organizations like YAL have sprung up to expose them as unconstitutional, and as the video shows, often ridiculous.  The Constitution covers giving out not just Constitutions, but also obnoxious material given out by “troublemakers.”  Our founders apparently thought that we could take it – that arguments should be won or lost on their merits, and that we didn’t need to be protected from opinions that we might not like.

Unfortunately, MJC’s administration has given in to the bureaucratic tendency to micromanage the law-abiding.  One hopes that they will revisit the issue and come up with rules — along the lines of “not yelling fire in a crowded theater” — that actually are “reasonable,” a word used in MJC’s policy without apparent understanding of its meaning.

It’s sad that the video didn’t capture any authority figure who encountered Van Tuinen and had the good sense to say, “Hey, you’ve got a copy of the constitution there?  Can I have one?  Thanks.”

Beggs was one of the first two visiting editors, and blogs at http://www.chickcurmudgeon.wordpress.com

Invincibly Ignorant

Administration’s Benghazi Review Board Discredits Itself in Congressional Hearing

Throughout their appearances Thursday and in their depositions earlier, both Pickering and Mullen insisted that their investigation was independent and thorough. But the substance of their testimony suggests precisely the opposite.

~Stephen Hayes

Stephen Hayes’ blog on the Benghazi Hearings unmasks the completely DEpendent  Investigation run by the State Dept, and ought to be in every online dictionary next to the words  “corruption” and “farce.”  That most of the mainstream media are ignoring this cover-up  shows that the Fourth Estate and Integrity are no longer on speaking terms.

As the mother of Benghazi victim Sean Smith said,  “I don’t trust my government anymore because they lied to me.”  The fact that 12 of 14 Democrats on the committee left before she or Tyrone Woods’ father spoke says volumes about their trustworthiness too.

Breaking Weak

Since the U.S. has now taken the much-traveled road of WMD inspections as the path forward for ridding Syria of its chemical weapons arsenal, I am reminded of a lecture I attended many years ago given by an American scientist who’d served on one of the U.N. teams in Iraq.  We hadn’t invaded yet, but there were rumblings, and the scientist made it clear he wasn’t a fan of the idea.  I remember also his sympathy for Iraqi scientists who’d been recruited for Iraq’s WMD program with a steady government salary and the enticing benefits package of “staying alive.”

I don’t remember the lecturer’s name or if he ever made clear his reasoning for opposing invasion, but he clearly was not basing his objection on the “success” of the inspection program.  His experiences as an inspector were tales of obstruction, obfuscation and gallows humor.  The “surprise” visits were escorted,  the escorts often delayed, and by the time a team arrived,  the inspection site was often abandoned and buried under tons of fresh concrete.   Aw gee, you wanted soil samples?  Who knew?

At one particular compound there was a water tower, and an inspector told the Iraqi standing near it that he needed to get a water sample.  Reluctantly, he was allowed to ascend — but it wasn’t the tank he was after – it was the altitude.  From his higher vantage point the inspector caught sight of what he was really looking for: a long caravan of trucks trailing away into the distance,  which he photographed as surreptitiously as possible.   In the shell game of hide and seek, he’d found something.  The next morning he learned that the man who had allowed him to climb up the tower had been shot.

Fast forward to the current agreement on Syria,  which proposes to find chemical weapons which have already been dispersed, says our Secretary of State, to at least 45 locations.  “They have moved them, and we know they have moved them,” Kerry said. “We’ve seen them. We’ve watched this.”  (Btw — Isn’t that the sort of thing the administration lambasted Snowden for, that is, telling our enemy what our capabilities are?  Or is Kerry just bluffing again, using the “language of diplomacy”?)   At any rate, who will take him seriously now?  His talk of an “unbelievably small” strike, along with Pres. Obama’s “shot across the bow” was somewhat less scary than the French soldier in Monty Python and the Holy Grail — these were “I-Fart-in-Your-General-Direction” threats, on Zoloft.

Given that the players in Syria are a dictator; an old KGB hand;  an ongoing civil war featuring guest jihadists; and the U.N., which makes up for its bureaucratic incompetence by being endemically corrupt — not to mention that do-it-yourselfer bad guys with a few gallons of Sarin need only garage-shop tools to make an efficient dispersal unit – and the stage is set for an absurdist reprise of the Iraq WMD inspections, but in an even more deadly setting.

The new agreement is a successful pivot for our president only in that his schizophrenic dithering has now been outsourced to an international body which specializes in dithering.  People of  good will  and ill will alike in Syria will continue to be killed, if not from weapons of mass destruction, then from the usual mass application of weapons for more individualized destruction.

I’ve never been in favor of intervening militarily, at least not since it became clear that the replacements might be as vicious as Assad, if not more so.   And while I may not be hip to the nuances of diplomatic bartering, making idle threats about consequences – i.e., making it clear that your word is meaningless — is not generally a very efficient way to pressure bad guys into not doing bad things.  Heck, it’s not even a good way to get a nice kid to clean his room.

But if the deal struck in these whirlwind negotiations “holds,” the leader of the world’s biggest super power can go back to reading stern talk off his teleprompters,  lamenting that his hands are tied, and doing what he seems to have the most enthusiasm for:  attacking Republicans.    My  guess is that the Red Line will be pink for the rest of his term.

No Love Lost

. . . if you accept that it is natural and normal for someone to be gay, because, um, that’s the way they are,  then it follows from that, that I don’t think it is right to say that if these two folk here, who are in love with each other and are of the same gender, should be denied the opportunity  for legal recognition of the duration of their relationship, by having marriage equality.

~ Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at a Q&A session

This four-minute clip of a politician answering a pastor’s question about his recently changed  view on same-sex marriage is a great illustration of what passes for gotcha reasoning these days — a “smackdown” being celebrated all over FB, about the righteousness of “marriage equality” and the uber-wrongness of Christians and others who oppose it. The “winner” is Rudd, a self-avowed Christian who has promised to introduce a bill legalizing same-sex marriage within the first one hundred days of his reelection.  He begins his answer to Pastor Matt Prater of Brisbane with several glib, but nevertheless, unsubstantiated assertions: (A) that gays are all born that way; (B) that since they’re born that way, it must be “natural and normal” and therefore ought to be supported by everybody;  and (C) that anybody who thinks differently is anti-science, not to mention dissing the wisdom of the prime minister’s own conscience, which he tells us more than once, is both “informed” and “Christian.”

Never mind that Rudd only achieved this state of marriage-equality enlightenment recently –he exhibits no charity or compassion for anyone who might still be in the dark ages which he himself inhabited just a few months prior.  In explaining his reversal, Rudd derides the view that homosexuality is abnormal and unnatural as  “just wrong . . . and completely ill-founded” and then asks the pastor to clarify his reasoning.  Wisely, the pastor doesn’t go there, instead saying that since Jesus defines marriage as between a man and a woman,  he’s curious to know why, as a Christian,  Rudd doesn’t “ . . . believe the words of Jesus in the Bible.”

That’s when the great smackdown moment occurs, as Rudd replies, “Well,  mate, if I was going to have that view, the Bible also says that slavery is a natural condition.” The place erupts with applause.   To drive the point home, he adds, “Because St. Paul said in the New Testament, ‘slaves, be obedient to your masters’ and therefore we should have all fought for the Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War.”   Touché – the Bible has been fatally wounded.

Or not.

No one seemed to notice that Rudd’s non-sequitur answer had been crafted  to obliterate the claim that he tried to elicit from the pastor:  that homosexuality is abnormal and unnatural.  The fact that the pastor never said so didn’t matter –  Rudd’s tone was triumphantly dismissive,  and if winning the gay marriage debate meant throwing Jesus under the bus, then so be it.   After all,   what exactly is that view that the prime minister, with his informed and Christian conscience, was so eager to eschew? It’s the view of traditional Christianity throughout the centuries, that as followers of Christ, believers ought to take Jesus at His word — as saying, in fact, exactly what He meant to say.

Toss out the authority of Jesus and the Bible, and what exactly of Christianity is left?   Ah yes, “universal love,” avers Rudd — although why we should trust what the Bible purportedly says about love, when it can’t be trusted to speak reliably on marriage or slavery or presumably other sticky subjects, is beyond me.

Putting aside that Rudd’s facile retort about slavery conflates descriptive and prescriptive passages, and that Biblical advice for dealing with Caesar or various human institutions does not necessarily confer approval of those rulers or institutions — he has just made the argument that same-sex attraction is natural and that what is natural is worthy of societal approval.  In essence, Rudd uses the adjectives natural and normal to bestow a positive qualitative judgement on things which are naturally occurring   –  to attach a sort of moral seal of approval.    Call me wacky, but it seems that the tendency of the strong to enslave the weak is also “natural,” and has been “normal” throughout history – rather popular to this day in fact.   I’m sure that the science he is so eager to defer to in support of gay marriage could give him several plausible evolutionary reasons as to why slavery is “natural” among men.

But in this case, the PM means that because slavery is morally wrong, it therefore cannot be “natural,” and since it is not natural, the Bible is wrong, and being wrong, it can no longer lay claim to having any moral authority.  Get it? I don’t, but I’m not as advanced as the prime minister.

However, I can think of lots of naturally occurring things, besides slavery, that I would rather not accept, much less endorse:  Quick tempers, arsenic, birth defects,  earthquakes, murder, and cellulite come to mind.  (I’m not too crazy about gray hair either, but I’ll admit it looks great on a few friends.)    And before you get your knickers all twisted up, I am NOT saying that same sex attraction is “like” murder, or slavery.  I am simply saying that “natural and normal” tendencies or activities come in good, bad and indifferent.  (By the way, I just learned from a retired dentist for a prison that it was “normal” for him to be asked by gay prisoners to have their top and bottom front teeth, perfectly good teeth, mind you, extracted.  Normal, but nevertheless, a request not granted.  Trust me – you don’t want to spend a lot of time thinking about it.)

At any rate, for most Christians, to say that something is “natural and normal” is not to say that it’s morally right.  Our belief is that we live in a fallen world, one in which sin has metastasized throughout it so completely that we’re told by Paul in Romans 8 that the whole creation has been “subjected to futility.”   Paul then describes the situation in more poetic terms:  the creation, he says, is in bondage, groaning for redemption.    If Christians are right, then this fallen state is the real Reality, and Reality, we all know from bitter experience, has an annoying  way of not cooperating with ideology that, for lack of a better way of saying it, gets Reality wrong.

If Paul is correctly describing the spiritual state of mankind, slavery is “natural and normal” precisely because man is sinful, and being sinful, we do bad things.  Repeatedly.  Over time, we get more efficient and more creative at doing bad things –think sarin gas.  We also get better at rationalizing doing bad things, and better at rationalizing not doing good things.   Bad things become “normal” and “good,” and vice versa.  Yup –that’s progress.

This isn’t to say that people don’t transcend their sinful nature, and do good, occasionally spectacular things, or that radical moral arguments can’t be made, and won, such as William Wilberforce’s long and ultimately successful battle to end the slave trade in Britain. But, the doctrine of original sin does say that when it comes to the rightness or wrongness of a behavior or belief, its “naturalness” or “normality” is nothing but a red herring.


It’s difficult to explain in this relativistic age, but when Christians talk about God’s law, we’re not talking about arbitrary rules He’s inflicted on us just to keep us from having fun.  We believe God’s law is meant to protect us, with all our flaws and selfish inclinations, from ourselves, and from each other.  We think that our best chance for a meaningful life will be found by cultivating certain attitudes and behaviors — for instance,  a willingness to forgive and a habit of cheerful generosity — and by avoiding destructive attitudes and behaviors, such as being envious or doing a shoddy job at school or work.    The moral counsel of the Bible provides a framework within which each of us will best find true purpose and fulfillment.

Of course, this traditional view jibes with the prime minister’s view that God is indeed universal love, and that therefore He intends good things for these creatures made in His own image.  But it goes much further, however, than the PM is willing to go,  and  trusts that God knows better than man himself what is best for man.  It also reasons that God, as the omniscient creator of the universe, does not need to be “updated” periodically, like an app, with the latest moral operating system.

Christians may be wrong about all this, and if so, to the extent that we’ve obeyed the moral code, we’ve missed out on a lot of fun.  Some of us may confuse moral directives that were meant for particular times, places and purposes, such as dietary or dress restrictions, with moral directives intended to be timeless, like “thou shalt not murder.”  Clearly, there are gray areas of dispute.  Yet, if the conventional view that God’s boundaries for sexual relationships and family structures belong to the for-all-time category, then to the extent that society discards these rules, great harm will be done to individuals, and to  our society as a whole.  Our suffering will be the collateral damage that always occurs when our mistaken ideology collides with Reality.

This doesn’t mean that if Christians are right about sexual prohibitions, that trying to obey them is not, at times, fraught with great difficulty and anguish.  It’s that fallen-world syndrome again.  As Paul says in Romans 7:15, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”  Even so, we believe that God helps us in making the attempt at obedience,  and that we’re better for it, even though we  sometimes fail.    The belief that there is forgiveness, redemption and life everlasting, is,  of course, a cornerstone of the Christian faith.

Unfortunately, in this life, the viral video world is offering no forgiveness or redemption to the pastor whose legitimate question – asking why a Christian rejects a clear Christian teaching on marriage  — sparked Mr. Rudd’s great triumph.  The link I ran across had already garnered over 46,000 “likes” in just a day.  The scorn heaped on the pastor in tweets and comments is to be expected — it’s what happens when an understanding of the depravity of man, the inherent sinfulness of all of us –not to mention kindness — gets lost . . .  But I can’t help contrasting this sham of a debate about same-sex marriage to the radically different view  expressed in a blog I linked to last month, written by a homosexual Christian  who believes that despite his “natural” inclination, he is called to be celibate.   He calls his struggle to be obedient to God’s  boundaries an “arduous good,” a  phrase he borrows from St. Thomas Aquinas:

An arduous good is a good that requires struggle. A good that is worth fighting for. And a good that inspires fear and hope and endurance in the face of adversity.

“Arduous good” is also a phrase that is seldom spoken in Hollywood, and almost never heard on Madison Avenue. In that silence, the poverty of our culture is laid bare.

Yes, and the poverty of our culture is also laid bare in that moment when an unthinking audience cheers a facile putdown of the Bible, Jesus, and a hapless pastor who tries to follow Him.


Postscript:  Australia Shows: Family Friendly Conservatism Can Succeed



Fascinating blog post by Richard Fernandez on the Obama administration’s machinations in the middle east:

The Light of Day 

The Erosion Watch

The hubster just finished his first week of the fall semester, but he’s already reported a multi-student cheating incident.  He had an extra textbook to give away, so he decided to offer it to the student who could tell him Shakespeare’s birthdate, or get closest to it.    One student instantly looked it up on his phone, and several nearby students copied his answer.

I’ll spare you the CSI details, but when my husband had his little chat with the chief defrauder, he was struck by how blasé he was.  Textbooks are expensive, and he could really use a free one — he has two kids to raise by himself — therefore, he’d merely done what was necessary.  Surely his English professor couldn’t have any issues with that??

I thought of the free textbook incident when reading this blog-post by Donald Miller about the decline of a universal moral code leading to a decline in storytelling.  It’s a provocative thesis in our relativistic world, but it’s really exactly what we ought to expect when the concept of a universal and timeless moral code is about as welcome as a  mink coat at a PETA rally.  Miller quotes Robert McKee:

The final cause of the decline of story runs very deep. Values, the positive/negative charges of life, are at the soul of our art. The writer shapes story around a perception of what’s worth living for and what’s worth dying for, what is foolish to pursue, the meaning of justice, truth-the essential values. In decades past, writer and society more or less agreed on these questions, but more and more ours has become an age of moral and ethical cynicism, relativism, and subjectivism – a great confusion of values. As the family disintegrates and sexual antagonisms rise, who, for example, feels he understands the nature of love? And how, if you do have a conviction, do you express it to an ever-more skeptical audience? This erosion of values has brought with it a corresponding erosion of story.

And so I’m wondering — can a values-impaired student think outside-of-the-box, to use the cliché du jour, and gain an understanding of why values are . . . um . . . valuable?  If the only take-away from his first week of school is that he hasn’t quite mastered the surreptitious use of the “smart”phone, what will be his take-away from, say, “Dog Lab” by Claire McCarthy, or Frankenstein?  And speaking of  Frankenstein, as our elites shred the universal moral code in the name of creating a better and more advanced society, at what point will they realize that they may be creating a monster of their own?

The Always Apropos GKC, on Secular Education


IT IS OBVIOUSLY most unjust that the old believer should be forbidden to teach his old beliefs, while the new believer is free to teach his new beliefs. It is obviously unfair and unreasonable that secular education should forbid one man to say a religion is true and allow another man to say it is untrue. It is obviously essential to justice that unsectarian education should cut both ways; and that if the orthodox must cut out the statement that man has a Divine origin, the materialist must cut out the statement that he has a wholly and exclusively bestial origin.

~G.K. Chesterton: “Illustrated London News,” Aug. 8, 1925

What’s Good for the Goose . . .

Let me see if I can get this straight — If our President, or his appointed czars or his department heads enact  “laws” through fiat — sometimes known as “regulations” —  and decline to enforce laws, or parts of laws,  through . . . fiat — that’s OK — but if our sheriffs decline to obey laws which they believe violate our constitution, that’s “tripe“?

Well Ok, then.

On Truth and Fantasies

The government’s forensic investigation is wrestling with Snowden’s apparent ability to defeat safeguards established to monitor and deter people looking at information without proper permission, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the sensitive developments publicly.

The disclosure undermines the Obama administration’s assurances to Congress and the public that the NSA surveillance programs can’t be abused because its spying systems are so aggressively monitored and audited for oversight purposes: If Snowden could defeat the NSA’s own tripwires and internal burglar alarms, how many other employees or contractors could do the same? ~Goldman & Dozier

“The abuse is rampant and everyone is pretending that it’s never happened, and it couldn’t happen. … I know [there was abuse] because I had my hands on the papers for these sorts of things: They went after high-ranking military officers; they went after members of congress — Senate and the House — especially on the intelligence committees and the armed services committees, lawyers, law firms, judges, State Department officials, part of the White House, multinational companies, financial firms, NGOs, civil rights groups …”  ~ Russ Tice, NSA agent from 2002-2005, quoted by Michael Kelly.


Here’s the question  I would love to ask our top NSA officials and their government handlers,  if I could get them all in a room and lock the doors:  Are you guys even capable of  giving a straight, unparsed, and truthful answer to any question, or are you so far gone that Truth isn’t even a category you recognize?

It’s been obvious for some time that the NSA doesn’t know what Snowden has – their denials of specific surveillance capabilities and abuses have several times been followed by the release of purloined NSA documents which utterly discredit their denials. The fact that they’re backtracking now, albeit through anonymous officials,  shows only that their strategy of last resort is one of incremental honesty: tell the least amount of truth possible, and only when not doing so would be farcical.

In following the Snowden story and reading up on the NSA’s reaction to past whistleblowers, it’s clear a game is being played, and so far, the NSA has won every round.  If allegations of abuse survive past the instant excoriating of the source, unequivocal denials are made . . . . Don’t be silly — we don’t have the capability for that level of surveillance — you must be filling you head with too many of those Hollywood spy flicks.  The implication is clear: such questioners are fanciful and none too bright.  Then, should incontrovertible evidence surface, most recently thanks to a 29-year-old-high-school-dropout-loser, the narrative, typically  from “unnamed sources,” switches to, Well, of course the NSA spied on so & so or such & such.  Hellooo  — everybody knows that.  It’s an “open secret” and this IS a secret agency.  Where have you been all this time, you silly goose?

I wonder: do the rules of high school cliquedom ever really expire?  At any rate, reporters often fall for that ploy —  the desire not to look stupid or naive usually trumps the urge to be morally outraged at being  lied to.    If enough reporters show signs of persisting with their bothersome questions, the terrorism card is pulled out:   We’ve got real bad guys to catch, you know.  This is a serious business we’re in, and you’ll be mighty sorry if you distract us from that. Remember 9-11?  Now go and play elsewhere . . . So journalists tend to quit digging, underplay the abuse-of-power revelations in their stories  and pass that don’t-be-a-rube feeling onto their readers.

Going back to my little scenario at the beginning of this post: I’m not naïve enough to imagine I’d get an honest answer to my question, or even some decent squirming.  But if these allegations don’t go away, and the popping up of confirming documents becomes bothersome enough, I’m just rube enough to hope that  the NSA’s leaders might eventually opt for the most radical strategy of all – telling the whole truth, taking the consequences, and submitting to real oversight.

I know it’s a fantasy, but it’s not as if there isn’t a lot of that going around already.

Radical Concept

An arduous good is a good that requires struggle. A good that is worth fighting for. And a good that inspires fear and hope and endurance in the face of adversity.

“Arduous good” is also a phrase that is seldom spoken in Hollywood, and almost never heard on Madison Avenue. In that silence, the poverty of our culture is laid bare.

~Ron Belgau

Who Knew?

So the Muslim Brotherhood is the Freedom & Justice Party in Egypt?   That’s kind of like the KKK being the party of Racial Equality.

Alien Crank Cults


This tidbit from David Mills made me laugh . . .

“Two flat silver disks” were seen above the English headquarters of Scientology, the British tabloid The Sun reported and for some reason found itself threatened by the . . . trying to think of a tactful euphemism for “crank cult ­founded by a nasty human being”. . . and ­failing . . . found itself threatened by Scientology’s lawyers. The newspaper gave in: “We apologize to any alien life-forms for linking them to Scientologists.”

This is why I want to work for a tabloid when I grow up.

And it’s one of the reasons I like First Things.