Open Letter To Those Who Just Don’t Get It Yet

To:  Some Of You Trump Opponents Out There
From:  Mitch Berg, Ornery Peasant
Re:  Terminology

Dear Hollywood and New York Showbiz and Media “Elites”

As we come up on inauguration day, some of you are still sore about Donald Trump.  I get it.  I mean, I didn’t vote for him, either.

You’d like to pretend he’s not your president.  Yadda yadda.  Whatever.  Gotcha.  It’s a free country (and will stay that way, so quit  your whining), so you can say what you want, and I can mock you for it.  But relax; I’m not mocking you for that.  Not now.

No, this is worse.

It’s come to my attention that some of you Hollywood types are calling yourselves “the Resistance”.

Stop.  Now.

You are among the wealthiest, most privileged, most untouchable residents in one of hte wealthiest, most privileged parts of the wealthiest and free-est society in the world.   You lost an election.  In four years, you’ll get a rematch (although the way you all are going at this point, most of you will stroke out by mid-terms).  And you will get the rematch; there’ll be no dictatorships, no camps, no nothing.  Why, I bet a President Trump won’t even jabber about siccing the Federal Elections on your blogs, or turn a politicized IRS and DHS loose on your political movements, the way Obama did for eight years.  Our democratic process, imperfect as it is, will go on, and if you don’t go full-blown Joan Crawford on us, you might have a shot, again, someday, God help us all.

So stop using – I believe the term these days is “Appropriating” – the term “Resistance”.  That’s a term used by people who had actual skin in the game; the Jews who, as disarmed as you want us all to be, fought back against the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto; the Norwegians who overcame the impossible and destroyed the Nazi nuke program; the Polish fighters who rose and took Warsaw, only to be betrayed by one dictator and hunted down like rats by another; the Danes who, the risk of a summary execution hanging over their heads, snuck their nation’s Jews out to safety; people who, with all hope extinguished, still pulled together and rose up and, mostly, died, but gave their tormentors and murders and bloody nose and, in a few cases, against higher odds than Michael Moore winning the NYC Marathon, survived the war to witness against their captors.

Real people, who left behind whatever hadn’t been taken from them, and fought a real enemy who promised to kill them and their families if they failed.

Not overpaid, plushbottom Hollywood prima-donnas upset that they can’t install their choice of president by coup now that the hoi polloi have rejected their candidate.

Here’s my promise to you; call yourselves “the resistance” to my face, and I will spit in yours.

That is all.

The Slogan-Based Life

SCENE:  Mitch BERG is at a hardware store, shopping for a chainsaw sharpener, when around the corner steps Bud GUNKEL, chairman of the CD2 chapter of “Former Republicans for Ron Paul”.  

GUNKEL:  Hey, Merg.  The only way to fix the system is…

BERG:  …yeah, I heard it.  To “withhold your consent from it“.   Feel free to tell the IRS, the BATFE and the Minnesota Department of Revenue you’ve “withheld your consent”; I’m sure everyone will get a good laugh but you.

GUNKEL:  He who would trade freedom for security…

BERG:  …deserves neither.  Good Lord, Bill, do you people ever communicate in anything but the form of clichés?   I mean, do you even know what that means?

GUNKEL:  It means he who would trade liberty for security deserves…

BERG:  …neither.  Yep, I got that.  Again.  I mean, have you thought through what it means?

GUNKEL:   What are you talking about?  What else could there be?

BERG:  Here’s another quote for you; without order, prosperity is impossible.  Without prosperity, liberty is pointless.

GUNKEL:  So you’d give up…

BERG:  …no, no, no, stop right there.   Here’s a quote back atcha; without order, prosperity is impossible.

GUNKEL:  So you want to be like a herd animal…

BERG:  No.  “Order” is a very broad term!   It just means that there’s a general understanding that everyone is playing by the same rules, and that if you bring you product to market, there’ll be consequences for people who try to steal it on the way to the market, or swindle you when they get there.

“Order” can mean “a voluntary agreement that whose end of, everyone holds up”, like the anarchists say; that’s perfectly legitimate.  And it can mean full-blown Danish bureaucracy regulating the transaction, or a medieval baron making sure everyone upholds their end of the bargain for the good of his fiefdom.   And the whole American experiement was built around the idea that order should be maintained with the minimum amount of government and force possible – while allowing for the inevitability, given human nature, that some was likely to be needed at some point.

GUNKEL:  So you mean government!  Government is theft!  Nothing but!

BERG:  Sure, if you let it get out of control.  And we in the US largely have, and that’s a very valid discussion to have.  But the fact is, human nature being what it is, it’s inevitable that if the means of keeping order disappear, while 99% of the people will be just fine, there’s that 1% who’ll decide that what they want is what you got.  It can be a mugger, it can be those accursed Methodists, it can be that whole group of people over the ridge that think your ancestors stole from their ancestors, whatever.

GUNKEL:  So you’re a warvangelical?

BERG:  No – I merely observe human nature.  As I observed in my book, while the vast majority of humans are perfectly content to live and work and produce and interact peacefully, there are some that prefer to take what others produce.  It’s just easier.

GUNKEL: So  you’d give up freedom for thirteen pieces of silver?

BERG:  Wow – way to mix milieus.  Here’s another quote for you:  without prosperity, freedom is irrelevant.  If you don’t have prosperity – if you’re a hunter-gatherer or a subsistence farmer – “freedom” is a very relative thing.  You’re free to speak and worship and assemble – but you’re busy seeing to your survival from dawn to dusk, year-round, like a medieval fyrd.  Which means not only are your more abstruse freedoms irrelevant, but you have neither the time nor the energy to see to things like prosperity and order – making you ripe pickings for anyone who wants to take what you’ve worked for.  And this time you’ll have no surplus to see to your very survival!   Which is, by the way, a condition that also makes you ripe pickings for whomever would call himself your king, either against your will or, as tired and close to starvation as you are by this point, with your full consent.

GUNKEL:  So you will trade freedom for security!  Hah!

BERG:  You make it sound like a binary, black or white thing.

GUNKEL:  It is!    If you don’t have all the freedom, you have none of it!

BERG:   That’s just madness.  You say because the American people have given up some freedom, we’re no different than North Korea?

And no.  I won’t trade my freedom, all or nothing, for security – not while I have anything to say about it.   I will, as a constituent of a limited government that has a few carefully-enumerated jobs, engage some agents to keep the order we all need.  And no more.

GUNKEL:  That’s not how government works today!

BERG:  You’re telling me!  Y’see, that’s the problem with “libertarians”; they take poli-sci class absolutes and try to apply them to the real world.   So I’ll do it back atcha:  without prosperity, freedom is academic; without order, prosperity is impossible.  Therefore, without order, paradoxically, freedom is impossible.

GUNKEL:  So you say freedom is impossible?

BERG:   Nope.  I am saying that while absolute tyranny is very possible, absolute freedom cannot exist in a world where others have the “will to power” to become tyrants.

There is a trade-off; it’s the job of a free people to simultaneously see to the order that enables the prosperity that makes freedom possible, and make sure the “order” they create doesn’t become oppressive.

GUNKEL:  All involuntary order is oppressive!

BERG:  So you throw off a “government” that governs by consent of the governed…

GUNKEL:  Yes!

BERG:   And live in a world with only “gentlemens agreements” for order…

GUNKEL:  Yes!

BERG:   So that you can be conquered or killed by someone who took advantage of the fact that you have no means to see to public order?

GUNKEL:  Er…yes!  Better dead than…er…

BERG:  Naturally.

And SCENE

What A Terrorist Wants

SCENE:  December 8, 1941, in the well of the House of Representatives – in an alternate universe.    President Barack Delano Obama is addressing a joint emergency session of Congress.

OBAMA:  Yesterday, December Seventh, 1941, is a day which will live in infamy.

Now, let me be clear:  this attack did not represent the Real Japan.  Japan is an ancient, honorable culture, dating back over 2,000 years; Shinto is a religion of peace, famous for its pastoral scenes and transcendental poetry.

And this attack does not represent the real Japanese people; a people who invented sushi, and baseball, and the number zero, named after their fighter plane.

We know the attackers were the junior varsity; who even knew the Japanese had aircraft carriers?

The lesson of yesterday?  We must not give in to fear, or bigotry, in framing our response to this attack.  We must not let fear drive us to launching an air raid on Tokyo, or a two-pronged offensive through the Solomon Islands, or an island-jumping campaign through the Central Pacific, because that is exactly what the attackers want.  If they force us to attack them, we are playing their game, their way.

We must respond to the parts we control – to the National Rifle Association, which has, through the intransigence of Congressional Republicans,  made it easier for criminals like the attackers to buy bombs than books in Tokyo.

I urge Congress also to accelerate passage of the Affordable Defense Act.

Thank you, and let’s not waste this crisis.

Tragedy On A Dimmer Switch

The nation wracks itself in grief – justifably – over the deaths of 20-odd children in Connecticut.  I’d shudder to meet the monsters that don’t recoil in horror and outrage.

I’m  struck, though, by the lack of outrage over the carnage in President Obama’s home town, the town run by the machine that put him in office, the city run by his former Chief of Staff.

In Chicago, since 2008, 622 children have been murdered.  That’s almost thirty Sandy Hook classrooms full of kids.  They didn’t have the “luck” to look, largely, just like the children of our nation’s “elite”, our media, business and wonk classes – white, exurban, upper-middle-class.  The died in ones and twos, not in a bloody pile that became a media feeding frenzy.  They weren’t killed by children of privilege, shot by weapons that the dominant political class was trying to turn into a boogeyman and political wedge; they were mostly murdered by their neighborhoods’ own criminal underclass, carrying mundane, mostly-stolen pistols and illegally-modified shotguns, almost none of them by any “assault weapon” anyone would recognize.

No – they’re mostly black and latino.  They’re mostly from poor families, students at Chicago’s wretched public schools.  And they live – lived – in a city that has been the American left’s social laboratory for the better part of a century.  And they died in a city that is a fully-owned subsidiary of the American left, and a key part of its national power base, and a place that has made it harder for the law-abiding citizen to buy guns than to buy crack, heroin or a hooker. A city that trumpets the ambitions – and exhibits the failures – of everything American “progressivism” stands for.

They’re minority, they’re poor, they’re rhetorical guinea pigs in America’s biggest leftist lab.

And they’re dying at the rate of seven or eight classrooms-full a year – not on one horrible bloody Friday, but every year, for years past and for years to come.

And outside their communities, their families, their neighborhood’s churches?  They die anonymously.

And there is the American left’s concern for “the children”.

So let’s do make sure that’s part of the “Conversation about Guns”, shall we?

Stay Hard, Stay Hungry, Stay Alive If You Can

I got an email from MPR the other day.  It was actually a combo email from MPR News and “The Current” asking what song we thought best summed up the state of the nation during this election season.

I wrote back with my suggestion – a song that has layer upon layer of significance to our nation, our society, our zeitgeist and the election itself.  A song that’s all about dreaming a big dream, and having those dreams run up on the rocks, and hitting that moment where you have to think “was that a dream or was it a mirage?”.  A song about that moment when you have to decide – do I drown, or do I sack up and carry on?

A song about truth and consequences.  A song that, on a work week after a long trip across the prairie, reminds me of the huge swathe in the middle of this country, the square states full of bitter gun-clinging jebus freaks like me that are, in fact, my home and background and blood and my past.  And that is, with a blessing and a tailwind, may be our nation’s future.

The song is “This Hard Land” by Bruce Springsteen.

It’s a song he wrote during a John Steinbeck jag, for Born in the USA, and that should have been on the album (be honest – would anyone miss “Downbound Train?”) and was in its day one of the most sought-after bootlegs in Springsteen’s oeuvre.

So many layers to this song, and to the reasons I chose it.

First verse?

Hey there mister can you tell me what happened to the seeds Ive sown

Can you give me a reason sir as to why they’ve never grown

They’ve just blown around from town to town

Till they’re back out on these fields

Where they fall from my hand

Back into the dirt of this hard land

Thomas Hobbes, the 18th-century British intellectual who was one of the patron saints of conservatism as we understand it today, couldn’t have expressed better the fundamental conservative ideal that “life’s a bitch”, that there are forces that are bigger and more powerful than men and their dreams.

But well return to that.

Now me and my sister from germantown

We did ride

We made our bed sir from the rock on the mountainside

We been blowin around from town to town

Lookin for a place to stand

Where the sun burst through the cloud

To fall like a circle

Like a circle of fire down on this hard land

America is a land of myths.  Mostly big and glorious ones – like the ones that drew our forefathers, like the singer and his sister, from their old homes, the Germantowns and Norwayvilles and Saigon Centers, to This Hard Land.   Much of what America sees as its own self-image – whether the wilderness of the Badlands or the wilderness of the tradiing floor or the inventors garage or the moon or the neighborhood or the entrenched beliefs of the human heart – is about the epic American dream of going where your ancestors have never gone before, of being something they weren’t.

And over the past seventy years, it’s become about the marketing of those dreams, whether via John Wayne or “Hope and Change”.

But like all dreams – and their cousins, the myth and the chimera – they run afoul a brutal reality:

Now even the rain it don’t come round

It don’t come round here no more

And the only sound at nights the wind

Slammin the back porch door

It just stirs you up like it wants to blow you down

Twistin and churnin up the sand

Leavin all them scarecrows lyin face down

Face down in the dirt of this hard land

The prairie is dotted with the remains of old farm homes from families that just didn’t make it, flindered remains of their back doors still slamming in the wind.  Just as America is dotted with businesses that tried and failed, leaving behind empty buildings, rusty frames, doors drifting back and forth in the desultory breeze.  And yes, the wreckage of government initiatives like the one that’s dominated our political life this past presidential term, a dream – a chimera from a brief majority four years ago – of an undertaking that, despite the fervency of its dreamers’ beliefs, has failed as completely as the sodbuster in the song.  Whether through poor design, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or being fundamentally wrong or – like the singer and his sister – just from suffering a bad run of luck in the face of a merciless and uncaring Nature, all of human existence is a tough grind dominated by forces we don’t, by ourselves, control.

Being human, we attempt to control them anyway – to bring order to the chaos, and to tame the untameable:

 From a building up on the hill

I can hear a tape deck blastin’ “Home on the Range”

I can see them Bar-M choppers

Sweepin’ low across the plains

Its me and you, Frank, we’re lookin for lost cattle

Our hooves twistin and churnin up the sand

Were ridin in the whirlwind searchin for lost treasure

Way down south of the Rio Grande

Were ridin cross that river

In the moonlight

Up onto the banks of this hard land

It’s human nature to try to bottle up and contain Nature, whether the nature around us or the nature inside us.

And it’s one of the great dividing lines in human nature, the one between those who are content for their “home on the range” to come recorded, to have the almighty Bar-M or The Almighty  or The One out looking for the strays, for those who are just fine being Julia“…

…and those whose dreams, or mirages, embrace the chaos that ensues where life and Nature, natural and human, are in conflict.

And the last verse is for them:

Hey frank wont ya pack your bags

And meet me tonight down at liberty hall

Just one kiss from you my brother

And we’ll ride until we fall

Well sleep in the fields

Well sleep by the rivers and in the morning

Well make a plan

Well if you can’t make it

Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive

If you can

And meet me in a dream of this hard land

Whether it’s the pioneer seeking more elbow room from all the other settlers and their choppers and tape decks, or from bouncing back from a failure, or a big part of a nation taking a deep breath and saying “this is not the path we want”, or, I dunno, Atlas shrugging for all I know, this verse – with allusions to Okies loading up their trucks and bidding their relatives goodbye, or immigrants climbing on the boat and wishing their old lives auf wiedersehen, or men kissing their wives and kids and mustering down at Liberty Hall as the drums and the hobnails rattle on the wind, or a people saying “thanks, Julia, and all the best to you and that mysterious niece and/or nephew that appeared a few frames back, but I’m looking for something a little more…epically mythical” – is the American myth; the idea that we are a restless pack of strivers looking for a newer, better, freer horizon.

Beyond that, in terms of politics today?  Every generation dreams of leaving a better world to their kids, as I do for my kids and my new granddaughter. We have a distinct chance, as things go, of leaving them a world that my ancestors in the Dust Bowl would look at and whisper “there but for the grace of God…”.  And unlike the the Okies, our immigrant forefathers and protagonist in “This Hard Land”, this time there’s noplace to ride away to to start over.  We’re stuck with this hard land.

For me, the song also is further evidence that Springsteen – my favorite American R&R songwriter since Johnny Cash – is America’s best conservative songwriter. Looking at his prime output from the height of his muse, there’s a case to be made that once you peel off the rhetoric and the Hollywood and the political dross of the past decade, his music was fundamentally conservative.  And I’ll make the case, since American conservatism’s most important non-electoral mission is to engage in this nation’s larger non-political culture.

More on this after the election.

Anyway – ask a question, you’ll get an answer.  Usually.

UPDATE:  Hobbes, not Hume.  Sigh.  It’s been a few years.

UPDATE 2:  Welcome, Bob Collins’ readers!

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Chanting Points Memo: Slouching From Fargo

How do you measure success in a politician?

If you’re a liberal, it’s likely in terms of sheer volume of legislation created and money moved about.  Because to a liberal, government is about creating reams of paper, rules, laws, stuff for government to do.

If you’re a conservative, it’s probably more a matter of princple; of getting government out of the way, of taking pointless laws and needless regulations off the books.

We’ll come back to that.

———-

Mike McFeely is a talk show host in Fargo.  He’s the current house liberal at KFGO, which was at one time the WCCO of the Fargo area, and like WCCO has shrunk greatly since its heyday (and since I left North Dakota).  He fills the role Fast Eddie Schultz used to play on the station, the token lefty.  Like Schultz, he’s apparently a former small-market sportscaster; like Schultz, he sounds like it.

And like a lot of liberal D-list pundits and pseudo-celebs, he’s got a jones for Mary Franson, GOP incumbent in District 8B and, like most uppity female and minority conservatives, the same sort of catnip for lefties that Michele Bachmann has been for the past decade and a half.  It started  a few weeks ago, with McFeely’s Schultz-like chanting of rumors that even some of the smarter regional leftyblogs long ago debunked.  McFeely came across in that case as a small-town crone abusing the “power” of his radio bully pulpit (and as much as KFGO has atrophied, it’s still not chicken feed)

I’ll give the guy kudos for at least trying to go legit in this letter to the editor in the East Otter Tail County Focus last week.

Rep. Mary Franson does not represent Greater Minnesota values and, by her own admission, will not have a strong voice for her constituents in House District 8B if she is re-elected.

Now, whenever a critic says their target has said something “by their own admission”, you can usually be pretty sure someone’s trying to play a rhetorical card trick; they admitted nothing of the sort.

While Rep. Franson has made embarrassing headlines nationally and statewide for, among other things, comparing her constituents who receive food assistance to wild animals (a claim she repeated even after “apologizing” for it on social media)

Now, when you’re a sportscaster, you can pretty much babble any kind of crap you want – because it’s just sports.  McFeely – like Schultz before him – seems to think politics is about the same.

But no – the smart people dispensed with that meme, too, and months ago; Franson pointed out, correctly, that long-term dependence dehumanizes people, and casts government in the role of the benevolent, responsible pet owner.   The remarks were taken out of context during a fractious session by a DFL noise machine that exists only to provide grist for their campaign mill.

And like a lot of D-list talk show hosts – and yes, my NARN pals and I are better than this – McFeely and “context” are never really on good terms:

At the event during which she repeated her comparison of assistance recipients to wild animals, Rep. Franson admitted that members of her own party did not support her and distanced themselves from her.

Yep.  During the “Animals” fracas, the House leadership shamefully backed away from Franson – one of several “ready fire aim” moments in a trying session for GOPers.

But teapot-tempests come and go; at the end of the day, always, “it’s the economy, stupid”.  McFeely takes a brisk dip into actual fact:

Despite low unemployment in Douglas and Todd counties

Wait – back up.  This Republican corner of the state is doing pretty well, you say?

Huh.

So let’s take a quick breather and set up some actual, factual history:  Representative Franson was…:

  1. …elected in the Tea Party wave in 2010 on a conservative ticket…
  2. …to represent a traditionally conservative Republican part of the state…
  3. …that’s doing relatively well, and apparently – by dint of having sent a conservative freshman legislator to the legislature in the middle of a grueling recession – wants to keep it that way.

Just so we’ve got that straight.

McFeely:

Instead of spending time in St. Paul fighting for issues specific to her constituents – such as lowering property taxes for farms and small businesses in rural Minnesota – Rep. Franson spent her two years in the Legislature authoring bills that accomplished nothing.

Perhaps McFeely would favor us by showing us the bill where Franson raised – or declined to lower – property taxes.

Go ahead, Mike, We’ll wait.  Cough up that bill.

[Mr. McFeely – don’t look at this next statement.  Scout’s honor?  OK – all the rest of you know that property taxes are the role of county commissions and city councils.  The legislature doesn’t set property taxes.  Now, the Democrats have spent the last two years babbling about how lowering Local Government Aid inevitably raises property taxes.  McFeely would have you believe that on Franson’s watch, taxes rose as a direct, cause-and-effect consequence of lowered LGA.  It’s one of those chanting points the left throws out there to gull the ill-informed.  But, again, that’s the job of the counties and cities.  Assuming LGA was cut.  Was it?  We’ll come back to that – but I’ll give you a little spoiler; McFeely makes Ed Schultz look smart and ethical].

Got that bill, Mike?  Hint:  It’s between the snipes and the half-round squares.

———-

Next, McFeely botches history – and by “botch”, let’s be charitable and assume he just doesn’t know the actual facts involved; if he does, then he’s just lying:

In her two years in St. Paul, Rep. Franson authored 36 bills. None became law. Very few were even discussed or forwarded. Even her own party wasn’t interested in the agenda Rep. Franson was trying to push. That is the definition of an ineffective legislator.

Wait – authoring laws that don’t get passed “defines” “ineffective?”

Let’s go back to the beginning of the post; conservatives don’t believe generating new laws defines success.

But let’s go by the left’s – and McFeely’s – definition of “effectiveness”.  None of Franson’s 36 bills passed into law.

Which is exactly the same record as House Minority Leader Paul Thissen; none of the two bills he authored passed into law, either!

Or how about a more rank-and-file member?  Ryan “The Intellectual Id Of The DFL Caucus” Winkler chief-authored 22 bills.  None passed; none even came close.

And do you know what?  Neither Thissen’s 0/2, Winkler’s 0/22 or Fransen’s 0/36 are even below average – because in a typical session (for example, 2008, the latest one with statistics) over 4,000 bills are introduced, and around 100 get signed.  That’s about 1 out of 40.

In other words, McFeely tossed out a number that is in itself meaningless without context.  Just like the “Animals” comment and his “property taxes” comment; either he doesn’t know what he’s taking about and doesn’t care, or he does and he’s hoping nobody checks his facts.  Like all Democrat campaigns, he – and by extension, the Cunniff campaign that McFeely is supporting – is hoping people aren’t curious enough to poke at those numbers.

Oh, we’re not done.

———-

McFeely turns next from misleading context to just-plain-ignorance:

At the same time, Rep. Franson consistently voted to raise taxes on residents of Greater Minnesota. She supported elimination of the Market Value Homestead Credit, raising property taxes on all Minnesotans and particularly those in rural Minnesota.

MVHC was a subsidy of metro-area housing; it kept metro-area property taxes artificially low, and subsidized spending by the wastrel DFL governments in Minneapolis, Saint Paul and Duluth.  Like LGA itself, it transferred money from the parts of the state that support themselves to our basket-case metro areas.

But at least that was a chanting point with a coherent argument.  Next, McFeely wafts away into fantasy-land:

Rep. Franson sided with metropolitan legislators by failing to fight for an increase in Local Government Aid, a tool that provides property tax relief primarily for Greater Minnesota cities and towns.

Local Government Aid, as we’ve discussed in the past, was originally a way to transfer money to poor, outstate towns from the wealthy Metro, to allow them to buy some of the amenities of modern life; modern schools, roads, water treatment plants and the like.  It’s turned into a subsidy of Minneapolis, Saint Paul and Duluth (although Iron Range towns get the most aid per capita).

(And while McFeely doesn’t name, and I suspect doesn’t know, the “metropolital legislators” with whom he claims Franson sided, it’s worth noting that the Metro is divided between cities that are constantly begging for more aid, and suburbs that largely receive none).

The GOP ran in 2010 on a platform of returning LGA to its original purpose – supporting smaller towns that don’t have the tax base to buy the necessities of modern government. And how’d that work?

State funding for LGA has been cut 25 percent over the last 10 years and has remained flat since 2010.  Eliminating or reducing LGA will seriously weaken regional centers like Alexandria and small cities like New York Mills.

McFeely gives a statewide number – but since McFeely’s writing about Franson’s performance in re her district, 8B, let’s ask what are the district’s specifics?

Let’s track LGA payments in 2008 and 2011 – payments, not pledges – for the three counties in Rep. Franson’s district, as well as the state averages and the metro areas (measured in per-capita dollars actually paid to the various jurisdictions).  All figures come from that noted conservative tool, the State of Minnesota:

City or County 2008 Payment ($/capita) 2011 Payment ($/capita) Change
Douglas County 123 118 -5
Otter Tail County 237 245 +8
Todd County 262 273 +11
State Average 101 98 -3
St. Paul 178 175 -3
Minneapolis 178 166 -12
Duluth 321 321 Bupkes

Ah.  So that’s why McFeely gave a statewide number!  Because since 2008 – the only period Rep. Franson had any control over as a legislator – LGA actually rose in Otter Tail and Todd counties; it shrank by an insignificant amount in Douglas County, where Alexandria is. and where as McFeely himself admitted, the economy is doing better than the state average.

So if you’re a liberal?  District 8B’s LGA was steady to slightly up.  More money!  Franson was effective!

And if you’re a conservative?  LGA spending in the district was in line with the GOP’s platform, raising payments to smaller out-of-state jurisdictions that actually need it, and were the original intended target of this spending.  Franson was still effective!

And if you have a functioning BS detector?  Mike McFeely is out of his depth writing about anything that doesn’t involve throwing a ball, and is serving as a trained chimp reciting DFL chanting points he may not understand, and certainly hopes you, the voter in District 8B, won’t.

Like the following:

Under her watch, property taxes have risen sharply…

Although, as the state’s figures show, not because of anything the legislature did, least of all in District 8B.

…while she has embarrassed her constituents with controversial national headlines.

Which were cowardly manglings of context by people who are getting more and more desperate at their prospects in two weeks, and for whom female conservatives are like red capes in front of bulls.

Franson did get an 86 from the Taxpayers League, among many other spiffs from conservative groups.  She was one of the freshmen “Tea Party” class that held the line on things like spending, tax hikes, and giving money to Zygi Wilf, while erasing the deficit, reforming regulations, keeping Minnesota’s unemployment rate way below the national average, and working to reform our state’s business climate.

In short, she did what the majority of (pre-redistricting) District 11B’s voters – mostly Republican, mostly conservative – sent her to do.

And if this is how desperate her opponent, Bob Cunniff, and his campaign are getting, it looks like she’ll do the same for new district 8B.

And if you live in the area, feel free to let the East Otter Tail Focus – and Mike McFeely – know I said so.

———-

So we started the article by asking how you measure a politician.  The answer – whether you’re left or right – most likely involves doing what one is sent to the Capitol to do.  Has Mary Franson done this?  That’s for the people in her district – not talking heads from Fargo or the Twin Cities – to decide.

So how about a media figure, an uninvited pundit?

Getting one’s facts straight, or at least being honest, would be a great start.

Chanting Points Memo: Buying Minnesota With Daddy’s Money

So far in this campaign, as the DFL hammers its way toward its primary next month, most of the attacks against Tom Emmer have come from a shadowy group, “Alliance for a Better Minnesota”.

I’ve busted them repeatedly stretching the truth and/or lying; Channel Five followed suit earlier this week.

But who are these people?  And where did they get the money to run all these slick (if utterly truth-free) ads, and all these posh (but amateurishly-designed) websites?

Because they run through a lot of money!

2006 Campaign – We first heard of “Alliance For A Better Minnesota” (A4aBM) during the 2006 campaign.  During that outing, A4aBM spent $2,545,162 – about $2.3 million of it in ads against Governor Tim Pawlenty.

Where did that money come from?

Their donor list is as follows:

  • CWA COPE $5,000
  • MAPE $5,000
  • Midwest Values PAC (Franken) $5,000
  • MN AFL-CIO $5,000
  • United Food Comml Workers $7,500
  • Ma Mah Wi No Min Fund1 (Mille Lacs Tribe) $7,000

Unions and Native American gambling interests so far; no big surprises.

  • Tom Kayser (MN) $7,500  [One of Mike Ciresi’s cronies]
  • Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux $15,000
  • MN Nurses $15,000
  • United Steelworkers $22,000
  • Afscme Council 5 – $25,000
  • Lks and Plains Carpenters $25,000
  • IBEW MN State Council $25,000
  • Intl Union of Operating Engineers $25,000
  • America Votes MN $30,040 [aka “ACORN 2.0“]
  • Coalition for Progress $50,000 (Mich)
  • Laborers Dist Cncl $60,000
  • Pat Stryker (CO) $100,000
  • SEIU MN State Cncl $100,000
  • Educ. MN $135,000
  • Tim Gill (CO) $300,000
  • Alida Messinger (NY) $746,000
  • Win Minnesota $778,500;

So – out of two and a half million dollars spent, about 20% – about $449,000 – came from those whom I thought were the most likely suspects, the unions.

And nearly 2/3 came from two sources – “Alida Messinger”, and a group called “Win Minnesota”.

We’ll come back to both of them.

2010 Campaign So Far – To date in the gubernatorial campaign, A4aBM has raised $93,386 (as of this past Tuesday).  They’d spent $72,383 of it as of Tuesday (on ads that were, as we ascertained earlier this week, wall to wall bullcrap).   Of that $93,386, 79.636 of it came from the “Win Minnesota PAC”.

So that’s two election cycles in a row (so far) where “Win Minnesota” has been the leading funder of scabrous hit pieces against Republican candidates.

Win Minnesota?  Seems pretty innocuous, doesn’t it?

Who is “Win Minnesota”, And Who Funds Them? – Here’s the list of major contributors to “Win Minnesota” during the 2006 campaign.  I’ll be adding the emphasis for reasons that’ll become fairly obvious:

  • Anne Bartley (San Fran) $25,000 [Linked via the Rockefeller foundation to Alida Messinger – whose maiden name was “Rockefeller” and who…well, we’ll get back to that.  She’s also linked to Hillary Clinton’s “Women’s Leadership Council” and former Clinton administration figure]
  • Shayna Berkowitz (Mpls) $100,000; ]
  • John Cowles (Mpls) $20,000; [Why yes, the former Strib publisher!  But don’t you dare say the Strib is biased!]
  • Andrew Dayton (Mpls) $1,000;
  • David Dayton (Mpls) $5,000;
  • Eric Dayton (Mpls) $1,000;
  • Mark Dayton (Mpls) $25,000;
  • Mary Lee Dayon (Mpls) $100,000;
  • Vanessa Dayton $1,000;
  • Sandra Ferry (NY) $50,000; [Yet another Rockefeller – sister of Alida Messinger]
  • Barbara Forster (Mpls) $25,000; [generic liberal with deep pockets]
  • Roger Hale (Mpls) $100,000; [Former Daytons’ executive]
  • John Harris (PA)$20,000;
  • Myron Kunin $5,000; [Hair care tycoon]
  • Kim Lund (Mpls) $25,000
  • Darlene Luther 47A Committee $10,000 ;
  • alida Messinger (NY) $165,000;
  • Midwest Values PAC (Franken) $20,000;
  • Linda Pritzker (TX) $30,000; [Scionette of the Hyatt fortune, big-time liberal with deep pockets; major donor to MoveOn.org]
  • Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux $10,000;
  • Tina Smith (Mpls) $10,000;
  • Linde Uihlein (WI)$100,000; [Schlitz heiress, long-time political plutocrat]
  • Julie Zelle (MN) $5,000

That was a lot of Daytons, and people linked with the Daytons…wasn’t it?

So how about this year?

So far in 2010, “Win Minnesota” lists the following donors to “Win Minnesota”‘s current warchest (currently worth $1,173,500), again with emphasis added by me:

  • Andrew Dayton $1,000
  • David Dayton $50,000
  • John cowles $25,000 [Remember him from 2006?]
  • MaryLee Dayton $250,000
  • Emily Tuttle (MN) $5,000
  • Ronald Sternal (MN) $5,000
  • Alida Messinger (NY) $500,000
  • James Deal (MN) $50,000
  • Roger Hale (MN) $10,000 [Remember him from above?]
  • Barbara forster (MN) $25,000
  • Democratic Governors Association $250,000;

So of the $1.1 and change million warchest, $851,000 came from Daytons, and Alida Messinger.

But wait!  There is another fund registered with the state, with a different account number but with the same email and street addresses, that has $850,000 socked away but has spent no money.

And where did that $850,000 come from?

  • Alida Messinger (Mpls) $50,000
  • Win Minnesota $50,000
  • Education MN $250,000
  • Laborers District Council $100,000
  • MAPE $50,000
  • IBEW MN State Council $50,000
  • MN Nurses Assc $50,000
  • Local 49 Engineers $25,000
  • Vance Opperman $50,000
  • Afscme Council 5 $50,000
  • MN AFL-CIO $25,000
  • SEIU MN State Council $50,000
  • AFSCME (Wash DC) $50,000;

And who is this Alida Messinger who has contributed so mightily – over $1.46 million over the past four years! – to the cause of disinforming Minnesotans about Republicans?  Other than the youngest daughter of John D. Rockefeller III?

The ex-wife of candidate Mark Dayton.

So “Alliance for a Better Minnesota” is essentially a front for a group of unions and, to the tune of millions over the past four years, Mark Dayton’s family, friends and ex-wife.

They are paying millions of dollars to advertise – and hiding it from casual view behind two layers of astroturf.

Mark Dayton is trying to buy the election, but he’s taking great pains to make sure you don’t know about it.

Chanting Points Memo: The Alliance For A Deceitful, Sloppy, Not Very Bright Minnesota

The “Alliance For A Better Minnesota” – an astroturf group sponsored by a consortium of DFL-linked pressure groups – has been behind much of the smear-mongering against Tom Emmer so far this campaign. They’ve occupied themselves with a klutzy false-flag website, a couple of twitter accounts (one of baldfaced propaganda, and one, “StuffEmmerSays”, that tried to mock Emmer statements but actually made him sound like Ronald Reagan to the point I spent the last month mocking it as a pro-GOP site; it seems to have worked, and the account seems to have demised).

And if that’s the best the DFL can do, this election’s not going to be nearly as hard as I’d worried.

“A4aBM” ran the first anti-Emmer ad of the campaign this week; and the Republican Twitterverse has been redounding with bits and pieces of the information A4aBM got wrong.

Long story short; the ad is warm runny bulls**t.

Claim #1: Audio: “Tom Emmer sided with Governor Pawlenty and opposed a plan that would force corporations and CEOs to pay their fair share of taxes”  ABMBackup: “On May 18, 2009, Emmer voted against the second attempt at a DFL- written FY2010-2011 revenue bill…

Sounds pretty gnarly, huh?

The Truth: Tom Emmer did not cast a vote on this roll call.

Oh, my.  You mean, A4aBM got a fact wrong?

Well, the ad is 0-1 so far.

Claim #2: Audio: “They cut funding for education” ABM Backup: “On April 18, 2007, Emmer voted against HF 6, the K-12 funding bill, which passed the House with a huge bipartisan majority of 119-13. On May 8, 2007, Emmer again voted against the bill as it was re-passed on a similar 119-14 vote…

Voted against it twice?  Emphasis added:

The Truth: After April 18, 2007, there were no additional votes taken on this bill that year.  During the 2008 session, this bill was used as a “vehicle” and a delete-all amendment was added completely changing the bill.  The vote they reference on May 8, 2007 was actually a vote on May 8, 2008 and it wasn’t a vote on the bill but, rather, a procedural vote on whether the bill should be taken from the table.  Emmer voted against taking the bill from the table.

You’re trying to say A4aBM lied about the real intent of voting on a picayune procedural technicality in the life of a background-noise bill to try to smear Tom Emmer?  Say it isn’t so!

0-2 so far.

Claim #3: Audio: “[Tom Emmer and Tim Pawlenty] cut funding for education.”

The Truth: There is nothing in the bill cited that included a cut to education.  In addition, KSTP’s Tom Hauser recently had this to say about the claim that Governor Pawlenty cut education funding: “As for Pawlenty cutting education funding, that’s not true.  According to the education department, per pupil funding has gone up since 2004.”

0-3 – well, more like 0-4, really.

Claim #4: Audio: “[Emmer voted to cut] job training.”

The Truth: Nowhere in ABM’s backup is there any support for this claim.  “Training” is mentioned only once in the legislation, and that is in reference to home ownership education.  This bill had nothing to do with job training.

Zero for five.

Claim #5: Audio: “[Emmer and Pawlenty cut] job training and health care”.  On screen: “Source: Minnesota House Journal, 4/25/2005”

The Truth: According to the Minnesota House of Representatives Journal, the House was not in session on 4/25/2005, meaning there could be no Journal of the House for that day.  The Alliance’s citation, therefore, does not even exist.

So the lesson for today is, whenever “Alliance For A Better Minnesota” speaks, distrust and then verity.

Because the DFL asssumes that you, the people, are too stupid to know any better.

A Day In The Life Of Every Uppity Conservative

ME:  Hi!

REPRESENTATIVE GROUP OF LIBERALS (RGOL):  Conservatism is fundamentally racist!

ME: Um – beg your pardon?

“RGOL”:  Racism oozes from every pore of conservatism!

ME:  OK, that’s what we call “bigotry” where I come from, but what the hell, I love a good ad-hominem argument.  Do tell!

“RGOL”:  Nixon’s “southern strategy” brought all the racists to the GOP!

ME: Er, let’s get back to “the south” in a bit here.  You did read my post last week about Jacob Weisberg’s article in that noted racist conservative hangout Slate, that noted there are distinct differences between Northeastern, Southern and Western conservatism, right?  How Northeastern conservatism is largely comfortable with big government but with an emphasis on making big government more fiscally sane – think Mitt Romney – and race is largely a non-entity, and in fact part of the roots of Northeastern conservatism are at least partly in the abolition movement?  And how Western conservatism, the conservatism of Goldwater and Reagan, is fundamentally libertarian, which means racism is anathema, since libertarian government is utterly color blind, and all real racism – the racism that makes people unequal before the law – is entirely a function of excessive and illegitimate government power, right?  Which leaves southern conservatism, which certainly had racists among its adherents, but whose fundamental “racism” is at least partly a matter of framing by, well liberals?

“RGOL”:  Of course we did.  Now – look at this list of southern conservatives and the racist things they’ve said…

ME: OK, you’re more or less dodging the point here.  Can individuals be racist?  Certainly.  I mean, every human in the world is a “we-ist”, more comfortable around and attuned to people like their own community, and less to to people less like them in ways that are manifested as everything from pointed humor to muted suspicion to blind hatred.

“RGOL”:  Right.  Like conservatism!

ME:  Well, no.  Liberals too.  I mean, mention, say, a white fundamentalist from Mississippi who resurfaces driveways for a living…

“RGOL”:  Hah!  Dumb redneck wingnut!

ME:  …or an NRA member…

“RGOL”:  Bigger gun clinging snake-handling cousin-kissing Jeeeeeebus freak hahahahahahahaha!

ME: ….right, or Sarah Palin…

“RGOL”:  Hahahahaha!  She went to community college!  Trig is Bristol’s baby!  She can’t even write and has fake boobs and slept with her deputy mayor and …

ME:  …or the Japanese…

“RGOL”:  Er…what?

ME:  Well, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the godfather of the modern nannystate, did not only order the most singularly racist government action in the past 100 years – the mass internment of American citizens of Japanese descent – but did it after two terms in which he supported California’s deeply racist anti-Japanese immigration laws.

“RGOL”: …

ME: OK, fine, it was seventy years ago.  Still, your entire case that “conservatism oozes racism”  seems to be based on 1) a bunch of anecdotal stories of Republicans who said racist things 2) a bunch of memes from Media Matters and the like, that largely yank statements by the likes of Rush Limbaugh so far out of context you’re getting into borderline defamation, and 3) framing conservative issues as fundamentally racist.

To which I reply 1) Why does Robert Byrd never make it into those lists, 2) Gosh, a liberal flak group waterboarding context, notify the media, and 3) when your entire argument is designed to try to misleadingly frame your opponent as something evil – and we all agree that racism is a bad thing, right? – then you are committing a crime against truth!

“RGOL”:  What are you talking about?

ME: For example, every time a conservative talks about strengthening the Tenth Amendment, some idiot lefty will come back with “That sounds like “states rights”, which was once used to defend slavery.

“RGOL”:  Right!   Conservatism supports slavery!

ME:  {{facepalm}} No.  No, we are pretty much the opposite extreme; we are the party of individual self-determination.  And, by the way, it is a fact that Jim Crow after 1900 was largely a government initiative that overrode the free market; that in most southern states, the business community – which are stereotypically conservative, right?…

“RGOL”:  Bosses!  Bosses!

ME: …right.  They largely opposed Jim Crow, since Jim Crow took anywhere from 10 to 50% out of their markets!

“RGOL”:  But the southerners were racists!  And Nixon brought them into the GOP!

ME:  Well, no and yes and no.  The “Southern Strategy” sought votes from southerners who were upset over a variety of things – federal intrusions into property rights and free association as a matter of principle, the size and growth of government, and the federalization of an awful lot of things that had always been left to the states.  And yes, there were no doubt some among ’em that were upset that the Feds poked their nose into race relations – because a racist citizen’s vote counts just as much as yours does.  Which galls the crap out of me when I see some of those anti-semitic filth at left-leaning demonstrations, by the way – but I digress.  The framing of all southern conservatives’ flight to the GOP as race-related has become part of the conventional wisdom, to the extent that all defenses of the thesis become tautological.  Just watch:  “The southern strategy was not primarily about race”.

“RGOL”:  But the southern strategy was racist because it brought racist southerners into the party…

ME:  Thanks.  I rest my case.

“RGOL”:  …um…

ME:  Move along.

“RGOL”:  Yeah?  Well…what about Arizona?

ME:  Jeez.  More framing.  The Arizona law – which most Americans support, in its final form – is about securing our borders.  That is one of the missions of government, no?

“RGOL”:  But it’s racist!

ME:   Huh?  Let me ask you something; if Minnesota were awash in Canadians sneaking across the border, and illegal Canadian immigration were forcing down American wages, and if in coming here they rejected American culture and upheld Canadian culture with their back-bacon and hockey-worship and mass drunkenness, and if the Canadian Army were charging across the border to help out Canadian drug smugglers and killing people on our side of the border, that “illegal” Gordon Fitzpatrick wouldn’t replace the “illegal” Juan Jimenez as the boogeyman du jour?

“RGOL”:  But that’s just dumb.

ME:  What if our hypothetical Gordon Fitzpatrick was pro-charter schools and anti-card-check?

“RGOL”:  Then he’d be racist and he’d hate children…

ME:  Er, yeah.  Look – do our laws mean anything, or do they not? Are we a sovereign nation, or are we not?

“RGOL”:  Er…huh?

ME:  …

“RGOL”: You are obviously a racist.

ME:  Riiiiight.

My Tax Day At The Capitol Mall

So I not only got to attend the Tea Party at the State Capitol yesterday, but it was my immense privilege to be the lead-off speaker; mine was the first in a long stream of excellent speeches, including that of my NARN cohost  Ed Morrissey, whose speech I videotaped and is currently up at Hot Air, and Twila Brase, and Katie Kieffer, who will no doubt post video, also gave an excellent speech.  There were more.  Many more.

Lil ol me.  Courtesy Peter Anderson.

Lil’ ol’ me. Courtesy Peter Anderson.

I estimated about 1,500 people at the event at its peak around 6:30 or so.  It was good-sized, jovial crowd – but not quite as big as last year.  Some people were worried about this.  I’m not; last year, people were upset, and wondering what the hell to do, and the Tea Party was like a psychological life ring to a whole lot of people whose political activism had never gone beyond going to the polls, maybe, every couple of years.  Over the past year, though, conservatives have changed; we turn out for rallies; we call Congresspeople in vast numbers; better yet, of the 11,000 who attended last week’s Bachmann/Palin rally, over 1,000 volunteered to be election judges.   We saw similar results last night.  Conservatives are doing what they need to do to turn the spirit of the Tea Parties into the action this nation needs.

One group that was not in evidence were the “crashers”; this wasn’t the case everywhere, and the Saint Paul Tea Party was ready with a sizeable group of volunteers armed with orange vests and cameras to handle security – but other than half a dozen “Tax Me More!” activists who stood across the street for about half an hour, and a “Thanks To Taxes” billboard-truck that desultorily circled the capitol grounds (the billboard seemed to imply that we have children, sunshine and sex because of taxes), there was really no “opposition” at all.

And while last year I saw a few signs that made me cringe, I didn’t even see much of the far-out fringe in the crowd this year, either.  I mean, if you’re one of those lefties who gets the victorian vapours over references to John Galt, then yeah, I suppose the crowd was big and scary.  But the far-out, Alex Jones fringe was mostly absent from the rally itself.  I saw not a single “Birther” sign, much less anything I”d call racist.  Indeed, almost all the far-out fringe contingent…

…was up on stage.   For some reason, one of Toni Backdahl’s co-MCs was a guy from AM1710, a little 15 watt AM station in Maple Grove that could be charitably said to be out there on the Alex Jones fringe of the movement.   And one of the opening “musical” acts was a kid in an “InfoWars.com” t-shirt (these are the folks that make the radical Randers shake their heads and go “good lord, how wierd”) who did a pseudo-rap rant that might have fit in at an anarchist rally and whose message would have made me cringe even had the kid not considered “intonation” part of a socialist conspiracy.  There were also a few speakers that sputtered about the unconstitutionality of the income tax, which is pretty much the norm at these things.

Now, I don’t fault the Tea Party’s organizers for including a lot of people that I, personally, disagree with strenuously – because that’s the whole point of the Tea Party.  It’s a group of people, some of whom would not normally agree about anyting, gathering together for a common cause; making government smaller, more responsible, and less frivolous with our rights and liberties.

And so I say “Yay” to all; the mainstream-of-the-mainstream Republican, the disaffected Democrat, the Ronulan, and everyone in between, and all of us who are united behind the idea that we are all created equal, and that people aren’t free until government is limited; let’s all kick ass in November.

Indeed, the only problem I heard about involved a reporter from “The Uptake”.  He’s a local leftyblogger who usually blogs anonymously; he went by “Steve” on the Uptake’s video.  Now, he interviewed me briefly last year; I never saw his final product, although I was told either his voiceover or his editing really mangled the context of my interview; I wouldn’t know – I don’t watch the Uptake much.  I did another standup with him after I got offstage – I figure if he and the Uptake want to Maye what I said, it says more about him and them than it does about me.   He referred to the people around him as “tea-baggers”; I gently corrected him, but I got a sneaking hunch it was a tell as to “the Uptake’s” overall tone of “coverage”.

But shortly after that, a few of the orange-clad security guys came up to me and said they’d been getting complaints about the Uptake’s crew.  I asked them for specifics; they took me to a couple that that said the Uptake’s crew hadn’t identified themselves as a “news” crew that was going to publish an interview online, and that they seemed to be trying to get them to say something stupid, to make them – Tea Partiers in general, it seemed – look stupid.    The woman said that the “reporter” seemed to be trying to pick a fight with her, trying to one-up her on her knowledge of issues; “I”m not an encyclopedia, I can’t answer all the questions he has right away”, she said, still visibly exasperated.   Her husband, a Vietnam veteran, echoed his wife’s thoughts; “he was trying to pick a fight; he was harassing us”.

I walked away, wondering – is “the Uptake” still trying to be an actual news organization, or are they down to trying to do bogus Jon Stewart-style “attack” man-on-the-street interviews?   It’s entertainment, I suppose, watching a self-professed “smarter-than-thou” taking pot shots at those he and his viewers consider inferiors for cheap yuks.  But is it “news?”

Now, I haven’t contacted The Uptake about this, and I doubt that I will; when it comes to “reporting” on the Tea Parties, even the mainstream media seem to find waterboarding context acceptable.  But I think it’s curious that an organization that is fighting for its standing on the Capitol Press Corps would seemingly take such gratuitous liberties with the whole idea of “journalistic ethics”, whatever they are, with this kind of behavior, if true.

Bill Salisbury at the Pioneer Press, and Jessica Mador of MPR both did good, balanced jobs of reporting on the event; or at least I got no complaints from security about either of them (except from the guard that Salisbury bowled over in his rush to interview Katie Kieffer).

I’ll be looking forward to next year.  Goodness knows there’ll be work to do.

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One Day At The Oceanaire

(SCENE:  At the Oceanaire – a tony seafood restaurant in Downtown Minneapolis.   Representative Paul Thissen, Senator Tom “Baby Got” Bakk and Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson-Kelliher are sitting at a table with five empty chairs.  Anderson-Kelliher, bored, drums her fingers on the table.  Thissen checks his watch, and Bakk rock nervously in their seats. )

(Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak enters the room)

THISSEN, BAKK and ANDERSON-KELLIHER, SIMULTANEOUSLY:  Hello, Mayor Rybak.

RYBAK:  Hey, Margaret!

(BAKK and THISSEN, deflated, go back to gnawing on toothpicks)

RYBAK:  Thanks for calling the meeting, Margaret.  What’s up?

ANDERSON-KELLIHER:  I’d like to lay out some ground rules and strategy for the campaign.

(SEN. MARK DAYTON walks into restaurant).

RYBAK: That’s a great idea.  (Notices DAYTON).  Hey, Mark!

DAYTON:  Aaaaaaagh!   (DAYTON dives to floor, rapidly low-crawls to the table, furtively sits in chair).

THISSEN:  What’s the matter, Mark?

ANDERSON-KELLIHER – Shut up, er…

THISSEN: Paul…

ANDERSON-KELLIHER: …whatever.  (Turns to DAYTON)  What’s the matter, Mark?

DAYTON:  (Affixing a lobster bib) Er, nothing.  Why?

ANDERSON-KELLIHER:  Just curious.  (Looks at menu, as former Senator MATT ENTENZA, with wife LOIS QUAM, enter the restaurant.

BAKK: “Hey, Matt…”

ANDERSON-KELLIHER:  I said SHUT UP!

BAKK: You told Paul to shut…

ANDERSON-KELLIHER:  Don’t care! (turns to ENTENZA) How are you today, Matt?

ENTENZA: I’m doing…

QUAM: (A little too effusive) He’s doing just fine, Margaret!  (ENTENZA abruptly stops).

ANDERSON-KELLIHER: Ah, excellent!

(A loud belch issues from outside the entrance.  Rep. TOM RUKAVINA walks in, pounding his chest.  He shakes out another mild belch).

THISSEN:  Hey, Tom…(Trails off as ANDERSON-KELLIHER stares him down; THISSEN looks bash fully at his menu).

ANDERSON-KELLIHER:  Excellent!  I believe that’s everyone…(counts noses)…except…

(Harps play in the hallway.  A little dry ice fog obscures the floor.  Sen. JOHN MARTY, hands clasped as if in prayer before him, moves across the floor as if floating, and lands like a hummingbird on the remaining chair.  A golden aura briefly suffuses the room, then vanishes).

ANDERSON-KELLIHER:  Hey, John.

MARTY:  May the blessing of my presence bring you peace.

ANDERSON-KELLIHER: Er, yeah.  I called you all here today because voters are having a hard time telling the difference between us.  For the good of the DFL race, it’d be best if we all come up with some sort of differentiation between us before the convention.

RYBAK:  Primary.

ANDERSON-KELLIHER:  Convention!

ENTENZA: Yeah, convention!.

QUAM:  Primary!

ENTENZA: Er, yeah.  Primary.

ANDERSON-KELLIHER:  Convention!

THISSEN:  Convention, just like Margaret says…

ANDERSON-KELLIHER:  For the last time, shut the **** up! (ANDERSON-KELLIHER flings a salt-shaker at THISSEN, hitting him in the face.  He falls backward over his chair, and lies on the floor, motionless.  DAYTON dives for the ground).

ANDERSON-KELLIHER:  Like I said, convention.  So I’d like you all to think of things we can do to distinguish ourselves to the voters…

WAITRESS (Approaches with order pad in hand):  Hello, my name is Wendy, and I’ll be your…

ANDERSON-KELLIHER:  For the last ****** time, shut the **** up…

RYBAK: Er, Margaret?  She’s the waitress…

ANDERSON-KELLIHER:  Oh.  Go ahead, then.

WAITRESS:  Er, OK.  Any drink orders before we order dinner?”

ANDERSON-KELLIHER:  Boilermaker.

RYBAK: Appletini, please.  Extra tini.

BAKK:  I’ll have whatever Margaret is having.

THISSEN:  (Groans incomprehensibly)

RUKAVINA: Grain Belt Premium!

ENTENZA:  I’ll take your house chablis…

QUAM:  He’ll take the house merlot, and so will I.

ENTENZA:  Er…yeah.

DAYTON:  A diet Pellegrini.

WAITRESS:  Sir, all Pelligrini is “Diet”.  It’s water…

DAYTON:  Two diet pellegrinis.

MARTY:  I shall have a glass of water.  But please bring it in gaseous form.

WAITRESS: Er…wait – you want a cup of steam?

MARTY:  As it is said, so shall it be poured.

WAITRESS:  Er, OK.  And would you all like to start a tab?

(All at table break up into uproarious laughter)

RUKAVINA:  Baby, you ain’t seen nothing.

(WAITRESS LEAVES)

ANDERSON-KELLIHER: OK.  I’d like everyone to say, for the record, what makes you different.  Paul?

THISSEN:  (Groans, puts hand on forehead).

ANDERSON-KELLIHER: OK.  Matt?

ENTENZA:  (Looks at QUAM)

QUAM:  He will raise taxes for a better Minnesota.

(ENTENZA nods enthusiastically).

RYBAK:  Well, I’ll raise taxes for a better Minnsesota, too.

BAKK:   Well, I won’t…

ANDERSON-KELLIHER: Yes, you will.

BAKK:  Yes, I will.

DAYTON:  I will raise taxes.  For a better Minnesota.  (Eyes door furtively).  I will.  I will.  I will.

ANDERSON-KELLIHER:  OK.  Not getting what I want here…

RUKAVINA:  I’ll raise taxes more for a better Minnesota!

ANDERSON-KELLIHER:  Better…

WAITRESS (Carrying tray of drinks):  OK, that’s two house Merlots,  a Grain Belt Premium, two Boilermakers, an Appletini, two “diet Pellegrinis” a cup of steam, and (looks at THISSEN) some smelling salts.

THISSEN:  (grunts painfullly)

WAITRESS:  That’ll be $77.

ANDERSON-KELLIHER: No.

WAITRESS:  Er, maam?  I brought the drinks.  You need to pay up.

ANDERSON-KELLIHER:  Shut up.

WAITRESS:  Maam?  This isn’t funny.  You wanna leave me on the look for almost $80 worth of drinks?

ANDERSON-KELLIHER:  Shut up!

RUKAVINA:  Yeah.  Shut up!

WAITRESS:  I’m gonna call the police.

ANDERSON-KELLIHER:  (Stands at table)  Attention, everyone in the restaurant.  Please pay our drink tab!  It is for a better Minnesota!

(RUKAVINA, BAKK, RYBAK, QUAM, and ENTENZA applaud; DAYTON balances spoon on his finger; THISSEN groans)

MARTY:  As it is written, so shall it be done.  (MARTY disappears in a blinding flash of pure light).

And…scene.

Kill The Death Penalty

This post is an expansion of a comment in a thread way down below.  Partly because my monkeying with my code this morning put a crimp in my morning blogging schedule.  Partly because the subject deserves it.

I oppose the death penalty, not because I break with most conservatives on the issue, but  because I am a conservative.

Stay with me on this one.

Conservatism is about upholding time-honored truths.

One of those truths is that the individual – one of the “Free Association of Equals” that our society is supposed to be, in the conservative view of things – is of supreme importance, and should be protected from the excesses of government. It’s why we conservative natter on about things like the Tenth Amendment – because we uphold the worth of the individual; there are some things that, to protect the individual, the government should just stay out of.

This directly contradicts the notion that individuals are “eggs” to be broken in the interest of the state’s convenience to make a social “omelet”. Frequent liberal commenter “RickDFL”’s left a remark in the comment section yesterday, that actually sent me looking for a remark about eggs and omelets that I coulda sworn Lenin or Stalin or Mao or Hitler made. No dice – the closest I got was Stalin’s “one death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic” – but Rick (I puke in my mouth a little bit in writing this) is right; it’s something one of them would say.

Conservatives do believe that the pursuit of good requires sacrifice; the Americans who died at Omaha Beach and Gettysburg and Chosin Reservoir were also of incalculable value, and they did nothing to deserve what happened except serving their country, and their loss was a tragedy for all of us. But they died (most of us believe) for a greater good, in a time and a place and for a cause for which there was no alternative, and which helped bring immense good as a result.

Killing an innocent person to “deter” the guilty? It brings no good (the guilty party goes free forever!) (I mean, what DA is going to say “oops – killed the wrong guy the first time! Let’s try this again!”), there is an alternative, and, lest we forget, it kills an individual who did no wrong – which is exactly who this society is supposed to protect.

And it echoes Andrea Dworkin (or Catherine McKinnon?  Jeff Fecke?  I get confused) who said it’d be “good” if men got falsely imprisoned for rape, to make all the real rapists a little more afraid. It’s an idea straight out of the worst of the French Revolution (which had no problem executing the innocent “pour l’encourager les autres“), carried on via Stalin and Hitler and Mao and Pol Pot.

Hypothetically, if the system could be “perfected”, would I support it? Sure. But that’s another tenet of conservatism; mankind can never be perfected; the hypothetical is pointless. And to a conservative, protecting people from the problems that human imperfection brings to government drives what government is supposed to do – including impelling government to back out of big parts of our society.

So since…

  1. Mankind – including prosecutors and the police – can never be perfected, and…
  2. these imperfections kill the innocent, and…
  3.  killing the innocent is immeasurably evil, and…
  4.  since a foolproof alternative exists that surely and swiftly punishes the guilty (remember – life in supermax without parole begins at sentencing; death takes an average of 12 years) while protecting the innocent, and…
  5. protecting the innocent is one of society’s supreme goods, then…

…abolishing the death penalty is supremely conservative.

To me, the logic of my stance depends on the five interconnected points above – all drawn from orthodox conservative beliefs to a finely-polished “t”.  If you want to disagree, by all means do it in the comment section.  But if you can’t successfully attack that five-point chain of logic, I’m not sure you’ll get a lot of traction with me.

Distrust But Verify. Then Distrust Some More.

The Violence Policy Center has a long record of cooking data to try to build a national case against civilian ownership of firearms.

They’ve failed, of course; more Americans own guns today than ever, while the idea of a link between crime and the demonstrably law-abiding armed citizen is almost too specious for modern physics to measure.  Gun control is a third rail like few others in American politics.

Which doesn’t mean they won’t try; the VPC – the very definition of an astroturf group – has masters with deep pockets to obey. And so they keep cranking out the material.

Like this “study” (which should be getting slavering coverage from the bought-and-paid-for lefty media) to show pervasive violence on the part of carry permit holders nationside.

The “study” summary:

As the impact of lax CCW laws grows, the evidence is now overwhelming that these laws have completely failed to reduce crime or increase public or personal safety.

Overewhelmingly lacking, at any rate; John Lott proved the case, and while astroturf hacks like the VPC may jump up and down and cry otherwise, they are bringing jackknives to sword fights.

But that’s really not the issue:

On the contrary, these laws have armed individuals who have murdered law enforcement officers and innocent citizens. Review of the devastating facts surrounding the 30 incidents detailed in this study alone should immediately halt any effort to create a national concealed carry system and, in addition, impel the
repeal of state “shall issue” laws allowing the carrying of concealed handguns.

Well, it’s an interesting conclusion.  Although not only is it not borne out by evidence in general, but even the VPC’s own evidence, viewed in detail, convincingly refutes the VPC’s own claim.

  • Over the two-year period May 2007 through April 2009, concealed handgun permit holders have slain seven law enforcement officers resulting in criminal charges or the suicide of the shooter. All of the killings were committed with guns. An additional three law enforcement officers were injured in these incidents.
  • Over the two-year period May 2007 through April 2009, concealed handgun permit holders have slain at least 43 private citizens resulting in criminal charges or the suicide of the shooter. All but one of the killings were committed with guns. An additional six private citizens were injured in these incidents.
  • In six of the 30 incidents (20 percent), the concealed handgun permit holder killed himself, bringing the total fatality count to 56.

So let’s look into the numbers in detail.  As noted above, “Carry permit holders” accounted for seven dead and three wounded law enforcement officers; 43 dead and six wounded citizens, and six suicides (all of them after other shootings).

But if you look at the individual cases, some facts emerge that the VPC found inconvenient to stress.  I broke them out into several categories:

  • Self-Defense Cases Gone Seemingly Awry: One of the problems with self-defense claims is that ones’ decision to respond to an attack that needs to be made in seconds under mind-warping pressure will be picked apart by prosecutors and jurors who have leisurely days and weeks to judge the results.  Two of the killings – one not charged as of yet, one resulting in a manslaughter conviction – fit this description.
  • Self Defense Against Law Enforcement Officers: One of the trickiest cases in all of self-defense is when a citizen believes – legitimately or not – that a law enforcement officer (whether known to them or not) presents them a lethal threat.  Law enforcement enjoys special protections under the law – usually for good reasons.  But cops screw up, too; in Minneapolis a few years ago, a SWAT team executed a no-knock raid – on the wrong address.  The owner of the house, an Asian man in a crappy neighborhood crowded with scumbags, had no idea who was charging into his house; he was eventually exonerated.  In the VPC report, two law-enforcement officers (federal and local) were killed and two wounded.  In one case, the killing was the result of a seemingly stupid response on the part of the shooter, and ended in a manslaughter charge (although, significantly, not murder). The other killing, and the two wounded, were the result of no-knock raids seemingly gone awry.    Note that these cases all took place in the citizens’ dwellings – and thus have nothing to do with the carry permits.  You don’t need  a permit, in most places, to have a gun.
  • Accidents: One of the killings was an accidental shooting involving a pistol owned by a carry permittee.  Tragic, certainly – but it has nothing to do with the permit.
  • Shooters Who Shouldn’t Have Gotten Permits: It’s generally agreed that people with criminal records, or records of mental illness or just-plain-violent behavior, should not be granted permits.  When this happens, it’s usually a matter of less-than-thorough investigation by the granting authority (usually a county sheriff), or, as is the case in jurisdictions where permits are issued purely by police discretion (this was the case in a shooting in New York state), faulty use of discretion.  Shootings involving people who should never have been issued permits included 12 incidents, involving 24 dead and two wounded.

And with all of those out of the way – the ambiguous cases or the people who should never have gotten permits at all – that leaves us with the actual, unambiguous crimes where a carry permit holder did something for which they were clearly, unambiguously at fault; Ten cases, involving 20 deaths.  It’s skewed a bit, of course, as it includes one mass murder case, the Michael McClendon case in Alabama which claimed ten people and the shooter.

Of course, concealed carry permits are hardly a direct contributor to mass spree killings; many have happened at the hands of people with no hope of ever getting a permit.  But for purposes of dealing with the article, let’s grudgingly count it among the 20 unambiguously wrongful deaths where no blame is shared with other peoples’ negligence.

Now – how many carry permits have been issued nationwide?  Nobody has a complete count, but the general rule seems to be about 1% of eligible citizens seem to apply; that ratio holds true in Minnesota (5 million people; over 50,000 permits issued).  Other states are higher, some might be lower.  Now, about 220,000,000 Americans live in states with shall-issue laws, or with no restrictions at all (Alaska and Vermont, where no permit is required); it seems reasonable to assume that 2.2 million Ameircans have some sort of carry permit.

2.2 million Americans with permits divided by 20 murders committed over the course of two years equals less than .5 murders – half a murder – per 100,000 carry permittees per year.  Even using the VPC’s numbers exactly as they are in the “study” means the 2.2million permittees are responsible for 56 wrongful deaths over the course of two years (ambiguous or not, related to carry permitting or not) gives a murder rate of about 1.4 per 100,000 permitted Americans.  Of course, the chance of any American being wrongly killed by a permit holder (using the VPC’s statistics, which as we’ve seen above are poppycock) are .014 per 100,000 Americans.

The overall murder rate in America in 2007 was 5.9 per 100,000.  In other words, Americans are 1/421th (roughly) as likely to be murdered by a carry permit holder as they are by a typical citizen – and that’s using the VPC’s numbers without qualification, which as we’ve noted in the past, one should never do.  If we leave out the ambiguous cases, the accidents and the others that have nothing to do with concealed carry, the average American is almost three orders of magnitude less likely to be killed by a legal carry permit holder than by, say, anybody else.

Let’s be clear, here; we want no unjustified killings by holders of carry permits, which are supposed to be a tool for the law-abiding.

But when you see this VPC study being flogged by the media, pass the word; there’s less there than meets the eye.

About 1/421th as much.

Roseville Vice

“It’s a bad one”, Sergeant Koziolecki said; the flushed look on his face showed that he wasn’t exaggerating.

“Whadda we got?”  I clipped my badge to my belt as we walked through the abandoned warehouse in the Saint Paul Warehouse District, ducking under the yellow “crime scene” tape.

“Four vics; two hispanic males, early twenties; one black male, late twenties; one caucasian female, late teens-early twenties.  Gunned down execution style” Koziolecki recited from fresh memory.

We rounded a dirty, ratty corner to what had been the lobby of a shipping dock, and saw the CSI crew going over the scene.  Four bodies were lined up, face-down, by a grafitti-clogged block wall.  “No kidding”.

“A bullet to the back of each head” Koziolecki read off the notes, pushing his readers up to the bridge of his nose.  The acrid smell of fresh blood was fading as we stood there, replaced by the smell of death.  Death and…I thought for a moment, not quite placing it.

“Killer or killers left a calling card”, Koziolecki continued.  “May I?” he asked the CSI guy, who nodded as he dusted, fruitlessly, for prints.  Koziolecki gently rolled the body of a girl – late teens, with tattooed arms and hair that’d been multicolored even before getting sprayed with her own and her friends’ blood and brains, who looked like a tank grrl or roller-derby chick.

Former roller derby chick.

And she had something in her mouth.

Continue reading

Jack Kemp

There were three people who turned me into a conservative.

Four, if you count Ronald Reagan.  But before I, who grew up very much a liberal, could embrace the idea of conservativsm that Ronald Reagan put out there – and let’s remember that to a liberal Ronald Reagan, especially the version of Reagan that liberals discussed amongst themselves, was a very scary figure –  someone had to soften me up.

The first was Jimmy Carter.  He created a lot of Ronald Reagan voters. And with the “Malaise” speech and his relentless “America Last”-ism, he gave me a good start up the ladder.

The second was Dr. James Blake.  He was the head of the English Department at Jamestown College.  He was also that rarest of creatures – a college English professor who was also a conservative. The son of a New York cop, Blake described himself as a “Monarchist”; whatever, he also made me read Paul Johnson’s Modern Times, and Doestoevskii and Tolstoii and Solzenitzyn and, for that matter, P.J. O’Rourke.  I may have been the last person in Western History to have been pushed up the ladder to conservatism while majoring in a humanity.

But Carter’s impetus was negative; Blake introduced me to the high-level reasons conservatism was not only better, but indeed vastly preferable for intellectual and personal freedom.

But it was Jack Kemp who first connected those ideas to daily life for me; to money, to jobs, to the nuts and bolts of running a government and a society.  While Reagan focused on the big picture – as, indeed, a President and leader should – Kemp tackled the machinery.

In the wake of the Carter malaise, he was one of Reagan and Stockton’s foot-soldiers for supply-side economics. He first filed his tax cut bill – which became known as “Kemp-Roth” when it finally passed, in 1981 – in 1977, long before supply side economics was a household word. Kemp was more than an adherent; he was a pioneer.

Every time in this century we’ve lowered the tax rates across the board, on employment, on saving, investment and risk-taking in this economy, revenues went up, not down”, he said – and, as a major mover and shaker during the Reagan years and George HW Bush’s HUD secretary, he worked to follow through, advocating privatizing public housing (a policy on which Clinton’s HUD boss Henry Cisneros followed through, after carefully rechristening it to get credit for his boss); many of the “welfare reforms” that happened during the Contract for America were ideas that Kemp had been instrumental in not only thinking up, but whose bureaucratic angles Kemp had worked through.  Kemp was the giant on whose shoulders the welfare reformers stood.

Kemp was a native of Los Angeles, the son of a small businessman who went to a small college, mainly because it was his best shot at getting to the pros as a football player.  He was a journeyman quarterback for years…

…he was present at “The Greatest Game Ever Played (before the ’86 Super Bowl)” – the Colts/Giants NFL championship game in ’58 – as a third-stringer on the Giants’ taxi squad. He was cut or traded by five teams before he latched on with the Buffalo Bills, back when the AFL was a separate league.

He led the Bills through a series of great seasons, before and after the merger with the NFL, before injuries slowed him down.  He was drafted to run for the US House in 1971 by the GOP, and he stepped away from his contract with the Bills to run his campaign.

Maybe it was the humble roots, the non-Ivy-League background, the years of struggle and failure before hitting it big, his self-taught nature that made Kemp a face of conservatism for the little guy. I’ve often said that Reagan’s great strength was that he translated Hayek and Friedman into something accessible to pretty much everyone; Jack Kemp turned those ideas into things of substance.  The supply-side claim is not a claim. It is empirically true and historically convincing that with lower rates of taxation on labor and capital, the factors of production, you’ll get a bigger economy.”

And he was always a conservative Republican who spoke to the little guy first and foremost, as befitted perhaps a Rep from Buffalo; There is a kind of victory in good work, no matter how humble“, he once said.

And as I moved to the city and started plying a trade – first as a bush-league conservative pundit, and then as a schmuck trying to make my way, and then again as yet another bush-league pundit, Kemp was consistently a voice and an inspiration to those of us who sought to break the noxious liberal strangle hold on places like Saint Paul.  And like many like me, I took inspiration from another Kemp protege in Jersey City, where Brett Schundler, a Reagan Republican who was very much in the Kemp mold, won three terms as mayor and tranformed his city.  When I’ve said that the Minnesota GOP will never really contest control of Minnesota until we make a play of it in the Cities, I’m echoing Kemp;  There really has not been a strong Republican message to either the poor or the African American community at large“, he once said, nailng one of the enduring chinks in the GOP’s (albeit not conservatism’s) armor.

People say the GOP needs another Reagan.  That’s true to a degree, of course.  But Reagan spoke of truths that are eternal enough that pretty much anyone can remember them; freedom, limited government, security. Reagan took on the world.

Jack Kemp took on mainstreet, one store-owner, voter, program and American at a time.

What the GOP really needs, stat, is a few dozen Jack Kemps; people who can spread the gospel to everyone from the local town hall meeting all the way to the Beltway, and back again.

The Barricades

Four years ago, I and most thinking Americans had a field day, roundly ridiculing a couple of risible strains of “liberal” whinging:

  • Stars who claimed they’d “move to France” if George W. Bush won the election.
  • Vacuous lefty blog-gerbils who yapped about the Blue States seceding from the union and joining to form “The United States of Canada”, and leaving the red-voting “Jesusland” states to themselves (I had particular fun with this, as well as pointing out the political and historical illiteracy of the idea; most of Canada west of Ontario is as red as Montana).  I had extra-special fun with these morons.
  • Acres of “He’s Not My President” bumper stickers.

These were many of the same people, by the way, who tearfully demanded that conservatives “stop questioning their patriotism”, by the way.

But I digress.  The vacuous snivelling hamsters got their president finally.

It’s the other side I’m concerned about now.

We got a call on the show last Saturday from a guy who’s question echoed one I’d heard from not a few people on blogs, on Twitter, and around about in recent months – itself a reprise of something I heard a lot back in the seventies and, just a bit, in the early nineties.

“When should we stop talking and start the active resistance?”

I often ask these people – why?

“It’s never been worse than this!”

I’m starting to lose patience with some of them.

Whenever anyone says anything is “the worst ever”, they’re almost always wrong.  They almost always really mean “the worst I’ve seen”.

Politics is not the dirtiest and nastiest it’s ever been (that’d be the Jackson/Adams contest in 1828, or any election where the Hearst papers uncorked their smear machine); this is not the worst unemployment since World War II (not even close, not yet)…

…and if you’re a freedom-loving American, the Obama administration is shaping up to be a bad one, perhaps a horrible one.  But it’s by no means the worst we’ve seen on any count.

Spending?  Roosevelt’s New Deal was worse.  So far.

Gun control?  While Obama’s record is bad, he hasn’t done anything yet; Democrats from FDR through Clinton all took their swipes at the Second Amendment, from Roosevelt’s prohibitory taxes on automatic weapons (which eliminated gang warfare!) to Clinton’s “1994 Crime Bill”, which did for many less-fashionable liberties what Bigfoot does to junked cars.

Civil Liberties?  Three words; J. Edgar Hoover.  FDR, Truman, Kennedy and LBJ got away with things that’d make any of the ofay gerbils that were protesting George W. Bush’s “Abuses” gag up their skulls.  Nixon invoked executive orders that gathered unprecedented “emergency” powers unto the executive – which has had libertarians chattering amongst themselves for almost forty years.  Obama bears watching; the Dems in Congress bear even more of it.  But so far, the threats are minimal (while still intolerable).

Repackaging vacuity as “change” and “audacity?”  OK, there Obama’s in a league of his own.

Overall demoralization of the parts of this country that matter?  The seventies were worse.  They had everything we have today and more – instability, out-of-control government, the Middle East going nuts, stagflation, Jimmy Carter – and a nation that was coming off of Vietnam, which, if you don’t remember it (and I only do through the prism of a 12 year old’s memory) was the most demoralizing thing to happen to this nation since the mid-thirties.  I don’t know if anyone ever ran the numbers, but Carter’s “Malaise Speech” must have prompted more population-wide suicides than any other single event in American history (shaddap about Oberlin undergrads popping too many Valium after Kerry lost).

And even that wasn’t the worst it’s gotten.  In my father’s lifetime – well within my grandparents’ early adult lives – there were those in the mainstream who seriously considered socialism, communism, even pre-war Naziism viable models with much from which we could learn, even much to emulate for our own good.  There were those in positions of great power who actively sought to incorporate “the best” of these ideologies into our own.

The point being that, so far, the Obama Administration isn’t the worst thing our constitution, our economy and our society has faced – yet.  And while the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, and the Founding Fathers well-recognized the possibility that Americans might need to throw off another tyranny someday, this isn’t it.

Not yet.

It’s a big government, and it’s getting bigger.  It’s a not-ready-for-prime-time government, run by a lot of very canny people who buffaloed a lot of our nation’s not-too-bright with a lot of breezy platitudes, and which rode to office on an almost-but-not-quite-unprecedented wave of discontent with the status quo.  It’s a government full of poltroons and ideological three-card-monte sharks.  But it’s not a communist dictatorship.

It was elected, for better or worse.  And we have three years and eight months to make the case that it should be thrown out of office and – this is the important part – nobody’s changing that.

If they do?  Well, get back to me then; it’ll be then you should think about putting on the camo and grabbing Grampa’s Garand and heading into the north woods.

Until then?  It’s still America.

As Douglas Adams said, “Don’t Panic”.

Somewhere in Bosnia, 1996

I crawled through the mud, a G3K carbine in one hand, a handful of slimy, suspect topsoil in the other, as the rain poured down.  The corner of a spare magazine cut into my hipbone as I slithered over a small clump of rocks, and back into a small coulee that led me up the slimy, festering hillside.

The ridge above the airfield at Tuzla was dotted with trees, most of them blasted bare by years of shelling and mortar fire from the Bosnian and Serb sides alike. With only scrubby, ugly shrubs to hold the soil in place, the hillside was slowly eroding down into the valley below.  It was as ugly a place as I’d seen – recently.

BANG.  A loud rifle report split the rain-drenched quiet ahead of me.  “Back on the ball, Mitch“. 

I looked down the ridge to the tarmac 1000 meters away, and my mission was re-clarified; the C130 transport plane, with the crowd of troops and civilians huddled behind a Humvee behind it, pinned down by sniper fire.  Fire from the snipers I was hunting.

Down on the tarmac, I saw a man in camouflage make a run for a dugout by the runway; a couple of SVD sniper rifles, unseen in the scrub not far in front of me, barked almost simultaneously, again and again. The man zigzagged between the geysers of mud that the 7.62mm shots spewed into the air as he dove, head-first, into a slit trench.  He made it, miraculously.

“This is Stain Six…” an out-of-breath-sounding voice yelled over the radio, “Vulture and Vulture Chick are pinned down on the tarmac. We need to get the snipers…”

The snipers’ rifles cracked again, and the voice cut off a second later.  Stain Six – the Secret Service mission leader – was pinned down hard.

I had to find the snipers, and I had to find ’em fast. I was hoping my backup would get there soon.

“Golfball Two One” crackled over the radio, in a thick scandinavian accent – Gohlfboll Turr Vonn. It was Sergeant Janssen, leader of the Danish squad that was my backup, “this is Golfball Tree Two. Ve’re pinned down. Ve can’t help“.

Crap. My backup was backed up. I was on my own.

I crawled through a shallow depression behind the wreckage of an old Serb T-55 tank whose turret had blown off and sat on its roof twenty feet away – and saw my target. Two Serb snipers, they and their long, menacing-looking rifles swathed in ghillie netting, taking their aim. Another man, serving as their spotter, peered into binoculars, muttering in guttural, clipped Serb.

One of them fired a shot, the report echoing across the valley as I used the noise to cover my movement.  I slowly crawled around the rear bogey of the wrecked tank, sizing up the Serb position. Something wasn’t..quite…right…the hair on the back of my neck stood up.

I looked around, my senses heightened by enough adrenaline to restart Keith Richards’ heart…

there. In the woods – another Serb, covering the snipers’ rear, his AK47 at the ready, turning…

toward me.

Our eyes locked. For a split second, we hesitated. I was quicker; my first round caught his AK47 right in the receiver, sending shards of stock and metal slicing into him, slamming his rifle into his stomach like Mike Tyson in his prime. He grunted in pain as he fell behind a log, his rifle twisted and useless.

The snipers and spotter turned, alarmed. The spotter lifted a WWII-vintage MP40 “Burp Gun” toward me as I spun; instinctively, I double-tapped him with two more rounds. He dropped out of sight over the lip of the hill, his peaked Serb army-pattern cap flipping crazily through the air, as I turned to the sniper on the right. Two more shots finished that business. The other sniper, overcome with panic as he tried to turn his bulky SVD toward me, rolled over the lip of the hill, chased by two more rounds that dug up big divots where his chest had been a thousandth of a second earlier, rolling out of sight.  I dove for the lip of the hill, to make sure he didn’t come back up, when every muscle from my butt to my neck clenched tight at the jarring racket of Sergeant Janssen’s squad’s MG3 machine gun, sounding like a jackhammer set to “puree”. They’d got him.

And suddenly, the hill was secure.

I ducked back behind the wrecked tank and grabbed my radio. “Golfball Two One…”, I started…

…and caught the end of another transmission. “…Jaguars eencomeeng; ten secohnds. Ten secohnds. Ten secohnds” a voice in a French accent repeated, seeming oddly disconnected.

Crap. They called in air support!

Out of the corner of my eye I saw the glint off the canopy of the French Jaguar fighter-bomber, and a yellow flash…

…which I didn’t have time to process. I leaped instinctively toward the first hole I could see, diving into a shell crater just as the air around me was rent by the impact of a dozen 2.75 inch rockets, their detonations joining together like ripping metal, thousands of steel fragments lacing the air above my boots in a maelstrom of angry metal that drowned out the French jet roaring overhead.

I poked my rifle out of the crater as the smoke roiled around me. Under cover of the smoke, the radio squawked “Vulture and Vulture Chick are safe. Good job, all”.

Sergeant Janssen“, I thought, peering over the edge of the crater and down the hill, teeth clenched in fear…

…which relaxed when I saw Sergeant Janssen and his eight squaddies; they’d ducked, too. Janssen waved. “Indskrænkette fransker!” he yelled.

I slithered down the slope to his position. “Er der en anden skrive i Fransker?” The squaddies laughed – as much from my atrocious Danish as from the release of tension – and, after they shook off the concussion and the close call, formed up to continue their patrol up the ridge.

Me? I walked back to the base. I safed my rifle as I got to the cut through the barbed wire around the Ukrainian position, waving to the Ukranian UN troops that guarded the perimeter.  One of the privates manning a machine-gun gave me a thumbs-up; they’d been taking fire from the snipers, too.  I returned the gesture as I walked toward the cluster of huts that was the Ukranian enclave, on my way back to the US area.

Their company sergeant-major, Yevgenii Batiukh, a crusty fortysomething who was hard-boiled enough a soldier to make R. Lee Ermey’s “Gunnery Sergeant Hartman” in Full Metal Jacket look like Andy Dick, who’d spent more time in Afghanistan than some Afghans I’d known, stepped out from behind a quonset hut, holding a bottle.

“Доброе утро, Михаил Павлович”, he grunted, his never-smiling face nodding approval.

” Добрbl Джин, сержант батюх”, I nodded back.  The faint outline of a grin creased his leathery jawline.

“В снайпера исчезла, и вашим “первой леди” была в состоянии ходить из самолета в аэропорт!”, he said, with the lift of an eyebrow and a quizzical, ironic smirk that seemed incongruous on his hawk-like sergeant-major face.  Batiukh poured shots of slivovitz into two tin, Russian-pattern canteen cups, and handed me one.  “Как ЧТО происходит?”, he said, eyeing the G3 that hung from its jungle sling around my shoulder.

I grinned back as I slammed the shot. “Я не знаю! Действительно!”.

“поп!”, he said, drawing his finger across his throat, smiling fully this time.

We shared a laugh, and I left him, walking back to my hooch, a converted Serb bureaucrat’s office, looking forward to clearing a couple days’ buildup of mud and worse off of me.

I unlocked and opened the door…and stopped short. Something wasn’t as I left it.  My hand instinctively reached toward my pistol, and I checked out the corners of the room.

I relaxed second later, as I noticed a silk blouse lying on the floor.

I cocked an eyebrow, and walked toward the back room. A pair of jeans hung from the doorknob. I opened the door.

“Hi, Hon”, Marisa said seductively, covers pulled up around her neck. “How’s your day?”

“Rough one”, I grinned, feeling not so rough at all.

She took a bottle of Croatian merlot, poured a glass, and dipped her finger in, licking it suggestively as she set it back on the chair. “I heard the First Lady and Chelsea had a hard time getting out of their plane today”.

I grinned. “Yeah, I heard that, too. Hey, aren’t you supposed to be filming?”, I said as I cleared my rifle’s action and reached to turn down the light.

“I had a day off.  And it looks like you’ve been a…dirty boy…”

UPDATE AND CLARIFICATION: I’m informed that video footage shows I was actually working as a technical writer at at a retail shelf space brokering company during Hillary and Chelsea’s trip to Tuzla, was not in fact a freelance “minder”, did not interact with the Ukranian or Danish armies – indeed, have never been to Bosnia – and had no involvement with Ms. Tomei.

I guess I miswrote…

My bad.

…To Just Plain Inexcusable

The Minnesota Monitor – the region’s Soros-funded propaganda outlet – has been doing its best, it seems, to burnish its rep as a “news” outlet; hiring Steve “Mister Furious” Perry, getting its staff to write more like reporters and less like snot-nosed polemicists, the whole thing.  Is it too little, too late?  We’ll see…

But at the end of the day, the site shows the danger of being a bought-and-paid for propaganda outlet; when its masters want propaganda distributed, truth is the first casualty.

Andy Birkey’s not a bad guy; he’s a fine writer, and he’s written some good stuff. But he covers the gay beat; while he’s no worse at Second Amendment coverage than anyone else in the local Soros/Leftymedia, this piece, frankly, starts with a basis in complete ignorance, and moves into utter fabrication.

Birkey doesn’t get far.

A National Rifle Association-backed bill is likely to be heard in the House Public Safety Committee this week, possibly Thursday. Dubbed the “Stand Your Ground” bill, HF 498 would make it easier to kill someone in self-defense.

That’s just plain wrong.

Read the bill. And then read this piece I wrote last week, in which I sum up the law-abiding citizen’s burden under current law when claiming self-defense. I spelled out the rules:

In Minnesota, if you choose and need to defend yourself or your family with lethal force, you must meet all four of the following criteria:

  1. You can’t be a willing participant in the struggle: you can’t dive into a fist-fight and then shoot your way out of it.
  2. You must reasonably fear death or “great bodily harm”: That means “a jury’s gotta buy it”.  And “great bodily harm” has a legal meaning; it means you gotta get hurt very, very badly
  3. The force you use must be reasonable under the circumstances: If the police come to your house to find a body with no knife or gun, but clutching your TV, Tivo and monitor, you might have trouble with this one.
  4. And finally, You must make every reasonable means to de-escalate the confrontation: That means you must back away from the altercation. In the home, that means you have to try to back away. There are limits, of course; if you are in a wheelchair, you’re not expected to develop superhuman strength and agility; if it’s -40 outside and there’s a howling wind and you have an infant, no jury and few prosecutors would fault you for shooting; if you have kids sleeping upstairs and your abusive ex-spouse has come through the door with a chainsaw, backing away is a very relative thing.

The bill changes nothing about the citizen’s obligation to prove that self-defense with lethal force was justified. It merely tightens up a few of the technicalities.

Let’s summarize what’s in SF446, starting in Subdivision 2 (Subd. 1 is definitions, although they’re worth reading as well)

  • It clarifies the circumstances under which defending oneself (or someone else) with lethal force is authorized. It changes current law in that it allows self-defense when someone “Reasonably Believes” (i.e. – a jury will buy it) they could sustain “substantial” or “great” bodily harm (#2 in the criteria above). These are legal terms with real meanings; we’ll get to them below. (Subdivision 2)
  • Subdivision 3 says an individual “may stand the individual’s ground in any place where the individual has a legal right to be, and may use all force and means, including deadly force, that the individual believes is required to succeed in defense. The individual may meet force with superior force, so long as the individual’s objective is defense.” In other words, as long as you have an otherwise legitimate claim of self-defense, (you meet all four of the criteria above), you are not obligated to retreat from the fight (criterion 4, above)
  • Subdivision 4 states that a homeowner may legally presume that someone (unknown to thehomeowner!) who is breaking into their house or car can be presumed to be a potentially lethal threat.
  • Subdivision 5 essentially states that the provisions above can be part of a legal claim of self-defense.

And that’s it. It means that a homeowner doesn’t have to figure in his head “if that’s a razor blade, does that mean I only have a fear of “substantial” rather than “great” bodily harm?” (Zealous prosecutors have put otherwise law-abiding citizens in jail over that in the past). It means that a homeowner doesn’t have to parse a burglar, rapist or robber’s intent when they find them in their homes (a friend of mine spent years and tens of thousands of dollars defending himself against a zealous prosecutor for shooting a warning shot at a burglar. In his or her home).

The bill would replace existing statutes that justifies the taking of life in cases where bodily harm or death is eminent, [let’s cut Birkey some slack and assume he means “imminent” – Ed.] and create a broader set of circumstances for which “shooting first” is immune criminal prosecution.

Point of order: In self-defense situations, “shooting second” can be a really bad idea. I’m not sure who in the media came up with the “Shoot First Bill” meme, but it’s kinda a dumb one.

Introduced by State Sen. Pat Pariseau, R-Farmington, and Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, and supported by a number of Republicans, the bill is opposed by members of law enforcement and isn’t likely to pass the DFL-controlled legislature.

Part of the concern over the bill is that it diminishes the duty to retreat — that the first line of defense is not to kill, but to get out of harm’s way if it is safe to do so.

This “concern” is purely potemkin theatrics. There is no “duty to retreat”; to claim self-defense, one must currently show a “reasonable” attempt to de-escalate the conflict. Of course, “reasonable” means reasonable to a jury, sitting in a nice, secure jury room, in daylight, after having a county prosecutor ask them, rhetorically, “don’t you think he could have gone to the second floor, or out the door?” in a nice, brightly-lit courtroom, with all the time they need to make the decision.

Attorneys also fear that the bill could give criminals a license to kill.

“This expansion of the right to use deadly force would apply equally to criminals as to law-abiding citizens,” wrote Dakota County attorney James C. Backstrom. “It would create viable self-defense claims in situations like bar fights. It could allow rival gangs to shoot at one another with impunity. With no duty to retreat, anyone could claim they were responding to a threat of serious harm and were therefore justified in killing a person.”

I’m going to emphasize the next bit rather intensely:

This would seem to be patent misleading bullshit. There is nothing in Cornish/Pariseau’s bills about repealing the first of the four criteria; “one can not be a willing participant.  There’s nothing in the bill that would change any of the other requirements – that the fear of harm and the force used must be “reasonable”, as in “must convince a jury”.  Indeed, the bill states specifically that the law-abiding shooter may only shoot where the individual has a legal right to be (see above!); it says nothing about revoking any of the qualifications for a shooting to be considered self-defense!

I will be seeking comment from County Attorney Backstrom’s office on this statement, which would seem at best to be misleading, and at worst to be flatly at odds with legal reality, and issued for purposes of poltiical propaganda.  (Indeed, Backstrom’s op-ed piece, from which the quote is drawn, would seem to be a good candidate for a serious fisking).   I’ll (try to) be charitable, here; Backstrom could be talking about far-fetched technical defenses (when lawyers say things like “could create viable cases”, it means they’re stretching and stretching hard…).

The Cornish bill would remove some of the county prosecutor’s discretion in prosecuting otherwise law-abiding gun owners; it’d take away some of the need to parse the intent of people breaking into homes and cars.

That is all.

To pass this bill off as anything else with no attempt to get the broader legal and factual context is to serve as a DFL propaganda tool, and to toss aside any claim to journalistic credibility.

(I’d love to have left a comment about this in Birkey’s post – but apparently George Soros isn’t so flush that he’ll buy them a comment engine that actually functions..)

Pull Like Mad

It’s a metaphor I’m going to beat to death in the coming week and a half. Politics is a tug of war.

And right now, the tug I’m following is within the GOP.

Although my choice for the caucuses was still up in the air as of yesterday, it was going to be between Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. Two good friends and colleagues of mine – Dennis Prager and Ed Morrissey – endorsed Rudy and Mitt, respectively, and for reasons I fully support.

Truth be told, I was planning on caucusing for Giuliani on Super Tuesday. Not “endorsing” Giuliani, because me and my political decisions are of no interest to anyone. But for whatever it’s worth, I was going to take it to the floor for Rudy. He has the combination of executive experience, fiscal conservatism and leadership that I think this nation needs. He’d have needed his feet held to the fire about nominating constructionist judges, of course, and the national media would have done to his personal life as the regional media did to Rod Grams (but, oddly, not Bill Clinton).

But there’s been a change of plan.

I’m a movement conservative first and a Republican second. My goal is to do what it takes to move the party to the right. My prototype for this idea was the 2002 Minnesota Gubernatorial nomination; during the convention, the insurgent candidacy of conservative Brian Sullivan drove pragmatist Tim Pawlenty to the right, enough that after over a dozen ballots he was able to win the nomination and, in November, the general election. I could have, and would have, gotten behind either one, because the alternative, Roger Moe, was too awful to think about.

And so it is this year; John McCain, whatever his sins against conservatism and conservatives, would be better than any of the Tic alternatives. He launched McCain-Feingold, but even the BCRA isn’t as bad as Hillary’s “Fairness Doctrine”; he’s wrong on immigration, but Madame Putin and Barack O’Kennedy would be worse; consulting with Carl Levin on judges is bad, but not as bad as having Levin controlling the president’s actions as he would with either of the Tic contenders. And McCain is right on so many issues; spending (although he needs to get religion on taxes), the war, the Second Amendment, and many more. Perfect is the enemy of good enough – and McCain would not just be the lesser of three evils when stacked up against Madame Putin and O’Kennedy – he’s lesser in the “evil” department by head, shoulders and ankles.

But the general election is nine months away; the convention, seven; Super Di Duper Tuesday, a week and a half. Today is not the time to settle for the lesser of evils; not yet.

So I’ll be caucusing for Romney on Tuesday. I’m going to do my bit to make sure that the media coronation of their pet Republican gets a steep, snarling speed bump, courtest of the right; I’m going to give the Straight Talk Express some straight talk of my own, right into the teeth of the gale, and make damn sure Mac knows that, while I’ll work and donate and vote for him should he come out with the nomination, there is a movement here that he’ll ignore, or antagonize, at his own peril.

You listening, John?

“Bogus” Doug over at True North says:

Seriously, despite the blather, John McCain is no liberal. Neither was (umm… I mean IS… he’s not technically dead. Just pining for the fjords.) Rudy. Neither is Mitt. They’re all merely imperfect in their execution of whatever conservative perfection is supposed to be these days…

…On to Super Tuesday and the Minnesota Caucus… where I shall be politely applauding the cause of the Man from Michigan Utah Massachusetts. But I’m not going to be all lathered up about it. Nor foaming at the mouth if the zeitgeist of my fellows ends up endorsing McCain. Any other result will get the expected mockery of course. But I’ll at least get some entertainment out of it, so even that wouldn’t be a total loss.

Thorley Winston stated a thought-provoking case for JMac last fall – one that coincided with my Road to Damascus Tempe moment at the December 8 debate, where I noticed that Mac does say a lot of the right things. (Thorley – get back to blogging, man!)

Jay Reding (I add emphasis):

Sen. John McCain is an American hero, a man of great personal integrity and someone who has always stood strongly on the side of his country. He often rubs conservatives the wrong way, and his “maverick” image causes much consternation—however, when it comes right down to it a man who agrees with us 80% of the time is better than a woman who represents the worst of American politics and a man whose great rhetoric is but a cover for a fundamental lack of real-world experience. We may have our issues with John McCain, but when it comes down to the basic principles of the party: fiscal conservatism, a strong national defense and strengthening the family, McCain has his heart in the right place.

Conservatives should make their voices heard, and they should continue to push Sen. McCain towards the mainstream of the party as they have on issues like immigration. However, if McCain gets the nomination—and it seems altogether likely that he will—conservatives cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. John McCain will cut wasteful spending in Washington, defend our troops in Iraq and our war against radical Islamist terrorism and will continue to be a strong voice for respecting human life, born and unborn. He may not be perfect, but he can lead, and we need true leadership in Washington more than anything else.

GeeEmInEm will also be caucusing for Mitt. He promises a post soon; keep checking TvM, since whenever he writes it, it’ll be better than just about anyone else’s take on the subject.

Ed notes:

If Romney wants to build momentum and define the race in binary conservative vs moderate terms, he has to start tonight and get aggressively positive about his credentials. He has only a few days in which he can crowd McCain out of the messaging. If he can’t do that tonight and for the next five days, he will have little chance of prevailing, especially if McCain takes a big delegate lead next week.

What does McCain need to do? He needs to reach out to conservatives. He started last night with a gracious victory speech, but he needs to address the real and honest concerns on policy that conservatives still have with McCain. They need to see McCain promise to go after the Democrats with the same fervor that he went after Republicans over the years, and he has to convince them that he won’t go back on his word on border security and tax cuts. After this debate, he has to make a significant outreach effort, and CPAC would be the best place to do this.

Reynolds:

What I find particularly hard to swallow, though — and this is not Bill’s problem — are the people who say that if Romney doesn’t make it they’ll vote Democratic rather than support McCain because McCain’s not a true conservative. Maybe not, but neither is Romney, and it seems like a strange place to draw the line. Those who hold a special grudge against McCain over immigration or McCain-Feingold are a different case. But again, everybody gets to vote how they want. Just be prepared to live with the results.

More as we get closer to the cauci.

Pulling The Ribbon

Politics in our society is a matter of compromise among different forces pulling in each direction, reaching an agreement that everyone can live with (or at least tries to, until the next election cycle).

I view politics as a tug of war. A series of tugs-of-war, really – one for each issue that’s out there, at any level, from National Security to Welfare to Cheese Price Supports. At the center of each debate is a mud pit; a ribbon in the exact center of each rope shows how well each team is doing.

My role in that tug of war is to affect that compromise by pulling to the right like there’s no tomorrow. So I pull like mad, and the ribbon over the mud thus inches a little closer to the right. Others, of course, pull against me, trying to edge the ribbon to the left. I know there’ll be a compromise; I know that the harder I pull to the right, the more people will (if I’m doing my job) be convinced to pull with me, and the farther to the right that ribbon – the “final” results of the compromise – will be.

Abortion is one of those tugs of war. When I was a kid, in 1973, the ribbon got a huge pull to the left with Roe Vs. Wade. In the past 35 years, many – from conservative evangelicals to liberal Catholics – have grabbed onto the rope from the right and pulled with all their might. And for some of us, the hope for a compromise – knowing that a complete ban was not going to happen in our lifetimes – was the hope that just one more tug would pull the ribbon just far enough so that people – maybe a majority – would see that while abortion was legal, that aborting a fetus was an act imbued with much more moral gravity than excising a wart or clipping a toenail.

In other words, the first step to an acceptable a less vile compromise would be for abortion’s supporters to realize that there is a moral dimension to abortion. It’s a realization that abortion’s most sacramentalist zealots resist, because it’d be the first step in gutting the notion that a fetus is nothing but a mass of tissue until you get a diaper on it.

Steve Chapman notes in Sunday’s Strib that there are signs the ribbon, measured by popular culture, may have moved that far (I’ve added some emphases):

Laws often alter attitudes, inducing people to accept things — such as racial integration — they once rejected. But sometimes, attitudes move in the opposite direction, as people see the consequences of the change. That’s the case with abortion.The news that the abortion rate has fallen to its lowest level in 30 years elicits various explanations, from increased use of contraceptives to lack of access to abortion clinics. But maybe the chief reason is that the great majority of Americans, even many who see themselves as prochoice, are deeply uncomfortable with it.In 1992, a Gallup/Newsweek poll found 34 percent of Americans thought abortion “should be legal under any circumstances,” with 13 percent saying it should always be illegal. Last year, only 26 percent said it should always be allowed, with 18 percent saying it should never be permitted.

Further signs?
Sentiments are even more negative among the group that might place the highest value on being able to escape an unwanted pregnancy: young people. In 2003, Gallup found, one of every three kids from age 13 to 17 said abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. More revealing yet is that 72 percent said abortion is “morally wrong.”
It helps that pro-life groups have adopted the tactics of the tug of war, if not the metaphor:
By now, prolife groups know that outlawing most abortions is not a plausible aspiration. So they have adopted a two-pronged strategy. The first is to regulate it more closely — with parental-notification laws, informed consent requirements and a ban on partial-birth abortion. The second is to educate Americans with an eye toward changing “hearts and minds.” In both, they have had considerable success.
And the biggest victory might be the change among the biggest set of hearts and “minds” involved:
Even those who insist Americans are solidly in favor of legal abortion implicitly acknowledge the widespread distaste. That’s why the Democratic Party’s 2004 platform omitted any mention of the issue, and why politicians who support abortion rights cloak them in euphemisms like “the right to choose.”
Let’s jump to a different mud-pit for a moment, on an issue that can still be just as fractious as abortion.The high-water mark of gun control was between 20 and 30 years ago. Gun control laws reached their high-water mark – the ribbon was as far to the left as it was going to go – in the early eighties, when the detritus of the first wave of gun laws hadn’t yet crumbled away; in 1983, only eight states had “shall-issue” permit laws, and many cities were flirting with Morton-Grove-like gun bans. 25 years later, gun control is electoral poison for Tics nationwide (and outside the metro in Minnesota).
That the Tics are soft-pedalling the issue at the platform level might just be a sign that even they see the ribbon has pulled far enough to the right that they need to change their approach.Like all political geologic shifts, it’s been a slow one. I remember this moment…:

But some abortion-rights supporters admit reservations. It was a landmark moment in 1995 when the prochoice author Naomi Wolf, writing in the New Republic magazine, declared that “the death of a fetus is a real death.” She went on: “By refusing to look at abortion within a moral framework, we lose the millions of Americans who want to support abortion as a legal right but still need to condemn it as a moral iniquity.”
I remember thinking then – almost 13 years ago – that this could be the first gap in the dam. And it may be another 13, or 26, or 39 years before we reallysee the fruits of this change in attitude.But that’s how national attitudes change.As in so many societal changes, technology helps:

This growing aversion to abortion may be traced to better information. When the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, most people had little understanding of fetal development. But the proliferation of ultrasound images from the womb, combined with the dissemination of facts by prolife groups, has lifted the veil.
But if even that most reactionarily-left-of-center barometer of this nation, Hollywood, takes note, then maybe we’re on to something:
In the comedy movie “Juno,” a pregnant 16-year-old heads for an abortion clinic, only to change her mind after a teenage protester tells her, “Your baby probably has a beating heart, you know. It can feel pain. And it has fingernails.”
“Juno” has been faulted as a “fairy tale” that sugarcoats the realities of teen pregnancy.
That ain’t the half of it. Twin Cities’ area critics – perhaps eating their own (Juno writer Diablo Cody is the only one of their clique to make good in recent years – have called it “conservative”!

But if it’s a fairy tale, that tells something about how abortion violates our most heartfelt ideals — and those of our adolescent children. Try to imagine a fairy tale in which the heroine has an abortion and lives happily ever after.

But whatever the larger barometers – pop culture, politics, wherever – the ultimate arbiter is found in the American heart aned mind. And Chapman sees reason for hope in a small turn of emotional phrase:

The prevailing view used to be: Abortion may be evil, but it’s necessary. Increasingly, the sentiment is: Abortion may be necessary, but it’s evil.
And so, one tug at a time, the ribbon moves toward the right bank of the mud pit.

The Small War, Part II

Let’s switch to Jeopardy mode for a bit:

ANSWER: “We Can’t Win”.

QUESTION: Choose from the following:

  1. “What did the left say about Vietnam?”
  2. “What did the left say about El Salvador?”
  3. “What did the left say about Afghanistan until the (real) Northern Alliance and the Special Forces rode into Kandahar?”
  4. “What does the medialeft (I conflate media and left on purpose, since in reality they’ve pretty much conflated themselves) assure us about Iraq at every opportunity?”

The answer, if you’re a discerning news consumer, is “all of the above, and then some”.

———-

“Iraq is un-winnable”.

That is one of the left’s great current conceits. It’s only as true as the nation wants to make it, of course; all wars are winnable (or at least loseable by the other guy) – Finland beat the Soviets, at least in regulation time, in 1940 (sudden death overtime brought the Finns a limited defeat and the Soviets a very costly “victory”); British, on the other hand, conquered most of the globe with a laughably-small force; the Colonies beat the British with even less; Britain in turn held out alone against Hitler. Of course, listing these wars like that oversimplifies the issues; each of them, “impossible” as they were by conventional measures, happened for reason that make perfect sense in retrospect.

But the upshot is that there is no such thing as an “unwinnable war”. Of course, all wars can be lost.

The distinction is important, especially when you look at the history of counterinsurgencies.

I remember the NARN’s interview with Steven Vincent, the freelance journalist who made such a name for himself covering Iraq, alone and without a net (and was eventually murdered on his second tour in the country, by criminals in Basra). In our final interview with him – the last interview he gave before leaving for Iraq the second time – we talked about the differences between the approach in the American and British-controlled regions of Iraq. The American zone was, true to “Neocon” dogma, taking the all-or-nothing route; full civil democracy, the whole enchilada, immediately. The British, drawing on centuries of experience ruling huge swathes of the world and immense native populations with a tiny military and civil servant cadre, had a different approach. They made deals with unsavory people to observe, rat out and countervail other unsavory people. They co-opted one group of thugs to smack down another group of thugs. They used, even exploited, criminal disorder to their larger goal – keeping relative order in their sector. Until recently, it worked -very arguably (Vincent was murdered in Basra, along with many other people, after all). They also kept their troops out among the Iraqis of the region, intermingling, buying their supplies locally, walking around without helmets or body armor (unless events demanded them) – and until recently, when the Brits announced their intention to start withdrawing, Basra was relatively peaceful compared to the miasma of Baghdad and Anbar.

They’ve done this – winning “unwinnable” counterinsurgency wars – before. In India from the 1600s through WWII, in the pre-Revolutionary American west, and South Africa in 1900, in Borneo and Malaysia and Aden and Oman in the sixties and seventies, the Brits learned the blocking and tackling of winning insurgencies: isolate the insurgents from the locals by being among the locals, by winning civilian hearts and minds, by co-opting other elements of the local society against the insurgents (including cultivating “friendly”, if often conventionally-unsavory, warlords, in the hopes of taming them when the crisis wanes – as, indeed, they did), and, when and if needed, following the isolated insurgent into the wilderness and hunting him down and killing him, using the minimal British force possible (and relying heavily on the locals to do the dirty work; British history is crowded with colorful characters who went overseas and “went native” leading indigenous troops in the service of the King; the British special forces, the SAS and SBS, are directly descended from such characters).

As Vincent noted, that approach is foreign to modern Americans (and when I say “modern”, it’s because the distinction is important, as we’ll see in a bit); neocons demand “democracy now”; liberals pine for the moral clarity of World War II and, like Jimmy Carter, get queasy at the thought of associating with, even supporting, unsavory, often thuggish, frequently deeply ugly people to defeat people who are not, to the outside observer, a whole lot different.

And when I say the approach is “foreign to Americans”, I mean “Americans who don’t follow this nation’s history, especially”.

Lost in the palaver about the Iraq War – and the inevitable Vietnam comparisons that the left leans on to the exclusion of most rational thought when the thought of war, especially counterinsurgency war, comes up – is that a hundred years ago, the United States was the master of small wars against small, asymmetric groups of insurgents. In winning the American West against the Indians, and then in our first “imperial” wars – the Philippines in the early 1900s, Nicaragua in the ’20s and ”30s, and several others in between and beyond (up through El Salvador in the ’80s), the US won wars the way the British won the same kinds of wars all across their empire for hundreds of years, from India in the 1600s through Aden and Northern Ireland in the seventies (as related by everyone from Robert Kaplan and Max Boot to Robert Nagl:

  1. Keep our troops out among the natives – even in tiny numbers, the act of showing a presence among the civilians makes a huge difference in…
  2. …Cutting the guerillas off from the people. Make it impossible for the insurgents to get supplies, recruits and support (and, commensurately, to exert control through coercion and terror).
  3. Co-opt and exploit local institutions to help you with #2 first – and then build new institutions. This drives liberals (and, it must be fairly said, neoconservatives) crazy; surely, they reason, imposing democracy and human rights immediately must be a better thing – right? Like most ideals, it’s not always true, of course. It was a former Ranger – who’d spent a few years training for this exact kind of warfare – who introduced me to the saying “perfect is the enemy of good enough”. In many parts of the world, the only human right that matters right now is the right to not get blown up, beheaded, shot or gang-raped. Once those are taken care of, one can worry about the more finesseful rights of man.
  4. Build up the local institutions that work. Liberals – and some neoconservatives – grouse about this because it involves “picking and choosing warlords”.

It’s nothing new; we did it in the Philippines in 1900 to great effect; the desert Southwest wasn’t subdued by columns of blue-jacketed cavalry, but by small teams of Apache renegades led by tiny cadres of soldiers on long, unsupported pushes through the desert that made it impossible for the Mescaleros to carry on a regular life in the US. More recently, in El Salvador in the ’80s – a great, and successful, example of this kind of war which was also judged “un-winnable” by the mainstream left and media – there was a choice; between left-wing death squads, and right-wing death squads. The US (and the Special Forces that did the work) chose to support the right-wing death squads, on the assumption (correct, as it turned out) that they would eventually be easier to co-opt, fold into the regular military, and eventually teach the basics of human rights. The solution in El Salvador was messy, imperfect – and remains light-years better than it was during the days of unchecked insurgency, leaving the nation a functional, if imperfect, democracy. Another example – many times in Imperial Grunts Kaplan notes US Special Forces (“Green Berets”) in Afghanistan remarking that their mission is to make the locals – the Afghan Army, as well as the local warlords’ militias – look good. The goal, of course, is to build the stability that’s needed, not just for democracy to take hold (if indeed it can or will), but to deny Afghanistan to the terrorists as a safe haven again.

The good news? Once you get through the job of making the population safe from the insurgents, it can – indeed, say many of the subjects in Imperial Grunts, should – be done with many fewer troops than we currently have in Iraq.

So who screwed up?

And why are the Democrats wrong?

Oh, heck – I guess I’ll make this three parts.

What Conservatives Believe

Andrew Sullivan is my blogfather; it was reading his original blog back in early February of 2002 that prompted me to start Shot In The Dark. 

I stopped reading Sully about the time that Gay Marriage became the Most Important Issue Ever to him. 

But a decidedly non-conservative friend of mine sent me this piece, in which Sullivan asks conservatives which of (what he deems, largely correctly I think, to be) the ten overarching first principles of conservatism to which they adhere.

He follows the piece with a poll asking for people to check off which of the principles they adhere to.  Of course, that’s way too simplistic – the deeper answers are much more interesting, I think.

So let’s try it both ways.  I took the poll.  And I’m going to try to go for the real answers, too:

SULLIVAN:  The conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order. That order is made for man, and man is made for it: human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent. … A society in which men and women are governed by belief in an enduring moral order, by a strong sense of right and wrong, by personal convictions about justice and honor, will be a good society—whatever political machinery it may utilize; while a society in which men and women are morally adrift, ignorant of norms, and intent chiefly upon gratification of appetites, will be a bad society—no matter how many people vote and no matter how liberal its formal constitution may be.

  • MB: I don’t know how a conservative can claim to be a conservative without believing this in some sense.  This presupposes that a society “governed by belief in an enduring moral order, by a strong sense of right and wrong, by personal convictions about justice and honor” would be a small-l liberal democracy, of course; I can’t quite pin the concepts of “enduring moral order” with benevolent dictatorship, for example, together.

SULLIVAN:  The conservative adheres to custom, convention, and continuity. … Conservatives are champions of custom, convention, and continuity because they prefer the devil they know to the devil they don’t know.

  • MB: Personally?  No.  I’m not.  In terms of a conservative society? I think there’s something to this.  But if you know me, you know that beyond my religious beliefs and my conviction that the Bears are the greatest football team every to walk the planet, that’s totally not me.

SULLIVAN:  Conservatives believe in what may be called the principle of prescription. Conservatives sense that modern people are dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, able to see farther than their ancestors only because of the great stature of those who have preceded us in time. Therefore conservatives very often emphasize the importance of prescription—that is, of things established by immemorial usage, so that the mind of man runneth not to the contrary. There exist rights of which the chief sanction is their antiquity—including rights to property, often. … The individual is foolish, but the species is wise, Burke declared. In politics we do well to abide by precedent and precept and even prejudice, for the great mysterious incorporation of the human race has acquired a prescriptive wisdom far greater than any man’s petty private rationality.

  • MB: I agree, to a point.  But if one follows that to its logical conclusion, the next Thomas Jefferson or James Madison – and it seems reasonable that the human race hasn’t spent all of its eternal ration of genius – is pretty well hosed, right?

SULLIVAN:  Conservatives are guided by their principle of prudence. … Any public measure ought to be judged by its probable long-run consequences, not merely by temporary advantage or popularity. Liberals and radicals, the conservative says, are imprudent: for they dash at their objectives without giving much heed to the risk of new abuses worse than the evils they hope to sweep away. …

  • MB: This is absolutely true, to the point of stereotype.  The true conservative is ever mindful that unintended consequences bedevil all “top-down” attempts to perfect this world.

SULLIVAN:  The only true forms of equality are equality at the Last Judgment and equality before a just court of law; all other attempts at levelling must lead, at best, to social stagnation.

  • MB: This, again, is absolutely true. Humans must be equal in the eyes of the law (not just courts, but in legislation – but that’s one of the courts’ legitimate jobs); all attempts to make individuals equal to each other in terms of merit and potential by legal or social fiat is madness.

SULLIVAN:  Human nature suffers irremediably from certain grave faults, the conservatives know. Man being imperfect, no perfect social order ever can be created. … All that we reasonably can expect is a tolerably ordered, just, and free society, in which some evils, maladjustments, and suffering will continue to lurk. … The ideologues who promise the perfection of man and society have converted a great part of the twentieth-century world into a terrestrial hell.

  • MB: I’m not sure how anyone can read any history and disagree with this.

SULLIVAN:  Conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked. Separate property from private possession, and Leviathan becomes master of all.

  • MB: Someone tell Cy Thao.  This is an absolute.  Property makes liberty tenable.

SULLIVAN:  Conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism. … In a genuine community, the decisions most directly affecting the lives of citizens are made locally and voluntarily. … If, then, in the name of an abstract Democracy, the functions of community are transferred to distant political direction—why, real government by the consent of the governed gives way to a standardizing process hostile to freedom and human dignity.

  • MB: To a liberal, “it takes a village to raise a child” – a noxiously-authoritarian ideal.  To a conservative, society is “a free association of equals” – the very basis of a liberal (small-l) democracy. 

SULLIVAN:  The conservative perceives the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions. … It is characteristic of the radical that he thinks of power as a force for good—so long as the power falls into his hands. … A just government maintains a healthy tension between the claims of authority and the claims of liberty.

  • MB: This one got me thinking; “Tension” is a good word.  Authoritarian absolutism is anathema to most of us; libertarian absolutism is naive at best.  I pull hard to the libertarian side (you can take guy out of the Party, but you can’t take…), but the need for prudent, reasonable authority creates a conflict.  And that conflict is an inherently good thing, and it is best that it remain constant; if we “settle” the question, one way or the other, it’ll be a bad thing.  The resolution should not be the goal; the argument should be eternal.

SULLIVAN:  Permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society. The conservative is not opposed to social improvement, although he doubts whether there is any such force as a mystical Progress, with a Roman P, at work in the world. … He thinks that the liberal and the radical, blind to the just claims of Permanence, would endanger the heritage bequeathed to us, in an endeavor to hurry us into some dubious Terrestrial Paradise.

  • MB: It’s one of the great themes of the past 100 years.  And again, the conflict between the two should be the goal.  I think to most real conservatives it is; “conservatives” who don’t recognize change render their beliefs irrelevant, eventually – but permanence, especially in things like moral order, is what makes progress humanly tenable.

So I think I’ve got eight complete agreements, a “mostly” and a “continuity for ye, but not for me”. 

So leave a comment, already.