The nation is teetering on financial ruin due to the unconscionable spending, borrowing, taxing and money printing by the federal government. … The solution is to remove by constitutional design that which cannot be accomplished statutorily — the overwhelming political incentive for reckless government spending by governing masterminds.

The Liberty Amendments Reconsidered

In Number 317 of this newsletter, Mark Levin’s book proposing several amendments to the US federal constitution was reviewed and endorsed. Not everyone agrees with that endorsement, of course; some who oppose the amendments are self-styled “wingnuts” who feel that Levin is proposing improper, even unconstitutional, measures. Here is an example of anti-Liberty amendments reasoning that comes from the political “right”. Those contentions are indented. This newsletter’s responses are printed within regular margins.

To many of us, it seems that the only time these talk show hosts (Limbaugh, Hannity, etc.) join together in this manner is when there is a time to bring Americans into another unconstitutional war or when it’s time to persuade Americans that they should support another self-proclaimed “conservative” candidate that believes that the U.S. Constitution is a living document that can be altered without regard to the laws of the Constitution.

Levin intends to proceed according to the procedure set forth by the Founders; in fact, there is no other way to do it, since the constitution is very clear on how it is to be amended. There is no possibility of pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes when it comes to proposing and adopting amendments. See, for just one instance, this discussion.

According to Washington Times columnist Michael Lotfi’s column titled “Nullification vs. Article V Constitutional Convention: Why Levin Is Wrong”, Mark Levin is incorrect when he says that it authorizes a “state convention process.” This is because Article V only allows states to apply for Congress to call a convention.

Levin is not calling for a constitutional convention. The process of amending the constitution is not in part or in toto a “constitutional convention” — not at all. It is true that a convention may be employed to begin the process of amending the document, but that convention is not “constitutional”. It is called specifically and exclusively for the purpose of discussing amending, not replacing, the constitution. Again: this process is defined by Article V of the constitution. Read it (!!), and you will see that what you might call a “state convention process” — not a technically correct term — is defined. Lotfi is either abysmally ignorant or lying.

Congress gets to choose the delegates not the states.

This absurd claim is the sort of assumption that can arise when one does not do the necessary homework. It is absolutely not true. It might even be a deliberate lie. To wit:

On page 16 of his book, Levin says: “…the state legislatures determine if they want to make application for a convention; the method for selecting their delegates; and the subject matter of the convention”. This is footnoted. On page 225, footnotes 28 and 29 are relevant. They refer to a paper by one Robert Natelson, who clarifies the procedure beyond all possibility of confusion. It is obvious that neither of Levin’s critics, Swann nor Lofti, bothered to check the facts. If you have a copy of Levin’s volume and an internet connection, you can see just how lazy and incompetent their error is.

…let’s assume that states get to pick the delegates rather than Congress.

All right — let’s do that. Well, surprise! This assumption is perfectly logical, for an inherent part of the process allows the states to mandate how the delegates are to be chosen. The scholarship makes that clear. In fact, this aspect of amending the constitution had never been a matter of dispute until Swann and Lofti fabricated the issue.

Long ago during the last Con Con back in 1787 the leaders of the state of Rhode Island were deeply displeased by the unlawful actions of the representatives that attended the Con Con and therefore hesitated to ratify the new Constitution. According to the rules before the 1787 Con Con, all of the states were supposed to agree to any changes made to the Constitution but this rule was simply not followed and so the rule was made at the convention that only 9 states needed to agree on the changes to the Constitution.

This nonsense is a clumsy, irrelevant distraction that betrays the ignorance and dishonesty of Levin’s critics. The childish “Con Con” babble is an attempt to ridicule the amendment process Levin refers to. The adoption of the Liberty amendments is not the drafting of a new constitution, but the addition, according to constitutional procedures, of new specifications of limited scope. The fact that a convention has never been used to begin the addition of a new amendment to the constitution does not mean that it cannot be; see the Wikipedia article, linked above, for information on those occasions when states almost succeeded in telling Congress to call a convention for the purpose of considering amendments to the constitution.

Article V of the constitution specifies two paths to amendment, and each involves two alternatives; if you want to understand this process, you must do a little reading. The links above suffice for that task.

The fact of the matter is that entering into a Constitutional Convention at this time in America’s history would basically be like entering a game of Russian Roulette with the Constitution.

This is naked alarmist fantasy. Dishonest, crude, and obvious, it’s propaganda — nothing more.

Ignore batty “wingnuts”. Levin is right.

Dispatches From A Tramp Abroad

What is the plural of ignoramus?

Obamacare in action. The best quote in the whole article: “There is enough contradiction between two federal laws — 42 USC § 18115 vs. 26 USC § 5000A — to keep an army of lawyers busy and tie up the courts in litigation and appeals for years.”

This is an amazing use of vocal cords. Definitely not boring!

Get pregnant and…lose your rights.

Just for the guy who is waiting for the infernal revenuers to attack…

You have heard of ghost towns. How about ghost stations?

Der Spiegel on the fight between Gülen and Erdoğan: aside from a few (grievous) spelling errors, the article sums up the current state of affairs. Whether or not the Gülen Movement will succeed in toppling Erdoğan remains to be seen. Whereas Erdoğan is a scrapper from the streets of the Istanbul suburbs, Gülen is more of a self-educated, nationalistic imam from eastern Anatolia.

Paper helmets provide better protection than the polystyrene helmets commonly used today. But millions of baby boomers survived without any helmets at all. Are we rearing a generation of wimps?

Words can be powerful.

Stress is not always bad…it can be your ally. Hug a friend and overdose on oxytocin.

Fiction is stranger than truth, sometimes.

Don’t kill your language!

Little changes matter a lot…and other lessons in innovation from LEGOs. There are certainly lessons to be learned from this surprising resource. BTW, I would be interested to learn how they calculated all of those combinations.

Climate Mythology Versus The Facts

1. This brief video was prepared on the tenth of this month. Some of its commentary refers to that day only, so its major value is in the references to which it links. “How To Watch The Sun” is particularly important. Do inform yourself; genuine science is your best defense against the mainstream media’s cultic “climate change” myths.

2. The claim: cold weather in the USA is due to anthropogenic global warming. That’s not correct. Here’s a quick explanation of the facts; follow that with solid information on the sun’s cyclical behavior.

3. When a lot of ice in a polar region breaks apart, AGW believers claim they understand what happened and why. After some years of study, scientists have arrived at the truth. The mechanics of the process are now understood and can be explained.

4. Fraud, fakery and fascism in science and government: Climategate and The Environmental Protection Agency are linked. This should be a fully-fledged scandal, but it’s so politically correct and connected that it can hide in plain sight.

5. This article on Richard Lindzen won’t prove that the Gore-Hansen Cult has AGW all wrong, but it will give you some interesting insight into the reasoning and personality of a leading critic of the nonsense. Highly recommended.

6. The British newspaper The Guardian is known for its assertive idiosyncrasies, and AGW is one of its hobby horses. What the paper has done with and to that subject constitutes a niche in the study of the practice of journalism. That’s a polite way of saying that if you plan to continue reading this paragraph, you would be well advised to join a bridge club or take tennis lessons…by all means meet a few people, and do try to take an interest in them. — Still here? Very well. This hyperlink takes you to a website that provides yet more hyperlinks; they will facilitate your investigation of an iconic editorial struggle with reality and its discontents.

Addendum: slogans spouted by cynical alarmists can and often do drown out objective discussions of climate. For a reminder that “green” zealots have attempted to terrorize the public into submitting to irrational hyperregulation, please revisit Number 299 of this newsletter.

Book Review

Civilian Warriors, The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror, by Erik Prince. Portfolio/Penguin, 2013, ISBN 978-1-59184-721-2.

This book is Blackwater’s founder’s opportunity to justify his enterprise and damn the political motives of those who brought it down, and Prince does a good job of accomplishing both objectives.

If you don’t recall the long history of the roles played by civilians in the USA’s wars, you can’t understand Blackwater in context. Prince knows that, so he wisely brings the reader up to speed with a thumbnail account of why his company was able to grow — and why it had a lot of competition you never heard of.

The Blackwater story is, according to the author, a tale of stunning success, much more peaceful than violent, and can stand up well under the most vigorous scrutiny — even when the company was involved in bloody encounters.

That does not mean the company is above all negative criticism. Prince’s book is his side of the story, and in spite of the fact that he quotes many observers of Blackwater’s performance over the years, the reader cannot know whether any of that is accurate — or what might have been left out.

That’s an obvious truth that can be ignored. This reviewer’s understanding of Blackwater is that the company did a great deal of good, made very few mistakes, and never deserved the bitter invective that was heaped upon it. Many of its nastiest critics were better off because it existed.

Be clear: Prince and his employees were never “mercenaries”, a fact this newsletter acknowledged in Number 124, in early 2010:

The term “mercenary” is a pejorative that absolutely does not apply in this case. A true mercenary is amoral — i.e. will quit and work for your enemies if you don’t pay him more than they will. Blackwater’s employees were constrained by strict ethical principles in their choice of employer and cause.

The principal role Blackwater played was to keep important people from being killed (or worse yet, kidnapped). Downtown Baghdad was probably the hardest place on earth to accomplish that mission, yet the facts indicate that the company did its job virtually perfectly. Who could have done better? The careful reader is likely to be convinced that where suicidal lunatics were doing all they could to slaughter officials and their bodyguards, Blackwater performed miracles.

Not everyone appreciated that, and some expressed insane loathing for Blackwater’s employees. For example, there’s Markos Moulitsas, about whom Prince says not a word. Moulitsas is an extreme collectivist political consultant and weblogger who bitterly denounced four of Blackwater’s employees who were killed in Fallujah. “What were they doing there?” Moulitsas asked. The answer, that they were trying to protect people and avoid violence, would rate only a sneer and yet another obscene imprecation from the ideologue. For the full story, use the Google search engine with the terms “kos bridge blackwater fallujah screw them”. If you have the stomach to explore the links, you will discover just how depraved and vile a “political consultant” can be.

Not all Democrats are as rabid as Moulitsas, fortunately. There is, for example, the current president of the USA.

Prince notes briefly Obama’s hypocrisy (on pages 315-6). The senator and later president angrily denounced Blackwater and its competitors, only to employ them — later. Then there was an offhand remark made by an IRS agent to Prince’s accountant: the man is quoted as saying he had “never been under so much pressure to get someone as to get Erik Prince” (page 311). That indicates that the president and his familiars were determined to find something, anything, they could use against Blackwater, presumably to ingratiate themselves with the bloodthirsty wing of the Democratic party. The resort to the nihilistic thugs of the IRS is by now familiar to those who intend to put an end to Obamoid policy. Ask the Tea Party.

And then there was — and still is, unfortunately — Henry. Congressman Henry Waxman proved to be one of Blackwater’s most rabid and determined opponents, and Prince grew to hate the man: “I’m not sure whether a person can really gauge the quality of his work by the enemies he’s made, but if I somehow upset Hamas, and the Taliban, and Henry Waxman, I must have done something right”. (Page 300.)

Well. The bitter political feud will never be settled, but the facts remain. Prince notes that, after the “surge” in Iraq, the coalition military personnel there numbered 165,000, while 180,000 private military contractors had been hired to provide all manner of support for the troops. Over and over, Prince asserts that the military simply cannot mount an invasion, fight a war, and occupy a nation without hiring tens of thousands of people to sustain the effort. His book abounds with examples proving his point.

Again, did the bodyguards do their jobs? Ask the Polish ambassador to Iraq.

Blackwater was often first on the scene, best in protecting its charges, ready with the right equipment to rescue people the military could not reach, and so on. Prince is proud of his employees, and he makes a good case.

Unfortunately he is never able to explain how it happened that Blackwater — which was one of several such organizations in Iraq, and not the largest — was singled out for a steady assault by press, politicians, and protesters. Could it be that he simply chose a bad name for the enterprise? The notion does not seem to have occurred to him.

Some who read Prince’s account will be disappointed by the minimal attention he pays to combat. Instead he describes in considerable detail what he found to be the deceit, incompetence, bad faith and stupidity of the Department of State and other of the federal government’s appendages. The CIA rates rather well on Prince’s list, though, and one incident is particularly interesting: when the US government tried hard to put some Blackwater employees in prison, former officials (in unspecified agencies, but most likely the CIA) blew the whistle on the Justice Department, revealing that the accused were following instructions that came from Langley. Three years of government efforts to imprison the men were utterly wasted, and Prince’s employees walked away. The case was rotten from the first.

Even if Prince has overstated his case and not mentioned incidents or facts that would reflect badly on him, his book is impressive — and thought-provoking. Regarding which, then, some thoughts.

Blackwater came to represent former president G. W. Bush’s policy, and when W was no longer available, Prince and his employees became proxies for the loathed executive. Over time, the rhetoric that targeted Blackwater grew increasingly irrational, bitter, and creative. “Progressives” had found a target that could not shoot back, so their inapt criticism devolved to a feral hatred. It remains a spectacle that should be studied by scholars investigating the psychological basis and appeal of US political discourse and propaganda.

A form of censorship must also be considered. If, for example, you conduct an internet search for information on the rescue by Blackwater of the injured Polish ambassador (Edward Pietrzyk) to Iraq, see how many sources you locate that tell you that after he recovered, he decorated every man on the team that saved him. Some news is not supposed to be repeated. And did you know that the aid organization that was first into New Orleans after hurricane Katrina was…yes, that’s right.

In an afterword, the cooperation between the CIA and Blackwater are discussed by another author, one Max Boot. Some might find those remarks the most interesting part of the volume.

There are photographs, none of which will appeal to fans of graphic records of carnage. Amazingly, the book has no index (!). The decision to omit it was a blunder, for the volume is significantly, irritatingly less useful than it could have been.

Summing up: Civilian Warriors is a denunciation of (a) the US government’s lunatic ideological obsessions and (b) the inane views of propagandists who savaged an undeserving target. It is not a tale of adventure in defense of Western Civilization. It is not exciting — if anything, it is either infuriating, or, if you think Prince made all the salient facts up and hid the real story, it is not worth recommending to anyone.

Unfortunately that means Prince won’t change any minds.

Links

Begin your tour of the Links with a good laugh. Like all powerful humor, this jape has a core of solid truth. Too solid for The One, in all probability. Never mind; enjoy the hilarity. If anything has ever deserved to go “viral”, this brilliant two-part video deserves to! It’s an instant classic!

Ideologues insisted that violence in Iraq was the USA’s fault. Rubbish!

If you are interested in science in the service of security, there are some useful links to be found on this site. That is not to trivialize the main story, which has to do with the tension between the Obama administration and the folks who would like to conduct more research into germs, radioactivity, and other threats to the populace.

Possibly related: research in psychology has a distinctly speckled history. Many psychologists have a fundamental contempt for people, whom they see as naive, easily manipulated, fragile, and pathetic. Psychology often tends to belittle humans as robots made of meat. Here’s some insufficient evidence in support of that bitter view.

Would your local police department “…have time for this“?

The Beagle is a very intelligent breed.

Many Islamofascists complain bitterly about drones. Think how they will react to these things!

A police officer in the USA explains his attitude toward your rights. Highly recommended.

Related: the US Border Patrol stops a car (with at least one immature brat in it). What happens next is interesting.

“From Tehran’s perspective, Hezbollah’s rockets were their first line of defense against an Israeli strike.” More here.

A weblogger says, “The frackers are basically saving America, and western civilization. No wonder so many people hate them”. Details.

“He’s carrying water for the (Obama) administration.” Why isn’t he “carrying water” for the USA, for peace, and for an end to the terrible threat of nuclear war? Why is the Obama administration more important to him than is anything and anyone else? Exactly what kind of man is this “water-carrier”?

News of Iranian progress toward a nuclear weapon is extraordinarily depressing and alarming. Whom to blame? Certainly Obama and Kerry, but that’s just a start. In fact one can reasonably wonder what aspect of governance is being responsibly and rationally tended by the Obama administration. Failure is omnipresent….

This information puts an end to the fuss over Genetically Modified Organisms, as far as this newsletter is concerned. In the event true scientists discover worrisome facts and the discovery is validated, then a reconsideration will be in order. Until that day, will those who fear and hate GMO foods kindly shut up and sit down, please?

Obama, the economy, “trickle-down” nonsense, and Liberty.

Tell your children to prepare for a career in government. The insiders have all the fun — and on the little people’s dimes.

Good grief — consider the basics: Iran is not Pakistan; it is not India or China. Hell’s bells, it’s not even North Korea! The Iranian leadership is literally homicidally insane, and the fanatics plan to trigger a world war that will kill most of humanity.

Does this remind you of a recent NTG book review?

For many years, there was (and to a certain extent, has been) a campaign to condemn coffee along with cigarettes. The attempt to reduce consumption of the popular beverage now appears to be very unwise.

For those in the USA, here it is again. Perhaps the only counter to the abuse is this.

The video shows how she celebrated her fourteenth birthday.

“…it is wrong to designate the entire group of supporters as a criminal gang based on the acts of a few.” (Source.) Stigmatization practiced by a governmental/jurisprudential agency is an authoritarian’s dangerous addiction. Outlying political/religious factions, such as the ideological clique that currently exercises the executive authority of the US federal government, often assume — and even insist — that simply everybody is guilty until proven innocent. That mindset automatically justifies snooping on the public.

When is Mother’s Day? Never mind. This video is for mothers only.

Related: this one is for all you females. Pay attention! It’s important.

The masthead includes a quote from the works of Mark Levin.

The staff of The New Terrapin Gazette expresses its sincere gratitude to the many people who have gifted the world with Slackware Linux, Emacs, and Firefox.

Publisher: The Eagle Wing Palace of The Queen Chinee.