The New Clarion

The New Clarion header image 1

Nihilist Diplomacy

August 17th, 2015 by Bill Brown · Foreign Affairs, Politics

Imagine two scenarios:

1) A country is attacked by terrorists. In response, it targets the terrorists and the countries that aid those terrorists. It successfully captures a bunch of the terrorists and imprisons them. During the course of its operations, an enlisted man deserts and is captured by the terrorists. Its leader exchanges a handful of the detained terrorists for the soldier, as several of the released terrorists vow to continue the fight.

2) A country wants to prevent another country from getting nuclear weapons. Its negotiators meet with the other country and hammer out a plan that has the appearance of restricting arms development but actually allows it to continue out of the world’s eye. Concessions are given readily and the leader spurns any opposition to it domestically.

If the leader of that country publicly lauded the results of each scenario, how would you characterize the country’s (and, specifically, its leader’s) values?

Obama’s stated purpose is to prevent nuclear proliferation. But his professed rationale is severely undercut by the path he’s taken:

  • Compliance inspections are limited in access and spontaneity, requiring at least 24 days notice and only for specified facilities.
  • Parts of the agreement can’t be revealed to the public or even Congress.
  • We aren’t allowed to be part of the inspection process.
  • As part of the deal, Iran will receive approximately over $100 billion frozen as part of sanctions.
  • They can keep enough of their enrichment centrifuges running.
  • Failure to comply will result in resumption of sanctions, but any resumption of sanctions removes all non-proliferation restrictions.

The negotiation failures are too plentiful to be accidental. This is not a case of our representatives being outgunned by their team. There is even a recent episode that closely parallels this situation—North Korea’s non-proliferation agreement—and we know exactly how that turned out. They knew what they were doing.

(Incidentally, Iran is really in a difficult bind due to the sanctions and low oil prices. It desperately needs the sanctions lifted and increased trade with the world to prop up its regime. We could have achieved countless concessions through a tougher negotiating stance. The comparisons with the recent Cuban deal are apt, especially the end result.)

Iranian leaders are gloating about the deal. Our leaders are professing a worry that a failure to rapidly approve of the deal will upset Iran, devastate our economy, and embolden the Iranian hardliners. If the deal is going to—at best—delay Iran’s nuclear capacity and—at worst—accelerate it with the influx of cash, then why would the administration be pressing so hard for its passage?

I can only think of two reasons: removing Israel’s advantage and subverting America’s interests in the region. This is not an administration that regards Iran and other Islamist governments as “Evil Empires” that must be undermined or countered. For this administration, we are the aggressors, the causes of radical Islam. That this course of action could lead to our destruction (or the destruction of our ally Israel) isn’t a bug—it’s a feature. Scenario #1 above is of a piece with this as well.

It’s really hard to believe that an American president can be anti-America and anti-value, but the conclusion is inescapable: his actions have eliminated any generosity or benefit of the doubt that could be assumed by the office.


[UPDATE (8/19/2015): Apparently, part of the secret agreement between Iran and IAEA is that Iran will inspect its own nuclear site and report back its compliance.]

→ 4 Comments

Worth a Look

July 16th, 2015 by Bill Brown · Metasite

There are so many good things happening out on the Internet right now that we can’t possibly write about all of them. But it’d be a shame not to share them with our readers, so we’ll regularly assemble a handful of links into a post. (Soon we’ll have these integrated in the blog’s new design as a side column so they don’t interfere with the regular content.)

[UPDATE: Moved links to sidebar.]

→ 1 Comment

Somehow

July 13th, 2015 by Bill Brown · Politics

“The growth and fairness economy.” This latest interview—one of the few granted to the press—strikes an all-too-familiar note: the people are suffering out there and it’s time for someone to start addressing that.

This tired, musty sentiment somehow seems even more trite with Clinton’s stilted performance. The emotion she conveys is ennui, as if she’s giving this speech because that’s what presidential candidates do. (Watching some past speeches of hers, you can’t rate her as much of a speaker but at least her smug condescension could be mistaken for passion.) The nameless Americans whose life stories perfectly encapsulate her talking points are quickly followed by breezy anecdotes about her own origin story, demonstrating that she’s just like you. Over the years, I’ve heard or read dozens of these same stump speeches from candidates of all persuasions.

The litany of giveaways would make almost any politician blush. It’s almost as if they ran 100 programs through a series of focus groups and decided to leave nothing to chance by taking the top 50. (I actually counted 56 but there are very few specifics provided.) There is literally something for everyone in that speech, and it is utterly repugnant (and unrepentant) in its demagoguery.

As usual, behind all of this is the forgotten man: the businessman. Hillary Clinton and her ilk chide him while holding out their hands for campaign funds and picking their pocket to pay for programs. As she praises the social contract of the middle class—”if you work hard and do your part, you should be able to get ahead”—she omits the party for whom they are doing their “part.”

Further, the businessman she hails isn’t the businessman that “built the greatest economy.” Small businesses may create 60 percent of today’s jobs, but America rose into greatness through the efforts of the mightiest corporations. The “strongest middle class” got their paychecks from companies with thousands of employees. Those companies were not barber shops, pool cleaning services, or cake shops.

Those companies once signed 99-year leases, funded laboratories, and moved mountains. They grew because they built a better product, provided a valuable service, or offered something never before conceived. Today they are pale shadows of their glory days, expert in compliance and maintaining the status quo.

Why are small businesses the engines of our measly growth nowadays? And why do they start to lose their focus on the future after they add their fiftieth employee?

How do Hillary Clinton and her kind expect to keep their show horse on a tight rein, with a hay wagon full of people attached, and still gallop at its unbridled pace?

→ No Comments

Duty to Die

July 10th, 2015 by Bill Brown · Culture

There was a brutal murder this past weekend in Washington, D.C. A thug tried to steal a young adult’s cell phone and then knocked him to the floor in the struggle. Once on the ground, the thief proceeded to stab the victim 30 or 40 times all over his body. Finally, he came back to the corpse and stomped on it a bit

The other passengers in the train car watched in horror, afraid for their lives. They didn’t try to save the victim and they mostly tried to end the train ride alive. According to Ayn Rand in her excellent essay entitled “The Ethics of Emergencies” from The Virtue of Selfishness:

A rational man does nor forget that life is the source of all values and, as such, a common bond among living beings (as against inanimate matter), that other men are potentially able to achieve the same virtues as his own and thus be of enormous value to him. This does not mean that he regards human lives as interchangeable with his own. He recognizes the fact that his own life is the source, not only of all his values, but of his capacity to value. Therefore, the value he grants to others is only a consequence, an extension, a secondary projection of the primary value which is himself.

In the Objectivist ethics, you help (or, more significantly, save) a stranger when doing so doesn’t jeopardize your life. This was an extreme example of “lifeboat ethics” and anyone who tried to stop the murderer was putting his or her own life on the line. It is perfectly moral to not have risked your life in that situation.

But, amazingly, some don’t see it that way. The Federalist condemns the other passengers as “beta males” and “men without chests” in an appalling display of armchair machismo. The kicker, for me, is when the author indicates that their behavior is a great example of “callous and unthinking selfishness.”

The point of Ayn Rand’s essay is that morality is not defined by what one would do in an “oncoming bus” scenario. Those are not common occurrences and morality is ostensibly a guide to life. So the actions of anyone riding that train don’t really speak to their morality.

But if a random group of Americans on a random train on a random day values their lives such that they shirk the common altruist duty of sacrificing themselves for a stranger, perhaps selfishness hasn’t been extinguished from the American sense of life.

→ 16 Comments

Sander Levin’s Latest Statist Efforts

July 26th, 2014 by Mike N · Politics

On (July 21) I received his newsletter from my US Congressman Sander Levin-D District 9 Michigan. In it he reports, New study: “Affordable Care Act (ACA) lowers uninsured rate” according to which 9.5 million additional adults ages 19 to 64 are now covered by insurance, and the national adult uninsured rate declined from 20 percent to 15 percent. He adds that according to this Commonwealth Fund study “a large majority of enrollees report that they are generally happy with their health care coverage.” [Read more →]

Comments Off on Sander Levin’s Latest Statist Efforts

Advice to Republicans

June 18th, 2014 by Mike N · Politics

In the wake of Eric Cantor’s defeat at the hands of a grass roots unknown both the GOP establishment and the Tea Party groups are wondering what next? The GOP is wondering how to prevent future defeats and the Tea Party groups are wondering how to engineer more of them. But as conservative pundit Byron York recently wrote:

“The midterm elections are less than six months away, and Republicans still can’t agree among themselves on what it will take to win.” [Read more →]

→ 1 Comment

One reason Republicans Keep Losing

April 8th, 2014 by Mike N · Politics

It’s not often that an article will provide glaringly obvious proof of why conservatives and Republicans have been impotent at stopping or even slowing the liberal’s march to dictatorship. Ayn Rand has said repeatedly that conservatives keep losing to liberals because conservatives share the same moral values as the liberals but don’t preach those values as consistently as the liberals do. “In any conflict between two men (or groups) who hold the same basic principles, it is the more consistent one who wins.” From the essay Anatomy of Compromise. [Read more →]

→ 3 Comments

Sander Levin’s Republican Bashing

March 14th, 2014 by Mike N · Politics, Socialized Medicine

My US Congressman Sander Levin of Michigan sent out his Congressional Connector newsletter this week and like usual never misses a chance to bash Republicans. Here is his first paragraph:

House Leaders Push Through “Polluter Protection Act”

“Instead of taking action to create jobs, or restore benefits to the 2 million Americans who have been cut off from Emergency Unemployment Compensation since December 28, the Republican Leadership of the House of Representatives brought a bill [H.R. 3826] to the House Floor on March 5th to strip the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to address carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants – the largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. The House approved the measure on a vote of 229 to 183.”

First of all let me say that the reason unemployment benefits were cut off is because the emergency benefits legislation expired. Also Mr Levin’s President Obama keeps telling us we are and have been in a recovery for several years so why the need for all the emergency benefits? [Read more →]

Comments Off on Sander Levin’s Republican Bashing

The Anti-Philosophical Nature of Today’s Intellectuals

March 9th, 2014 by Mike N · Culture

In the introduction to Ayn Rand’s book “Philosophy: Who Needs It” heir to her intellectual estate Leonard Peikoff wrote “Ayn Rand was not only a novelist and philosopher; she was also a salesman for philosophy–the greatest salesman philosophy has ever had.” Boy was she ever. The first of her writings I read was the title essay of her book “For the New Intellectual.” Her nutshell compression of philosophic history in terms of Attila and the Witch Doctor immediately oriented me to the fact that if I wanted to understand the world’s problems and by implication, their solutions, I must look at philosophy. And so I did. [Read more →]

Comments Off on The Anti-Philosophical Nature of Today’s Intellectuals

It’s the Principles, Detroit

December 22nd, 2013 by Mike N · Uncategorized

The Thursday 12/19 Detroit News carried an editorial by Reynolds Farley who once conducted the Detroit Area Study at the University of Michigan. Titled “The often-overlooked roots of Detroit’s bankruptcy” it looks at these ‘roots’ only in terms of details, of concrete particulars as if no underlying principles were involved. This detail caused that detail which in turn led to this other detail. But no one asks the obvious question: “What gave rise to the first detail?” [Read more →]

→ 5 Comments

Is Debbie Wasserman Schultz Right?

November 30th, 2013 by Mike N · Politics

Gary North, former staff economist for Ron Paul, has a blog called Tea Party Economist in which he posts links to current political and economic news. His latest posting carries an article on Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s claim that the Democrats will win in 2014 because they will stand solidly behind the Affordable Care Act aka ObamaCare. For those who don’t know, Ms. Schultz is the national chairwoman of the Democrat Party. [Read more →]

→ 2 Comments

Citizens Can See What the Press Can’t

November 1st, 2013 by Mike N · Politics, Uncategorized

I normally post on editorials or news stories in the media but today I want to post on an excellent letter to the editor in the Nov 1st Detroit News titled “blame the media” by Walter Konarzevski. It’s in response to an editorial by News editor Nolan Finley criticizing the White House press core’s way overdue ability to criticize the President. [Read more →]

Comments Off on Citizens Can See What the Press Can’t

The Same Old Medicine for Detroit?

October 27th, 2013 by Mike N · Politics

Ever since Detroit filed for bankruptcy in July of this year there has been a flood of articles in the media on the suggested causes of Detroit’s demise and almost as many on suggested solutions. The solutions invariably call for more of the same poison that made Detroit sick in the first place: a political institution, city government, trying to provide economic services–something the marketplace is supposed to provide if left free to do so.

Let’s remember that government is force. It has nothing to offer citizens except the management of force. It is not an economic entity. It cannot provide anyone with economic benefits unless it takes them from some citizens and doles them out to other citizens. On net balance the city does not gain anything. [Read more →]

Comments Off on The Same Old Medicine for Detroit?

Caesar’s Messiah

October 13th, 2013 by Myrhaf · Uncategorized

I watched a fascinating movie, Caesar’s Messiah, based on the book by Joseph Atwill. Atwill’s thesis is not just that Jesus did not exist, but that he was created as propaganda by writers close to the Roman Emperor Titus Flavius. The author explains his argument here.

I should confess here that not only have I not read Atwill’s book, but I have not read the Bible (though I did once search the Old Testament for the dirty parts). As a lifelong atheist, the Bible has always seemed like a tedious waste of time to read. Since there is no evidence for the existence of God, why read a bunch of lies about this supernatural being?

I laughed at one wag who, when asked if he had read the Bible, said “No, but I saw the movie.” I have used the line a few times myself, but I shouldn’t, because I have not even seen the movie. So the reader can dismiss me as biased and ignorant. Fine. You’re free to leave.

Now that I have admitted my ignorance, let me give you my uninformed opinion. Atwill’s movie convinced me maybe 40%. I have some big objections that I will raise below.

The most interesting part of Atwill’s argument is the parallels between Josephus’s account of The Wars of the Jews and the gospels. Jesus’s life follows Titus’s exploits in Palestine step by step, like a bizarre parody of the general’s war. The parallels are too numerous to be a coincidence.

My problems with Atwill’s argument are first that the Roman creation of Jesus has a dual purpose, satire and propaganda. This is an uneasy coupling. Only a state propagandist of genius could transcend the seriousness and mediocrity that usually come with his profession. A writer would be wise to pick either satire or propaganda, but to combine the two only weakens both.

Second, Atwill contends that the Romans also created Saul/Paul as a fictitious character. It would take further genius to come up with all those letters Paul wrote, and to get into his point of view so thoroughly. I can see how “Render unto Caesar” serves Roman interests, but not some of the other tenets of Christianity, such as Paul’s attacks on reason. Only a sincere, serious mystic could have written what is attributed to Paul. Moreover, Paul’s lack of details about Christ’s life make it seem as if he wrote before the gospels were written, and was ignorant of those fables.

Third, I believe there are mentions of Jesus and the Christians that predate the Flavians.

The Caesar’s Messiah thesis is a fun intellectual game, but I doubt it will persuade the faithful.

UPDATE: I don’t want to end on such a flippant note; the political and philosophic issues involved are profound. If Atwill is right, then Christianity began as a project by a totalitarian state to keep its subjects obedient. This is stunning. As the the 21st century progresses, I believe we will see that religion is still the greatest tool the ruling class has to keep people obedient.

→ 2 Comments

Used Car Salesmen Wouldn’t Try to Sell This

September 22nd, 2013 by Mike N · Education

On the editorial page of the Sunday 9/22 Detroit Free Press is a local commentary purporting to show “6 conservative reasons for Common Core” by two conservatives. They are identified as “Chester E. Finn jr. and Michael J. Petrilli are, respectively, president and executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a right-of-center education policy think tank. Finn served in the Reagan administration. Petrilli served in the George W. Bush administration. Both are affiliated with the Hoover Institution.”

Obviously these gentlemen are neocons, liberals who couldn’t stand the consistency of the leftists in their political circles. But that is beside my main point. The entire article is based on the premise that the responsibility for education lies with the government instead of the market. This in turn is based on a more sinister premise: that your child belongs to the state. It talks about how “Michigan has been lauded for its education reform efforts…” “Michigan” here means Michigan government not Michigan citizens. Let’s remember government is force. It forces kids to attend and forces citizens to pay for the education of their kids as well as the kids of others. [Read more →]

→ 2 Comments

Obama’s Whimsical Foreign Policy

September 11th, 2013 by Myrhaf · Foreign Affairs

Obama’s Syrian fiasco has been an appalling spectacle of a President who does not seem to think that attacking a country demands serious thought and preparation. Stuart Rothenberg of Roll Call runs down the highlights:

First the president of the United States draws a red line, promising action if it is crossed. Then, when Syria crosses the line, he prepares for action, saying that absolutely, positively, a military response is necessary.

Then, at the last minute, he apparently changes his mind and figures that passing the buck to Congress to authorize military action is a good idea. But, of course, he won’t say what he’ll do if Congress fails to authorize action. Then, after his secretary of state seeks to mollify those worried about a full-scale war by promising that the U.S. military response would be “unbelievably small,” the president responds that “the U.S. does not do pinpricks.”

Is this an Abbott and Costello comedy routine? A Peter Sellers movie about an inept political leader?

One could go on listing the contradictions and confusions of Obama’s Syria “policy.” The interesting question is: why? Why is Obama doing this in the first place and why is he so laughably inept? Here are a few thoughts.

[Read more →]

→ 3 Comments

Liberals for Gun Rights?

June 24th, 2013 by Mike N · Culture

I almost fell off my chair yesterday 6/23 when I read an oped by James Hill, the politics editor at the left wing Detroit Free Press titled “Why I Carry: why having a firearm is like having insurance.” This is strangely unlike the usual editorial policy of the Freep. Normally the paper is teeming with editorials, opeds and LTEs calling for more gun control, a euphemism for people control. [Read more →]

Comments Off on Liberals for Gun Rights?

Evading the Premises in Detroit

March 27th, 2013 by Mike N · Politics

I have spent most of my 70 years living in and outside of Detroit. I’ve watched it go from a booming town to a near ghost town with jobs and people and of course money, leaving for greener pastures. In its earlier years if there was a problem, there was no problem. Somebody would step up examine the problem and fix it. Detroit’s leaders never feared facing a dilemma and tackling it. [Read more →]

→ 4 Comments

Towards an Unfrozen Politics

January 25th, 2013 by Jim May · Uncategorized

“How should men best live together?” — Aristotle, The Politics

This is the basic question that Aristotle took to be the beginning of politics, the first and basic question which gives rise to the field.  Until recently, I thought so as well — until I realized the error involved.  There is another question that comes before this one, but which almost no one even knows is there to be asked.

[Read more →]

→ 7 Comments

The Dunces Who Would Control Us

January 3rd, 2013 by Inspector · Uncategorized

Before the blood had even dried from the Sandy Hook mass murder, the control-freaks in the media and Washington were already screeching for new laws to infringe and destroy our right to keep and bear arms, and with it, our right to self defense. Others have already detailed the ways in which their proposed laws are immoral – stripping the innocent of their right to defend themselves, without trial or conviction – and impractical – because criminals and the insane simply do not listen to such laws (i.e. Sandy Hook was already legally declared a “gun free zone.” And we see how well that worked.).

But I’d like to take a moment to examine the fact that the gun control-freaks’ laws are not only immoral and impractical, but also stupid.

[Read more →]

Comments Off on The Dunces Who Would Control Us