Barking Backward

A Blog by Jameson Parker

The Span of Life

The old dog barks backwards without getting up.
I can remember when he was a pup.

- Robert Frost

William P. Barr: The Same only Different

February 15th, 2019 1 Comment

 

I have the greatest respect for The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel. Back in September of 2018 I wrote a review of her book, The Intimidation Game, (http://www.readjamesonparker.com/?s=Kimberley+Strassel) praising it and recommending it highly. I usually agree with everything she has to say.

But in today’s (Friday, February 15, 2019) edition of the WSJ, her regular column includes a cautiously optimistic piece about William P. Barr, the once (under George H. W. Bush) and current Attorney General of the United States and his ability to clean up the Department of Justice and bring credibility and trust back to that institution and its embattled subsidiary, the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

I have my doubts. Mr. Barr may well clean up the mess by replacing the current top brass with new top brass, thereby restoring faith in the DOJ’s and the FBI’s willingness to adhere to their oath of office to uphold and defend the Constitution. I hope he does. Unfortunately, Mr. Barr has in his past incarnation as Attorney General shown himself equally contemptuous of both the law and the Constitution.

Do you remember Randy Weaver and the incident at Ruby Ridge?

To recap briefly, Randy Weaver was a survivalist and possible white supremacist whose wife, son, and dog were all killed by FBI snipers. The son was shot in the back while retreating. I have read—I do not know personally—that Mr. Weaver was deliberately entrapped by an undercover FBI officer on a weapons violation because the FBI wanted to compel Mr. Weaver to become an undercover informant. I have read—I do not know personally—that the charge was bogus (it involved two sawed-off shotguns, and there is apparently some dispute about whether the guns were just at the legal length or shorter).

But beyond those two issues, there is no ambiguity. Do the research and read about the case. What you will find is a litany of abuses by the DOJ, FBI, ATF, and USMS, including deliberate violations of law, accidental violations of law that were allowed go uncorrected, bumbling ineptitude by a wide range of federal employees at various levels of the government, misinformation by the media which was then knowingly used by the government to justify use of force and the consequent deadly siege, false charges, incompetence, clerical errors that were allowed to go uncorrected, misinformation given to Mr. Weaver by his own attorney, violations of the FBI’s own rules of engagement… The list goes on. Even the FBI’s own Deputy Assistant Director wrote a memo while the siege was still under way, stating that the, “Charge against Weaver is Bull Shit [sic].”

I could go on but suffice it to say that the result of DOJ, FBI, ATF, and USMS incompetence, overreaching arrogance, bad judgement, violence, and just plain bad marksmanship, was that the surviving Weaver family members were awarded $3,100,000 in damages. The FBI snipers who did the actual killings of Weaver’s wife and son were charged with manslaughter, but the charges were dismissed by a Federal District judge who cited the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution (Article VI, Clause 2). That dismissal was reversed by the Ninth Circuit, but charges were eventually dropped.

I could make a very good argument that the Supremacy Clause (“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”) does not cover FBI agents murdering unarmed or fleeing civilians, but the point is that it was William P. Barr who used his position as Attorney General to organize legal support for the snipers and to “assist in the framing of legal arguments advanced in the district court” in order to hush up the scandal of what had occurred. Mr. Barr also claimed not to have been directly involved in the Ruby Ridge operation, but a subsequent investigation by the Washington Post revealed that of some twenty-plus phone calls in the twenty-four hours after the siege began and immediately preceding Vicki Weaver’s murder, two of those calls were made to William P. Barr.

Kimberley Strassel is optimistic; I fear it will just be a change from one kind of mess to another kind of mess.

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Plus Ça Change, Plus C’est la Même Chose

February 8th, 2019 4 Comments

 

Because I love him, I’ve read a lot of Charles Dickens over the years (David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, The Old Curiosity Shop, A Christmas Carol, Bleak House, Domby and Son, Nicholas Nickleby, and A Child’s History of England, which is almost as entertaining as Gilbert A’Beckett’s Comic History of England and just about as factual), but I had never gotten around to reading, Pickwick Papers. I have now rectified that, and I found it delightful and unexpectedly eye-opening.

Pickwick Papers was Dickens’ first novel and if I have my facts right, it was never intended to be a novel, originally. Dickens had attracted a lot of attention with his short articles about places and ordinary people in London and he was hired to write descriptive pieces to go with a series of illustrations by Robert Seymour that were planned (some of them already drawn, I believe) as a comic sporting novel. Imagine an early 1800’s version of the graphic novel, about bumbling hunters and fishermen, and you get the general idea. Due to a concatenation of events, primarily Dickens’ extraordinary talent, the process got reversed and the illustrations had to dance attendance on the writing.

He was only twenty-four, and Pickwick Papers is nothing if not somewhat disorganized and chaotic, but it still foreshadows the greatness of Dickens’ later work. Two of its characters, Mr. Pickwick, that most amiable and generous of men, and Sam Weller, that most devoted and resourceful of servants, have achieved immortality for their unforgettable originality and colorfulness, their—in the case of Sam Weller—intriguing use of the English language, and their respective penchants for the one getting into scrapes and the other rescuing him.

Critics always accurately single out Dickens’ social satire in all his writing, and in Pickwick Papers they usually refer to the prison scenes and the misery of those entrapped in the Kafkaesque nightmare of Victorian England’s debtor’s prisons. (Think about it: you can’t pay your debt, so we’re going to throw you into prison where you can’t possibly get a job to pay off your debt. Yeah, that makes sense, alright, you betcha.)

But what caught my attention most of all, especially in context of the political hysteria since Donald Trump’s election, was Dickens’ description of a local election in a small town where Horatio Fiskin, Esquire (of the Buff Party) is running against the Honorable Samuel Slumkey (of the Blue Party), each of them devoting their energies to slandering and defaming the other; each hiring rowdies to disrupt the other’s speech; each hiring a band to drown out anything the other might attempt to say; each declaring the end of Western civilization as we know it if the other should be elected; each trying desperately to buy votes by supplying copious amounts of free alcohol to the townspeople; each denouncing the newspaper that dared to support the other; each, in short, using the same lies and dirty tricks that are still used today in a more high-tech way.

And the newspapers! Forget saying anything nice or even truthful about anyone; it is far more important to tear down and denigrate the opposition, especially a rival news outlet, than to say anything positive about your own candidate:

“The Independent” [snip] “is still dragging on a wretched and lingering career. Abhorred and despised by even the few who are cognizant of its miserable and disgraceful existence; stifled by the very filth it so profusely scatters; rendered deaf and blind by the exhalations of its own slime; the obscene journal, happily unconscious of its degraded state, is rapidly sinking beneath that treacherous mud which, while it seems to give it a firm standing with the low and debased classes of society, is nevertheless rising above its detested head, and will speedily engulf it forever.”

Is that Fox speaking of CNN or CNN speaking of Fox?

Nothing has changed in almost two-hundred years.

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Apologizing for the Truth

January 29th, 2019 8 Comments

 

My father was something of a boxing fan. That’s an odd thing, because he never boxed himself, and I’m not sure how much he knew, technically, about the sport. But when I was growing up, he was especially fond of Archie Moore, Jersey Joe Walcott, and Sugar Ray Robinson, and I can remember being taken somewhere to watch a fight on television between Archie Moore and some hapless opponent. I also remember, more vividly, being taken to watch Sugar Ray and Carmen Basilio, presumably in their rematch, and I remember it so vividly because of Basilio’s closed eye and bloody, swollen face, which is why I think it must have been the rematch. I was just a wee, sleekit, cowerin’, timorous beastie of ten when they fought and that battered bloody face, and the unflagging aggression of Basilio, in spite of his injuries, made an indelible impression. What I don’t remember is where my father and I watched those fights. We had no television, so it was either at a friend’s house, a bar, or his club. I remember only the fights.

Many years later I set a still-standing record as the worst amateur boxer in the entire recorded history of pugilism. I only fought three-round club fights, about twenty of them, but of those twenty I probably won all but nineteen.

I exaggerate only slightly. I knocked out two opponents, both with body shots, but it was mainly dumb luck, with the emphasis on dumb. Most of my ring-time was spent lying on my back wondering what the hell I was doing.

I still follow boxing; not closely, but I try to catch all the important fights, and one I saw recently, in October of last year, was between two greats, the welterweight champion Terence Crawford, and a previously undefeated and very dangerous José Benavidez, Jr. Crawford won by TKO, but Benavidez showed great skill, and later sportsmanship, staying around to be interviewed afterward, something many losing fighters won’t do.

And that brings me to Tom Brokaw’s comments about Hispanic assimilation, and his subsequent apology for those comments.

According to what I read, this is what Brokaw said:

“Hispanics should be working harder at assimilation… You know, they ought not to be just codified in their communities, but make sure that all their kids are learning to speak English, and that they feel comfortable in the communities.”

He was immediately attacked, frequently with the kind of infantile and ugly name-calling we’ve come to expect from the progressive lower IQ’s on the internet. But let me point something out.

It is axiomatic, and even EU politicians have commented ruefully about this, that when immigration occurs in huge waves, as it has with Muslims in Germany, Sweden, France, Belgium, and England, assimilation is precisely what does not happen. This is not a criticism of the poor devils trying to get the hell out of countries where their lives are forfeit. It’s just that there are not enough jobs or schools to absorb and properly provide for the immigrants, who quite naturally respond by tending to cling together.

In America, according to the Immigration Policy Institute, forty-one percent (25.1-million) of the immigrants living here are classified as Limited English Proficient (LEP, a phrase so awkward it smacks of limited proficiency itself) and of that forty-one percent, nineteen percent (4.7-million) were born in America.

Unsurprisingly, California has the highest percentage of LEP residents. In Los Angeles, where many Hispanics immigrants, legal and illegal, congregate, a young lady I know teaches art in the LA public school system, and she estimates that approximately eighty percent of her students do not speak enough English to be able to follow the curriculum. You don’t need an advanced degree in education to know that if a student is unable to follow the curriculum, he falls behind; if he falls behind, he tends to get discouraged and not continue with his education; if he has no education and little English, employment opportunities are slim to none. Balance that scenario against the glittering allure of the drug-gang life and you only get one guess at which path many desperate young men will take.

Back to José Benavidez as an example of what Tom Brokaw was referring to. He is twenty-seven-years old. He was born in Panorama City, California and he now lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona. He started fighting at eleven and was good enough to become a national amateur champion eleven times, qualifying for the Junior Olympics and earning a spot on the United States National Team, before going on to become the youngest the Golden Gloves Champion of all time at only sixteen. He is clearly gifted, and he is not stupid, and for twenty-seven years he has lived and plied his trade in America. Yet when he was interviewed after his loss to Crawford, he spoke such a heavily-accented kind of left-handed English that I had to strain to understand him. After twenty-seven years of growing up in America.

Tom Brokaw may have expressed his assimilation thoughts less gracefully than he might, and perhaps he should have laid some of the blame on overwhelmed school systems, but assimilation is not achieved when great numbers of people move into an alien culture. The Irish, the Italians, the Germans and Poles, the Ashkenazi Jews, the Chinese and Japanese, the other immigrants who came to this country, legally, in the previous century, clung to each other in their inner-city neighborhoods, but they had to go out of those neighborhoods to work, which forced them to assimilate, they were smart enough to know their children would only get ahead by becoming educated and able to speak English, and most importantly, they came in manageable numbers. They didn’t abandon their traditions or art or food or any other part of their culture—nor should they—but they assimilated in part because they had educational opportunities that are lost to the eighty-percent of the non-English-speaking students my friend faces in her classroom every day.

Assimilation used to be a goal to which immigrants to America aspired; now it appears to have become a dirty word, a hateful thing to even suggest, as if every other culture in the world were superior to American culture simply by virtue of not being American. If that’s the case, what they hell are they all fighting and clawing to get into America for?

If you’re a Spanish-speaking immigrant to America, Tom Brokaw was not asking you to stop reading Gabriel García Márquez or Carlos Fuentes or Mario Vargas Llosa or to abandon any other aspect of the art and culture that made your country great. He was just suggesting that Herman Melville and Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway might provide additional enrichment to your life. I don’t think that’s something he should have apologized for.

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Kamala in 2020!

January 28th, 2019 4 Comments

 

Kamala Harris formally announced her bid for the White House in 2020 by declaring: “We are here because the American dream and American democracy are under attack and on the line like never before.”

She should know, because it’s under attack by too many Democrats generally and by her specifically. Her “American dream and American democracy” statement summarizes the schism between Kamala Harris’ words and her actions, actions that, at best, demonstrate a contemptuous disregard for the Constitution of the United States. At worst, her actions demonstrate an intention to change the Constitutional in ways you may live to regret.

The most obvious is the Second Amendment, which she does not even refer to on her official presidential website, but all you have to do is look at her record as California Attorney General, and her proudly-touted anti-gun statements. I could make a very strong argument that if the Second Amendment is lost, modified, or saddled with what Ms. Harris and others refer to as “common sense” restrictions, all the other amendments will become vulnerable in ways you will not enjoy, but let’s focus on some of the other Constitutional issues Ms. Harris feels are either unimportant or open to her personal progressive interpretation.

Notably, let’s look at the First Amendment. If Kamala Harris has the effrontery as a senator to oppose a man’s judicial nomination simply because of his Catholic faith, that is a direct assault on the very first clause of the First Amendment, a clause which specifically guarantees free exercise of religion. It is also a direct and egregious violation of the third clause of Article VI of the Constitution, which states, “no religious Test shall ever be required as a qualification to any Office of public Trust under the United States.”

Under Kamala Harris’ rule, John F. Kennedy would never have been allowed to run for president. Ask yourself if that would have been a good thing? Ask yourself if that is the America you wish to live in?

Some other questions you might want to ask: Is Kamala Harris only going to go after Catholics, or is she going to spread her umbrella to encompass all of Christianity? What about Presbyterians, or are they exempt? How about Baptists? How about Jews; will they be allowed to hold public office? Remember, Kamala Harris is one of only two senators on the Congressional Black Caucus (the other is Senator Corey Spartacus Booker), an organization that has embraced Lewis Farrakhan, the man who has avowed that Jews are his enemy. And while we’re at it, ask yourself if Muslims will also be banned from public office? Is Ms. Harris opposed to all religions, or just some?

For myself, I’ll just remember Matthew 7:15: “Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” And in Matthew 7:16: “Ye shall know them by their fruits.”

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Big Brother Is Watching You. Have a Nice Day.

January 17th, 2019 11 Comments

 

A friend of mine went hunting in Russia a couple of years back and among other interesting observations he made about the former USSR, one of the most telling was his account of getting by car from the airport in St. Petersburg to the little town several hours away where he was going to hunt.

Because he was a stranger in a strange land, he hired a car and driver to meet him at the airport and chauffeur him into the hinterlands. They got on the Russian equivalent of an interstate and drove steadily for four hours without incident, but when they stopped at what we might call a tollbooth to exit the highway, the driver had to pay a fine because a machine determined he had exceeded the speed limit by an average of two kilometers an hour.

Big Brother is watching you.

Jump to America.

For a variety of reasons, I had to drive my wife’s car for the first time a few days ago.

It is a brand-new, up-to-the-minute, non-descript, top-of-the-line Japanese economy car, bought primarily for the size of its cargo area (we have dogs) and secondarily for its fuel economy. It has a wide range of safety devices, sensors, and whatnots that detect this, that, and the other and then do an imitation of R2-D2 to let you know if something is amiss, emitting a range of generally cheery chirps and beeps and whistles and ding-dongs, all of which draw your attention to the dashboard where a screen tells you what to watch out for or what you’re doing wrong.

Like, for example, watching a damned computer screen instead of the road.

But so far so good. The little car was earnestly doing its job by communicating with me. Personally, my ideal vehicle would be a 1947 pickup from the golden age of pickups, preferably a Chevy that would get me from point A to point B safely and reliably and otherwise leave me alone. Sadly, that dream is long gone.

I realize progress is inevitable, but I hadn’t realized it was quite as pervasive or ominous as what I found in my wife’s little canine carrier with its computerized everything.

Why ominous?

We live a little way from town and I was taking a series of secondary, or possibly tertiary, backroads. I tend to be just a trifle old-fashioned and keep my eyes on the road, so I don’t know exactly when it first started, but I suddenly realized that the car was picking up the speed limit on the two-lane highway and posting that number onto the screen next to the speedometer. When I turned onto a secondary road through a residential area, it sensed that speed limit and posted it accordingly.

So the car knows where you are driving, how fast you are driving, how fast you should be driving, and probably a wide array of other, ancillary information you might prefer to keep private: what music you listen to; whether you sing along to the music you listen to; whether your singing is good or bad; just how bad it is; who knows what else? I find all that incredibly creepy.

But it’s worse than just creepy. Think about it: today, with this car, it’s where you are, how fast you’re driving, how much over the speed limit you’re driving, but tomorrow…

“Ah, ha! That’ll be $178.85 for averaging five-point-two miles over the speed limit for a total distance of forty-eight-point-three miles, of which eleven-point-seven were in a residential area. But for butchering, atrociously butchering, “I Did It My Way,” there will be an additional $200.00 fine. You may pay now by credit card or check, or the total will be added to your income tax along with applicable late fees and penalties. Have a nice day.”

And think about the day after tomorrow. Your car will automatically determine the posted speed limit on each and every road and you will not be allowed to exceed the speed limit for any reason whatsoever. There will be no mechanical override. The car and Big Brother know what is best for you and you will not be allowed, or even have the capacity, to exceed the parameters set for all drivers at all times on all roads. Yes, Big Brother knows your wife died because the ambulance drivers’ union was on strike and you had to drive her to the emergency room yourself and could not go fast enough to get her there in time. Big Brother is compassionate, and he offers his condolences. Big Brother knows the death of a wife is lamentable, but the cumulative good of the collective is far more important than any single life. Or wife. Have a nice day.

Big Brother is watching you.

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The Kavanaugh Hearings Redux

January 9th, 2019 16 Comments

On Wednesday mornings a bunch of us have breakfast together at a local restaurant. It’s a guy thing.

Two of the regulars are brothers, retired police officers who served on the same force in the same town at the same time. They are both kind, highly intelligent men, but like many law enforcement officers, they have very sick, wickedly funny senses of humor. It is humor, after all, that allows law enforcement professionals to keep their sanity and a kind of perspective on the human animal, and these two men have it in spades.

The topic of the Kavanaugh hearings came up over the huevos rancheros and the enchiladas one morning shortly after the conclusion of that disgraceful circus, and I was a little surprised both brothers seemed to have lost their sense of humor. Both were adamant in their conviction that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was lying. When I asked upon what they based that conclusion, they cited the numerous inconsistencies in her statements, the lack of corroboration even by personal friends, the denial by people she claimed were witnesses at the party, as well as multiple other aspects of her testimony. One of them summed it up by saying, basically (I’m paraphrasing), “This is what we did for thirty years. We staked our careers and frequently our lives on knowing when someone was lying.”

Okay, but that’s still essentially subjective. I had the same feeling myself, watching the hearings, though unlike the two brothers, I wasn’t able to break my reaction down into identifiable triggers.

A few weeks later I had a conversation with a lady I see regularly and chanced to mention what the two brothers had said. The lady jumped in immediately, vehemently, almost in anger, saying she knew as soon as Dr. Ford opened her mouth that she was lying. When I asked her how she could be so sure of such a thing, she told me she had been held at knifepoint by an illegal alien, in her own home, for a significant portion of an entire day, while the illegal amused himself with her. “You don’t forget details in a situation like that,” my friend said. “Every second. I can recall every single second of those hours. There isn’t a detail of any kind I don’t remember with absolute accuracy.”

That certainly coincides with my own experience getting shot.

And shortly afterward, I happened to read an account by a woman who, through sheer luck, survived a murder attempt by a notorious serial killer. She too commented on the clarity of detail she could recall about an incident that had occurred over forty years earlier.

But regardless of what you or I might think about Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, it was the behaviors of the Democrat senators that should alarm you. That readiness, even eagerness, to ignore the rule of law, and to abandon any pretense of adhering to the principle, “innocent until proven guilty,” drove home the fact that this had nothing to do with justice for Dr. Ford, but everything to do with forwarding a political agenda.

In case you think I’m making too much of this—old news; ho hum; he was confirmed, so what’s the big deal—consider the following:

President Donald Trump has nominated an Omaha, Nebraska lawyer named Brian Buescher to sit on the US District Court in Nebraska. Mr. Buescher is a Catholic and a member of the Catholic charity and service organization The Knights of Columbus.

To give you an idea of how dangerously radical and far-right-wing the Knights of Columbus is, you should know that during World War One they ran the only integrated hospitality and recreation centers for American troops. They opposed racial and religious prejudice during the 1920s by commissioning books on black and Jewish history. Also in the 1920s, they waged a successful legal battle against the Ku Klux Klan. The Knights of Columbus spoke out about the plight of Jews in Nazi Germany even as progressive icon, then-president, and anti-Semite Franklin Delano Roosevelt turned away Jewish refugees seeking asylum from the Nazi holocaust. More recently, the Knights of Columbus supported The Little Sisters of the Poor in their fight for religious freedom. They have tried to help non-Catholic Christians, Yazidis, and Shi’a Muslims targeted for genocide by ISIS. And according to a very moving account in the Wall Street Journal by Pentecostal Minister Eugene F. Rivers III, in just the last decade alone, the Knights of Columbus has raised over one billion (that’s billion with a “b”) dollars and conducted hundreds of millions of hours of service for multiple charities. In just the last decade.

So why do those current progressive senatorial darlings Mazie Hirono (HI) and Kamala Harris (CA) oppose Mr. Buescher’s nomination? Is it because of his personal views? Is it because of his record? Is it because of his rulings? Is it because of his judicial writings?

No, Gentle Reader. Senators Hirono and Harris oppose Mr. Buescher because he is a member of the Knights of Columbus, and the Knights of Columbus do not believe in same-sex marriage or abortion. Hirono and Harris are not opposing Buescher because of his personal views, or because of judicial history, or because of his judicial rulings, or because of his legal writings, or because of his personal writings or opinions, or even because someone concocted a fake story about his drunken attempt to sexually assault her. They oppose him simply because he is a member of a religious organization they (Hirono and Harris) do not like. Never mind the courageous fights by that organization against racism and antisemitism (which still runs rampant in this country; witness the many members of congress who claim friendship with Lewis Farrakhan and who support the Boycott Divestment Sanction movement); Hirono and Harris see fit to condemn Mr. Buescher because they disagree with his views on sexual matters.

I want to make sure, Gentle Reader, you are absolutely clear about the implications of this. We’re talking about two United States senators, Mazie Hirono and Kamala Harris, women who have taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, and to enforce the laws of our country, who are ignoring the precepts of the First Amendment (free exercise of religion) and the very specific law spelled out in Article VI (“no religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any oath of Office or public trust under the United States”) to advance their own personal and short-term political agenda.

Kamala Harris is said to be jockeying for an inside post in the 2020 presidential run. If she should win her party’s nomination, before you consider voting for her, remember her contempt for the rule of law and the constitution she has sworn to uphold and defend, because there’s a word for her kind of politics: totalitarianism.

Perhaps you agree with senators Hirono and Harris; perhaps you believe strongly in same-sex marriage and abortion. That’s fine, but I hope you have the intelligence and moral conviction to separate your beliefs from the laws that protect you and me. If you do agree with Senators Hirono and Harris that anyone who holds a different opinion from yours should be banned from public service, don’t forget to remember that sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and this particular malignant and poisonous sauce will eventually destroy the laws and precepts that make up the best of this country. That kind of totalitarian sauce will ultimately destroy all of us.

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Border Wall

December 28th, 2018 13 Comments

 

A police officer in northern California, a legal immigrant, was shot and killed by an illegal immigrant, a case that pretty much sums up why we need a border wall.

Back in the mid-eighties I was doing research for a movie role about human trafficking on the Mexican/American border. The research involved my going on a ride-along with an active-duty border patrol agent along the Arizona/Mexico border in Nogales. Many of the towns separated by the border have different names in their respective countries, such as Douglas, Arizona on the American side which is Agua Prieta on the Mexican side, but Nogales is the name for both cities on either side of the border and it had, at that time, a reputation as a damned tough town regardless which country you were in.

We were in a border patrol vehicle, driving east along a dirt embankment beside a chain-link fence and the agent was pointing out known crossing points, known embarkation points, Mexican housing on the other side where illegals would gather and wait to be guided across by coyotes, locations where specific and notable arrests or violence had occurred, other points of interest. He was an intelligent and well-spoken man and I was enjoying my ride-along when suddenly there were three distinct, sharp pings against my side of the vehicle, each separated by approximately a full second’s pause. Before the third one, the agent had hit the gas and was driving fast—much faster than I enjoyed—along the dirt embankment.

“What the hell’s going on?”

“We’re being shot at,” was the terse response.

“What! Who? Where?”

“Mexico.”

It seemed such a ludicrous statement I had trouble believing it. We were in America. People don’t just shoot randomly at cars in America, and no one in their right mind would shoot randomly across an international border at a law enforcement vehicle in particular.

I was so nonplussed that conversation ground to a halt until we got back to the Port of Entry offices. We both got out and the agent came around to my side of the car and looked down. There were two small bullet holes low in the passenger-side door, clearly .22-caliber or thereabouts. We never found the third hole, but by that time I was a little distracted by the thought that if the shooter had gotten his elevation right, I might be at the local hospital having unpleasant things done to me.

The agent took it in stride. It was, he explained, not an uncommon occurrence. I had less charitable thoughts.

That was almost thirty-five years ago, and things have not improved since. In the intervening years I have amassed a collection of anecdotes, all of which were told to me by men and women who live on or near the border and who had experienced the events first-hand. Many spoke with sympathy for the plight of the illegals who risk their lives to get into America no matter what the cost, but none had had good encounters; neutral was the sole counterbalance to negative.

I want to be very clear that when I say “wall” I do not mean a vast physical barrier stretching from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico. There are many places, primarily in or near urban centers, where President Trump’s “big, beautiful” wall would be highly desirable, especially as an aid to the over-worked border patrol agents who are responsible for securing our nation’s borders, as an aid to the DEA agents responsible for interdicting drugs, and as an aid to the local police in certain border towns and cities. But there are also many places where such a wall would be a waste of money and serve no positive effect. There some places where a wall would almost impossible and certainly cost prohibitive to build. There are also many places where a wall’s ability to provide security would be better achieved by other means. And there are places where a wall would have extremely negative side effects, primarily by blocking migratory paths for wildlife, for example. So let us agree that “wall” refers a variety of means, including changes in the current, ludicrous asylum laws that allow anyone who breaks the law to remain in the country while seeking asylum. Or the equally absurd law that mandates families who have entered our country illegally may only be held for twenty days before they must be released. Today, thanks to congress and the Ninth Circuit court of appeals, in both Texas and Arizona, families are being driven to local bus stations to go where they will, thereby making a mockery of any semblance of control over who comes into our country.

Here are some thoughts about why closing our southern border is necessary:

The Arizona borderlands area is a vast, empty, seemingly harsh, but actually very fragile space primarily inhabited by a few rugged and self-reliant ranchers. It was—and parts of it still are—pristine, a hunter’s and outdoor lover’s paradise. Unfortunately, some parts have become dangerous to venture into; ranchers now routinely carry sidearms while moving or looking for their stock. Some parts, including many of the canyons and arroyos that slope down toward Tucson from the Santa Rita Mountains, are too disgusting for anyone to want to venture into. An estimated 2000 tons of garbage are discarded annually by illegals, turning remote canyons and washes into congested replicas of certain streets in San Francisco, choked with trash and feces. The steady stream of illegals has also contributed to the 79% decline in the Sonoran pronghorn population, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The economics of illegal immigration are either an enormous drain on the American economy or a modest net positive, depending which study you read. However, reading a study that emphasized the positive, I came across the following sentence:

“First-generation immigrants are significantly more of a drag on government dollars than those of later generations, according to the study, and state and local governments are often forced to bear the brunt of those costs.”

If anyone reading this can make sense of that sentence, please let me know, because unless I am very confused, if you are one of the later generation of immigrants who do not represent a drag on government dollars, that means you were born here which means you are by definition no longer an immigrant. Illegal immigration is an enormous drain on our economy; whether it is ultimately balanced out by subsequent generations of Americans is not the debate.

The other issue that shows you can quote facts and figures to prove the sun rises in the west is crime rates of illegal aliens versus native-born Americans. On the face of it, illegals—by definition—commit vastly more crime than native-born citizens simply by virtue of the fact they broke multiple laws just by coming into the country illegally. But beyond that, concentrating solely on violent crime or organized criminal activity, a study by John Lott showed that murder rates, kidnapping, money laundering, and drive-by-shootings are all committed by illegals at rates from three- to 13-times higher (depending on the crime) than either citizens or legal immigrants. Gee, since those are all crimes associated with drug trafficking, it kinda sorta makes sense. It also proves what every law enforcement officer knows, namely that 95- to 99% of all murders are directly or indirectly drug-related.  On the other hand, liberal think tanks and newspapers quoted studies showing the opposite, that illegals commit far fewer crimes, but I noticed two details that should make everyone suspicious of those studies:

First, while the conservative news outlets that summarized John Lott’s study also mentioned studies that showed the opposite, but none of the liberal outlets mentioned Mr. Lott or his study, instead only mentioning Donald Trump’s claims. Since Mr. Lott is one of the few researchers who regularly and routinely release all their material and methodologies for peer review, I found it very suspicious that he was not mentioned.

Second, some (not all) of the liberal studies, as reported in liberal outlets, just referred to “immigrants,” not “illegal immigrants,” as if the two groups were the same thing. They are emphatically not: legal immigrants have a lower crime conviction rate than native-born Americans (witness the legal immigrant police officer recently murdered in northern California), and to not make that distinction is a good example of the kind of sophistry that makes so many major media outlets so distrusted.

The last time I drove through the borderlands region, six or seven years ago, I drove through miles of land charred and blackened and still heavy with smell of the recent fire. When I asked the waitress at a local restaurant what had caused the fire, she told me it was drug runners, saying it with such casual and off-hand matter-of-factness that I asked her if it had happened before.

“Oh, it happens all the time. Whenever they want to run a large shipment through, they start a fire somewhere to distract law enforcement.”

I am told that more illegal drugs enter the United States by sea than by land, but much of the fentanyl, manufactured in China and imported to Mexico, still comes across the border. Practically all the heroin also comes across the southern border. Fentanyl has now supplanted meth as the number-one killer in our little town, so what are the options? Do we just give up the war on drugs and legalize everything—essentially writing off plus or minus ten percent of the American population—or do we do whatever must be done to keep drugs out of this country, which includes building a wall?

Finally, all the anti-gun liberals (think Diane, Nancy, Chuck, Richard-Hand-to-Hand-Combat-in-Vietnam-Blumenthal, New-Jersey’s-Pride-Bob Menendez, Hiz Honor, the list goes on…) are fond of leaping onto every criminal use of a firearm screaming for more laws, stricter bans, and even eliminating the Second Amendment because, “If it saves just one life, it’s worth it!” Okie dokie. Let’s apply that same logic to building a wall and getting control of our southern border:

If it saves just one law enforcement officer’s life, it’s worth it.

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Burkina Faso

December 21st, 2018 2 Comments

 

I received an email from a friend of mine. It included an attachment of a cry for help sent to him by a friend of his. Since Donald Trump has announced his intention of pulling all American troops out of Syria (abandoning the Kurds, who have been doing the bulk of the anti-ISIS fighting, to the tender mercies of the Turks–does anyone remember the Armenian holocaust?) I doubt very much that what happens to a handful of people and some animals in an obscure African nation many people have never even heard of will move America to intervention, but radical Islam is as much of a threat there as it is in every other corner of the world. Here, for those of you with strong stomachs, is the cry for help:

Dear All,

Last week our camp Arly Safaris, the first hunting concession and camp ever to be set up in Burkina over 30 years ago, was attacked and burnt to the ground by Islamist Jihadists. Since then they have also attacked a number of other hunting camps and burnt and destroyed them as well.  In our camp fortunately, no one was injured or killed, I am not sure about the other camps.

This is a huge setback for everyone, starting from you the client–without your support the conservation fueled by hunting dollars would not have been possible–me the agent, the concession owner, the people who worked in these camps who depended on this income for their very survival, the poor villagers who depended on their share of the game meat (a third of all the meat by law goes to the surrounding villages) and finally, and most of all, the wild animals which will no doubt be gone forever if this situation continues. In the years that I have been hunting there, all the big elephant bulls have been killed, not by hunters, but by the jihadist-backed poachers who are now killing the females, young ones, anything showing even the smallest bit of ivory.

This is especially heart breaking for me as I considered it my own little slice of Africa and while I arrange hunts all over the continent and world, Burkina was always a special place. French hunters have hunted it for a long time; but when I first discovered that such a place existed, precisely three American hunters had been there and I contacted all of them. My first advert said more Americans had walked on the moon than hunted in BF and I was right at the time. Over the years, I was to change that, taking more American clients (including two Weatherby Award winners) to Burkina than any other outfitter or agent.

The people of Burkina Faso, some of the poorest in the world, are honest, friendly and ready to give everything they have for a client. By international safari standards they were ill trained and diamonds in the rough, often showing up with holes in their clothes and toes sticking out of their old hunting boots left behind by a long-gone client. But not a single one was dishonest or had a bad bone in his body. The fact that they couldn’t speak English was difficult with clients, but our group of translators made things work.

In Burkina clients hunted with these local PHs, a great experience for those who did not need hand holding and the guidance of a white PH. While they may not have lacked the polish of other PHs in Africa, they did not lack courage or bush skills. Ishmail hunted many lions over the years with clients and even survived a mauling by one! Junjwa would turn into a cat on the final approach, moving fast from bush to bush, bringing his hunter right up to the game. Buwaba, much more cautious, produced some of the best trophies every year. Omaru was a hit with all clients as he made them feel comfortable and relaxed and always had a smile and laugh even when things were going south. All out of work now, with no way to feed their families and watching helplessly as the game they loved and protected so dearly is now vulnerable with no protection whatsoever!

When I first hunted in Burkina, the head PH guided me with an old 458 with a pipe clamp holding the barrel to a piece of wood which was a stock a long time ago. I resolved this by sending them a battery of CZ rifles and we were truly in the game. The trucks were beaten up old junks, left in the bush like farm tractors, fired up before each season with parts from everywhere and left to weather in the heat and rain after the season ended. They looked like crap but for the most part they ran. The camp was by no means five star or luxurious, but comfortable. In that beastly heat starting from end of February, the air conditioners struggled to keep the guest chalets cool, but you realized how hot it was when you stepped out. In late February the harmattan winds and sand storms that blew in from the Sahara, covered everything with fine dust and blanketed the place in a fog that lasted for a few days at a time–this was something to be experienced. I once shot a great buffalo in the middle of a sand fog. Seeing a lion, buffalo and elephant within 10 minutes of leaving camp one afternoon will always remain in my memory! The wildlife found in our concession included the West African cheetah, leopard, hippo, crocodile, korrigum to mention a few of the main species.

The money from the hunting and tips from the clients paid for salaries and the livelihood of over 20 families that worked in the camp as well as the chef de poste and his team of village trackers who accompanied every client on their hunt. How they will manage now is anyone’s guess.

One generous client sent money every year to educate a boy who used to work in the kitchen. This year I had to tell him this was no longer possible, not only because the camp had been destroyed but also the boy’s school had been shut down by the jihadists who now seek to turn the clock back to medieval times.

This is what hunting in Burkina was all about…

Back to reality. The north of Burkina on the border with Mali has always been a hotbed of terrorist activity. The situation in Mali is very complicated and there is a great documentary well worth watching on youtube called Orphans of the Sahara. This will give you a better understanding of the problems in that part of the world. A very tough, savage land and tough people.

The east of Burkina has always been quiet but in the last few months it has suddenly seen a number of attacks on mine workers, gendarmerie and government officials, ranging from all out-gun fights to IEDs, resulting in many casualties of the poorly trained Burkina army. From all accounts it seems that the intention of the jihadists is to set up a base in the forested area of the Eastern portion of Burkina Faso from which they will be difficult to dislodge. No doubt they have taken ideas from Boko Haram in Nigeria who played the same game in the Sambisa forests in the north.

This tragedy is not just a human story but the loss of the last refuge of wildlife left in West Africa:  the largest but fast disappearing concentration of elephant, lion, buffalo, roan and species of antelope unique to West Africa. Yet again this story can only be brought to the attention of the public by the hunting community. There is no wildlife tourism in Burkina, so it is a country totally off the map for any wildlife-loving tourists except hunters. But it is time for everyone to unite, non-hunters as well as hunters, and those that just look on and turn the page or click on the next news link, to stop for a moment, spread the word, share this message, write to powers that be and do something before it is too late. Please, please share this story and copy and paste it on your own Facebook timelines. In this day and age when viral videos of someone twerking to a groovy beat can generate a million views overnight, surely this warrants more. To do nothing would be a crying shame.

I cry for you, Burkina Faso.

 

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Posted Story

December 20th, 2018

I received a very nice message from someone who had read a hunting story of mine from long ago and his comments reminded me of another hunting story I wrote, In a Silver Land, which was published in Gray’s Sporting Journal, also many years ago. I have posted it under the “Other Writings” tab, for those of you who might be interested.

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George H. W. Bush

December 8th, 2018 6 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.

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