Crowd Psychology

Imagine this:

It’s the middle of June, 1940. Germany has just conquered all of Europe. The British have just withdrawn their army from the continent, in a miraculous evacuation that was the only redeeming note in a catastrophic defeat.

The army had left virtually all of its equipment – just about everything heavier than a rifle – in France; it would pretty much have to be re-equipped from scratch. The Royal Navy had been badly bloodied. The Royal Air Force, likewise, leaving itself under strength to face the German Air Force in the upcoming campaign to try to bomb the UK either to the negotiating table or into a state ready to be invaded. German U-boats were ravaging the merchant shipping on which Britain depended for not only all of its industrial raw materials and oil, but virtually all of its food.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill went on the radio and gave a speech after the last of the British Expeditionary Force arrived home.

What speech did he give?

He could’ve given a realistic speech – pointing out the sobering facts of the situation, and readying the British people for what was likely going to be at best a disheartening and economy-gutting armistice that left them sitting alone on their island, and at worst complete conquest in the face of an invasion that would certainly follow, if the Navy and Air Force failed.

But no.

Churchill gave a speech that was, if all you cared about was the facts on the ground, utterly unrealistic; he told Britain, and the world, that the United Kingdom would fight to the last inch of ground, and if Britain fell the Commonwealth would carry on the fight forever, until Europe was free again.

It was a little like that poster of a mouse holding up a middle finger at a diving eagle; “the last great act of defiance“ was the caption.

And it was one of the greatest bits oratory in the history of the English language.

And it was completely unrealistic.

But it was leadership.

In 1987, Ronald Reagan had already proved he was the best president of my adult lifetime. His leadership had brought America back from the worst case of emotional depression it had ever suffered, and from an economic downturn every bit as nasty as 2008, but much more short-lived. And after running for office on a stridently anti-Communist message, he had already sent the message that Soviet expansionism was off the agenda, and made it stick.

He was scheduled to give a speech at the Brandenburg Gate – the very symbol of divided Germany, and the high watermark of communism in the west.. It was a time when most political and academic “experts“ in the west expected the Soviet union – the “second world“ – was here to stay; well five years later everyone said the USSR was eventually going to collapse, nobody that anybody was paying attention to was saying it in 1987. They had the worlds largest military, the worlds largest nuclear arsenal, and they controlled a good chunk of Europe and Asia.

Reagan’s advisers urged him to take a moderate, conciliatory tone toward the east Germans, the Soviets, their new (or at least newish) leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and the wall he was standing in front of.

To give a “realistic” speech.

 instead, he gave a speech that electrified the resistance in Eastern Europe, that galvanized support for democracy among the downtrodden, and did its part, along with much of the rest of Reagan’s policy, in the downfall of the Soviet union that had a thousand fathers by 1995, but was very nearly an orphan before Ronald Reagan was elected.

It wasn’t “realistic“ to the conventional wisdom of the day. It was leadership.

Donald Trump is no Winston Churchill, and he’s no Ronald Reagan.

This week, he said that he wants America to be “back to work“ by the Easter weekend.

Is this realistic? Maybe not. The experts say it’s unlikely. The legions of not very funny late night comics and blue-checked droogs say the idea itself is risible.. And the whole business of declaring America open or closed is mostly the responsibility of the state governments, and the free market itself. I, myself, plan on working from home (although I am working, knock wood).

But America is a restless, endlessly creative, impatient nation, overstocked with people who are not going to sit on their hands and wait for things to get better; it’s a nation full of people who are descended from people who came from all over the world, uprooting everything they knew, to make things better.

Trump could have echoed the words of the scientists and experts gathered around him. He could’ve lectured the nation like a hectoring schoolmarm, or like Barack Obama. But he’s got a stage full of experts, including his vice president, and more importantly 50 state governors, already doing exactly that.

Trump urging America to “go back to work“ Easter weekend is not the Dunkirk speech, and it’s not the Brandenburg gate speech.

It’s not eloquent, and it’s not going to go down in history.

But it’s leadership..

The economy runs as much on psychology as it does on money, analysis and marketing. It’s trends depend as much on how people are feeling as objective fact. Don’t believe it? Have you checked the toilet paper aisle lately?

The nation’s psyche needs a boost. Trump is setting a tone; the United States is not going to be on sick leave forever. He’s telling a nation with cabin fever that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. When? Maybe Easter, maybe memorial day, but it’s coming.

It was brilliant. It wasn’t scientific. It may not of even been all that well advised.

But it’s what America wants to think, and wants to hear. We’re not stupid, we’ll hash out the details later..

Little Straw Men

A few weeks ago, I saw the new film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott “Little Women“. I’m told there are seven different versions on film out there – I’ve only seen parts of the 1933 version with Katherine Hepburn, and of course the 1994 version with Winona Ryder (of which the less said, the better).

I liked it. A lot. Yes, it’s a“Chick flick“, and I don’t care, because all I really care about is “is it a good movie“.

Around the same time, I saw a new statistic; a solid majority of doctors under the age of 35 or women.

That’s after a couple of decades in which the share of undergraduate degrees going to women has reached three out of five, on its way to an estimated two out of three in the next decade or two. This, as the education system becomes more and more dogmatically feminized, with the attendant treating of “boyhood“ as a pathology to be medicated into submission , and as the media seems to be incapable of showing males above a certain age as anything but loutish buffoons.

So I could see, perhaps, men staying home from yet another film that shows men as expendable cads (which, by the way, “Little Women“ doesn’t); It’s not like men don’t get a steady diet of that anyway.

But here’s an experiment for you: read this article – not a review – from the utterly underwhelming Kristy Eldridge  whom the Times helpfully notes, is “a writer”, entitled “Men are Dismissing “Little Women““. The article points out that the movie finished third in its opening week, behind two tent post blockbusters (Star Wars and the new Jumanji), and throws in a lot of pro forma “men just don’t care about female writers/artists/films“ whingeing.

One thing it doesn’t do is quote any men who don’t actually like the movie, or show any demographic evidence that men are shunning it any more (or less) than any other “chick flick“. Given that the film would seem to be at least a modest success (especially compared to the boat anchor 1994 version, which played like a high school production), that’d seem to be a little impossible if all those female viewers weren’t hauling their boyfriends/husbands along with.

The article promises male rage. It delivers Little Straw Men.

I have to suspect the article was written long before the movie opened

Hollywood Polishes The Cannonball

Some stories shouldn’t need Hollywood to go all, well, Hollywood on them to make them riveting utterly compelling.

But they do it anyway. And it’s almost always a massive drag.

It’s not a new phenomenon; The Battle of the Bulge was utterly atrocious, seemingly feeling the need to dumb World War 2 down to a cowboys ‘n indians movie – for an audience that had in huge numbers actually been there. Even as a kid, the Hollywoodisms (“They’re sending tanks! Send the artillery and infantry to the rear!”) annoyed me to no end.

The effect wasn’t always catastrophic: the Great Escape didn’t completely bastardize the subject, the greatest POW camp break in history – although adding Americans to the cast was an audience-grabbing anachronism (all Americans had been sent to different camps shortly before the escape’s famous tunnels were started).

But Hollywood’s wall of shame exerts a powerful vortex.

Stories that don’t need the Hollywood treatment get it anyway. 12 Strong – the dramatization of the events of the fall of 2001, where 85 Green Berets – count ’em, 85 – led an insurgency that drove the Taliban from the battlefield. What “improvement” does a story like that need? Well, it got little from the movie – which was watchable, but traded CGI for story all too often.

And the Tuskeegee Airmen’s story needs not even a whiff of gussying up; is there a bigger underdog war movie of all time? (There could be – if Hollywood ever produces Brothers in Arms, the story of an all-black tank battalion that became one of Patton’s best, written by none other than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). But gussying up it got, with Red Tails, a George Lucas labor of love that substituted P51 Mustangs for X-wings, Germans for Stormtroopers, and white bigots for Emperor Palpatine.

Now, when I saw that there was a remake of Midway in the works, I thought “at last, someone can improve on the turgid but accurate-ish 1976 historical epic. Then I saw the most dreaded six words in movies: “From the maker of Independence Day” (a movie, it needs to be said, that I detest with a cordial passion) and gave up all hope. Roland Emmerich would seem to have turned the all-in total-stakes back-against-the-wall fight by the battered American fleet against an undefeated Japanese Navy that outnumbered it by a prohibitive margin and had aims on closing the trap around Hawaii into a video game – and made an even worse movie than the 1976 version.

Worse still? If there’s a story in American history that’s begging to just be told, it’s Harriet Tubman. Her story is both pretty universally known and completely misunderstood; a gun-toting freedom fighter who defied the entire institution of slavery while running runaways to the North (or, more often, Canada) and returned to run a huge, effective spy ring during the Civil War? One hardly needs a screenplay.

But a screenplay we get – and it’s abominanble:

Set in 1849 Maryland, full of danger, rescues, superstition, frivolous gunplay, and pop-politics, Harriet demonstrates the current exploitation of African-American history, through historical revision, simply to sell tickets while aggravating political identity, tribal separation, and perpetual grievance — the same way that politicians manipulate voters.
Ever since Harvey Weinstein confirmed Hollywood’s Obama Effect, film culture has sought various ways of appeasing racial anxiety through movies about black victimization and white guilt. It’s the new diversity, as one of Harriet’s progressives summarizes: “Civil war is our only hope.”
…The difference in approach tells everything about the modern state of Hollywood race consciousness. Dismissing Demme and Morrison’s perception of slavery’s aftermath (its internalized stress and ongoing need for explanation, relief, and catharsis), Harriet looks at Tubman on a first-name basis, as if to standardize her travails into a Slavery Land thrill ride: She suffers spells after a head wound that causes hallucinations (or prophecies) that may indicate either madness or saintliness; she sacrifices her love life to crusading zeal (the film’s only complex moment occurs when her lover laments, “I’d a died for you. If you’d a let me”); and she frequently sings out her discontent in several message-driven musical interludes: “Sorry I have to leave” and “Lord, why you let me live?”

Even NPR took a pass on it.

Why, it’s almost as if Hollywood doesn’t trust moviegoers to make the right conclusions.

One Place That Ain’t Looking Through Me

About a decade back, I heard an interview on All Things Considered with Sarfraz Manzoor, who’d just come out with his book Greetings from Bury Park – his memoir about growing up as a British-Pakistani in Luton, in the Midlands, and getting immersed in Bruce Springsteen’s music. And I think I sat in the garage for a solid half hour, catching the whole fascinating story; someone who couldn’t have come from a more different culture than me, getting pulled on the same musical and personal odyssey by the same bunch of records.

If you’ve read this blog at all, you can see the grab. Right? I don’t think I need to restate the obvious.

I caught the show the other night.

First things first: This isn’t Mama Mia with Springsteen music. While there is the requisite act of the movie where Manzoor’s fictionalized version of himself, “Javed”, gets the same burst of recogniton while listening to “Darkness on the Edge of Town”, the musical epiphany only opens the door to all sorts of conflict in real life – which, in turn, illuminates all sorts of the musical themes.

Any description of “musical epiphanies” from ones’ teenage years is bound to swerve into the cloying and mawkish at times. Teenagers are cloying and mawkish, and it doesn’t matter what culture they’re from. And so the movie’s occasional short-cuts through plot points, via lyric drops or the occasional borderline production number that might – hell, probably will – come across as cringingly sentimental to the non-belever comes across as cringingly autobiographical to those who’ve (raises hand) been there.

So – did I enjoy the movie? Yes, but that wasn’t my main takeaway. It’s more accurate to say I felt a lot of it in the pit of my stomach. The movie took me back to a lot of things from my teens and twenties, in pretty much the same way Manzoor remembers them. That’s a good thing.

Mostly.

And – no spoilers, here – the music isn’t necessarily the most important point of the movie. There’ll be another post about that before too long.

Cons? Yep, there were a few.

It’d be impossible to do a movie about eighties Britain, especially as a Pakistani, without throwing in some of the politics of the era. And Manzoor’s memories of the era include a lot of the prattle of the anti-Thatcher left – which sounded at the time every bit as intolerent and libelous as Big Left’s cant against conservatives (to say nothing of Trumpkins) today. The infantlism of today’s campus “progressive” seems modeled on the prate and gabble of European lefties of the era. That, and the occasional bout of Thatcher-bashing were to be expected. That wasn’t unexpected, or especially dishonest. On the other hand, the rest of the movie – which imparted a lot of humanity on Manzoor’s very traditional Pakistani family and most of the movie’s other, very disparate characters – had me expecting much better of one of the side-conflicts; when “Javed” met his (inevitably left-wing) love interest’s (inevitably) Tory parents, they were portrayed with all the nuanced humanity of a Joe Piscopo sketch on SNL. It was a throwaway – and the movie would have been better had it been thrown away.

So do I recommend it? If you’re not a Springsteen fan, you may not “get” it. Or then maybe you will. Who knows?

If you are? It’d be interesting to see what you think.

ASIDE: By the way – the movie reminded me that my theory – Springsteen is America’s best conservative songwriter – has been completely vindicated this past year. I suspect this would be to the chagrin of a former regular commenter – but alas we’ll never know.

More coming in the next week.

One Day In The Star/Tribunes “Morgue”

SCENE: It’s the “Morgue” at the Star-Tribune’s “Morgue” – a room full of file cabinets, deep underground, where no light has penetrated since the Kennedy administration.

The door opens, and the MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES STORY, wherein mismanagement under two DFL administrations led to hundreds of millions of dollars in fraud, including credible allegations of welfare money being transferred to terrorists – is tossed into the room, which is crowded with other news stories.

ILHAN OMAR’S APPARENTLY FRAUDULENT-MARRIAGE STORY: Hello.

MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES STORY: Hi. Where am I?

WELL-CONNECTED DEMOCRAT KIDS GET OFF WITH A WARNING FOR MASS AGGRAVATED ASSAULT AND HATE CRIMES AGAINST REPUBLICANS STORY: This is the Star-Tribune’s “morgue” file.

STEVE SIMON IS STONEWALLING THREE COURT ORDERS DEMANDING HE RELEASE INFORMATION ABOUT VOTING IRREGULARITIES STORY: It’s where news stories that the DFL establishment doesn’t want covered go to…

KEITH ELLISON’S HISTORY OF ANTISEMITISM STORY: …for a nice long break.

(The other stories chuckle)

MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES STORY: So when do we get out of here?

(The question is met with a few guffaws)

ILHAN OMAR’S ANTISEMITISM STORY: When the Strib reports about Minnesota having “paradoxically” liberal gun laws and the lowest crime rate in the nation for a state with a major metro area in it.

MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES STORY: So – a long time?

KEITH ELLISON’S HISTORY OF ANTISEMITISM STORY: You have no idea.

(And SCENE)

When You Think It’s Got To Be “Babylon Bee”…

But it’s not:

The head of politics at Cambridge University has called for children as young as six to be given the vote in an attempt to tackle the age bias in modern democracy.

Prof David Runciman said the ageing population meant young people were now “massively outnumbered”, creating a democratic crisis and an inbuilt bias against governments that plan for the future.

In the latest episode of his podcast, Talking Politics, he said lowering the voting age to 16 was not radical enough to address the problem.

But then again… maybe it is?

“What’s the worst that could happen? At least it would be exciting, it would make elections more fun. It is never going to happen in a million years but as a way of capturing just how structurally unbalanced our democracies have become, seriously, why not? Why not six-year-olds?

On the one hand, it seems like a terrible idea.

On the other hand, the rhetoric of campaigns like those from “Alliance for a Better Minnesota” wouldn’t need to be especially rewritten.

Why I’m A Second Amendment Voter

I detest litmus tests.

I always have.  They’ve always struck me as a way to avoid needing to think too hard about things, especially politics; as a way to avoid having to deal with the nuances that are inevitable with a realistic appreciation of the world around you.

But over the last year years, Second Amendment voting has become, if not a litmus test, at least a key indicator about a politician’s, or group’s, or person’s attitude about the most important political question of all.

We’ll come back to that.

There are a lot of reasons I support the right to keep and bear arms, and am an activist on the issue.  But there’s only one reason that it’s a litmus test to me.

Line Of Defense:  Self-defense?  Well, it’s important.  The idea that people should be forced to rely on the attention span of the state for their safety is fantasy at best, a toxic delusion at worst.

The police are under no obligation to protect you, and even when they knock themselves out to try, it’s a fact – when seconds count, the cops are minutes away.

Them? Or you? You get to decide this.

But self-defense isn’t why this is a litmus test issue to me.

Value:  And even if they were obligated to protect you at all costs in all situations?

As Jeffrey Snyder asked 25  years ago in A Nation of Cowards – do you really think that your life is of immeasurable worth, but that of the cop we call when things get ugly is worth $50K (or whatever we pay a cop these days)?  No – if your life is truly of immeasurable worth, then it’s truly your job to protect it – right?

If you truly believe that your life is of infinite value, while that of someone who risks their life for your is worth merely a salary and a life insurance settlement, I have to question your moral order.   Not here, of course.

The real question is, is it morally right to demand, and expect, that someone risk their life to save yiours, even with aunion contract?

Deterrence:  There is no rational doubt that armed citizens deter crime.

The number of crimes deterred in a year is hard to estimate, since most – including mine – are never reported.   The FBI used to say 80,000/year; Kleck estimated two million a year in the early ’90s, 98% of them without a shot being fired.

Whichever is right, each of those is a victory of good over…evil?  Decay?  Collapse?  Of right versus wrong.   Each of those victories, morally, is of incalculable good.

But that’s not the reason either.

A Good Guy With A Gun:  You know how you know that “a good guy with a gun” is an inherently good thing?

Jeanne Assam was a good gal with a gun when she saved countless lives at the New Life Christian Center in Colorado Springs on 12/9/07. She shot and wounded Matt Murray – who, reverie broken, backed off and shot himself.

Because Big Gun Control spends so much time and effort trying to attack the idea.  Not with facts – or at least, not by presenting facts in a way that can  be debated (and, inevitably, debunked).  “Shut up”, they explain.

There is a reason that mass shootings happen in places (schools, government buildings, posted property) or cities (New York, Chicago, San Francisco) or states (California) and not at NRA conventions or in Bozeman, Montana. Good citizens with the capacity to resist are a deterrent.

And as we’ve seen in a few mass shootings, when a good guy (or gal) with a gun interrupts the narcissistic fantasy, the fantasy implodes; the bad guy with the gun usually gives up, or kills himself.   Exactly as law enforcement says – move in on the shooter to break their reverie -although they don’t generally circulate that for public consumption.

Nick Meli was a regular schnook with a Glock on 12/11/2011 when Jacob Robert walked into the Clackamas Mall in Portland, OR with a rifle and a couple hundred rounds. He killed two – and then saw Meli pointing his permitted Glock at him. He retreated into a store, and shot himself moments later. Two died. Only God knows how many didn’t.

But no – that’s not the reason that the Second Amendment is my litmus test.

Fun Fun Fun (Til The Democrats Take The Garand Away):  Let’s be frank, here – shooting is fun.   No – it’s fun!

The focus and concentration are a poor man’s Zen meditation.  A day of busting caps out on the range is about as much fun as one can have, by oneself, legally.

And for someone who always wanted to be one of those guys that could hot-rod a car, but never had the money or the mechanical aptitude?  Modern guns, being the modular creations they are, lend themselves to extensive hot-rodding; a plain-Jane AR15, or even AK or SKS, is within reach of a whole lot of people, an outlet for mechanical creativity that’s do-able even for people of fairly unimpressive mechanical skills.  Even Glocks have gotten “democratized”; it’s possible to buy aftermarket lower frames that allow one to soup up a humble Glock 19.

A vital policy point?  No, but certainly a factor, if only personally .

So while I’ll throw it on the “yea” side of the scale,  it’s hardly the reason the 2nd Amendment is a litmus test.

Being Necessary For The Security Of A Free State:  Of course, none of the above were the proximate reason for the 2nd Amendment – which was to allow The People to defend their lives, families, property and communities against encroaching tyranny.

The protection of property and the preservation of order; Koreans on the second day of the LA riots, after the police pulled out.

“What?  You’re going to try to fight a tank with a gun?   If government becomes tyrannical, you’ll have no chance!” the usual response goes – which strikes me as a bad attitude for a citizen of a free society to have even while they’re still “free”.  But we’ll come back to that.

There are two answers to that old chestnut:

  1. Nobody fights tanks with rifles.  You fight the truck that hauls the food, fuel and ammo to the tank.
  2. But think about it: what do we know about the average American serviceperfson?  That they are the children of people with two masters degrees in Political Science from Carlton, who shop at Whole Foods and listen to NPR and have “Coesist” bumper stickers on their cars and voted for Hillary?  No!  They are overwhelmingly the children of the blue-collar and middle-to-lower-middle class people that own the guns today.  If government, for whatever reason, decided to go door to door seizing guns, they’d be beating down the doors of the parents, brothers and sisters of people in the service.   How do you suppose that’d work?

The right to keep and bear arms helps ensure that an attack on freedom will be an attack on the standing army.   Which may be one of the best guarantors against the depredations of the “standing army” that our founding fathers so feared.

But important as that is, that’s not the reason, either.

Words Have Meanings:  No, the reason is this:   without the right to defend one’s home, family, property, community and freedom from both crime and tyranny, then “citizenship” is meaningless.

The word “citizen”, going back to its Latin roots, means someone who has the ability to govern oneself; one who is him/herself a microcosm of government – someone who has the means at hand to govern themselves, and to participate in and consent in their own government.

The Constitution and the Bill of Rights spell out the things that a citizen of a free society is endowed with by their creator; the right to participate and consent in their government via speaking, publishing, assembling, petitioning and voting; the right to not having their status as a citizen spuriously removed without due process, via jury trials, right to representation, freedom from unreasonable searches;  the right to be fairly secure that their property won’t be arbitrarily seized…

…the  right, means and power to defend one’s life, family, property, community and freedom.  Just like the government in which one participates.

Words Have Opposites, Too:  So being a “citizen” means having the ability to see to one’s own self-government – by oneself, as part of a small community, or a larger body that governns by consernt of the self-governing citizens.  

And if you take away any of the means by which a “citizen” governs, what happens?

Are they  a slightly lesser citizen?  No – it’s like taking away a hydrogen atom and wondering why you don’t still have water.

When a citizen can’t govern him/her self, then they’re no longer a citizen.  They are a subject of whomever took those rights away.

Observing the Second Amendment is one of the key differences between being a citizen – a consenting party to one’s own governance – and a subject, one whose life, liberty and property exist by the good graces of their ruler (or ceases to by the ruler’s bad graces, often enough).

And knowing that is why I will no more vote for someone who stands for abridging the Second Amendment than I will for someone who believes in speech rationing, or no-knock warrantless searches of people without meaningful due process, for that matter.

All three are non-negotiable.  All three are essential.  All three are reasons to go to the barricades.  I will no more vote for someone who promises to abridge my role as a citizen – by turning me into a subject  – than I’ll vote for someone who vows to send Jews to camps in Idaho.

Details:  “What – you think citizens should own cannon?  Tanks?  Nuclear weapons?”

They’re kind of expensive, and I dont’ wanna think about what it’d cost to practice with any of ’em.  But since we’re arguing out in loopdieland, I’ll bite.  Sure – show me why I shouldn’t, in logical terms – meaning terms other than “It doesn’t seem right to me”.

Put another way:  I’m a law-abiding citizen.  I’ve never stolen so much as a candy bar in my life.,  If you put a gun in my hand, I’m still the same guy.  I’m not overwhelmed by the urge to harm others.  How is that different if you put a machine gun, cannon, flamethrower, tank, or submarine in my figurative hand?  It’s not.

It’s also a pointless deflection.  Very few people are pushing to buy tanks – and I don’t think the criminal market for them is especially big either.

Many people are pushing, constantly and with great ardor, to abridge my right to defend my life, family, property, community and freedom, though.

Unpacking The Invisible NPR Tote Bag

“White Privilege” has been all over the news this last couple of years.

 It’s been there because the Big Left has ordained that it should be.  My theory;  in a nation full of “privilege” – class, racial, academic, social and, let’s be honest, the privilege of being born here rather than Russia or Nigeria or Burma – Big Left needed to focus on racial, “white” privilege to whip up black votes for Hillary Clinton, a geriatric white plutocrat.  As a result, all discussion of other “privilege” is off the table.

Terms, Terms, Everywhere Are Terms: White privilege exists, of course.  It goes hand in hand with the idea of “we-ism” – the idea that everyone on earth is more comfortable around, and accomodating of, people more like them than less.

Beyond that?  In my more sardonic and less cautious days, I defined it as being a descendant of a society from a harsh, lethally inhospitable place that had zero words for “hakuna matata” but more words for “stab him!” than Eskimos have for “snow”; a dour, patriarchal warrior culture that killed everyone that had designs on enslaving them.  As a result, my culture has no commonly-held concept of being enslaved.  We  operate from the standpoint of people who’ve been free (or at least subjects of generally benign monarchs) as far back as our cultural memory goes.  On behalf of all my cultural cousins, I am sorry for those of you who are descended from matriarchal hunter gatherer societies that couldn’t effectively resist the slave merchants, but I can’t change history any more than you can.  Just the present – a present I and my cultural cousins have been trying to change for 240-odd years, now.

More soberly, and after interviewing a representative of Black Lives Matter on my show, I arrived at the idea that “white privilege” is the ability to walk into a room and not have everyone wondering if you’re “one of the good ones”.   It was a little after that that I first encountered the academic paper in which the term “white privilege” was coined, Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh.   It supplied fifty definitions of white (also male) privilege.

Every one of which, by the way ,translates to “freedom”, “justice” and “being accorded the dignity of being treated as an autonomous individual rather than a member of a group” – all of which are supposed to be values near and dear to our Republic and Western Civilization itself, and all of them things we should be working tirelessly to spread to everyone.

And when some mindless Social Justice Warrior jabbers about “smashing white/male privilege”, the proper response is “so – you want to smash freedom, justice and individual dignity?  See you at the barricades”.

Discussion of all other privileges – academic, social, class – were drowned out.  As they were intended to be.

But with the complete subsumation of the left by identity politics, it’s time to return the favor Peggy McIntosh did us; it’s time to define Urban Progressive Privilege.

Unpacking The Invisible NPR Tote Bag:  I’m going to borrow McIntosh’s format – which I suspect was actually tacitly borrowed from Jeff Foxworthy – of the simple list of attributes of Urban Progressive Privilege.

To wit:


Urban Progressive Privilege; Unpacking the Invisible NPR Tote Bag

Mitch Berg

“You were taught to see Urban Progressive Privilege as a bit of talk show rhetoric – not in terms of a very vislble system conferring dominance on my group via a meritless meritocracy”.   

As an urban progressive, you have been taught about “privilege” by others who have that privilege.  Being able to caterwaul about privilege is a prerogative of the privileged.

Like the concept of “white privilege” (which, conventional wisdom tells us, that “whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege”), the first rule of Urban Progressive Privilege is “I don’t believe there is such a thing”; it’s the water in which the Urban Progressive swims.  So I have begun in an untutored way to ask what it is like to have Urban Progressive Privilege. I have come to seeUrban Progressive Privilege as an invisible and group package of unearned assets that I can count on using daily, but about which it’s hard to be anything but oblivious.

Urban Progressive Privilege is like an invisible weightless NPR tote bag of special permissions, immunities, secret handshakes, Whole Foods gift cards, a virtual echo chamber accompanying everyone who has that privilege, filtering out almost all cognitive dissonance about political, social or moral questions, and a virtual “cone of silence” immunizing them from liability for anything they say or do that contradicts the group’s stated principles.  As we in Human studies work to reveal Urban Progressive Privilege and ask urban progressives to become aware of their power, so one who writes about havingUrban Progressive Privilege must ask, “having described it, what will I do to lessen or end it?”

So – when assessing Urban  Progressive Privilege, can you say any of the following?:

  1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people who believe exactly as I do about politics, society, philosophy, morality and the like, all or nearly all of the time.
  2. I was educated from my earliest years through post-secondary education by people whose political and social beliefs mirrored mine, and who didn’t challenge any of mypolitical, social, philosophical and moral beliefs.
  3. My progressive beliefs were never challenged through four or more years of higher education – indeed, they were reinforced, while competing views were shamed and shouted down.
  4. When I went into the working world, my politics, social background or philosophy were never adversarially questioned.
  5. I work, very likely, in an environment staffed with people who agree with and never challenge my political, social, philosophical and moral assumptions.
  6. My social life is made up of people who share, pretty much to a fault, my political, social, philosophical and moral assumptins.
  7. I can avoid, during my daily life, spending time around anyone who will challenge my political, social, philosophical and moral assumptions.
  8. My neighbors – the people in my physical community in which I live – share, almost without exception, my political, social, philosophical and moral beliefs.
  9. If someone in  my social or professional life does express a point of view discordant with my and my group’s political, social, philosophical and moral assumptions intrudes into my sphere, I can count on overwhelming support from the rest of my personal, social, professional circles to defend me.  Those who don’t share our beliefs thus either keep quiet, or are shamed into silence.  Thus, their beliefs have no impact in my life. .
  10. My informational world – my news media, my online social circle, my institutional associations (churches/synagogues, my social groups – will not contradict my political, social, philosophical and moral assumptions.
  11. I can count on the news media I listen to – my community’s newspapers, TV stations, as well as stereotypical outlets like NPR, PBS and the like – to reinforce my political and social assumptions.
  12. I can count on as the entertainment media not to contradict my political, social, philosophical and moral assumptions.
  13. I can count on the education system in my community not to undercut the political, social, philosophical and moral I’ve tried to pass on to my family.
  14. My kids’ schools give them textbooks, lectures and other materials that reinforce, never undercut, my political, social, philosophical and moral worldview and that which I’ve tried to teach them.
  15. I can be fairly certain that when I go to my kids’ school, the principle will not condescend to me based on my perceived academic or social background.
  16. I have never had anyone laugh at the accent or vocabulary of my native spoken English.
  17. I can rest fairly certain that no “well-meaning” pundit or scholar will ever paternalistically castigate me for “voting against my interests” (as determined by the pundit’s / scholar’s political, social, philosophical and moral assumptions) for voting in accordance with my political, social, philosophical and moral beliefs.
  18. I can choose to ignore the parts of our society outside the East Coast, West Coast, and selected “progressive” archipelagos in between, and express not only ignorance but mockery of the rest of the country, without being seen, shamed, and scorned as a provincialist.
  19. I can express scorn for individuals, groups, religions and social classes that don’t share my political, social, philosophical and moral beliefs, accents and worldviews, entirely based on those beliefs, and not be shamed and labeled as a bigot.
  20. I can make racist, sexist and classist statements about people who do not share my community’s political, social, philosophical and moral assumptions, and rest assured I will not be castigated for violating community standards.
  21. I have never been treated as a foreign culture in my own country; I have never had journalists, academics or pundits dispatch a special group to research, analyze and report on why my social circle believes and votes as they do – because the media, academics and punditry are from my class, and share my political, social, philosophical and moral assumptions; the more aware ones would be offended by being subjected to such a condescending, patriarchal bit of cultural chauvinism.
  22. My children and family are safe, almost entirely, from the economic, social and criminological  consequences of my political, social, philosophical and moral beliefs; indeed, I personally am almost entirely insulated from them.
  23. I can simultaneously say “I believe in science, and have a fact-based worldview” – while never being corrected, much less called out or scorned, for expressing beliefs that have no scientific basis (belief that there are no evolutionary differences between men and women, believe a human isn’t a human until it emerges from the birth canal, believe that there’s scientific evidence that homosexuality is genetic).
  24. I can simultaneously eschew racism and racists, even as I gang up with others like me to oppress black, latino, asian and females who disagree with my political, social, philosophical and moral assumptions.  I can say things like “That’s not a real, authentic (Black, Latino, Asian) person!” and not get scorned as a racist and patriarch.
  25. I can exhibit ghastly contradictions in my world view and be reasonable sure that nobody in my regular social circle is going to say or do anything about it; if I call someone I disagree with a “fascist” or “patriarch” or “1 percenter” while displaying Che Guevara memorabilia or studiously intoning approval for “Chavezism”, nobody in my social or professional life is going to castigate me for it.
  26. I tut-tut about the virtues of Western civilization and praise Multiculturalism – but do so entirely from a perspective that could not exist outside of Western civilization.  Nobody in my personal or profession or social circles ever brings this up, because they all believe the same thing.

I’m looking for more examples.  Keep ’em generic – not related to any specific issue.   .

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.

Survey

SCENE:  Mitch BERG is at work in his home office.  His phone rings.  

BERG:  Hello?

POLLSTER:  Hello.  I’m Kandi, a pollster working on a combined study commissioned by Harvard University, Northeastern University, the Trace and the Guardian, four organizations dedicated to disarming Americans by any means, fair or foul.  If you have a few moments to spare, I’d like to ask you some questions about gun ownership.

BERG:  Go ahead.

POLLSTER:   How many guns do you own?

BERG:  How many guns am I going to admit I own to an anonymyous rep for  four organizations that are dedicated to ensuring that Americans are disarmed, docile sheep,?

POLLSTER:   That’s correct!

BERG:  None!  Guns are scary!

POLLSTER:  So that’s no guns, then?

BERG:  As far as you know.

POLLSTER:  Wow. It’s amazing how the number of gun owners is dropping, according to our Fact-Based Research ®.

BERG:  It is, isn’t it?  Absolutely astounding.

SURVEY:  We’re also finding three percent of American adults own 50% of the guns!

BERG:  Huh.  I’m also gonna guess 3% of American adults own 50% of the iPhone 7s, and roughly .000001 of all Americans own 90% of all newspapers.

SURVEY:  No comment!

BERG:  Naturally.

SURVEY:  Now, if you did buy a gun, why would you buy one?  Are you a hunter, a target shooter, or would you buy a gun due to fear?

BERG:  If I did have a gun, which I don’t, as I already told you, it’d be for self-defense.

POLLSTER:  OK.  “Fear”.

BERG:  No, self-defense.  A prudent response to the vicissitudes of human nature.

POLLSTER:  Right.  Fear.

BERG:  Nope.  A rational, prudent assessment of and response to life’s actual risks, based on data, ability and experience.

POLLSTER:  Right.  We call that “fear”.  It’s just a category.

BERG:  Naturally.  Hey, someone’s calling…

POLLSTER:  I didn’t hear a click…

(But BERG has already hung up the phone).

And SCENE.

 

The Terrible Hours

You’re in a room.

Between you and the exit – any exit – is someone who is busily killing people.  So you’re not going anywhere.  Probably not, anyway.

You’re in the midst of a spree killing – sometimes called a rampage killing.  You’re surrounded by crowds of people, as someone – one person, most likely – is carrying out some deluded or diabolical plan to kill…

…well, lots of people.  Maybe you’re in a gay bar, and the killer’s faith hates gays.  Maybe you’re in a synogogue, and the killer hates Jews.  Maybe you’re in a classroom, and the killer hates classrooms?  Or you’re in a church basement, and the killer hates you, whether you be Episcopal or Black or Unitarian.  Maybe it’s just because you’re a westerner, and they’re there to make a point, and inflict terror upon the rest of us westerners.   Or maybe they’re just doing the bidding of the voices in their head.

Either way, here you are.  When you woke up this morning, you didn’t expect to be involved in a spree killing.  Only one person in the room did.

You’re not him.

But there’s no getting around it.  And barring some miracle, there’s no getting away from it;  There are two exits from the space you’re in – but the shooter can see both, and has been mowing down anyone trying to get to the exits for quite some time.  Once, he stopped to reload, and someone rushed him with the only weapon he had available, his bare hands and shoed feet; perhaps he didn’t realize one can reload with a round in the chamber; that bit of resistance, valiant as it was, ended with a body on the floor.

Seeing someone shot down trying to attack the attacker took the fight out of the rest of the people in the room with you.

You may be dimly aware that the room you’re in is a “gun free zone” – an irony that causes not a single laugh.   You’re probably not aware; you may be like most Americans, and have never considered making carrying a firearm part of your lifestyle.  You might have even been one of that tiny, dim little fraction of the population that thought those signs made you safer.

But here you are.


The first transcripts of the 911 traffic in and around the Pulse night club have been released.

These are preliminary transcripts – but if they’re even remotely accurate, you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to reach a couple of inescapable conclusions.   And it’s not from the mainstream media, so it’s got that going for it.

I’ve included the entire list of transcripts below the jump.

In the opening moments of the massacre, Omar Matteen engaged the cop who was providing off-duty security.  The cop and Matteen exchanged fire; neither was hit, and Matteen retreated into the club, where the massacre continued.

It took six minutes for five or six officers to show up; they broke out a patio window and, armed with “patrol rifles” (it’s a marketing term for “pretty much the same gun Matteen had”, for police departments and city councils that don’t want to have to explain to their dimmer constituents why they’re buying “assault rifles”), entered the building.

And took cover, as the shots continued.

I’m not going to monday-morning-quarterback the cops.  I’d damn sure take cover if someone was in a room, shooting.

Standards and Practices:  At the Columbine massacre, the Jefferson County (CO) SWAT team, nervous about reports of bombs in the building, held up outside the high school for four hours before entering.  By this time, all the victims, and the two killers, were stone cold dead.

This caused some significant outcry at the time; why had the citizens of Jefferson County spent all that money lavishly outfitting a SWAT team to not one degree behind the current SOCOM fashion curve, only to have them turn out no more useful to saving lives than the Jefferson County VFW Drum and Bugle Corps?

And to their credit, law enforcement did some studying.  They found a couple of things about spree/rampage killers:

  • They tend to exist in a fantasy world.  In this fantasy, killing will make them…something. Important.  Martyrs.  Popular.  Something.
  • The planning for the attack tends to be extremely elaborate (by the planner’s standards, anyway).
  • That many rampage killers – not all, but most – carry out their final “mission” in a sort of reverie; this is the culmination of their entire fantasy life.
  • Breaking that reverie – by upsetting the plan, interfering with the fantasy, and “getting inside their decision loop” – is essential in thwarting an attack once it’s underway.
  • The best way to do this – or at least the best way available when prevention has ailed, andonce the shooting starts – is to shoot at the shooter.  And preferably hit him.  But any resistance will do, really.  Because…
  • …once the shooter meets resistance, their reverie usually breaks, and their long-fantasized plans go awry, they usually – not always, but usually – panic; they break off the attack, they give up or, frequently, they kill themselves.  Sometimes it doesn’t work – Matteen kept shooting after he met resistance (I’ll speculate that his terrorist motivations may be part of the reason for this).  Sometimes it works amazingly well; Nick Meli had only to point his gun at Jason Roberts (he checked fire out of worry that he’d hit a bystander), causing Roberts to withdraw into a nearby store and kill himself, still carrying hundreds of unspent rounds.   More according to the theory – Jeanne Assam shot and wounded Matthew Murray inside New Life Christian Center, after he’d already killed two (and two more at an earlier crime scene); Murray withdrew and ended his worthless life.
  • Because of this observation, the convention wisdom among law enforcement became to “get in there and engage active shooters”; rather than wait for SWAT teams and bomb squads to assemble and stage and come up with a plan, individual officers, armed with whatever was in their cars or on their persons – “patrol rifles”, shotguns, handguns – should move toward the shooting, and try to put some lead in and around the shooter.  To seize the initiative, to take control of the narrative.
  • While cops don’t say this in public, of course, it doesn’t really matter if the person putting that fire into and around the shooter has a badge or not; incoming bullets all sound the same. This blog has compiled a sizeable list of mass shooters thwarted by civilians with guns – currently 16 and counting.  From Nick Meli to Dr. Lee Silverman, the list of regular schnooks who’ve thwarted mass shooters is much, much longer than the media and the ignorant (pardon the redundancy) are willing to comprehend, much less admit.

Apparently, though, someone from Orlando didn’t get the memo.  Or, more likely – I’m guessing, here – the SWAT team, in a situation of immense stress and confusion, held off doing anything drastic while they figured out what to do.

When Seconds Count…:  As Bob Owens at Bearing Arms notes, around the point in the transcript where Mateen is reloading his magazines.  I’ll add emphasis:

The terrorist has been killing at will, unimpeded, for 20 minutes, longer than any mass shooting in recent American history [except possibly Columbine – Ed.] (in 1966 Charles Whitman, the University of Texas bell tower sniper was still active 20 minutes into his rampage, but civilians and police were actively firing on his position).  Virginia Tech was over in 12 minutes. Sandy Hook took five.

This terrorist was charging magazines, as the OPD waited and victims bled out on the dance floor and in bathrooms.

He had time to reload (as in “put more bullets in his magazines” – perhaps twice.

“High capacity magazines” were clearly irrelevant to this situation, by the way.  As they were at Virginia Tech, where the shooter used mundane handguns with regular (12-15 round) magazines.

Victims are bleeding out, no longer responding to the dispatchers they called to save their lives.  Other callers, including a nurse who is among the wounded, are warning that victims are losing too much blood.

No one is coming.

No one is coming. 

It isn’t until 38 minutes into the terrorist attack that the now-reloaded shooter calls Orlando PD and announces that he is a Islamic terrorist aligned with the Islamic State.

At this point, a competently trained SWAT command, having learned from the Russian experience at Beslan that terrorists call to “negotiate” only to stall for time and improve their positions to kill more people, should have recognized that the best option for a shooter in a confined space with hostages is to throw in flash-bang grenades and storm in while he was disoriented to take him down.

And yet they didn’t.

Why?  We don’t know, yet.  Maybe we never will.

At the end of the day, a cop wants to go home safe.

Who can blame ’em?

Defense:  Well, I’m no monday-morning quarterback.  If I’m a patrol cop, armed with a rifle I’ve rarely trained on, in a thin kevlar vest that might turn a pistol bullet or shotgun pellet but not a rifle round, going into a dark room full of screaming people, floors slick with blood, and the deafening sound of rifle fire in a confined space booming all around?  I might well take cover, and stay there.  Maybe hiding behind the brick I’d crap.

And the Supreme Court has ruled as much, saying that while it’s police’s job to try to protect you, they’re not really liable if they don’t.

On the other hand: the taxpayers of Orlando, like those of every major city, have spent years and millions outfitting police SWAT teams with all sorts of high-test body armor, flash-bang grenades and other right-with-the-SOCOM-fashion curve hostage rescue goodies, and the exquisitely expensive training that goes with with it (or so one hopes that’s where the money went).

Why did the Orlando SWAT team wait until 5:02AM – three hours after the first 911 call – to breach the wall and go into the club?  Why did it take fifteen more minutes to kill Mateen?    We don’t know.

How many died in those three hours?    Go through the transcript (below he jump), and count the number of people whom callers report expiring to blood loss as they huddled in piles on the dance floor, or to cell phone contacts quietly dropping off the line, leaving nothing but the sounds of gunshots and screaming in the background, as victims slowly bled out.

Go ahead.  Do it.

It sounds like an awful place.  Who can blame the SWAT team for being careful?


You.

You, huddled on the floor and playing dead in the room full of frantic people and a growing toll of wounded, maimed and dead bodies, can blame them.   As the hours tick by, as the blood on the floor gets sticky and dry, as the gunman reloads, kills another handful of people, reloads again and again.

It’s you who won’t be going home.

Could it have been different?   If one other person in the room with you had had the means to react in a meaningful, e.g. life-threatening, way?

Maybe.  There are no guarantees, least of all when bullets are flying.    Who knows – maybe they got hit before they had a chance to draw.  Maybe they’d draw, but get shot first.

Or maybe they’d trade fire with the killer, and lose – but un-nerve the killer, allowing at least a  few people to escape.

Or maybe, just maybe, the citizen with the gun would catch a few lucky breaks; the killer doesn’t have eyes in the back of his head, after all.  A couple of shots to the back while the killer was looking the other way, and suddenly it’s camera crews and yellow tape.

But as the hours drag on, it’s pretty clear – the only help that’s coming is from outside.

Sometime.  Maybe.  Hopefully before you join the dead.


NOTE:  While I intend my comment section as a discussion, and tolerate dissent and cognitive dissonance better than most, be advised; comments I deem stupid will not be deleted; they will be mutilated for my pleasure.  

The judgment of “stupidity” is all mine; it doesn’t mean “disagreement”; just stupidity.  I know it when I see it.

There will be no other warnings.

Continue reading

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.

Watch Mitch Berg DESTROY This Liberal Hamster’s Argument With This One Weird Trick

Check Out Paragraph Nine.  Mind Blown.

The website “Raw Story” is, in general , almost as useless as Buzzfeed; at least Buzzfeed has some really cool recipes, which Raw Story utterly lacks.

Raw Story (henceforth RS) is as useless as “The Awl”.  There.  Got it.

Anyway, they ran a piece last week about the Oregon shooting that claimed that guns were useless for defending against mass shootings because…

…one shooter has a solid sense of physical and legal self-preservation.

But they sure think they’re onto something, as evidenced by their cool-handed, measured, sober headline:

Armed vet destroys gun nuts’ argument on mass shooters by explaining why he didn’t attack Oregon killer

So let’s look at the story and see what gets “destroyed”.

Continue reading

Film Review: “The Overnighters”

I went to the Saint Anthony Main theatre on Friday night for a showing of The Overnighters.

It’s a good movie.  It’s worth seeing.

But it’s more complicated than that.

The Punched Social Ticket:  In reporting on life and the people in the Square States (aka “Flyover Land”), our culture’s self-appointed elites have a fairly consistent three-part narrative:

  • Prosperity in the square states is at least a bad thing:  at worst, it’s an unmitigated tragedy.
  • People in Flyover Land are conservative in all the wrong ways:  Whether it be a staid, stolid “that’s not how we do it here” to a cripping setness in one’s ways to a harsh, unforgiving bigotry, the Square States are like Deliverance Lite in the eyes of our coastal cultural elites.
  • Faith in general, but especially Christianity, is always a veneer over boundless depravity: Christians, in the narrative, are deluded and usually bigoted dullards at best; hypocritical unto evil at worst.  The notion of redemption is always exposed as a toxic lie in the end.

Keep those narrative points in mind through this review.

We’ll come back to that.

Baggage:  Before I get to reviewing anything, let me be up front; I have a chip on my shoulder.

I grew up in a place that barely qualified as a cultural punchline for most of its history; a place famous for durum wheat and George Armstrong Custer and scary fringe characters and Minuteman missiles and the nastiest blizzards in America, and not much else.  A place that some don’t believe exists, that some have tried to abolish and cede back to nature (before all that oil), that still provokes a lot of ignorant babble from “cultural elites” and newbies alike.

And when I was getting established in the big city, almost thirty years ago, it wasn’t a long trip for a lot of people from “you’re from a punch line” to “you are a punch line”.

And pushing against that turned into a hot ball of rage that kept me warm on many a cold night in my twenties.

That, like the narrative, will return to this review.

Hopeless Opportunity:   The film is set in Willison, North Dakota.  It’s the epicenter of the oil boom.  Ten years ago, Williston had maybe 8,000 residents; today, it’s probably pushing 30,000, and nobody’s sure about that.

The movie’s protagonist – and for the first 90 minutes or so, hero – is Pastor Jay Reinke, minister at Concordia Lutheran Church in Willison.  We see at the beginning of the movie that Reinke is busy running an ad hoc program – the eponymous “Overnighters” – to provide shelter for people who are new to Williston and have noplace to stay.

It’s frequently a tough battle.  While North Dakota’s job market is smoking hot, it’s also more expensive to rent an apartment in Williston than in New York or San Francisco.   Property values and rents have risen to the point where some locals, especially people on fixed incomes, can’t afford to live there anymore.

And the job market’s not great for everyone; Reinke sadly informs an older black man who just got off the train that the oil fields are a young man’s trade, with brutal work and long hours and very difficult physical conditions.  For others – truck drivers – background checks trip them up.

In fact, if you didn’t look carefully, you would miss the parts where the filmmakers acknowledge the fact that the oilfields, overall, have a crippling labor shortage and that the unemployment rate is half the national average, and that Williston is a place where people with high school diplomas and (as one new arrival, a black man with a Chicago accent, notes on a cell phone) people with multiple felonies can make six-figure salaries.

It’s an acknowledgement, of sorts – a drive-by, if you will.  But beyond that?

The movie’s website says (emphasis added):

In the tiny town of Williston, North Dakota, tens of thousands of unemployed hopefuls show up with dreams of honest work and a big paycheck under the lure of the oil boom. However, busloads of newcomers chasing a broken American Dream step into the stark reality of slim work prospects and nowhere to sleep. The town lacks the infrastructure to house the overflow of migrants, even for those who do find gainful employment.

Grapes of what?

You’d think they were moving to Detroit or Camden.

To assert otherwise would be to break the narrative; there is no real prosperity.  There’s just bitter, broken people serving the monstrous, otherworldly oil rigs that loom on every horizon.

The movie follows several of Reverend Reinke’s “overnighters” – men who had spent time camping out at Concordia; a young guy from Wisconsin who starts at the bottom and soon moves his way up to a supervising position and an RV; a black truck driver from parts unknown; a hopeless electrician from Georgia; a former meth addict from somewhere down South; an enigmatic and very intense New Yorker who leaves thematic elements dangling like ripped-out telephone wires.

And all of them, every last one, leaves Williston a broken man; the young Wisconsinite, driving while exhausted, rolls his truck and ends up with a broken vertebra; the electrician’s wife, lonely and overworked with the kids, demands he return home or else; the truck driver flunks a background check and walks away, embittered with Reverend Reinke.  And the latter two?

That gets into spoiler territory.

Not Invented Here:  Reinke starts out as a fairly unadorned hero; a plainspoken, very Lutheran-looking man who seems to be doing a superhuman job serving as minister, homeless shelter operator, counselor and rescuer.  At the beginning of the film, it appears his biggest enemy is Willison’s status quo; a city council that’s maneuvering to curb the Overnighter program; neighbors that are alarmed at all the new people coming to the church and working their way up the hierarchy (they usually start out sleeping in cars in the parking lot, at least in the mild summer weather at the beginning of the film; then they move up to floor space in the hall; then, finally, a cot in the fellowship hall).

The other glimpses we see of the locals are straight out of central casting; city councilpeople intoning their reservations, locals outraged about their status quo being upset; I was almost surprised John Lithgow didn’t come to the City Council and demand a ban on dancing.

Truth be told, outside the congregation and City Hall and the central casting Small Town Regulars, we see very little of Willison; neighbors that Reinke canvasses to try to reassure them about his charges; a newspaper publisher and his greasy, slimy reporter; one farm woman who, burned by a man who’d rented RV space before relapsing into methamphetamine, greeted Reinke and his film crew with a hunting rifle and a broomstick.

And then comes the word that some of the men have “sex offender” on their background checks.  And the movie’s third act begins.

Faith No More:   I’m going to try to walk the thin line between spoiling and reviewing, here.

Reverend Reinke, it turns out, falls short of his Christian ideals, as a believer and a minister.

On the way there, of course, we find that nobody was saved.  The unemployable are still unemployed.  The homeless end up with noplace to live.  The unredeemed, aren’t.

I say “of course” because that is the cultural elites’ narrative these days; faith is beyond futility; it is absurdity.  A few of the plucky heroes whom Reverend Reinke “saved” earlier in the film turned out to be pretty spectacularly un-saved.

All that is good in the movie turns out to be “good” – in sarcastic scare quotes.

Including – no spoilers, here – Reverend Reinke himself.

Every single person in the movie ends up, on one level or another, destroyed.

Expectations: Now, I don’t mean to say The Overnighters isn’t an excellent bit of storytelling.  It is.

And I’m not saying it’s not worth seeing, if you get the chance; it is.  The cinematography is absolutely glorious.  The editing and pacing and the storytelling itself is enthralling.  If I had to give it a rating, I’d say “Four stars, and I didn’t like it”.

Because truth be told, I walked into the movie fully expecting:

  1. Prosperity to be shown as a curse (or a mirage),
  2. North Dakotans to be depicted as clenched, bigoted caricatures, and
  3. Faith, the Church and its people to be shown up as frauds, hypocrites and hollow shells of sanctimony (or, at best, people whose flaws overwhelm and overshadow all good about them).

And I expected it because – the guy for whom the little ball of rage still burns deep down inside tells me – that’s the way it’s always been.  From the intelligentsia’s chortling about “Buffalo Commons” a decade ago, to MPR’s tut-tutting about all that unseemly prosperity on the Plains, to the NYTimes’ Gail Collins giggling her idiot giggle about having no place to shop and waiting in line at the Williston McDonalds, The Overnighters is an excellent story that fits squarely, unsurprisingly and predictably within the narrative.

It’s exactly what I expected.

And I wasn’t disappointed – or, put another way, I was deeply disappointed.

A Parable

(SCENE:  A small aircraft is flying over the prairie.  Inside the plane are:

  • Carpal POX:  a golf pro from Wayzata, and Vice Chair for Ideological Purity at the Minnesota 5th CD Libertarian Party
  • Viktor VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE: a professional fraternity organizer, and Vice Chair for Education at the 5th CD Libertarian Party
  • Stephanie Marie ANNAN: Community Organizer for the Minnesota 5th CD Libertarian party.
  • Mitch BERG:  Guy, travelling space-available
  • Buck SAVAGE: The pilot. 

Suddenly, the right engine bursts into flames.  The plane begins to vibrate and starts to swerve to the right)

SAVAGE:  Crap!  Everybody grab a parachute!  We’ve gotta bail out!

VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE:  Oh, dude! Is this like one of those jokes, where the Pope, Hitler and Kim Kardashian are in a plane and there’s only two parachutes? 

SAVAGE:  No, there’s five.  Hurry up and put one on…

ANNAN:  …or what?  The (makes scare quotes in the air) “plane” will “crash” and “kill” us “all”?  How do we know this? 

BERG:  Um, yeah – I’ll take a ‘chute.  Thanks. 

POX:  Wait – I think there’s a third option.  Or maybe several third options. 

VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE:  That means like third through maybe millionth options, you douche!

POX:  Let’s think about this.  Who’s to say there’s any absolutes, here? 

BERG:  (Frantically donning parachute) I’d say “the plane is crashing” is pretty absolute.

ANNAN:  That’s assuming the parachutes work.  I’ve read that they don’t always work.  Sometimes they actually cause accidents. 

SAVAGE:  Look, ma’am, pretty soon the fire in the engine is going to melt the wing spar, and the wing is going to fall off and the plane will go into an uncontrollable spin, and the centrifugal force will pin you to the wall of the plane so hard you won’t be able to move. 

ANNAN:  Oh, don’t even get me started on the melting point of steel. 

BERG:  The wing spar is aluminum, isn’t it, Mr. Savage? 

SAVAGE:  Yeah…

POX:  Look, the point is that this is a fine time to brainstorm for more, better options than the ones our authority figure – no disrespect intended…

SAVAGE:  (Handle on the hatch handle) None taken.

POX:  …tells us.  Because the biggest problem with the human mind is that we allow authority figures to shackle our imagines, and the bounds of logic to dictate the parameters of the possible.  What other options are there besides “flaming death” and “parachute?”

BERG:  “Dying while engaging in navel-gazing magical thinking?”

POX:  Not quite in the spirit intended, but there are no bad ideas here…

VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE:  Dude, I reject the premise that there’s any difference between the two.  Choosing one or the other merely perpetuates a binary system.  I’m not going to pick either one. 

SAVAGE:  Well, yeah – you will pick one.  Or more to the point, it’ll pick you. 

VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE:  Don’t tase me, bro. 

POX:  Benghazi!  Benghazi!

(ANNAN and VON SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE giggle)

ANNAN:  I’m done talking with people who think in terms of “life” or “death” as absolutes. 

BERG:  Well, that’s a perfectly fine metaphysical and theological point, but crashing in the plane sort of moots the discussion. 

ANNAN:  That does it.  I’m shunning you. 

POX:  OK.  Fourth option; we concentrate real hard and levitate the plane?  Again, no bad ideas, here.  Any more? 

BERG:  So I pull this ring here? 

SAVAGE:  After we’re out of the plane. 

POX:  Some people just can’t be cured. 

ANNAN:  There is no difference between the disease and the cure. 

VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE:  I’m totally posting this to Facebook. 

(BERG and SAVAGE jump, count to three, and pull the rip cords, as the plane, engine ablaze, sails into the distance). 

ANNAN (in the distance):  Bunch of ‘chutists.

VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE and POX:  ‘Chutists!  ‘Chutists! 

(And SCENE)

On A Rattlesnake Light Rail ‘cross The Hiawatha Desert

SCENE:  It’s 1985.  Mitch BERG – just out of college, hair waving in the breeze  and his elbow resting on the sill of his open driver’s side window – barrels down North Dakota Highway 200 at 85 miles per hour in his 1973 Chevy Monte Carlo.  Over the deafening racket of his small-block 350 engine (whose muffler fell off some time earlier, to BERG’s penurious horror but aesthetic delight) a boom box with a cigarette-lighter adaptor blasts  a cassette of John Mellencamp’s Scarecrow.   The Monte Carlo, covered in rust to the point where the driver’s side door panel flaps in the slipstream, wobbles and loudly grinds during BERG’s rare applications of brake.  But it’s a beautiful summer day in east-central North Dakota. 

BERG, dressed in a plain white v-neck T-shirt, an army-surplus dungaree shirt  and black straight-leg jeans, has a filterless Chesterfield dangling from his lip.  The coal on the end of the cigarette glows as BERG draws in a puff – and then almost instantly blows it out into the slipstream, studiously avoiding any inhalation.   In the back of the car are three guitar cases, a Fender amplifier, and two duffel bags full of clothes.

Suddenly, he notices a blueish smoke cloud in the distance.  He squints, tosses the half-smoked cigarette out onto the roadway, and shuts off the cassette. 

Gradually, he makes out the shape of a 1979 Subaru wagon.  It is parked outside the access road to a Minuteman missile silo, which sits about 200 yards north of the two-lane highway, encircled in chain link fence and razor wire.  A lone figure climbs out of the Subaru.   As BERG slows to a stop by the Subaru, we recognize a much-younger Avery LIBRELLE.  LIBRELLE’s car is festooned with anti-nuclear bumper stickers; the cargo area and back seat are crammed with signs demanding an immediate nuclear freeze, and declaring you can’t hug children with nuclear arms.  The Subaru, idling, continues to belch blue smoke. 

BERG pulls into the access road and brakes the Chevy to a stop by LIBRELLE’s car in a squall of metallic grinding, indicating the rotors and shoes direly need repair and replacement.   He turns off the engine, and the prairie is silent, but for the wind. 

BERG:  Hey – what’s up?  Something wrong with your car?

LIBRELLE:  Er…no?

BERG:  Well, it looks like you’ve had a bit of a fire. 

LIBRELLE:  What makes you say that? 

BERG:  Um…the smoke cloud?  It looks like a grass fire cominig across the prairie.  And it smells like burning oil… 

LIBRELLE:  Huh.  Haven’t seen anything.  And I think Subarus come from the factory like that.  Everyone in Minneapolis has ’em. 

BERG:  Huh.  OK – well, it looked like you needed some help…

LIBRELLE: Oh, I do!  I do!  I need people to carry these signs (points to stack of hundreds of Nuclear Freeze signs in the back of car) to protest the US Military’s race to armageddon, and demand that we allow the peaceful leadership of the Soviet Union to co-exist with the peace-loving people of the earth!  Which is all they want!

BERG:  And you came up here from Minneapolis…

LIBRELLE:  …looking for people to protest with me.

BERG:  And how’s that going for you?

LIBRELLE: Not great, so far. 

BERG:  Huh.  Well, people around here have a lot on their minds.  There’s  farm crisis going on, and most of the locals are trying to hang on and survive.  And most of ’em pretty much support the Air Force, anyway…

LIBRELLE:  So I’m finding out.  But you’ll help (LIBRELLE grabs a sign hopefully)

BERG:  No, no, sorry – I just thought you were, y’know, on fire or something.  I’m actually moving to the Twin Cities. 

LIBRELLE:  Oh, yeah?  Why?

BERG:  Well, I just graduated with a BA in English, and I want to be a writer and a musician, and there’s no much opportunity for that here.  In fact, there’s not much opportunity at all around here.  Job market’s kinda slow even for diesel mechanics and custom combiners, to say nothing of tortured starving would-be artists.  So I’m going to move to Minneapolis to try my luck at…well, writing, or technical writing, or music, or something.  Anything, really.  I have no idea what I’m gonna do.   I just know that unless they, I dunno, strike oil or something… (both BERG and LIBRELLE chuckle at the absurdity) …it’s never gonna happen here for me.  This place is never gonna be an economic powerhouse.

LIBRELLE:  But you can live the ideal life out here!  Be a hunter-gatherer!  Be in touch with the land! 

BERG: Er, no.  Looking for…

LIBRELLE:  The train!

BERG:  Huh?

LIBRELLE:  They’re going to build a light rail train down Hiawatha Avenue from downtown to the Airport!   They tore down all the buildings along Hiawatha Avenue twenty years ago to make way for it, and it’s going to get built any day now!

BERG:  Er, OK (starting to fidget)

LIBRELLE:  You’re a creative who’s moving to Minneaoplis because of the train!

BERG:  Um, what now?

LIBRELLE:  Mass transit!  It’s what draws creatives to the city!  

BERG:  Er, no.  That’s what I have a car for.  No, I’m moving there for opportunity – a chance at doing some things that really only occur in major cities.  I mean – huh?  Moving somewhere because there’s  a train?  Thats just weird

LIBRELLE:  Lalalalalalalalalalalalala!   The Met Council has spoken!  LALALALALALA!  (LIBRELLE grabs a Nuclear Freeze sign and hands it to BERG)

(BERG takes the sign, throws it into the front seat of his car, and starts the engine, which roars in unmuffled glory).

LIBRELLE (Starts to picket the missile silo)  No More Nukes!  No More Nukes!

BERG:  (Yelling over the din from his engine).  Hey, you know there aren’t actually any people in that silo, right?   That’s just where the missile is.   The people are in the command silo, which is somewhere else…

LIBRELLE: (Yelling back over the din):  Yes, I know there’s a feeble line of reasoning for fissile weapons.  A feeble line they don’t believe themselves…

BERG (Yelling):  No, er…yeah.  Yeah, that’s it. 

(BERG steps on the gas.  The Monte Carlo accelerates, as BERG turns the cassette deck back on). 

(And SCENE)

This Hard Land

Note to all you folks thinking of moving to North Dakota to start cashing in on the oil boom:  North Dakota is cold.  

There aren’t a lot of trees.  And outside of the eight or nine significant-sized cities (Fargo, Grand Forks, Jamestown, Devil’s Lake, Bismark/Mandan, Minot, Williston, Dickinson, and maybe Valley City), there just aren’t a whole lot of people. 

More below the jump, so the rest of the page can load…

Continue reading

The Odds: Why “Universal Background Checks” Don’t Work

Joe Doakes from Como Park writes about this piece (which started as a monologue on the NARN a few days before the blog post was published).

———-

Your end-of-show reading of Rep. Paymar’s column got me to thinking: we know background checks won’t work, but saying so doesn’t make it so. Can we better explain to Low Information Voters WHY they won’t work? Some thoughts for your future columns:

Background checks stop people from committing violence with guns, but only if (a) the shooter submits to the background check and (b) the database is accurate.

There are at least five kinds of gun violence. They occur for different reasons so they have different solutions.

Enterprise Violence is a business decision. When Al Capone found Bugs Moran taking over saloons to sell bootleg liquor in Capone’s territory, Capone didn’t have the option of bringing a lawsuit to restrain his competitor, as Microsoft might do today. He didn’t have the option of buying a city council members to grant him a city-wide franchise, as the cable company might do today. Capone was left with “alternative dispute resolution” to handle competitors: he shot them. Drug dealers today have the same business problem – illegal product, no recourse to courts – so when they have problems with competitors, they use the same business model that has proven so effective for the last 100 years: they shoot them.

Drug dealers by definition routinely import, manufacture, transport, buy and sell illegal items. If they’re successful, it’s because they have learned how to avoid law enforcement. Buying illegal guns presents no different logistical problems from buying illegal drugs.

The employee who pulls the trigger won’t be the guy who submits to the background check. Instead, the gang will use a person with a clean record – a new hire, or perhaps a wife or girlfriend – who can pass the background check to buy the weapon then hand the weapon to the eventual shooter. These “straw man” purchases will look completely legal on paper and even if law enforcement catches them, they’re just little fish, quickly replaced.

One solution to Enterprise Violence committed by dealers in illegal drugs may be the same as the solution to illegal liquor: repeal Prohibition. Background checks is not a solution.

Idiot Violence. Nizzel George was a 5-year old boy in North Minneapolis. He was sleeping on his grandmother’s couch when 17-year-old Stephon Shannon and 16-year-old Julian Anderson walked up the sidewalk and fired 10 shots from .40 caliber handguns at the house. One of the bullets punched through the siding and hit the sleeping child in the back. Shannon said he was a gang member and that he shot at the house in retaliation for the earlier shooting of a fellow gang member. He didn’t mean to kill Nizzel, didn’t even know he was in the house.

Hadiya Pendleton was a 15-year old girl from Chicago. She was an honor student and majorette who performed for President Obama’s inauguration. She was chatting with friends in Harsh Park on January 29, 2013 when she was struck by bullets fired by Michael Ward, age 18, also of Chicago. Ward and his getaway driver, Kenneth Williams, age 20 of Chicago, told police the shooting was in retaliation for earlier gang violence but Hadiya’s group was not the intended victims, her group was mistaken for other people.

President Obama mentioned Nizzel George and Hadiya Pendleton as reasons why new gun control laws are needed, including universal background checks but that makes no logical sense.

You must be 21 years old to buy a handgun. None of these shooters should have had one. Plainly, they didn’t submit to a background check. They most likely obtained their weapons the same way the Enterprise does – theft or straw purchase. They used guns to redress insults because that’s how things are done in their violent little sub-culture.

The solution to Idiot Violence may require massive social change to eliminate that violent sub-culture. Certainly, background checks alone won’t make any difference.

Mental Illness Violence. The Aurora Theater, Newtown School and Accent Signage shooters had histories of mental health problems but had not been formally committed. You cannot commit someone to a mental institution based on gossip or rumor or even the parent’s concerns because being committed for mental illness means the patient is locked up as securely as if he were being sent to prison. The law requires a judge to rule that the person is a danger to himself or others at that moment, based on admissible evidence from the patient’s history. Fear that the patient might someday snap is not admissible evidence. This sets a high standard of proof to deprive a person of his liberty and makes civil commitment difficult.

The background check database includes people who already have been committed for mental illness but these shooters hadn’t been committed so they wouldn’t be in the system. A background check would not have stopped them from buying weapons.

The solution to Mental Illness violence involves an overhaul of the mental health treatment system and re-evaluation of commitment law, none of which was included in Rep. Paymar’s proposal.

Suicide By Gun. There has been an increase in rates of suicide committed by middle-aged White men who are not drug dealers or gang members and had no prior history of mental illness. Nobody knows why although armchair psychologists speculate losing their life savings in the housing crash or job in the Recession make that generation of men feel like failures, or perhaps something unique to Baby Boomers (who already have higher rates of depression than earlier generations), or maybe a “tough-it-out” cultural reluctance to seeking mental health treatment. Since guns are the tool used, gun control advocates seek to control guns to reduce suicide rates.

The background check database does not include people who lost money or jobs. It does not include people who are depressed and decline treatment. Most middle-aged White men who commit suicide by firearm have owned their guns for years. The solution to Suicide By Gun might be similar to that for Mental Illness, but background checks won’t help.

Government Violence. Andrea Rebello, a 21-year old Hofstra University student, was being held hostage by a man who broke into her home when she was shot in the head by a cop, killing her instead of the man holding her. Ibragim Todashev was shot dead by an FBI agent in Orlando just as he was about to confess to helping the Boston Bomber commit murder.

Jeff Johnson, a laid-off employee, shot Steven Ercolino, the vice-president of the company, outside the Empire State Building. Police pursued Johnson and shot at him 16 times, killing Johnson and also wounding 9 innocent bystanders when bullets ricocheted off the stone building.

After Chris Dorner shot an off-duty cop in Los Angeles, police officers fired approximately 100 shots at a blue Toyota pickup truck in which Margie Carranza and her 71-year-old mother, Emma Hernandez, were delivering newspapers. The officers mistook their truck for the gray Nissan Titan Dorner was believed to be driving. Hernandez was hit and Carranza suffered injuries from flying glass. On the same morning, Torrance police opened fire on the truck of a surfer headed for the beach.

Vang Khang’s family counted 22 bullet holes when police raided the wrong home in Minneapolis in 2008. Roberto Franco’s family lost their dog and nearly a daughter to a diabetic reaction when police raided the wrong house in St. Paul in 2012, shot the family pet, handcuffed the children and denied the diabetic girl her medicine. When Alden Anderson killed a police dog named Toby earlier this year, St. Paul police shot Anderson to death.

Rodney Balko at Cato Institute has an interactive map online showing botched paramilitary raids are an epidemic and innocent deaths are frequent. If it were occurring in any other country, we’d be aghast at the level of violence government directs at its own people.

The solution to Government Violence probably involves de-militarizing ordinary police, ending the War on Drugs and extending personal liability to careless police officers, but none of these shootings would have been prevented by background checks.

I’m sure you can think of more categories and examples but perhaps the mental exercise of breaking gun violence into small units will make it easier to explain why a universal blanket solution not only won’t solve the problem, it will divert attention from real solutions.

 

Doug Grow, Narrative-Fluffer

I was down at the State Capitol yesterday for a press conference, as Representative Deb Hilstrom (DFL Brooklyn Park) introduced the gun bill/s we talked about yesterday.

The bills, as we noted yesterday, would exert the state to solve actual problems – close gaps in the background check system, add mandatory penalties for using guns in crimes or possessing them illegally…

…y’know.  Controversial stuff.

At the presser, I saw a big group of legislators from both chambers and both parties lining up to support Hilstrom’s proposal.  Reps, Senators, Democrats, Republicans – it was probably the most bipartisan assembly I’ve seen that wasn’t in the lounge at the Kelly Inn after hours.

Not just legislators; guys in uniform.  They weren’t just there for the fun of it – guys in uniform never are.  No, they were from the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association.

And I saw media.  Oh, lord, did I see media.

And Heather Martens was there, naturally; where there is truth about the Second Amendment, Martens will be there.  To lie.  And lie and lie and lie (note to the media who bothered to speak to her; she has uttered not one substantial word of truth in her years at the capitol.  Ask me).

And the “groups” she represents put out a call for their “membership” to turn out in force to oppose this bill – probably remembering the hundreds of Second Amendment supporters who turned out daily to oppose the DFL’s gun grab bills a few weeks ago.

We’ll come back to them.

One person who was not there was Doug Grow, from the MInnPost.

To be fair, I haven’t seen Grow in person in over 20 years; I might not recognize him.

But judging by the story he wrote about the conference, and the bill itself, even if Grow was there, his story was pre-written, and would have appeared in exactly the same form had Mothra emerged from the Supreme Court chamber shooting flame from wherever Mothra did whatever he did, since I never watched the movie.

Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, has discovered again that there is no comfortable middle ground when the subject is guns.

At noon at the Capitol, Hilstrom, standing with Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek and Rep. Tony Cornish, the gun-toting legislator from Good Thunder, introduced a gun bill that she said “can bring people together’’ on the volatile subject of guns.

“Gun-toting”.

Scare quotes.

No, no bias here.

The Astroturf Consensus

Grow, like most of the Twin Cities mainstream media, labors under the delusion that there’s a large, organized mass of people supporting gun control, and that they were out in force yesterday.

Her words were still echoing in the Capitol when critics, who had hoped for much stronger actions from the Minnesota Legislature, lambasted the effort of Hilstrom and a bipartisan group of 69 other legislators to “close gaps’’ in current state gun law.

“This is just a band-aid over a huge problem,’’ said Jane Kay of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, an organization formed in the days following the mass shooting of school children in Newtown, Conn.

Only in America can a two-month old pressure group with fewer members than there were legislators standing behind Hilstrom get the breathless adoration of the media.  Which is what “Moms Demand Action” and “Protect Minnesota” both are; astroturf checkbook advocacy groups funded by liberal plutocrats with deep pockets – with “membership” numbers in the single digits.

Provided they share the goal of fluffing the left’s withering narrative on gun control.

Of course, Grow wasn’t the only offender; Pat Kessler of Channel 4 asked Hilstrom why the bill included no universal background check which, he asserted, “70% of Minnesotans oppose”.

The correct answer – the polls ask people about background checks without explaining the consequences of those checks as the DFL and Governor Messinger Dayton currently propose them; they will result in a de facto gun registry, which is a necessary first step to universal confiscation.

More on gun-related media polls in another piece soon.

The Pre-Written Story

But Grow himself is the real problem here.  His piece, while short on the sort of insight that actually engaging people on both sides of the issue might have given it, is long on  evidence that Grow wrote the story long before yesterday’s press conference.

There’s the inflammatory reference to every leftymedia member’s favorite boogyman:

 The bill has the support of the National Rifle Association, presumably because it does nothing to require background checks on all gun sales and because it does nothing to restrict sales of military-style weapons or even the quantity of rounds in ammunition magazines.

Well, no.

The bill has the support of gun-rights organizations because instead of wasting time and effort putting niggling restrictions on the rights of the law-abiding that didn’t affect crime in any way the first ten years they were tried, they actually address the real problem; criminals, the insane, the addled, and the holes in the data the state sends to the Feds for the background check system.

(And while the NRA makes a nice, recognizable, stereotyped boogeyman for the lazy propagandist, the NRA actually has very little to do with the day to day heavy lifting of the gun rights movement in Minnesota.  It’s the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance that turned out 500 or more people a day to attend the gun grab hearings a couple of weeks back.  Grow either doesn’t know that, or doesn’t want people to know that.  You know where my money is).

More evidence that Grow wrote the story entirely off of DFL and “Protect Minnesota” chanting points?

Despite the fact that it’s a bill that authors hoped would unite people, it seems to be dividing. Yes, there was a mix of Republican and DFL representatives standing with Hilstrom, Cornish and Stanek. But there were no law-enforcement organizations represented at the news conference where the proposal was unveiled.

That’s false.

Here’s the video of the press conference: 

 

See all those guys in uniforms?

Scroll in to 1:12.  That’s Sheriff Rich Stanek, Hennepin County Sheriff, speaking on behalf of the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association.

Either Grow is lying, or he wrote the entire story with no knowledge of the facts of the story.

Short On Fact, Long On Jamming Words Into Peoples’ Mouths

Grow follows by saying…:

There also were no DFL senators, though presumably the bill will be as attractive to outstate senators as it appears to be to many outstate DFL representatives.

Grow throws that in there as if it’s a substantive fact related to the bill itself.  It’s not.  While most outstate legislators no doubt remember the DFL debacle of 2002, it’s also more than plausible Tom Bakk wants to keep his powder dry.

In other words, presence of no DFL senators is a non-factor, unless you’re a low-information reader.

Grow next swerves through fact – and in so doing, undercuts his own premise.  I’ll add emphasis:

Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, and the chairman of the House public safety committee, has indicated he has no desire to have the bill heard by his committee. Paymar is pushing a bill that would require purchasers of guns at flea markets and gun shows to go through background checks.

Yet, given the large number of co-authors with Hilstrom, there likely are ways for the bill to weave its way through the legislative process.

Yes.  There are a large number of co-authors; so many they had to submit it not one, not two, but three times to get them all on.  Over half of the House is signed on as authors of the bill.

Michael Paymar wants to thwart the will of the representatives of over half of Minnesota’s voters?

Putting Thirty Shots From An AR15 Into A Strawman

Finally, Grow takes his whacks at some of the legislators who’ve violated the DFL’s narrative:

[Representative Tony] Cornish, usually a lightning rod in the gun debate, said he was taking a different role regarding the fate of this bill.

“Several of my statements (in the past) have been controversial,’’ he said. “Today my role is to be a peacemaker.’’

No sooner had he said that than he uttered a statement that raises the hackles of those hoping for stronger gun measures.

“I want to thank the NRA for helping (on the bill),’’ he said. He went on to say that the bill “contains nothing for gun owners to fear.’’

Er, who’s “hackles” got “raised”, here?  And why?

Was it the involvement of the NRA?  Your dog whistles aren’t our problem.

Or was it the quote about gun owners having nothing to fear?  Is that the actual goal, here?

Hilstrom, in her seventh term, refused to talk about her true feelings of the bill. Rather, she kept speaking of the importance of “passing a bill that will solve real problems.’’

She did point out that she never has sought the endorsement of the NRA and that in the past she has received a “C,’’ “D,’’ and “F’’ from the NRA.

OK.

So what?

If she’s doing the right thing – which, for a majority of Minnesotans, is “solving problems”, rather than attacking the law-abiding gun owner – then I don’t care if she’s a life-time “F” rating.  And I don’t care about her true feelings; I don’t care if she’s being used as an escape hatch by the DFL to get out of the embarassment of the Paymar/Hausman gun grab bills.

Guess Who!

Finally:  I owe the Twin Cities media an apology.  I’ve said that Larry Jacobs is the most over-quoted person in the Twin Cities media.  And he is.  David Schultz is right up there.

But in the “single-issue” category, Heather Martens – “Executive Director” and, near as we can tell, one of less than a half-dozen members of “Protect Minnesota” (and de facto representative of House District 66A) and a woman whose entire body of public assertions is lies, dwarfs them all:

Heather Martens, executive director of Protect Minnesota, derided the bill as “NRA-approved.’’

Boo!  Boogeyman!  Hiss!

Listen, MinnPost-reading dogs!  There’s your whistle!

“Any bill that fails to address the gaping holes in our background check law falls far short of the public’s demand for the right to be safe in our communities,’’ Martens said in a statement.

And there’s another lie.  The bill does address the gaping hole that exists in the background check laws.

No, not the misnamed “gun show loophole”, which is another media myth.   The real gap is  the data that the state isn’t sending to the feds; the Hilstrom bill fixes it.

GOCRA’s Mountain, Grow And Martens’ Molehill

Leaving aside the fact that Grow got pretty much everything in this story wrong – and wrong in a way that suggests not only that he wasn’t at Hilstrom’s press conference but that he wrote the whole thing straight from chanting points long before Hilstrom took to the microphone – the most pernicious thing about Grow’s story is that it tries to create the impression that there’s a genuine battle between two titanically-powerful sides to this debate.

There’s not.

In terms of legislators?  A bipartisan sample of over half of the House is on board co-authoring Hilstrom’s bill(s).  A thin, runny film of metro-DFL extremists is backing the Paymar/Hausman/Simonson gun grab bills.

In terms of the public?  Last month, GOCRA put out a call for people to come to the Capitol.  And they did.

No, really:

“Protect Minnesota” and “Moms Demand Action” put out a call yesterday for people to come out and protest against Hilstrom’s bill.

Here they are:

 

Well, not literally.  But no, other than Heather Martens, nobody showed up.

There are literally more DFL legislators co-authoring Hilstrom’s bill than there are members of “Protect Minnesota” and the “Moms Demand Action” put together.

The Case For Ugly Guns And Big Magazines

WELCOME, Instapundit readers!

———-

My neighbor AVERY LIBRELLE is concerned about gun violence.

We met at a local coffee shop, where we spoke over the sound of a group of locals that was keeping alive the tradition of out-of-tune folk music played by large, enthusiastic groups of the tone-deaf.

LIBRELLE:  We need to ban high-clip bullets and assault weapons!

ME:  Ugh.

LIBRELLE: “Ugh?”  What?

ME:  Oh, I’ve only been having this argument for 25 years.  For starters, they’re called “high-capacity magazines”.  A “clip” as a general term for “anything that holds bullets” is a bit of Hollywood slang.  Really explaining it requires me to get all pedantic about how guns work, and I know you don’t care, and explaining it really takes me off the topic, but here – let me show you this:

“Clips”, pretty much by definition, are not “high-capacity”.  To talk much more about it would be to go onto a tangent that only gun geeks really care much about.

LIBRELLE:  Well, the media uses them interchangeably.

ME:  Uh, yeah.

LIBRELLE:  Anyway – you can not show me a reason anyone needs a…what?  High-capacity “magazine”?

ME:  No, I can’t show you one.

LIBRELLE:  I knew it.

ME:  I can show you several. Continue reading

End Results

Joe Doakes from Como Park has a question that’s occurred to me as well:

I don’t have time today to look this up, maybe some of your readers do?

I’m getting the feeling the media is under-reporting a crucial element in the shooting stories: what stopped the killer?

Is it correct the most recent school shooter stopped killing when he was confronted by a cop with a gun? The cop didn’t shoot him, the kid killed himself, but the cop with the gun was the motivator? You ran the story about the CCW guy in the shopping mall – same result.

Mother Jones magazine claims armed citizens only stopped mass murders 1.6% of the time. Slate Magazine on-line points out some of that is how you count it (it’s not a “mass murder” until there are already four dead) other studies disagree.

Here’s the question: regardless of WHO was holding the gun that stopped the killing, is it correct that the killing continued until SOMEONE with a gun confronted the killer?

The NRA’s Armed Citizen column is devoted to proving from real-life experience that the mere presence of a gun in the hands of a good citizen can prevent crime, without a shot being fired. Are they right?

If so, wouldn’t more good guys holding guns be better?

Joe Doakes

Como Park

That one occurred to me when discussing the Portland shooting on December 11.  As we reported earlier this week, a man with a rifle started shooting at the Clackamas Mall in Portland.  He fired over sixty shots, and miraculously killed “only” two people.  At some point, his AR15 jammed – reports vary, and it may or may not have been well before the time he was confronted by an armed citizen with a carry permit and a handgun.  He apparently fled, and shortly thereafter shot himself.

But notwithstanding the fact that he fired sixty shots, and could have fired a lot more, just watch; it won’t be called a “mass shooting”, because “only” two died.

Because he was deterred by a citizen with a gun.  That the left will studiously avoid calling a hero for ending a mass shooting because it won’t be shown as a mass shooting in the stats.  Because the citizen prompted it to end before it became a mass shooting.

It’s a Catch 22, although in this case, it beats the alternative.

At any rate, there’s a list of mass shootings, and would-be mass shootings, that’ve been stopped by citizens – not police – with guns:

Eugene Volokh also has a list with a few more as well as a few repeats from my list.

Now, if you look at most of these incidents, most of them aren’t “mass shootings”  – because most of them were stopped before they topped that magic “four dead” threshold.

Which is what we want.  Right?

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?