Dear Republican Politicians – Stop Virtue Signaling and Govern

I’m not sure which came first – the Dixie Chicks “Poor Us” documentary titled “Shut up and Sing” or Laura Ingraham’s book with the same title (both came out in 2006).  I suspect Laura (whom I had heard use it frequently) created the term and the Dixie Chicks appropriated it, but who knows.  The idea is that entertainers should do what they do best – perform – and not pontificate on political issues they know little about to ruin their entertainment for many fans.

I wish Republican politicians would shut up and govern/legislate.

I am so tired of congresscritters and Never Trumpers lecturing President Trump to make certain that people know how virtuous and moral they are, without a thought to how these words impede the implementation of conservative policies.

Democrats almost always have message discipline, and recognize how their preening for the press can have negative consequences for their legislative agenda.  They do not eat their own the way Republicans do.

We get it.  Trump is an inexperienced blowhard with a loose Twitter finger.  He’s the quintessential New York real estate developer whose every other word is puffery.

But if you put your fingers in your ears and hum, you see him doing things that “conservative Republicans” have talked about for years but have never done.  He has a real opportunity to make positive changes we have been promised for decades without result.  Yet if Republican politicians and pundits keep hammering him for every stupid thing he does or says, the agenda we want to see unfold will be stalled until, perhaps, Trump just gives up and goes along like a normal DC politician.

I believe in large part this is the goal of the Republican elite (both the politician and pundit classes).  President Trump is dangerous to their nexus of power, and their understanding of how things are done (which, I’m sure only coincidentally, keeps them in power, influence and money).  He’s Oh! so shocking to elites in Georgetown and Manhattan drawing rooms, who just two years ago invited him to their parties and laughed with him because he was so outspoken and outrageous.

You can disapprove of things the president says and does without sandbagging him if only you keep long-term goals in mind.

However, Trump critics are so into their faux outrage and virtue signaling (“Look at me!  Don’t confuse me with those ignorant Trump supporters!  I will pass judgement on every Tweet!”) that they never appear to consider the political consequences of their self-righteousness.  Many simply want him to fail because they find him personally distasteful, or he threatens their comfy world, or both.  Others compulsively (and reflexively) rush to the podium to show the world they are far better than this lout, heedless of what the consequences are to the Republic.

No president in history has been a perfect person; most hid their imperfections from the public (often with the help of a supportive press).  Trump and his team are no worse than any prior inhabitants of the White House, but his loose lips and braggadocio put his imperfections out there for all to see.  President Obama and the Clintons are smooth operators, but are much more flawed as moral individuals than Trump.  They are simply more adept at politics and hiding their true thoughts and feelings.

This is the real scandal as far as Democrats are concerned with the Wikileaks reveal of email.  The emails pulled aside the curtain of how Democrat elites really think (as the Sony email leaks did for the movie biz elites who are forever lecturing us on tolerance).  No one argued (after initial weak protestations) that the emails were false; the irony of the Russian investigation is that the Democrat elites are outraged and believe it unfair that people could see how they really talk among themselves.

Trump appears incapable hiding his beliefs or feelings, no matter how mercurial they are. The scandal is that he is not adroit at hiding what he really feels.  Honesty has no place in DC politics.

What is more important – showing your distaste for the president, or getting tax reform passed?  What is better for the country’s future – publicly registering your disagreement with every slip or dumb thing the president says, or healthcare reform?  What is better for posterity (our children and our children’s children) – showing that you are a greater moral and civil exemplar than Trump, or rolling back the administrative state and restoring ordered liberty?

But he’s so unpresidential!  No, he is reshaping what is “presidential,” just as his predecessors in the last 40 years have done. When he is gone, after disrupting the system, we may have a return to more traditional presidents, but hopefully they will preside over a leaner, less intrusive government.

What is more presidential than talking about – and then trying to implement – programs that defend the American way of life as it was understood for 200 years?  What is more presidential than taking serious security and national defense?  What is more presidential than forthrightly defending Western Civilization, of which the US represents the culmination to date?  What is more presidential than reassuring our traditional allies in no uncertain terms that we will be there beside them with a muscular defense?  What is more presidential than telling European allies that we will aggressively work to ease the stranglehold Russia has over energy?  What is more presidential, as framed by the Founders, than trying to roll back the behemoth of regulatory tyranny that has grown under Republican and Democrat administrations?  What is more presidential than appointing judges and justices who do not view the Constitution and Bill of Rights as mere suggestions from a long-dead age?

I prefer this mistake-making buffoon to a silky-smooth Obama who inflamed racial tension, created a Chicago-style machine in the DC deep state and turned the federal agencies into political pawns through which he reached tyrannically into every American life. I cannot fathom why supposed conservatives seemingly pine for the Obama regime (after endlessly making fun of those who worshipped at the alter of his sharply-creased pants) who weakened the US in influence and power across the globe, thus endangering us at home.

All of the politicians and pundits who lament that Trump should think before he tweets then go on to attack him without considering the consequences (i.e., they write and speak without thinking).  Trump is actually getting things done that career politicians have been promising for 30 years and failing to deliver. Yet he is soooo uncouth, we must protest him at every turn.  Because morality and refinement.

The outrage from all corners drowns out any effort to point out the good things that are happening.

Conservatives tout their support for diversity of ideas rather than superficial things like race and national origin.  But when Trump comes along, suddenly his different way of speaking, tweeting and acting is beyond the pale.  So much for diversity, conservative style.  I guess the tent is not that large after all.

Republican politicians and pundits chortle over how Democrats do not understand that Hillary Clinton lost because she failed to connect with real folks outside coastal urban areas. Then, they attack Trump repeatedly from their high horses, demonstrating their own lack of understanding of Trump supporters.  They express disdain for those ignorant masses who defend Trump in the face of his self-inflicted wounds that elites must stridently denounce.  It reminds me of lines from a favorite movie, White Christmas (1954).  Danny Kaye says to Bing Crosby, “Alright.  They didn’t go to college; they didn’t go to Smith.”  Bing responds, “Go to Smith?  She couldn’t even spell it.”

I don’t expect better from intellectually moribund publicity hounds like Senator John McCain (and his Mini Me, Lindsey Graham, always just a step behind in the rush to the cameras).

However, I have been disappointed with folks that I have respected and read for years, such as the many great conservative minds over at National Review.  Sadly, about the only one there who seems to get it is Victor Davis Hanson.  No one can question his academic and intellectual bona fides, but he is also a working farmer with close ties to the people who work the land.  It is hard to imagine the two worlds he traverses from his Selma, CA farm to the halls of the Hoover Institution at Stanford.  Perhaps it is also Dr. Hanson’s classicist background that allows him to take a longer view than his colleagues. Intimately understanding the rise and fall of great civilizations gives him a better perspective.

Andrew Klavan of The Daily Wire is another lonely voice of sanity, of getting what “the folks” (as Bill O’Reilly used to say) understand but which is unfathomable to Republican elites. And the amazing Greg Gutfeld frequently shows similar insight (of course, his beliefs are heavily influenced by the antics of small animals and Inuit pop culture).

A poll that undoubtedly surprised the Washington Post 100 days into Trump’s presidency showed that not only would he win again, but he would probably win the popular vote.  The Post found that 96% of Trump voters would vote for him again, while only 85% of Hillary voters would vote for her again.

How can this be? Considering the incessant barrage of negativity and character assassination from the media, the Democrats (a wholly-owned subsidiary of the MSM), and Republicans, why would these people still vote for Trump?  It’s not for lack of trying to alienate them by both “loyal opposition” and “allies.”

Many would do it again because they voted against Hillary. Many would do it because they are Russian stooges (“Nyet! Nyet!”).  Sorry, I thought I was a journalist for a moment.

But I believe most would vote again for Trump precisely because he’s the same person revealed during his candidacy and now presidency.  While President Trump may be slightly more nuanced than candidate Trump, people got what they voted for.  Why would they change their minds?  And it is this very consistency that flies in the face of politics as usual that makes Trump supporters – from the rabid to the temperate (like me) – remain behind him.  There was no “elect this man to see what’s in him” (to paraphrase one of our  “master legislators“).  People aren’t turned off by Trump’s Tourette’s Tweets because this was what they voted for, rather than a politician who makes insincere promises the people know won’t be kept.

Trump voters knew who they were voting for, so are not shocked by him now; they got what they expected and voted for.  No wonder they are not turned away by Trump being Trump.

Republicans – get over your posturing and oh-so-sophisticated outrage. President Trump is what he is.  While I cringe every few days myself, I never lose sight of why Trump was elected and the great things he has done so far.  I doubt that Scott Walker, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz (my candidates in order) could have done as much as Trump has done because they are politicians. They know what you can’t do as presidentTrump doesn’t have that indoctrination, so he has the opportunity to achieve the goals conservatives and Republicans (I could Venn diagram that for you) have espoused for decades.

There is no genteel way to drain the swamp. There is no gracious way to roll back the administrative state.  There is no way to prioritize budget issues irrespective of provincial pork in a subtle manner .

Trump’s manifestly evident flaws are features, not bugs.

The Republican elites don’t understand this, but Trump voters do.  They are tired of decades (centuries?) of being told things can’t be done after the candidate promised change.  Real estate developer Trump is used to being told things cannot be done, but his ego causes him to say, “Figure out a way.  My mouth has written a check I intend to honor.”

Republican legislators need to understand what the Democrats know and practice – the accomplishment of goals is what matters in government, not posturing for immediate recognition and praise. Democrats have for decades gotten away with the most outlandish and egregious behavior, in part because of their protection from MSM scrutiny, but in part because of their audacity (of hope?) and chutzpah that allows them to ignore principled attacks.  Their actions are always in service to their goals.  Republicans wander aimlessly like puppies seeking a friendly word or pat on the head, while mouthing platitudes of how tough they are.

Donald Trump cares what others think and say about him, but he cares more for his own opinion of himself. He will counterattack or ignore his detractors, secure in his vision.

So far, his vision has been promoting conservative goals even though he is not an ideological conservative (Justice Neil Gorsuch anyone?  Scott PruitGeneral James Mattis?).  Trump voters, in their lack of Beltway sophistication, see signs of fulfilling campaign promises and this keeps their support no matter their reservations.

What Republicans don’t support the temporary travel ban that 60% of Americans support?  The renewed relations with Israel and unwavering support for other allies like Poland betrayed by the last president?  The outspoken support of law enforcement and the military?  The actions to cut federal regulations?

If President Trump achieves nothing beyond today, I will consider his presidency a success because he has, in his outrageous way, pierced the veil of network news and (hopefully) reduced their hold over Republican politicians. He has also thrown over the dumpster of political correctness.  You must drain the festering wound before it can heal.

Republican politicians and pundits have long noted and complained about the bias in all media, and the dangers of political correctness to free speech. Trump has not just complained but has exploded these issues so that regular people across America have felt the lifting of the oppression they have been weighed down with for decades.

Republican politicians (and pundits) need to pull their heads out of the illusion of propriety that only serves to preserve the status quo of corruption and stalemate. They need to spend less time showing how educated, refined, and sensitive they are and start keeping their eyes on the goals they have, until now, just paid lip service to.

Republicans – shut up and govern.

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Why I believe Trump America™ will be Conservative

We have never seen, at least in my lifetime, a coalesced group of conservatives actively and openly campaigning against the Republican candidate like the Never Trump folks. Many conservatives that I admire and have long looked to for ideological clarity took part in this movement, and even today are vocal in their concerns about a President Trump.

I am not concerned. While I agree with virtually all the points raised (that he is narcissistic and thin-skinned, tweets without being fully informed or considering the ramifications, is unsophisticated in foreign affairs, is vulgar, is not an ideological conservative, etc.), I differ from many (Andrew Klavan is another who seems to think as I do) in believing that the Trump presidency could be a rather remarkable thing (as well as being immensely entertaining).

Here’s why:

Trump wants American to be glittering and golden when he leaves office to reflect positively on him. Trump is all about branding; his career has been about building impressive and beautiful things, slapping his name on them, then referring to his successes constantly to hype his image.  He wants Trump America™ to be very great again, really, really huge, fantastic, terrific.

Whereas President Barack Obama’s narcissism was backed by his leftist ideology, amply documented from Frank Davis to Bill Ayers to Saul Alinsky to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Trump’s history shows that he cares little about ideology. Obama steered America towards his leftist utopian vision, and if he had a governing principle it was finis sanctificat media, the end sanctifies (or justifies) the means.  Obama’s goal was expressly to “transform” America into something closer to his leftist ideal and away from the historic strengths, ironically, that led to his election.

What conservatives have pointed out in Trump’s history as liberal tendencies or flip-flopping, I see as simple business. The core philosophy of business is success.  It doesn’t matter how lofty your mission statement to change the world is without success.  Politics is merely one tool in your arsenal.  If it is beneficial to support this liberal politician or policy to get what you want, you do that.  Not out of support for their beliefs, but desire to gain influence because of their position.  It’s not an ideological exercise.

I don’t think Trump has much of a core philosophy other than a great drive to succeed and to be seen as successful. I don’t know the man, so I cannot tell if his apparent love of his family is pure or more self-aggrandizement (“I am great, look at these beautiful, smart and accomplished children I have!”).  I hope he truly is a loving family man.  But does it matter his inner motivation if the outcome is that he is a concerned, involved, supportive father?

I believe Trump will, in general, govern as a conservative not out of ideological conviction but because he recognizes that conservative solutions are better.  He wants to make the best deals, to increase the value of Trump America™, to raise our standing in the eyes of the world (especially our allies).  As a master negotiator, he understands you get better deals when you are in a strong position.

I see Trump governing conservatively because he is the ultimate capitalist. Capitalism operates, to a great deal and by its nature, by following conservative principles of individual responsibility, effort, and reward for excellence.  This is the antithesis of Washington as usual.

Whereas Obama’s presidency was characterized by deliberately taking on a weak position in negotiations (starting with his “Apology Tour” in 2009 to “leading from behind” to “smart diplomacy” through the betrayal of Israel at the U.N. and the historic commutations and pardons which undercut national security and the rule of law), Trump is at his core a deal-maker who wants to come out on top, to win. He wants to win every time.  He understands that winning is not bad, and that when someone wins, others lose (or win lesser prizes).

One of the fatal flaws of leftism is that it values ideology over outcome. When liberal policies fail, leftists don’t question the ideology or methods but believe it will work if you do the same thing with more money.  It is an emotional response that forces willful blindness to failure.  The plight of the worst cities in America in terms of poverty, crime, drug use, unemployment, housing values – whatever metric you wish to use – never causes their Democratic overlords to reflect on the role their failed policies have played for decades.  It’s the old “Communism has never worked because it has never been done right” cant.

Trump has demonstrated that he looks at problems not from an ideological perspective but a real-world business perspective. This translates to being “un-PC.”  You see that kids in our schools are doing worse than in other countries while we spend so much more, you don’t simply repeat “We need more money!”  You don’t let ideology – or allegiance to teachers’ unions – dictate your analysis of what needs to be done.  You seriously look at what works, why other countries succeed, what they do, and figure out how we can achieve success for the children without a thought to whose financial or political ox is gored.

Energy independence? Don’t let the environmental lobby keep us from doing what every other country in the world does with their natural resources.  Militant Islamists say they will use refugees to smuggle in terrorists?  Take them at their word, and take actions to minimize the risk.  Business regulation so onerous that kids can’t sell lemonade in their yard, and businesses are discouraged from starting or expanding?  Figure out the minimum of regulation needed to keep the system running.  Existential military threats from rogue nations?  Build the military up and convince the bad guys we have the ability and will to crush them and walk away.

I admit I’ve been astonished at how Trump has performed since the election. I was surprised at how magnanimous he was (and continues to be).  I don’t recall that “Great Uniter” Obama meeting with political opponents in a steady stream, entertaining people who campaigned viciously against him and called him names.  Again, I see the activity at Trump Tower as unprecedented.

Why does he do this? Not because he is a pure conservative idealist (most Never Trumpers would never have thought to meet with all of these diverse people) but because it is good business.  You invite, you are respectful, you listen, you seek common ground if possible, then you make decisions based upon the best information you have for the best outcome.  You seek to soften opposition even if you know you will never win them over, or you at least unsettle them to gain a negotiating advantage.

As a builder, Trump is used to having a variety of architects come to him with their ideas about the best way to build something. He listens, then decides.  It’s not about what appeals to him philosophically, but what will work best, look best, be the most cost-efficient. His name will be on the property, so he wants it shiny.

I am pleased with almost all of Trump’s cabinet picks, and I understand that some I am not thrilled with may well be the master negotiator at work. While the press may scoff at how few graduate degrees there are compared to Obama’s cabinet, I see Trump picking people who are smart and skilled and have actually accomplished things in their lives outside of academia.  Trump has assembled (for the most part) a team of doers who have histories of being successful in the arenas they will be working in, or have demonstrated skills (beyond academic papers and theories) that will apply.

Trump has assembled his cabinet not to pay back political favors but as a team the CEO hires because he has confidence they will get the job done right, which will then reflect positively on him.

I believe Trump will primarily govern as a conservative because conservative principles and answers work. What Trump wants most, from his history, is to be successful and to be seen as successful, and history has taught us (and him, I think) that even “conservative” Republican leaders have been successful when being true to conservatism and have failed when they tried more liberal policies out of a misguided belief in “compassion,” compromise, or bowing to the loudest voices in the media and opposition.

Abolish the Senate!

Many distraught Democrats and members of the press (but I repeat myself) have called for abolishing the Electoral College. Senator Barbara Boxer went so far as to introduce a bill to end the Electoral College on November 15 following the election.

I have yet to hear the call for the next logical step, to abolish the U.S. Senate to provide us with a pure representational and direct democracy. I humbly submit that the same reasoning applies to abolishing both. I did not hear Sen. Boxer call for the ending of the Senate, even though her retirement would mean she has nothing personally to lose.

Yet both the Senate and Electoral College subvert direct democracy.  Don’t they?

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by over 2.2 million votes (64,654,445 to 62,418,792 according to Cook Political Report). College students, professors, and unbiased media professionals wept, tore their shirts and pulled their hair at the thought of President Donald Trump.

“This is a sad day for democracy!” they cried. “Abolish the Electoral College that would so subvert the will of the American people!”  “This is not how democracy is supposed to work.”

Yet this is exactly how our constitutional republic was designed to work by the Founding Fathers. Sorta.

The first place to turn for understanding what went into the thinking behind the Constitution, which established the Electoral College in Article II, section 1, is that contemporaneous advertising blitz of 1788 we now call The Federalist Papers. Penned variously by James Madison (father of the Constitution and Bill of Rights), Alexander Hamilton and John Jay under the pen name “Publius”, these tracts were published to explain and garner public support for the work-in-progress Constitution.

Disappointingly, the tract directly addressing the Electoral College (Federalist 68) is not all that helpful. Alexander Hamilton explained why the Electoral College process is superior to popular voting in what was an overly-optimistic view of the electors themselves:

It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.

Unfortunately, the electors remain anonymous to most voters. We are unable to evaluate their discernment, but that is not an issue since they almost always vote for the candidate they are pledged to. Twenty-six states have laws which require electors to vote for their specific candidate. Since electors are selected by the political parties prior to the election, and the position is often a reward for faithful service to the party, defections are rare.

Hamilton* viewed the election of a short-term assembly of electors by popular vote as a preventative against foreign involvement or regional popularity.

Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.

Hamilton’s vision of electors never came to pass, and the Constitution (and even the Twelfth Amendment which changed how electors vote) has never been faithfully followed. Regarding the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, Walter Bagehot, in his seminal 1894 work The English Constitution (not to be confused with the U.S. Constitution, as it is not a single document), observed:

It was intended that the deputies when assembled should exercise a real discretion, and by independent choice select the president. But the primary electors take too much interest. They only elect a deputy to vote for Mr. Lincoln or Mr. Breckenridge, and the deputy only takes a ticket, and drops that ticket in an urn. He never chooses or thinks of choosing. He is but a messenger—a transmitter; the real decision is in those who choose him—who chose him because they knew what he would do.

The Twelfth Amendment changed the way electors voted from having the winner in the electoral count be president and the runner-up named vice president; the two offices are now voted on separately. With the advent of the two-party system after George Washington’s terms, and rancorous divisions between the two winning candidates, the original plan was deemed unworkable. The first example of this occurred early on, as John Adams, Federalist Party, was the second president and Thomas Jefferson, the opposition Democratic-Republican party, became vice president. Jefferson and James Madison had formed the new party to oppose the policies of the Federalist party (and Jefferson).

Imagine today a President Reagan and Vice President Carter. Or worse (perhaps) President Trump and Vice President Clinton.

Given that the Electoral College has never worked as intended in the Constitution, what keeps us from abolishing it as a failed experiment of well-intentioned but overly-optimistic dead white males?

The answer is found in James Madison’s (or possibly Hamilton’s) Federalist No. 62 regarding the Senate. The House of Representatives was established as a representative body with proportional representation based upon population. The Founding Fathers were aware of the problems this presented; for example, it is for this reason Blacks were designated 3/5 of a person, to dilute the southern states’ power in the House by diminishing the census count for non-voting slaves. Even so, southern states dominated the federal government until 1861.

The Senate was another check against some states having greater power due solely to their populations. Publius wrote that while states should have representation proportional to their population there were other considerations:

If indeed it be right, that among a people thoroughly incorporated into one nation, every district ought to have a proportional share in the government, and that among independent and sovereign States, bound together by a simple league, the parties, however unequal in size, ought to have an equal share in the common councils, it does not appear to be without some reason that in a compound republic, partaking both of the national and federal character, the government ought to be founded on a mixture of the principles of proportional and equal representation.

Why was there need for both an equal and proportional representation in the federal government?

A government founded on principles more consonant to the wishes of the larger States, is not likely to be obtained from the smaller States.***

In this spirit it may be remarked, that the equal vote allowed to each State is at once a constitutional recognition of the portion of sovereignty remaining in the individual States, and an instrument for preserving that residuary sovereignty.

Much has been made of the fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by at least 2.1 million votes. Yet an examination of just two states shows the wisdom of the Founders in setting up both a House and Senate, as well as the Electoral College. Clinton won California by 3.9 million votes, and New York state by 1.5 million votes.   If you add just Illinois to the mix, you add another 942,000 vote victory for Clinton.

California alone could have won a popular election for Clinton given her overwhelming victory there.

The votes in these three states would have overwhelmed the votes in less populous states, and California would essentially be in the position of kingmaker every four years. In Los Angeles County alone Clinton got over 1.2 million more votes than Trump.

In perspective, the margin of Clinton’s win in California was greater than the votes cast in 40 states, and greater than the population of 21 states.

How would a state like Idaho (with about 700,000 votes cast), or North Dakota (about 350,000 votes) have had any relevance to the election of a president who would help determine their future? Would a candidate even bother to take their concerns into account, or try to win their votes? North Dakota is a major contributor to our economy with the oil fields booming (in April it produced more oil than in 2004), and it is important to their economy and citizens how the national government handles things like permits, leases, as well as any administrative policies which impact oil and gas production, transportation, taxes, etc.

The Electoral College is based in large part on the same theories today as the Senate. Electors are apportioned not only by the number of the population-based House members but Senate seats (435 for House, 100 for Senate, and 3 for the District of Columbia). Thus, states with a small population also have at least three electors no matter their population. They matter. So much so that candidate Barack Obama visited fifty-seven states during the 2008 campaign.

The Electoral College system forces a different strategic and tactical plan by candidates. They cannot ignore the “flyover” states to just campaign in the most populous on the coasts and thereby secure victory. Some swing states become critical to winning, elevating them to an unnatural position of political prominence (such as Ohio and Florida). But without our system, presidential elections would solely be based upon the interests of a few populous states.

If the Electoral College should be abolished, because it does not accurately reflect the popular vote, then the Senate should also be abolished. Why should Wyoming (population just north of 586,000) have a voice equal to California (over 39 million folks) in the Senate, the world’s greatest deliberative body?

Let’s carry this through to the logical conclusion if we only want popular votes to matter. Abolish the Senate as undemocratic!  It gives those ignorant hayseed states clinging to their bibles and guns too much federal power.  Let the coastal elites decide!

 

*It is more than ironic that a Broadway actor portraying Hamilton would accuse a vice president elect prior to taking office of not being faithful to traditions even as Democrats voice opposition to Hamilton’s values and inalienable rights.

Ten Predictions for Trump 45

I believed that Trump would lose. So strongly did I believe this (because I honestly couldn’t hold out hope for the elusive “hidden Trump voters”) that I decided I would not watch or listen to any media Tuesday night, believing I would be greeted today with ebullient headlines “Historic Hillary Win!”

About 11:30 PM PST Tuesday night I succumbed to my Albert Powell moment from Dirty Harry – “I gots to know.” I was stunned that Trump was ahead at 260 electoral votes to Clinton’s 214. I then watched for a couple of hours, ending with Trump’s surprisingly gracious acceptance speech.  This might just work.

Like virtually everyone else (except the basket of deplorables who crowded every Trump appearance) I had expected his defeat at every point along the campaign. While his recently-exposed locker room braggadocio hadn’t shocked or changed my opinion of the man (I have been in a few locker rooms; men are all pigs) I figured it was one last nail in his coffin in our faint-hearted identity politics society.

Reading the array of commentary today (I even read Maureen Dowd, a shocker) I keep going back to the one insight I had that I feel explains Trump’s win – it was more than attacking the PC world we have come to expect and loathe from politicians.

Trump lanced the festering boil on the regular American’s psyche. Trump relieved the majority of Americans’ cognitive dissonance we’ve been forced to endure for decades, being told by our betters that outrageous things were proper when common sense and decency told us they were not.

He made it OK to recognize that our understanding of the world was not perverted, racist, Islamophobic, sexist or whatever. Real people, those who work hard and try to raise their kids decently and worry about bills and the future, have been forced to accept conflicting beliefs by news media and Hollywood and politicians and educators.

Trump, in his hyperbolic speeches, said things that people had always believed but were afraid to voice because of the guilt culture had imposed. You cannot speak openly against illegal immigration because you are racist, all the while knowing it to be wrong and harmful to the culture and country. You cannot acknowledge that there are real reasons other than racism for certain minorities having higher incarceration rates. It’s wrong to believe that transgender bathrooms make no sense and place children at risk of physical and psychological harm.

When Trump started speaking, in his self-important, coarse and contradictory manner, people were freed from the guilt they had been feeling for so long because they were constantly being told that their actual observations and understanding were abhorrent.

The elites on both sides still get it wrong. We will hear much about how white males with no college carried Trump across the finish line. That ignores the fact that many others had to have voted for him. It betrays the continuing conceit that informed and sophisticated voters could not possibly have believed him a better choice that Hillary. She went to Wellesley and Yale, doncha know?

So I was wrong again and again this cycle. What to do? Make predictions for Trump 45, of course. Here they are:

  1. Republicans in Congress will bring back the checks and balances to the legislative and administrative branches, rediscovering their courage in stopping President Trump’s excesses in the way they were too weak to stop President Obama.
  2. Justice Clarence Thomas will retire after seeing who President Trump nominates to replace the sorely-missed Antonin Scalia. I don’t expect infallibility in nominating justices of the caliber of Thomas and Scalia (remember Ronald Reagan gave us Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy) but I am certain Trump will give us a much better Supreme Court than Clinton would have. While Trump may be in the position to nominate 3-4 Supreme Court Justices, the Court will not move perceptibly conservative but will ward off the leftward swing of recent years.  The First and Second Amendments will remain intact.
  3. Trump’s victory will mark “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” Just kidding. Obama has done that already.
  4. Like all presidents before him, Trump will be exposed to a harsh dose of reality about foreign policy that will moderate many of his positions.       He will be especially shocked by the Stargate program. He will then invest heavily in gold.
  5. James Comey will stay on as FBI director, but his marching orders will change. There will be indictments of players around the Clintons but not of Hillary.  Much as I’d love to see her frog-marched in cuffs I don’t think it will happen.
  6. Melania Trump will be the most beautiful, classy and stylish first lady since Jacqueline Kennedy (no one will ever replace Jackie in the mythos, deserved or not). The press will ignore Melania. She will take on projects that actually help Americans.
  7. President Trump will not receive a Nobel Peace Prize, nor will he be nominated for one two weeks after his inauguration.
  8. Knowing they will not be vetoed, major legislation on healthcare, border security and immigration, and free speech will be passed by Congress.
  9. Some kind of a wall will be built along the US-Mexico border, and security will be enhanced. Mexico will not pay for it.  Millions of illegals will not be deported.
  10. Deficit spending will continue and increase, but at a slower rate than the last 8 years.

I do expect that there will be many cringe-worthy moments during the Trump administration, but there should be some real gains. While Trump was not in my top 5 candidates, he may well be the only one with the ego and brashness to actually change the ingrown culture of corruption and favor-trading that sucks even the brightest and most ideal in Washington into Re-election, Inc.

Frosty’s White Privilege: Having the Courage to Expose the “isms” and “aphobias” in Supposedly Benign Christmas Songs to Save the Children

Trigger Warning: Graphic discussions of homophobia, white privilege, heteronormative bias, etc. to follow. Seek out Play Doh ® and videos of puppies as needed.

One of the most invidious elements of the “Christmas Season” imposed without written consent upon unsuspecting shoppers buying organic kale and going to Bernie Sanders rallies in the public square are cheerful songs which harbor sinister messages which have been subtly indoctrinating adult and child alike for decades.

They both reflect and inculcate a world view that denies the “other” and denigrates it while championing the white patriarchal power system. Now that the Christian zealotry celebration is past, we have a year to address and stamp out this propaganda.

We must act quickly.

Luckily, you have me as your guide. Our college students, who have been faithful warriors in such important efforts as not having soggy pulled port in cafeterias which are an affront to those of Asian heritage, have somehow overlooked this issue. Perhaps their indoctrination since birth has been too invidious.

Let us begin.

As painful as it is, we must first address Frosty the Snowman. Frosty is the epitome of White Privilege. He is the Magical White Man. Consider the line, “He led them down the streets of town right to the traffic cop. And he only paused a moment when he heard him holler, “Stop!”

Had Frosty been Black, or any person of color, he would have been tasered at the least or shot when he disobeyed the (White) officer’s command. But evidence of his White Privilege was that the “traffic cop” simply let him go on his way. The lesson to the children (who were all White in the 1969 CBS cartoon) was that their White Privilege would allow them to escape the consequences of violating the orders of a police officer. The traffic cop was voiced by Paul Frees (“Freeze!”). A coincidence? Hardly. In the White Privilege world there are no coincidences.

Heteronormity is also drummed into children’s heads, as evidenced by the song Deck the Halls which makes the crass straight assumption that somehow the gay/lesbian/transgendered community can be discerned by their clothes: “Don we now our gay apparel.” This is also one of several instances of cultural appropriation, where children and adults are encouraged to appropriate the attire of another group to mock them.

Another such instance is the Nat King Cole “classic,” The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire). Here, a native culture is mocked through cultural misappropriation, “and folks dressed up like Eskimos.” What right do these people have to dress like Eskimos? Has anyone – anyone – stopped to consider how these Native People think of having their dress and way of life taken from them and copied and worn without the proper respect and appreciation?

There appear to have been some songwriters who have fought back. Hugh Martin apparently snuck this by the censors for the hit (originally sung by Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis and later recorded by Frank Sinatra) Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas: “Have yourselves a merry little Christmas, make the yuletide gay; from now on our troubles will be miles away.” This was a very bold statement for 1944, that coming out of the closet was the beginning of a trouble-free life for gays/lesbians.

And then, of course, there is White Christmas.  What could be a clearer racist message than the opening line, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know.”  It might as well say “I’m dreaming of a White Privilege Christmas…”  It is clearly hearkening back to the “good old days” when White males held unquestioned power over womyn, cisgendered, and the non-white races – “the other” which are always to be feared by the privileged.  It is the plaintiff cry of the White male patriarchy for a power that is slipping from their grasp.  All the words about treetops glistening and children listening to hear sleigh bells is clearly cover for the primal fear of the disenfranchisement of the white power elite.

Or, I suppose, these are simply innocent images and word usages in inoffensive, heartwarming stories and songs that are supposed to give people good feelings and carry no sinister intent. But without such analysis, what is a Social Justice Warrior left to do? When is soggy pulled pork just bad cafeteria food?

Why Trump: Relieving America’s Cognitive Dissonance

It is an overworked cliché today that pundits from across the political spectrum have miscalculated the staying power of Donald Trump’s popularity. My best friend’s long-time pal Steven Hayward posted a Thanksgiving mea Trumpa at Powerline. And I certainly never expected this staying power.

The original consensus view was that Trump would be a brief but entertaining flash in the political pan as he had been in previous campaigns. When he stuck around at the head of the class, there was a great deal of re-positioning and reconsideration. Now there is (for me and many others) the frightening prospect that Trump may actually win the nomination. Or serve as a Ron Paul spoiler (the pouty third-party “If I cannot have the nomination I’m gonna ruin it for the winner and let the Dems win” gambit). Or perhaps even more frightening, become the 45th president.

There have been hundreds of articles and posts analyzing his success. Most make some reference to his plain speaking and distinction from the political class, saying what the common folk think. I believe it goes beyond this; I believe it is rooted in the very psychology of many Americans in a way that it trumps (intended) normal reservations, logic and litmus tests that people usually apply when picking “their” candidate.

Plain speaking is one thing. Why do people stick with him when he makes stupid gaffes that would doom other politicians, or when he holds positions that would normally cause them to reject any other politician? So many Republicans have been sidelined in past races for a single slip up, sometimes a single word (macaca, anyone?). How is it that Trump survives gaffe after gaffe, sometimes growing stronger when critics say, “This time his doom is insured.”

Trump’s Rhetoric Relieves Many Americans’ Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is a term coined by Leon Festinger to explain the mental discomfort felt when two contradictory ideas or thoughts are held in the mind at the same time. People who are not willfully blind or so ideologically conditioned as to be impervious to reality are confronted by such conflict by politicians and the media on a daily basis.

We are repeatedly assured by politicians and media personalities alike that terrorists calling themselves the “Islamic State” and shouting “Allahu Akbar” as they commit acts of barbarism have nothing to do with Islam. Indeed, we are told that people who equate ISIS and jihad with Islam are Just. Plain. Wrong.

We’re told it’s un-American to think this way. It’s Islamaphobic.

For many (most?) of us, that hurts our brains. But… but…but… we silently think. We don’t hate or fear all Muslims. Just the ones who want to kill us. Most of us have Muslim friends.

We are asked by our leaders to hold in our minds two concepts that are contradictory. Cognitive dissonance.

The Democratic National Committee puts out an ad quoting several Republican presidential candidates saying America is at war with “radical Islam” and then quotes President George W. Bush saying we are not at war with “Islam,” two different things which any rational person can differentiate. “It’s wrong to attack an entire religion and an entire people.”

Really? That quiet voice is saying in many heads. That’s not what I just heard. Inigo Montoya speaks up, “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.” They didn’t say “at war with Islam” – qualifiers matter, which is why we use them. Sorta like why we say “conservative” and “liberal.” Would President Obama be happy with saying “Americans hate Muslims” or is he more likely to say “conservative Americans hate Muslims?” Qualifiers matter. We can see the difference in the words they use but are expected to accept these two contradictory claims made with authority. We are being told left is right.

Cognitive dissonance!

When people are slaughtered in Paris, President Obama calls it a “setback” after saying that he has “contained” the group responsible for the terror attacks the day before.

Cognitive dissonance!

While people see their healthcare costs rise, their deductibles increase, they lose their doctor after being told (“period”) they could keep her, and in many cases their insurance plans get canceled, they hear from politicians that Obamacare has been a success.

Cognitive dissonance!

When many workers give up looking for a job and quit the workforce, resulting in the lowest workforce participation rate since 1978, they are being told by the current administration and a pliant press that the unemployment rate is falling and they should be happy the president is doing a good job.

Cognitive dissonance!

With the bodies of the dead still cooling in Paris after an Islamic terrorist assault, a new Islamic terrorist assault in Mali leaving another American dead, lockdowns in France and Belgium because of the threats, President Obama continued to warn Americans that the real imminent threat is climate change. He reserves his anger in press conferences for Republicans, not terrorists.

Cognitive dissonance!

When people across the political spectrum raise concerns that importing “refugees” from Syria into the United States should be slowed down because this could provide a convenient path for ISIS or Al Qaeda to smuggle in terrorists, President Obama and his supporters ridicule the notion. Even after it is revealed that one of the Paris terrorists apparently was a using a “refugee” passport and ISIS states it will be using the refugees to infiltrate terrorists.

Cognitive dissonance!

President Obama chides Republicans for being afraid of “women and orphans” as 26-year-old Hasna Ait Boulahcen blows herself up with a suicide vest during a Paris raid. In San Bernardino, a woman joins her husband slaughtering fourteen people. But we shouldn’t be afraid of women, we are mockingly told by our president.

Cognitive dissonance!

On one hand, we have the world as people experience it on a day-to-day level. On the other we have it as Democratic politicians and their media supporters present it.  In movies and TV shows it is more likely than not that the initial focus on a likely Muslim suspect will turn out wrong and it will be the right-wing nutcase who is really the terrorist, giving us the Hollywood elite’s invaluable insight into our preconceptions and prejudice.  How often does James Bond or the IMF go after Islamic terrorists these days?

The average mother cannot help thinking about whether she is more concerned about getting shot by a terrorist when she goes to eat dinner next Tuesday with her toddler, or if August is two degrees warmer on average in one hundred years from now. Which does she believe her government should be more focused on?

Yet while the world literally burns, our president and his surrogates and top leaders (as well as the Democrat candidates) are telling her the greatest threat we face is climate change.

Cognitive dissonance!

Our president and his media repeatedly tell us that terrorists want to kill us not for the reasons the terrorists proclaim (religious, cultural, historical, and political reasons) but because of jobs and climate change.

Cognitive dissonance!

The government assures us they will “vet” an influx of tens of thousands of immigrants from Syria and other Muslim nations – but “vet” with whom? The Syrian equivalent of the CIA and NSA? We are wrong if we question how. FBI Director James Comey explained that the agency cannot vet people who are not in their database. President Obama isn’t explaining to anyone how the vetting will be done.

I’m reminded of the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, when Major Eaton tells Indiana Jones the government has “top men” working on researching the Ark of the Covenant. When Indie asks, “Who?”, the major repeats, “Top men.” Cut to the vast warehouse where the Ark will be buried forever, untouched.

We know that one of the San Bernardino terrorists passed three levels of government background checks to be allowed into the U.S. But that’s OK, we should still have confidence because we will have “top people” on the job vetting Syrians. Pay no attention to the fact that ISIS can apparently print their own Syrian passports and documents.

Americans are being fed statements from our government and press daily that contradict what we see around us and what makes common sense. They are constantly being asked, as Chico Marx did in Duck Soup, “Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”

The frustration builds. The cognitive dissonance is built into the warp and woof of culture these days. Television, movies, theater, and magazines. Yoga is canceled because it is “cultural appropriation,” yet my latest copy of Smithsonian celebrates Lin-Manuel Miranda’s all-Black Broadway musical about Alexander Hamilton and no one dare claim cultural appropriation there. When it’s Black actors portraying White historical figures, it’s brilliant and edgy.  What would the reaction be to a revered White actor portraying Crispus Attucks?  Somehow I doubt the Smithsonian would treat it the same way.

Cognitive dissonance comes from liberals who claim they support free speech by denying others the right to say things they disagree with. It springs from minorities crying racism at every term, then claiming they cannot be racists when they cast racial epithets because they lack power. Never mind that the President, Attorney General, Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of Labor, Secretary of HUD, the Administrator of the Small Business Administration, two Supreme Court justices, as well as the U.N. Ambassador are all minorities. Congress is 8% Black, 6% Latino and 5.6% Asian. It’s hard to compare these to their population percentages because of those pesky “White Hispanics” and other crossover designations, although Blacks are about 13.2% of the population. But having the presidency and much of his cabinet being Black should help balance that out.

Cities are burning with race riots, police officers are being executed by Blacks, Black Lives Matter demonstrations are making headlines, and race relations are at a two-decade low. But President Obama says he has improved race relations during his presidency.

Cognitive dissonance.

And along comes The Donald. Here is someone in politics who doesn’t even pretend that the other side has any credibility at all. They are idiots. They are morons. How can they expect any intelligent person to believe this crap? On Fox News Sunday (excuse me, Faux News Sunday for my liberal friends) today he said the label “losers” was not strong enough for the politicians in Washington.

And people who have been struggling with their cognitive dissonance, wondering if there was something wrong with themselves, can heave a sigh of relief and say, “Hell, yes. Finally, someone is saying what I was too afraid to say.”

“I’m not crazy after all.”

He legitimizes their feelings, their frustrations at being force-fed through every media a topsy-turvy world that contradicts so many values they took for granted ten or twenty years ago. The definition of marriage, the role of America in the world, even what it means to be a man or a woman.

Trump is the therapist who reassures the patient that they are not insane. He relieves the pressure on the brain without the awkward and messy trepanning procedure. His role is more than just that of politician – it is one of psychic rescuer.

For decades Americans have been conditioned to be politically correct, and to be sensitive to other cultures, the feelings of others, to not judge.

Discrimination – in the broadest sense so essential to survival (fire hot – don’t touch!) – became something to be avoided to the point of absurdity. Reality became user-defined (choose to be a man, woman or other), and people had to set aside common sense; disparate outcomes were not because of difference in abilities or effort or dumb luck but because of institutional racism or other factors unrelated to the individual who failed.

One was required to be willfully blind to the fact that you had to have proportional racial representation on the faculty but not the basketball squad. We could allow for ability in one but not the other, and ironically for an academic institution is was in the field of sports where ability was the determinative factor for allowed discrimination, not academics.

And along comes Trump who cries BS (literally) and a lot of people say, “Thank you!”

They will forgive him a great deal because for the first time in decades someone on the national stage in politics has clearly, passionately and without a thought to how it would play out on page one or the lede on the evening news, cried “This is crap!”

And that’s a good thing, a great thing. Many times over the last few months Trump’s over-the-top pontification has smashed open the Overton Window, allowed for the conversation to happen over policy issues that were somewhat constrained (over immigration, refugees, military strategy, taxation, etc.).

But like the boy in The Emperor’s New Clothes, identifying the problem doesn’t mean having a solution. The Overton Window refers to politically acceptable options; Trump often sets a parameter beyond the acceptable, allowing more rational heads to grapple with the issue and come to a more measured policy. Even Trump usually backtracks and softens his rhetoric.

But is that what we want in a president? President George W. Bush was accused of being a “cowboy” (as was Reagan before him) but Trump makes them look like Caspar Milquetoast.

I believe one real secret to Trump’s effectiveness, which differentiates him from the other top-tier candidates, is that he doesn’t care about the press, he uses the press.

Republicans treat the mainstream media the way a battered spouse does her abuser – she tries to be nice in the hopes that this will avoid further abuse. In my practice I represent abused spouses, and the problem is not the victim, but the abuser. No matter how well you treat the abuser they will find an excuse to batter again. The victim’s conduct is not at fault. It’s about power and control.

No matter how Republicans pander to the MSM, they will always have their words twisted and distorted. They will always be covered unfairly. They will always be ambushed. They will always have unfavorable coverage, and be the subject of negative editorials. Time for Republicans to say “Screw ‘em!” and control their press more effectively, or just ignore the consequences. Don’t pander any more. Mock the press, don’t meet the press.

Say what you want to say. Have your plans prepared before you shoot off your mouth but address the concerns of the people, not the press. Don’t worry how the press will receive it and distort it, think of how the people will hear it. Town hall your message, don’t focus group it with groups gathered by “experts.” The “experts” are generally wrong, fighting battles from several campaigns back (which they lost…).

Americans are living in a Through the Looking Glass world. Trump has capitalized on that as no other politician. But candidates have to stop talking in generics and platitudes that the press cannot take issue with; they have to take stands with details that will alienate some people to rally others.

If Cruz or Rubio would get their acts together to recognize how hungry the American people are to be told by politicians that their candidate understands that up is not down and not just generic “values” but specifics are what they stand for, then I believe Trump’s support would erode quickly when more stable, thoughtful and credible candidates began treating our national cognitive dissonance.

 

Thank You, Violence Policy Center, For Helping Prove Concealed Carry Permit Holders Are Safe!

I am not a member of the NRA, in part because I don’t want my real name on a list the government can use against me (paranoid much? Yup). But I saw a TV ad titled “Freedom’s Safest Place” they produced a while back that has added urgency after the December 2 attacks in San Bernardino. It is right on the money in calling for a nation-wide concealed carry law.

The ad’s text (aimed at Congress critters) appears prophetic:

You know the threat is real.

You sit in meetings with advisors and operatives who tell you there could be Islamic sleeper cells in every major American community.

You know the southern border is a welcome mat for terrorists to enter our towns and neighborhoods at will.

You know about their plots to kill us in our shopping malls, our sports stadiums and our office buildings.

You won your office by talking like a champion of freedom. Now it’s time to act like one.

Pass a national right to carry law that guarantees my constitutional right to defend myself, my family and my fellow Americans anywhere inside our borders … and make sure the enemies of freedom know the power of freedom.

No law-abiding American should be forced to face evil with empty hands.

I’m the National Rifle Association of America.

And I’m freedom’s safest place.

Facts are facts. As these charts show (based upon data from the Centers for Disease Control and Congressional Research Services), as both the gun ownership rates and number of firearms in the U.S. have gone up between 1993 and 2013, the gun homicide rates have gone down. How can that be?

Fine, my friends on the Left say, but those gunslingers who go around with their concealed carry permits (CCPs) and Glocks and Smiths and “multi-automatic round weapons” under their shirts are surely killing people right and left. Can you just imagine these rednecks getting liquored up in a bar and shooting somebody? It must happen all the time!

I’m no statistician, but the folks at the Violence Policy Center are. You know they know their guns when they talk about “assault weapons.” They list 62 homicides in 2013 committed by folks with concealed carry permits (CCPs), including the DC Navy Yard massacre where 13 were killed. Sixty-two gun deaths from CCP holders in 2013.  That’s pretty bad.  That’s after I went through and took out all the accidental deaths and suicides, and homicides where the weapon was not listed (but the person did have a CCP). So there could be up to 5 more I didn’t count.

But that is out of 11,208 gun homicides in 2013. That’s 62 out of 11,208 gun homicides that were committed by concealed permit holders, or just .56% of total gun homicides that were committed by CCP holders. It’s quite possible that some other easily-identifiable groups might comprise a higher percentage of known perpetrators of gun crimes. Maybe left-handed barbers. Or perhaps gang members. I’m just spit balling here.

There were approximately 8 million concealed carry permit holders in 2013. About 34% of the population owns guns, so in 2013 that meant about 107,500,000 people owned guns.

Let’s see. Carry the two. Use the other hand because I just ran out of fingers on this one…

The Violence Policy Center evidence points to the opposite conclusion of their scary rhetoric (“[CCP holders] instead expose the public to more danger, ongoing research from the Violence Policy Center (VPC) finds”). In actuality, concealed carry permit holders commit substantially fewer gun homicides per capita than the general gun-owning public.

Who would have ever thought that people who had to go through a background check and then training in firearm use and safety might have a better safety record than folks who just bought a gun? Or that people who accepted the responsibility for carrying a deadly weapon and had the maturity and respect for the law to go through the permit process (rather than just carry the weapon unlawfully) would actually demonstrate a higher level of self-control and restraint?  I sure would never have seen that coming.  As those legal eagles say, no indicia of reliability there.

Unless my math is wrong (a distinct possibility; as we used to say in law school, if we could do math, we wouldn’t be trying to become lawyers), concealed carry permit holders accounted for 1 gun (gub? Obligatory Woody Allen reference) homicide per 129,032 CCP holder in 2013 (62/8 million). Other gun owners accounted for 1 gun homicide per 8,927 gun owners (11,146/99.5 million). Of course, those “other” gun owners include gang members and criminals who commit the vast majority of the gun homicides, so that figure is misleading. A majority of those gun homicides occur in Democrat-run cities like Chicago, East LA, and Washington, DC which have the tightest gun control laws.

Another way of looking at it, a CCP holder is 14 times less likely to kill someone with a gun than a person without a CCP.

So no, more concealed carry permits by licensed, trained and vetted citizens will not lead to bloodbaths in the streets. It hasn’t in the past. And don’t we all trust our government to vet people thoroughly? If we cannot trust our government to vet citizens who have been living and having every move since birth recorded here, how can we possibly trust the same agencies to clear folks from Syria with dubious papers who seek refugee status?

But that is another story.

In our new reality (the new, new reality, the post-September 11, post-December 2 reality) we know that no place is safe. No town is too large or too small. No venue too innocent. It can be a Paris café or a holiday party for office workers. It can be a subway where a man starts slashing with a knife or a busy street where a man starts hacking with a hatchet.

The often-stated fear of those on the Left of concealed guns on the persons of civilians is simply not supported by facts. Robert Heinlein, in Beyond This Horizon, believed just the opposite. His thinking was, “An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.” The facts, as stated by the anti-gun group Violence Policy Center (which can be counted on to make the best case possible against concealed carry permit holders), show that CCP holders have a much better safety record than gun owners in general.

If this holds true with expanded adoption of a national concealed carry permit system, along with safety, defense and tactical combat training, then every community across the nation could not only feel safer but actually be safer. It would be the simplest way Congress could empower citizens, with a simple bill and vote. No thousand-page monstrosity no one would read but a single page of clear writing would suffice. Of course Congress would muck it up with all kinds of needless rhetoric, verbiage, riders, guidelines, unnecessary bureaucracy and cost, but if that is what it would take that would be acceptable.

It wouldn’t require billions spent on intelligence gathering, or invasions of civil liberties.  It wouldn’t require years of debate, environmental impact studies, and construction of border fences.  Citizens would take the task upon themselves, pay for it themselves, train themselves, arm themselves.  When they gathered together at ranges and afterwards they might form social interactions that would reassure them and ease their fears that their families and communities were safe because they had developed, for wont of a better term, a well regulated militia.

Then when the next Islamic terrorist starts crying “Allahu Akbar!” the first thing they will hear is the racking of a dozen pistols and the last thing they will hear is the sound of thunder.

The San Bernardino Terror Attack and Lessons from The Northfield Minnesota Raid of 1876

We have a President who refuses to acknowledge the nature of the enemy we face (radical Islamic terrorism); he consistently demonstrates his lack of wisdom or conviction to take the necessary actions to protect us against it. We also have feckless leadership in Congress on both sides of the aisle who only say empty words to gain favor with the press and their base to maintain their positions of power while doing nothing of substance.

If we are to be protected, we must rely upon ourselves.

On September 7, 1876, three men rode into the bustling town of Northfield, Minnesota. Several townspeople thought they looked suspicious because their horses were of unusually high quality and they wore matching dusters (to cover their weapons).

These riders (who eventually grew to number eight men) were Jesse and Frank James, the Younger brothers (Cole, Jim and Bob), Charlie Pitts, Clell Miller and Bill Chadwell. They had come to rob the bank.

The towns folk had other ideas.

To this day, teller Joseph Lee Heywood is a local hero, shot dead by Frank James as Heywood repeatedly refused to open the bank safe after being beaten to the floor and threatened with death. James fled the bank with only $26.70.

Townsmen (many who were Civil War veterans) grabbed old but serviceable weapons and began firing at the outlaws on the street while yelling at townspeople to clear the area. The shocked robbers fled the town leaving two dead (Clell Miller and Bill Chadwell), with every member of the gang wounded except Jesse James. Two townspeople were also dead, the teller and a Swede who apparently became confused and couldn’t understand the shouts to get out of the street to avoid the shooting.

In describing the scene, Western story teller Louis L’Amour liked to say the gang was “shot to doll rags.”  It took just seven minutes for the robbery to fail because of the swift actions of the men in the town in spotting the robbery and acting.

The citizens were relentless. As many as 2000 men from Northfield and neighboring towns chased the gang members for weeks, eventually capturing the Youngers (and killing Charlie Pitt). The James brothers escaped after splitting from the others a week after the robbery.

We can learn much from this historic narrative. It runs contrary to the fictional western movies where a band of outlaws come in and take over a town and terrorize the helpless citizens, a popular Hollywood theme.  In reality an armed citizenry, leavened with battle-seasoned veterans, sized up the situation and took immediate action, sheltering their women and children and dealing swift and unrelenting justice to the barbarians who threatened their civilization.

Our fight against the global Islamic jihad has had a number of paradigm shifts. Prior to 9/11, pilots and flight crews were trained to go along with hijackers as the best way to protect passengers. The historic object of the hijackers was to safely get to a location with hostages or make demands for their release. After the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center, that all changed. In real time, some passengers on Flight 93 learned on their cell phones what had happened in New York and Washington at the Pentagon and overwhelmed any terrorists in the passenger cabin and were assaulting the cockpit door when the terrorists decided to crash the plane near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The paradigm shifted in real time.

The Paris attacks gave us another paradigm shift (or should have). There was talk about the “hostages” at the Bataclan concert hall while the event was unfolding, but we should really know better by now. Islamic terrorists do not take hostages in the middle of such attacks; they massacre people. When they have the leisure to do so they may take women or girls to sell as sex slaves or men and children to behead at a later time for propaganda purposes, but in a terror operation where they are certain to be killed in the middle of a city like Paris if they stay put for very long, there is no recent history of hostage taking, just slaughter.

When journalists suggest that they are taking hostages, they are reporting the last war, a failure of imagination.

Northfield in 1876 teaches four lessons we must learn if we are to defend ourselves in this new reality.

  1. The government cannot protect us in our homes, work or leisure.  No sheriff stopped the James-Younger gang. Even if we are willing to give up all of our civil liberties it is doubtful Big Brother could have averted the San Bernardino attack. Destroying IS, ISIL, ISIS, Daesh or whatever you want to call it in the Middle East might slow recruitment of jihadi wannabe attackers here and around the civilized world but will not eliminate them completely. We have entered a world of perpetual martyrdom, of lunatic Islamists who believe not only in their holy cause of jihad and their other-worldly reward but that their martyrdom will ignite further revolution. Even if we someday elect leaders at all levels with spine, it will take a long time to minimize the existential threat of random violence. These San Bernardino terrorists do not appear to have a large digital footprint that could have been detected. There was apparently an illegal straw man gun purchase of at least some of the weapons by a friend. It could not have been detected, and it could not have been responded to quickly enough.  Even when police responded, they could not just charge in. They did not know how many terrorists there were. They did not know if doors were mined with IEDs that could kill or injure officers or civilians if breached (that apparently was the case; the bombs did not detonate). They did not know if quickly breaching could result in greater civilian casualties. Time was needed – even if they arrived instantly on the scene – to gather intelligence, assess the situation, formulate plans, and implement them. Time had to pass, and in such situations every minute means innocent lives lost as terrorists engage in their massacres.
  2. Vigilance cannot be trumped by political correctness.   The San Bernardino massacre might have been averted had the neighbor(s) who noticed something suspicious actually reported it, but they said they did not because they were afraid of being accused of racial profiling. And that’s not an unreasonable fear. When U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch makes a big deal about violence against Muslims in the wake of 9/11 (where there was an astounding lack of anti-Muslim backlash violence in the U.S.) and says her “greatest fear” is anti-Muslim rhetoric, then people have reason to fear reporting suspicious activities. When she pledges to prosecute people for discrimination against Muslims, this trickles down not only to civilians but all levels of law enforcement.    That means that even had the neighbors reported their suspicions to local law enforcement or federal authorities, those reports might not have been effectively acted upon.       Nonetheless we must report what we see without fear of reprisals from Social Justice Warriors like the Attorney General, and fight to support those who do make such reports.  Making reports, even if they prove to be unfounded, should not be discouraged.
  3. Restricting gun ownership is the opposite of what is needed.   That is like saying we should lock passengers into their seats in airplanes in response to the heroes in Shanksville, so only those terrorists with box cutters can cut their way out and roam the plane. First responders cannot arrive in time and gain enough situational awareness to know to storm a building as quickly as armed people inside can respond to the situation. Cops cannot be everywhere, and every event cannot have enough armed guards to make a difference. A few armed, trained civilians could have taken down the shooters and saved many lives before the police arrived on the scene both in San Bernardino and at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris. The terrorists’ bulletproof vests (if they had them; I’ve also seen them described as tactical vests for holding ammo clips) would not protect the legs or head or arms, or keep the shooter from being knocked down and being injured by the hydrostatic shock of impact. While many people would never consider carrying a gun at a holiday party, those folks wouldn’t have to; it would only have taken four or five armed citizens to insure these two were taken out, wounded, scared off, or sent out wounded to leave an easier trail for law enforcement. These terrorists had experience with target practice but expected a soft target; probably the shock of being shot back at would have disrupted their attack or even caused them to abandon their weapons.  As Bruce Lee said, boards do not hit back.
  4. Open carry is not the answer; concealed carry is.  The James-Younger crowd rode into a town they thought was filled with farmers and merchants. They had sized up a number of towns before deciding on this one and had chosen it as a “soft target.” The guns were out of sight. Open carry makes the armed person the terrorists’ first target. Concealed carry leaves the terrorist wondering who might be armed and who isn’t. This is why air marshals are in plain clothes. Would-be terrorists do not know who is armed or if there is one on a flight. A soft target becomes a potentially hard target. The San Bernardino terrorists apparently had another attack planned after this one, possibly a police station or military target; some theorize they chose this target first so they were guaranteed a soft target success in case they failed in the second. If they knew that there was a possibility that there were armed people at this party they would not have considered this a soft target.  Open carry advertises what is a hard or soft target; wide-spread concealed carry makes ANY target potentially hard and may discourage attacks.

I’m sure my friends on the Left would say that we cannot go back to the wild west or vigilante justice. They are ignoring the fact that the Islamist terrorists have already brought us back to the seventh century with their jihadi assaults. Vigilante justice was often an organized community response to the barbarism of the outlaw when no law enforcement was available. Life is not always what it appears in a Hollywood western.  For example, San Francisco citizens joined together several times in an organized Committee of Vigilance  (vigilantes) when the existing civil government was not handling problems (or was part of the problem).

We have to arm ourselves and be prepared to defend ourselves. As it happens, I was born about four miles from where those two terrorists went on their rampage last week. I grew up in San Bernardino (none of us from there pronounce the second “r” either, so don’t feel bad). This kinda hits home and tells me it can happen anywhere. There are no safe places. But I cannot legally carry a concealed weapon in California (California is not big on reciprocity for CCPs).  If I had had the misfortune to be at the Inland Regional Center December 2, I would have been as unable to defend myself and others as anyone in that hall because California politicians have determined to keep folks safe from gunslingers like me.

I’m only in California a few days a month these days. But I’m going to look into finding a sympathetic jurisdiction for a California CCP. I don’t want to be a mourned victim but a proactive defender – wherever I am.

 

President Obama’s Mislabeling the Sony Hack to Avoid Hard Choices: “Cyber-Vandalism”

President Obama is using his bully pulpit to mislabel another major event requiring presidential leadership so he can sidestep action. The Illinois back bencher will once again be able to vote “present.”

Back in early 2008 before his nomination became “inevitable,” candidate Barack Obama responded to an attack by Hillary Clinton that he had no experience but only offered “words” by giving his long-forgotten “Just words” speech in defense. It was soon pointed out that this February 2008 Obama speech was eerily similar to a speech given by Deval Patrick in 2003 – a speech, I might opine, given much better by Patrick.

Throughout his presidency Obama has mislabeled events with precision to gain the outcomes he wants and avoid having to take actions he doesn’t want to take. His consistency has served as a bulwark against taking forceful action on the world stage and domestically. By lowering the bar through “just words” he has avoided having to act and face the consequences of acting. By mislabeling situations he has been able to vote present.

By mislabeling terrorism as “man-caused disasters” (“just words”) he avoided all that pesky talk of war and congressional approval and declarations and stuff.  He also avoided that nasty blame game, where you have to perhaps talk about who is perpetrating the terrorism, and maybe mention the religion of peace.

By mislabeling terrorism at Fort Hood by self-proclaimed jihadist Nidal Malik Hasan in contact with terrorist Anwar al_Awlaki (whom President Obama had executed by drone in 2011) as “workplace violence” (“just words”) the president avoided all that nasty discussion of “oh, yeah, and he was a follower of Islam, too. Must be a coincidence.” It also kept 45 victims and their families from receiving Purple Hearts (and the civilian equivalent) and full military benefits for their losses (13 dead, 32 wounded) in this (dare I say it?) terror attack. It was only a few days ago that an act of Congress granted these benefits to these victims, in a bill the president is expected to sign after years of lobbying by lawmakers like Senator John Cornyn (R Texas).

Now, President Obama has, after staring resolutely into the camera and stating that Sony should not be cowed, and that the United States will make a proportional response at a time of our choosing, declared that the cyber-attack is “cyber-vandalism.” This is his classification of an assault that has potentially exposed the financial and medical records of hundreds of Sony employees, cost thousands of theater workers tens of thousands of dollars in lost wages, cost hundreds of theaters millions in lost revenues, cost Sony Pictures and all associated with The Interview millions of dollars, and threatened September 11, 2001 style attacks on theaters which screened the movie and patrons who watched.

Merriam-Webster defines “vandalism” as “willful or malicious destruction or defacement of public or private property.” That was certainly involved here, but this hacking went far beyond that. How about what Noah Webster’s heirs say about “terrorism”? “The use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.” Gee, Mr. President, that seems a bit more appropriate. But I will admit that “cyber-vandalism” rolls off the tongue easier than “cyber man-caused disasters.”

“Cyber-vandalism” allows for a proportional response of… what? A firm note from State? Taunting? Satirical films? No, wait, that won’t work. Defacing a statue of Kim Jong-un? Another UN resolution for China to veto? Maybe invite Dennis Rodman to the White House to have him go to Pyongyang as a special envoy?

Once again, President Obama is downsizing his definition of a problem so he can do little or nothing. By mislabeling “terrorism” as “vandalism” he allows himself to golf and enjoy his Christmas vacation without worry, and then come back and do nothing but blame Sony and the GOP and anyone else while claiming he is acting with resolve until this is forgotten because of the next crisis arising out of his abandonment of our leadership role in the world and the resulting vacuum.

Cyber-terrorism would require a real response from the Commander in Chief.  It would require accountability to the American people, an expectation that “at a time of our choosing” would mean that at some point in the near future we, the people, would expect (or demand) some significant action taken by our president against a rogue regime that has attacked us, has threatened us with 9/11 style terror.  It would require reassurances that our government was taking specific actions (not just forming committees) to safeguard our cyber infrastructure, our banks, our power grids, our water supplies, our nuclear power plants.  We’ve seen 24.  We’d expect some response that would punish a nation that reached into our lives and threatened us as we went to the movies with our families on Christmas day, enough of a “proportional” response to deter that nation and like-thinking nations from future acts.

Instead, we get a mall cop going after a teen with a spray can.

Presidential leadership? Just words…

Some Less Obvious Aspects of CIA Director John Brennan’s Presser

When you are faced with a political hatchet job like the partisan Democrat Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program and you are President Obama’s Director of Central Intelligence (D/CIA), you have a couple of options.

You can resign in protest, firing off one shot and hope to make a big noise. You might get a page 14 mention in the New York Times and a minute on the CBS Evening News; it will probably be phrased as “CIA Director Quits Under Fire in Torture Scandal,” spinning it as if he is quitting in disgrace rather than in protest.

This can be seen by conservatives as the principled position. But is it the best for the country, or for the men and women in the CIA?

Or you can make a stand for your Agency in a precedent-setting news conference, defend your people, give some nods to your boss the president but make the clear disagreements with a partisan report while not naming names or parties.

When I watched Director Brennan’s press conference, my first reaction when I heard him saying he agreed with the president on not using enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs), I thought “the suck-up is protecting his job.”

Many commentators and journalists were dissatisfied that Brennan didn’t advance the story, or didn’t say anything concrete; they thought he was too vague, too evasive. Wow, who would expect vague or evasive in Washington (OK, in Virginia)?

But as I listened, and later read the transcript, I realized that what the D/CIA was doing was (probably) staying in place to protect his Agency and the people working there. And protecting the American people. He was also giving some real information if you paid attention.

Here are some points, subtle and not-so-subtle, which have not been discussed all that much that I have seen or read since the press conference.

  • Brennan supports the claims of Jose Rodriguez, Chief of the Counterterrorism Center of the CIA, and others that members of Congress and President Bush were fully briefed on the program.  While Brennan does state that there were instances where representations were “inaccurate, imprecise or fell short of our tradecraft standards,” he categorically denies that the agency “systematically and intentionally” misled Congress or the public.  What is perhaps most telling about this is his buried mention of a change in procedure he has implemented: “For example, as a result of our own investigations and our review of the committee’s report, CIA has taken steps to… improve our recordkeeping for interactions with the Congress.”  In other words, he is going to make sure the CIA has very careful documentation of every briefing they give Congress so that in the future members cannot claim that the CIA did not tell them this information, and that members did not give the CIA approval.  The CIA will be able to prove what was briefed and what members said during the briefings.  Never again, Senator Pelosi.  Never again, Senator Rockefeller.  Never again, Senator Feinstein.
  • Brennan refused to be sucked into the “torture” debate.  When asked by Ken Delaney of the Associated Press if Brennan agreed that some of the techniques used against detainees amounted to torture, Brennan said they exceeded the bounds of authorized actions and were harsh, but never once during the press conference did he use the word “torture.”  This clearly in my mind marks him as an Agency man, not the president’s man.  Had he been solely worried about saving his job, or been a Panetta-style Democrat, he would have not had a problem using the “T” word.  It would have been a simple enough concession to make unless he had a principled belief against using it.  By defiantly refusing to use the word that the Democrats (and sadly many Republicans like John McCain and George Will and libertarians like the addle-brained Andrew Napolitano of Fox News) throw out without a coherent definition, he is declaring a significant gap between himself and the president.  It won’t necessarily cost him his job, but won’t get him a Christmas card, either.  It was a bold move.
  • Brennan saved his job – allowing him to protect his Agency – by declaring he supported the president’s decision to stop using EITs, then backhandedly acknowledged that they were really, really effective.  Sure, he stated it was “unknowable” if the information they yielded eventually could have been obtained through other methods, but he went out of his way to point out  (several times) that a) he “fundamentally disagree[ed]” with the report’s conclusion that detainees subjected to EITs did not produce useful intelligence, b) this information only came after they had been subjected to EITs, not before, c) thus waterboarding (or other EITs) was not the first step (and thus lesser techniques had failed), and d) it was “unknowable” if other techniques could have elicited this information.  Of course it is unknowable if other techniques could have elicited the same information; one cannot say for certain that under some hypothetical set of circumstances, some form of questioning, some skilled interrogator, might have elicited the information without EITs.  As the saying goes, anything is possible.  But we do know that prior to the use of EITs this information had not been obtained through the techniques used up until that point, including the range of interrogation techniques from the Army Field Manual.
  • Why is it important for Brennan to stay in his position?  It was not just a matter of placing things in context that the D/CIA spent the first fourteen or so paragraphs of his prepared remarks reminding us of the history of 9/11 and his role at the CIA as deputy executive director in the days following the attacks.  He reminds us that he was there, and he understands what his role was, what was needed, what the nation and Congress asked of him and his Agency.  He understands how unprepared the CIA was, and why.  Unspoken, but surely remembered, was how devastated the CIA was after a similar congressional committee chaired by Democrat Frank Church of Idaho in the mid-1970s led to the gutting of the American intelligence agencies that led, in turn, in no small part to the intelligence failures leading up to 9/11/01.  This is part and parcel of why the CIA was unprepared for the job they had to do.  By remaining in his post now, Brennan prevents President Obama from naming someone as D/CIA who was not present on 9/11, someone who buys into the torture narrative, who would seek to diminish the effectiveness of our intelligence agencies just as our president has sought to diminish the effectiveness of our military and has refused to use military assets as recommended by his military experts.  Imagine the appointment of someone with the limited intelligence, experience and stature of a John Kerry to the position of D/CIA to replace John Brennan should he resign.  Brennan walked the fine line between supporting his Agency and staff, and supporting his boss to keep his job.  It was a rather masterful performance considering the balancing act he had to perform.
  • Brennan remains as a wall against the Democrats’ claims, and one they cannot dismiss as easily as they can Vice President Dick Cheney or Jose Rodriguez.  By remaining, Brennan can also not only help maintain order within the CIA but maintain relations with foreign intelligence services.  Perhaps the biggest casualty of this criminally irresponsible fit of political pique and self-aggrandizement by the Democrats is the damage it does to the delicate relationships we maintain with friendly (and not-so-friendly) intelligence agencies.  We have complex intelligence-sharing relationships with both traditional allies and countries with whom we have some shared interests but very tenuous ties.  Many of these relationships are very fragile, with a minimum of trust between the parties.  Fear of exposure is real, because exposure means death for many of these partners.  When Democrats – and even our president through his spokesman – indicate that they understand that an unclassified report may lead to the exposure and possible death of foreign assets but “exposing the truth is more important” we shatter that tenuous tie and make it that much more difficult for our intelligence and diplomatic agencies to gather intelligence and make deals.  Brennan indicated in the Q&A after his remarks that he was busy working the phones even before the report was made public trying to minimize the damage beforehand and prepare the ground.  He and his people will probably be spending most of their time for months trying to undo what Senator Feinstein and her unthinking comrades did for political gain heedless of consequences she should have, better than almost anyone in government, understood.

Only time will tell if Senator Feinstein has done as much lasting damage to American intelligence gathering as Senator Church did in 1975 and 1976. I’m hoping that Director Brennan has stayed on to hold his Agency together and maintain our intelligence relationships across the globe rather than to just keep his job.

We may all pay the price if he cannot.