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George H. W. Bush

December 8th, 2018 4 Comments

Like the rest of America, I watched the funeral services for our forty-first president and found them to be reflective of the man: elegant, restrained, intelligent, classy, and tremendously dignified. The eulogies and anecdotes covered a wide swathe of achievements, from school to military service to public service, touching most of all on his devotion and loyalty to his family and legions of friends, accounts sometimes profoundly moving, frequently very funny. It was a good life, with all ninety-four years of it well-lived.

H.W. was the last president we shall ever see who came out of what Tom Brokaw so accurately labeled the Greatest Generation. He was the last true warrior president, and though I dislike that phrase, I both understand and appreciate the qualities active military duty imbues in those who have seen combat.

But amid the tears and laughter, it was this brief quote I ran across in the Wall Street Journal that reduced me to a pulp:

“Bush is a revered figure in the Navy, especially among aviators, who marvel that he enlisted on his 18th birthday and flew 58 dangerous missions. His name graces one of America’s newest aircraft carriers, commissioned in 2009. The Navy saluted its departed comrade Saturday with this message: Fair winds and following seas, Sir. We have the watch.

Mere Christianity

November 29th, 2018 10 Comments

 

Food for thought for those who believe in tribal identity, either by race or gender or whatever; but those of us who believe strongly in individual rights and the importance of self-reliance also need to pay attention to this quote from Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis:

“The idea that the whole human race is, in a sense, one thing—one huge organism, like a tree—must not be confused with the idea that individual differences do not matter or that real people, Tom and Nobby and Kate, are somehow less important than collective things like classes, races, and so forth. Indeed the two ideas are opposites. Things which are parts of a single organism may be very different from one another: things which are not, may be very alike. Six pennies are quite separate and very alike; my nose and my lungs are very different but they are only alive at all because they are parts of my body and share its common life. Christianity thinks of human individuals not as mere members of a group or items in a list, but as organs in a body—different from one another and each contributing what no other could. When you find yourself wanting to turn your children, or pupils, or even your neighbors, into people exactly like yourself, remember that God probably never meant them to be that. You and they are different organs, intended to do different things. On the other hand, when you are tempted not to bother about someone else’s troubles because they ‘are no business of yours,’ remember that though he is different from you he is part of the same organism as you. If you forget that he belongs to the same organism as yourself you will become an Individualist. If you forget that he is a different organ from you, if you want to suppress differences and make all people alike, you will become a Totalitarian. But a Christian must not be either a Totalitarian or an Individualist.”

The War on Drugs

November 15th, 2018 16 Comments

 

Pity the fool. Pity poor Donald Trump. He really doesn’t have a clue.

I am going to make a liberal, left-wing suggestion that will outrage right-wing conservatives, but before you throw up your hands and condemn me, hear me out.

The problem with all of us smelly deplorables electing a non-professional politician as president of the Unites States is that the poor naïve schmuck actually seems to believe he is supposed to keep—or at least try to keep—his campaign promises. Trump doesn’t realize politicians just promise whatever they hell they want or must to get elected; nobody expects them to ever keep a promise, for goodness sake! What a joke.

Trump declared war on drugs on the campaign trail, and, most recently since his election, on opioids in particular. Now let’s see, which president since Richard Nixon (who coined the phrase in 1971) has not declared war on drugs? And how are we doing with that, America?

No one ever accused me of being the brightest bulb in the tanning bed, but I am smart enough to realize that after almost half a century of failing at something, it might be time to try another tactic. Call me an easily discouraged quitter, but that’s how I feel about it.

So I am going to suggest that we just give up—sort of—and legalize drugs; not only marijuana, but every damned thing that you can put in your body to alter or dim your consciousness.

Wait. Don’t go away angry. Listen to some well-known facts before you lose your temper.

Scientists who study such things say that approximately ten to fifteen percent of any population group anywhere in the world will be prone to some form of addiction, be it drugs, alcohol, gambling, whatever, and that percentage of the population will have that tendency no matter what. (Whether they all indulge their tendency or not is another matter.)

Approximately eight to ten percent of Americans are currently considered drug-addicted.

America spends approximately $30- to $100-billion (depending which source you choose to believe and how you calculate it) every single year on the war on drugs. That’s the cost you and I, the American taxpayer, pay to prevent the stuff getting in the country; to try and stop or eradicate it at its international source; to arrest and incarcerate people for selling and/or using it; to provide treatment for addicts; and for campaigns to discourage or prevent people (children, primarily) from starting down the dark road to addiction.

Even at the low end, that’s a hefty chunk of change, but that price tag doesn’t include the ancillary costs: the over 63,000 (according to the CDC) dead from overdoses every year; the quotidian violence and murder in our city streets that destroys not only lives but entire communities; the 250,000 murdered in Mexico alone in the last ten years—more than 55 people a day is the estimate—to feed America’s hunger for addiction; the practically endless costs of less violent varieties of crime (burglaries and robberies); the costs, both in dollars and in human lives, of drug-impaired people driving in the car next to you, or just behind you, or coming toward you, every single time you get behind the wheel of your car.

Legalizing drugs would have several, almost immediate results.

It would drive the price down, which would put most local dealers out of business immediately.

It would eventually put the cartels out of business. Yes, I understand they’re all criminals and would just turn their attention to some other illegal activity, but destroying their bread and butter would save countless lives and countless billions of dollars.

The American government, on the other hand, could make money hand over fist by regulating and taxing the stuff, just the way they do alcohol.

It would provide some measure of control over who takes drugs and what drugs they take. Addicts would have to register to be able to get their drugs, take the stuff in a controlled environment where they wouldn’t overdose or kill you with their driving, and be exposed to endless opportunities to kick their habit.

I suspect the number of addicts would drop because making drugs legal and administering them through some boring bureaucratic agency would take away much of the “wow factor” that causes teenagers to experiment, teenagers being notorious for wanting to do whatever they are told they may not do.

It would save lives: the more than 63,000 who die from overdoses every year, for one; for another, the murder rate would plummet, because approximately 95% to 98% of murders in this country are directly or indirectly drug-related, according to law enforcement; it would reduce the number of traffic accident fatalities (although, to be fair, I have to admit more accidents are caused by cell phones and texting than by impaired driving).

If you disagree, present your arguments against legalization, but make sure you have some alternative to the current, ineffective, wasteful, and destructive war on drugs, because spinning your wheels for fifty years is really not too smart.

Macron and the United Nations

November 13th, 2018 6 Comments

In Paris, at the ceremonies to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One, French President Emmanuel Macron gave a speech in which he shook a metaphorical finger at President Donald Trump and other leaders who have espoused “nationalism.” Nationalism is defined as putting the interests of one’s own nation ahead of other nations, and Macron decried it as the exact opposite of patriotism. He went on to claim nationalism “erases” the moral values of any nation that espouses that belief. He pointed to the European Union and the United Nations as examples of how the world should live and as “guarantors of peace.”

Really, Mr. Macron? I don’t follow the doings of the European Union that closely, but in the case of the United Nations, you picked a poor example. Just to remind you of one instance, one where the United States generally and Bill Clinton in particular should also hang their heads in shame, why don’t you go tell the 500,000 to 1,000,000 dead Tutsi in Rwanda what a masterful job the United Nations did of protecting them and preserving peace in that country?

How about Syria, Mr. Macron? Did the United Nations live up to your high standards as guarantors of peace when China and Russia invoked their veto power to overrule France, the United Kingdom, and the United States in their attempt to prevent genocide in Syria in 2012?

Do you really want a world run by the same United Nations that elected the Islamic Republic of Iran to the board responsible for overseeing “gender equality and the empowerment of women?” I wonder how the women of France feel about that.

Do you really want a world run by the same United Nations that elected (among others) Saudi Arabia, China, Venezuela, and Pakistan to be responsible for the Human Rights Council? Please. If that weren’t an actual fact it would make for a preposterous and unbelievable comedy sketch on Saturday Night Live.

I wonder how the Bosnian women who were raped (and many of them murdered) by Serbian soldiers felt about the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces (primarily Dutch, in that case) that stood by and did nothing.

I suspect the approximately 300,000 Sudanese civilians butchered by, apparently, both the Janjaweed and the Sudanese government, weren’t terribly impressed by the two-hundred (200) soldiers the UN finally saw fit to send into an area the size of Alaska.

You pointed to the United Nations as the institution the world should look to in order to insure the kind of international cooperation that developed after two world wars.

Golly, Mr. Macron, putting all the minor little instances above aside, you must have forgotten about the League of Nations, precursor to the United Nations, whose primary mandate was to insure world peace. How did that work for France and the rest of world? I assume in your eagerness to commemorate the end of World War One by lecturing Donald Trump you haven’t forgotten about that little thing known as World War Two.

There are many, many more examples I could give you of the glowing and stellar performance record of the UN, Mr. Macron, but I will only stress one more, the most shameful one of all, one that you, as a Frenchman, should be especially ashamed of:

According to the Wall Street Journal, as of 2016 the United Nations Human Rights Council had condemned Israel more than every other nation combined. More than Syria. More than China. More than Venezuela. More than Pakistan. More than Turkey. More than all of them. That would be the same United Nations that held a World Conference Against Racism which then booed the Israeli supporters off the stage with chants of “Jew! Jew! Jew!” Have you forgotten, or are you so ignorant of your own country’s history that you are now willing to embrace anti-Semitism in your eagerness for a kumbaya world order? For shame, Mr. Macron, for shame!

In the future, do what you want to your own country, Mr. Macron, and keep your nose out of American affairs. I am a proud, patriotic American nationalist and I do not want you or the United Nations telling me how I should live. I especially do not intend to live up to your beloved United Nations’ anti-Semitic standards.

Armistice Day

November 11th, 2018 4 Comments

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the most senseless waste of human life in history, and to honor the gallant military, dead and alive, who helped and help still to keep America safe and free, I offer a poem by one of the lesser-known War Poets of World War One:

In Memoriam

Private D. Sutherland killed in action in the German trench, May 16th, 1916, and the others who died.

So you were David’s father,

And he was your only son,

And the new-cut peats are rotting

And the work is left undone,

Because of an old man weeping,

Just an old man in pain,

For David, his son David,

That will not come again.

 

Oh, the letters he wrote you,

And I can see them still,

Not a word of the fighting

But just the sheep on the hill

And how you should get the crops in

Ere the year get stormier,

And the Bosches have got his body,

And I was his officer.

 

You were only David’s father,

But I had fifty sons

When we went up in the evening

Under the arch of the guns,

And we came back at twilight–

O God! I heard them call

To me for help and pity

That could not help at all.

 

Oh, never will I forget you,

My men that trusted me,

More my sons than your fathers’,

For they could only see

The little helpless babies

And the young men in their pride.

They could not see you dying,

And hold you while died.

 

Happy and young and gallant,

They saw their first-born go,

But not the strong limbs broken

And the beautiful men brought low,

The piteous writhing bodies,

They screamed ‘Don’t leave me, sir,’

For they were only your fathers

But I was your officer.

 

E. A. Mackintosh, killed in action, 1916

Johann Fanzoj

November 5th, 2018 7 Comments

Just to get all our minds off the endless, soul-killing litany of malicious lies and braggadocio of the mid-term elections, I have decided to post some photographs sent to me by rancher and novelist John L. Moore of a work of art by a gun maker I’d never even heard of before.

Johann Fanzoj has been making guns in Ferlach, Austria ever since 1790, and it looks as if they have a pretty good idea of what they’re doing. The gun in the photographs is a Vierling, a four-barreled gun. It would require far more money than I have to buy it, and far more skill than I have to use it, but enjoy the photos.

Marching to the Promised Land

October 23rd, 2018 25 Comments

I’ve been watching and reading the news, trying to find any kind of factual material about the “Migrant Caravan,” but other than breathless accounts of the sheer size of crowd, there isn’t much out there.

The Los Angeles Times sent a reporter down to southern Mexico who wrote touching anecdotal accounts of the desperate people, primarily women, he spoke to, but anecdotal accounts do not qualify as facts.

Fox News published anecdotal accounts of young men eager for work in America, many of whom had been previously deported multiple times. They also ran photographs of young women with children, some just toddlers in diapers. But one of their news programs also reported seeing young men wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Trump is the devil,” and noted accurately that the young men in the caravan greatly outnumber the women and children. Again, neither anecdotal accounts nor isolated incidents qualify as real information.

However, in every shot of the endless line that stretches beyond the capability of any camera to capture it in its entirety, you see men carrying Honduran flags and Guatemalan flags and El Salvadoran flags, sometimes waving them on poles, sometime flags so large they must be carried by two or three men walking abreast. That intrigues me. It also raises many questions.

The US sent almost two-billion dollars in foreign aid to Latin America and the Caribbean in 2017. “Foreign aid” includes a wide variety of programs, from military aid or training and narcotics control to economic support, development assistance, and health programs. In the cases of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, military and narcotics law enforcement aid together constitute a fraction of the amount sent for the other programs.

My first question is, why are we sending that money, if it clearly isn’t helping the people of those countries? (I don’t do twitter, but I understand President Trump asked much the same thing yesterday.)

My next question is what kind of oversight is there over how those governments actually spend that money? Clearly it isn’t helping the people it is meant to help, so do we actually know how much, if any, is being used for its intended purpose(s)? I don’t wish to sound cynical and suspicious, but American aid has been known to end up lining private pockets before, from time to time, and all three of those countries are notorious for their corruption.

And then, most importantly, who sponsored these people and their march? I don’t for an instant believe they all just spontaneously had the same idea, any more than I believed Barack and Hillary’s claim that Benghazi was randomly caused by a group of young men out for a walk. The Wall Street Journal indicated the march was backed by the organization “People Without Borders,” but that organization’s website opens with a bold-print statement vehemently denying any association with the caravan. So who got the migrants going?

And who is supporting them en route? The news accounts reported trucks handing out food and water and toilet paper, but think for a moment of the logistics of feeding, watering, sheltering, and providing other ancillary necessities to 7000+, 10,000+, 14,000+ (it depends which totally honest, well-researched and fact driven news source you choose to believe) ill-equipped people. Who is paying for it? Clearly no one with America’s best interests at heart. And it’s debatable that it was started with the best interests of the poor marchers at heart: at least one person has already died, others have had to be hospitalized, and they haven’t even gotten into drug cartel country yet where the real fun will begin. Let’s be very clear: there is a humanitarian crisis brewing here which America will be called upon to mitigate, and we will, but saving lives is very different from fomenting trouble and encouraging people to risk the lives America will have to save.

Finally, if you were a desperate migrant and really, really wanted to come to America and make a better life for yourself here; if you were so frantic to escape the poverty and lack of opportunity and the violence in your homeland that you would walk between 1400 and 2400 miles (depending on which route they take), why the hell would you wave flags glorifying the memory of the country you’re trying so hard to escape? During the Cold War, I don’t recall any of the young men and women who risked their lives to escape the communist bloc carrying the East German flag, say, as they clambered over the wall. My great-grandparents didn’t display an Irish flag once they and their seven sons finally had a one-room cabin in front of which to display anything. Waving the flag of the country you’re fleeing is not likely to inspire welcoming open arms in the country you’re fleeing to.

Speciousness

October 6th, 2018 24 Comments

 

Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed, despite the boorish and possibly unethical behavior of some Democrats, and in spite of the even more boorish and decidedly illegal behavior of certain well-organized and well-funded left-wing loonies (it being slightly illegal to threaten to kill elected officials). But no one with an IQ above room temperature took the ugly Democrat muck-raking seriously, while screaming and violent protesters simply turned people off, patriotic Americans being essentially peaceable and law-abiding.

Scarier are some of the more subtle and meretricious arguments against Mr. Kavanaugh like the following one I stumbled across on Facebook:

“Let’s do some simple math.

Per the March 2017 study on reports of sexual assault in the Journal of Forensic Psychology, 5% of reports of sexual assault are unfounded – i.e., false reports.

Brett Kavanaugh has had two women accuse him of sexual assault.

The odds of each of these being a false accusation is 5%. That sounds pretty high, right? 1 in 20.

Now, what are the odds of *both* of these being false accusations? That’s two separate events, each with 5% odds. So you multiply those probabilities together: 5% x 5% – or, to write it in more easily multipliable numbers, .05 x .05.

.05 x .05 = .0025, or .25%. So, the odds are one quarter of one percent that both women accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault are making false accusations.

Or, to put it another way, the odds are 99.75% that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted one or both of these women.

If you don’t believe women, maybe you can at least believe simple math.”

Oh, brave new world! Amid all the shrill hysteria on the streets and the preposterous posturing of politicians and pundits such quiet, dignified, and irrefutable reasoning seems a breath of fresh air. But bear with me, Gentle Reader, and let’s think about it.

If you wish to live in a world where mathematical formulae and statistical probabilities replace presumption of innocence, there it is, quiet, dignified, and irrefutable.

If you wish to live in a world where the worst, ugliest kind of tribalism (in this case it’s, “If he’s male, he must be guilty,” but it could be, “if he’s white, if he’s old, if he’s conservative… and on and on) replaces rule of law, there it is, quiet, dignified, and irrefutable.

If you wish to live in a world where anyone who disagrees with your point of view justifies the crudest, most vicious, salacious destruction of character, there it is, quiet, dignified, and irrefutable.

On the other hand, if you are, as I am, one of those smelly deplorables who revere and deeply believe in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the rule of law, the presumption of innocence, all the institutions that have made this country the envy of the world, the whole glorious—sometimes messy and sometimes wrong—history of the most generous, tolerant, and accepting nation on earth, then I suggest you get to a polling booth this November, and vote for a world where guilt and innocence are not determined by equations or statistical probabilities, let alone ugly and unsubstantiated accusations.

I Said, She Said

October 2nd, 2018 10 Comments

 

Predictably, there is absolute and irreconcilable hysteria over the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court Justice hearings. One side says he’s a saint and she’s just another evil and sleazy Democrat party operative who’ll stoop to any disgusting low and tell any disgusting lie; the other side says she’s a tragic victim and he’s an alcoholic, drug-administering serial rapist and pedophile.

Neither side can prove its accusations or its defense which, just as predictably, gives us the truly sleazy and over-the-top hysterical theatrics of senators and media alike.

Let’s all take a step back, Gentle Reader, and consider a well-known truth of law enforcement.

There are reasons why there is a statute of limitations for almost all crimes except murder. I say “almost” all because the laws vary from state to state, but for our purposes here, almost all is close enough for government work, you should pardon the expression.

One of the primary reasons for a statute of limitations is the fallibility of memory, and before you accuse me of being partisan, hear my story:

Before we bought our little ranch, Darleen and I were living in a house at a fairly high elevation in the southern Sierras. We had put the house on the market with an eye to buying the ranch and one day a realtor called to request a showing. She showed up with a very distinguished, very elegant, very sophisticated gentleman. He made all the right noises; he chatted easily and graciously; he spoke German to me; he had a good eye and immediately identified and admired our two best paintings; he said nice things about the house.

He told us he was one of the men in charge of investments for the Vatican; that he had a flat in Rome and a house in Germany, both of which he intended to keep, but that he was planning for his retirement, hence his interest in our house.

I thought at the time it was odd that such a sophisticated and urbane man would want to retire to an impoverished rural county, but the southern Sierras are heartbreakingly beautiful, so I didn’t make too much of it. I also thought it odd he should be interested in such a small and modest house as ours, but as if reading my mind, he mentioned casually that he was planning to buy several homes in the area so that he could gather his mother and a sister around him when he retired.

It was all just extraordinary enough to be believable, and yet…

And yet, some instinct in me, some warning bell, went off, and while I smiled and chatted and shook hands when he left, I was wary, and I doubted anything would come of it.

I was both right and wrong.

A week later, I was home alone when I saw him driving down our driveway, unannounced, by himself, without the realtor. Those are all no-no’s and I was immediately on guard. He asked if he could take one more look around before he flew back to Rome. I said no. We spoke very briefly in the doorway, and then he got back in his car and I watched him drive away.

At the time, I attributed his visit to nothing more outrageous than an unethical and sleazy attempt to cut the realtor out of a commission. That was what I told Darleen when she got home and as the realtor was a friend of hers, she called to give her friend a heads-up.

Another week went by. I was in the local gym, working out, when our police chief and a detective walked in and told me they needed to question me. It turned out my instincts had been correct, but they just hadn’t gone far enough. Our sophisticated, urbane, and well-heeled buyer was actually just a slick con-man with a lengthy felony record, and the police now wanted to know what he had said to us, what he had told us about his plans, if he had mentioned any places in California other than our little community, and especially if he had mentioned the names of any other people. And on and on.

At one point, the detective, who was taking notes, asked me what car the man had been driving. That was easy: I had seen him driving to the house, and I had watched him drive away. It was brand new Something-or-Other, a new car that had just been introduced that year and was being advertised everywhere, so it was very recognizable. Did I remember the color? Oh, yes, of course. It was bright red.

There was a long pause and the two officers looked at each other.

Was I positive it was red?

Yes, one-hundred percent positive. Bright red.

Another long pause, and then the detective said, “We have him in custody, and when we arrested him, he was driving a brand new Something-or-Other that was bright blue.”

And I instantly knew what had happened. That car was being touted in commercials on every television channel and in print ads in every magazine, and in each case, in each print ad and each commercial, it was being shown in bright red. I had simply conflated what I saw in the ads and commercials with what I had seen in my driveway.

So how do we now reconcile the polar opposites of sworn testimony from two very believable people, each of whom is absolutely certain they are speaking the unvarnished truth? I suspect Ms. Ford probably did have some extremely unpleasant experience at some party at some house in some neighborhood at some time, but I also suspect her thirty-six-year-later identification of Brett Kavanaugh is due to a conflation of unrelated events. She may have seen him at some other party, or he may have reminded her of her actual attacker, or… Who knows? Memory is both fallible and unreliable. Hence the statute of limitations.

Contrary to a posting making the rounds of Facebook, presumption of innocence is not confined solely to criminal cases; it is the basis for all legal proceedings and, more importantly, all civilized behavior. Due process in a legal sense is not an issue here, but the same Facebook posting claims nothing is being taken from Mr. Kavanaugh. Oh, really? Reputation is no small thing and taking that from a man can destroy his life as effectively as taking his liberty or his rights or his property.

Alan Dershowitz, the liberal Democrat lawyer and legal scholar, doesn’t care one way or the other about Brett Kavanaugh, and he believes Merrick Garland should currently be seated on the Supreme Court, but Mr. Dershowitz rightly pointed out in a recent Wall Street Journal article that this is no longer about Mr. Kavanaugh’s qualifications. Instead, according to Mr. Dershowitz, it has devolved down into nothing more than a fundamental issue of fairness. Mr. Dershowitz goes on to point out, quite correctly, that we live in a new age of sexual McCarthyism, where all that is needed is an allegation—never mind how outrageous, improbable or impossible to prove—to ruin a man’s life.

The poet, philosopher, and theologian Samuel Taylor Coleridge coined the term “motiveless malignity” to describe Iago’s evil glee in destroying Othello. The same term might be equally applied to the Democrat members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and their equally evil, equally gleeful attacks on Mr. Kavanaugh. If you really believe Roe v. Wade is so important a touchstone that preserving it justifies any degree of dishonesty, filth, hate-mongering, smirking innuendo, character assassination, and posturing, then you have no business serving in any government at any level.

Did a crime occur? Definitively. The crime that has occurred is the ruthless destruction of a man’s good name, based purely on allegations, without any scintilla of evidence, never mind proof, by the likes of such paragons of probity and honesty as Senator Spartacus, Richard I’m-a-Courageous-Vietnam-Vet-Who-Never-Set-Foot-in-Vietnam-and-Lied-About-It Blumenthal, Dick Weaponize-the-IRS Durbin, Mazie-I-Believe-Her-So-We-Don’t-Need-No-Stinking-Constitution Hirono, Dianne-My-Chauffeur-Was-a-Chinese-Spy-and-My-Husband-Has-Made-Millions-in-China Feinstein, et al.

There is no limit to the depravity of man, but it sure as hell hits its zenith in politics. Or should that be nadir?

Who Are You Going to Vote For?

September 22nd, 2018 6 Comments

 

On Friday, September 21, 2018, The Wall Street Journal ran a front-page article by David Luhnow under the headline, 400 Murders a Day: The Crisis in Latin America. Here are some of the highlights:

A chart on the front page showed the violent deaths (per 100,000 people) by firearms in 2016, by country:

El Salvador: 40.29

Venezuela: 34.77

Honduras: 20.56

Guatemala: 26.81

Brazil: 19.34

Mexico: 10.76

Latin America and Caribbean: 16.21

A sub-headline on the chart notes that some of the smaller countries lumped under the Latin-America-and-Caribbean category, notably El Salvador, have disproportionately higher rates even than the region generally

To put this in context, you would be safer living anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa, where violent deaths by firearms per 100,000 are 1.22, North Africa and the Middle East (1.50), or Asia (0.77). Syria is safer than Latin America. So are Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Luhnow’s depiction of death rates per 100,000 as caused by firearms may actually be slightly off, as one of the murders he describes occurring on a typical day in Acapulco included a cabdriver who was hacked to death, while others were caused by garroting or dumping victims in vats of acid, but it is certainly close enough for the purposes of this article. Acapulco, in case you were planning to take your significant other there this winter, had 953 people murdered last year, more than in Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Portugal, and the Netherlands put together. That’s in a single city of 800,000.

Mr. Luhnow points out that in Latin America, every day, more than 400 people are murdered, for an annual total of 145,000, and that with just 8% of the world’s population, Latin America accounts for approximately one third of global murders, and that nearly one in four murders around the world are committed in just four countries: Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, and Columbia. El Salvador’s 2016 murder rate of 83 per 100,000 was the world’s highest, nearly 17-times higher than America’s. (Note the disparity between this figure and the one cited above in the chart. I assume that is because this one is an updated figure reflecting recent unhappy events in El Salvador where things appear to be spiraling ever further out of control.)

A few more factoids: Violence cost Latin America 3% of its annual economic output, or twice the level of developed countries; 43 of the 50 most murderous cities in the world are in Latin America, including all of the top ten; between 2000 and 2017, approximately 2.5 million people were murdered in Latin America and the Caribbean, equivalent to wiping out the entire city of Chicago, which is frequently in the news for its own problems.

There are more fascinating—or horrifying—facts cited by Mr. Luhnow, but let me skip now to his findings.

Some of this violence is attributable to Latin America’s having the world’s greatest gap between rich and poor;

Much of the economy of those countries is off-the-grid, illegal family-run street businesses that operate without government control or taxation, which contributes to a culture of scoffing at the law;

What little law exists is so riddled with corruption as to hardly qualify as law;

Most Latin American cities have woefully inadequate services, particularly schools and honest law enforcement;

Law enforcement and the legal structure generally are both weak and corrupt;

The percentage of single-parent homes has skyrocketed in the last twenty years;

And, finally, the presence of powerful drug cartels and violent gangs is both pervasive and seductive, a world of crime that offers young men with few other options jobs, services, and an identity.

Does any of that sound familiar, Gentle Reader? As I have written multiple times before, study after study after study of American inner-city crime, by a wide range of impartial think-tanks and universities, have all come to precisely the same conclusions as to the causes of the problems we read about daily in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, New Orleans, Washington, DC, Newark, Milwaukee, and on and on.

So when you go to the polls this November, if a politician tells you he or she is going to get tough on violent crime by banning guns or passing newer, better, tougher, more draconian laws, just remember that in all those countries lumped under the banner of Latin America, from Mexico to Cape Horn, gun ownership is nearly impossible, limited exclusively to those with the financial means and political connections most people do not have. In some countries, notably Mexico, it is virtually and totally impossible, no matter what. Think of how well those laws are working down there, and then vote for someone else. Vote for anyone who has the wisdom and the courage to talk about:

The importance of family structure;

Changing a culture that glorifies the absentee father and encourages detachment from economic and cultural norms;

Better schooling and mentoring for at-risk youth;

Mental illness as balanced between threat to society and right to privacy;

Reconsidering some of the popular public policies that were well-intentioned attempts to relieve social ills, but which have in fact contributed to them by creating a socio-economic underclass;

And above all, it is time to rethink the war on drugs, because we’ve lost that one, baby.

I do not recommend anyone hold their breath waiting for a politician to address these issues.

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