Frosty_snowman

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?

AliceThroughTheLookingGlass

Why Trump: Relieving America’s Cognitive Dissonance, Part 1

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.

Part 2 will go into more detail about why I believe Trump’s message works in spite of his excesses and demonstrable lack of expertise, and how the other candidates could learn from him.

 

2nd amend

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.

10-Northfield

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.

 

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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…

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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.

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The Mistake of Second-Guessing the Fergusson Grand Jury

A lot of smart and not-so-smart people have been second-guessing the decision of the Fergusson grand jury to not indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

One narrative goes that it was murder, a white cop executing a black man, case closed, let’s protest and/or riot. There’s no reasoning with these people.

Another group more reasonably argues, “The burden of proof for a grand jury is probable cause, a reasonable suspicion that Officer Wilson was guilty of some form of criminal homicide as the charges were laid out for the jury. As we have seen the evidence and the testimony in transcripts, surely there was enough conflicting testimony to meet this low burden.”

Probable cause is a very low burden of proof. We see it most often when police need justification to obtain a warrant for a search or immediate grounds to stop a vehicle. Probable cause can be a driver swerving while driving, a broken tail light, or a scream coming from a house. It can be a lump in someone’s pants in the shape of a gun. It can be the smell of alcohol on a driver’s breath.

Surely the testimony of claimed eye witnesses that Michael Brown had his hands up when he was executed gives probable cause to indict him?

I have to approach this as an attorney, and I want to assume as few facts as possible, whipping out Occam’s Razor.

I start with the fact that this grand jury was not specially empaneled for this case – they had been sitting for months, and were nearing the end of their term. They were specially held over for this case. Nine whites and three blacks. The shooting occurred after they were empaneled. Thus their selection was in no way prejudiced by their knowledge of the case. They were also experienced jurors, having handled numerous cases prior to this one. They knew what they were doing.

The next concept is an important one, that most non-lawyers (or people who have not been involved in court cases that have gone through the appeal process) are unaware of.

When a case has been through a lower court and one side decides to appeal it, most of the time the court of appeal makes its determination on the basis of the record of the case – the transcripts, the pictures of evidence (and sometimes actual evidence), written and sometimes oral arguments by lawyers. Only in narrow circumstances is the case reviewed “de novo” where the trial is actually redone, with witnesses, etc.

When the court of appeal does their review on the basis of transcripts, they accord great deference to the original judge and/or jury, and only overrule the original judgment (for the most part) if they find a major abuse of discretion or mistake.

Why? The appellate judges were not there. They did not watch the witnesses, they did not see their eyes as they spoke, could not see their facial expressions or how they sat or what they did with their hands. Were they nervous? Did they fail to meet the prosecutor’s or the jury’s eyes? Were they confident? Were they sweating? Did they shift in their chair? Did they stammer, or swallow hard repeatedly? Did they look confused when asked follow-up questions? Did they take a long time answering?

These things don’t show up in the reporter’s transcripts. Yet we all know how important such information is to whether we believe someone or not. The appellate judges, looking over witness transcripts months (or years) later cannot see those things, so they give deference to the judge or jury who were there and saw things they did not.  Appellate judges understand that the original judge or jury usually factor the believability of witnesses into their decisions, how they weigh testimony, and that affects the decisions they make.

When we try to second-guess or comment on the grand jury in Fergusson, we are acting like a court of appeal. The more informed of us are looking at the available evidence online, reading the testimony of witnesses, looking at the forensic evidence.

Some are saying that there was enough to raise probable cause for one of the counts they were given, and that Officer Wilson should have been indicted. Others are saying that the evidence was clear that there was not enough to indict him.

But none of us were there in the room when the witnesses testified. We did not watch their faces; we can only read transcripts (those of us who bother to do so). We do not know how credible those who provided the testimony that indicates Officer Wilson committed a crime appeared to the jurors.  Most of us are only reading summaries by others who bothered to read the testimony, so are dealing even one more step removed from the actual ability to judge credibility.

Perhaps more importantly, we were not in the jury room for the discussions after the testimony. We do not know what was said. “Did anyone believe a word that Dorian Johnson said?” “Not me.” “Me neither.” “And Witness 12 was lying about the whole thing – his testimony didn’t fit the forensic evidence and blood spatters at all – I don’t think he was even there.”

Without knowing what the lengthy discussions in the jury room involved, we cannot know whether the testimony that people rely on to say there was enough evidence to satisfy the probable cause standard was even considered as credible by the jury.

The jury can weigh testimony as to its believability or discard it completely. If they discard a piece of evidence or all or part of a witness’ testimony, then armchair quarterbacks looking at a transcript or summary have no way of saying that they should have returned an indictment.

They simply cannot know what went into the jury’s decision.

The fact is that no one outside those involved in the grand jury process knows why they failed to return an indictment.

I believe that we should accept that this grand jury a) knew its job, b) took its job seriously, knowing the stakes, and c) performed its job to the best of its ability – unless and until we have concrete evidence otherwise. To date I have seen none, other than opinion based upon disagreement with the outcome or ignorance of the process.

I honestly don’t know if Officer Wilson should have been charged with a crime, because I wasn’t there with the grand jury. There is a part of me that believes that something short of killing Michael Brown should have been sufficient, but I also wasn’t there that day either, and I wasn’t in Officer Wilson’s mind knowing his thoughts or apprehensions (or Michael Brown’s mind, for that matter). It may well have been Officer Wilson’s only option (or perceived option) for self-protection, or at least a justifiable defense under the law.  The grand jury evidently thought so, or at least believed there was not enough credible evidence to indict Officer Wilson under the very low probable cause standard.

And bottom line – there are consequences, sometimes fatal, for attacking an armed police officer.

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Understanding My Muggers – White Guilt and “White Privilege”

Conservative web sites (and I gather Rush Limbaugh) sent people scurrying to an absurd article on The Hoya, the oldest student newspaper at Georgetown University, entitled “I was Mugged, and I Understand Why.” This is a fairly predictable Leftist student’s reflection of White guilt and excusing two Black muggers who took his cell phone and money at gunpoint.

The author, Oliver Friedfeld, bills himself as a senior in the School of Foreign Service. As scary as his saying things like “we should get comfortable with sporadic muggings and break-ins” because we have given these poor fellows no options in life, I find it more unnerving to believe that soon he could be working in Secretary Kerry’s State Department. This could well be his application essay. If only he had described the officer who took his statement as having an attitude “reminiscent of Genghis Khan.”

So we have a future State Department employee saying we should get used to criminals attacking us, and that he does not begrudge them his cell phone and cash. I don’t see any possible parallels with terrorism, beheadings, etc. None at all.

The comments have run 95% negative, driven in large part by the promotion among conservative media no doubt. The few defenders have raised the meme of “White privilege,” that perennial go-to by the Left to replace reasoned argument and deflect debate. Like “scientific consensus” and “the science is settled” in global cooling global warming climate change, “White privilege” is an invisible, impossible to disprove (in Leftist minds) explanatory theory that is wonderful because it is a conversation stopper.

The nifty thing about “White privilege” is that it is not, as Leftists believe, impossible to discredit. I have a theory on the genesis of “White privilege.” I may be wrong, but since no one reads these posts, no one will correct me.

Before we had “White privilege” we had “institutional racism.” I believe that “White privilege” remains a Leftist meme because “institutional racism” failed to gain traction. Both are the kind of theories the Left loves – invisible, impossible to prove explanations that divert attention from real causal relationships and put the blame on the fallback bad guys, White males (for the most part).

“Institutional racism” was short-lived because it was overtaken by history. In my lifetime I have seen the argument go from Blacks (and we have generally always been talking about Blacks rather than other minorities) fighting for the right to freely vote to the number of Black senators to a Black president. We went from Blacks being allowed to go to public schools to Blacks being allowed to go to prestigious law schools to Blacks being on the Supreme Court. So-called Black leaders want to ignore the enormous progress made in the last 50 years; their limousines and five-star hotels and $5000 suits and Rolex watches depend upon portraying Blacks as having no upward path to prosperity.

Unfortunately for the concept of “institutional racism” also was the success rate of Black immigrants from Africa and Haiti, among other foreign countries, which closely paralleled White when controlled for education after a couple of years in the U.S. Their skin color didn’t seem to be a problem, so institutional racism didn’t seem to hold them back.

So “White privilege” was adopted, another invisible but “it’s not the Democrats’ fault” explanation of the increase in Black illegitimacy, crime, drug addiction, incarceration, unemployment, etc., but more importantly for the discrepancy in outcomes between Whites and Blacks.  Whenever someone raises the issue of how “White privilege” does not seem to impact Asians, the Leftist response is generally either, “You are a racist!” or “Look, a squirrel!”

The problem Leftists have with “White privilege” is a lack of intellectual rigor. They still depend on and refer to the “seminal” work of Peggy McIntosh, associate director of the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women in 1988, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”, part of ““White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming To See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies.

I want to be charitable here and posit that those Leftists who still refer people to Ms. McIntosh’s work have not re-read it since it was published in 1988.  They can’t possibly have read it since the election of Barack Obama to the presidency.  Please God, tell me they are not still sending people to this document having re-read it since 2008.

Ms. McIntosh’s piece, which is uncritically accepted by true believers, is set up like a Jeff Foxworthy routine. She seeks to set out statements which, if you can answer them in the affirmative, indicate that you have White privilege (and are probably also a redneck.)

Yet anyone reading these and applying a modicum of common sense and historical perspective would realize that only if they are viewed through the lens of bias and a distorted view of America as unchanged since the 1950s (where Democrats like Bull Connor ordered fire hoses and George Wallace stood in the school house doors) do they apply.

Here are the first six of the 50 statements that Ms. McIntosh (and Leftists who believe they prove White Privilege exists today) say are still answered yes today. Each and every one are evidently untrue to any open-minded (and historically-grounded) person.  The remaining 44 are equally absurd in today’s world, but I am not young enough to debunk them all before my nap time.

“1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.”

She appears to be saying that only White people can count on being with other people of their race at work or at school, where most of us spend our time (or in the home, if we stay at home during the day; I assume that would count childen).  How many people think this is a reasonable conclusion?  Show of hands?

Here’s the thing – in Wellesley, MA where Ms. McIntosh lived when writing this piece, there were fewer than 500 Blacks among a population of over 20,000 (I couldn’t find demographic stats before 2000).  She appears to have been generalizing from her own experience.

I suggest that it would be a very rare Black person today who works in a situation where there are not other Blacks in the workplace.  The same is true for Hispanics.  Thus they could answer this in the affirmative.

Perhaps others could not (Samoans?).  Does that mean there is a Black privilege?  A Hispanic privilege?  That disadvantages Samoans?

Depending on your race you may not always be able to be in the company of some people of your race unless you work with family or friends. But people make choices for work and pleasure based upon what is important to them.  If being with people of your race is important to you, one of the wonderful things about America is that you have the freedom of association to do just that.  You have choices.  Make them.

“2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.”

This one betrays Ms. McIntosh’s racism, and problems with her parents.  She was trained to mistrust people?

I wasn’t trained to mistrust anyone.  OK, I was trained to mistrust carnies.  And door-to-door vacuum salespeople.  But mistrust people of other races?  No.  If I had even suggested that as a kid I would have gotten a hair brush or belt to the bottom.  Of course, that would have gotten my parents in trouble today.  Back then it meant my parents raised a kid who was polite, never got into trouble, and got good grades.  Now I would be abused.  They’re both gone now or I would sue.

And notice the double standard – she (and thus “Whites”) was “trained” to distrust Blacks (or other minorities), but they “learned” to distrust her (Whites).

How in today’s culture can one avoid spending time with people of other races?  Only if you are a shut-in.  If you go to the store, if you go to the movies, if you go on public transportation, if you walk down a street, if you go to a sporting event, if you go to work, if you go to school – if you live, you will be with people of other races in America.

It was that way in 1988, even at Wellesley.  It is even more so today in 2014.

Of course, progressive Wellesley, Massachusetts is pretty lily White.  Only 2% Black.  In her ivory (White) tower perhaps she believes that the rest of America looks like the town she chose to live in, but her anecdotal experience is an outlier.

Thus it appears that an entire theory of “White privilege” is founded in part on a myopic academic’s personal experience in a limited community that has kept “those people” out (or maybe “those people” have the good sense not to want to live among people who look down on them so).

It’s always amazing how “progressive” communities of affluent White Leftists who are so sympathetic to the plight of minorities only let them into their communities during the day for service work.

“3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.”

This is not a nuanced argument that might leave some room for discussion, regarding possible factors in some markets with some lenders (and loan officers) relating to qualifications for loans and red lining and such. Most studies I am aware of in the area of housing show that when factors such as employment, collateral, job history, credit score, etc. are balanced, race and ethnicity are not a factor in qualification or purchasing. Ms. McIntosh appears to assume these factors are not in play (I suspect this level of analysis is beyond her).

No, what she says is that if you have the money (cash or qualified loan) you must be White privileged if you can rent or buy anywhere you can afford.

Let’s look at the converse – you cannot be certain you can buy or rent anywhere you want unless you are White.

Georgetown is pretty lily White. A little over 85% White. How did those 14%+ non-Whites sneak in? My theory is that they had the money and bought/rented homes and apartments. No one told them they couldn’t in one of the most exclusive places to live in America.

Beverly Hills, CA. About 89% White. Somehow about 11% of non-Whites were allowed to buy or rent homes there without “White privilege.” Mill Valley, CA, where I practice, pretty White place, 89% White, but 11% non-Whites are still able to rent or buy if they can afford it.

Aha! The small numbers prove that not everyone who wants to can move there because of skin color, right? Sorry, I’m playin’ witcha.

Maybe minorities don’t want to live in such snooty neighborhoods.  Maybe not as many minorities can afford to live there (a different issue, an outcome issue). Notice anything? These are all progressive bastions. Maybe these progressives are somehow keeping minorities from moving into their communities; that’s as good an answer as any other, absent evidence to the contrary.

Go up the road from Mill Valley, CA to Vacaville one county up and Whites drop to 66%. A lot fewer liberals in Vacaville, a lot less money. A lot more minorities. Interesting.  Maybe it is simply a matter of money, what people can afford.  If it is an economic issue, then this question is meaningless.

The real point is that people with common sense know that a Black orthodontist with good credit and money in the bank can buy any house she or he can afford anywhere they want today. They won’t have any flaming lower-case t’s in their yard (for you South Park fans). It is not White privilege, it is money privilege. It used to be called “the American Dream.” Now it’s called elusive for most everyone.

“4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.”

Anyone these days can only count on neutral, unfortunately.  Where I live in Flagstaff part-time it is different, and some of my neighbors in CA are friendly, but gone are the days when neighbors dropped by for a cup of sugar.  At most you expect a nod or a wave.

You’re much more likely to get animosity if you park in the wrong spot, play loud music, or leave your trash barrels out on the street.  Heaven forbid if you violate homeowners’ association rules.  Then you will face hostility.

But a minority moving into a non-minority neighborhood?  Not a big deal except in the minds of Leftists.  Hasn’t been for years.  Except in “progressive” neighborhoods who have managed to keep minorities out somehow.

How do they do that?

One final secret that nobody likes to talk about. White people – progressive, conservative, libertarian, whatever – still don’t want to be called racist. And they’re not, at least not 98% of us. So they tend to go out of their way to show that they are not. It’s one reason Barack Obama got elected twice – folks wanted to show that they were not prejudiced – see how far we’ve come? So when Blacks move into their neighborhood, they go out of their way to welcome them, even more than if they were White. Come on, folks. You know that is true. Same way when a new minority is hired at the office and you are a little nicer to them right off the bat than if they were just another White guy. It’s the way White folk have been conditioned since the 1960s, in part because we truly want to show that we have overcome the prejudices of the past, but in part because we do not want to be accused of racism.

I don’t make these things up. I just observe and report. Don’t blame me for being beautiful.

“5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.”

The key here is “most of the time.”

There are shopkeepers, in high-crime or low-income areas, who monitor shoppers closely.  They do this because of experience, because they lose a lot of money to theft.  In the language of point 2 above, the have “learned to mistrust.”

The shop owners are mostly minorities themselves (like the shop owners who were burned out in Fergusson), so this is not a “White privilege” thang.  If the shop owners lost money to White shoplifters they would follow White shoppers around.

Nothing to do with privilege, except in a Leftist’s mind seeking signs of discrimination and shutting off critical thinking. Outside these few shops, not a problem.

So most of the time, in most of the stores, anyone can shop without being followed or harassed.  Unless they act suspiciously and catch the eye of store security or staff.  Then the staff may monitor them as their job requires, regardless of their race.  That’s just common sense and good business.  It also protects the consumer by reducing theft and keeping prices down.

It’s not a plot against the minorities, it’s a plot against shoplifters.

“6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.”

For anyone who has paid attention for the last decade or three, the answer to this is that whether you are Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic, Asian, or whatever flavor of the wondrous variety of humanity, you can find yourself in the media.

For grins I just flipped through the first fifty or so channels of the TV. Counting voices on cartoons (with three kids and three grandkids I know cartoon voice actors, so don’t play the voice prejudice card on me!), discounting animal documentaries (“behold the majestic penguin”), and animated soap bubbles, 35 out of 45 had non-white actors in the five seconds I allowed myself to view each channel. See how I sacrifice for you?

Again, it defies common sense to claim that only Whites get to see their race widely represented in the media. OK, the hosts of MSNBC are predominantly White males, I get that. But in those fifty channels I surfed, three were in Spanish, one was BET, and two had black comedies with predominantly Black casts (not on BET). That’s at a random moment I got up and turned the TV on.

Hardly scientific, but enough to make my point.  And it’s a point we all should intuitively and experientially agree on.  Name your favorite show. Does it have minority actors in the regular cast?

Advertisers and casting directors want to use people of color. One of my former clients is from Iran. He has two beautiful granddaughters he told me were sought after by advertisers because their almond skin and exotic features could be taken for a number of races. He understood and delighted in this; it was money in the bank for their college funds.

I dare say that if you pick up any clothing ad you will find a veritable Colors of Benetton potpourri of races and many of those unidentifiable “What race is she?” models who could be any race – handy!

For years now each movie or TV group of friends had to have a Black, a Hispanic and a White kid (as did gangs). Bosses had to be Black; judges usually were Black and a woman. In the 1970s, movies and TV shows often used a Black as an authority figure but kept the role as a minor one, in effect saying, “Look, the Captain is Black, see how progressive we are, now let’s focus on the two white cops.”

Now we expect that roles are given with a understanding of racial diversity as an integral and non-cynical part of the plot structure (in Psych, the racial diversity gave plot twists that would not have been there if both leads had been black or white).

We see an interesting social evolutionary comparison in the re-imagining of the intentional (and unusual, for its day) racial casting of Gene Roddenberry’s original Star Trek series with the new movies; it no longer is a bold statement (such as Uhura’s kissing Kirk, the first scripted interracial kiss on TV), but simply an organic and natural thing, something we live with and experience in our lives. It’s hard for us today to imagine how daring this was back in 1966.  We live in a different (and better) world.

This is why Ms. McIntosh’s point is so illegitimate today. Of course people of different races can see their races in print and TV. Maybe Samoans cannot see Samoans in the papers or on TV often, but do they really expect that? They represent .056% of our population. I suppose every time they see Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson they are getting their percentage worth.

***

Unfortunately, whenever you try to discuss issues like racism and “White privilege” with Leftists (or actually anything substantive, for that matter) they do not wish to engage. Simply because you do not accept what they consider to be gospel, there is no point in even discussing it with you and they generally turn away. There is no open mind, no room for you to ask them to consider facts to change their mind.

An ideologue is impervious to reason, because it is a matter of faith, not logic.

They then go back to their Leftist friends and say, “Lester was trying to tell me White privilege doesn’t exist.” The friends shake their heads and laugh.   “He is so White!” “Those guys cannot see what is right before their noses!” “And Lester sure has a big one” Chuckles. “It just proves how much White privilege he has!” I’ve actually listened in on such conversations at parties. Yes, I used to go to parties. A long time ago. Before they stopped inviting me. Because I listened in on private conversations. About me.

For Leftists, White privilege just is; it is an article of faith. The fact that you refuse to accept its existence proves that it exists and that you have it (if you are White). If you are a minority and refuse to accept its existence, you are a self-hating White wannabe (try saying that to my wife; but wait until I’m there to watch. Please).

One of the special super-secret, I’m smirking at you because you don’t get it things about “White privilege” believers is that it is so invidious and invisible and pervasive that you as a White person cannot see it or feel it or understand it. Only the White people who know it is there and point it out to you and lecture you about it can see it.

It’s like the people with wisdom and vison in the Emperor’s New Clothes. If you argue against it, it is because you are too stupid to see it.

But look, the boy says. There is no science, no empirical data. There is no common sense, because you cannot apply common sense to these statements. They simply do not apply in today’s world.

Silly boy.

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Geraldo Sophist: Illegal Aliens Not Illegal Because They Have Not Been Convicted

I am a sometimes viewer of Outnumbered on Fox News Channel (noon East Coast, 9 AM here in AZ where we bitterly cling).  Not nearly as good as The Five, but occasionally entertaining.

Geraldo Rivera, who hit his peak during the OJ Simpson trial and has declined since, is a staunch defender of open borders and amnesty.  Yesterday on the show (which features four lovely ladies and one outnumbered man, hence the title), he was blathering about the current border brouhaha.   In one of his usual nonsensical immigration rants he claimed, pulling on his “lawyer” hat (I do not believe he ever practiced, although I believe he did pass some state’s bar exam, too lazy to look up), “Don’t call them illegal, that requires a judicial determination.  (I’m quoting from memory here.)

Sorry, Geraldo.  That’s about as accurate a statement as “There’s amazing loot in Al Capone’s vault!”

A person violates a statute when they violate the statute.  They have committed the violation; they have done something illegal (think “You made an illegal right turn”).  Commission of the crime is different than being convicted of the crime, which happens before a judge or magistrate.  A bank robber is still a bank robber even if they are never caught, tried and convicted.  A person is not illegally in the country just because they have not been caught, appeared before a judge, and been convicted of, for example, 8 U.S.C. § 1325.  They are illegally in the country because they have avoided examination or inspection and entered the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers.  They are illegal aliens, illegal immigrants.  They are not undocumented immigrants, concerned parents from depressed countries, wretched refuse yearning to breathe free, or whatever.  Emma Lazarus was writing about legal immigrants, who passed inspection, waited in line, filled out paperwork, and many of whom were actually sent back to where they came from and never set foot on U.S. soil past Ellis Island.

So wrong. Geraldo.  Yet again.  But said with such conviction!

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When You Take the Gun, Take the Ammo: or, Jack Bauer’s Curse Revisited

One thing that drove my dad crazy was when the good guy escaped from the bad guy in a movie or TV show and didn’t take the bad guy’s gun after knocking him out.

I realize it was a plot device (can’t have the good guy armed, to make it more exciting), but it really is an example of lazy writing. You can keep the danger level artificially high by making the hero artificially vulnerable. In my mind it just makes the hero artificially stupid. Colonel John Casey would never do that.

My son and I are watching the 24 series in sequence (we are just about to start season seven). Jack Bauer, the Kiefer Sutherland character, is as hard-boiled and efficient as trained agents come. He generally picks up weapons as he goes along (as any kid who has ever played a shooter game knows to do these days), but he rarely searches the body for extra ammo clips. When you are fighting your way through a mob of well-armed bad guys that is more than foolish, and I cannot believe a well-trained agent would not pause the few extra seconds to strip the body of everything useful (clips, cell phone, radio, etc.). The only time the writers have this done is if they have an immediate need for something on the body.

Yet 24 is supposed to be the ultimate in realism. It is supposed to take place in real time. Even the commercial breaks happen in real time – when you come back from commercials, 3 to 5 minutes have ticked away on the clock. We joke that some day when we come back we will hear someone say, “Sorry, Jack, LA is gone! You missed it!”

So Jack should do everything by the book, and take stuff that he doesn’t need for the plot twists. Just like a real agent would do, never knowing what would come in handy.

Perhaps one reason Jack doesn’t act like a trained agent or military vet in the circumstances is that, unlike many series, 24 does not appear to have a dedicated armorer from the credits (just prop masters who, certainly, have to know their way around guns). They also do not credit military or intelligence technical advisors (other than a Navy advisor presumably for water scenes). While civilians may well understand gun safety and proper handling of weapons, squibs, etc., they are not conditioned to think about ammo loadout for combat teams or how quickly weapons burn through rounds in a firefight. Guns run out of rounds when writers find it convenient.  Quite possibly the closest the writers and costume designers have come to real combat gear is Arnold suiting up in Commando

My son gets angry with me for yelling at the TV, “Grab the mags, grab the mags!”  “He can’t hear you,” he calmly says.  “Maybe he can,” I mutter.

Now, the rest of this post takes a different turn, but still ranting on 24 (which we do enjoy, even if it makes the military tend to look like warmongering fools with no sense of consequences). If you Google (I prefer Bing, because they are a little less obsequious to China) “curse of Jack Bauer” you generally get a reference to a little speech by Defense Secretary James Heller (William Devane) in season six. Jack used to work for Heller, and fell in love with Heller’s daughter, Audrey Raines (Kim Raver). Heller is telling Jack to never see Audrey again.

What follows is a major spoiler for the series so far, so if you don’t want major events spoiled, read no further. You have been warned! Dun dun dun dunnnnn.

My son and I enlarged upon this conversation a bit.  We both checked the web to see if we could find anything like it but couldn’t, so here’s our contribution.

Jack: “What do you mean I’m cursed?”

Heller: “Well, let’s see. There was your wife, Teri? Remember her? You brought her here, to CTU, safest place in Los Angeles. She was murdered in the basement, just below us here. That was after she had been kidnapped and raped that day.”

Jack: “Uh, yeah.”

Heller: “And your daughter, Kim. She was kidnapped. Twice, or maybe three times, I believe. Arrested. Had to kill one… no, two men. One she shot in the back. The other one she wounded, but you told her over the phone to just keep shooting until he was dead. Remember that?”

Jack clears his throat: “Yes.”

Heller: “Lovely girl. How is Kim? ”

Jack: “She hasn’t spoken to me in years.”

Heller: “Ah. And Nina. Your lover. That’s right, she’s the one who killed your wife, Teri. Just downstairs here in CTU. Turned out to be a double agent. And then you murdered her, too. Just downstairs here in CTU, safest place in LA.”

Jack: silence

Heller: “You were originally at odds with George Mason from Division, but then became friends with him. I forget. What happened to him?”

Jack: Mumble mumble.

Heller: “What was that?”

Jack: “He was dying of radiation poisoning so he blew himself up in a nuclear explosion in the Mojave Desert.”

Heller: “Yes. That was it.”

Heller: “I remember a nice chubby intelligence analyst at CTU who was always secretly helping you against orders. Edgar Stiles, I think his name was. Brilliant chap, but a bit socially challenged. But always there for you. How’s he doing?”

Jack: “He got caught in a nerve gas attack on CTU. I watched him die. I couldn’t do anything to help.”

Heller: “Died? Here in CTU, safest place in LA? Sorry. And your good friends Tony Almeida and Michelle Dessler. Weren’t they a lovely couple? And they went through so much to be together! Married, separated, then reunited and out of this ugly business to carry on their lives together after risking their careers and lives for you and each other many times! Let’s see…. She was blown up by a car bomb to try to frame you and Tony was killed by Christopher Henderson, the man who recruited you into CTU and trained you, correct? Wasn’t Tony killed right here in CTU, safest place in LA?”

Jack: “I get your point about CTU.”

Heller: “And what happened to Henderson, who was more than a father to you than your father was?”

Jack: “I executed him.”

Heller: “Speaking of your family, how is your brother? Wait, I know. Didn’t you have him tortured? And didn’t you find out he had ordered the assignation of President Palmer and framed you for it, and plotted your murder? And didn’t your father kill him? So how’s your father? No, no, I have this one, too. After your nephew, who is all of fifteen and following the family tradition, shot him, you left your father to die in an air strike on an oil rig in the Pacific. Good times, good times.”

Heller: “President David Palmer. Your good friend. You saved his life, he saved your life. You helped him out of several major crises, and he was your staunch supporter. His assassination was a terrible thing. And they tried to blame it on you. Your brother was behind that, and your father. Always that Bauer connection.”

Heller: “Finally, Bill Buchanan. Another Division suit who came to CTU, took you a while to warm up to him, then you were great friends and allies. Worked together well, had each other’s backs. He was in and out of CTU, and you worked together even when he was officially off the books and under investigation. Now he has been forced to retire along with his wife by the Vice President himself, neither of them ever to work again. All because of Jack Bauer.”

Heller: “Which leads me to my daughter, Audrey. Jack, every person who has loved you or tried to help you or befriended you has turned up dead, retired, or not speaking to you. My daughter is now in a vegetative state. If you come back into her life she will probably end up dead. Do her a favor. Stay away.”

My guess is he won’t. And my guess (not having seen past season six) is she will die when he comes back into her life. But who am I to see the future?

And Jack – take the extra few seconds to pick up any extra clips and the bad guy’s cell phone after you kill them.  You never know when they will come in handy.