December, 2015

Book Review: Brushstrokes and Balladeers

December 30th, 2015 20 Comments

PickinUpANewPairOfHeals37x37

 

Brushstrokes and Balladeers is the first volume of a two-volume set compiled by C.J. Hadley and published by the Range Conservation Foundation and Range magazine. The second volume is Reflections of the West and both books cover the same territory, a compilation of poets and painters associated with the American West. And that covers a lot of ground, you should pardon the expression, in every way you can think of. I will write about both volumes as the single set they are.

december-sundown

 

The artists C.J. Hadley has selected range from familiar old masters of the American West, such as Remington, Russell, and Dixon to modern masters most of whom, thank God, are still very much with us today: think Tom Quinn, William Matthews, Karen Myers, Tom Browning, Jason Rich, Nancy Boren, the recently deceased Bill Owen, Don Weller, S.C Mummert… I’m tempted to go on, because there are so many fine artists represented here, but instead I will just say that Hadley’s choices wisely cover all aspects of that vast and varied area that runs from the high central plains to the Pacific, and from Mexico to Canada, the area that is home to a lifestyle that is the best part of America. Most of the paintings show glimpses of cowboy and ranching life, from the iconic (gathering cattle in all kinds of terrain and all kinds of weather; a tired cowboy and his horse both drinking from a stock tank; mending fence) to smaller and more intimate moments of the same lifestyle (a cowboy whose eyes and mind may be focused elsewhere, but whose hand is absently stroking the ears of the dog who makes his job possible; a group of ranchers sharing memories and gossip over coffee at the counter of their local breakfast joint) but there are also portraits of men and women, cattle and horses, as well as the exquisite portraits of wildlife captured by Tom Quinn’s extraordinary brush. And through it all, dominating it all, is the magnificent, breathtaking, unforgiving landscape of that part of America many of us are so proud and happy to call home.

black-white-and-cold

 

And while these volumes are intended as a celebration of the American West, Hadley has wisely expanded her choice of poets to include some who captured part of what our West means even as they lived in other places and other times. The great Persian poet, Omar Khayyám never even dreamed of America a thousand years ago, but he managed to express some of what we find here today. Andrew “Banjo” Patterson never set foot in America, as far as I know, yet some of his famous poems sing of the cowboy experience as evocatively as if he had been born and bred pushing cattle out of arroyos filled with prickly pear.

There are some famous names here, men and women who are well known as cowboy poets (Red Steagall, Baxter Black, Wally McRae, Waddie Mitchell) and there are also some names that might surprise you (Wendell Berry, Robert Frost, Pulitzer Prize winner and United States Poet Laureate Ted Kooser), but it is the new poets—new at least to me—that really caught me by surprise. I had never heard of Bill Jones, but his Five Days Home affected me like a punch in the stomach. I had never heard of Joel Nelson, even though he lives in my favorite part of Texas and has been awarded a National Heritage Fellowship, but his The Breaker in the Pen is the only cowboy recording ever to be nominated for a Grammy. I had never heard of Wyoming Poet Laureate Patricia Frolander, but her Married Into It captures two entire lifetimes in forty-eight lines. I had never heard of a dozen others, award winners, Hall of Fame inductees, poets laureate past and present, men and women hailed by the Smithsonian, NPR, PBS, and—more importantly—by a public better educated than I.

And that’s the point of buying anthologies like these: these paintings and poems will give you insight into a world most people only think they know from movies, and they will give you infinite pleasure, reading or looking.

Will the Yellow Star Be Worn Again?

December 28th, 2015 16 Comments

Yellow star

 

History is, or should be, a sort of cicatrix on the psyche of each of us, a pattern of raised scar tissue to remind us of the mistakes and cruelties—and the triumphs and selflessness—of earlier generations. Obviously, the farther back in time we go, the fainter and less meaningful those cicatrices will be: the lessons to be learned from the power struggles (thinly disguised as religious struggles) of the Thirty Years War, for example, (which actually lasted more like fifty years) will not resonate as much today as those events of only thirty years past. But if you are one of those pompous, prancing, prating politicians who pretend to lead us, you shouldn’t be allowed to even run for office without first taking a comprehensive, week-long world history test with varied parts (true or false, multiple choice, long-form essay, and verbal, with the verbal segment to be aired on prime-time television so you can maximize your foolishness and incompetence if you pretend to know more than you really do).

I forget now whether I was ten or eleven when we moved to Germany, but it was the beginning of one of the most enriching and culturally significant periods in my life.

My parents were both eager to expose their children to as much literature, art, music, history, architecture, food, and culture (in a general, contemporary sense) as possible, regardless of where we lived, but being in Germany, my parents did their best to take advantage of the millennium or more of German history and civilization.

My sister and I were sent to a German public school; we went to local German shops; when we went out to eat, it was to German restaurants; and we were not pampered or sheltered when it came to exposing us to both the good and the bad of our new, temporary homeland.

When we first visited the cathedral in Köln, it was in a part of the city where many of the buildings had been reduced to piles of rubble; the piles had been tidied up and the rubble moved out of the streets, but it was still a stark reminder of the effects of war and our parents explained why it was rubble and why it had been necessary.

Nor did our parents make any effort to shield us from the realities and causes of that war. Many, if not most, of our friends there were Germans, good and wonderful people all, many of whom I would dearly love to see again, but we were also told about the Nazis, and the horror of the atrocities they had committed. We were taken to see cathedrals and museums and architectural splendors that had survived the bombing, but we were also taken to two of the concentration camps that were in what was soon, after the building of the Berlin Wall, to be the only part of Germany accessible to us, West Germany.

I forget now which two concentration camps we saw. Isn’t that an odd thing to forget? I’m quite sure one was Dachau, but I wouldn’t swear to anything, other than I remember clearly and vividly the hair-raising, nauseous, repulsion I experienced walking in there, as if the voices of the dead were calling out from the walls. The sensation remains, but the memory, the visual and intellectual memory has been blocked.

One of the books my parents had in our library in Germany was a photographic history of World War Two and one of the photographs in that book that resonated with me was a picture of a middle-aged man and woman hurrying along a street with yellow stars pinned to their heavy woolen overcoats, as other people, some in Nazi uniforms, some in mufti, pointed and laughed. The shame and fear on the faces of the man and woman were indelible.

I think it resonated with me in part because of what it was and in part because I was reaching that age where conformity is a critical form of protective camouflage, the latter coupled with the fact that I was one of only two or three American students in the entire Nicolaus-Cusanus school. In any event, I asked my parents about the significance of the photograph and they explained what that yellow star meant.

So now, more than half a century later, I found myself filling with rage, a palpable sensation, like filling with indigestion or heartburn, when I stumbled across an item in a blog that I follow, discussing the fact that the European Union has re-implemented a modified version of the yellow star. I did some research. To quote the lead paragraph of the United Kingdom’s The Telegraph, back in 2013 when the decision was first made, “The EU will star (sic) labeling products made on Israeli settlements in the West Bank to distinguish them from goods from Israel proper by the end of the year.”

I’m sure the dropping of the “t” to change “start” to “star” was an inadvertent typo, but it had an effect on this reader.

When the Nazis came to power, in part by demonizing an entire people, they first encouraged, later intimidated, ordinary Germans into boycotting Jewish products, Jewish businesses, Jewish stores, Jewish services. After Kristallnacht there was, essentially, nothing left to boycott, so the next step in the process of isolating Jews was to mark them visually with a yellow star. And now, three-quarters of a century later, the lessons of World War Two so conveniently and easily forgotten, the European Union has resurrected an economic version of that labelling system. Baroness Catherine Margaret Ashton (a life peer), the EU foreign affairs representative, was quoted as writing to the EU members, “I hereby call for your commitment toward ensuring the effective implementation of existing EU legislation relevant for the correct labelling of settlement products by adopting EU guidelines and other implementing acts where necessary.”

Such as yellow stars, possibly?

Germany, Hungary, and Greece have apparently refused to fall into goose step with the rest of the EU, and deserve credit for remembering their history, but one does wonder how much history the rest of the EU leaders remember, or if their fear of radical Islamic backlash is greater than their fear of repeating some of the most appalling mistakes in all history.

A Christmas Present

December 24th, 2015 20 Comments

cat and elk 003 (Small)

May you all have such a perfect present under your tree. Merry Christmas!

The Past Is Never Dead. It’s Not Even Past.

December 22nd, 2015 13 Comments

Gold pocket watch

 

I received an email from a reader in Germany expressing regret that I didn’t have fond memories of living there. That reader couldn’t be more wrong: I loved Germany and have many wonderful memories of my years there and the only regret I have is that I somehow gave the wrong impression. But as I dashed off a quick reply, listing just a few of the things that made that time so special, I started thinking about memory, about its tenuousness, and about the importance of keeping it alive, not just because it links us to our own past, but also to a continuum of the lives to which we in turn are linked.

In my preface to the anthology, To Absent Friends (Willow Creek Press), I wrote: “There have been dogs in my life since long before I was in it. My father loved dogs, and the dogs of his childhood and young manhood are as real to me as if the memories were my own, ghosts of ghosts I can call by name and summon to my side.” And it’s true; the stories my father told me about his own childhood, about dogs and horses and people, about the incidents, triumphs and disasters both, many made humorous only by time and space and my father’s wonderful sense of the absurd, those things still live within me, keeping a past I never knew as alive as my own. Were the things he told me carefully selected and edited to suit the circumstances of my varying ages? Of course, they were, but that makes them no less valid, no less worthy of remembrance.

My mother turned to past the like a sunflower to the sun, drawing throughout all her life strength and sustenance, meaning and perspective from people and events both long gone and almost certainly forgotten by others. Whether this was a reflection of her southern upbringing or her Irish blood (both groups being noted for their tenacious grip on that most insubstantial of all realities) or whether it was simply a facet of her own personality I couldn’t say, but there too, courtesy of her, are long dead people I can still raise from their rest to watch go about their business hundreds of years ago in disparate places: County Cork; Mauritius; Loch Lomond; Georgia; Virginia; a specific, tall old townhouse in Baltimore.

Looking into the past at those people I know and never knew, I can see the tattered remnants of a defeated clan, the beaten survivors who were not buried in one of the mass graves determined by tartan, make their escape from Scotland to Ireland to America. I can see a handsome, pale-eyed young peasant with a bootlegged education, standing on the raised base of a statue in the small village square of Kanturk and reading aloud the account of the new Queen Victoria’s coronation for the rest of villagers, none of whom could read. I can see a brilliant, volatile college professor standing in a clearing, in his hand a dueling pistol that must have been old-fashioned even for that long ago time, and see the changing arrays of emotions that passed over his face following that irrevocable, terrible, minute movement of a finger. I can see an elderly man with a short white beard walking hand in hand with my five-year old father, the old man pointing out to the little boy he adored favorite landmarks around the Baltimore harbor, and when I hold now in my hand the gold watch my father carried in his coat pocket every day of his life, I hold too that same hand of a man I never knew.

So many others, more real to me in some ways than the people I see on my infrequent and irregular sorties into town; that’s the past we all carry, the past that never died or even passed.

And knowing these people I never knew helps keep my own parents alive, bracketed as it were, between oblivion and the unknown. Memories are as important a part of us as our DNA; indeed, who can accurately say which is which? Perhaps John Updike said it best. It’s a poem I may have posted before, but I don’t care; it’s worth posting again.

Perfection Wasted

And another regrettable thing about death

is the ceasing of your own brand of magic,

which took a whole life to develop and market—

the quips, the witticisms, the slant

adjusted to a few, those loved ones nearest

the lip of the stage, their soft faces blanched

in the footlight glow, their laughter close to tears,

their tears confused with their diamond earrings,

their warm pooled breath in and out with your heartbeat,

their response and your performance twinned.

The jokes over the phone. The memories packed

in the rapid-access file. The whole act.

Who will do it again? That’s it: no one;

imitators and descendants aren’t the same.

 

Eye Candy

December 17th, 2015 22 Comments

Deer 011 (Small)

 

When Daniel Boone goes by at night,

The phantom deer arise

And all lost, wild America

Is burning in their eyes.

Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet

Deer 015 (Small)

Another buck (with a consort) taken only about a mile, as the Condor soars, from where I saw the first one. Note how steeply the land falls away in the background; these mountains are not to be taken lightly.

 

Deer 029 (Small)

And yet another, this one only about a quarter mile from the one immediately above.

 

Elk and doe

And finally, a great photo, taken by a dear friend, of a massive bull and a diminutive and very young doe or, more likely, an honest-to-God fawn, keeping each other company.

 

Book Review: Of Human Bondage

December 16th, 2015 18 Comments

Somerset Maugham

 

I’ve been reading practically nothing but history lately and I realize now that compulsive focus seems to have colored my thinking, for I’ve written very little on my website except about the fripperies and follies of modern politics and the stupidity and violence that pass for world affairs these days. But I took time away from the equal violence and stupidity of the Reformation (and if you haven’t studied it, you would be amazed by some of the parallels between the excesses of that religious upheaval and much of what ISIS is doing today) to reread Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage.

“Reread” is a relative term. Technically, I have read the book before (the handwriting of my name on the title page tells me it must have been when I was about fourteen or fifteen; the capital “P,” the “k,” and the “r” all hint at the Germanic penmanship smacked into my head and hand in a grey classroom in a small German town long, long ago) but half a century makes it a new and fresh read. And what a read!

I’m a big fan of Somerset Maugham’s short stories (I think Mr. Know-All is one of the most perfect short stories ever written) but I’ve never read any of his novels other than The Moon and Sixpence and, obviously, Of Human Bondage when I must have been far too young to understand or appreciate or even remember it. It wasn’t until well along, about the middle of the book, when I suddenly had a flash of absolute certainty of what was going to happen that I realized I had been there before. So I can write about it now as if it were a completely new experience.

Somerset Maugham was an astonishingly versatile writer. Mr. Know-All is a scant six pages, without a single extraneous syllable, yet at the end you know more than you would have believed possible about three different people, and all three of those people have changed radically from what they presented themselves as at the beginning. Of Human Bondage, on the other hand, meanders leisurely on for over seven-hundred and fifty pages, following Philip from orphaned child too young even to really understand at first what orphaned means, to a man in full (as Tom Wolfe might use that phrase), a man who has passed through the manifold furnaces, great and small, that shape a man and give him, if he is wise enough to look at himself honestly, an understanding of who he is, what he needs, and what he needs to do.

But beyond his technical versatility, Maugham was a many-faceted man (doctor, World War One medic and ambulance driver—if I have the story right, he proofread the galleys for Of Human Bondage while he was waiting to be evacuated at Dunkirk—art connoisseur and collector, spy, playwright, screenplay writer) who traveled the world restlessly, gleaning everywhere he went a unique understanding of the human animal in all his many and varied aspects, both good and evil. For most of his adult life those travels, and more importantly, those gleanings were in the company of, and facilitated by, a much younger male companion whose vivacity and gregariousness made up for Maugham’s shyness and apparently taciturn personality.

Much has been made of Maugham’s homosexuality, his irascibleness, his propensity and skill for hurting people savagely with his comments, but I don’t think it is ever productive to judge the artist by the man or the man by the artist. Much has also been made of his propensity for using autobiographical material in his work, particularly in Of Human Bondage, but that too I think is unproductive. Louis L’Amour made use of stories he had heard and characters he had met while working on different ranches. Hemingway once sold as a short story a letter, untouched and verbatim, he had received from a fan. I’d be willing to bet much of Ray Bradbury’s science fiction had its roots in things seen and done and experienced by the author on this planet.

It is not an easy novel. We follow the physically deformed (club foot) Philip as he endures the cruelties of childhood, loss of faith, incredibly self-destructive relationships (the human bondage that comes from not balancing the longings of desire and the reality of the desired object, the balancing of emotion and self-control—though that same loss of self-control is ultimately instrumental in leading him to the happiness he seeks), through his flailings as he attempts one profession after another, his attempts to regulate his ambitions by the limits of his life and circumstances, setbacks of various kinds, and primarily, his search for an understanding of what life is supposed to be about. How is one supposed to reconcile life’s opposites, particularly good and evil, if one has “freed” oneself from the bondage of faith? A friend gives Philip a small Persian rug, telling him it holds the secret of the meaning of life, but it takes Philip many years to discover the secret is neither as complex as the design of a Persian rug, nor as simple as the making of one, but that the meaning is a little of both.

Again, it is not an easy novel, but it has never been out of print, and is regarded as one of one hundred best novels of all time, an encomium that relies more on Maugham’s story-telling ability than his actual writing. Don’t look for the breathtaking sentence, the memorable quote, the way you might with, oh, Dickens, Faulkner, Wodehouse, McCarthy, McEwan, Doyle, Trevor, Mantel… The list goes on, but does not include Somerset Maugham. What it does offer are moments that resonate. Twice I came to upsetting scenes that so closely paralleled events from my own life that I had to put the book down and turn to other things. Consider now that this is a book written over one hundred years ago (it was originally published in 1915, but actually written several years before that). Consider too how little man changes through the centuries that the actions of men and women in the late Victorian/early Edwardian period can still cause distress in a small ranch house in the mountains of California in the twenty-first century.

Finally, having criticized Maugham’s syntax (in my next column, I’ll give God a few tips on how to run Heaven) I would point out that the book is bracketed, at its opening and at its close, by some of the most evocative writing you could hope for. This is the bleak opening that sets the tone for Philip’s childhood:

“The day broke gray and dull. The clouds hung heavily, and there was a rawness in the air that suggested snow. A woman servant came into a room in which a child was sleeping and drew the curtains.”

Now contrast that to the joyousness of his description near the end of Sally, one of the most comfortable and comforting of all heroines, with her calm common sense and her down-to-earth earthiness:

“She stopped and came to the stile, and with her came sweet, clean odors of the countryside. She seemed to carry with her scents of the new-mown hay, and the savor of ripe hops, and the freshness of young grass. Her lips were soft and full against his, and her lovely, strong body was firm in his arms.”

Oh, yeah. That’ll do.

 

The Rules of the Debate

December 11th, 2015 31 Comments

Maria Bartiromo

 

I happened to catch a portion of Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo on Fox News this past Sunday. I was running late for church, so I only saw a small part of the segment where Ms. Bartiromo was interviewing two people, a man and a woman, both arguing for more gun control in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack.

I tried, but I am afraid I am neither computer savvy enough nor patient enough to track down that particular segment, so I don’t have the names of the two panelists, but what I heard from the woman was a reference to the “thirty-thousand people killed in America every year by gun violence.” This went unchallenged by Ms. Bartiromo.

A moment later, the man jumped in and casually, almost as if the woman had never even spoken, made a reference to the “thirty-five-thousand people killed in America every year by gun violence.” There is a great difference between those two figures, yet this too went unchallenged by Ms. Bartiromo.

I do not expect journalists to be experts in every field. I routinely hear appalling nonsense go unchallenged even by journalists who profess to be gun owners, and while I’m confident Ms. Bartiromo is far smarter than I, I’m pretty sure she is not gun savvy, so I am not attacking her. What I am trying to point out is that absolute garbage is spouted regularly, on television, in newspapers, and by elected representatives from the president on down to the mayor of your home town. Sometimes this is done out of ignorance, and sometimes it is the kind of cynical, manipulative, cold-blooded lying that we hear, unfortunately, all too often from men and women in Washington devoid of ethics, morality, or even a rudimentary conscience. (Harry Reid would be a good example: “I have it on good authority that Mitt Romney has paid no taxes for the past ten years.”)

I received a lot of feedback and comments, both on my website and on my Facebook page, about my three most recent blogs (The New York Times and Reality; San Bernardino; and A Plague on All Their Houses), all of which touched on the issues of gun control and the second amendment. Some of the comments were clearly written by people who disagree with me about guns, people who sincerely believe that gun ownership somehow contributes to crime and violence in this country. That’s good; I welcome the concept of polite and civilized debate, but please note the words “polite” and “civilized.” Fortunately, I very rarely get comments or emails from people who are gratuitously rude, but under the “polite and civilized” rubric I include basic honesty and the courtesy of assuming that I too am doing my best to be honest. I am not a professional researcher, so when I quote a fact or figure, you can assume I have made a good-faith effort to be accurate and correct, but if I make a mistake, it is just that, a mistake. Please feel free to point it out; if I find you are correct and I am not, I will happily admit my error and note the change.

But on the part of those who wish to engage in debate, I would appreciate at least an attempt to quote unbiased sources for your facts and figures. As the exchange quoted above on Sunday Morning Futures shows, it all too easy for self-proclaimed pundits to throw out any erroneous number, and unfortunately, many people will believe it. Some people still believe Hillary Clinton dodged bullets at the airport in Bosnia. So I’m not interested in statistics that come from “Everytown [sic] for Gun Safety,” or “Moms Demand Action,” or “The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence,” or even news and media outlets such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, MSNBC, or any other news outlet that is more interested promoting its own agenda than in any semblance of truth. I would not expect you to believe me if I cited only facts and figures from the NRA.

(Having said that, I will add that I spent the much of the first ten years that I owned a computer painstakingly tracking down every statistic and figure quoted by the NRA and I have never yet found them to have been dishonest. You may disagree with the conclusions they reach from their various sources, but if they quote the FBI Uniform Crime Report, for example, it’s invariably accurate.)

For the record, just to illustrate what I am talking about, the two panelists on Sunday Morning Futures couldn’t even agree on which lie to tell, and the “thirty-thousand people killed in America every year by gun violence,” is a lie, albeit a smaller one than the “thirty-five-thousand people” lie.

“Gun violence” is an imprecise term that implies murder. In fact, according the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (and the FBI is the only agency that accurately tracks crime of all kinds in America, and it does so dispassionately, with no ax to grind) 8,124 people were murdered by firearm in 2014 (the last year for which there are figures). You can get up close to the thirty-thousand figure of total deaths by firearm by adding both suicide and accidental deaths, but you still can’t get up to thirty-five thousand. Both are lies by implication (studies have shown that suicide rates are unaffected by laws or weapons restrictions—consider Japan—and the number of accidental deaths by firearms is extremely small) only one of them is egregious.

And it’s not necessary; it’s bad enough that 8,124 people were murdered by firearms, most of them in gang-related inner-city violence our elected officials refuse to address. If you want to make a convincing argument for gun control, lying is not the way to do it. The people who believe Hillary dodged bullets in Bosnia may be gullible enough to swallow it, but it just turns the rest of us off.

 

A Plague on All Their Houses

December 9th, 2015 16 Comments

question mark

 

Donald Trump has called for severe restrictions on all Muslim immigration to the United States.

The New York Times, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton have all called (albeit in varying ways and using varying terms) for severe restrictions on all firearms ownership in America.

The estimated total number of Muslims worldwide varies greatly, depending on the source, but it ranges from a low of 1.6 billion, to a high of 2.08 billion.

The CIA has estimated that ISIS consists of no more than approximately 30,000 fighters. However, according to British news sources, the Kurdish Army leaders, who are the ones leading the on-the-ground fight against ISIS, estimate the actual number is closer to 200,000.

There are an estimated one hundred million (100,000,000) gun owners in the United States.

In the last year for which FBI statistics were available (2014), there were 8,124 murders committed by firearms of all kinds in the United States. (An unknown, but statistically significant, percent of those homicides are committed each year by hardcore repeat offenders, but because that figure is an unknown, I choose to ignore it; however, I will ask you to keep that information in mind and remember that it makes the percentage of gun owners who commit murder even smaller than the figure I will quote.)

Because my mathematical ability begins and ends with Irish math, where two plus two may equal three or five or nothing whatsoever, I asked for help from my friends Dave and Nichole Ferry, the custom knife and leather goods makers over at Horsewright Clothing and Tack (http://www.horsewrightclothing.com/).  According to their math, 8,124 homicides out of an estimated one hundred million gun owners means 0.00008124 percent of all gun owners are murderers. (Remember that because of the repeat offender effect, the actual number is less than that.)

In the spirit of trying to make Muslims look as bad as possible, I used the lowest total population estimate, and the highest (Kurdish) estimate of total fighters. 200,000 hardcore ISIS fighters out of an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims means 0.000125 percent of all Muslims are radical extremists bent on slaughtering Americans.

What conclusions may we reach from all this mathematical calculation?

  1. The New York Times, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama judge and condemn all one hundred million law abiding American gun owners based on the actions of the 0.00008124 percent who are evil lunatics. That makes the Times, Clinton, and Obama complete morons unworthy to be taken seriously on any issue.
  2. Donald J. Trump judges all 1.6 billion Muslims by the actions of the 0.000125 percent who are evil barbarians. That makes him a complete moron unworthy to be taken seriously on any issue.
  3. Significantly, Donald Trump is calling for the temporary ban of a privilege (since coming to this country is a privilege, not a guaranteed right), while the Times, Obama, and Clinton are calling for the repeal of a God-given and constitutionally affirmed right to self-defense.
  4. Therefore, the conclusion is that Donald Trump is somewhat, very slightly, less of a moron than the Times, Obama, and Hillary.

 

 

The future is not looking good, folks.

The New York Times and Reality

December 5th, 2015 25 Comments

NY Times

I read Saturday’s New York Times editorial calling for more gun control in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack.

I have become immune to the never-ending display of ignorance about firearms and firearm issues displayed by the media, even all too often by those who profess to be gun owners and supporters of the second amendment. I have even become immune to the flagrant and sometimes risible dishonesty of most of the liberal mainstream media when it comes to firearms issues. But even so, I was a little stunned by two comments in particular.

Consider the following:

Opponents of gun control are saying, as they do after every killing, that no law can unfailingly forestall a specific criminal. That is true. They are talking, many with sincerity, about the constitutional challenges to effective gun regulation. Those challenges exist. They point out that determined killers obtained weapons illegally in places like France, England and Norway that have strict gun laws. Yes, they did.

Putting aside the fact that this was terrorism—radical Islamic terrorism, in fact—and that terrorism has not yet been stopped by any law or any measures in any country, including countries such as France where private firearms ownership is basically impossible, the NY Times is admitting that laws do not and never will prevent or deter evil. The Times then went on immediately to add:

But at least those countries are trying. The United States is not.

The implication, which I find completely incomprehensible, is that we should at least create the appearance of doing something even if that appearance is admittedly ineffective at best and useless at worst.

My question to the Times is, would we not be better served by taking realistic steps to prevent crime? Forget about radical Islamic terrorism and its stated goal of destroying the United States and Israel; that’s a separate issue that must be dealt with separately on its own, something the current administration is not doing. Think about the staggering toll of common, everyday drug- and gang-related crime in this country. Virtually every study ever conducted has determined the root causes of crime, in particular the inner-city drug- and gang-related crime exemplified by cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, Baltimore, et al, to be caused by readily identifiable and quantifiable factors, notably: poverty; lack of job opportunities; family breakdown; academic failure; peer pressure. Firearms are not mentioned in any of those studies, any more than those causes are ever mentioned by the liberal media or liberal politicians who wish to create the fallacious impression of doing something.

Now consider this statement, which immediately followed the final sentence quoted above:

Worse, politicians abet would-be killers by creating gun markets for them, and voters allow those politicians to keep their jobs.

Perhaps it’s a case of bad writing and sloppy syntax, but the implication there is that guns are being creating specifically with would-be killers in mind. It would equally truthful and valid to say that all wine is made with alcoholics in mind. But that sentence also refers back to an earlier statement in the second paragraph:

The attention and anger of Americans should also be directed at the elected leaders whose job is to keep us safe but who place a higher premium on the money and political power of an industry dedicated to profiting from the unfettered spread of ever more powerful firearms.

In other words, if a politician fails to vote for useless, unenforceable, costly, feel-good legislation that the Times happens to like, he or she is corrupt. It would be equally truthful and valid to say all newspapers are dedicated to undermining the Constitution of the United States.

The New York Times and other media outlets would better serve their readers by not imitating the knee-jerk example of our president and would-be president Hillary Clinton, both of whom immediately called for more gun laws, even before the tragedy in San Bernardino had been brought to a close, especially when even the Times admits those laws would not work.

San Bernardino

December 4th, 2015 22 Comments

BearCat

Like all the rest of the country, I watched the events that unfolded in San Bernardino with horror, and like everyone else I was stunned by the extraordinary courage and competence, the staggering professionalism, the heroism, and the humanity of the responding officers.

In an Olympian twist of sick humor, one of the earlier breaking stories that day was about certain politically correct cities (Oakland, California was specifically mentioned) that are divesting themselves of some of the surplus military gear that the federal government had made available to law enforcement. Depending on which news agency was doing the reporting, this divesting was attributed either to “the Fergusson effect,” or to local governments trying to avoid (I’m quoting Barack Obama) “[giving] people a feeling like [the police] is an occupying force instead of a force that is part of the community…” Either way, no matter who was doing the reporting, to hear that piece of news and then to contrast it against the strong, but clearly agitated, voice of the officer in San Bernardino calling for medical assistance and a “BearCat” (think an armored vehicle on steroids, above) was a fitting reminder of the divide between reality and the politically correct fantasy so many Americans seem to live in.

I’m not trying to point a finger here; instead, in the unlikely event I have any progressive liberal readers out there, I am asking for information, for elucidation, because I truly do not understand your thinking.

Clearly, those of you on the progressive liberal left do not feel the average American citizen is fit, or even has the right, to defend himself with a firearm. Even as the events were unfolding, before anyone had the least idea of who was doing what to whom, President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and certain members of the media were already stridently calling for stricter gun laws (stricter than California?) and placing the blame for whatever it was that might be happening on guns, on the NRA (for the record, I am a proud life member of that same NRA), on conservative Republicans, and on firearms manufacturers generally. There was no mention of terrorism.

Putting aside my personal feelings, I can understand how people who know nothing about firearms might be terrified by them, but then how can those same people also want to hamstring the law enforcement agencies that are sworn and mandated to protect us all? If the various responding agencies in San Bernardino had not had the equipment and training they did have, many officers might have died; the terrorists might even have gone on to stage yet another attack to kill more innocent American citizens. So if you don’t want me to defend myself, and you don’t want the police to have the equipment they have asked for, and need, to do their job of protecting and serving, what do you want? Who do you expect will be there to protect you if, God forbid, you should find yourself in a conference hall when ISIS walks in? Who? It can’t be the military because under the Posse Comitatus Act, that is illegal. So please tell me, how will this play out in those cities, such as Oakland and San Francisco where people are considered too irresponsible to own firearms and their sensibilities are too delicate to be exposed to the dogs of war? How will it play out when terror comes to those towns?

For myself, I will put my faith in men and women of the caliber of the San Bernardino law enforcement agencies, and I will hope they have whatever equipment they might need to help them and keep them safe. I will also hope they get to me before I have to do any heavy lifting, but if they can’t get to me, I’ll put my faith in prayer and a M1911.

 

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