His public speeches are even better than his setpieces:
His public speeches are even better than his setpieces:
In an earlier post, I ranted about the nasty vapidity that characterizes the “posters” my liberal friends put up on Facebook whenever an election draws near. I also mentioned that my conservative friends consistently post more substantive articles and images. This one, from my brother-in-law, manages to be both pithy and substantive. It packs a world of ideas into a picture and two sentences:
I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything before that so clearly distinguishes the fundamental differences in the premises from which socialists and capitalists operate when they make their political arguments. This poster provides a perfect visual to Winston Churchill’s own epigrammatic statement that “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”
Hat tip: Danny Lemieux
In today’s Britain, when something bad happens, all people of good will are trained to stand by. They watch and hope that the omnipresent CCTV will alert the authorities that someone needs help. Indeed, they’re so well-trained that, sometimes, even the authorities stand aside in order to take a break or follow department rules. That’s why it’s rather surprising to read about a 14-year-old boy who threw himself into a wild fight in order to help four security guards who were being assaulted by thugs (emphasis mine):
A teenager in his school uniform dived in to stop a fight which saw four security guards punched, kicked, head-butted and bitten.
Have-a-go-hero Jack Slater, 14, did not spare a thought for his own safety until after he saved the security man from four attackers.
Dozens of adults gathered to watch the spectacle, but only Jack jumped in to help.
Jack, who saw one of the four guards pinned to the ground, jumped onto the back of the assailant and pulled him away.
The teenager, from Maidstone, Kent, said today: ‘The security guards were getting flung around a bit and one of them looked like he was getting overcome.
‘I ran over and grabbed the shoulders of the person he was struggling with and pulled him away.
‘I’ve never done anything like this before and it was only afterwards I thought, “I could’ve been hurt there”.
‘My friend tried to stop me and said I was stupid for getting involved but it was a spur of the moment thing.’
His mother Michelle Slater, 42, said: ‘I told him off at the time for getting involved, but I’m very proud of him.
‘He won’t do anything like that again, hopefully.’
The salient points in that story are as follows: British grown-ups, trained by the state into passivity, watched hooligans attack innocent people. A young boy, whose state training clearly hadn’t taken hold (although it had taken hold in his peers), would not stand idly by but, instead, immediately helped, at no small risk to himself. His mother was angry at him for taking the risk.
Wow. Just wow. That’s what the mighty British empire has dwindled to: a single young boy who still has fire in his belly and courage in his heart.
Progressives and narcissists share an unpleasant trait: If you make a mistake, it proves that you and your ideas are inferior; if they make a mistake, it’s just a mistake. Your mistake is irremediable, because it’s intrinsic to who you are; their mistake is just one of those things, and can be either forcibly forgotten or lied about.
I seem to be aging backwards. I was an extremely self-disciplined young person. If a task needed doing, I buckled down and did it. Now, I feel like a teenager. I’m in perpetual, albeit silent, rebellion against the responsibilities in my life. Because I’m an adult, I don’t openly rebel, but I do take the route of procrastination and passive-aggressive behavior.
When a teenage girl says “I’ll be done in a sec,” resign yourself to a very long wait.
My liberal Facebook friends are not just less informed about current events than my conservative Facebook friends, they’re less interested. All year long, my conservative friends post “content rich” material — newspaper articles, magazine articles, long blog posts — that provide facts and opinion about events in the political and economic scene. And all year long, my liberal friends put up posts about and pictures of themselves. Then, when an election rolls around, the liberals suddenly become very active, putting up clever, albeit vapid and still content-free, political posters lauding Democrats and maligning Republicans. The liberals, however, do not link to longer articles, which indicates either that they don’t read anything beyond posters or bumper stickers, or that they assume that no one else is capable of reading anything longer than a poster or bumper sticker.
My mild dyslexia pops up whenever I type the word “bumper.” I always want to type it “pumber,” because the word “bumper,” more than any other, messes with my ability to distinguish “p” from “b”. If you ever see me write about a “pumber” sticker, you now know why.
Thankfully, here in Marin, we don’t get hurricanes. Sometimes, though, we get some nice winter storms, complete with wind, torrential rain, and thunder & lightning. We’re having one now. I always feel a bit guilty that I enjoy this weather so much. I’m only able to enjoy it because (a) I have a sturdy home that shelters me from the storm and (b) I don’t have to drive long distances through the rain. Those facts give me the luxury to enjoy wild winter weather in Marin.
The most torrential rains I ever experienced were in Texas and England. In both cases, the rain fell so hard that drivers had to pull off the road, because their windshields had become impenetrable. There were no individual drops of rain, just walls of water.
Any idle thoughts you would like to add to this list?
I thought about Margaret Thatcher today. Lord knows, she was something. Brilliant, indomitable, focused, feisty, witty, and absolutely convinced of her right-ness and righteousness. She was the un-RINO. Her unswerving commitment to her principles enabled her to turn England around. We forget that sometimes, because the Labor party managed to take her legacy and destroy it by turning England into an Orwellian state.
For a few brief shining years, though, she fought back against a socialist norm that had turned England into a decayed, drab society. She privatized businesses, fought victorious wars, and generally reminded the English of their greatness. I was there during that transition period. The unions fought back ferociously but Maggie, unlike today’s loosey-goosey Republicans, would not back down. She wasn’t driven by polls or scared by a Leftist media. She understood economics and human nature. The last half of the 1980s and much of the 1990s saw an English economic renaissance. Had the British people been smart, they could have kept it going; instead, they opted for a renewal of socialism, the EU, unlimited immigration, and the strong velvet chains of a nanny state.
I mention this because I refuse to accept that Obama can “destroy” America. He can — and will — damage it. If we can get a handful of Maggie Thatchers, though, or even one Maggie Thatcher, someone who is both a visionary and a fighter, America can be turned around. And if we’re smart, once that turnaround happens, we’ll stick with it.
Incidentally, although this sounds awful, I think we need to go over the fiscal cliff in January. Three reasons: First, this is what Americans voted for and, in a republican democracy, they should get it; Second, the longer we delay, the worse the inevitable fall will be; and Third, this disaster needs to happy during the long haul of a Democrat presidency (and Senate) so that Americans can grasp cause-and-effect. Only when the socialist economic infection erupts in its full fury will Americans begin to accept that their nation is sick. When that happens, God willing, we’ll have a Thatcher-esque politician cogently explaining to Americans that the cure lies in reaffirming constitutional and free market principles.
This is what I’m reading right now, and with great pleasure too:
One of the things I find most distasteful about ObamaCare is its requirement that employers must provide insurance coverage for their employees’ children through their 26th year. I don’t find this just economically wrong, I find it cosmically, morally wrong that our federal government has officially extended childhood until citizens are 26. I cannot think of a single reason why our national policy should be to delay normal human mental and emotional maturation. Progressives seem to have added to the Constitution, right after “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” a coda saying that being Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up, is a legitimate career goal.
I mentioned yesterday that, over the Thanksgiving weekend, I listened (and am listening to) both Joseph Ellis’s American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic and David McCulloch’s 1776. One of the things that comes through so clearly in these books is that the Founding Fathers were adults, not children, and they were adults because, from a very young age, all of them had taken on adult responsibilities, whether as soldiers, surveyors, blacksmiths, booksellers, lawyers, farmers, printers, or whatever other careers the Founders pursued. Even gentlemen farmers such as Jefferson still had myriad responsibilities for their estates and the people dependent on those estates.
That all of them took on responsibility so early was not unusual; it was the norm. What would have struck all of them as peculiar was a world view holding that, during your peak years of childbearing, physical strength, and mental adaptability, you should lounge around the house pursuing your bliss and living off of your parents. Necessity required the Founders to work and grow. A combination of affluence and socialism ensures that our children can remain adolescent well into their late 20s.
Nowadays, the majority of American children stay in school until age 18. In Colonial times, but for a few college-bound gentlemen, by 18 most would have been employed for years. The women would already have had children and that would have been true whether they were ladies of leisure, or working women responsible for a family farm, a washing business, housework, etc.
For too many Americans, though, adulthood doesn’t even begin at 18. The middle and upper classes send their children to college. For $20,000 to $50,000 per year (payable by their parents or the government, either through direct grants or guaranteed loans), they attend a few classes, take some tests, meet new people, party a lot, travel (always at someone else’s expense) and generally delay taking on any real responsibility. Many of them study subjects that will have no measurable benefit on their lives, either in terms of future income or acquired knowledge. Only once these youngsters graduate, at 21 or 22, do some of them finally start working for real. Some of them get married and have children. Too many, however, continue to be adolescents: they get low-level jobs (although it’s not always their fault in the Obama economy) and they still look to Mom and Dad for financial support and insurance. Partying remains important.
The degree jockeys further extend their adolescence with further education. Some actually study things that will prove remunerative (law, medicine, architecture, business, etc.), but many opt for purely academic disciplines, getting advanced degrees in History, Medieval French, Puppetry, Womyn’s Studies, etc. They do so despite knowing that there is almost no chance that they’ll get a job in their field. I would never make such a foolish decision with my time and money. When I finished my undergraduate education, despite my abiding love for history, I knew I would never get a job in my field. The grad students in the history department told me that, in my graduation year, there were only four PhD level job openings for history majors in the entire United States. I went to law school instead.
People need to grow up. They are just as stunted without mental maturation as they would be if a disease or dietary deficiency kept their bodies from growing properly. I realized the truth of this when I had children. Although I’d worked as a lawyer for many years, and had my own business, until I had children and truly had others entirely dependent upon me, I was still a kid. Nothing I did really mattered. When you have children, everything matters. Your choices are suddenly monumental, since they affect not only you but a helpless human being, who needs you desperately and looks up to you with love and respect. I definitely miss the irresponsibility of my youth, but I wouldn’t go back. I was biologically destined to mature, and it feels right.
What triggered this post about the terrible effect of ObamaCare’s perpetual adolescence factor is an email that has been making the rounds in Britain. Nick Crews, a British Navy retiree, apparently had a bad Christmas with his three adult children last year. By February of this year, he couldn’t keep it bottled up any more, so he sent them an email saying that they needed to stop whining and flailing about, and needed to begin taking responsibility for their lives. Crews is absolutely right, although I believe that, because his children were raised in a socialist nation that turns the state into a perpetual parent who feeds, clothes, and otherwise provides for the citizen-children, he’s fighting a rearguard action:
Dear All Three
With last evening’s crop of whinges and tidings of more rotten news for which you seem to treat your mother like a cess-pit, I feel it is time to come off my perch.
It is obvious that none of you has the faintest notion of the bitter disappointment each of you has in your own way dished out to us. We are seeing the miserable death throes of the fourth of your collective marriages at the same time we see the advent of a fifth.
We are constantly regaled with chapter and verse of the happy, successful lives of the families of our friends and relatives and being asked of news of our own children and grandchildren. I wonder if you realise how we feel — we have nothing to say which reflects any credit on you or us. We don’t ask for your sympathy or understanding — Mum and I have been used to taking our own misfortunes on the chin, and making our own effort to bash our little paths through life without being a burden to others. Having done our best — probably misguidedly — to provide for our children, we naturally hoped to see them in turn take up their own banners and provide happy and stable homes for their own children.
Fulfilling careers based on your educations would have helped — but as yet none of you is what I would confidently term properly self-supporting. Which of you, with or without a spouse, can support your families, finance your home and provide a pension for your old age? Each of you is well able to earn a comfortable living and provide for your children, yet each of you has contrived to avoid even moderate achievement. Far from your children being able to rely on your provision, they are faced with needing to survive their introduction to life with you as parents.
So we witness the introduction to this life of six beautiful children — soon to be seven — none of whose parents have had the maturity and sound judgment to make a reasonable fist at making essential threshold decisions. None of these decisions were made with any pretence to ask for our advice.
In each case we have been expected to acquiesce with mostly hasty, but always in our view, badly judged decisions. None of you has done yourself, or given to us, the basic courtesy to ask us what we think while there was still time finally to think things through. The predictable result has been a decade of deep unhappiness over the fates of our grandchildren. If it wasn’t for them, Mum and I would not be too concerned, as each of you consciously, and with eyes wide open, crashes from one cock-up to the next. It makes us weak that so many of these events are copulation-driven, and then helplessly to see these lovely little people being so woefully let down by you, their parents.
I can now tell you that I for one, and I sense Mum feels the same, have had enough of being forced to live through the never-ending bad dream of our children’s underachievement and domestic ineptitudes. I want to hear no more from any of you until, if you feel inclined, you have a success or an achievement or a REALISTIC plan for the support and happiness of your children to tell me about. I don’t want to see your mother burdened any more with your miserable woes — it’s not as if any of the advice she strives to give you has ever been listened to with good grace — far less acted upon. So I ask you to spare her further unhappiness. If you think I have been unfair in what I have said, by all means try to persuade me to change my mind. But you won’t do it by simply whingeing and saying you don’t like it. You’ll have to come up with meaty reasons to demolish my points and build a case for yourself. If that isn’t possible, or you simply can’t be bothered, then I rest my case.
I am bitterly, bitterly disappointed.
Despite the letter’s harsh tone, at least one of his children said it was something she needed to hear.
In Obama’s America, a lot of parents will soon feel like writing to their children the same letter Crews wrote to his.
There’s nothing I enjoy more than seeing someone slice and dice Paul Krugman’s latest idiocies. Randall Hoven does a magnificent job. The only sad thing about it is that he’s preaching to the choir. The ones who really should read his article — namely, the ones who think Krugman is actually smart and honest — will resolutely turn their eyes away from anything that doesn’t bear the liberal media’s imprimatur.
I’ve been feeling smug because, next month, I’m going into San Francisco to hear Stephen Moore speak about his new book, Who’s the Fairest of Them All?: The Truth about Opportunity, Taxes, and Wealth in America. I’m feeling even more smug now, because the inestimable Thomas Sowell gives it the highest possible praise:
If everyone in America had read Stephen Moore’s new book, Who’s the Fairest of Them All?: The Truth about Opportunity, Taxes, and Wealth in America, Barack Obama would have lost the election in a landslide.
Now I’ve added excitement to my previously existing smugness.
There’s something wrong with America when it’s Germany that leads the way in announcing that it will not back the formation of a Palestinian state at the UN. Germany’s absolutely right, of course. The Palestinians, despite getting Gaza to themselves, have done nothing to create even a semblance of a state. They have no civil structure, no law, and no economy other than handouts from other nations. All they’ve got is a thriving genocide-centered terrorism industry. I wonder when Susan Rice, who currently does occupy the position of the U.S.’s ambassador to the UN, will get on board with this one.
Speaking of Rice, Republicans on Capitol Hill, and those few RINOs to whom the media grants access, are again allowing themselves to be silenced by the strident Progressive/Democrat bleat that they are “racist” for opposing Susan Rice’s possible nomination to be Secretary of State. As for me, I hadn’t realized Rice was black. I’ve seen her pictures, but I just assumed she was darker of complexion than I am.
Frankly, everyone is darker of complexion than I am. When I was a baby in my stroller, my mom stepped onto an elevator that already held a woman and her young child. The woman took one look at me, and then pulled her child towards herself, saying “Say away from that baby, Amanda. She’s a very sick baby.” I was not sick. That was me in the pink of health. I just assumed that Rice was really healthy. That she self-identifies as black actually surprised me.
But back to the topic at hand, which is the real reasons Rice is unqualified for the post of Secretary of State. (Although I will say that anyone who takes on the job from Hillary Clinton is in the fortunate position of having very little shoes to fill.) For those who lose their brain power every time the word “racist” comes from the Democrat party, Joel Pollak has assembled a list of the top ten substantive reasons to oppose her nomination. Because I wasn’t really paying attention in the 90s, I didn’t realize that her habit of lying to protect the Democrats is an old habit:
9. Refused to call Rwanda genocide a “genocide,” for political reasons. According to Obama advisor Samantha Power, Rice urged the Clinton administration not to call the Rwandan genocide what it was, for fear of the political impact on U.S. congressional elections in 1994. She and others worked to sanitize references to the genocide, scrubbing government memos to remove words such as “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing.”
The other facts in the top ten list are equally damning. It’s not Rice’s dark skin that means she’s not fit to serve. It’s her absence of any sort of moral compass.
And finally, while we’re on the topic of people lacking a moral compass, here’s a short primer on all of the photo and video fraud that Hamas and its media enablers were able to propagate during a conflict that lasted a mere seven days:
Consider this an Open Thread, and feel free to add your own interesting comments and links.
For our Thanksgiving drive to L.A., I went to our local library and got several books on CD. Since our small family manages not to have any overlapping areas of interest, this is always a challenge. One wants teenage hero spy books, another wants high school romantic dramadies (half drama, half comedy), another wants books on computer technology, and I like history books. Fate favored me because , on the day I went to the library, the only available books on CD that would meet any of those parameters were the history books.
The kids were not amused. In a compromise, we ended up spending half of each drive listening to the videos they got to watch from the back seat (fyi, The Simpsons is fun to listen to), and half the drive listening to David McCulloch’s 1776. My husband was so delighted with this book that, upon our return, he put it in his own car so that he could listen to the rest of it while driving to work.
I, meanwhile, put Joseph Ellis’ American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic in the CD player in my car. Since I drove about 100 miles yesterday to go to my pistol class, I was able to listen to the first disk. It’s a delightful book, because Ellis shares my approach to American history: it’s not about plaster saints or blinkered, evil white guys. It’s about real people, in real time, dealing with real issues. And yes, the Founding Fathers were special.
The Founders’ unique abilities came about by virtue of the particular historic time they occupied (what one might call the culmination of the Enlightenment), the incredible bounty of the American continent, their one hundred plus years of freedom as the British government ignored them (right up until the French-Indian War), and the education and class freedom that distinguished them from their European peers and from modern man. Despite these benefits and virtues, they still made mistakes, their personalities interfered with their decision-making, and they punted on the hard decisions because they wanted their own nation more than they wanted to free the slaves. Those nuances are what make history interesting.
Ellis has a nice turn of phrase and a good eye for historic details, so the book is an effortless listen (or read). I also detect in his tone a decided disdain for the Howard Zinn school of history, one that throws away the baby with the bath water. Characterizing the Founders as racist, sexist hypocrites not only obscures their great accomplishments, it also diminishes Americans’ ability to understand their past, to control their present, and, in some small measure, to affect their future.
Listening to the book reminded me that one of the things that makes the Founders so fascinating is that they were men of truly catholic tastes. Everything interested them. No man from the Colonial era better exemplifies this quality than Benjamin Franklin. (Thomas Jefferson loses first place because he was a bit too Southern elitist.) Franklin was feted the world over for inventing the lightening rod, a device that drastically reduced a terrible scourge. He also invented the Franklin Stove, bifocals (bless his heart), and the public library.
Before Franklin came along, libraries were reserved for rich people. Even with the advent of the printing press, books were still expensive, and it was the fortunate man indeed who was both literate and capable of putting together a library of his own. Now of course, we take libraries completely for granted. In my community, we have ten public libraries, all of which are clean, well-stocked, well-maintained, and have wonderful on-line resources.
In a historical irony that Ben Franklin would fully have appreciated, modern Britain also has a splendid public library, one that includes a suburb on-line system. The aristocrats of old might be rolling in their graves, but Ben Franklin, who was also an entrepreneur extraordinaire would especially appreciate the fact that the British library has a department devoted to business planning. Yup. That former bastion of intellectual and class exclusivity now has a great resource for British residents who want to see if they can make it on their own.
As a confirmed bookworm, I feel blessed to live in era that not only has public libraries, but that also puts so many resources on-line, so that one doesn’t even have to go to the library to experience the library’s benefit. Is this the best of all possible worlds or what?
(BTW, if you’re interested in learning more about Benjamin Franklin, I highly recommend Benjamin Franklin’s own quite delightful autobiography, and Walter Isaacson’s slightly more honest look at Franklin’s life as a whole.)
I’m on a mailing list that introduces potential book reviewers to newly published books. Today’s email was about “romances.” I quickly scanned the list of books to see whether any were worth requesting to read and review. None were, but this one caught my eye:
Kink is not my cup of tea, so it wasn’t the cover of the book that intrigued me, with its intimations of whips, chains, Great Danes, and three on a chandelier, nor was it the description of the various esoteric activities the book covers:
Christmas is a time of love and joy, and the New Year is a time of renewal. But they are also times of stress and strife, family drama, pressure and heartache – a potent mix of high expectations and conflicted emotions. Add in power exchange relationships, kinky gift swaps, and unconventional love in a sometimes unforgiving world, and you have a formula for a sizzling anthology of stories that tug at your heart.
Nope. None of that was interesting. What made me laugh, though, was this bit of information:
20% of all proceeds from O Come All Ye Kinky will be donated to the Domestic Violence Project of the National Leather Association–International.
First of all, I didn’t know there was a National Leather Association, international or domestic. Second of all, to the extent it celebrates, not just wearing leather, but using leather for “disciplinary” purposes (or, as it calls these activities, BDSM), it seems funny (to me, at least) that this organization focuses on domestic violence. I guess it’s not “domestic violence” if your partner agrees with the whole whips and chains thing.
Did any of you catch a story the other day claiming that a study of porn actresses showed that they’re happier and better adjusted than their non-porn peers?
The report in the Journal of Sex Research found that porn stars are not more likely to have psychological problems than other women.
In fact, they discovered those in the sex entertainment industry had a more positive outlook on life with higher self-confidence and more flattering views on their body image.
‘In terms of psychological characteristics, porn actresses had higher levels of self-esteem, positive feelings, social support, sexual satisfaction and spirituality compared to the matched group,’ the report summarises.
The way that study reads, it sounds as if those dealing with depression or other mental health issues should head for the San Fernando Valley in Southern California, home of myriad porn studios, rather than seeking out more traditional options, such as a therapist, anti-depressants, or, in more serious cases, a full-care residential facility. Sadly, we have a thread of depression running through my family’s history, and various family members have (or could have) benefited from some or all three options.
Such options weren’t always available, of course. My mother’s maternal uncle and her paternal grandmother both suffered greatly from mental illnesses that were probably bi-polar disorder in his case and histrionic personality disorder in her case. The Nazis dealt with these problems quite efficiently by killing my great-uncle and great, great grandmother. I don’t know about my father’s family’s mental health history, although most of them ended up being killed by the Nazis too. Maybe all of them could have avoided these fates if they’d become happy porn stars.
Let me say that I don’t believe this study at all. For one thing, it’s got a very small sampling: 171 porn actresses. For another thing, these actresses were compared to some magical “average” woman. Lastly, I’m dubious about this kind of self-reported happiness, given the lives they lead. I know people who practice . . . hmmm . . . let’s say “alternate” sexual lives. These women tell me, almost aggressively, that they’re “happy” with their choices and that having myriad sexual encounters with nameless, faceless men makes them feel like sex goddesses.
That’s what they say. What I see are women who rely heavily on pot and other drugs to maintain an anesthetized distances from their life choices. Indeed, the study acknowledges greater drug use amongst the porn actresses studied:
While the report challenged the stereotype of porn actresses as drug addicts, drug use was found to be more prevalent among the entertainers. They were more likely to have tried ten different types of drugs compared to the control group.
These women also age much more rapidly than their cleaner-living peers. I don’t know if it’s the sex or the drugs, but you can tell that they’ve been around the block a few thousand times.
Of course, if you report yourself as happy, maybe you are happy. After all, our emotional well-being is a state-of-mind and, as the saying goes, mind over matter works: if you don’t mind, it don’t matter. If these women are convinced that they’re not prematurely aged, substance using (not necessarily “abusing,” but “using) people whose lives are defined by their exhibitionist sexual habits, but are, instead, desirable, beautiful women, than I guess they are — their perception of reality defines their reality.
We know, though, that young girls who are sexually promiscuous are less happy than their peers. Hearing that porn stars are happy shouldn’t be used as an indicator that exhibitionism is a recipe for happiness. At most, with such a small sampling, the study shows that people with unusual predilections have found their niche. Most people, I suspect, would find that niche to be a very demoralizing place, indeed, and certainly not a panacea for depression or just routine unhappiness.
I had a delightful reason for my blog silence today: I had a pistol safety and training class, followed by an instructor supervised hour at the shooting range. As you all know, on November 28, 2009 — exactly three years ago — I went to the shooting range with my brother-in-law and had a wonderful time.
Up until today, that long-ago outing was my first and last day at a shooting range. Back home, none of my friends are interested in going to the local gun range. I’ve heard it’s very good, but I was too intimidated to go on my own. Also, while our local shooting range has very competitive prices for the San Francisco Bay Area, it was more than I could justify spending on something that would be purely for my pleasure.
So I didn’t shoot any guns in 2010, or in 2011, or in most of 2012.
What changed this non-shooting pattern was a Living Social offer I got in my email: three hours of pistol safety and usage training, plus one instructor hour on the range, all for $75.00. Saying “yes” to that was a no-brainer.
Early this morning, feeling a mixture of excitement and trepidation, I made the 50 minute drive to Burlingame to Bay Area Firearms. If you are thinking of going there, be warned: if you don’t have navigation on the car, memorize the route beforehand, because the exit interchange and overpass is one of the most complicated I’ve ever experienced. Thankfully, I do have navigation in my car, or I think I’d still be looking for the place now.
Bay Area Firearms is tucked away almost invisibly in a little office complex. The front of the office sells and rents scuba gear. The back of the office is dedicated to weapons and weapon training. Scott, the owner and one of my instructors, had four or five gun safes, each about 4 feet tall, occupying the far wall of the room in which I trained. (I appreciated the fact that, every time he opened a safe, he was meticulous about locking it the moment he finished using it.)
I got lucky, because I was originally supposed to be part of a group class. When the other two attendees canceled, however, I had Scott all to myself. And when Scott started feeling ill (Get Well Soon, Scott!), he seamlessly passed me into Dean’s very capable hands. Both men were very patient and supportive. They fully agreed with my philosophy (at least when it comes to physical skills) that repetition is the best teacher.
The gun I learned on and used was a Glock 23. After going through the NRA’s fundamental gun safety rules several times to make sure I fully understood them, Scott and Dean taught me how to use the gun. This started with the stance (a good fighting stance), how to pick the gun up, how to insert the magazine, etc. They were very particular about my having a good grip, which I found very helpful. Not only did it stabilize the gun, but it also meant that my finger didn’t wander down to the trigger until I was actually ready to fire.
Because Bay Area Firearms doesn’t have an attached range, Dean and I headed even further south to Reed’s Indoor Range, in the heart of Silicon Valley. It is a very impressive place. I arrived at the tail end of lunch and the front room, where they process people and sell myriad guns and gun supplies, was packed. I later learned that firing a few rounds at the range during lunch is a popular activity at Reed’s. The staff was helpful and friendly. Also (and the ladies will appreciate how important this is) the single bathroom — that is, one used by both men and women — was immaculate. It seems that guys who shoot guns have good aim no matter the activity.
Dean was great. He explained everything to me, patiently took me step-by-step through the first few rounds, and was very supportive of my progress. Here’s the target I worked on:
The results aren’t actually as bad as they look. With straight-on shooting, at about 25-30 feet, I consistently hit inside the red part or inside the circle immediately next to the red part. My shooting degraded somewhat when we moved the target further back to about 45 feet. It took my a little while to compensate for the curve. Also my vision, when fully corrected, is only 20/30, so I was a bit outside of my vision range. Whether near or far, you can see that I periodically swung left. I’m left hand dominant, and it took a huge effort for me to keep absolutely straight. Still, I stayed within the No. 9 circle, except for a few very close eights.
The stray shots — the ones in the No. 8 circle and the black areas — happened when I tried the triple shot: tap, tap-tap. If I had been shooting an intruder, I would have gotten his torso every time, but only the first shot would have been on target. I also had a hard time doing one-hand shooting with my right hand, which accounted for a couple of those wild shots. I did much better shooting one-handed with my left hand. By then, though, I was starting to feel my muscles. I’m in very good shape, but holding a 31 oz gun at arm’s length was working muscle groups I didn’t know I had. By the last round, I had a fine tremor going on.
Dean paid me a very nice compliment, which was that I did a very good job of grouping. And, if you look at the first two circles (the red and the first white), I think he was right. “You have good focus,” he said. I don’t know about that, but I do know that I had good fun.
In addition to fun, I was reminded that, if used carelessly or with malice, guns are very dangerous. If used correctly, though, with proper respect for the harm they can cause, guns are a delightful form of recreation. There’s something viscerally satisfying about firing a gun and hitting the target — and the better the shot, the more satisfying it is.
The Watcher’s Council members took time off from turkey and stuffing to read and vote on the Thanksgiving week submissions. If you haven’t read the submissions, they’re good, damn good. The winners, placers, and show-ers are below. But first, a little reminder that the Watcher’s Council forum is up. I didn’t participate this week (for the same reason I didn’t blog, which was that I was on the road and the iPad sometimes defeats me), but you’ll enjoy what other Council members have to say about the Gaza ceasefire.
In today’s news, we learned that Muslims in Libya kidnapped twelve men that they claimed were homosexuals in order to execute them:
Extremists say they will execute a dozen men they allege are homosexuals, whom they abducted last Thursday at a private party in Tripoli’s Ain Zara district.
A body calling itself the ‘Private Deterrent Force’, which is believed to be part of the extremist Nawasi militia group, has posted images of the men on their Facebook page. One picture (above) shows them, heads covered, standing with their hands against a wall.
At the time of writing, the picture had received 315 ‘likes’ and had received comments such as “flog them hard”, “lets see the bullets”, and “ride them like camels”.
Accompanying text describes the men as “the third sex” and says that they are to be mutilated and executed.
I posted this on my Facebook page, along with a comment saying that, lately, nothing good has come out of Libya. Within a few minutes, a high school classmate, very gay, commented on this post. Interestingly, he didn’t comment on the post to excoriate a culture that brutally murders his fellow homosexuals. Instead, he said that the Middle East isn’t very gay friendly, but neither are any Christian countries, including the U.S. Before I could take him to task for that manifest idiocy, another friend of mine — a Democrat gay man who is a closet conservative — chimed in to say that this was the stupidest comment he’d ever heard, and that it was impossible to conflate the Muslim’s murderous approach towards gays with any attitude towards gays displayed in a Western, majority-Christian country.
Since my closeted conservative friend had dealt more than adequately with this gay Leftist idiocy, I opted for a different line of thinking. Assuming that, as a Leftist, he’s fairly pro-Israel, even as he supports the same countries that murder gays, I decided to put in a plug for Israel. I therefore pointed out that there’s a sad, funny irony in the fact that the safest place for gay Palestinians is Israel, with accords full civil rights to the LGBT crowd. Since I always like to back up my statements with evidence, I went trolling on Google for news stories about how Palestinian gays find sanctuary in Israel.
What I found, to my surprise, were savage attacks from the Left about the fact that Israel is hospitable to gays. The previous sentence is not the result of a typographical error. The Left finds it absolutely infuriating that Israel treats gays like people (just as it does women and its Arab citizens). As far as the Left is concerned, this is all a despicable trick aimed at hiding the fact that it is an Imperialist Nazi-like nation bound and determined to commit genocide against its Palestinian neighbors. (The Left conveniently ignores the soaring Palestinian population, something inconsistent with decades of alleged genocide, just as it ignores the genocidal, antisemitic rantings emanating from all parts of the Muslim world, rantings that have no anti-Arab corollary in Israel.)
This is not fringe stuff. Perhaps because I was busy with Thanksgiving travel last November (2011), I missed completely a Jewish lesbian’s nasty opinion piece in the New York Times accusing Israel of “pinkwashing”:
After generations of sacrifice and organization, gay people in parts of the world have won protection from discrimination and relationship recognition. But these changes have given rise to a nefarious phenomenon: the co-opting of white gay people by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim political forces in Western Europe and Israel.
In the Netherlands, some Dutch gay people have been drawn to the messages of Geert Wilders, who inherited many followers of the assassinated anti-immigration gay leader Pim Fortuyn, and whose Party for Freedom is now the country’s third largest political party. In Norway, Anders Behring Breivik, the extremist who massacred 77 people in July, cited Bruce Bawer, a gay American writer critical of Muslim immigration, as an influence. The Guardian reported last year that the racist English Defense League had 115 members in its gay wing. The German Lesbian and Gay Federation has issued statements citing Muslim immigrants as enemies of gay people.
These depictions of immigrants — usually Muslims of Arab, South Asian, Turkish or African origin — as “homophobic fanatics” opportunistically ignore the existence of Muslim gays and their allies within their communities. They also render invisible the role that fundamentalist Christians, the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Jews play in perpetuating fear and even hatred of gays. And that cynical message has now spread from its roots in European xenophobia to become a potent tool in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The growing global gay movement against the Israeli occupation has named these tactics “pinkwashing”: a deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians’ human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life. Aeyal Gross, a professor of law at Tel Aviv University, argues that “gay rights have essentially become a public-relations tool,” even though “conservative and especially religious politicians remain fiercely homophobic.”
Pinkwashing not only manipulates the hard-won gains of Israel’s gay community, but it also ignores the existence of Palestinian gay-rights organizations.
Sarah Schulman, who wrote that putrid little piece, should be given a one-way ticket to Iran or Saudi Arabia or Libya or Gaza to see what kind of “gay rights” exist in those parts of the world. The “rights” usually boil down to “Do you want to be hanged, stoned, flayed, or beheaded for the crime of being a homosexual or lesbian?” Of course, that’s not what would happen if she went to those backwards countries. Backwards they may be, but they know a useful idiot when they see one. Schulman would be feted and stuffed full of propaganda about the love Muslims feel for gays.
What’s just as bad as Schulman’s willful obtuseness is the fact that she’s got a nice platform from which to indoctrinate equally stupid, blind gays here at home. (I’m not saying all gays are stupid and blind. I am saying that those who believe Leftism is more important than human rights are willing vessels for this kind of propaganda.) You see, Schulman is a “Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at the City University of New York, College of Staten Island and a Fellow at the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University.” Not just a professor, but a “distinguished” professor. To my mind, she is distinguished only by being either evil, or stupid to the point of being evil.
Reality, stripped of politically-correct pap — or, Hamas is even worse than the Nazis:
Al Gore got a lot of mileage out of likening the slow accretion of anthropogenic climate change to a frog in cold water that was gradually being heated to boiling point. He contended that, just as the frogs were lulled by the gradual heat to be the point at which they’d fail to react when the heat became deadly, so too were we humans going to allow our planet slowly to boil us to death.
Except that everything Al Gore said was untrue. First of all, there’s increasing evidence that anthropogenic global warming doesn’t exist. Climate change definitely exists, and always has. Sadly for Gore’s inflated sense of self, though, the earth’s climate does not bend to human will. Humans are capable of polluting their environment, something that they’ve done since time immemorial, but the evidence for them changing the climate doesn’t add up. Second of all, frogs do not allow themselves to be slow-boiled.
Unlike the earth’s climate, humans have direct responsibility for economic changes. In America, the tension is between free markets and a government-managed economy. At the federal level, voters opted for government-management. At the local level, it was a mixed bag. As a resident of California, I can tell you that a government-managed economy, especially one further tainted by union favoritism, is a recipe for economic disaster. In California, we are the frogs in the hot pot.
Here’s the question: will we humans react like real frogs and try to escape from the government-managed economic mess we’ve created, or will we go Gore and sit there was we boil to death?
After a lovely long weekend with family, we’re getting in the car today and heading home. If things go well, the drive should take about seven hours. If we get stuck in holiday traffic (as happened when we drove down), we’re looking at nine hours on the road.
I might be able to blog tonight, but there’s no possibility of doing so today. Consider this, then, your Sunday open thread.
Since my links are getting wiped out when I post on iPad, I can’t link to Michael Barone’s contention that ObamaCare, which goes fully into effect in January, will be the undoing of the Democrat party. The 50-employee cutoff for businesses (if you have 50 or more full-time employees you must provide comprehensive insurance of a type mandated by Congress) will lead to firings and to the transformation of full-time into part-time jobs.
Barone thinks the massive job loss will trigger a Republican wave vote in 2014. I say that’s true only if Americans who have been indoctrinated by 40 years of statist education and entertainment, have sufficient residual intelligence to be smarter than the French. The French, as you recall, faced economic disaster by going full socialist.
(iPad wiped all my hyperlinks, so if you’re interested in the security programs I mention, you’ll have to search then yourself.)
A friend’s email got hacked. This led to a discussion with a very knowledgeable person about the risks she now faces. Upon realizing she was hacked, she immediately changed her email password and assumed her troubles were over. He told her the contrary was true: her troubles had just begun.
She told him she had run a full virus check and it came up clean, so she shouldn’t have troubles. He told her that virus checkers, no matter how good, are just a superficial panacea.
The real problem, he said, is keystroke logging malware that lodges deep in the operating system. This means that every time you log into a website, the logger tracks and records your user name and password, and then delivers the data to the hacker. The hacker can then process that information to access your accounts and — voila! — your identity is compromised. He can also sell it far and wide. Everything is at risk, from bank accounts to your Facebook page.
There are some ways to protect yourself. When it comes to email security, the best thing is two-step verification. If you log onto a computer that you haven’t authorized as a trusted computer, the double verify system sends you a numerical text message. Even if a hacker has both your user name and password, if he doesn’t have your cell phone, he can’t get into your email.
To prevent problems in the first place, you should have a good anti-virus software. Recently, for Microsoft users, several computer gurus have recommended Microsoft Security Essentials to me, which they say is the best and, as an added bonus, is free. You can also keep your computer away from dangerous websites by having your router pass through OpenDNS, which blocks your computer from accessing dangerous sites.
But if you’ve already got a keystroke logger buried in your operating system, you’re out of luck. Most virus checkers can’t find this type of malware, because it’s buried too deeply in your operating system, not to mention that it can actually look innocuous at a code level. Serious computer security people have two computers, one of which is for fun, and one of which is dedicated solely to secure information. They keep their passwords on a flash drive. When they need a password, they plug in the flash drive and then cut-and-paste, so that there are never keystrokes.
With all this in mind, the knowledgeable person told my friend that, because she knows she’s been compromised, she should junk her computer entirely. He thinks that even reinstalling the operating system is insufficient.
Another party to the conversation said this was all overkill. He said that the likelihood of a hacker taking the time to ferret out your information from all the information he selects is minuscule. Further, if he does, most institutions will notice strange behavior and contact you immediately. Ultimately, he felt the risks from hacking were too small to justify the draconian solution of throwing away a computer and starting anew.
As for me, I got totally paranoid from this conversation. I know I don’t have a virus, but I have no way of knowing if I have caught keystroke logger malware. I’m going to change my passwords, but if there’s a keystroke logger, that’s a wasted effort. I’m in a perpetual loop of paranoia and vulnerability.
This paranoia loop — which was triggered by an information dump from someone with more information than I have — irresistibly brought to mind the way we deal with politics in America. Last night, at dinner, Democrat said that Obama, during the his first term, did the best job possible with the hand he’d been dealt. She did not know that Reagan had a rougher economic hand and achieved a better economic outcome. In her limited information universe, Obama was the best.
Fiscal cliff? Going over it may be a plunge from which the economy never recovers, or it may be an illusory line and we discover, once we’ve crossed, that nothing has changed. Since my understand of economics is simple — you cannot spend more than you have or borrow more than you can repay — I foresee catastrophe. Others say a national economy is not a household, and that my analysis isn’t just simple, it’s idiotic and stifles our country’s economic potential.
The same thing happens with the way Americans approach the risk from Islamism. Those of us steeped in information about Islamic doctrine, worldwide terrorist attacks, and Islamic rhetoric see a very high risk. Those who accept that Islam is a religion of peace and think that it’s just a coincidence that all terrorists and would-be terrorists happen to be Muslims, believe are risks are low, and that we are just paranoid, loony conspiracy theorists.
This paranoia runs the other way too. Progressives are convinced that we are cooking ourselves and that the world will melt. We think they’re overreacting to, and taking unreasonable responsibility for, a natural phenomenon that has happened repeatedly since earth’s creation.
Quite obviously, people’s perception of risk is going to affect the steps they take to protect against those perceived risks. The big question, then, is whether the paranoid informed people or the relaxed uninformed people had a better read of the situation. Have we over educated ourselves about risk to the point of dysfunction and overblown reactions? Or have they gone beyond a reasonable assessment of actual risk to a denial so overwhelming that they are incapable of defending against a genuine enemy? Do we change our passwords or junk the whole computer?
As for me, right now, I’m just going to change my passwords and put them onto LastPass, so as to minimize the keystrokes I enter. I’m also going to remind myself that a hacker who collects trillions of keystrokes from millions of computers can’t possibly process that info, and that the odds are I won’t be processed.
UPDATE: A friend who knows more about computers and programming than anyone I have ever met says that an excellent way to protect oneself is to use Google Chrome. He says that Adobe flash is now a primary vehicle for malware. Chrome doesn’t use flash, thereby avoiding that risk. I like Firefox, and don’t like Chrome, but I’m not so stubborn that I won’t recognize a reasonable trade off and learn to live with a different browser.
I’ve been spending a delightful Thanksgiving with my in-laws. They have an almost ridiculously comfortable home and they provided a postcard perfect Thanksgiving dinner last night.
Today, I’m in the usual post-Thanksgiving coma, and am finding it almost impossible to martial my thoughts or to deal with the difficulties of writing posts using an iPad. So, it’s open thread time.
If you’re less stuporous than I am, I’d certainly be interested in your take on the “cease fire.” (The scare quotes are because and I fully understand that the only one ceasing all firing will be Israel.)
Who knew that Susan Rice was a Thomas Gray lover? He was the poet who, in his widely forgotten “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College,” penned the unforgettable line that, “where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.”
Rice, whom Obama would like to have serve as his Secretary of State is reveling in her ignorance about events in Benghazi. As you recall, five days after Islamists engaged in an organized terrorist attack against the American presence in Libya, killing four, she made the rounds of the talk shows assuring Americans that this was all a movie review run amok.
By this time, of course, the CIA, the DNI, and the White House all knew this for the lie it was. Heck, the Times, inadvertently betraying the administration it serves, had already revealed information in news stories proving that Benghazi was a terrorist attack.
Rice isn’t backing down, though. She’s doing the only thing someone who is either a liar, or incurious to the point of imbecility, can do: she’s blaming others. Thus, when a reporter asked her about her talk show presentations, she cheerfully pleaded ignorance:
As a senior US diplomat, I agreed to a White House request to appear on the Sunday shows to talk about the full range of national security issues of the day, which at that time were primarily and particularly the protests that were enveloping and threatening many diplomatic facilities—American diplomatic facilities—around the world and Iran’s nuclear program. The attack on Benghazi—on our facilities in Benghazi—was obviously a significant piece of this,” Rice explains.
When discussing the attacks against our facilities in Benghazi, I relied solely and squarely on the information provided to me by the intelligence community. I made clear that the information was preliminary and that our investigations would give us the definitive answers. Everyone, particularly the intelligence community, has worked in good faith to provide the best assessment based on the information available. You know the FBI and the State Department’s Accountability Review Board are conducting investigations as we speak, and they will look into all aspects of this heinous terrorist attack to provide what will become the definitive accounting of what occurred.
Interestingly, Gray’s little remembered Ode paints a grim view of the knowledge that comes with experience. Looking down in Eton, he envies the young boys their innocence, joy, and resiliency. For him, at least, real life is the kind of thing that makes you want to run and hide:
Alas, regardless of their doom,
The little victims play!
No sense have they of ills to come,
Nor care beyond today:
Yet see how all around ‘em wait
The ministers of human fate,
And black Misfortune’s baleful train!
Ah, show them where in ambush stand
To seize their prey the murtherous band!
Ah, tell them, they are men!
These shall the fury Passions tear,
The vultures of the mind,
Disdainful Anger, pallid Fear,
And Shame that skulks behind;
Or pining Love shall waste their youth,
Or Jealousy with rankling tooth,
That inly gnaws the secret heart,
And Envy wan, and faded Care,
Grim-visaged comfortless Despair,
And Sorrow’s piercing dart.
Ambition this shall tempt to rise,
Then whirl the wretch from high,
To bitter Scorn a sacrifice,
And grinning Infamy.
The stings of Falsehood those shall try,
And hard Unkindness’ altered eye,
That mocks the tear it forced to flow;
And keen Remorse with blood defiled,
And moody Madness laughing wild
Amid severest woe.
Lo, in the vale of years beneath
A grisly troop are seen,
The painful family of Death,
More hideous than their Queen:
This racks the joints, this fires the veins,
That every labouring sinew strains,
Those in the deeper vitals rage:
Lo, Poverty, to fill the band,
That numbs the soul with icy hand,
And slow-consuming Age.
To each his sufferings: all are men,
Condemned alike to groan;
The tender for another’s pain,
The unfeeling for his own.
Yet ah! why should they know their fate?
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies.
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more; where ignorance is bliss,
‘Tis folly to be wise.
I was planning on ending this post by saying that I’m sure Rice would agree with Gray’s sentiments. On the the hand, given that she’ll soon be failing upwards, it’s questionable whether she has any regrets at all.
From the Watcher’s Council:
I have to admit that having Obama for another four years in the White House, having Harry Reid serve as Majority Leader for another two to four years (at least) in the Senate, and having Israel poised on the brink of a major war with another Iranian proxy, doesn’t give me that warm, comfy feeling that I’d like for Thanksgiving.
Having said that, there is still so much for which I am thankful, ranging from the micro (my own life) to the macro (the world outside my home).
Starting small, I’m thankful for my family, including both family by blood and by marriage; for my friends in the “real” and the cyber worlds; for my health; for my dog who is a daily delight to me; for my lovely home; ; and for the delightful community in which I live. These people may have gotten the wrong end of the political stick, but they are still fine human beings. I wish for them the blessing of an open mind.
And going big, I’m thankful that America, although a bit wobbly now, is still the land of the free and the home of the brave. I’m thankful that Israel has an Iron Dome system and that she, unlike her enemies, believes that innocent lives are not cannon fodder. I’m thankful that we have the best military in the world, not just because it is well armed, but because it is well staffed, with courageous men and women who willing undergo the rigors of training and service to help defend America.
We know that eight years of President Obama will change this country, but I’m also thankful for a Constitution that may work to prevent the “fundamental transformation” of a country that has been a shining beacon for so long. I haven’t given up hope yet and the mere fact that all of you come here means that you haven’t either. We still have a lot for which to be thankful, and many reasons for hope.
On Monday, I noted that ObamaCare regulations requiring employers to provide full (really full) insurance coverage to all employees may make running restaurants, which have a famously low profit margin, so prohibitively expensive that many will go out of business.
It turns out that we needn’t fear this eventuality, because we’re about to see a perfect confluence of two Obama policies. Restaurants can avoid the costs of ObamaCare by hiring only part-time employees. This is so because ObamaCare says that employers don’t have to provide health insurance for part-time employees. The down side of this is that the poor, part-time employees will have to provide their own insurance (or pay a penalty), not to mention struggling to pay for food and housing on a part-time salary. Or will they?
As you might have noticed, the economy has not improved measurably under Obama. Indeed, thanks to Obamanomics, college graduates are barely getting by:
In California, it’s long been the joke that prospective actresses come to the state to become waitresses. Now, thanks to the Democrat-created economy, so do college graduates. The newest census shows that between 2006 and 2011, the number of college graduates working as waiters doubled. Approximately 260,000 California college graduates below the age of 30 worked in low-level menial jobs in 2011, an increase of 60,000 over 2006.
And there you have it: the Obama economy provides ready-made part-time employees for a restaurant that can no longer afford full-time employees. Even better, these part-timers will live in their parents’ basements and, until they’re 26, get their insurance from their parents’ employers. Right now, we won’t worry about what happens when their parents’ employers can no longer bear the cost of providing for their own full-time employees, plus an increasing number of Obamanomics-created dependents.
What we’re seeing is the perfect symmetry of an imploding Leftist-managed economy.