Friday afternoon round-up and Open Thread

Victorian posy of pansiesThe Taliban has hit Marin County (indirectly).  Marin County is headquarters for Roots of Peace, an admirable charity that seeks to advance agricultural development in poverty-stricken areas.  It has an outpost in Afghanistan, where it seeks to enable the Afghani people to feed themselves.  The Taliban can’t have that kind of thing happening in its country.  It therefore sent off some foot soldiers to attack the Roots of Peace Kabul office, killing a child in the process.  If radical Islam had a cable-TV station, it’s motto would be “All war, all the time.”  One wonders if this will be a bit of reality that mugs that peaceniks who are so self-centered that they cannot envision cultures that have, as their core value, a desire for perpetual warfare.

***

David Clarke, Milwaukee’s Sheriff, made a splash when he encouraged Milwaukee’s beleaguered citizens to arm themselves:

Police chief get a gun

I think Clarke may have found a kindred spirit in Detroit Police Chief James Craig. During a press conference in which he discussed the rising numbers of homeowners (successfully) using arms to defend themselves, he had this to say:

Detroit Police Chief James Craig said at a press conference last week that in his 37-year career, he’s never seen as many homeowners defending themselves by shooting intruders. Craig told The News in January he felt the crime rate could be lowered if more “good Americans” were armed, because he said criminals would think twice about attacking.

“It does appear more and more Detroiters are becoming empowered,” Craig said. “More and more Detroiters are getting sick of the violence. I know of no other place where I’ve seen this number of justifiable homicides. It’s interesting that these incidents go across gender lines.”

We want more law enforcement like Clarke and Craig, and less like Marin’s Second Amendment-challenged sheriff.

***

I also want more of this:  An Ebony magazine editor went on a rant against conservative blacks; got called on it; claimed that the person calling her out was a white racist; when she learned that the person calling her out was black apologized for calling him white; and then doubled down on rants that were both anti-conservative black and anti-white.  (That’s not want I want to see more of.  It’s this next thing I like.)  Normally, Republicans would run away screaming from this type of confrontation, leaving the racist Leftist in control of the field.  This time, the RNC demanded an apology . . . and got it.

***

Speaking of the Left’s racial obsessions:  Any half-sentient being knows that Stephen Colbert’s shtick is that he created a faux-conservative character who is pathologically dumb, racist, sexist, etc., and that Colbert, a marginally-talented generic Leftist, uses this character to claim that all conservatives are pathologically dumb, racist, sexist, etc.  That’s why it’s hysterically funny that, when his show tried to  highlight (non-existent) Republican racism by having his character ostensibly tweet out a crude anti-Asian stereotype, the Asian community got riled and demanded that Colbert be fired for being an anti-Asian racist.  Asians should stop getting their knickers in a twist about stupid TV shows and should start looking at where their real politic interests lie.  (Hint:  It’s not the Democrat Party.)

***

Leland Yee has been around forever as a fixture in Bay Area politics.  As his name implies, he’s Asian, he’s hard Left, and he represents San Francisco and parts of San Mateo in the California legislature.  Since Sandy Hook, Yee’s been very vocal about being anti-guns.  He also just got indicted for gun running, including trying to sell arms to Islamist groups.  The MSM has been trying hard to ignore his story, as it’s been trying hard to ignore a bunch of other stories about spectacularly corrupt Democrat figures.  Howie Carr therefore serves a useful public service when he calls out the media, the Democrat party, and the crooks.

***

Speaking of crooks, Harry Reid claims never to have called Republicans liars when it comes to Obamacare, despite footage of him calling Republicans liars because of Obamacare.  There’s some debate on the Right about whether Reid’s gone senile or is just trying out his version of The Big Lie.  My theory is that we’re seeing malignant narcissism in play.  As I’ve said a zillion times before in speaking about Obama, malignant narcissists never “lie” because their needs of the moment always dictate the truth of the moment.  That is, if they need to say it, it must be true.  (It’s nice to be your own God.)

***

Keith Koffler identifies the four roots of Obama’s disastrous foreign policy.  I agree with him, although I would add a fifth, which is that Obama desperately wants to see America knocked down to size as punishment for her myriad sins.  Perhaps Obama should read the DiploMad, as he explains why Russia, the country before which Obama is now weakly doing obeisance, has always been much worse than America could ever be, both as a protector and an enemy.

***

Adm. Jeremiah Denton, Jr. has died at 89.  The public learned about Denton during the Vietnam War when, during one of the forced confessions that the North Vietnamese liked to televise to the world, he blinked out a Morse code message — “T-O-R-T-U-R-E” — thereby providing the first proof America had that the Commies were torturing American POWs.  During the same interview, he bravely said he supported his country, a statement that led to more torture.  Denton was also America’s longest-held POW, spending almost 8 years in the Hell that was the Hanoi Hilton, and various related prisons.  During that entire time, he was brutally and repeatedly tortured and he spent four years in solitary confinement (where he was tortured).  My heart bleeds when I read what happened to him.  But Denton came home and he got on with a full, rich life, including six years in the U.S. Senate.  If anyone deserves to Rest In Peace, it is Adm. Denton.

***

I don’t think much of Stanford.  It’s nothing personal.  I think all the big universities (and most of the small ones) have become intellectually corrupt.  However, Prof. Michael McConnell, at Stanford Law School, has somewhat restored my faith in Stanford by writing one of the clearest analyses I’ve yet seen of the problems facing the government in the Hobby Lobby case.  Of course, law and logic will not sway Ginsberg, Kagan, Sotomayor, and Breyer, all of whom are activists much more concerned with making policy than with applying law.  As happens too often, Anthony Kennedy will cast the deciding vote — a reality that places way too much power in the hands of a man who seems too often to blow, not where the Constitution takes him, but wherever his fancy for the day alights.

***

And to end on a light note, two more ridiculously funny Kid Snippets, offering an inspired combination of kid wisdom lip synched by some remarkably talented adult actors:

 

The shakedown artistry of our criminal justice system

Defendant Standing Before the JudgeBack in October, I wrote about the fact that one of my sister’s friends had been arrested for allegedly doing a very bad thing.  I noted at the time that I had no idea whether or not he’d done the bad thing, but that it was apparent that the prosecutor’s office was setting it up so that he would go to jail whether he was guilty or innocent:

The guy ended up being charged with 21 counts, many of them duplicative, and all of them carrying very high minimum sentences.  He will almost certainly plea bargain.

If he’s guilty, a plea may be a good deal for him.

If he did what he is alleged to have done, but there are extenuating circumstances, that’s irrelevant in terms of deciding the risk of going to trial.  The moment a jury concludes that he committed the acts, he’s done for.  So again, a plea bargain is the way to go.

And then there’s the question of whether he’s innocent.  By charging him with 21 acts, the prosecutor, by bringing 21 counts against him, has already sent a signal to the jury that this is a “bad” man.  The legal presumption may be innocent until proven guilty, but a jury will almost certainly think “Boy, that’s a lot of smoke.  How about if we just convict him on one of the charges?”  The jurors won’t know, of course, that just one of those charges can mean decades in jail.  So again, the best bet for the guy is to plead out.

So think about that for a moment — we have created a judicial system where a person, whether guilty, innocent, or with a good excuse, begs to go to jail rather than to face the stacked deck in court.

But there’s more to it than that: This system encourages lousy police work, because the police know that they probably won’t be called upon to answer for it before a judge and jury.  Police are rational and they are overworked.  Even the best and most decent of them will eventually fall down the slippery slope of dangerously careless policing.

I wrote about a single case.  Glenn Reynolds has indicted the entire criminal justice system:

Here’s how things all-too-often work today: Law enforcement decides that a person is suspicious (or, possibly, just a political enemy). Upon investigation into every aspect of his/her life, they find possible violations of the law, often involving obscure, technical statutes that no one really knows. They then file a “kitchen-sink” indictment involving dozens, or even hundreds of charges, which the grand jury rubber stamps. The accused then must choose between a plea bargain, or the risk of a trial in which a jury might convict on one or two felony counts simply on a “where there’s smoke there must be fire” theory even if the evidence seems less than compelling.

This is why, in our current system, the vast majority of cases never go to trial, but end in plea bargains. And if being charged with a crime ultimately leads to a plea bargain, then it follows that the real action in the criminal justice system doesn’t happen at trial, as it does in most legal TV shows, but way before, at the time when prosecutors decide to bring charges. Because usually, once charges are brought, the defendant will wind up doing time for something.

The problem is that, although there’s lots of due process at trial — right to cross-examine, right to counsel, rules of evidence, and, of course, the jury itself, which the Framers of our Constitution thought the most important protection in criminal cases — there’s basically no due process at the stage when prosecutors decide to bring charges. Prosecutors who are out to “get” people have a free hand; prosecutors who want to give favored groups or individuals a pass have a free hand, too.

Please read Reynold’s entire article.  It’s an important one, especially because we live in a time when it’s become impossible to know what the law is.  Ours is not a society of “few rules but unbreakable.”  Instead, it’s a society of “many rules, mostly unknowable.”  If we get in the government’s cross hairs, the government can retrofit our seemingly innocent conduct to comport with some obscure rule or regulation . . . and then it nails us to the wall.

This is why the NSA spying is so terribly disturbing.  Between an accessible database of every bit of information about us, and an unknowable arsenal of laws that almost certainly touch upon things that all of us do or have done, we have a police state without brakes.

When I posted Reynold’s article on Facebook, a friend of mine who served in the Navy JAG back in the early 1980s noted that, when he was a military prosecutor, he and his team were barred from talking about “my” case or, after a successful prosecution, from saying “I won” or some variant of that.  The theory was that a prosecutor who became too personally invested in prosecution could essentially go rogue.  That was a good rule.  It doesn’t seem to apply anywhere any more, whether to military, federal, or state prosecutions.

Thoughts on racism and race in America

You’ve already heard, I’m sure, about Delbert Belton, the 88-year-old World War II veteran who was beaten to death by two black teenagers.  The police are assuring everyone that there’s no need to get worried, because this wasn’t a race crime.  Instead, it was Delbert’s own fault.  According to the police, when the boys tried to rob Delbert, he had the temerity to fight back, leaving them with no other option than to beat an old man to death.

A friend of mine noted that, using this reasoning, if one assumes solely for the sake of argument that the race-hustlers are correct and it was Zimmerman who started the fatal encounter with Trayvon, then Trayvon was responsible for his own death because he had the temerity to fight back by climbing on top of Zimmerman, raining punches on his face, and trying to turn Zimmerman’s head into Silly Putty by smashing it repeatedly into the pavement.  My friend is right, of course.

But I’ll add something else to the mix.  The police are desperate to avoid saying that the white on black crimes that are flooding the news lately arise because blacks are — gasp! — not merely racist in Obama’s hystically race-conscious America, but aggressively so.  They don’t want to admit that the aggressive focus on race that surrounded Obama’s election didn’t destroy forever the linger vestiges of racism in America — the presumed outcome of a nation open-minded enough to elect a black man to its highest office — but, in fact, created an aggressive form of black-on-white racism.

Here’s the problem:  the new black-on-white racial motivation, although disgusting, is an intellectually recognizable reason for vile conduct.  If you deny its existence, all you have left is the admission that American blacks have become feral.  That is, they’re not killing for political reasons; they’re killing because they have an animal’s blood-lust, without a human’s self-control, morality, or reasoning skills.

And so, let’s talk about two recent local news stories that the MSM is assiduously ignoring.

In Anderson, Indiana, a 17-year-old black teenager assaulted and raped a 93-year-old woman.  This is what Iquise Taylor did to Amelia Rudolf:

Police say the youth lived within in a block of the woman’s house. Investigators say he broke into her home by kicking in the back door and then sexually assaulted her.

The 93-year-old had been sleeping at the time and awoke to find the youth in her bedroom.

Apparently elderly white women are quite the hot commodity amongst the non-racist blacks, because a similar event occurred happened in Poughkeepsie, NY.  That’s where 99-year-old Fannie Gumbinger had the misfortune to cross paths with 20-year-old Javon Tyrek Rogers, a black man who is a career burglar.  Well, Mrs. Gumbinger didn’t actually cross paths with Rogers.  It was more a case of his entering her house and killing her.  Why would one kill a frail 99-year-old lady (and believe me, because of my Mom’s retirement home I know precisely how frail 99-year-old ladies are)?  Well, it wasn’t a “hate crime,” of course, because blacks don’t commit hate crimes.  That means, as Wolf Howling put it, that it was a “feral” act.

The race hustlers have repeatedly put themselves in the position of conceding that black Americans are feral, whether it’s because they say that Damian King couldn’t help trying to beat Reginald Denny to death in the wake of the Rodney King riots, because he was “caught him the rapture” of the moment; or the two teens who couldn’t help killing an 88-year-old because he fought back; or a 17-year-old who couldn’t control his lust for an 93-year-old woman (who his lust for power over a 93-year-old woman); or a 20-year-old who had to murder a 99-year-old lady who was interfering with his burglary; or the five young blacks who tortured a random white couple to death in such a horrible way that I can’t bear to right about it.  If these young black people (and they’re all young products of America’s thirty years of institutional Progressivism) acted without a motive, no matter how disgusting that motive was, then the only thing left is to concede that they are either evil incarnate, which argues a certain moral knowledge that the actor deliberately ignores, or that they are so inhuman that they have become like animals.

Even likening them to animals, though, seems to me to be too generous.  Animals kill to eat or to control territory.  Animals do not waste their energies, nor do they put themselves at risk, simply to indulge in blood lust.  That type of act is seen only in rabid animals that have been rendered insane through infection.

So what disease has affected our black underclass to the point at which it has parted ways with humanity and entered dimensions in which, normally, only infected animals dwell?  I leave you to think up your own instance.

Incidentally, I do not write this post as an overarching indictment of blacks, God forbid.  I am not a classic racist, in that I do not believe that one race genetically inferior to another race.  I recognize differences (skin color, musculature, bell curve spread over such traits as book-oriented intellectualism or physical stamina, etc), but I consider those differences virtuous, insofar as they provide a wonderful range of human abilities, with no one quality trumping any other — although there are times, whether through natural- or human-caused events, when certain traits may help one group survive better than another group.  I consider myself a “values-ist,” meaning that I judge people by their values, not their skin color, religion, gender, sexual preference, etc.

So if it’s not genetics, it must be culture — and black culture is Leftist culture or, rather, black culture is the victim of elitist Leftist culture.  It’s the Leftist ruling class, in government, in the media, and in education, taht thinks so little of blacks that these elites are content to accept that young blacks normally exist in a diseased, feral state, because it seems right and natural to the affluent Leftist eye.  If, Gaia forfend!, they concede that blacks are endowed with the same moral and intellectual abilities as whites, then these same elites must also concede that blacks do not need to be perpetually dependent upon the states for all their needs, a status that assumes racial inability.

Catharsis versus celebration — pictures of the corpse

If you’re not squeamish, you might want to wander over to Dan Riehl’s blog, where he has posted a very graphic picture that is alleged to be of Tamarlan Tsarnaev’s bloodied corpse, complete with a gaping hole in the side put there by doctors trying to save him (or, perhaps, to hasten the inevitable).

The picture’s interesting, but what’s more interesting is what the Boston police had to say about it:

The image of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, dead and naked on a slab, snapped by an unknown person, was e-mailed repeatedly by law enforcement officers Friday.

“Suspect 1” was written above the gruesome picture.

Seeing a photo of one of the Marathon bombing suspects dead was cathartic, said one law enforcement official who saw the picture.

Passing it around was a rare chance “to revel” while other officers searched for Tsarnaev’s brother, Dzhokhar, the official said. “Mission accomplished. We’re halfway there. Justice is served.”

I sympathize completely with the police.  They are experiencing the warriors’ subdued, albeit cathartic, pleasure in seeing dead someone who planted a bomb that, mere days before, killed three people and horribly wounded dozens of others, and who hours before had killed one of their own (correction:  killed two of their own).

In this regard, I believe that the police’s response, and their covert circulation amongst themselves of something that’s not quite a war trophy, but is a proof of success, is completely distinguishable from the Muslims in Gaza (a place that Boston liberals strongly support) who danced in the streets and handed out candy to celebrate the death of an 8-year-old boy among others.  Wildly, joyously celebrating an innocent’s death, even if the death occurs in what you perceive as a war, is barbaric.  There’s no other word for it.

A civilized nation will do what it needs to do to win a defensive war, but it never loses sight of its morality.  It mourns the innocents, even as it acknowledges that their deaths may be necessary.  Having said that, though, I think any law enforcement or military that has engaged in a fierce battle is entitled to have proof positive that its direct enemy — the one firing bullets and throw bombs at it — is actually dead.  That’s cathartic, not immoral or barbaric.

Yesterday, I blamed Obama for causing a problem; today, I echo Pamela Geller’s complaint that federal agencies are useless

My head is spinning.   I just wrote a post for Mr. Conservative based upon the most current news stories saying that an arrest had been made.  From the time of those stories to the time I published the post, it was about 10 minutes.  Within one minute after the post went up, all of the major news sites were recanting the story, saying a suspect had been identified, but not arrested.  (See here for an example of the swift turnaround in news reports.)  Breitbart has given up on specific headlines and just says “Chaos in Boston,” which is about as accurate as anything I’ve seen today.  CNN still has its stand-by fallback position, which is that it’s the Tea Party’s fault, while Fox reminds everyone that pressure cooker bombers are commonly used in such Islamic war places as Pakistan and Afghanistan.

That last point — about the differing CNN and Fox News stories — highlights one of the two truths we know with certainty amidst this swirl of rumors.  The first is that Obama lied through his teeth when he promised in 2008 that his election would heal divisions within America and that his presidency would further smooth the rift, once again creating a truly United States of America.  Instead, using his bully pulpit to demonize half of America (something no president has ever done before), Obama has deepened the rift between Blue and Red America to a point probably not seen since 1860.  Obama, therefore, is easy to blame for the bombing, because a truly united America would not be a good target for this type of attack, no matter who launched it.

The other thing we know with certainty is something that Pamela Geller highlights — we’re not getting any bang for the buck from the alphabet soup of federal law enforcement agencies we taxpayers support.  After commenting derisively on reports that law enforcement describes the terrorism attack investigation as “wide open,” and is begging media outlets to help, Geller points out how embarrassing this is:

This is where the status of the investigation is.  In Europe, and in Israel, whenever there is a terrorist attack, they have someone or some group in their sights or in custody every time.  Take 3/11 in Madrid, 7/7 in London, the Glasgow jihad plot — every jihad attack and jihad plot in Europe, European authorities are right on it, identifying and apprehending the perpetrators.  They know exactly who the bad guys are.  They know exactly where to go.  This is a historical first: that America is not dramatically ahead of the curve, but dramatically behind the curve.  So American citizens are now considered expendable, just the way our soldiers are in Afghanistan.

It should bother every American that Europe and Israel are so far ahead of us in intel that we’re begging CNN and Fox for clues — and apparently detaining people who have nothing to do with the bombing, raiding their homes, taking bagfuls of evidence out, and then saying, “Never mind.”

Really?  The billions that Americans spend for the CIA, FBI, DHS, NSA, JTTF, and all the other various counterterrorism agencies, and they don’t have a clue?  All they have for us is 1-800-CALL-FBI?  This is unconscionable.  If that’s where we are, disband these incompetent, inane agencies that call jihad “workplace violence” and name Atlas Shrugs as a “domestic hate group,” when in fact Atlas Shrugs is battling violence and mass murder across the world.  How did this happen eleven years after 9/11?

In 1995 (Oklahoma City) and 1998 (Atlanta), we didn’t have a multi-armed federal law enforcement infrastructure that, in return for tax dollars and vast, often unconstitutional powers, promised to keep us safe.  Just as Obama broke his promise to heal the rifts in American society, the federal alphabet soup has broken its promise to keep us safe and/or to bring wrongdoers quickly before the law.  Indeed, I seem to remember that it’s been more than half a year since the FBI jetted out to investigate what happened in Benghazi.  So far . . . nothing (although with Hillary screaming “what difference does it make,” investigators may have lost their momentum).

I guess we should all resign ourselves that for at least the next three years, the best we can hope for from our administration is “What difference does it make?”  Unless, of course, the difference is about emasculating our once robust Constitution.  But that’s another story for another post….

Islam — the prisoner’s friend (and not because it brings remorse, redemption, and amends)

In July 2006, I quoted my cousin, who was then working as a prison chaplain on prisoners’ conversions to Islam:

It is not a contradiction to be a Muslim and a murderer, even a mass murderer. That is one reason why criminals “convert” to Islam in prison. They don’t convert at all; they similarly [sic] remain the angry judgmental vicious beings they always have been. They simply add “religious” diatribes to their personal invective. Islam does not inspire a crisis of conscience, just inspirations to outrage.

Today, I’ll quote Robert Spencer on the fact that James Holmes (aka the Colorado gunman) has converted to Islam:

Holmes’s conversion reveals that instead of being unaware of what he did, or utterly remorseless, as one might expect of a psychotic or a sociopath, the murders must trouble him a great deal. For it is souls that are troubled — intellectually, morally, spiritually, psychologically — who cast about for some solution to what troubles them, and often find it in religious conversion.

But it is what Holmes converted to that is significant. Had Holmes converted to Christianity, he might have found relief for any remorse he might be feeling for the massacre in the proposition that in Christ his sins, no matter how great, were forgiven; if he had explored Buddhism, he might have focused upon developing right intention, right speech, and right action, and eradicating the illusions that led him to kill in the first place.

Instead, Holmes chose Islam. A prison source noted: “He has brainwashed himself into believing he was on his own personal jihad and that his victims were infidels.”

Exactly. Guns are merely the vehicles.  The driver is man and the evil that he embraces.

A country with too many laws is effectively a country without any laws

Traffic fine for going 2 miles below speed limit

Too many laws, or laws enforced arbitrarily, simply become a trap for the unwary. Such was the case for a Maryland woman driving on Interstate 95 in bad weather, with wind speeds gusting up to 40 miles per hour. Because the winds were ferociously buffeting her car, the woman (who remains anonymous) dropped her speed from the maximum limit of 65 MPH down to 63 MPH.

Little did the woman know that the easiest target for law enforcement is people who break the little laws, not the big ones. As far as one highway patrol officer was concerned, driving two MPH below the speed limit in the left (or fast) lane is going to get you a moving violation. Not just any violation, but (a) a fairly expensive one, coming in at $90; and (b) a black mark against the driver’s record for committing a moving violation.

The woman later told reporters that she was “really shocked.” Her first thought was, “Oh my God, you’ve got to be kidding me.”

The woman plans to fight the ticket and AAA is on her side. According to John Townsend, speaking on behalf of AAA Mid-Atlantic, the violation sends drivers “the wrong message.” Drivers should not have to cope with a police force that thinks “We will tolerate you driving at more than the speed limit, but if you drive below the speed limit then you’re penalized for that.”

Motorcycle officer writing ticket

Interestingly, those more concerned with convenience than reason, are applauding the officer who ticketed her, not for speeding, but for going a mere 2 MPH below the limit in the fast lane. Travis Okulski, who writes at the car blog Jalopnik, said

There are a lot of little things that annoy me on the roads. One is a slow driver in the left lane on the highway. Seems like that annoys Maryland cops too, because they just ticketed a woman for doing 63 in the fast lane in a 65 zone. Good for them.

[snip]

Of course, the AAA thinks the ticket is “silly” and “sends the wrong message.” It’s actually the opposite. The message it sends is 100 percent accurate. If you feel you need to slow down due to road conditions, feel free to do so. Just don’t do it in the left lane.

The problem with Okulski’s rant and the officer’s ticket is that both clearly violate Maryland land. The Maryland Transportation code section governing maximum speed limits says that “A driver may not drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed that exceeds these limits.” The woman wasn’t exceeding the speed limit.

Maryland law also says that “A person may not drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed that, with regard to the actual and potential dangers existing, is more than that which is reasonable and prudent under the conditions.” One of the reasons it may be prudent to slow down is “because of weather or highway conditions.” The woman slowed down slightly on account of inclement weather.

It’s true that Maryland law says that “a person may not willfully drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.” Considering, however, that the drivers in the fast lane are prohibited by law from going faster than 65 MPH, it’s doubtful whether the woman’s 2 MPH decrease in speed to accommodate weather conditions “impede[d] the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.”

If the woman had been driving more than 5 MPH below the speed limit, on a clear day, both the officer and Okulski would have had a point. However, to the extent that 63 MPH is only 2 MPH below the maximum speed limit, the only conclusion one can draw from ticket is that the highway patrol is encouraging drivers to speed in the fast line – which, of course, violates the law.

And that’s the problem. There are so many rules, both spoken and unspoken, in today’s America, that it is impossible for people to avoid infractions that will lead to police action or a law suit. The same officer, on another day, can just as easily hand out a ticket to someone going 66 miles an hour in the fast lane. If people cannot know or understand the law, they will lose respect for the law and, eventually, break the law.

The effect of too many rules is the same as the effect of too few rules: anarchy, with government officials deciding what the law is at any given time.

(Written by Bookworm; first published at Mr. Conservative.)

Your betters in Washington are just more important than you are

There’s still time to make a stand by signing the White House petition urging that we establish “gun free zones” around the President, VP, and their families.  The thinking is that what’s sauce for the goose (we, the People) should definitely be sauce for the gander (our employees in Washington, D.C.). As of now, the Petition needs only 4,511 more signatures.  I would love to see the White House explain why the Progressive privileged few are more important than you and your children.  (I assume they’ll talk about the increased risk to them because of their office, but it seems to me that the residents of Washington, D.C., Chicago, Detroit, Houston, and L.A. slums are at infinitely greater risk.)

I was reminded again of Progressive double standards when I saw 60 Minutes’ slobbering love letter to Justice Sotomayor.  (Funny, I don’t remember that kind of drooling love for Clarence Thomas, who has an equally compelling life story.)  The story opens with the love-struck reporter taking a walk with Sotomayor through her childhood stomping grounds in the Bronx.  That would be fine, but for the fact that the first minute of the story points out, not once, but twice, that she’s surrounded by armed guards.  First, the reporter makes a verbal point of that fact; then the Bronx segment ends with Sotomayor taking a group shot with the five members of the NYPD drafted to provide her with a type of protection none of her former neighbors will ever see.

From Sotomayor’s armed guards, to Obama’s Secret Service for life, to David Gregory getting a pass for blatantly breaking the law, the message is clear — our Progressive overlords are more important than those who pay their salaries.

Near the end of the 19th century, Anatole France famously quipped that “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.” The joke, of course, was that the rich would never be caught engaging in those illegal activities. In Obama’s America, the joke has gone one step further: the Progressive elites get to engage in precisely the same activities as ordinary folks do, including illegal acts, but they get to do so wrapped up in cotton wool that protects them from the risks they’ve forced upon the regular Joes in this great country.

The Leftist delusion of a world without danger

Thomas Hobbs, who was born into the waning years of the 16th Century and lived three-quarters of the way through the 17th Century, in his great work, Leviathan, characterized man’s life as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” He was not an optimist.

William Hogarth's Gin Lane

Hobbs may have been a pessimist, but he was also quite accurate.  In a pre-industrial, pre-scientific era, half of the children lucky enough to survive childbirth would die before their fifth birthday, with death usually resulting either from disease or accident (falling into an open fireplace or drowning in a well or waterhole were accidents common to the pre-modern era).

If one was lucky enough to survive early childhood, life still didn’t get much easier.  Even in stable communities, food supplies were unreliable; crime was prevalent; war had a nasty habit of breaking out all over; disease stalked everyone; childbirth was the scourge of young women; lightning and cooking caused deadly fires that swept through wood-built communities; and weather forecasts were nonexistent and weather deaths (cold, heat, lightening, floods, winds, etc.) were commonplace.  Old age was a rarity — or at the very least, was defined differently, with a toothless crone in her late 40s qualifying as “old.”

For those who managed to avoid premature death, life was dark indeed.  I mean that literally.  Except for the very rich, who could enj0y beeswax, the poor lit their homes (which usually had no windows) with smoky fires or tallow lights that left everything smelling like an old fryer at McDonalds.

Personal cleanliness was viewed with suspicion (as a sign of moral debauchery) so it wasn’t uncommon for people to go a lifetime without bathing.  Nor was this filth limited to the lower classes who had no access to running water.  James I of England was famous for his certainty that bathing would kill him.  Even the marginally clean English found his personal habits distasteful.  Streets and sewers were interchangeable, with people in buildings tossing the contents of their chamber pots into the streets, regardless of passing pedestrians.

Child Labor minor miners

The Hobbesian world began to change with the industrial revolution.  Wealth was no longer tied to the land and, therefore, finite.  It was suddenly infinite.  Although the initial transition from agricultural to industrial wrought appalling havoc for the poor, by chaining them to factory labor or coal mines in conditions that were little better than slavery, working their children to death, and herding them into filthy urban ghettos, overall the standard of living rose for everyone.  The rich, of course, benefited first, but the poor did too, to the point at which (at least before the endless Obama recession) even the poorest in American (unless they were insane homeless people) were able to buy cool shoes and disposable cell phones at Walmart.  Poverty became a matter of discomfort, not death.

Louis Pasteur

Things became even better when the scientific revolution picked up steam.  Suddenly, scientists and physicians had the comforting illusion that, when it come to the mysteries of disease, they could see all and know all.  Bacteria were visible and, with Penicillin, vulnerable.  Ailments originating within the body (a hot appendix, a bladder stone, even a damaged heart valve) could be fixed.  Viruses bowed down before vaccinations.  We were going to live forever.  Indeed, even though we 21st century residents haven’t actually achieved immortality, our modern lifespans would have been unimaginable only a century ago.

Battledore and Shuttlecock in 1845

One of the most stunning byproducts of the industrial and scientific ages was childhood, not just as a biological reality, but as an intellectual construct.  Past times recognized infancy and early childhood (until about 7 years old) as times of necessary development and dependency.  After that, though, right up until the Victorian age, children older than 7 or 10 years were regarded as mini-adults.  They were put to work in field or factory, indentured to trade, married in their mid-teens, and generally given responsibilities that, nowadays, we still consider too extreme even for “children” in their mid-20s.  Even twenty years ago, people would have laughed at the thought that “children” of 26 were dependents for insurance purposes.  Go back a time a few more decades than that, and the rules were simple:  if you survived childhood, you headed rapidly into adulthood.

These very positive historical trends have left us with one very wrongheaded delusion:  the belief that we can insulate ourselves and, especially, our children from all danger.

Old-time football player

Sometimes, the very act of insulation creates greater, counter-intuitive risks.  Those of us who don’t remember football being so dangerous in decades past are right.  It’s not just that we were less aware of the risks, it’s that football players had less protective gear.  It was a speed and passing game, one that favored smaller players and less aggressive contact.  Leather helmets provided some protection, but did not encourage players to pretend that they were big horn sheep who could engage in serious headbutting.  Once players became enswathed in protective gear — high-tech helmets and shoulder pads — they began to play a more aggressive game, one that favored big players and high impact tackles.  In other words, the counter-intuitive result of more protective gear in football is a higher, rather than a lower injury rate.

19th century boxers

The same is true in the boxing world.  When boxers were bare handed, they couldn’t land a hit harder than their own knuckles would bear.  As between a solid jaw bone and a knuckle bone, the jaw usually won.  Even with the advent of gloves, the early gloves were thin enough that the striker still had a risk about equal to that of the person on the receiving end.  It was only when the boxing world shifted to massively padded gloves, which successfully insulate the knuckles, that boxers were able to land such devastating strikes against their opponents’ jaws, eye sockets, and temples.

Tony Peitrantonio knockout

We’ve also over-protected ourselves is in the battle between antibiotics and bacteria. After a seventy year run in the antibiotics’ favor, the bacteria have regrouped and are coming back strong. One regularly reads upsetting stories about treatment-resistant bacteria.  Tuberculosis has the potential to become a scourge again; MRSA haunts hospital hallways; and many of us our digging out our grandmothers’ household hint books to find out how people treated garden-variety infections (cuts and ear aches) in the era before antibiotics came along.  In the same way, we’re facing the ugly truth that, due to a combination of parents resisting vaccination, and diseases resisting vaccination, old childhood scourges such as chicken pox, whooping cough, and measles are on the upswing.

We can’t win for losing.  Or rather, we have become so confident of our victories that we forget that the enemy — even one that lacks cognitive abilities — is as intent upon its own survival and is as adaptable as we are.

The above are, in a way, mechanical protective reflexes, where industrialism and science enable us to place barriers between us and objects or pathogens that are dangerous.  What is a peculiarly Leftist foible is believing that we can ignore entirely Nature writ large, human nature, or cultural pathology.

Going back to the topic of childhood mortality, the sad fact is that, while kids once fell prey to disease, they now fall prey to all sorts of other things, some new and some old.  Here’s a 2007 snapshot of the things that killed American children who survived congenital diseases in infancy:

Car accidents:  6,683 deaths
Firearm homicide:  2,186 deaths
Suffocation/strangling:  1,263 deaths
Non-firearm homicides:  1,159
Drowning:  1,045 deaths
Poisoning:  927 deaths
Suffocation suicide:  739 deaths
Firearm suicide:  683 deaths
Fires/Burns:  544 deaths
Firearm accidents:  138 deaths
Poisoning suicide:  133 deaths

What may leap out at you is how many children died in 2007. What leaps out to me, since I’ve always bathed my brain in history, is how few children died in 2007.  Although each of the above numbers represents indescribable grief, the percentage of child deaths is infinitesimal compared to the overall population of children in America.  Moreover, by far the largest number of deaths occurred in a peculiarly utilitarian way:  car accidents.  These were unintentional deaths that resulted from an object that is integral to our society’s functioning.

Bloods gang member with gun

The next highest number of deaths, as any Progressive would point out, is indeed from guns.  But here’s what the white liberals ignore until there’s a Columbine or Sandy Hook that makes them feel vulnerable  In that same year (2007) that 3,345 American children were murdered, here are the statistics for male youth deaths within the black community:

52.3% of black, male 15-19 year olds who died were murdered.
15.5% of black, male 10-14 year olds who died were murdered.
6.3% of black, male 5-9 year olds who died were murdered.
14.3% of black, male 1-4 year olds who died were murdered.

The situation is better, but not much, for black girls in 2007, as they are less likely to die as teens, but more likely to die as toddlers:

18.3% of black, female 15-19 year olds who died were murdered.
9.3% of black, female 10-14 year olds who died were murdered.
6.5% of black, female 5-9 year olds who died were murdered.
15.3% of black, female 1-4 year olds who died were murdered.

In other words, we don’t have a gun problem:  we have a black-children-are-getting-murdered problem. Those liberals who pay any attention at all to deaths that don’t involve white suburban children, never bothered looking at human nature in order to determine how to deal with the problem.

They didn’t look at the way welfare renders stable, earning males obsolete, thereby breaking down the family unit and forcing young men to find other ways than family and maturity to prove their “manliness.”  They didn’t consider that if you attack Judeo-Christian morality without providing an alternative morality, you end up with no morality.  They didn’t consider that advancing abortion in all-black communities is a subliminal message that black lives are disposable.  Instead, they ignored the human factor entirely and decided that, if they made weapons illegal, the communities would instantly become hippie-like communes of peace, with a little pot on the side.

Because Progressives thought they could bring a mechanical solution to a human problem, even more black children died.  Think of it this way:  Getting rid of bacteria doesn’t make them go away.  They come back stronger in different ways.  Likewise, getting rid of guns doesn’t make murder vanish.  Humans get creative with other forms of murder, and guns go underground and, removed from law and morality, get applied in ever more violent ways.

We cannot protect ourselves into safety.  The world is a dangerous place, albeit infinitely less dangerous than it has ever before been.  We are deluding ourselves if we believe that, either through hyper-safety mechanisms or bans (bans on bacteria or bans on guns) we can instantly make things safer.  In fact, it’s often the case that eradicating the danger entirely is either a delusion (bacteria are still out there) or creates worse dangers than that we originally sought to avoid.

What we can do is try to modify certain behaviors in order to decrease (although never eliminate) risk.  If antibiotics are becoming less useful, let’s wash our hands more often.  If violence is plaguing a community, let’s try to temper the community by giving people constructive purposes in life and by creating a sensibility that values life.  Getting rid of guns will not get rid of violence.  Valuing life might just diminish it somewhat, though.

It’s the culture

Nobody seems to want to admit it, but it’s our culture!

School shootings aren’t new. But, Americans have owned guns aplenty for more-than 200 years of nationhood and it seems that we’ve never had school shootings as we have experienced in the past few years. Neither has the rest of the modern world, but school, church and shopping mall attacks have been occurring even in countries with the strictest gun controls (e.g., Scotland, Germany, Norway, Japan). What has changed?

How about “that which must not be named”?

The old-guard leftists of the Frankfurter and Antonio Gramsci (you can “wiki” those names) school knew that to fundamentally remake society, you first had to destroy the church, society and the family. I would say Gramsci and Frankfurter school alumnae have had a pretty good success record.

Ever since LBJ’s 1960s “War on Poverty”, families have been disintegrating. It started with the most vulnerable (inner city blacks, where now 70% of children have no fathers) and has now spread to white, non-Hispanic families (close-to 30% of children born out of wedlock). Often, children in such families are left largely unsupervised, grow up without good male role models and enjoy ready access to the most depraved pornography, graphic violence, weapons, drugs and other vices through the internet and their peers, starting at a very young and formative age. One can try to prevent their kids’ access to this at home, but how does one prevent them from going down the street to a friends’ house?

I couldn’t help but notice that the first media reports of the shooter (whom I refuse to name and help make more famous) mentioned a mother but didn’t mention a father. Sure enough, the latest reports by a British news outlet, The Daily Mail, are of a boy traumatized by a three-year old divorce. Why did he single out his mother as the first victim? We may never know, but I suspect that the divorce may have had something to do with it. We are also learning that (surprise!) the shooter was a compulsive violent-video gamer.

Youth and adolescence are a time when kids should be learning communication skills and how to interact with adults and peers. Instead, too many kids appear to be devolving into lonely social outcasts and losers (a non-PC term I use for emphasis only). Throw in mental illness, they can become dangerous (the source of much of this mental illness is a worthy topic in and of itself…but think about what hours and hours of sitting in front of a screen does to the developing brain of a young child?). These are the years when their neuro linkages are being formed.

The mass media and punditry immediately started talking about this shooter’s “obvious” mental problems, thereby anointing him a member of “victim” class and providing absolution for his sins. I don’t buy any of it. I can understand someone crazed with rage shooting their mother in the heat of the moment, but the premeditation and time the shooter needed took to travel to a school after killing his own mother and destroying young kids’ lives in psychopathic cold blood point not mental illness but a willing pact made with evil. It is evil, pure and simple, nothing less. At one point, this shooter was confronted with a choice and he chose evil. Why did he make that choice? Here’s a thought:

What are the cultural messages that get hammered into young kids’ brains today? There is no reward in elevation, but there is reward in depravity. Our mass media hammers into their developing brains, over and over again, that to be depraved is to be “famous”, a powerful siren’s song for lonely outcast kids. These kids know that the quickest way to fame and even fortune is to act depraved and to be guaranteed that their depravity will be broadcast widely over the internet and throughout the global media. Some of them grow into mega stars (I’m thinking of Rapper culture, Madonna, Lady Gaga and Jerry Springers as just a few examples), further amplifying the siren’s song. The mass media, vigilantly on the lookout for breaking news 24/7, is complicit in this, for it is the internet and mass media that provide monsters their 15 minutes of fame. Remember that the next time you look at how our TV screens extol depravity. Btw, if you doubt me about just how depraved our culture has become, then Google [game kindergarten killer].

Sorry to have to use the word “depraved” of course. In our Gramsci-Frankfurter culture, such terms are soooooo judgmental and we don’t dare to be judgmental, do we? Why, other people might not like us, a sentence worse than death for too many adults that never outgrew their adolescence.

So what do we do about it? We can start by focusing on our own kids, knowing that our obligation as parents is not just to love them but to build them spiritually into good citizens and to armor them against the bad influences in our imperfect world. We can extend support to single parents, especially those trying to work jobs simply to survive, and we help provide guidance to their kids. These are the days when wolves stalk a land in which too many people have forgotten how to recognize wolves for what they are. And, if you decide to have children, get married and stay married, so that you can nurture, protect and educate your children into solid citizens together. My very brilliant spouse, a middle-school teacher, tells me that she can tell right away when her students’ families are trouble by the way that the kids lash-out in school. She has already lost too many of her former students to drugs and suicide.

Rely on our churches? Maybe, but so many have become such weak tea. My own Episcopal church…part of the Anglican Communion that produced such great theological thinkers and moral stalwarts as C.S. Lewis (our patron saint, in my view)…has been complicit in this. It is so terrified of being perceived as “uncool” that it doesn’t dare attack popular culture or elevate its members above the culture…unless, of course, it is a soft target, such as those really uncool, nagging, square conservatives (a minority group of which I count myself a proud member). The sad fact is that my church, sadly dominated at the top by Frankfurter-Gramsci disciples, spends far too much of its time and effort huffing and puffing to keep up with the latest social trends in its frantic effort to appear cool and contemporary while pushing its “social justice” agenda. I don’t recall my church’s leadership ever raising a peep of protest against the depravity of contemporary culture. Excuses, yes. Protests, no. Quite the opposite.

One of my FB friends just shared an electronic ad from our church’s head bishop that includes scatological epiphets to get the message across. Soooo, soooo cool! So with it! Some churches are great builders of spiritual armor. Not this one. It prefers to be complicit with a depraved culture. It follows, it does not have the courage to lead. You may ask, of course, why I don’t leave this church, so I will answer that: because it is precisely there that I am needed. There are many good people there. I and others do speak out and try to nurture and strengthen our children with spiritual armor.

Is the solution to force honest citizens to surrender their weapons? That is thinking with the heart rather than the head. I am so, so totally against this. The solution to an outbreak of wolves is not to defang the guard dogs. In this age of the wolf, we need more guard dogs, not less.

The Connecticut school shooting could have been stopped right away had there been one or more people on premise with guns, a circumstance that today would land any would-be guard dog in jail without passing “go”. Chances are that, had the shooter known that the school was protected, he would never have dared go there. The only real defense against a gun…is a gun. Mass murderers tend to be cowards that seek out soft, undefended targets like schools and churches. Guns, like drugs, will always be available to psychopaths, criminals and terrorists. If not guns, there are always knives, automobiles, poison gas, molotov cocktails or fertilizer bombs. Taking guns away from civilians only creates a larger pool of defenseless sheep available for slaughter. One of my FB friends also suggested that only government and police should have weapons. Scary thought. Look around the world today: now, that is one very scary thought. Government and law enforcement magnets for wolves. But, then, this is how people who have never had to confront wolves perceive the world. Like the Hobbits of the Shire, content to eat, drink and be merry, free of cares. But, reality eventually intrudes and we cannot magically “wish” wolves away into oblivion.

Finally, there is one particular aspect of this that really, really bothers me: young kids for decades have been getting gunned down, knifed, beaten to death, suffocated and raped in our inner cities. But, other than perfunctory hand-wringing, we never saw an outcry against this compared to what occurred after this most recent shooting in a well-to-do middle class community. Gee, what could the reason for this be? Yup, you’re right.

We won’t change what appears to be happening with increasing frequency to our society until we decide that we will stand up and dare to speak out against the increased depravity of our culture. Definitely “uncool”, but we must do it…for all families, for the kids and for our future. Otherwise, it can only continue to get much, much worse. It is the age of the wolf.

My deepest condolences to the people of Newtown, Connecticut — but don’t let this make you give up your guns *UPDATED*

Mother in Newtown Connecticut

Despite being fairly decent at both sympathy and empathy, I truly cannot imagine what the survivors of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, are experiencing, and that’s true whether I think of the ones in the line of fire or the family and friends whose loved ones were at the school.

Shooting children like fish in a barrel goes beyond crime.  It is, instead, an act of profound evil.  John Podhoretz latched onto this intrinsic evil when he likened the situation in Connecticut to the horrors of Gehenna:

Gehenna, a synonym for Hell, is a real place, or so the Bible tells us. You can see it today. It is a valley outside Jerusalem, the valley of the son of Hinnom, and it was where worshippers of the idol Moloch sacrificed children to sate their god’s hungers.

Gehenna was revived today in Newton, Connecticut, where as many as 20 children at last report were slaughtered in an elementary school this morning.

[snip]

The connection between the protection of children and the practice of monotheism dates back to the beginning. After Abraham becomes the first Jew, the first monotheist, he is tasked by God to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, the miracle child of his and his wife Sarah’s old age, and he takes up the task without complaint until God stays his hand. The story of Isaac’s binding, the akedah, is one of the most challenging of the Bible and is often taken to mean God was testing Abraham’s faith with the ultimate demand. But one might also say that at the very dawn of the worship of the One God, the Bible was placing the sacrifice of children outside the realm of the thinkable for the first time.

The idea that civilization is dedicated to the protection and preservation the weak and the innocent, and not about fulfilling evil impulses to defile and destroy innocence, is the root and core of the West. One cannot conceive of anything more monstrous than a person or persons who could look small children in the eye and systematically shoot them dead. Which is why this crime, among the worst crimes in American history, is not just an assault on the children, or their families, or the town of Newtown—though it is all those things.

Podhoretz says that today’s shooting turned the killer into one who sacrifices to Moloch, thereby creating a Hell on earth and fundamentally violating a just people’s covenant with a just and loving God.  Incidents such as this one are jagged rips in the fabric of a stable and civilized universe.

Children in Newtown Connecticut

My deepest condolences go to the Newtown community.  Time will never remove the grief, but I hope that it softens it, enabling them to continue living the fulfilling lives their loved ones would have wished for them.

If you want, you can tune out now, because I’m about to go political.

You and I both know that, in the wake of this slaughter, the gun control crowd will begin agitating loudly and strongly for increased limitations on weapons.  This agitation is predicated on two false beliefs:  (1) that everyone with a gun is ipso facto a bad guy; and (2) that gun control will actually remove all the guns from all the bad guys.  In my liberal days, I used to believe this myself.  I foolishly thought that Washington, D.C. could wave a magic wand and make all guns disappear, thereby making all violence disappear.

Back in the day, when I heard the NRA slogan that “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns,” I shouted it down.  “When guns are outlawed,” I shrilled, “no one will have guns.”

In the past ten years, I have had a reality check.  First, I’ve realized that there is no government on earth powerful enough to get rid of all guns, and that’s true even if the anti-gun crowd as able to revoke the entire Second Amendment.  Guns from the moment of their invention, instantly escaped from Pandora’s box.  They are part of the world.

Second, I realized that the NRA was right:  If we accept, as we must, that the guns ye will always have with you, you also accept that laws controlling guns only control those guns in the hands of good people — meaning people who are not violently inclined, but who have guns for defensive purposes and for sport.  The good people, because they are good, will yield to the law and give up their self-defensive and sports guns.  Bad people, however, by definition will not obey the laws.  They will continue to have guns.  The rest of us will be fish in a barrel, nicely gathered together for the coming massacre.

NRA Logo

The best way to think about guns is to accept that, in America, we thankfully still have vastly more good people than bad people.  Good people view guns as a means of self-defense and for sport (hunting or target shooting).  Bad believe view guns as a useful weapon to enable them to eliminate opponents, overwhelm victims, or play out their paranoid delusions.  The best way to keep the bad people from doing bad things is for them to be overwhelmed by good people who also have guns.

Having a gun does not make you bad.  However, being bad and having a gun makes you powerful.  Likewise, being unarmed does not make you good, but being unarmed in the presence of an armed bad guy makes you dead.

If several teachers at the Newtown school had owned concealed-carry weapons, there is a substantial likelihood that at least one of those teachers could have killed or disabled the shooter.  There’s no doubt that many people would still have died, but it’s much more likely that, with the shooter instantly in someone’s cross hairs, many more would have lived.  As it was, the shooter was able to go on a spree until the cops came and we all know that, when seconds count, even the best cops are minutes away.

Connecticut School Shooting

I know this sounds peculiar, but the best thing you can do now to prevent future tragedies such as that which occurred today in Connecticut is to send money to the NRA. If the Leftists leave us with a society that has only armed bad guys, we’ll all be potential Newtown, Connecticuts. Our salvation lies in making sure that there are more of us (armed good guys) than there are of them (armed bad guys) and the NRA is the way to make that happen.

UPDATE:  If you want to go deeper into the data, here’s a Harvard Law Review debunking the connection between gun control and crime reduction.  Or just look at the statistics coming out of incredibly violent, gun-controlled England.

Also for a more look at God’s ways and consolation, the Anchoress has posted.