Lifting the veil on the new New Left

January 21, 2011

This is a follow-up post to “Lifting the veil of the Left”.

When I first heard of Stanley Kurtz’s book, “Radical In Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism”, I was circumspect, because I thought it might be another conservative diatribe full of anecdotes that just say, “I’m really scared of this guy, and you should be, too.” I’ve seen books like this before, and I find them useless, because you don’t really learn anything of value. However, listening to the research Kurtz has done really impressed me. What impressed me most of all is he claims to have been able to use his research to show that Obama most certainly hid some critical pieces of his past in his book, “Dreams From My Father”. By this he means that Obama would talk about his political activities, but he left out the socialist aspects of them; that he told half-truths, and in one case, lied.

I haven’t read the book yet, so I can’t get into a deep analysis of it. I just wanted to share this, because there have been some books written that look at Obama from the outside and try to fit models of political theory to his story, to explain who he is. Kurtz appears to have written a much deeper analysis of what formed Obama’s political views and agenda, using a wealth of source material that goes beyond what Obama said in his autobiography. What follows is taken from a speech Kurtz gave at David Horowitz’s Restoration Weekend from 2010.

After reviewing this, it reminded me of a clip I saw online a couple months ago with Lawrence O’Donnell confronting a progressive political supporter, named Glen, on MSNBC:

I’m not so much talking about how O’Donnell admits he’s a socialist. It’s that he chastised Glen for being unrealistic, that what Obama and the progressives in the Democratic Party got through was really the best they could do, and they should be satisfied with that. This sounds kind of like what the Midwest Academy (which I get to below) advocated, in the sense that they tried to stay away from some divisive issues, like foreign policy, and certain social issues, like abortion, and focus instead on economic populist issues. What they advocated was incrementalism.

Kurtz said that the socialist left’s strategy for taking over the Democratic Party started in the 1980s when Reagan was president. There was the community organizing from below, but there was also a strategy to drive the business interests that supported the Democrats out of the party, and into the arms of the Republicans. This was an intentional polarization of the country. It was thought that this would attract community organized groups into the Democratic Party, and then the Party would become the vehicle for a class struggle between the workers, in the Democratic Party, vs. the business interests in the Republican Party. What we’ve seen must’ve been a modification of that strategy, because there are certainly business interests that have been supporting the Democratic Party of late. A coalition has developed between Wall Street and the Democratic Party that has supported ObamaCare, and cap and trade, though Kurtz uses the example of the way the Obama Administration has treated the Chamber of Commerce to make his point.

Kurtz’s thesis is that Obama is most certainly a socialist. In detail after detail, he builds a very strong case. He uses the term carefully. Kurtz seems to be an honest academic whose goal is, “Just the facts, ma’am.” He is not given to hyperbole. He says, in fact, that when he first set out to write the book he was not looking to find that Obama is a socialist. He was commissioned to write a book on Obama’s political past, and by his account there was no agenda to slant that research one way or the other. He said his finding was unavoidable, given the evidence he found. He was shocked at the amount of evidence for it.

Kurtz said that Obama is partly the product of a change in the socialist movement in this country that occurred in the 1980s. He zeroed in particularly on the Midwest Academy (I will call it “the MA” from here on). There, he found a blueprint for the way that Obama has behaved politically. A big theme was “stealth.” Members of the MA believed in stealth socialism. They did not believe that making their true agenda known would work to their advantage. This was in contrast to the New Left of the 1960s, which was very open about its socialist goals. Instead they advocated that their members speak in fairly neutral tones, using what Kurtz called “communitarian language.” In fact he said that Obama’s 2004 keynote address at the Democratic national convention, “not a red America, not a blue America, but one America,” fit this mold. Michelle Obama, the First Lady, is not an innocent in all this. She was with Barack Obama when he attended meetings of the Midwest Academy.

Richard Epstein gives a view of this “stealth” behavior in this interview from March 2009, called “Crisis and the law”, on the show Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson:

Robinson: From your weekly column in Forbes Online, I’m quoting you to yourself, “I know Obama through our association at the University of Chicago Law School and through mutual friends in the neighborhood. We have had one or two serious, substantive discussions when I sent him e-mails in the early days of his senate term.” You’re the kind of person who gets to send e-mails to senators. “He always answered in a sensible and thoughtful fashion, and yet for the likely course of assessing his presidency, I don’t know him at all.” How can you say such a thing?

Epstein: Oh, it’s very easy. One of the things about Obama is that he has the world’s most perfect human disposition. He can sit in a room with you. He can listen to you. He can talk to you. And what happens is you really get the sense of a man who is in complete self control. That is the feature that makes him so hard to read. He is so much in self control that if he doesn’t want you to know in a conversation where he’s thinking, you can be there for 30 minutes and never be able to figure out what he believes. You can only have him question you about what you believe. He keeps all of his thoughts to himself.

Robinson: So he’s Leonard Nimoy. Playing Spock, the Vulcan.

Epstein: He basically knows how to keep that shield over his face. It’s almost a little bit unnerving to talk with him, because you want to say, “Well I agree with you,” as opposed to having another question to sort of formulate your position, so that he can understand it a little better.

The second half of it of course is that the speech is completely inconsistent with the political record in the sense that in the Senate he had the most left-wing voting record of anybody there, moreso than with people like Hilary Clinton. And that’s the way of course in which he moves.

Robinson: Charles Krauthammer described the dinner that Barack Obama attended at the home of George Will with a number of conservative journalists shortly before the inauguration. Krauthammer said that after Obama left, Will, Krauthammer, several others stayed around and talked about it for an hour or so, and they could not decide whether he was a centrist who wanted to throw bones to the left, or a leftist who wanted to throw bones to the center. Which is it, Richard?

Epstein: Well, first of all, the reason they couldn’t figure it out is the same thing that I mentioned before. The man has this sort of stone face experience, and it’s quite on purpose. Look, the answer I think is pretty clear. He’s a man on the left who will, if necessary, throw bones to the center. This is not a man from the center. Some of the appointments he has may sound centrist, but again, I just don’t believe in this as a serious indicator. David Axelrod is a high-cot politico. He has much more influence on anything that Obama does than somebody like Lawrence Summers, who might have more sense on these economic issues. How do I know that? Well, I’m certainly not there for the conversation, but when I hear Larry Summers announce how it is that collective bargaining, and organized labor improves productivity, I don’t treat that as the statement of an independent judgement. I treat that as a sense that the administration is really strongly pro-labor, and you have to sort of throw some bones in that particular direction as an independent advisor in order to lend a certain degree of gravitas to what’s happening.

Kurtz said the Midwest Academy also advocated an “inside, outside” strategy. He rephrased it as “good cop, bad cop.” Obama was, and still is, the “good cop.” Acorn was the “bad cop,” using thuggish tactics to pressure businesses into doing what they wanted, particularly the banks. He said Acorn was the organization that implemented the community organizing strategy they had for “building socialism from below” during the Reagan era when it appeared that trying to impose socialism from the top, constructing and using government institutions and policies to impose it, was not going to work in America. When Obama was in the Illinois state legislature, on the surface he played nice with people and business interests, not to cause alarm, but behind the scenes he was coordinating with Acorn.

The thing that really jumped out at me was he said that the MA had developed a strategy for “evolving” our society into socialism, using the work of a French socialist as a template, called “non-reformist reform.” He said that their first idea in this vein was to create a United States energy corporation, run by the government–a public option for energy–to “compete” with private energy companies. The key element of this strategy was it was thought to be politically palatable, using capitalist language of “competition,” to promote “fairness” in the energy market. However, it would be a “poison pill” by design. Kurtz said this was not a presumption on his part. The members of this organization openly talked about how the strategy was designed to drive private companies out of the market. Kurtz said they could do this since the government controls taxation, and regulation. I would add that in addition it could subsidize the price of energy through such an entity. The end game that was anticipated was the government would control the means of energy production for the entire country. This would transform the energy industry to socialism, and would be a significant step in transforming America into a socialist country. This strategy was the blueprint for the public option in health insurance. Kurtz said that the structure in the health insurance bill that was passed was just a path to “the public option” at a slower pace, since the public option was not politically palatable. He said that the current structure is designed to fail. It was designed to drive people out of their private health insurance plans and into the government’s health insurance exchange. So far the first half of that has been happening since last year. The health insurance exchanges are yet to come.

In one of the speeches Kurtz gave on his book he mentioned that the financial reform bill that was passed last year contained a provision that made it easier for environmentalists who are stockholders in corporations to gain seats on corporate boards, which will make it easier for the government to coordinate the means of production across many industries. I would add that even with a conservative administration, it would make it possible for these board members to advance socialist political agendas within corporate cultures.

Kurtz said that the Midwestern Academy’s overall strategy was to create polarizing situations, creating and using coalitions of workers and minorities against private industry, and we see this in the way that Obama has behaved as president. Secondly, he said that the people from the MA “thrive on crisis situations.” So when you think about the economic collapse of 2008, you can see how Obama exploited that very well in order to get elected. In fact Kurtz says that Acorn played a major role in creating the financial crisis, going all the way back to negotiations it engaged in with the Clinton Administration to set up the rules for mortgage lending.

In the speech Kurtz gave at Restoration Weekend, during the Q&A, a woman asked if he was using the term “socialist” strategically. She said, “This is communism.” He said that since he’s an anthropologist by training, he documented what these people said they are, not who he thinks they are, though he said that he considered the evidence he found to question in his book the claims some of these people made about what their true intentions were, suggesting that even though they called themselves democratic socialists, their true aims may have been more towards communism. He did not make a definitive claim to that effect, because he could not find evidence to show definitively that that was their true aim. This reserve he showed lent credibility to his thesis, in my opinion.

I guess what Kurtz says should not be a surprise. Even Charles Krauthammer has openly said on a few occasions that the agenda Obama has pursued amounts to democratic socialism, and that Obama really thinks the European model of socialism is better than what we have. I don’t think he says this to slur the President, but rather is just trying to give an accurate description of the evidence he’s seen. I think talking about this, though, is helpful in dealing with what we see coming out of the Democratic Party, because it enables us to have a more realistic discussion about what’s going on, and we can make the choice about whether we want to accept it or not.

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Looking for Muslim comedy in the Western world

January 27, 2007

I discovered a sitcom series started up in Canada, called “Little Mosque on the Prairie.” Not a very original title, if you ask me. Some might even feel offended by it, but I encourage you to watch it, if it’s available.

I watched the pilot. I liked the show overall. There’s a scene in an airport that was very prescient. A hip looking Muslim imam is waiting in line at the ticket counter and is talking to his mother on his mobile phone about a new position he’s taking at a mosque in a small town. The intent of the conversation is clear (benign) if you listen to all of it, but the imam unintentionally drops some “bombshells” (pun intended) on the people around him by putting words like “bomb,” “suicide,” and “Allah” into his conversation. A lady in front of him quietly freaks out and leaves the line. The next thing the imam knows he’s nabbed by security and brought in for questioning. If a Muslim looking guy was behind me in line saying what he was saying (if I wasn’t paying close attention, that is), I could imagine myself getting worried. The scene with security though was dumb. The imam was throwing jokes at the officers that they weren’t getting, in a snide way, but also trying to get them to lighten up. He signals they’re not getting what he’s saying (hand flying over head), and the security guy goes, “Woah. Is that a signal?!” Uh. There are no other suspects in the room. Just two police officers. Who would he be signaling?? Yes the writers were trying to make a point, but it was like getting hit over the head with a 2×4 for no good reason.

While the Muslim characters did say to each other a couple times “you shouldn’t say that,” or, “change the message,” because people were misinterpreting what they were saying, and getting freaked out, I felt that it blamed white people too much for misinterpreting what was going on. I’ve heard from blacks and even other Muslims who are worried about terrorists. It’s not just a white thing. In times like these, I know it sucks for them, but I think Muslims have to watch what they say and do a little bit. Unfortunately, some bad apples in their own culture have spoiled it for them. That should be the true message.

I liked the rest of the show. It was neat to see that even Muslims were having disagreements, like how to observe a religious sacrement. Some of the other characters, acting as “paranoid conservatives” felt like characitures, but hey, the show has to have a nemesis, otherwise there wouldn’t be a point to it. I also liked that while they were poking fun at the “hysterical white people,” they were also poking fun at some of the Muslim characters. The show has a mix of Muslim personalities, a couple conservative/traditional Muslims, and a few who are liberal. It felt like they were saying, “Hey. We all have problems.” I liked that. It made the characters feel more human. I wish there was a show similar to this in the U.S., though I’d appreciate it if it didn’t insist on characituring whites. I know it would be a controversial thing to do, and would probably do badly in the ratings, but I think it would be healthy to get people to see good, reasonable Muslim characters in this country dealing with what’s going on in their own personal way, and help non-Muslims think about the situations that are presented. This is just me wishing aloud, but I also would wish that such a show would occasionally get into the subject of “infidels” (ie. jihadists) to contrast them with the good Muslims who are regularly on the show. That would require that it be more of a drama. I can’t see “Little Mosque on the Prairie” discussing that subject. It’s supposed to be a light-hearted comedy. Getting into terrorism would be too serious.


School shooter takes on tactics of jihadist suicide bombers

October 3, 2006

The tragic shooting yesterday of school children in Pennsylvania, at a one-room Amish schoolhouse, was a copycat shooting, based on what happened in Bailey last week. According to the news report I link to, officials say they don’t think it’s a copycat. I beg to differ. Below I detail why. They say that the incident was caused by what was going on in the shooter’s head at the time. I can believe that. The evidence shows he was getting revenge for something that happened a long time ago. However, I think if you look at what happened, you can’t help but see that the two incidents followed a similar pattern. I think the shooter today followed the “playbook” of the Bailey shooting. It inspired him to take this action. He had been looking for a way to carry out his revenge, and he found the blueprint to do it.

More details have come out about the Bailey shooting. Duane Morrison, the shooter, had left what looks like a suicide note before going into the school. The police say there’s evidence that he molested (groped) some of the female students he took as hostages, and he sexually assaulted some of the others. So it looks pretty clear that Duane went into it expecting to die, but before that, he wanted to carry out a sick fantasy. I haven’t heard that he’s had a regular pattern of pedophilia, but it sounds to me like he had that tendency, just from the age group he picked.

It’s unclear whether he intended to shoot anyone else besides himself, going into it. He originally had 6 hostages. At the end he only had two, because he had let the others go, one by one throughout the ordeal. He was using the remaining two as human shields against the SWAT squad that had stormed the building. The victim he shot and killed had tried to escape.

The killer today, 32-year-old Charles Carl Roberts,  upped the ante. He left a suicide notes, and he took lumber with him to barricade the school doors so as to make it more difficult for police to get to him. He went in with the idea that he was going to die, and that he was going to take innocent female students with him.

He did the same thing that Duane did. He ordered the male students out of the schoolhouse when he took it over. He lined up 12 female students against the blackboard, tied their ankles together, and then shot them one by one, execution style. Then he shot himself. Two of these students were killed, along with a teacher’s aide. The others are at the hospital. One of those in the hospital died this evening. It’s amazing that that many survived, in any case.

In this case, as in the case of Bailey, Charles appeared to have no connection to anyone at the school. The common denominator between the two was that the school was in a picturesque area, with little to no history of violent crime, and there was no security at the school. This sounds sick, but it was “easy pickings”. He wanted to victimize some people, and they were the easiest available targets. I say “available”, because according to the news, this school was close to where he lived.

He deceived the police. He told them when they surrounded the school that if they didn’t back off, he would start shooting. Before they had a chance to even try to back off, he started shooting. I bet it made them pause for a bit, though, which was apparently all the time he needed.

In both cases, it looks to me like these suicidal killers are doing the same things that jihadist suicide bombers are doing in the Middle East. There are differences, but the technique is the same: kill yourself, and kill or hurt others in the process.

This isn’t unique to these school shootings either. For the past 15 years I’ve heard of shootings at work places that follow this methodology (if you can call it that). A male, disgruntled former employee enters where he used to work, kills certain people he has a grudge against, and then kills himself.

Suicide always hurts those who are close to someone who kills themself. That’s not what I’m talking about though. What makes a person do this? If they’re so intent on killing themselves, why don’t they just do it? Why do they feel the need to hurt or kill others in the act? I’m not advocating suicide. I’m looking at their premeditated actions.

I’m no psychologist, but I have been reading about a very insidious mental illness called malignant narcissism, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Long ago I used to hear that jihadist suicide bombers had this disorder. Part of this is, of course, an insatiable desire for attention; to feel needed, loved, and significant. According to the article, the person with this affliction only feels like they’re getting this if it is denied to others. They must be regarded as extra special. In the article I link to, the defining characteristic of the malignant narcissist is seeing everyone else as an object, no more significant than a bug or worm, or even a tool in the workshop. They do not see human beings as human beings, worthy of empathy, but rather they see them as a means of reflecting their own self image back to them, as if they were looking in the mirror. The attention is the necessary ingredient. Without it, they feel they do not exist. So they will do whatever it takes to get it. If they can’t get positive attention, they will settle for negative attention. The article notes that this is not unlike how infants behave, and it is natural for them. What normally happens is humans grow out of this mentality as they get older. But for those with NPD, they do not.

Another characteristic I’ve read about of those with NPD is a glorification of one’s own aggressiveness, and desire for power.

In a different article I read, it said that the person with NPD expects everyone around them to reflect their own self image back to them. If they don’t, the person becomes enraged, and punishes them severely for not complying with the fiction that he or she has created for themself.

This may not be an accurate diagnosis of these people who have done these awful killings, but I throw it out there as a possibility.

Edit 10/12/06:

I learned this past weekend that the shooting in PA was in fact not a copycat crime. So the premise for my original post was wrong. The evidence shows that Charles Roberts was planning and buying materials (like the lumber) in preparation for the crime just shortly before the shooting happened in Bailey, CO. So the fact that these events happened so close together in time, and similar motives and planning went into it was a complete coincidence. It’s like truth imitating fiction. I couldn’t have made this story up.


Is Boulder finally getting on the ball?

July 10, 2006

I read today in the Daily Camera that the City of Boulder is considering offering incentives to businesses to get them to stay here. The article cited a few businesses that have left town in recent years: Leopard Communications, Noodles & Co., GE Access, etc. Many of these businesses were founded right here in Boulder, but they no longer call it home. It also cites businesses who have moved in to Boulder, or will be in the near future.

This talk of incentives is encouraging. I’m sure there are many in Boulder who don’t like the idea. They want business to “pay its own way”, paying for the external development needs that are needed to support their business, and the community that surrounds them. As much as that would be ideal, the facts are it’s just cheaper to operate elsewhere, and if businesses don’t see that the city is trying to “sweeten the deal”, and they see that other cities will, they’re going to move to the more attractive locale. That’s just reality. It’s not fair, but what is in this world? Fairness is something that we can strive for, but let’s not let some abstract notion of fairness be the enemy of the greater good. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing either, just a compromise. The article is right that there are amenities in Boulder that can’t be found in other parts of the state. It can use that uniqueness to its advantage. Boulder may not feel comfortable offering all the incentives that other cities do (I’m not saying it has to implement them all), but it needs to recognize it needs a good tax base as well in order to fund its operations. If people can live and work here, they’re more likely to shop here–that is, if they can find what they’re shopping for–increasing the city’s sales tax revenue.

Boulder can only do so much, because it has effectively constrained its own growth, due to the green belts that surround the city. Even if it were to offer irresistable incentives, Boulder would not experience the same kind of economic growth that surrounding cities have been experiencing over the past year. There just isn’t enough land for everybody, unless by some miracle Boulder were to suddenly moderate its fear of sprawl. The planned “transit center” may be what’s ultimately needed to really grow the economy here, since it could create a multiplier effect–bringing in more consumers from outside the city.

I look forward to seeing what the City will offer, and see what effect it has on stemming the “exodus” of business.


A point of clarification on Islam

July 10, 2006

As I’ve read over my own posts, I feel the need to clarify some things on Islam. I’ve used terms like “radical Islam” and “Islamofascists”. By using these words I do not mean to paint all Muslims with a wide brush. I value America’s tolerant ethic towards all religions. When I use terms like “Islamofascists” I am not being derogatory towards peaceful, moderate Muslims who just want to worship Allah, raise a family, and live their lives. I am not using the term to refer to them, but rather to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, who have a very strict ideology that they want to apply to everyone–hence the “fascist” part of the term. There are some who take issue with associating groups like Al Qaeda with Islam, because many Muslims are so reviled by what they are doing they don’t consider them as Muslim. The only reason I use these terms is that despite their own distance from the ideal of Islam, they are still linked to the Islamic culture in some way. There is a wider scope to this than just the Muslim religion. There is also Muslim culture. And within that culture there are many who support Osama bin Laden. They may be ignorant of Islam and the Koran, but still they are a part of the wider Muslim culture, particularly in the Middle East. I don’t say this really to demean the culture, just pointing out a reality.

Ideally what I’d like to see happen is the Middle Eastern Muslim culture reform itself, so that extremism of the likes of Al Qaeda is shunned and unsupported.

I will continue to use these terms. I just wanted readers to understand how I am using them, and that by no means do I mean it to apply to all Muslims.