Three more gun related articles

Second Amendment

There’s an element of truth to the frequently voiced concern that Obama is engaged in some sleight of hand when he keeps guns as the front story in the news.  By doing so, he keeps people distracted from the real news, which is our spendthrift government’s debt.  With that in mind, I’m going to taper off on the gun posts, limiting myself today to these three links:

You can see here Obama’s just-announced list of 23 “executive actions” on guns, which range from inconvenient to stupid to impossible.  This is grand standing.  Even Obama concedes that the ones that require actual legislative action won’t go anywhere.  This is more evidence, if you needed it, that Obama’s playing games.  This demagoguery feeds the masturbatory frenzy on the Left while directing the nation’s attention away from his dramatic economic failures.

With regard to these executive orders — orders that Democrat Legislators begged for — my friend Lulu commented that one should ask Dems how they’d feel if a Republican president issued a slew of executive orders limiting abortion (which isn’t even an explicitly stated Constitutional right).  After all, when the next Republican gets into office, there’s now precedent for executive order over reach outside of the realm of enforcing existing laws or carrying out military goals consistent with the President’s role as Commander-in-Chief.

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, a former prosecutor in Washington, D.C., provides solid evidence that gun bans mostly benefit criminals.  Since reading it this morning, every time one of my liberal Facebook friends has linked to some gun control initiative (i.e., New York’s new bans or the President’s executive orders), I’ve commented as follows:  “Americans really have to decide if we want to limit guns or limit violence.  The two ends have different means.  This article (which I link to in the comment) indicates that, if your goal is to limit violence, limiting guns is, paradoxically, the wrong way to go about it.”  I enjoy the mental image of eyeballs exploding.

Lastly, Wolf Howling looks to Mexico, a country with unusually stringent gun controls and unusually widely distributed and extreme gun violence, and uses it as an object lesson showing that leaving guns solely in the hands of criminals (who don’t care that arms are illegal) is a very bad idea.

Gun control and the Nazis

Was the tax increase a major Republican loss?

Today’s big story the new tax bill that Obama jetted off to Hawaii before signing, but that will soon (and inevitably) become the law of the land.  I don’t see any surprises.  I knew that we’d get hit hard and so we have.

I gather that sequestration has now been averted, so that Obama gets to continue spending.  As the headlines say, $1 in spending cuts for every $41 in tax increases.

Obama laughing

The media and the blogs are playing this as a major Republican loss.  Although I’m not sure it is, I actually rejoice in these headlines.  They sting, but they may have a benefit in the long term.

In my simplistic financial view of the world, there is one given that transcends any fancy economic talk from Ivory Towers and Leftist back rooms:  you cannot indefinitely spend more than you take in.  This is true whether you’re a person or a nation.  You can certainly spend more than you have for a while.  Indeed, if you’re rich (as America once was) you can keep spending money you don’t have for a long time.  You can borrow from friends who haven’t quite figured out yet that you’re broke.  And you can check kite — that is, you can use one empty account to pay off another empty account.  Essentially, you keep the same money floating around between accounts for a while until one of the banks or creditors figures out that you’re simply juggling a few dollars around and hoping that no one catches on that your accounts are usually empty.  And that’s all you can do.

Obama ran for, and won, re-election on a promise that he could fix our problems by taxing “rich” people more, while continuing to spend as before.  The voters bought it.

Another way to think of Obama’s promise, and the voter’s credulity, is to imagine that America is a corporation, with shareholders and various officers.  Obama is the CEO.  Because the CEO and his fellow officers have been spending corporate money like crazy without realizing a profit, the corporation is broke.  It’s worth noting that some of that spending involved distributions to select shareholders — those holding the fewest corporate stocks.

When the shareholders were considering making a push to fire the CEO, the CEO kept his job by telling the shareholders that he’d hire some armed robbers (i.e., the IRS) to force some of the richest shareholders to buy more shares in this essentially bankrupt company.  He made no promises about reducing corporate spending or trying different approaches to dealing with corporate debt.  The shareholders, none of whom could imagine himself (or herself) as being “the richest,” thought it was a great idea to have the “other shareholders” forced to subsidize the corporate spending binge. Those most enthusiastic were the ones who, despite holding the fewest shares, had been getting stock distributions on a regular basis.

Robber

Once his job was assured, the CEO used his renewed power to do exactly what he promised:  he brought in armed robbers to forcibly remove money from the “rich” shareholders without changing his management style, including his spending habits.  The only thing that surprised some of the shareholders was to discover that the CEO numbered them amongst the rich.

In other words, Americans — the shareholders in this nation — just got exactly what Obama promised and they voted for:  more taxing, more spending.

The question, then, is whether yesterday’s vote to increase taxes is a major Republican loss.  Certainly, the Republican party is in chaos — but it was anyway.  After the election, the Republican party was a demoralized, writhing, screaming, finger-pointing mass of loser-dom.

Pathetic loser

Given the Republicans’ already pathetic posture, is what happened yesterday even worse for the Republicans?  I don’t think so.  I think that, with the mid-term elections coming, this clarifies things for voters.  It doesn’t just clarify Republican and/or conservative principles, it also clarifies just who holds those principles.

White House Money Machine

More than that, the new taxes and spending clarify responsibility for America’s economy.  Obama got exactly what he wanted and he thinks that he’s laughing all the way to the bank.  Except when he gets to the bank, he’ll discover it’s still empty.  Within a few months, he’ll be thinking of that adage “be careful what you wish for; you might get it.”

Things are certainly going to be bad, very bad, for America in the short term.  But with a true compromise, of the type Boehner was trying to craft (proving either his good faith or his stupidity), things would have been very bad for America in the slightly longer term.  Short of a revolutionary change to America’s spending habits, which wasn’t going to happen with a compromise, America was always screwed.  Now, at least the Republicans can say “we tried to stop this, but Obama had a stronger political hand in the wake of the elections, so we were forced to give him what he wanted.  This is now, for real and for true, the Obama economy.”

Obama frowning

The one thing to remember is that Republicans had better start selling this Obama-economy message hard and fast now, while Obama and his media minions are still gloating about his victory over the GOP.  Once things go sour, as they inevitably will, Obama and the media will start blaming the Republicans.  We know that, where the media leads, the masses follow.  The only way to stop the sheeple is to drill home now the message that this is Obama’s victory, that Obama got what he’d promised and what he wanted, and that Obama joyfully accepts the responsibility for whatever flows from his glorious battle defeating the Republicans.

Remember:  Nothing, absolutely nothing, that came out of Congress today could have been good for America.  However, if Republicans willingly hand Obama this victory, the greatest likelihood is that it proves to be a Pyrrhic victory for Obama, with long-term benefits for conservative thinking and, therefore, for America.

(Alternatively, Obama could have been right all along, which will be good for America, and I’ll have to revert to my original Democrat allegiance.  Possible, but not probable.  Facts are stubborn things and so are numbers, and I’m betting that Leftist political ideology will not trump either facts or numbers.)

Is it the end of the world as we know it, or just a new phase in the battle for America’s soul?

I’ve had the same ten tabs open in Firefox this entire day.  I feel like a madman, trying to create order out of the chaos in my mind.  I’m convinced that there’s a thread tying together these articles, but I can’t figure out precisely what that thread is.  Maybe it’s just that each is another indicator that we’re starting to slide very quickly down some slippery slope, and I don’t think that we’re in for a soft landing.

Here are the articles, which I present in the order the presented themselves to me as I read through my normal websites and my email today.  If you can catch the elusive thread tying them together, please let me know.

***

I admire Jack Cashill greatly.  He’s a smart man and a superb investigator.  Nevertheless, I’ve long thought he had something of a bee in his bonnet with his insistence that TWA Flight 800 was anything more than a tragic disaster.  Now that I’ve had the dubious pleasure of watching the Obama administration work with the media to cover up events in Benghazi in order to salvage his reelection, however, I’m much more inclined to believe Cashill’s theory about the 1996 plane explosion — namely, that it was a terrorist attack, possibly of Iranian origination, and that Clinton and the media covered it up in order to secure his reelection.

***

I know this sounds callous, but I think that the only way to save America is to let Obama take it off the cliff.  Here’s my thinking regarding the “fiscal cliff” talks:  The Republicans have three choices:  (1) compromise; (2) stonewall; and (3) walk away.  If they compromise, they’ve lost, as a smugly victorious Obama clearly is not in a compromising mood.  He knows that, once the Republicans are a party to any economic plans, no matter how minimal or reluctant their participation, they will get the blame when things inevitably go wrong (or, in the unlikely event things go right, Obama will get all the credit). The Republicans will be irreparably smeared and become irrelevant.

If Republicans stonewall, the exact same thing will happen:  the media will blame them for anything that goes wrong, and give Obama credit for anything that might stay right.  And as this election showed, Americans listen to the media, despite knowing that it lies and conceals.

The only thing left for Republicans is to tell both Obama and the American voters, “The voters wanted Obama and his economic plans, so they shall get them.  We wash our hands of this.”  If things go well, then Republicans will have to accept that their policies are wrong.  If things go badly — and I suspect that they will, and quickly too — Republicans will finally have a convincing platform from which to sell true fiscal conservativism, rather than once again being enablers for Progressive profligacy. That platform, I believe, is the only thing that can return America to her status as a light of freedom and constitutional prosperity.

***

California health insurance rates are skyrocketing.  The usual suspects are blaming the insurance companies for having the temerity to want to earn enough money to pay their employees, pay-out to their insureds, and have money for stockholders (who are, after all, the ultimate owners of these companies).  You and I knew that this was inevitable under ObamaCare, since people no longer need to buy insurance when they’re healthy, but can wait until they’re sick.  And we knew that the media would blame the insurance companies — just as we know that, if there’s a single Republican fingerprint on any budget plan, the Republicans will get the entire blame for any failures.  Being a Progressive means never having to acknowledge that you’re culpable.

***

Speaking of the appalling, biased media, the IDF provides a detailed glimpse into the way the media and the Palestinians work hand-in-hand to destroy Israel, both in the battlefield and in the war for hearts and minds around the world.

***

It’s official:  Harvard will have a student society dedicated to S & M (that’s “sadism and masochism” for the innocents among you). Please remind me why Harvard is still considered a respectable educational institution, worth the millions of dollars taxpayers that send to it, both by funding direct federal grants and by picking up the costs of all the taxpayer-guaranteed loans its students conveniently forget to pay upon graduation.

***

Yes, Susan Rice is every bit as bad as you think she is — and it has nothing to do with her skin color and everything to do with her personality, political ideology, and ugly track record.

***

One of my high school friends calls himself a life-long conservative, something I did not know about him back in high school.  I think, though, that he could more accurately be summed up as a libertarian, since he is not at all a social conservative.  To that end, he’s expressed dismay with the increasingly high profile of fervently religious candidates in the Republican party.  He’s wondering if he can twist himself around to believe in the Democrat party, which he sees as non-religious.  I countered his concerns by sending him Dennis Prager’s article explaining that socialism is not just a religion, it’s currently the world’s most dynamic religion.  I recognize that the Republican party can be weak and pathetic, and that it is too often made up of RINOs or true ignoramuses who hide behind religion to excuse that ignorance.  Nevertheless, my friend needs to understand that the alternative is worse.

***

One of my long-time peeves (and one of the things that turned me to conservativism) is the way that Progressives mangled Title IX, which was, in relevant part, supposed to remove hurdles to women’s participation in college sports.  Equality of access?  It’s a good thing.  What Progressives have done, though, is to demand perfect equality of numbers.  Because college women have stubbornly refused to participate in college athletics at the same rate as college men, the only way to achieve this artificial parity is to slash men’s athletic programs.  James Taranto explains here, and makes us fully aware of yet another travesty inflicted on America thanks to Progressive politics.

***

And finally, it wasn’t your imagination that, for the first time in America, the 2012 election was openly predicated upon socialist class warfare. Just to make it official, a top Democrat political action group (conveniently working with George Soros funds) has started a website explicitly dedicated to class warfare.

***

So, was I right?  Is the common thread to these links the dissolution of America at every level?

I’m sorry if I sound bipolar.  Yesterday I was enthusing about the possibility of an American Margaret Thatcher and today I’m talking about imminent Armageddon.  The latter is how I feel; the former is how I want to feel.

In any event, I’m not sure one can ever fight a battle unless one simultaneously fears the opponent and feels optimistic about ones own abilities. In other words, success requires an honest assessment of the forces arrayed against you, as well as the belief that it is possible to prevail.  Without that belief, why bother to fight?

Let not your heart be troubled — nations can be saved

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.

Sometimes you need to see the infection to know you're sick

Sometimes you need to see the infection to know you're sick

 

Knowledge equals paranoia *UPDATED*

(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.