Emotional Dictatorship by Michael Nolan

The trouble with a vision for society is the body count. The more specific the outcome you want to impose, the more dissent you’ll stir up. So you’re going to have to find a lot of places for all the bodies, or give up your grip on power.

There’s a silver lining for the State, though: “If a government is willing to kill as many people as necessary to stay in power, it usually stays in power for a very long time.”

So says Andrei Lankov, a Russian expert on North Korea, in the Frontline documentary Secret State of North Korea.

But the story here isn’t what the documentary has to say about the nature of totalitarianism. That’s worth documenting, of course; it’s difficult to believe such horrors are or ever have been real. But that’s not what makes this Frontline special.

That comes from the video shot on the down-low by a network of North Koreans and smuggled out to the rest of the world. We see Jiro Ishimaru, editor of Rimjingang, a Japanese magazine staffed by North Koreans reporting in secret, meeting with his sources. One, a State employee, freely acknowledges that he’ll be killed if he’s caught. “But I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to do this, no matter what. I’m just one person. Even if I have to sacrifice my life, someday something is going to change.”

The footage is often little more than jittery scenes of people going about their daily routine. But such is life under totalitarian rule: The mundane is fully shot through with politics. So any image of it, generated outside of State control, is a threat.

The footage itself will either break your heart or give you new faith in humanity. Probably a little of both. Consider this exchange between one of Ishimaru’s reporters and a group of homeless kids huddled around a tiny fire:

Reporter: Does anyone here work so you can have food and a bed?

Child: What work do you mean?

Reporter: Do you know how to chop wood?

Child: I don’t have an arm, so I can’t.

Reporter: You don’t have an arm? Why don’t you have an arm?

Child: It got cut off by a train.

From the looks of it, there’s a good chance they spent their day begging for anything from passersby—that is, when they weren’t picking through piles of garbage, occasionally lifting something and taking a bite.

So the obvious reasons why this footage would be considered treason have to do with compliance: If people saw how bad it really is, they might question the regime.

Individual malcontents aren’t that much of a problem for rulers this brutal. But then that’s another reason why non-State accounts of daily life pose a threat: People might find out they’re not alone. Others are unhappy also; some even show defiance. And sometimes, they get away with it.

For instance, the filmmakers mention that private enterprise has taken root and is being tolerated. As reported earlier in The Economist, the women of North Korea are doing much of the heavy lifting. In this documentary, we see a woman who runs a private bus line angrily shouting back at—even slapping—a soldier who tries to interfere. “If you’re an officer, where are your stars then?” she says. “You bastard! You’re an asshole!” she adds a bit later.

The next scene shows a woman being hassled for wearing pants on the street. One officer hits her. Another says, “Stop it, bitch!” when they tie on an armband describing her offense and she rips it off. She tells the officer to watch his mouth, and even when a senior officer steps in to intimidate her, she challenges him: “Why aren’t you telling off those people wearing pants?”

Much of what’s shown here runs counter to the narrative I used to think I knew: The Kims had shut their country off so successfully that North Koreans were brainwashed into believing the regime’s propaganda.

And besides, they wouldn’t be able to communicate and organize if they did become discontented. Between the social breakdown that always accompanies totalitarian rule and the stunted technological development of the country, there isn’t going to be any Twitter-fueled Arab spring or Orange Revolution rocking Pyongyang any time soon.

That may turn out to be the case. But then again, we hear Su Mi Terry, a former CIA analyst, telling us that the CIA knew nothing about Kim Jong-Un until he was suddenly brought forward as the new ruler.

And Victor Cha, a former member of the National Security Council, points out that nobody saw either the collapse of the Soviet Union or the Arab Spring coming—but that afterward, both looked obvious.

The Fear

Secret State adds to the stories of the Kim dynasty’s devotion to brainwashing. But it also discusses the execution of Kim Jong-Un’s uncle, carried out shortly before the documentary aired. Some analysts think this indicates conflict between hard-liners and reformers. It certainly seems like a guy with no military background and such big shoes to fill (at least according to the party’s propaganda) needs to let people know he’s not to be trifled with.

Taken together with the scenes of North Koreans learning to fend for themselves, I started to get my head around the one question that always crops up when I read accounts of life under dictators: Why? Why do the jailers keep the cells locked up? Why do third- or fourth-generation rulers continue to tighten the fist?

I doubt it’s a short answer. Or rather, there’s no short answer that really gets to it. But I think fear is right in the middle of all of it. There’s the conventional type, at least for dictatorships: Jang Jin-Sun, a former State propagandist, describes North Korea as an “emotional dictatorship”: The State seeks to dominate people’s thoughts and feelings. North Koreans are told their rulers are like the sun: Get too close and you’ll get burned, but get too far away and you’ll be cast into the void. Then there are constant “news” reports about an imminent American attack from which the party can keep them safe—but only if they give it absolute obedience, even love.

This stuff is the carrot; there’s no telling how effective it is. But there’s the ever-present stick as well. My guess is that everyone in North Korea knows someone who disappeared suddenly. One defector describes life after her family began slipping away for a shot at the border: “I was always being watched. The people watching weren’t just from the government. The people who were watching me were my friends and neighbors. I knew all of this but had to act as if I didn’t.”

Or consider this surreptitiously recorded conversation between a group of North Koreans:

Woman: There can’t be a rebellion. They’ll kill everyone ruthlessly. Yes, ruthlessly. The problem here is that one in three people will secretly report you. That’s the problem. That’s how they do it.

Man: Let’s just drink up. There’s no use talking about it.

Things like the execution of Kim Jong-Un’s uncle send the message right down the chain: Nobody’s safe. Kang Chol-Hwan, a North Korean defector, described in The Aquariums of Pyongyang how his family—staunch party members who donated a fortune to the party—wound up in Yodok concentration camp. They were untouchable until, suddenly, they were not.

This documentary made me think that the fear starts at the top, and the security apparatus, the propaganda, the gulags—all of it—amounts to little more than an attempt to placate that fear. For one thing, there are the consequences: Losing power in a totalitarian environment usually means torture and death, even if you escape.

And power could be lost at any time. The State’s authority rests on a fragile base: The consent of those who are ruled. Left to their own devices, they’re fickle. But ruled with an iron fist, any crack in the State’s power can quickly fracture the entire edifice. I wonder if Kim Jong-Un knows this, and lays awake and night wondering when it will all shatter. Maybe he buys his own propaganda and sleeps like a baby. I hope he doesn’t survive long enough for us to find out.

The Revolution Will First Be Televised

But this is what makes the documentary truly compelling, beyond the novelty value of the smuggled footage. The State is no longer the only one peddling images. There’s Ishimaru’s network of covert reporters, but smuggled DVDs and thumb drives full of movies and TV shows do a brisk business.

The documentary accompanies Jeong Kwang-Il, a defector living in South Korea, on one of his regular drives up to the Chinese border to drop off his contraband. We see him meeting, at night, with a border guard he’s bribed. Jeong demonstrates how to work a new item: hand-cranked radios.

These are especially important, because other defectors have organized a radio station in South Korea, Open Radio North Korea, aimed specifically at those they left behind. Still more of them—we’re told there are more than 20,000 defectors living in South Korea alone—broadcast On My Way to Meet You, a slick-looking variety show that, without the narrator describing the action, looks much like much of the rest of South Korean TV. This is a compliment: These are people who’ve suffered terribly, and they speak of that, but life afterward is possible. They sing, they get goofy, they experiment with different hairstyles and makeup and fashion.

Which brings up another fascinating point: Something as simple as a run-of-the-mill travel program can be a powerful agent for change in the context of North Korea, where its audience is seeing an entirely different world than the one they’ve been told is all there is. Watching two teenagers discuss what’s going on in a DVD of a group of middle-aged South Koreans touring Europe is simultaneously tragic and endearing.

Heroes of the Revolution

I was living in Seoul in 2006, when Kim Jong-Il—father of the current putz-in-chief—tested a nuclear weapon. I didn’t react particularly reasonably, though I managed to make it through my day’s work. While waiting on a bus near city hall and wondering whether to pack my bug-out bag as soon as I got back home, I noticed a mass of people marching down one of the main thoroughfares. The cops were out in force. After a moment’s panic, I realized the cops were just minding traffic and the crowd was demonstrating on behalf of the disabled. A generation before, not too far south of there, the military rulers of South Korea had massacred people doing much the same thing.

The memory recurs for me now because, as powerful as State political theater might be, there’s an even stronger message: It doesn’t have to be like this. There’s nothing inherent in the North Korean situation that means the North Korean people have to suffer like this. It can get better, much better, and relatively quickly. More and more people are sending this message—the defectors’ networks, sure, but also the smugglers of SIM cards and the people on the inside scratching out spheres of private action. And more and more of it is getting through.

The fact that the images are now flowing both ways, though, is cause for reflection. There’s the issue I mentioned earlier, of the consent of the governed. It sounds very simple: cease to consent, and go in freedom. But then few of us have ever been subject to people who will “kill as many people as necessary.”

But for those who are? They find themselves confronted with nearly impossible dilemmas: Do they preserve their own lives despite the oppression? Do they sacrifice their lives in what might turn out to be a pointless act of defiance? Do they flee, knowing that—at least in North Korea—the punishment is likely to fall on family members (one defector describes being shipped off to the gulag because of the actions of a third cousin he didn’t even know)? What about those who wind up in the police or army? When they’re told to haul this guy off and torture that woman, do they choose to be the agents of oppression—or decline and immediately become victims of it?

This is the real meat of Secret State. Not the ample opportunities it provides for histrionics about the broader world context (like, say, juxtaposing the gulag with America’s prison population). The story here is, in every sense, life on the street, at the level of individuals facing down these dilemmas and forming up with others who’ve had to weigh these same questions and take these same risks.

Which means this documentary shows us real heroes, and I generally take pains not to use that word. Those who recorded the footage and smuggled it out, those who smuggle the videos in and around, the people bringing in and distributing cell phones, the women refusing to be cowed by a brutal regime and its brutish enforcers—all of them became heroes the instant they decided not to comply any longer. Even the former propagandist eventually came out on top of a situation that requires heroism simply to make decisions that, from the comfort of a blank, uncensored word processor document, can be made to look relatively simple.

So it’s ultimately encouraging, this documentary, though the hope comes at a terrible cost.

And at the risk of looking foolish later, I’d like to offer a prediction: North Koreans are unlikely to be freed by U.S. diplomats, U.N. sanctions, or a sudden change of heart (or maybe discovery of one) by China’s ruling party. North Koreans are going to be freed by North Koreans, like the defector who tells us, “I was very scared, but I thought it’s better to die than live like an insect.”

He wasn’t the first person to think that. And he won’t be the last.

ABOUT MICHAEL NOLAN

Michael Nolan is the managing editor of The Freeman.

Redefining Truth has Consequences

In all organized sports, there are clearly defined rules that must be adhered to.  In all universities, there are clearly stated guidelines for admittance.  In all religions, there are shared beliefs that all members must adhere to. Without these clearly defined rules of engagement (ROEs), there can be no order within groups; and without order there is nothing left but chaos.

Groups and organizations, by definition are all predicated upon certain agreed upon principles and values. These agreed upon principles and values are the raison d’etre of these entities.

You join the Boy Scouts, for example, because you are a boy and you join the Girl Scouts because you are a girl.  You are a male because you are born with a penis and you are a girl because you are born with a vagina. These things used to be unquestioned statements of fact.

Now some parents are filing lawsuits because their daughters want the legal right to join the Boy Scouts. Some males, on the other hand, want the right to join a sorority while some females want the right to join a fraternity. To call this a ball of confusion is an understatement.

Sadly, sexuality is no longer determined at birth and is no longer absolute.  You now can legally (in California) “self-identify”  your sex.  You can be born a male and simply wake up and say you “self-identify” as a girl and legally you can play on your high school’s girls softball team; you must be allowed to use the girls bathroom; and you must be allowed to wear a dress to class.

Now, right is wrong; up is down, black is white; and there are no rules.

Rules are created in order to maintain order and control.  No matter where you go throughout the world, the rules for basketball, American football, and baseball are the same.

Conversely, when you have no clearly defined rules, you have chaos instead of order.  This is exactly what is happening in America in particular and the world in general.  Rules are the glue that keeps a society together.  Rules make the family into a functioning unit.  Rules create the framework for dispute resolution.

In America, as in most countries, murder is deemed wrong and society universally punishes the perpetrators. Killing can be justified (self-defense), but murder (the taking of an innocent life) can never be justified.  Honoring one’s mother and father is just simply expected in our society.

These rules are necessary to create a society where there is structure and order.  Rules also create a sense of security and freedom for the people.

How can you have a functioning country when you can no longer define the family unit?  For time immemorial, the family has been mother, father, and children; and in some cases grandparents, uncles, or aunts, also known as the extended family.   Now, agreement on the definition of the family unit has become mired in controversy.  Some want Johnny to have two dads or Jenny to have two moms.  Some want Rahim to have one father, but three mothers (all legally married to the one father).  Some simply want mother and child.

Study after study has shown that the family unit is the most stabilizing force in a society and that children who are reared with a mother and father are best positioned to be successful in life.

You can’t prevent or resolve disputes unless you have rules that have been agreed upon by society that are compatible with the values of a country.  Most Americans don’t commit crimes because we have been instilled with a sense of what is right and wrong; also because we know crimes will be met with certain punishment.

When there are disputes, you have courts, Congress, and government to turn to for redress.  Today, you have judges ignoring case law and the will of the people and injecting their personal feelings into cases such as homosexual “marriage.”  Congress is incapable of passing bipartisan legislation that is truly in the best interest of America.  Government is totally incapable of solving conflict because there is no consensus as to what the rules of engagement are.

I am a huge proponent of individual freedom, but freedom can’t exist without some agreed upon rules of engagement.  You can’t have children born as one sex and then be allowed to simply “self-identify” as to something totally different.  You can’t –  or shouldn’t – seek to become a member of, say, a Pentecostal church and then refuse to comport yourself in a manner consistent with their rules (including a prohibition against homosexuality), and then call them a bigot if they refuse you membership.

This altering of what it means to be an American will lead to our demise as a global leader. Even freedom has its orderly limitations.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is a photo of smaller chancel window depicting ‘The Life’ at Holy Trinity Church Leicester by P.J. Parkinson.

Freedom of Association is No Excuse to Target Gays by Casey Given

A recent spate of proposed laws protecting business owners’ right to discriminate against homosexuals has reignited a longstanding debate in the libertarian community. Under the guise of protecting “religious freedom,” 13 states have each introduced bills over the past few months preempting the State from forcing employees to service individuals if they believe doing so conflicts with their beliefs. While none of the bills specifically mention homosexuality, each one effectively only applies to gays since most other classes (e.g. race, sex, religion) are protected under the federal Civil Rights Act.

Many libertarians have cheered the proposed laws, citing the small-government principle that the State has no business interfering in individuals’ private contracts. LewRockwell.com’s Lawrence M. Vance voiced his support of Kansas’s recent attempt, while admitting it “doesn’t go far enough,” reasoning that “[i]n as much as the bill legalizes—if only in a small degree—the freedom to discriminate, such provisions in it should be welcomed.” Such an instrumentalist approach to protecting freedom of association is strategically flawed, as the current bills’ targeting of gays suggests bigoted motives that libertarians best not associate with.

Legally, businesses in almost all of the 13 states in question already have the right to deny gays service. As mentioned previously, sexual orientation is not currently a protected class in the Civil Rights Act. While 21 states have compensated for this federal gap by enacting LGBT nondiscrimination acts of their own, no state considering the current legislation is in the number except Oregon. Thus, these anti-anti-discrimination bills do not expand freedom of association but merely serve as redundant reassurance of the right to not serve gays—effectively targeting the LGBT community.

While almost every libertarian would defend an individual’s right to associate (and not associate) with whomever they choose, that’s not quite the issue with the current class of bills. Their implicit targeting alienates one demographic, making them look like not-so-subtle expressions of bigotry. The freedom of association issue looks like a red herring here.

As David E. Bernstein explained in a 2010 Cato Unbound essay, “I would be troubled if there was a sudden popular move to repeal antidiscrimination legislation, if it were unaccompanied by broader libertarian political trends, because it would suggest that opposition to such laws arose from hostility to minority groups, not from opposition to Big Government.” Granted, Bernstein is speaking about repealing antidiscrimination laws whereas the issue at hand is enacting laws that protect discrimination, but the underlying point is analogous. Namely, a libertarian push for protecting discrimination suggests its advocates are motivated by bigotry, regardless of whether it is the case or not. This point is only amplified in the present case. And perceptions matter.

Fortunately, the issue may be moot soon enough thanks to the massive public outrage that has accompanied these bills, prompting some of the most conservative state legislatures and governors to reject the measures. On February 18th, four bills in South Dakota, Kansas, Idaho, and Tennessee failed to pass their state legislatures. One week later, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed another attempt that captured national attention.

Libertarians have a long history of being ahead of the curve on gay rights. The Libertarian Party has supported marriage equality since its founding in 1971, decades before the two major parties dared to address the topic. Associating with an apparently homophobic push to protect the right to discriminate against gays that already exists would suddenly put the movement on the losing side of the question of LGBT equality.

ABOUT CASEY GIVEN

Casey Given is an editor and political commentator with Young Voices, a project aiming to promote Millennials’ policy opinions in the media.

Destroying the U.S. Military

It tells you everything you need to know about the idiots running this country. As the Russians were invading Ukraine, our Secretary of Defense was discussing major cuts to our military budget.

Si vis pacem, para bellum is wisdom passed down to us over the centuries from ancient Rome It translates “If you want peace, plan for war.”

One of the requirements the early presidents of the nation faced was the creation of an army and navy to protect it from the imperialist powers of Britain, France and Spain, all of whom had their eyes on parts of the continent they wanted to claim. After the Revolution, the nation fought a succession of wars to protect and expand the map we now have.

The world to the Founding Fathers and all presidents since was seen as a dangerous place because it is.

The only “success” of President Barack Obama has had to date has been to impose six trillion more in debt than when he arrived. A variety of programs such as the failed “stimulus” added to the debt and the deficit.

He has been consistent in seeking cuts to our military budget. From his first year in office Obama has sought to reduce the military in every way possible, though part of the reductions are attributed to the sequestration limits to reduce government spending. There are areas that most surely require reductions, but the security of the nation to protect itself and maintain and project its influence is critical.

Since the end of World War II, the U.S. has exerted this power. In the 1950s President Truman extended protection to South Korea after it was invaded by the Soviet-backed North Korea. The war ended in a stalemate that exists to this day. There have been other conflicts with less successful outcomes and they include Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

In each case, we stayed too long. After the 9/11 attack the Afghanistan conflict was essentially won by 2002, but we stayed on. The Iraq War outcome has been a spectacular failure because the Obama administration was unable or unwilling to retain a military presence there. The Syrian civil war has cost over a 130,000 lives after Obama failed to respond to the red line he drew and turned Syria over to the Russian Federation. Iran is also an ally of the Assad regime there.

In an act of incredible naiveté or stupid or both, the U.S. is negotiating with Iran in the belief that diplomacy will have any effect on an Islamic republic that has regarded itself at war with the U.S. and Israel since it came into being in 1979.

No matter the outcome of the current budget cut proposals, Americans know they owe a debt of gratitude to those who put their lives on the line to fulfill the outcomes they were called upon to fight for. We won World War II because we destroyed the capacity of Germany and Japan to wage war. That is the only way to win a war.

Earlier, after our entry into World War I resulted in bringing that first modern conflict to an end, its veterans returned home to discover that benefits they had been promised were not fulfilled. The Bonus Army was the popular name given to an assemblage of an estimated 43,000 marchers, some 17,000 veterans and their supporters, who in 1932 wanted the cash payment redemption of their service that had been promised. The nation was in the midst of the Great Depression, not unlike our present economic decline. In July, after being ordered off of all government property, the marchers along with their wives and children were assaulted by U.S. infantry and cavalry, support by six tanks. Some deaths ensured. A second, smaller Bonus March in 1933 was defused by the Roosevelt administration. In 1936 Congress voted to pay the veterans.

America has enacted veteran appropriation bills on time only three times of the past 25 years. There is a huge backlog in the disability benefits claims. Four years ago, recognizing the harm to the Veterans Administration healthcare system, Congress passed and the President signed legislation to fund it a year in advance, removing it from the gridlock affecting so much of the nation’s programs. The problem, however, continues.

Any nation seen to be weak will have to deal with its enemies in some fashion.

The ancient Romans knew that and it is no less true today. A recent poll indicated that Americans believe that the U.S. is no longer respected by other nations. They are right and the source is Barack Obama who was in part elected by his promise to withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. will be out of the latter by the end of this year.

The announcement by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel regarding major military funding reductions reflects the President’s efforts to destroy its ability to respond to a future conflict.  The likelihood that we might have to fight global wars such as WWII is offered as the reason for the cuts. That has not precluded lesser conflicts. All wars, however, are very expensive. Not having to fight them is a very good investment. It is an essential reason for maintaining a powerful military capability.

The budget put forth by the Obama administration would shrink the Army to pre-World War II levels. The current 520,000 active-duty soldiers would shrink to 440,000-450,000. The U.S. Marines, now numbering around 190,000 would be drawn down to 182,000 or to 175,000 if sequestration –level cuts were continued in 2016 and beyond. The Air Force will reduce the number of tactical air squadrons and retire the entire A-10 fleet; a Pentagon recommendation that reflects their primary anti-tank mission which they deem to be no longer needed.

The Army National Guard and Reserves would also be drawn down—from the current 355,000 to 335,000 for the Army and the Reserves from 205,000 soldiers to 195,000. If sequestration returns, the former would be reduced to 315,000 and the latter to 185,000.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney says that Obama would “rather spend the money on food stamps than he would on a strong military and support for our troops”, believing that “somehow, a strong America, well equipped, with a strong military, is a danger to international peace and stability.”

“And just exactly the opposite’s true,” said Cheney, “I think if history teaches any lesson, it’s that the world’s a safer, more stable place when the United States is strong and is prepared to use that strength when necessary.”

If one does not learn from history, as a sage once noted, you are likely to have to repeat it.

Having weakened the nation’s economy, causing millions to be unemployed, and having attacked its healthcare system, the nation’s military strength is now openly being attacked by the proposed reductions.

Nothing good can come of this.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

Movie “Non Stop” is an Affront to 9/11 Families

nonstopmovieAt  our usual Sunday brunch  with friends we covered a host of topics.  We chatted about the further demise of American exceptionalism evidenced by Putin thumbing his nose at Obama and the West by seizing Crimea.  Then we dawdled over coffee about the advent of meteorological spring, yesterday, March 1st; although folks up North are bracing for another Super storm, Titan. 

But then our friends talked about a movie they saw last night, Non Stop, an action flick starring Liam Neeson and Julianna Moore in the featured roles together with Michelle Dockery of Downton Abbey‘s  Lady Mary Crawley fame, Scoot McNairy and Anson Mount.  Neeson portrays an US Sky Marshall caught in an airplane terrorist plot.  The film’s action unfolds at 40,000 feet on a transatlantic flight when  a text message threat  is received  by Neesom from a terrorist passenger on board requesting deposit of $150 million in a Swiss account, or else one by one passengers will be killed.  According to the Los Angeles TimesNon Stop topped both Son of God and The Lego Movie  at the box office this weekend.  My brunch partners said that they went home and talked about the plots intricacies for two hours.

According to Debra Burlingame of the 9/11 Families, it had a different agenda. One that disturbed her as the sister of Charles “Chic” Burlingame III, the pilot of the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 that was flown into the Pentagon.  It may likely disturb David Beamer, father of Flight 93 passenger, his son Todd, who with others on board undertook the first counter-terrorism attack on 9/11 against the jihadi hi-jackers causing the plane to crash into a vacant field in Southwestern Pennsylvania sparing likely targets, the White House or US Capitol Building in Washington. Here’s what Burlingame said aboutNon-Stop.

The “big reveal” of Liam Neeson’s new “thriller,” Non-Stop, is that the terrorist hijacker who is anonymously murdering innocent passengers on a commercial airliner is a 9/11 family member/military combat vet fed up with meaningless war.  See, John Nolte’s review: http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Hollywood/2014/02/28/non-stop-review-neeson-thriller-new-left-wing-low

Worse, the flight’s quiet hero who comes to the aid of the protagonist, thereby saving the day, is a Muslim doctor.   (Oh, the irony, that Al Qaeda’s number one is Ayman Al Zawahiri, a doctor.  And that six of the Glasgow Airport bombing plot were….Muslim doctors.  Hollywood likes to serve up its teachable moments cold.)

An added dash of moral vanity is the side story making news that Liam Neeson wants to convert to Islam , the religion he deemed in an interview to be “the answer.”  Not sure what the question is, but apparently Mr. Neeson is more afraid of his Irish countrymen than his would-be co-religionists.
Normally Hollywood gets a pass, with reviewers issuing “spoiler alerts” when revealing details.  Sorry.   Sitting through this movie for that sucker punch of an ending isn’t worthy of my consideration.

I urge people to pass this on.

Debra

Watch this You Tube video about Liam Neeson’s Da’wah – call to Islam, while doing a film in Istanbul back in 2012. His head was filled with the ringing Muezzins’ calls to prayers from hundreds of Mosques.  All this from a former Catholic altar boy from Belfast.  And to think that I loved Neeson’s portrayal in the 1996 film about Irish revolutionary turned peacemaker, Michael Collins.  Probably because it was the late Israeli Prime Minister Itzhak Shamir’s code name as an underground Irgun leader.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/jEhmXWK4IRs[/youtube]

This film script must have hastened  Neeson’s  intentions to plough throw the Qur’an, Hadith and Sira of Mohammed ,the exemplar, before professing his new found faith with the Shahada.  Burlingame called this one correctly – a Hollywood’s latest sucker punch.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.

Obama sings ‘Crimea River’ and other greatest hits

THE PROGRESSIVE’S 8-STEP GUIDE TO FOREIGN POLICY VIA STRONG DIPLOMACY:

1. Announce that the country’s behavior is unacceptable.

2. Should they continue behaving unacceptably, we tell them that their unacceptable behavior cannot be allowed to continue.

3. Should the unacceptable behavior continue anyway, then we tell them that we really mean what we said.

4. If they’re still behaving unacceptably, then we remind them that we really, REALLY do mean what we said, and that we’re not just saying that.

5. Should this result in only more unacceptable behavior, we tell them that this time, we’re serious.

6. If that doesn’t work (and it usually doesn’t, but we Progs pride ourselves on retaining faith in the inherent goodness of our fellow man and our own ability to make others see reason), then we inform them that we may have to consider scheduling an appointment to go to Geneva, where we will meet with fellow peace-loving Progs to discuss the possibility of approaching the U.N. with a request for permission to advise the offending country that we may have to impose sanctions.

7. If that doesn’t work, then with the help of our minions in the news media, we distract the masses from what’s going on with cute photo-ops like the creation of yet another White House initiative like My Brother’s Keeper, and speeches by the First Lady on the crisis of too many moms clogging the grocery aisles as they furrow their brows over nutrition labels and agonize over whether a product has too much or too little riboflavin.

8. If, by this time, the offending country’s unacceptable behavior has spread and can no longer be contained, go back to Step 1 and start over, and have faith that this time, we’ll get different results.

crimeariver

Russia capitulates, annexes itself to Greater UkraineOffline

Offline

Obama_Diplomacy.png

Hillary as President? Heaven Forbid

It is mind boggling that the mainstream media, and the American electorate elevate political people to divine levels of love and respect based solely on image and exposure, but not on substantive achievements. Meanwhile, though red flags fly high, Americans ignore them as though they don’t even exist.

Would someone please identify one major accomplishment in the political career of Hillary Clinton, other than sleeping with a president and winning an election, and then flying around the world shaking hands with dignitaries and having her pictures taken for future campaign marketing.

To the exclusion of many more accomplished democratic colleagues among governors and senators, this woman is already fete accompli, the runaway nominee for the democratic party in 2016, already coronated by the constant barrage of love-Hillary publicity.

But let’s take a step backwards and examine the candidate beyond the façade.

Where do we begin?

Before and after becoming First Lady, Hillary was the subject of a number of investigations by the Office of Independent Counsel, dubbed:  Whitewater, Travelgate, Filegate and Hillary Rodham Cattle Futures controversy. (See links below for explanation)

Many question her motives for staying with a man who had a well-known history of philandering, not only while governor of Arkansas, but in the Oval Office as well. Bill Clinton repeatedly denied his White House trysts, until a semen stain nailed him as an outright liar. Despite all the private and public embarrassment, Hillary’s lifelong quest to be the first female president trumped honor and respect. After all, she’s got the number one Democratic campaigner on her side. That’s a political insurance policy.

How does that speak of integrity?

For the sake of brevity, let’s examine all her accomplishments while serving New York State as a U.S. Senator for eight years. I researched. Couldn’t find any. It’s clear to anyone paying attention that she was basically holding a political position as a platform to run for president in 2008. It’s all about cosmetics.

When Obama became president, Hillary Clinton became the Secretary of State for four years. How would an objective person measure her major accomplishments during her time on the international scene?

Pathetic.

America’s relationship with every foreign power is worse off than it was in 2008. Beyond Afghanistan, the world has evolved into global chaos. Even where chaos has yet to erupt, respect for the United States has diminished, virtually everywhere. Things are worse off today in North Korea, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Syria, Jordan, Pakistan, Eastern Europe, and most every other nation in the middle east including Israel who no longer trusts us. Then there is China who owns us, Russia who embarrasses us, Africa, Mexico, Canada, and the European Union, where leaders are denouncing American wiretapping and find themselves at the low end of the priority totem pole.

The anti-Muslim Brotherhood counter-uprisings in Egypt, which brought secular government back to that country, saw many derogatory placards and signs in the streets of Cairo and other places, denouncing Hillary Clinton as pro-Muslim Brotherhood, calling her a terrorist sympathizer and more. She was clearly on the side of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, as was Barack Obama.

While we’re at it, let’s not forget that Hillary Clinton’s Number One confidante and traveling companion during her senatorial and secretarial years, was Huma Abedin, raised and schooled strictly Islamic in Wahhabi Saudi Arabia, daughter of parents closely tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, sister of a man tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, and who held a high-ranking position at Georgetown University in the Muslim Students Association, (MSA) a stepchild of the Muslim Brotherhood. This woman had open access to all of our most important national security secrets. How’s that for potential breaches of national security?

Americans want this woman to be our president?

The coup de gras, so to speak, is the despicable behavior of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before, during and following the Benghazi fiasco. Yes, despicable. That is not a strong enough term. This so-called leader did not have the conscience, yet the good judgment to provide much needed increases in security to one of the major hot-spots in the diplomatic world, despite all the pleas from consulate staffers, including Ambassador Stevens himself. If she says she was unaware, that makes her a very poor leader and incompetent at best. If she was aware, it not only makes her incompetent, it could even be described as negligent manslaughter.

When the attack was under way and shortly thereafter, despite the fact that information was coming in immediately, that this was no demonstration about a video, it was a terror attack by an al Qaeda affiliate. Yet, nothing was done. Everyone, including Hillary, sat on their hands. No one even sent investigators to the scene for two weeks thereafter.

When the smoldering rose smoke to the heavens and bodies were being bagged, Hillary ducked any and all questions, as did her boss. (How does one define “Obstruction of Justice?) Three days later, she blamed the attack on a spontaneous demonstration against an anti-Muslim video, which she, Obama, and everyone else knew was false. Nevertheless, Hillary flew the coop – literally – and transferred her responsibilities to UN Ambassador Susan Rice to answer public questions and parrot the lies on five news shows as instructed.

For the next four months, rather than take a leadership role in the investigation, Hillary ducked all inquiries and went glob trotting for four months, avoiding congressional inquiries, (obstructing justice) shaking hands and accomplishing nothing, all in the interest of making herself unavailable until the heat died down. And when she finally had to appear before congress, she pulled off a typical Hillary and went on the offense with her despicable statement, “What difference does it make.”

Head shaking yet?

I ask democrats:  Is this really who you want to see as an American president? Don’t you have anyone in the government, or in the states, who is unquestionably honorable, who will not risk national security, who will respond to important inquires, who will put America first over politics, who will take a substantive leadership role as opposed to daily tasks of photo ops and hand shakes?

If she is the best you can come up with, I would hate to see the worst.

Ladies and gentlemen of all parties, let’s do the right thing.  We’ve already had a president whose loyalty, honor and integrity, and virtual identity, has been in serious question by millions. We don’t need to go through that again.

Or it is all about winning, and nothing else?

RELATED COLUMNS AND SOURCES:

SHOCK! Hillary Clinton argues – What difference, at this point, does it make about how it happened? – YouTube

Hillary Clinton’s record

Hillary Clinton Faces Criminal Charges In Egypt

Whitewater controversy – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

White House travel office controversy – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

White House FBI files controversy – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hillary Rodham cattle futures controversy – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A Little Help for Sister Darla

DARLA DAWALD

Darla Dawald

A featured speaker at the rallies, Darla always inspired the crowds; preserve freedom, Constitutional principles, God, family and country. Darla is a fearless, courageous and true patriot folks. Thus, the reason I call her sister.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio, America’s Toughest Sheriff, has given Darla a thumbs up with his endorsement.

Please allow me to get real with y’all. I have been feeling frustrated. Not hopeless, but frustrated. It seems like every day brings another new unprecedented incident of the Obama Administration ignoring a law it dislikes and creating a new law at will.

Charles Krauthammer said Obama has gotten away with breaking the law for so long that it has become no big deal.

Rush Limbaugh characterized the Obama regime as a Banana Republic.

The mainstream media is in total solidarity with Obama’s socialist/progressive agenda. Their mission is to portray anyone opposing the first black president, on any issue, as a rabid racist.

Despite five years of unprecedented power grabs, scandals and lawless behavior by the Obama Administration, Republicans are still petrified of challenging Obama.

In low moments, upon hearing on Fox News about Obama’s latest crime against the Constitution, I yell, “So what!” So what if Obama continues to act like America’s first king. If no one politically pushes back, so what!

I have been racking my brain and praying, “Dear Lord, How do we defeat this evil which is fundamentally transforming your great country?”

Then, I came upon this quote by Founding Father, Samuel Adams.

“It does not take a majority to prevail…but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.”

I thought, Praise God! That is the answer. We simply MUST keep fighting. Each of us must do our part, using our talents, gifts and intellect — doing whatever we can to set brushfires of freedom in the minds of men. Doesn’t that just stir your soul?

As Chairman of Conservative Campaign Committee, my incredible team and I continue to do our part, tirelessly working to get conservatives elected in key races around the country; setting brushfires folks.

Tea Party Express, Tea Party Nation, Patriots Action Network, Tea Party.net, Tea Party.org, Tea Party Patriots and numerous other groups and patriot individuals are all fire starters; setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.

I am pleased to announce that a couple of black Tea Party leaders have started huge brushfires of freedom. Katrina Pierson is running for congress in Texas.

Niger Innis is running for congress in Nevada.

I am extremely proud of my patriot sister Darla Dawald for setting her brushfire in Arizona; running for State Representative.

Help these patriots folks. The cold reality is funding is a crucial component in winning elections.

This is how we win folks – keep setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men. We must remain irate (but controlled) and tireless; everyone doing their part, keeping our eyes on the prize — a restored America. Samuel Adams would be proud.

Difference Between God And Obama

Last night the most trending hashtag on Twitter was #DifferenceBetweenGodAndObama. Our Twitterer-in-Chief, Comrade General Secretary, posted these contributions, only scratching the surface:

God didn’t have a “Previous Administration” to blame
On the seventh day God rested; Obama rested for the other six
God spake unto Moses; Obama spake unto giggling college students
God commanded not to covet thy neighbor’s property; Obama commands to covet and redistribute it, too
God doesn’t force you to sign up for his religion and tell you “If you like your commandment, you can keep it”
God told Noah to build an ark; Obama told Noah “you didn’t build that”
God unleashed ten plagues on Pharaoh; Obama just signed him up for Obamacare
God’s chosen people wandered in the desert for 40 years; Obama’s people wandered in healthcare.gov for 40 weeks
God told Mary she was blessed with a child; Obama said she was punished with a child
God banished Lucifer; Obama’s mentor dedicated a book to him

Feel free to add your Difference Between God and Obama as a comment at the end of our column.

Ukraine: Playing for the Long Term

It is an unusual event when a German Chancellor speaks to a joint session of both Houses of Parliament.  This week Angela Merkel used the opportunity of her speech in Westminster to not only talk about the future of Europe but also – and very movingly – of the continent’s past.  She bowed her head to the sacrifices of British servicemen in both wars of the twentieth century.  And she spoke movingly of what might have been had the British nation not stood up to her own country in the darkest moments of the twentieth century.

Of course we are not all fated to replay the 1930s and most of Chancellor Merkel’s speech was rightly given over to the future.  But there could hardly have been a better time for a demonstration of shared values to take place.

Because as Britain’s Parliamentarians sat listening to the German Chancellor, the very future of a state on the outskirts of Europe hung in the balance.  After weeks of wrangling, Viktor Yanukovych – the elected leader of Ukraine – has fled. Part of his security apparatus literally got down upon their knees to beg forgiveness from the population it had been firing on earlier in the week, and the whole future of the nation remains in the balance.  What can we take from all this?  Many things.  One is that there is in Ukraine, as there is in so many countries, not just one struggle but a set of struggles.  It is not merely a divide between West and East, free and unfree societies.  But it is partly that.  The deposed Yanukovych now cropping up in Moscow is a reminder to us of that.

As every European state has learned at some time or another, the process of movement towards freedom is never smooth.  And the extent to which outside actors can engage in shaping futures is unarguable.  But in a struggle for values – a struggle for the hearts and minds of populations – one thing matters more than any other.

That is whether – when people say that they want to be part of what you are part of – you tell them to go away, or whether you embrace them and encourage them.  Russia’s President Putin believes that the Ukraine lies in his sphere.  Many people in Ukraine fervently disagree.  To that extent there is undoubtedly a struggle over, and flexing of, wills.  Of course autocrats can often seem reassuring in the short term, which is exactly when democracies can seem most distracted, flaky and worrisome.

But it is to the long term that we must all look.

And that is why it was doubly important to see Chancellor Merkel speaking in Westminster this week.  For it was testament not only to the long-term strength of the world’s democracies, but a reminder that even the worst totalitarianisms can falter before the best freedoms.

RELATED COLUMNS:

Obama declares ‘happy hour’ with Dems minutes after Ukraine tough talk

Guess Who’s Been Proven Right Again? Sarah Palin Mocked in 2008 for Suggesting Russia Could Invade Ukraine (+video)

“I Will Never Go Back” by Karl and Sandra Borden

In 1999 we attended the Rotary International conference in Singapore and sat on a bus next to a fellow Rotarian, a physician from Ukraine. Rotary had only established its first Ukrainian club a few years earlier and my seat neighbor introduced himself to us. A conversation and friendship ensued, and “Oleg” invited us to visit him in Ukraine if the opportunity arose. It did—later that year we had the extraordinary experience of spending two weeks in Ukraine just as the country was, it seemed, beginning a journey toward democracy and free markets.

Because Sandra practices medicine, and through my contacts with Rotary International, we had the opportunity to meet many Ukrainian medical professionals. We will never forget one evening in particular. Our hosts for the evening were an oncologist and his wife, a music teacher, and we were guests in their home—a small two-bedroom apartment where they lived with their son. The oncologist’s hospital, which we had toured earlier that day, was a converted horse barn; his office was a former stall. His colleague and other dinner guest was a cardiologist who had spent a few months in the 1980s in the United States on a medical exchange program—by chance at the same hospital where Sandra had been born 40 years earlier. Both were in their early 50s and had grown up in the Soviet system. To protect them now I will call them “Sergei” and “Vlad,” respectively.

Sergei, the oncologist, told us he had to lock his meager medical supplies and equipment in his office each night or they would disappear by morning. He also explained that “free medicine for everyone” meant in practice that actual medical supplies and services were so scarce as to be virtually nonexistent without a bribe or access to the black market. But it was Vlad’s stories that held a special poignancy and that we especially remember now.

Vlad told us what it was like growing up in fear of the secret police. He recounted how every day as a child he would come home from school and his mother would ask him, “What did they tell you today?” and then sort it out for him: “That is true. You may believe it. But that other is a lie—say nothing to your teacher, but you should not believe it.” He explained how the children’s job was to wait in line, sometimes for days, no matter what product was at the end. Anything that was available had potential barter value. Vlad told us how in one generation his country’s culture had devolved. His grandfather, he said, was an upright and honest man who had his farm taken from him by the State. His father would steal anything to survive and would sneak into the same fields his grandfather had once owned to purloin vegetables.

He darkly joked about the local building that was the KGB’s headquarters. It is, he said, the tallest building in the city: Occupants could “see Siberia from the basement.” He recounted his first experience in a U.S. grocery store, when his “KGB keeper” allowed him to go there to purchase toothpaste: “I stood in the aisle looking at every imaginable variety of toothpaste. An explosion of colors, sizes, and flavors. And I was paralyzed. I could not decide. I saw Americans walk to the display and easily make their choices—but I could not. I realized in that moment that I had never really made a choice in my life. The State had assigned me to my school, my profession, my apartment, my job. Even when consumer goods were available, I had only one ‘brand’ of shoes, soap, or . . . toothpaste. Standing there among these Americans so easily making decisions about matters large and small in their lives—I felt like a child among adults.”

He told how, when he returned to Ukraine, he had to “put his Soviet face back on. Appearing too happy was suspicious.”

Late into the evening, after entirely too much caviar and vodka, Karl asked: “Vlad, Ukraine is just beginning its journey to freedom. Do you believe it will stay the course?” This mild-mannered, soft-spoken, 50-year-old Ukrainian cardiologist was silent a long time, staring into his glass. Then he lifted his head and looked straight at me across the table. “I do not know,” he said softly. “But I do know this. I will never go back. I will pick up a gun. I will fight in the streets. But I will never . . . go . . . back.”

“Vlad”—If you’re among those who were in the streets—I hope you are well and safe.

Note: In this collection of images from Misha Domozhilov and Katya Rezvaya, you may find among them the face of “Vlad,” who apparently kept his promise.

ABOUT KARL AND SANDRA BORDEN

Karl Borden is professor of finance at the University of Nebraska-Kearney and a past district governor for Rotary International. Sandra Borden is a nurse practitioner.

Is fear of Islam unfounded?

Reza Varjavand is associate professor of economics and finance at the Graham School of management at Saint Xavier University in Chicago. In this short piece at Iranian.com, he asks a common-sense question that has been obscured by the fog of jihad-enabling propaganda pumped out endlessly by the likes of the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Reza Aslan’s Aslan Media. His title, “Is Fear of Islam Unfounded?,” is of course prompted by the use of the term “Islamophobia,” which literally means fear of Islam; however, I think the best response to the atrocities he mentions is not fear, but resoluteness in the defense of freedom and human rights.

“Is Fear of Islam unfounded?,” by Reza Varjavand for Iranian.com, February 26:

Once again, a violent attack by Muslim extremists astounded the world, they murdered a number of innocent students in Nigeria just because they were attending school and learning what their attackers called Western education! Is this the religion whose prophet allegedly said “Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave”? I think the world have seen enough images of atrocities committed under the name of Islam: Blown-up buildings, burning cars, beheading, flogging, arresting innocent people for no reason, butchering of a British soldier in a street of London, Boston bombing, Train bombing in Madrid, fatal shooting of 13 people by army major Nidal Hassan, public executions in street, death threat against, or assassination of, writers or those who express their opinions just to name a few.

Sometimes I ask myself is this what Islam is all about?

In light of all of these, we, Muslims, keep telling others how peaceful our religion is which reminds me of that famed Wendy’s “where is the beef” commercial. Aren’t Muslim influential leaders guilty of implicit complacency by remaining silent and not publically condemning such atrocious acts or taking a firm position against them?

We may not be able to change this madness; at least we can say something about it.

Indeed. Stopping the victimhood manipulation and working for serious, genuine reform would be a good place to start.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of the flag of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

RELATED COLUMNS:

Syria: Muslim group imposes Sharia rules of submission on Christians

“Iran is prepared for the decisive war against the U.S. and the Zionist regime”

Stupid, Evil or Both?

For a long time now I have been trying to determine whether the Obama administration is stupid, evil or both. In addition to its long list of scandals, its governance of America increasingly looks like and acts as if the power granted to it by two elections exists to intimidate and harass Americans, inflict endless new taxes, and granted it the right to destroy one of the best healthcare systems and military in the world.

Listening to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry constantly talk about the non-existent threat of global warming/climate change is both stupid and evil. There is no global warming. The Earth has been in a cooling cycle for some seventeen years at this point and the supposed “science” they cite—that carbon dioxide emissions will heat the Earth—is utterly bogus, based entirely on computer models that have been wrong from the day the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were first used.

In a recent article in Forbes magazine, James Taylor, editor of The Heartland Institute’s Environment and Climate News, noted that “More than 30,000 scientists have signed a summary of the science explaining why humans are not creating a global warming crisis.” He cites several other surveys that confirm that neither scientists nor the public regard global warming/climate change to be a concern.

What should be a major concern, however, is the way the Obama administration has transformed the Internal Revenue Service into an agency to thwart conservative groups from receiving non-profit status to advance their views. The Environmental Protection Agency has been let loose to generate all manner of regulations whose intent is to shut down coal-fired plants that produce electricity and deny the ability to build new ones. The amount of electricity that is being produced from these plants has dropped significantly from the 50% it once was.

The passage of the Affordable Health Care Act—Obamacare—is wreaking havoc on the economy and is the result of the lies told by the President and many Democratic members of Congress who voted for it without even reading it. The nation is suffering from losses of jobs and the reduction of full-time jobs to part-time. Americans are losing their healthcare plans and Obamacare plans have far higher premiums. Individuals and businesses who fail to sign up for one face fines.

This is worse than stupid. It is evil. It is a deliberate attack on the nation’s economic growth, rendering an estimated 100 million Americans without employment and forcing millions to apply for food stamps in order to put food on the table.

While the lies are evil, the stupidity of those like former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is demonstrated by things she has said in recent years.

“It’s almost a false argument to say we have a spending problem.” The nation has a huge borrowing and spending problem that currently adds up to more than $17 trillion in debt. Federal spending (25% of the Gross Domestic Product) is the highest since World War II as is the budget deficit (10% of GDP). The U.S. suffered the first downgrade in its credit rating in its history.

The administration’s “stimulus” program wasted billions on alternative energy companies that often filed for bankruptcy shortly thereafter. The promise of “green jobs” was as specious as “shovel ready” jobs that even the President admitted did not exist. Nancy Pelosi said at the time that “Every month that we do not have an economic recovery package 500 million Americans lose their jobs” but the U.S. population is currently around 317 million total!

This goes well beyond just stupidity. Obama’s, Pelosi’s, Biden’s and other administration member’s statements have been a consistent record of lies and that is evil.

When Obama took office in 2009 America was still regarded as the leading nation in the world in the arena of foreign affairs, but in the years since then nations and non-state enemies such as al Qaeda have concluded that it has demonstrated not just weakness, but dangerous stupidity as seen in its current efforts to negotiate with Iran to cease its quest of nuclear weapons. To this day its leaders still lead chants of “Death to America” and to our only true ally in the Mideast, Israel.

Claims that al Qaeda had been defeated were also false as it and other Islamic radical groups expand their activities.

One can barely find any evidence that the Obama administration has shown any success domestically or in foreign affairs and we still have three more years of it to endure.

The only hope at present is the forthcoming November midterm elections and, if power in the Senate can be acquired by the Republican Party and expanded in the House, efforts to thwart the deliberate destruction of the nation can be enacted. We have been living with a President who has refused to negotiate with Congress and with a Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, who has blocked debates and votes on any of the legislation initiated in the House.

The nation is just months away from either further decline or a reversal of policies that are either stupid or evil or both.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

Evangeline Wanders by Sarah Skwire

Hardly anyone reads Longfellow anymore, but maybe we should.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Evangeline. 1847. 64 pages.

Nobody reads Longfellow anymore, except perhaps students at Bowdoin College, where Longfellow was a student and later a librarian and professor. But Longfellow’s poetry used to be read and recited everywhere. Memorizing it was a common exercise for school children. And you probably know a few lines of some of his poems, though you may not know they are his.

Listen my children and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere

and

Under the spreading chestnut tree

The village smithy stands

and

Christ save us all from a death like this

On the reef of Norman’s woe!

Longfellow’s epic Evangeline was, according to my grandmother, one of my grandfather’s favorite books when he was a young man, and—for poetry—it sold like hotcakes when it first came out. Nearly 36,000 copies sold in the first decade after publication.

But nobody reads Longfellow anymore. So I thought I’d have a look at Evangeline, and see what it might have to offer readers of this column.

Certainly the story’s bare outline is promising ground for thinking about liberty. Evangeline tells the story of two young lovers separated by the expulsion of the Acadian people from Canada’s maritime provinces to the colonies and, in some cases, to France. (Later, some of the Acadians relocated to Louisiana and became known as Cajuns. The Longfellow reference is probably why, in The Princess and the Frog, the celestial beloved of the Cajun firefly Ray is named Evangeline.)

Modern scholars have rightly noted some of the historical problems with Longfellow’s poem. He absolves the American colonists of any blame for the expulsion in order to make King George more of a villain, constructs an ahistorically homogenous Acadian culture, and is often insensitive to the Native Americans he describes, for example. But Longfellow’s tale of expulsion, displacement, and the search for lost family, lost love, lost culture, and a place of refuge remains moving today. In fact, our contemporary awareness of such injustices as the forced relocation of Native American nations on the Trail of Tears and the signing of Executive Order 9066, which imprisoned Japanese Americans and stripped them of their property, should bring additional meaning and pathos to the poem.

From the poem’s opening words, “This is the forest primeval,” Longfellow situates the soon-to-be-destroyed Acadian culture in a timeless, golden world marked by peace and equality.

Thus dwelt together in love these simple Acadian farmers,—

Dwelt in the love of God and of man. Alike were they free from

Fear, that reigns with the tyrant, and envy, the vice of republics.

Neither locks had they to their doors, nor bars to their windows;

But their dwellings were open as day and the hearts of their owners;

There the richest was poor, and the poorest lived in abundance.

Longfellow claims later that the Acadians held all things in common, but the characters in the poem clearly possess private property, and one is designated as “the wealthiest farmer of Grand-Pre.” Like the above passage, that claim about common property is, I think, intended to accent the peaceful accord of the culture and the way its world runs easily and regularly, with a time and a place for everything, and no strife among the Acadians.

But all is not well. As the village of Grand-Pre prepares to celebrate the betrothal of Evangeline (the loveliest maiden in the village) and Gabriel (the best of the village’s young men), their fathers and fathers’ friends are worrying about the intentions of the armed English ships anchored near their harbor. The presence of the ships and their implicit threat has the men of the village debating questions of justice and power. The blacksmith argues:

“Daily injustice is done, and might is the right of the strongest!”

But, without heeding his warmth, continued the notary public,—

“Man is unjust, but God is just; and finally justice

Triumphs”

When the men of the village are called to the church to hear a proclamation from King George, the blacksmith certainly seems to have been correct in his concerns. The leader of the English troops announces:

To my natural make and my temper

Painful the task is I do, which to you I know must be grievous.

Yet must I bow and obey, and deliver the will of our monarch;

Namely, that all your lands, and dwellings, and cattle of all kinds

Forfeited be to the crown; and that you yourselves from this province

Be transported to other lands. God grant you may dwell there

Ever as faithful subjects, a happy and peaceable people!

Prisoners now I declare you; for such is his Majesty’s pleasure!”

It is a credit to the apparent simplicity and to the precision and conciseness of Longfellow’s verse that we can read this announcement a time or two without noting the depth of its horror. Bad enough that the land and homes and animals of the Acadians are, with a few brief words, stripped away and taken for the crown. Bad enough that they are transported to other unspecified lands. But they are also expected to remain happy, peaceful, and faithful subjects of the king who has done this to them. It is his pleasure to make them prisoners. He requires that it be their pleasure as well.

The blacksmith tries to rebel, but is rapidly subdued by the armed soldiers. The Acadian men are locked into the church until the village can be transported, and in the transportation Evangeline is separated from her betrothed. The remainder of the poem is the story of her lifelong search for him and their tragic reunion when she—now a nun—is called to nurse him on his deathbed.

At one point during her wanderings, Evangeline finds some of the resettled Acadians in Louisiana. She sees the culture in the process of rebuilding itself, and is told:

Here, too, numberless herds run wild and unclaimed in the prairies;

Here, too, lands may be had for the asking, and forests of timber

With a few blows of the axe are hewn and framed into houses.

After your houses are built, and your fields are yellow with harvests,

No King George of England shall drive you away from your homesteads,

Burning your dwellings and barns, and stealing your farms and your cattle.

And I think we are meant, as readers, to find the Acadians’ quiet rebuilding, like Evangeline’s quiet persistence and the lovers’ deathbed reunion, to be noble and comforting. I think we are meant to feel reassured that, while it may take a long time, “finally, justice/Triumphs.”

But I remain uneasy.

Given that King George has already shown his willingness to treat his subjects as his property and to relocate them for his own profit and his own purposes, and given that settlement in Louisiana puts the Acadians under the control of—at various times—the French, English, and Spanish monarchies, how secure should the Acadians really feel?

When lives and property are held at “his Majesty’s pleasure,” the blacksmith is always right. Injustice prevails, backed up by might. And Evangeline will always wander, looking for a home.

20121127_sarahskwireABOUT SARAH SKWIRE

Sarah Skwire is a fellow at Liberty Fund, Inc. She is a poet and author of the writing textbook Writing with a Thesis.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image originally appeared on the Foundation for Economic Education website and is reposted with permission.

What Is Polycentric Law? by Tom W. Bell

Do you like having options when you look for a new bank, dry cleaner, or veterinarian? Of course you do. You want to find the service that will best satisfy your particular demands, after all, and you know that when banks, cleaners, and vets have to compete they have a powerful incentive to make you happy. A monopoly, in contrast, can take its customers for granted.

Polycentric law simply extends that observation from commercial services to government ones. Just as competition makes life better for those who seek banking, cleaning, and pet care, it can benefit those seeking fair and efficient legal systems. Competition helps consumers and citizens alike.

Polycentric law regards the sorts of legal services that governments provide—defining rules, policing their application, and settling disputes—as a ripe field for competition. When a government claims a monopoly in the law, it tends to neglect the needs of its subjects. In a polycentric system, however, providers of legal services care more about what consumers want. They have to, if they don’t want to go out of business.

Our Polycentric World

But won’t competition between legal services lead to chaos? Evidently not. We already live in a world that offers us a fair degree of choice between the sorts of rules we live under. Polycentric law simply takes note of that fact, sees the good in it, and argues for more of the same.

It may not always seem as if you can choose the legal system you will live under. If you like the culture and climate of United States, for instance, but not the commands that issue from the federal government, you indeed face a hard choice: Suck it up or hit the road.

And even if you do decide to leave in search of a better legal system, you have no guarantee of finding one. Because they typically impose uniform rules across large geographic areas, governments tend more toward monopolistic law than polycentric law.

Even so, excepting totalitarian regimes such as the former Soviet Union and present-day North Korea, most governments allow disgruntled residents the freedom to escape to better legal systems. Most also allow movement within their borders, from one state, county, or town to another, affording the freedom to choose between local legal systems. To some degree, therefore, governments already compete against each other. But the influence of polycentric law goes deeper than that.

From Plain Old Law to Polycentric Law

To fully understand the extent of polycentric law, you have to understand the nature of law itself. Legal philosopher Lon Fuller aptly described it as “the enterprise of subjecting human conduct to the governance of rules.” So described, the law is not just a service provided by public organizations. It also issues from private sources such as homeowners’ associations, businesses, religions, clubs, and myriad other organizations that subject their members’ conduct to the governance of rules.

Consider a residential cooperative corporation, for instance. Such a co-op’s members both possess shares of it and lease their homes from it; in effect, they own their landlord. And like other landlords, a residential cooperative corporation subjects its tenants to the governance of rules. A residential co-op might specify quiet hours, for instance, and establish a committee to resolve complaints between member tenants.

That may not sound much like the sort of legal system offered by a conventional government—until you reflect that many residential co-ops rival cities in terms of their size and range of operations. The largest of them, Co-Op City in New York’s Bronx borough, houses over 50,000 members. In addition to shelter, Co-Op City provides an elected government, parks, streets, security, and just about every other service you might expect from a conventional city.

Homeowners’ associations (HOAs) likewise often grow as large and capable as cities. The largest HOA in the United States, Highlands Ranch, Colorado, includes over 30,000 homes and 90,000 residents. In all respects but its origins and legal status, it resembles a conventional municipality.

Other private organizations also effectively duplicate cities on a small scale. Malls and hotels, for instance, provide their users with transportation networks, shelter from the elements, utilities, fire protection, security, and (most pertinently for present purposes) rules of conduct.

The scale and scope of residential co-ops, HOAs, malls, and hotels make it easy to see how the private sector can rival the public one in providing governing services. Polycentric law is not solely the province of huge, private quasi-cities, however. Under Fuller’s definition, even a small organization that regulates only a narrow range of behavior—a church that imposes strict dietary rules on its members, for instance—also qualifies as a source of law. Size and breadth matter less than whether an organization subjects human conduct to the governance of rules.

For More Polycentricity

We thus already live in a somewhat polycentric legal order. Except when they completely imprison their subjects, governments have to compete against each other for financial and human capital. This means that, in the long run, governments that fail to supply adequate legal services tend to end up poor and unpopulated. Alas for consumers of governing services, though, that “long run” can last for generations. To make governments better sooner, we need to make them face more competition.

Except when a totalitarian government completely eradicates them, intermediary institutions also compete in the market for law. Towns compete with residential co-ops and HOAs to provide housing arrangements; main streets compete with malls to provide shopping environments; religious institutions compete with each other to provide moral instruction, and so forth. Because each subjects human conduct to the governance of rules, each of these institutions competes in providing the law. Here, too, though, we might benefit from more competition.

How can we make the law more polycentric? We can start by recognizing that legal systems do not differ in principle from banks, vets, cleaners, or other services. All face some competition and, insofar as they do, consumers benefit. Legal systems differ from other services not because they escape the effect of market forces, but because they have for too long pretended to do so.

Once we recognize that competitive forces already shape legal services, we can turn to increasing their influence. We should seek ways to make it easier for disgruntled subjects to flee, either physically or virtually, from bad governments to better ones. Bitcoin, for instance, seems likely to help on that front. And we should encourage the rise of special jurisdictions, such as the ZEDE/LEAP zones recently introduced in Honduras, where locals can opt into legal rules imported from abroad.

From a Good World to a Better One

Far from a mere theoretical ideal, polycentric law already shapes our world. We need only appreciate its latent power and invite more of the same. Once more fully realized, polycentric law can give to the consumers of legal services the same benefits that free and open competition already gives to the consumers of banking, cleaning, and veterinary services.

ABOUT TOM W. BELL

20121126_TomBell

Tom Bell

Tom W. Bell is a professor at Chapman University School of Law.