• Home page of novelist William S. Frankl, M.D.
  • About author William S. Frankl, M.D.
  • Books by novelist William S. Frankl, M.D.
  • Reviews of the writing of author William S. Frankl, M.D.
  • Blog of author William (Bill) S. Frankl, M.D.
  • Contact author William S. Frankl, M.D.
Title: Blog by Novelist William S. Frankl, MD

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

George Orwell/Great English Writer/20th Century

Monday, June 25th, 2018

Today, June 25, 2018, is the birthday of the man who wrote, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” That’s George Orwell , born Eric Blair in Motihari, India (1903).

 

He wrote his first poem — which he dictated to his mother — at the age of four or five. He was 11 when he wrote a patriotic poem after World War I broke out. It was published in the newspaper. He wrote a short story that he described as “a ghastly failure,” and a rhyming play, and helped edit the school’s newspaper. He was also constantly narrating his own actions in a writerly way, in his head. “I had the lonely child’s habit of making up stories and holding conversations with imaginary persons,” he later wrote, “and I think from the very start my literary ambitions were mixed up with the feeling of being isolated and undervalued.”

 

His father was a civil servant, and the family was, in Orwell’s words, “lower-upper-middle class.” Orwell received a scholarship to Eton, the prestigious boys’ school, but he felt alienated from his wealthy classmates. He opted not to go on to Oxford or Cambridge, but served as a military policeman in Burma instead. His essay “A Hanging,” which he published in 1931, is about his time there; it describes his role in the execution of a prisoner.

 

He believed there were four great motives for writing prose: sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, and political purpose. By “political,” he meant in the widest sense of the word: “Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.” His writing was pushed even more toward the political after Hitler’s rise to power, and the Spanish civil war. He said, “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it.” In the early 1940s, he began work on a novella about a group of farm animals that decide to stage an uprising against their tyrannical farmer. Orwell called it Animal Farm (1945), and often described it as a satirical tale against Stalin and the Soviet Union.

 

“What I have most wanted to do throughout the past ten years is to make political writing into an art,” he wrote in his essay “Why I Write” (1946). “My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice. When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing. But I could not do the work of writing a book, or even a long magazine article, if it were not also an aesthetic experience. […] Animal Farm was the first book in which I tried, with full consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole. I have not written a novel for seven years, but I hope to write another fairly soon. It is bound to be a failure, every book is a failure, but I do know with some clarity what kind of book I want to write.”

 

His next — and final — novel was Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), about a future in which England has become a totalitarian state run by an anonymous presence known only as Big Brother. Orwell died of tuberculosis just a few months after it was published. Far from being a failure, Nineteen Eighty-Four has been translated into 62 languages, has sold millions of copies, and just this past January it was No. 1 on Amazon.com’s best-seller list.

 

Garrison Keiller/Writers Almanac, June, 2017

On To Mars/Charles Krauthammer

Friday, June 22nd, 2018

Charles Krauthammer died on June 21, 2018. But his life and his treasure trove of writings will be with us forever. Below is one of his very finest, his case for mankind’s need to leave Earth and travel to the stars.

 

 

On To Mars

The Weekly Standard

January 31, 2000

 

 

January 31, 2000 12:00 AM

If you were to say to a physicist in 1899 that in 1999, a hundred years later . . . bombs of unimaginable power would threaten the species; . . . that millions of people would take to the air every hour in aircraft capable of taking off and landing without human touch; . . . that humankind would travel to the moon, and then lose interest . . . the physicist would almost certainly pronounce you mad.

–Michael Crichton

I

WHAT MANNER OF CREATURE ARE WE? It took 100,000 years for humans to get inches off the ground. Then, astonishingly, it took only 66 to get from Kitty Hawk to the moon. And then, still more astonishingly, we lost interest, spending the remaining 30 years of the 20th century going around in circles in low earth orbit, i.e., going nowhere.

 

Last July, the unmanned Lunar Prospector probe was sent to find out whether the moon contains water. It was a remarkable venture, but even more remarkable was the fact that Prospector was the first NASA spacecraft, manned or unmanned, to land on the moon since the last Apollo astronaut departed in 1972. Twenty-seven years without even a glance back.

We remember the late 15th and 16th centuries as the Age of Exploration. The second half of the 20th was at one point known as the Space Age. What happened? For the first 20 years we saw space as a testing ground, an arena for splendid, strenuous exertion. We were in a race with the Soviets for space supremacy, and mobilized for it as for war. President Kennedy committed all of our resources: men, materiel, money, and spirit. And he was bold. When he promised to land a man on the moon before the decade was out, there were only eight and a half years left. At the time, no American had even orbited the earth.

 

The Apollo program was a triumph. But the public quickly grew bored. The interview with the moon-bound astronauts aboard Apollo 13 was not even broadcast, for lack of an audience. It was only when the flight turned into a harrowing drama of survival that an audience assembled. By Apollo 17, it was all over. The final three moonshots were canceled for lack of interest.

Looking to reinvent itself, NASA came up with the idea of a space shuttle ferrying men and machines between earth and an orbiting space station. It was a fine idea except for one thing: There was no space station. Skylab had been launched in May 1973, then manned for 171 days. But no effort was made to keep its orbit from decaying. It fell to earth and burned. We were left with an enormously expensive shuttle–to nowhere.

 

The shuttle has had its successes–the views of earth it brought back, the repairs to the Hubble space telescope it enabled. But it has been a dead end scientifically and deadening spiritually. There is today a palpable ennui with space. When did we last get excited? When a 77-year-old man climbed into the shuttle in November 1998 for a return flight. That was the most excitement the shuttle program had engendered in years–the first time in a long time that a launch and the preparations and even the preflight press conference had received live coverage. Televisions were hauled into classrooms so kids could watch.

 

But watch what? The fact is that we were watching John Glenn reprise a flight he’d made 36 years earlier. It is as if the Wright Brothers had returned to Kitty Hawk in 1939 to skim the sand once again, and the replay was treated as some great advance in aviation.

 

The most disturbing part of the Glenn phenomenon was the efflorescence of space nostalgia–at a time when space exploration is still in its infancy. We have not really gone anywhere yet, and we are already looking back with sweet self-satisfaction.

 

The other flutter of excitement generated by the shuttle program occurred a few years earlier when Shannon Lucid received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor for a long-duration flight in low earth orbit. A sign of the times. She is surely brave and spunky, but the lavish attention her feat garnered says much about the diminished state of our space program. Endurance records are fine. But the Congressional Space Medal of Honor? It used to be given to the likes of Alan Shepard and John Glenn, who had the insane courage to park themselves atop an unstable, spanking-new, largely untested eight-story bomb not knowing whether it would blow up under them. Now we give it for spending six months in an orbiting phone booth with a couple of guys named Yuri.

II

WHAT HAPPENED? Where is the national will to explore? We are stuck along some quiet historical sidetrack. The fascination today is with communication, calculation, miniaturization, all in the service of multiplying human interconnectedness. Outer space has ceded pride of place to the inner space of the Internet. In fact, space’s greatest claim on our interest and resources currently rests on the fact that satellites allow us to page each other and confirm that 9:30 meeting about the new Tostitos ad campaign.

 

The excitement surrounding Shannon Lucid’s six months of sponge baths and Russian food aboard Mir is a reflection of the quiet domesticity of this inward-turning time. Perhaps it is the exhaustion after 60 years of world war, cold and hot, stretching right up to the early 1990s. The “Seinfeld “era is not an era for Odyssean adventures. Now is a time for home and hearth–the glowing computer screen that allows endless intercourse with our fellow humans.

 

Another reason for the diminishing drive for planetary exploration is, perversely, the fruits of the moon landing itself–and in particular that famous photograph of earth taken by the Apollo astronauts during the first human circumnavigation of another celestial body.

“Earthrise” had an important effect on human consciousness. It gave us our first view of earth as it is seen from God’s perspective: warm, safe, serene, blessed. It created a kind of preemptive nostalgia for earth, at precisely the moment when earthlings were finally acquiring the ability to leave it.

 

It is no surprise that “Earthrise” should have become such a cultural icon, particularly for the environmental Left. It offered the cosmic equivalent of the call to “Come home, America” issued just four years after the picture was taken.

 

That photo and the ethos it promoted–global, sedentary, inward-looking–were the metaphysical complement to the political arguments made at the time, and ever since, for turning our gaze from space back to earth. These are the familiar arguments about social priorities: Why are we spending all this money on space, when there is poverty and disease and suffering at home?

 

It is a maddening question because, while often offered in good faith, it entirely misses the point. Poverty and disease will always be with us. We have spent, by most estimates, some $5 trillion trying to abolish poverty in the United States alone. Government is simply not very good at solving social problems. But it can be extremely good at solving technical problems. The Manhattan Project is, of course, the classic case. As are the various technological advances forged in war, from radar to computers.

Concerted national mobilization for a specific scientific objective can have great success. This is in sharp contrast to national mobilization for social objectives, which almost invariably ends in disappointment, waste, and unintended consequences (such as the dependency and deviancy spawned by the massive welfare programs and entitlements of the sixties and the seventies–the Left’s preferred destination for the resources supposedly squandered on space).

 

But more exasperating than the poor social science and the misapprehension about the real capacities of government is the tone-deafness of the earth-firsters to the wonder and glory of space, and to the unique opportunity offered this generation. How can one live at the turn of the 21st century, when the planets are for the first time within our grasp, and not be moved by the grandeur of the enterprise?

 

NASA administrators like to talk about science and spinoffs to justify the space program. Well, the study of bone decalcification in near-earth weightlessness is fine, but it is hardly the motor force behind President Kennedy’s ringing declaration, “We choose to go to the Moon.” That is not why we, as a people and as a species, ventured into the cosmos in the first place.

 

Teflon and pagers are nice, too, and perhaps effective politically in selling space. But they are hardly the point. We are going into space for the same reason George Mallory climbed Everest: Because it is there. For the adventure, for the romance, for the sheer temerity of venturing into the void.

And yet, amid the national psychic letdown that followed the moon landings and is still with us today, that kind of talk seems archaic, anachronistic. So what do we do? We radically contract our horizons. We spend three decades tumbling about in near-earth orbit. We become expert in zero-G nausea and other fascinations. And when we do venture out into the glorious void, we do it on the very cheap, to accommodate the diminished national will and the pinched national resources allocated for exploration.

 

The reason NASA administrator Daniel Goldin adopted the “faster, better, cheaper” approach is that he was forced to. He was rightly afraid that when you send a $1 billion probe loaded with experiments and hardware and it fails (as happened to the Mars Observer in 1993), you risk losing your entire congressional backing–and your entire program. He had little choice but to adopt a strategy of sending cheaper but more vulnerable probes in order to lessen the stakes riding on each launch. Probes like the Mars Polar Lander.

III

WHEN THE MARS POLAR LANDER disappeared last month, the country went into a snit. The public felt let down, cheated of the exotic entertainment NASA was supposed to deliver. The press was peeved, deprived of a nice big story with lovely pictures. Jay Leno, the nation’s leading political indicator, was merciless. (“If you’re stuck for something to get NASA for Christmas, you can’t go wrong with a subscription to Popular Mechanics. . . . But they’re not giving up. NASA said today they’re gonna continue to look for other forms of intelligent life in the universe. And when they find it, they’re gonna hire him.”) And Congress preened, displaying concern, pulling its chin and promising hearings on the failure of the last three Mars missions. This will be a bit of Kabuki theater in which clueless politicians, whose greatest mathematical feat is calculating last week’s fund-raising take, will pinion earnest scientists about why they could not land a go-cart on the South Pole of a body 400 million miles away on a part of the planet we had never explored.

 

In other words, we are in for a spell of national bellyaching and finger-pointing which will inevitably culminate in the crucifixion of a couple of NASA administrators, a few symbolic budget cuts, and a feeling of self-satisfaction all around.

 

The biggest scandal of the Mars exploration projects is not that a few have failed, but the way the nation has reacted to those failures. A people couched and ready, expectant and entitled, armed with a remote control yet denied Martian pictures to go with their “Today” show coffee, will be avenged.

Who is to blame for the Mars disasters? Not the scientists, but the people who will soon be putting them on trial.

 

Landing on another planet is very hard. And landing on its South Pole, terra incognita for us, is even harder. As one researcher put it, this is rocket science. “Look at the history of landers on Mars,” professor Howard McCurdy of American University told the Washington Post. “Of twelve attempts, three have made it. The Soviets lost all six of theirs. . . . Mars really eats spacecraft.”

 

Something this hard requires not just technology–which we have–but will, which we don’t. And national will is expressed in funding. Since the glory days of Apollo, space exploration has progressively been starved. Today, funding for NASA is one fifth what it was in 1965, less than 0.8 percent of the federal budget.

 

And not only has the overall NASA budget declined, but so has the fraction allocated to both manned and unmanned exploration of the moon and the planets. The budget has been eaten by the space shuttle and the low-earth-orbit space station being built two decades late to finally provide a destination for the wandering shuttle.

 

Then there is what NASA calls “mission to planet earth,” a program devoted to studying such terrestrial concerns as ozone, land use, climate variability, and such. A nice idea. But it used to be NASA’s mission to lift us above ozone and land and climate to reach for something higher. The whole idea of space exploration was to find out what is out there.

 

The cost of the Mars Polar Lander was $165 million. In an $8 trillion economy, that is a laughable sum. “Waterworld” cost more. The new Bellagio hotel in Vegas could buy eight Polar Landers with $80 million left over for a bit of gambling. To put it in terms of competing space outlays, $165 million is less than half the cost of a shuttle launch. For the price of a single shuttle mission (launch, flight time, landing, and overhead) we could have sent two Mars Polar Landers and gotten $70 million back in change.

Planetary exploration is so hamstrung financially that the Polar Lander–which NASA last week officially declared dead–sent no telemetry during its final descent onto the planet. That was to save money. We’ll never know what went wrong. Adding a black box, something to send simple signals to tell us what happened, would have cost $5 million. Five million! That doesn’t buy one minute of air time on the Super Bowl.

 

The hard fact is that the kind of cheap, fast spacecraft NASA has been forced to build does reduce the loss in case of failure. But it increases the chance of failure. You cannot build in the kind of backup systems that go into the larger craft we sent exploring in the past. The Viking missions that 25 years ago touched down on Mars and gave us those extraordinary first pictures of its surface, and the Voyager spacecraft that gave us magnificent flybys of the entire solar system, typically cost 10 to 20 times more than the new “faster, better, cheaper” projects.

 

It is a travesty that the very same Congress that has squeezed funding for these programs will now be conducting the inquisition to find out why this shoestring operation could not produce another spectacular success. But we can’t just blame the politicians. This is a democracy. They are responding to their constituency. Their constituency is disappointed that it received no entertainment from the Mars Polar Lander, for which the average American contributed the equivalent of half a cheeseburger. If we had had the will to devote a whole cheeseburger to a Mars lander, it could have been equipped with redundant systems, and might have succeeded.

IV

THE FAULT, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves. What then to do? If we are going to save resources in acknowledgment of the diminished national will to explore, we should begin by shutting the maw that is swallowing up so much of the space budget: the shuttle and the space station. It is not as if we have nowhere to go but endlessly around earth. Recent discoveries have given us new ways and new reasons for establishing a human presence on the moon and on Mars.

 

Until a few years ago, it could have been argued that a moon base was impractical, and human Mars exploration even more so. But there is evidence that there may be water on the moon (in the form of ice, of course). And water, there as here, is the key to everything. It could provide both life support and fuel. Similarly, the fact that there is ice on Mars has led to a revolution in thinking about how we can travel there and back. Instead of carrying huge stores of fuel, which would make the launch vehicle enormously expensive and cumbersome, we could send unmanned spacecraft ahead. They would land on Mars and turn the water into life support and fuel. (If you split water, you get hydrogen and oxygen, precisely the gases that you need for life and for propulsion.) Astronauts could travel fairly light, arriving at a place already prepared with life-sustaining water, oxygen, and hydrogen for the flight back.

 

The moon and Mars are beckoning. So why are we spending so much of our resources building a tinker-toy space station? In part because, a quarter-century late, we still need something to justify the shuttle. Yet the space station’s purpose has shrunk to almost nothing. No one takes seriously its claims to be a platform for real science. And the original idea–hatched in the 1950s–that it would be a way station to the moon and Mars, was overtaken in the sixties when we found more efficient ways to fully escape earth’s gravitational well.

 

The space station’s main purpose now appears to be . . . fostering international cooperation. It became too expensive for the United States to do alone, and so we decided to share the cost and control. It provides a convenient back door for American funding of the bankrupt Russian space program. We send Russia the money to build its space station modules. This is supposed to promote friendship and keep Russian rocket scientists from moving to Baghdad.

 

The cost to the United States? Twenty-one billion dollars, enough to support 127 Polar Landers. Instead of squandering $21 billion on a weightless United Nations (don’t we have one of these already?), we should be directing our resources at the next logical step: a moon base. It would be a magnificent platform for science, for observation of the universe, and for industry. It would also be good training for Mars. And it would begin the ultimate adventure: the colonization of other worlds.

 

In 1991, the Stafford Commission recommended the establishment of permanent human outposts on the moon and on Mars by the early decades of this century. Rather than frittering away billions on the space station, we should be going right now to the moon–where we’ve been, where we know how to go, and where we might very well discover life-sustaining materials. And from there, on to the planets.

 

In the end, we will surely go. But how long will it take? Five hundred years from now–a time as distant from us as is Columbus–a party of settlers on excursion to Mars’s South Pole will stumble across some strange wreckage, just as today we stumble across the wreckage of long-forgotten ships caught in Arctic ice. They’ll wonder what manner of creature it was that sent it.

 

What will we have told them? That after millennia of gazing at the heavens, we took one step into the void, then turned and, for the longest time, retreated to home and hearth? Or that we retained our nerve and hunger for horizons, and embraced our destiny?

 

Charles Krauthammer

 

 

Charles Krauthammer/Died June 21, 2018

Friday, June 22nd, 2018

Charles Krauthammer, M.D. died of metastatic cancer on June 21, 2018. His mind, his wit, his courage will be sorely missed. The following is a gracious tribute to him.

 

“The Irreplaceable Charles Krauthammer

The Washington Examiner

Philip Klein

June 22, 2018

 

 

Having worked in Washington conservative circles for over a decade, I wish I had a great personal anecdote to share about Charles Krauthammer, who by all accounts was as wonderful a human being as he was a writer.

 

Unfortunately, on the few occasions on which I had the opportunity to meet him, I was too tongue-tied and bumbling to sustain any sort of conversation, not quite knowing what to say to a man whom I felt I had so much to say.

 

As part of my job, I’ve had to interact with a number of public figures, and typically have had no qualms about pressing cabinet officials, presidential candidates, or members of Congress. Yet why is it that of all the people I’ve met in this city, I was so awestruck in the presence of another writer?

 

Of course, the answer is that it’s because Krauthammer wasn’t just another writer. In an era of YouTube and social media, when anybody with an Internet connection can spout out an opinion that could potentially go viral, it seems absurd to think of any political pundit as irreplaceable. Yet that’s the word I keep coming back to when I think of the sad passing of Charles Krauthammer. He is simply irreplaceable.

 

To start, Krauthammer was undeniably brilliant. After graduating from Harvard Medical School, he was well on his way to making a name for himself as a psychiatrist before changing course and entering the world of political writing. The fact that he was able to shift gears so seamlessly speaks to his mental agility.

 

But there are a lot of people who are brilliant. What was different about Krauthammer is that he was able to use his intellect to form opinions and then communicate them in an accessible way to broader audiences without dumbing down his arguments.

 

The 800-word column format presents a challenge to writers, who often struggle to make a broader point and provide enough evidence to back it up, without going into excessive detail. Krauthammer was a master of the format, and they weren’t typically filled with fancy prose or lengthy Latin phrases. Instead, his intelligence came through in the clarity of his thought and his ability to work through issues with reason using just enough supporting evidence.

 

His column ran every Friday, and while the rest of us rushed to weigh in on the ongoing controversies in Washington that consumed any given week, he managed to write something that took a bigger picture view, simultaneously seeming obvious yet fresh. For many conservatives, his columns often expressed ideas that were kind of floating around in their minds, but that they couldn’t quite articulate as clearly. He coined the term the ”Reagan Doctrine” to describe President Ronald Reagan’s strategy to win the Cold War, and “Bush Derangement Syndrome” to diagnose the hysterical way that opponents reacted to President George W. Bush.

 

Under President Barack Obama, Krauthammer set the standard for substantive criticism that was harsh yet steered clear of the bile and conspiratorial thinking that tempted some conservative pundits. Whether the issue was Obamacare, the disastrous Iran deal, executive overreach, or his parting shot toward Israel at the U.N., Krauthammer offered blistering yet fair critiques of Obama’s presidency.

 

Krauthammer made no secret of his disapproval of President Trump and fretted about the awful choice in the 2016 election, yet in his final column written last year, he expressed relief that the guardrails of democracy seemed to be keeping Trump’s worst impulses in check.

 

Perhaps above all, Krauthammer managed to convey a sense of moral clarity, something that was on full display whenever he wrote about Israel, and was also demonstrated in a powerful 2004 column in which he grappled with the issue of stem cell research and where to draw the line on medical experimentation given the “competing human values” of searching for cures and respecting life.

 

“When I was 22 and a first-year medical student, I suffered a spinal-cord injury,” he wrote. “I have not walked in 32 years. I would be delighted to do so again. But not at any price. I think it is more important to bequeath to my son a world that retains a moral compass…”

Charles Krauthammer has left this world far too soon and will be sorely missed, but his legacy will not soon be forgotten.

 

A Politicized FBI

Monday, May 28th, 2018

A Powerful, Erudite Paper That Helps Shed Light On What Might Be Serious, Unconstitutional Actions By The FBI On The Trump Presidential Campaign

National Review

Spy Name Games

by Andrew C. McCarthy

May 26, 2018

The Obama administration blatantly politicized the government’s intelligence and law-enforcement apparatus.

‘Isn’t it a fact that you’re a scumbag?”

Our contretemps over the nomenclature of government informants has me unable to shake this arresting moment from my memory. In Manhattan, about 30 years ago, I was among the spectators basking in the majesty of Foley Square’s federal courthouse when we were suddenly jarred by this, shall we say, rhetorical question. The sniper was a mob lawyer in a big RICO case; the target was the prosecution’s main witness, the informant.

Until this week, I’d always thought the most noteworthy thing about this obnoxious bit of theater was the reaction of the judge, a very fine, very wry trial lawyer in his own right.

The prosecutors, of course, screamed, “Objection!”

The judge calmly shrugged his shoulders and ruled: “He can answer if he knows.”

Did he know? I don’t remember. I was laughing too hard to hear any response.

The court’s deadpan was not just hilarious. In its way, it was trenchant.

The judge was not insouciant. He was a realist. The witness had done what covert informants do: He pretended to be someone he wasn’t, he wheedled his way into the trust — in some instances, into the affections — of people suspected of wrongdoing. And then he betrayed them. But that’s the job: to pry away secrets — get the bad actors to admit what they did, how they did it, and with whom they did it, until the agents and prosecutors decide there is enough evidence to convict the lot of them.

The judge understood that. For all the melodrama, whether the informant was a hero or a villain hinged on how one felt not about him but about the worthiness of the investigation.

And just as the mob lawyer served his case, the government lawyers served theirs, portraying the informant as noble — or at least as noble as you can be when your job is to deceive people into confessing things they shouldn’t. Alas, whether we’re talking about criminal investigations or intelligence operations, the search for truth is a study in contrasting hyperbole and euphemism.

In the courtroom, the prosecutors are referred to as “the government,” but they swell with pride — I know I did — at any opportunity to tell you they actually represent “the People of the United States of America.” The defense can have its vaunted presumption of innocence; the unstated presumption in a criminal trial is that the prosecutor is the guy in the white hat. He’s the earnest public servant, just trying to show what really happened — he’s not there to sow doubt, to trick you like those sharks over at the defense table. And if, by reputation and manner, he manages to convince the judge and the jury of his probity and competence, the prosecutor gets to set the narrative.

The ability to set the narrative is the biggest advantage in any public controversy. And prosecutors are not alone in exploiting it. It is the métier of government officials. As progressivism has magnified the administrative state, the self-image of federal bureaucrats has become technocratic altruism: Let us explain what’s going on; after all, we’re just selflessly looking out for you, calling agenda-free balls and strikes. Think of Barack Obama, dyed-in-the-wool leftist, insisting he’s just a pragmatic, non-ideological problem-solver.

Is this bureaucracy “the deep state”? That’s an exaggeration — try, say, China or Turkey if you want to see what a real deep state looks like. Nevertheless, our modern form of government does make technocrats a force to be reckoned with, and they abide supervision and oversight only by other progressives. When a constitutionalist has the temerity to observe that technocrats are subordinate to executive political leadership and must answer to the legislature that created and funds their agencies, they brood about their “independence.” In their minds, they are an unaccountable fourth branch of government — at least until their fellow non-ideological pragmatists return to power.

For this species of arrogance, setting the narrative is a jealously guarded prerogative. We are to understand the bureaucracy’s work as unimpeachably noble and that so, therefore, are its tactics. Consequently, the government’s “cooperator” is never to be called a spy. He’s a “confidential informant” or, as the FBI’s former Director James Comey put it in a tweet this week, a “confidential human source.”

These are not neutral terms. The implication is that these operatives are always benign, even vital. A “source” is that most treasured of intelligence assets, to be protected at all costs — even the need for accountability when power is abused must give way to the confidentiality of intelligence “methods and sources.” “Source” connotes a well-placed asset who has bored into the inner sanctum of jihadists or gangsters — an “informant” whose information saves lives.

But there is another side of the story.

By and large, “confidential informants” do not emerge from the womb with a passion to protect the United States. Quite often, they become informants because they’ve gotten themselves jammed up with the police. Some are sociopaths: shrewd enough to know that the only way out of either a long prison term or a short life expectancy is to become the government’s eyes and ears; self-aware enough to know that, in undercover work, bad character, mendacity, and survival instincts are tools of the trade. Not many Mother Teresas can infiltrate hostile foreign powers, drug cartels, and organized-crime networks.

According to the government, these effective but unsavory operatives are “confidential human sources,” too. To the rest of us, spy may be too nice a word for them. The printable labels are more like “snitch,” “rat,” “Judas,” etc. “Isn’t it a fact that you’re a scumbag?” Yeah, it’s a fact — and yeah, he probably knows.

I realize this is oversimplification. “Spy” is not always a pejorative — Ian Fleming’s James Bond is a British icon, and who was more lovable than Maxwell Smart? (Here you go, kids.) In all seriousness, many spies are real heroes. The CIA’s operations directorate performs the most commendable feats of valor — the kind that can never be celebrated, or even spoken of; the kind that are memorialized at Langley only by stars carved into a cold marble wall — now, 125 of them. Where would we be without FBI and DEA agents who bravely accept undercover assignments, at great strain on their families and their well-being, to take down society’s worst predators? And many informants, though they may not risk their lives the same way, patriotically serve their country by volunteering critical intelligence they come upon through their professions and their travels.

Still, in this week’s controversy over name games, we should understand: Whether we come to see an informant as an indispensable “confidential human source” or as a treacherous “spy” has little to do with his subjective virtue or malevolence. In the end, it is not about who the spies are. It is about why they were spying.

In the Trump–Russia affair, officials of the Obama-era intelligence agencies suggest that there are grounds to believe that the Trump campaign was in a traitorous conspiracy with the Kremlin. What grounds? They’d rather not say. You’ll just have to trust them as well-meaning, non-partisan pros who (all together now) can’t be expected to divulge methods and sources.

Countering that are not only Trump fans but growing ranks of security-state skeptics. The Obama administration blatantly politicized the government’s intelligence and law-enforcement apparatus. Their Chicken Little shrieks that public disclosure of FISA warrants and texts between FBI agents would imperil security have proven overblown at best (and, in some instances, to be cynical attempts to hide embarrassing facts). “Trust us” is not cutting it anymore.

In the end, it is not about who the spies are. It is about why they were spying. In our democratic republic, there is an important norm against an incumbent administration’s use of government’s enormous intelligence-gathering capabilities to — if we may borrow a phrase — interfere in an election. To justify disregarding that norm would require strong evidence of egregious wrongdoing. Enough bobbing and weaving, and enough dueling tweets. Let’s see the evidence.

Andrew C. McCarthy — Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review. @AndrewCMcCarthy

 

PhiladelphiaLocalGovernment/A Secular/Anti-Religious Entity

Monday, May 28th, 2018

Severe, despicable, tyranny by Philadelphia local Government. How to badly hurt innocent, vulnerable children.

 Foster Children can no longer be placed by Catholic Social Services unless they renounce traditional Catholic teaching.

Christianity of any traditional kind is a target in any jurisdiction ruled by progressives. If foster children are hurt by this intolerant policy, that’s just a necessary sacrifice.

Progressives have transformed civil government from a way for people to live in the same society even though they have different beliefs into an overarching church with a creed. Everyone who won’t affirm that creed will sooner or later be targeted for marginalization.

The Federalist reports, “While Kids Wait For Homes, Philadelphia Bars Catholic Social Services From Serving Foster Children.”

Ever since the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015, we’ve been seeing myriad broader implications from the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell. From wedding cake bakers to event planners, if you dissented from the new regime you could have your livelihood taken from you. Now, the inexorable logic of Obergefell is bearing down on religious organizations that do social welfare work, as conservatives predicted.

Last week, a group of foster families in Philadelphia asked a federal court to end a new municipal policy that prevents Catholic Social Services from placing children in foster homes. Catholic Social Services is one of the largest and highest-rated foster agencies in Philadelphia, but because it adheres to Catholic teaching on homosexuality and does not place foster children in same-sex households, the City of Philadelphia is cutting them off.

City officials are doing this despite a massive shortage of foster families in Philadelphia. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing the foster families, issued this summary of the case last week:

“In March 2018, the City of Philadelphia put out an urgent call for 300 new foster families. Despite the desperate need for homes for the 6,000 children in Philadelphia’s foster care system, the City then abruptly barred Catholic Social Services, one of the most successful foster agencies in the city, from placing any children. The City’s actions mean that foster homes are sitting empty and loving foster parents are unable to serve at-risk children, simply because the City disagrees with Catholic Social Services’ longstanding beliefs about marriage.”

Philadelphia will terminate its contract with Catholic Social Services at the end of June unless the agency abandons the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage. Never mind that no same-sex couple has ever complained about Catholic Social Services, or that the agency refers couples with whom it cannot work to one of 26 other agencies in the region.


William S. Frankl, MD, All Rights Reserved