News And Commentary, Much Of It Not Widely Reported. If You Knew Why That Is, You Would Be Angry

The radio-frequency radiation from mobile “phones” does something to you, as recent tests have proved. But what does it do? Not known yet. Two questions you should ask and answer: first, do you honestly believe what the radiation does to the human body is harmless, or could be good? Second, does it concern you that your children or grandchildren have embarked on decades of exposure to this radiation?

 

The look of poverty in Cuba.

 

Dutch treat: Holland wonders whether to revoke freedom of expression in order to avoid hurting the feelings of some people whose ethics are mired in the sixth century.

An outspoken citizen has made a short film denouncing Islam, and the government is seriously considering banning it. “Wilders (the film’s creator) has argued that there is no such thing as moderate Islam, and has called for a ban of the Qur’an, which he compares to Hitler’s Mein Kampf.”

Virtually all non-Muslims who might oppose Wilders’s suggestion have no idea of what is actually in the Koran. Those who believe this book is the inerrant record of God’s marching orders necessarily oppose Liberty in all its forms, preach the murder or virtual enslavement of all non-Muslims (based solely on the religious beliefs of the victims), and insist that jihad is not only a spiritual struggle within the individual, but a literal war to conquer the world. If Mein Kampf was bad, the Koran is far worse.

From the web page: “…the core of the problem is whether anything he (Wilders) says gives anyone else a license to destroy and kill, and whether Western governments should abet that mindset.”

(The term “Dutch treat” means “No treat at all.” Source; scroll down to “Yeah….”)

 

A parody: Barack Hussein Obama on US Iraq policy, courtesy of the folks at Samizdata.

Iraq continues to be a serious problem, and the Bush administration has done nothing but increase the problem and cause unnecessary deaths. It is a mess, but I have a solution: I would never have gone there.

The Iraq War will be a big problem to inherit, but it would not be if we hadn’t have gone there. That’s why that is my solution. People ask me, “Won’t leaving Iraq now be abandoning the Iraqi people?” Well, it wouldn’t be abandoning them if we hadn’t had gone there. “What about a civil war?” others ask, to which I say there would be no civil war if Saddam were still in charge because we didn’t go to Iraq. As you can see, not having gone to Iraq easily solves all these problems. “I do have experience: Experience at not going to war.”

As for Al Qaeda in Iraq, I don’t think they would be a problem if we hadn’t had gone. Maybe they already were there and working with some support from Saddam, but I still think not having gone there is a risk worth taking. You may worry about all the terrorists there and whether they have intentions for attacking America, but you wouldn’t if we hadn’t had gone.

…not having gone to Iraq is the perfect solution for me. It’s one I’m uniquely able to espouse and have been consistent on. Years ago I said we shouldn’t invade Iraq, and that is still my solution.

A few have said that not going to Iraq isn’t a solution anymore since we already have gone there. I hear your concern and I have three words for you: Hope. Change. The future.

That’s right: The future. And not just any future; a future where we look forward and say, “We shouldn’t have gone to Iraq.”

 

An Iraqi comments on the current situation in his homeland:

…after the U.S. overthrew the Baathists, AQI (Al Qaeda in Iraq) challenged the US in Iraq, attempting to foment a civil war by a barbaric campaign of murder. Then, after a lengthy period of bloodletting and sectarian violence, the Sunnis turned against AQI, the U.S. employed an effective counter-insurgency strategy, and the major Shiite militia stopped killing Sunni civilians. AQI has been humiliated, and its standing in the Muslim world has plummeted.

There is more, including comments on the US political situation, at the above link. Iraqis do worry about the coming election in the USA.

 

Immigration remains the unaddressed, unsolved problem, in spite of the fact that a number of senators have introduced bills that they believe will help. The situation is so bogged down that some are creating fantastic scenarios that explain why the system is not working. Sample quotes, beginning with Tammy Bruce:

…we’ve all just been taken for a ride. … In order to do whatever possible to avoid building an actual physical fence … Bush (et al.) made sure a monumental amount of money was wasted on a fake, untested, unreal fence to placate conservatives.

Tony Blankley:

I am not by nature a believer in large political conspiracies, noting that usually events can be explained by merely a conspiracy of idiots against the forces of reason. And so perhaps in this case, too. The Bush administration and the leaders of the Democratic Party both want (for different reasons) no obstruction to the full flood of illegal workers (for the Republicans) and voters (for the Democrats) into the United States, thus their adamantine opposition to a physical obstruction to such passage. Whether they truly believed in the efficacy of the virtual fence or not I must leave up to soul readers.

But either way, the announcement last week demonstrates the complete political failure of those of us who have argued for an effective policy implementation to gain control of our borders promptly and stanch the flood of illegal border crossings. It is now highly likely that whosoever wins the presidency, we are facing eight more years of unsecured borders and the addition of many millions more illegal immigrants into our already unstable body politic. “Alea iacta est.” (The die is cast.)

If you have not seen the superb video “Immigration by the Numbers,” by all means call it up now and let it inform you.

 

Why did Fred Thompson fail in his bid for the presidency? The answer should give us all pause.

The cautionary tale begins with a book, Liberal Fascism, and is clarified by a website post. From that post:

(The author of the book, Jonah Goldberg,) describes fascism, properly, as collectivist and authoritarian, and notes that these collective and authoritarian threads run through American politics.

…authoritarianism runs through both political parties and all political movements. It’s as if authoritarianism has some seductive power that makes it nearly impossible to resist.

Why is this? Consider a person who wants to run for office in the United States, anything from part-time dogcatcher to President of the United States. The underlying urge, in general, is the desire to make things better coupled with the idea that one knows what “better” is.

But merely knowing what you think the better course is isn’t sufficient. You have to publicize your ideas, make yourself available. You must campaign.

The more significant the office, the greater effort you must make to achieve it, the greater the sacrifices needed. Fred Thompson’s campaign is the example that tests the rule, and in its failure it demonstrated that in the modern political campaign, only the truly obsessed can compete.

Someone sufficiently obsessed with the goal of making something better to run a successful national campaign is also necessarily sufficiently convinced of their own righteousness that they want to bend people to their will, first in the election, then after.

This is the appeal of authority.

At one point in their history, the Greeks required capable people to hold civic office, and the best men resisted the call to serve.

That suggests that today’s voters have exactly the wrong idea about who should be president. The more a candidate desires the highest office, the more suspicious we should be of his motives. Thompson’s failure is an indictment not of the man, but of the modern body politic.

 

In the Hobby Corner of the PenPo today, we find another installment of the popular series, Turning Over Flat Rocks in Marshy Areas. Discovered: journalistic misbehavior at the AP and the LA Times (there’s a shock!), followed by some observations on Slick’s political correctness. Click on the slime trail and scroll to the February 27 post titled, “Just Unbelievable.”

 

An interview of Victor Davis Hanson — terse, compact, meaty, loaded with high-voltage concepts and quotable quotes. Not for those who find thinking burdensome.

 

There are some excellent reasons to be upset with George W. Bush, and this mess is one of them. A good executive would have some heads on his desk and new people minding the store. So what can we hope for, when the Democrats take over? Unfortunately no remaining presidential candidate — GOP or Democrat — seems in the slightest interested in the ongoing boondoggle. It may be that none of them are even aware of it.

 

Comic relief to close out the news and commentary…a clever video, well-produced, and bound to irritate the fringes. Who need a lot more irritating. — This video is so well done, some folks may think at first that it’s a genuine news segment that appeared on this or that cable channel. Of course no PenPo staffers were taken in, even for a second.

How To Win That Election Bet This Year

Here’s the not-so-secret Republican strategy: you vote in the primaries for the Democratic candidate who is losing. That prolongs the Hillary-vs.-Obama brawl. The polarized Democrats tear their party apart very publicly, and in the presidential election, the undecided vote goes to the dignified, stronger GOP. Could it work, and is there a way out for the Democrats? Some say it is already working, and that Hillary is still in the fight because the Republicans want her in it.

But…can John McCain become president? He needs the hard core of his party to anchor his move to capture a significant number of moderate Democrats and Republicans. Can he depend on that anchor to be there? To tell us that now, we need a prophet, and by the looks of the following quote, we have found one:

…the reason McCain is so well liked by the media is because they’re liberals and they love it when he trashes other Republicans. But, what would happen if John McCain actually became the Republican nominee? The same members of the mainstream media who gush over him today would turn on him in a Minnesota minute and once his great press ended, his poll numbers with Independents and Democrats would start to drop precipitously.

That prediction is two years old, and it’s spot on. A skeptic might object that The New York Times, followed less rashly but immediately by The Washington Post, just proved yet again that ideology trumps ethics in the journalism qua propaganda business…so that was not a hard call. Fair enough, but there is a bit more to consider.

Most observers unwisely trivialize the loathing with which many within the GOP regard McCain. His long list of unforgivable sins will never be forgotten, as our prophet reminds us. McCain’s bitter critics believe in politics based on principle, not on empty partisanship. They have a point.

Will the rock-ribbed traditionalists in the GOP spitefully ignore McCain, and make the Democrat president by default? Our prophet’s vision suggests that the answer is yes.

Without solid support from his party’s stalwarts, McCain simply can’t get enough votes. While he would fare better against Hillary than against Obama, the Republican will lose.

Vigilantes, Bad Guys, And Possibly Innocent Victims: A Tale Of Our Time

You may have heard of the hiss-and-spit between Scientology and Anonymous. The technical reports and the news items explained very little, which means most folks are ignorant of the significance of events.

Anonymous is a fascinating instance of a cyber-backlash. The outrage behind it is visceral to the point of instinctive, but it is not spontaneous: Scientology’s parasitic misbehavior has provoked a response rooted in profound ethical imperatives.

No one knows how many people are active in Anonymous, but the group is made up exclusively of highly computer-literate individuals. There is no leader or hierarchy, which makes Anonymous almost unique: it’s an ad hoc aggregation of very discrete individual volunteers who intend to destroy the ability of their enemies to do evil. The activities of Anonymous arise naturally from the confluence of remarkably middle-class, conventional morality and a mastery of technology.

Anonymous wants to destroy Scientology because the fake church is a harmful fraud. The internet is just one of the weapons the movement uses, though it attracts the most attention from the press.

Anonymous is gnawing on more than just Scientology. The league also targets individuals who break the rules. An example: a young female teacher who works (worked?) for an upscale private school in California. This individual led (until fairly recently) a secret second life, making money from a website that offered quasi-sexual thrills for fetishists.

Anonymous became aware of what it felt were negative aspects of the enterprising dominatrix’s attitude, and resolved to find the real person behind the fantastic internet personality. Before long, anyone who looked at the home page of Anonymous could easily link to the teacher’s name, address, telephone number, employer, and even photos of her apartment building. Anonymous notified the IRS of the woman’s presumably undeclared income and arranged to notify the parents of the school’s students of the facts. The fetish website was soon shut down.

The exposure made waves. A visit to the website of the school that employs (employed?) the moonlighting internet entrepreneur reveals a home page with no links to the crucial information listed on the menu. The website has been gutted by the school, and in an effort to keep the public out, passwords available only to parents of the school’s pupils are required. This is a private, for-profit business that now feels it must forbid the world a casual glance at its facade. The scandal must have been ruinous. (The school should have dismissed the teacher and simply removed her name from the publicly-accessible list of faculty. Hiding events, as the school has, only suggests there is a greater impropriety lurking in shadow.)

Does Anonymous have a right to do things like this?

The scanty justifications Anonymous provides for its sustained assault on the dominatrix/teacher indicate that Anonymous was particularly irritated by the responses of the young woman when she became aware of criticism. Anonymous also seems to have been profoundly troubled by the hypocrisy of her dual occupations. She depended on secrecy, and it might be argued that a teacher of minors is expected by the community to live a somewhat transparent life…free of behavior most would find distasteful at best, and certainly free of felonious activity (the presumed tax evasion would be a federal offense).

(To clarify the issue, consult a rational discussion of internet vigilantism.)

Right or wrong, Anonymous is obviously extraordinarily moralistic at its base. Its assault on Scientology is principled, not religiously motivated, and is designed to expose the inner workings of the fraud as well as hinder its daily activities. Anonymous promotes a separatist group of former Scientologists that gives away free the same things Scientology sells for outrageously high prices.

By the same token, the assault on the teacher is more than malice unleashed: it asks us to consider whether a decidedly minority view of sexuality might influence the attitude of an educator toward very young children. The five-year-olds can not benefit from contact with a mindset steeped in the extremes of a sexual fetish, and the question of whether a teacher/dominatrix can totally divorce her two roles is impossible to answer. Not many parents would be willing to take the slightest risk.

In Anonymous, we find an application of the power of the internet, as well as a demonstration that those who hide behind the anonymity of the computer-facilitated medium can be exposed. In other words: do what you wish, but remember that some people might feel you are reprehensible. Those folks might tell the world who you are and what you are up to.

Is that bad? Society has always had ways of policing itself without recourse to formal jurisprudential institutions. Simply shining light into dark corners is one of the most effective means of enforcement of generally accepted moral standards. Before you condemn Anonymous, recall that every community in human history has employed this tactic to impose limits on misbehavior. Today, the tactic is more powerful — but it is time-honored.

One should also consider carefully the ethos that drives Anonymous. These people are fed up with deceit, abuse, exploitation and hypocrisy. True, they laugh about the fun to be had mocking and irritating their victims, but they are rejoicing in the discomfort of rascals. That’s a joy everyone can understand.

Anonymous appears to be a large, powerful anarchist/individualist voluntary confederation that acts in a principled fashion and does not desire to seize power or dictate ideology. Anonymous is a bit quirky, and sometimes quite vindictive, but at its core it is an attempt to clean up the neighborhood.

In fact this is the formerly silent, very ordinary citizenry asserting itself in areas governments do not, and very often should not, police. Anonymous is a demographic cross-section of technically literate Western Civilization. This modern and wildly diverse population is finding its voice — and power.

These are people who refuse to stand by ineffectually and watch the rascals keep winning. We should pay attention, for the implications of this protean, Promethean movement are stunning.

Is Anonymous, in the words of an author who describes the potential of the internet to change our lives, “An Army of Davids”? Probably not. A much better description — because it expresses the overwhelming nature of the opposition Scientology faces, yet can never confront — is the movement’s coda, words that must chill the blood of people with something filthy to hide:

“We are legion.”

Privacy, Part Three

Like all quasi-political, quasi-ethical concepts, the notion of privacy has evolved. Though we cannot define it precisely, and we certainly cannot demonstrate its supernatural origin, it is real enough; it is a vague but insistent value that tells us we must respect the individual enough to ignore him to some extent.

In years to come, Western Civilization will have to refine its understanding of privacy, and codify some concepts that are still embryonic. That work will go fastest and best if it proceeds from precedent, rather than from zealotry. We can look to parallel laws, for example, and bring them into synchronization with fundamental political notions that arose in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Here is a specific hypothetical example: we recall that the fourth amendment to the US constitution guarantees both that we shall not be subject to arbitrary searches of our homes, and that lawbreakers cannot claim their residences are utterly beyond the powers of the authorities. The individual’s privacy can be set aside, in other words, but the judicially-issued search warrant is an attempt to prevent abuse. That is the first building block in a new structure of privacy.

The second building block is part of the international law of the sea. In order to be binding, a blockade of a port must be effective, the hoary principle tells us. This means that a naval force cannot claim to have blockaded a harbor unless it actually can halt all shipping and drive off warships seeking to break the blockade. Once those requirements have been met, the blockading force can properly seize vessels and their cargo for violating the blockade. Merchant ships approaching the closed port are legally obliged to alter course — once they have verified that the blockade is effective.

The two concepts can be joined, in a sense, by creating guidelines that both imply. What follows is a necessarily hasty and incomplete rule set, devised to illustrate some of the theoretical possibilities a free society might choose if it wishes to legislate protection of the individual’s privacy.

1. The residence is private, and only specific circumstances allow its sanctity to be violated (hot pursuit, reasonable cause, search warrants).

2. The privacy of the home can be extended to effects and documents outside the residence, as follows:

A. Documents must be secured and encrypted, such that they cannot be understood without extraordinary effort. The same holds for recordings of all types of data. If anyone can open the box, take out a DVD, play it and understand what is on it, that DVD is not private. To be binding, privacy must be effective. Once the effectiveness of the encryption is demonstrated, only a court order will permit the government to try to crack it.

This ignores the question of whether the government may require an individual to provide the key, the password or the information necessary to open the private effects to view. The courts are struggling with that issue now. It is extremely difficult: consider the fellow who has forgotten the password, or the fact that a search warrant requires one to open his door — which might be legally analogous to opening an encrypted file. It’s a tangled mess of an issue.

Records of transactions such as library books checked out, credit card purchases, websites visited, rentals of tools and other items, travel documents, school transcripts, medical files and contracts will be considered private if the individual deals with a firm that is willing to encrypt its records and allow only him to decrypt those that apply to him. Obviously many firms will decline to offer this service, or will put restrictions on it, including imposing fees.

Once the information is encrypted, it must be genuinely secured; from that point on, only properly authorized law enforcement may examine it.

None of this is in the slightest impractical. Even handwritten notes and sketches can be scanned, and the resulting file encrypted and hidden in a photograph or audio/video recording (with steganography), quickly and efficiently.

B. Effects, such as bags of money or stacks of television sets, may be considered legally private and subject to search only with a warrant under specific circumstances. They must be concealed from public view, placed under lock and key, and their presence and/or location not indicated on bulletin boards, in notebooks or other records, and not common knowledge. They must be hidden and secured, in other words. Anyone trying to open them must encounter a label telling him that he is trespassing. If it is private and not in your residence, you must conceal it and lock it up — and not tell anyone about it.

4. Actions: when an individual leaves his residence, he is fair game for all observers, including those with recording devices. Being in public means just that: public is not private.

What, then, does privacy mean? Simply that other people, unless they are law enforcement officers with court authorization, can not eventry to violate one’s security without breaking the law. (“Security” is used here instead of “privacy,” in deference to the language of the fourth amendment.)

Beyond these guidelines, there may be others that are more inclusive, depending on the technology of the time. For now, however, it seems best to confer legally enforced privacy on effects outside the home only if they have been effectively rendered private. You must, in other words, first make it particularly difficult for anyone to discover your secrets, before you can call the police and report an attempted privacy breach (a felony).

If you want privacy, you can have it. Tell your government what you want. Remember that, like mobility, privacy will come at a price, and there will be things it cannot accomplish.

Some would argue that it should be illegal to gather public information on people. Since humans have always watched each other and taken an interest in the passing parade, this attempt to guarantee the privacy of the individual seems both unprecedented and Quixotic. If you don’t want to be recognized, wear a disguise. If you don’t want to be heard, be quiet. If you can’t stand the light, stay in your coffin during the day. But to try to handicap businesses that want to meet their customers’ needs smacks of striking others blind and deaf.

Then there is the question of whether a postulated right to privacy can function as an aegis, or even defining circumstance. Abortion, for example, is argued to be permissible because it is victimless and non-public. Since we are asserted to have a right to privacy, it is claimed we can legally practice abortion; forbidding it violates our right to privacy. The problem with this argument is that society cannot agree on whether the procedure affects only the mother; if there is a second individual involved, then abortion cannot be considered victimless. The fact that the foetus is in, but not of, the mother (mother and foetus do not have the same genotype, and are therefore distinct but often inseparable organisms) is a complication — over which an endless battle continues.

It is clear, however, that privacy should never render illegal acts legitimate. That would be like saying that if I murder my neighbor, but no one ever discovers that he did not actually move to Tierra del Fuego, my homicide was legal. If a society chooses to make abortion a punishable offense, then whether abortions are conducted in privacy — or in secrecy — is totally irrelevant.

Ultimately, it would be best to stop thinking of privacy as a right, and think of it as a protection against governmental and private abuse of the individual. Yes, the word “right” is familiar, but it raises so many unanswerable questions that it can lead to illogical thinking. Better to put it this way: we want the government not to read our mail, so we insist on certain rules. The authorities are our servants, and we contract with them for services which they are to perform according to guidelines. We can change the guidelines, and we do, as our ethical and practical considerations change.

Moreover, the judiciary is not permitted to take the bit in its teeth. We can and sometimes do remove judges from the bench, even those with lifelong appointments. We also amend our constitution, creating law that is above judicial review. In the case of Kelo, we have partially nullified the federal court’s inexplicable mistake by enacting some state laws to prevent abuse of eminent domain; the supreme court turns out not to be so supreme, after all. Ultimately, the people can have what they want.

That’s good enough, as long as we have a genuinely democratic republic. Mumbo-jumbo is not necessary.