San Diego — Several times I’ve used those terms in posts and finally someone emailed me and asked what I meant by them in a political sense. In normal use, a straw man is an effigy designed to stand in for some other person or to mislead viewers into believing they are someone else. The term is also used for a fake item planted to make people think it is real or something else. A Red Herring is a rotting fish designed to be a distraction so it will draw attention away from some behavior or activity that is would be better if it were not noticed. Both are tools of misdirection and used just as a stage magician uses the process, to get you to not notice how the trick is done or what is really happening.
Think Wizard of Oz here; the smoke and mirrors hiding the man behind the curtain. And think Goebbels’s concept of the “big lie,” which is a lie so preposterous that the listener would not think you would ever try to fool them with that line so it must be true.
I believe the political elites in this country have turned the use of straw men, red herrings, and big lies, i.e. all tools of misdirection, into a fine art that is performed and executed so well that no one seems to be noticing. The more the big lie, straw man, or red herring has some personal meaning to the audience, the more likely it is to succeed in its mission and so they have presented theirs with deep personal and emotional connections. Below are a few of the areas in which I think those terms can be applied.
Leadership. Some argue Obama has shown no leadership over the areas of real importance to the country. I would argue the opposite. Instead, he has shown brilliant guidance in the causes of debauching the currency and creating debt crises as well calculated tactics to implement his strategic goal of transforming the country to become closer to the ideals of his Marxist father (which he wrote about in detail), his radical socialist friends like William Ayers, and the liberation theology of Jeremiah Wright, his Pastor of 20 years.
He has carefully placed unelected government officials like Tim Geithner, Valery Jarrett, Van Jones, etc. in powerfil positions where they can advance those agendas even when it requires an apparent loss of reason such as when Valerie recently said more unemployed people using unemployment insurance was good for the country and its economy.
That statement is only unreasonable if you want to try to protect the government laid out in our Constitution. But it is quite reasonable if the goal is to tear down the existing model and replace it with a very different kind. Why are we not willing to accept the obvious when his communication Director, Anita Dunne, said Mao, the butcher of 20 million innocent Chinese was a model political philosopher to her.
I think, in fact, that presenting to his opposition the appearance of failure of leadership is a straw man when in fact his leadership in advancing the cause he believes in has been masterfully executed. My only problem is I think it is a cause that is disastrous for the country or at least the country I would like us to be.
Apologizing for America. This is not about apologizing or trying to make amends for past infractions real or imagined, it is about seeing America as something flawed and needing to be changed. But though the President has expressed several times his sympathy for that negative view of our country is that who and what we really are?
We have been the repeated rescuers of huge portions of the world from tyranny and oppression and have asked, in return, only for enough ground to bury our dead. We have, in the past century, left a host of cemeteries of dead Americans who fell trying to free other countries all over the map. But I ask you, in that same period, how many foreign cemeteries do we have here to honor the dead of foreign countries who fell in our defense? We need apologize to no one.
We provide more money to such marginalized peoples as the Palestinians than anyone except the Saudis, our money feeds poor all over the planet limited only by the amount their own despots skim off the top. We keep goverenments from Pakistan to Egypt to Saudi Arabia in business with our dollars so they can use their own dollars for personal stuff. American organizations gather and spend billions and billions of dollars saving children and forests and water all over the planet. We need apologize to no one.
On the other hand there exists in the world a force that believes it is mandated by its prophet to convert or kill all those who think differently and that if you convert from their beliefs to something else you are also subject to being executed. Now we hear that a pastor who was NEVER muslim but whose parents were muslim is sentenced to be hanged for apostasy. What great people and what a great culture they have…
These people will allow young girls to be burned alive in a fire because their face coverings were burned up and they would otherwise have to appear in public showing… their faces.
These people capture Americans and torture them, saw their heads off, burn them alive, hang their bodies from bridges or drag them through the streets.
These people will call for murdering people for cartoons they deem irreverent or whose writings call their actions into question.
These people create hypocritical governments where strict theological laws constrain the public but dictators and self-declared royalty live in corruption that would even offend a union leader and in debauchery that would make a Hollywood actor blush. And I am supposed to be tolerant of that or understanding? Not in this lifetime!
Perhaps their prohibition on eating pork is because they recognize it as cannibalistic. And apologizing to these intellectual, spiritual, emotional savages is like apologizing to pigs. To them it is simply a sign of weakness to be noted and exploited.
We do not EVER need to bow to them, or to apologize for accidentally burning a holy book — especially one that contains the instructions to kill us because we do not believe as they do. If we sometimes step over our own lines, sometimes take actions that violate our own principles, all of which we have undeniably done, then we may well need to apologize to our own people for getting off track. But we need never apologize to such savage slobs who want nothing more than for all of us to be dead and off the planet.
But that too, whether you think we owe others apologies or not, is all a red herring.
The reality behind bowing and apologizing is to promote a new view of the transforming America as no longer exceptional in any way, but just another of the mediocre collections of people around the globe. It is the product of a world view so different from the historical and even normal current American view that there is little point of common reference. And that worldview is indeed the real issue at stake.
But what is also at issue is the result of that world looking back and seeing us as weak. Because they want to kill us and there is no “fall-back” position, the only thing holding them in check is our perceived strength. That is the only thing they understand and respect. When it is gone or diminished their willingness to engage in conflict increases. And with that comes another strain on our attention and more importantly another drain on our economy, the primary tool of transformation. And that, I believe, is no accident or simple mistake of a buffoon trying to play in the grown up’s world as it has been characterized. I believe it too is another tactic perfectly serving the strategic goals of the anointed one.
Where Obama was born is irrelevant. Obama and his disciples and heralds in the media have played this out brilliantly. By first refusing to provide a birth certificate and then providing one so obviously and amateurishly flawed we have several ploys at play. The first is a great execution of a big lie. Think about it; how does one not tend to accept that surely the President of the United States would not proffer such weak and questionable evidence if it were not in fact true and accurate?
But actually it is simply a wonderful red herring. Let’s accept for a moment, for the sake of argument, that the document presented as a “birth certificate”, even if fake itself actually tells the truth and Obama was in fact born in Hawaii and therefore a citizen anchor baby. So what? It is not the issue. The issue is the constitution’s definitions of citizens in which it recognizes three levels, and the relevant rules governing elected officials.
“Naturalized” citizens are individuals who were citizens of a foreign state but who have gone through the naturalization process and become citizens of this country.
“Normal” or “Native” citizens are simply anyone who has been born here. That was an important distinction when the constitution was written since the country was so young.
But there is another category; the “natural born” citizen. And that distinction is indicated in the disparate requirements for holding federal office. Senators and representatives could be normal citizens or even naturalized citizens, but the president must be a natural born citizen. OK, but what does this mean and how do we know this is what is meant by the framers? Two reasons.
The first is that the framers were openly consulting the 1797 book by philosopher of law Emmerich de Vattel entitled “The Law of Nations.” We know that because they said so in several letters and essays. In that book he defines “Natural Born Citizens” as “…those born in the country of parents who are citizens.” The second way we know is that the Supreme Court has ruled in at least four instances — in 1814, (where the Vattel book is cited in the decision), 1830, 1875, and in 1898 where Natural Born Citizens were distinguished from “Native Citizens” who were individuals who were born in the US but of any parents.
The supreme court has specifically ruled several times that a natural born citizen is an individual who is born to parents, BOTH OF WHOM are citizens at the time of the birth. The PLACE of birth is irrelevant and this category covers individuals who are born to U.S. citizens while traveling in another country.
But by getting us to focus on whether or not Obama himself was born in this country we totally avoid any scrutiny over whether or not his father, a Kenyan, was a U.S. citizen at the time of his birth. Because if he was not, where Obama himself was born doesn’t matter, he could have been born on the capital steps but he would still not be a “Natural Born Citizen” as required. And the problem there is that his father’s status is much easier to determine… unless we are distracted from looking.
The mainstream media pretends that normal native citizens, as defined above, are also natural born citizens but the supreme court has expressly ruled otherwise and the President Chester Arthur was so sure it was the correct interpretation that he lied about and destroyed records that would show he was a citizen but not a natural born citizen and should not have been eligible to be President.
What do I care? I don’t on a personal level; I think a person should be qualified if the people as a whole decide that is who they want as leader. But I also think that any leader who pretends to be the overseer of the country, the executive officer to decide what becomes national law, must first and foremost be required to OBEY the prime law of the land, the meta-law of our nation, the constitution. Because if they can ignore that as they wish then all bets are off.
(And by the way, lest you think this is a partisan shot by me, it is clear that Republican potential Marco Rubio is in exactly the same boat and should not be eligible to be president.)
In the end even the answer to this if true is irrelevant because the odds of the media or the congress acting on it are essentially zero. So why are so many people exercised over it? Simple: to get their minds off of real issues where there might actually BE some impact.
Fairness. When Obama pushes for taxes that every historical example has demonstrated will result in less income for the US Treasury people scratch their heads and ask why he seems incapable of “getting it?”
But I think he DOES “get it.” One of the initial heads of his economic team, an economist from Berkley, even wrote a widely accepted paper demonstrating how over the years there is a 3:1 inverse relationship between taxes and revenue, i.e. every dollar taxes are increased results in 3 fewer dollars of revenue and vice versa. Obama himself even told us in an interview where that very issue was raised that he understands the negative revenue consequences but he is about “fairness.” But when you see this country as flawed at its core and needing to be transformed into your own Marxist inspired version of “fairness” (or as Marx put it, “…from each according to his ability and to each according to his need.”) and know from your college mentors following Cloward and Plivens and Keynes that the way to bring down a country is economically via class warfare, then it all makes perfect sense and is brilliantly executing a well planned strategy.
This is not about fairness, it is about tearing down one model of government and replacing it with one you prefer. “Fairness” is the positive buzz word that you can count on the disciples will latch on to and to misdirect attention but it is not really the issue because it is, at its core, undefinable. But under the guise of “fairness” what we really get is something else, and that is…
Creating Dependencies. Obama and his liberal/progressive philosophies are steeped in the strategic admonitions of Machiavelli and know what it takes to gain and maintain power.
“Thus a wise prince will think of ways to keep his citizens of every sort and under every circumstance dependent on the state and on him; and then they will always be trustworthy.” -Niccolo Machiavelli, 1469 – 1527
This creation of dependencies is, in my opinion, pure political evil made all the more evil because it is done by fostering the idea that we can forget those God-given unalienable rights mentioned in the founding documents. Those have the nasty requirements of using them to become self sufficient and self motivated and actually work to earn what one derives from the exercise of those freedoms. Liberal philosophy, by contrast, teaches that we ought to understand that we somehow have an absolute RIGHT to whatever it is we desire. When we don’t get it we are victims and only the state can step in and put down those bad guys who actually earn the stuff but want to keep it, and steal the fruits of their labor to give to those other folks who have a right to it notwithstanding that they did nothing to earn it.
“Catholics Want Contraception” and other health care issues. Of course there are Catholics who use and want birth control. Of course women’s health is important. Of course there was unfairness (there is that convenient buzz word again) over pre-existing health conditions (I’ve run into it myself in the past). Of course there are social benefits to having more people on health insurance. So who would not want to see a good solution to those situations?
But none of those are the real issues. The real issues are wrapped up in a single question: who has the authority to mandate those actions? The federal constitution is clear on the subject: at the moment that authority does not come from either the legislative or executive branches of the federal government, but there is nothing to prohibit state governments from addressing it if their own state constitutions do not prohibit it. Massachusetts had a perfect right to institute mandatory health insurance but the Federal government does not. Let me repeat, the issue is not whether a law is a good idea or not, the issue is do those specifically involved lawmakers have the authority, under their own charters, to impose it?
In this case I believe the federal constitution does not allow it. But Obama does not care about the constitution; in fact he has on a number of occasions referred to it as flawed along with the country and culture flowing from it. These issues are at their heart, a means of changing the source of authority and power in the country from the legislative branch and the constitution to the Executive branch and his own ideals as espoused by sources other than those whose writings led to the constitution of the United States.
And if, in fact, the president can tell and enforce how Catholics interpret their sacred texts and practice their religion even if that is different than the Catholic Hierarchy teaches, who is next whose practices run afoul of official state policies? So much for another clause in the Constitution. One more nail in the coffin of a government of, by, and for the people and one more step toward a people that are of, by, and for the government.
Going Green. Who could possibly not be for developing alternative and less polluting sources of energy? No one. Forget for a moment any issues about global warming, even if that is entirely a money generating hoax, the fact remains that we should be stewards of our one earth and using renewable energy sources would be good for us and good for the planet. So who could possibly oppose that? And that is why it is such a wonderful Straw Man tactic of misdirection.
The reality is that workable technology for all alternative energy except nuclear, vis-à-vis making it reasonably affordable, is years off. At its cheapest it is 3 to 10 times more expensive per unit of energy than energy derived from fossil fuels. And when people are in deep trouble economically that is a major problem.
The problem is compounded by the understanding that this country has HUGE reserves of energy resources that are estimated to match or exceed those of the Saudis. And we have an energy rich neighbor to the north anxious to sell to us but needing to sell to SOMEONE even if that sale is not in our best interests.
Obama claims that oil production is up and it is his doing but leaves out that it is only up on private wells and is virtually shut down on federal wells over which he has control. He said in a speech in Florida he has no idea what to do about the fact that we are producing enough oil here but prices are still rising.
Nonsense. If that is true he is incompetent to be President. But he does know what to do; it is just that his ideology prevents him from doing it. The price of oil effects everything: not just gas at the pump but anything that relies on transportation (food, goods of all kinds) and anything made from oil by-products such as anything made from plastics. No other single commodity has such a huge impact on our overall economy than oil: we are an oil-based society and in that we are the same as most of the rest of the world. And until technology (which I think should be encouraged and supported) solves the disparity in costs, which it will some day, then as a country we need to get a grip on our own oil and oil costs. That is within the prevue of the federal government. So why not do it?
Because to NOT do it, to divert our attention onto that “green” ideal, we further weaken the economy and make it more vulnerable to the transformation that will come from the crisis that ensues when the economy fails. And if we can lose a few Billion dollars down the drain of failed and failing companies while we are at it to speed up the gutting of the economy, so much the better because we can say, “We tried.” Right.
Cuts in Spending. Let’s handle this one quickly. We all know that spending has to be cut. But what has to be cut is the baseline. Reducing the amount of additional spending desired is not a budget cut. It is a straw man misdirection.
SOLUTIONS and REAL ISSUES
So then if these issues and others are not really relevant issues as they are presented by the media and the questioners at the debates, what IS or should be relevant? In my opinion, to get this country back on track we need to accomplish several things in the next 7-10 years and in a particular priority.
FIRST PRIORITY. The absolute first priority is to cement once and for all what are the powers of the federal government allowable under the constitution as it is now written so we never allow politicians of any stripe to bring us to this point again. The proper behavior of a citizen is first to obey the laws as existing but work to change them if there is a real problem. So if there is some national interest in amending some of the powers and rights set forth in that document, then lets start the amendment process and get it done. In 1865 the amendment ending slavery and involuntary servitude except as punishment for a crime was proposed and passed by the nation in a year. In 1865!
Perhaps indeed our world has so evolved that it forces upon us as a nation-state a revisiting of some of our paradigms about how the world operates and how we can best work within that new, or newly perceived reality. But that does not mean that our vision for our country has changed; it does not mean that our values as a society have changed; it does not mean that we can simply float willy nilly on a nebulous charter that is so flexible that it, de facto, has no meaning or directions for us at all.
It means, at most, that it is time for another Constitutional Convention to revisit the issues and see what changes, if any, would be potentially appropriate for us as we wade off into our future in this new world. When the nation as a whole thinks it is time for a change it can accomplish it in reasonable time frames. But the proper approach is not to usurp the document that set in motion what became, when we actually followed it, the greatest nation on earth and certainly not to give the executive officer of the country monarchical or dictatorial power or to allow unelected appointees and their fiefdoms to promulgate laws and regulations having serious impacts on the country usurping the jobs and responsibilities of the representatives we elect to do just that.
I would propose Constitutional amendments to the effect that cabinet positions be defined and limited. That no law can be passed that does not apply equally to the lawmakers. And that no rider can be attached to any bill that does not specifically speak to the main topic or subject of that bill so things can not be sneaked through riding on the backs of other important issues and requiring that each issue be addressed on its own merits.
This action has top priority because without it anything else done, no matter how much it is needed, will simply be a stop gap to buy time until the tide turns again and we return to this same path we are on now.
SECOND PRIORITY is the national debt crisis and overall economic condition. Nothing else will so impact the “general welfare” noted in the Constitution’s preamble as our economic security and stability. Who of us that has EVER tried to handle a personal or business budget truly believes you can solve a debt crisis by taking on more debt? Crises of debt always, on any level, require incredibly painful and sometimes ugly efforts to bring expenditures and revenues into synch.
Obama has already admitted his tax policies will likely result in lowered revenue (as it has in other places they were tried such as Maryland and California) but that his dedication to “fairness” overrides that. Meaning his ideology overrides helping to solve our biggest problem meaning this problem is actually working FOR him in some way. If the so-called 1% paid 100 percent of their personal incomes as taxes it would not put much of a dent in the debt. So let’s get real here. The problem is mostly one of spending money we are not offsetting with revenue. And we have gotten so far out of whack we now are faced with ugly, painful, hurtful choices but if we fail to take them then we are on the way to becoming Greece with riots in the streets.
We can no longer treat anything as sacred except the survival and stability of the country as a whole and we all must sacrifice. But those sacrifices need to be defined and they all need to have built in, irrevocable sunset clauses so that when the country is again stable they revert to proper levels. And laws need to be passed to prohibit the government from ever again allowing things to get so out of control.
But none of our normal “fixes” that were dictated during a world of sovereign, independent, self-sufficient nation states, will work in this now global economy. We can argue whether we should have allowed it or bought into it but that discussion is pointless… we are in it up to our ears. And it is our role in this global market that will determine our future success or failure as a country.
THIRD PRIORITY is the national defense and international policy. And here again I’m not sure that many of the paradigms of the past from a day of sovereign self sufficiency and easy isolationist days that guide either party are still workable. On some fronts I would love to return to those isolationist days of “live and let live” but it is simply not possible in a day and age of inter-continental ballistic missles and nuclear weapons and global markets. We are part of this world whether we want to be or not. We are no longer self sufficient not the least of which is because the policies of the party in the White House has made it so. And the ancillary problem is that in addition to now needing foreign goods, there are other parts of the world that wish us harm.
Based on our OWN core values, we should define friend and non-friend; support the friends and leave non-friends to their own devices until they threaten global stability by threatening us or a friendly state. And our military might and geopolitical will needs to be such that no one, no country who wants to survive into the future will ever risk a fight with us.
AND THEN… Overlapping and having an impact on both the 2nd and 3rd priorities above is the ongoing issue of energy. Acquiring it presents national defense issues and paying for it presents economic issues. We need to convene a convention of energy-related scientists of all types and energy consumers of all types with a basic charge and timeline; a 20 year plan as important as the goal of Kennedy’s of reaching the moon.
The objectives are first to make us completely energy self sufficient in 10 years at which point we need not buy a drop of oil from any foreign state. If we used all of the reserves we own as a country that would give us an estimated 50-100 years based on our maximum consumption. So objective two is that within 20 years we will have developed the technology to start replacing fossil fuels with other renewable sources leaving the remaining reserves of oil for those few areas where there may not be a replacement such as in manufacturing.
But that begs a more current question in which straw men and red herrings are also in play. We get most of the oil we import from Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela. Only about 10% comes from the middle east. Nevertheless, we now have enough excess supply, government restraints notwithstanding, that we export oil. A recent interview with an oil exec claimed the reason gas was so expensive was the world price of oil. Now I see two glaring issues buried in that.
First, if we are exporting oil, why are we buying a quart of it from Hugo Chavez, the favorite dictator of Sean Penn, if we actually make enough and are exporting it? The only possible answer is to prop up his regime, which in turn props up Cuba, both of which are closer ideologically to our leadership’s political roots than to the roots of the country as a whole.
And the second question is what does what we charge others have to do with what we charge ourselves? The only answer is that it props up oil company profits which are already through the roof. And that is unlikely to change since the right wants to prop them up and the left wants us to run gas so high consumers will switch to alternatives. Is that arbitrary abuse of federal power, in either direction, OK with you? It is not with me. We are blaming OPEC when we ought to be looking closer to home and starting in Washington and then Wall Street.
If we could have a successful “Manhattan” project and then a successful space project, we certainly have the brain power and infra-structure to do this if we had a true leader with a vision for it. And rather than spending huge sums of money to prop up dictators that hate us or to allow non-productive people to live off of productive ones, this would be money that would truly help the country.
Now in my opinion, THOSE are some issues to focus on. But I don’t see anyone out there doing it.