Archive for August 2012

Another Lost Friend

I don’t write that much about alcoholism or addiction but that’s not because it’s not a constant presence in my life. It’s because like most evils it’s banal, dreadfully dull to read let alone write about. While I’ve written this journal for almost 11 years now for my own pleasure, I do care about those who read what I’ve written, making alcoholism and addiction one of the less common topics here.

The last person I shared a drink with nearly 12 years ago died last month. The Wife’s sister was found dead and alone, ending a life that like most started with promise but for addicts ends in tragedy, and I don’t use that word lightly. The Greeks used the term to describe those whose fates were completely out of their hands, subject to the whims of the gods that controlled them. Like the tragic figures of Grecian morality plays, the addict is controlled by his own god, his addiction, and suffers accordingly. Some like Homer’s heroes are able to rise above their addictions, but only through Divine Intervention.

My sister-in-law was not so lucky. The gods never smiled on her, and instead condemned her to a life that ended under a blazing sun above a cloudless sky. At heart she was a wonderful, kind person who deserved much better than the fate she got. Like many families of addicts, we tried to save from the Siren song of addiction, but our entreaties, pleading and efforts were much weaker than the straps that bound Odysseus to the mast, and she stopped hearing us years ago.

Now her suffering is over, and the demons of addiction have claimed another soul. But I will remember her kindly and hope that she is happy wherever she has gone, free at last from the torment that only another addict understands. With love, to a lost friend.

The Council Has Spoken: Aug 31, 2012

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Bookworm Room - Democrat gaffes, nastiness, and sheer ignorance – just a few highlights from the Democrat side of the aisle

Noncouncil: P.J. O’Rourke - Of Thee I Sigh: Baby Boomers Bust

Full voting here.

What If They Gave a War and Nobody Came? The Republican’s Faux War on Women

Like most conservatives and libertarians I know, the majority of my friends are liberals and leftists of one stripe or another. Since the arrival of Facebook and my begrudging acceptance of social media, this means that I am regularly presented with liberal views of one sort or another and varying degrees of offensiveness. Since I have this journal for my own political thoughts, I use it to explore political and social issues, leaving Facebook for cat and kid photos and George Takei posts. I don’t comment or block anything my liberal friends post, no matter how much I might disagree with it, I just let it pass and within a few hours it disappears. What this process does is allow me stay in touch with people who might be offended

Let’s face it: social media is a terrible place to discuss or debate ideas. Most issues can’t be condensed into a Facebook post with a ‘read more’ tag beneath it, let alone a Twitter post. Federal spending in 140 chars or less. OMG! U suk! FTW!

The process is good for a political writer. It’s good because it keeps me abreast of the liberal zeitgeist from my perch out her in Exile and provides mental fodder for posts here.

The big topic among my friends is Senator-wanna-be Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments and how they support their belief in the GOP’s War on Women™. A long time ago I remember watching the GOP get all hot and bothered over flag burning. President George HW Bush said, “Flag burning is wrong. I believe the importance of this issue compels me to call for a constitutional amendment.” It fired up the base and gave them something else to rally around instead of Bush’s record which, in 1992, wasn’t all that much to tout.

I don’t think Obama is Bush I – I think he is far, far worse – more Nixon than anything. But he and his team are employing the same tactic obfuscate his terrible economic track record with the War on Women™. Let’s look at the components of this war. There are several specific efforts cited by Democrats as exemplifying the War which can be boiled down to the following points: the GOP platform banning abortion in all circumstances including rape or incest. This is the same wording that has been in the platform since 2004. Prior to that the platform was much less restrictive on the procedure. Second, attempts in Congress to de-fund Planned Parenthood and eliminate federal funds for family planning.

I don’t pay attention to party conventions for the simple reason that I’ve always thought they were pointless. So when my liberal friends became up in arms over the GOP party platform, I had to look it up. Honestly it’s easier to find pictures of dancing cats than it is to find actual platform text. Walter Russell Mead gives a withering critique of party conventions and platforms.

...the honest truth is that no party platform means anything in American politics anymore. No president refers back to the platform in framing legislation, no congressional leader uses it to set the legislative agenda, no living soul ever reads or quotes it for any purpose whatever. No historian of American party politics goes back to study them, no journalist refers to them more than a week after the convention. They are dead letters, produced out of a sense of ritual and to the extent they have any purpose whatever, they are idle playgrounds aimed at keeping clueless party zealots busy counting coup and scoring imaginary points.Party counts for very little in America today, and their platforms count for even less. Presidential candidates don’t feel bound by them in the slightest, and they shouldn’t.

The GOP platform is completely worthless. It excites zealots – both GOP and Democrat – and that’s what it did among my liberal friends.

As for Planned Parenthood, the organization was founded during the eugenics movement of the early 20th century, particularly of the racist variety. Since the ethnic stock I derive from was at various times the target of such a movement, I’m not a fan. I’m sure the KKK does some good, but given PP’s founding steeped in eugenics and racism, and the organizations continued flirtation with racism today, and I’m happy not seeing my tax dollars going to fund the organization. If people want to fund Planned Parenthood or the Klan, that’s their business but it shouldn’t be the federal government’s.


All the other examples of the supposed War are talking points such as H.R. 358 which the organization claims

5) In Congress, Republicans have a bill that would let hospitals allow a woman to die rather than perform an abortion necessary to save her life.

Unfortunately, that’s not what the bill says.
IN GENERAL- No funds authorized or appropriated by this Act (or an amendment made by this Act), including credits applied toward qualified health plans under section 36B of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 or cost-sharing reductions under section 1402 of this Act, may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion, except
‘(A) if the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest; or

‘(B) in the case where a pregnant female suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the female in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.

(emph. add.)

What rankles the anti-Life crusaders is the lack of language forcing a Catholic hospital or a doctor opposed to abortion to go against their moral convictions or a transfer the woman to a hospital where the procedure could take place. But that’s not the intent of the bill. The bill covers appropriation of taxpayer dollars: it has to do with payment for the procedure, and in the case where the woman’s life is endangered, the bill authorizes such payment.

And look at the details of the case: a woman dying who can only be saved by the murder of her unborn child / excision of the fetus who is receiving care by an institution or doctors who believe it is immoral for them to harm the child/fetus. How often do such cases occur, and is it appropriate for a law to exist to cover each possible exception? This is one reason why I support legal abortion even though I am morally opposed to it. A government cannot possible create laws that cover every possible contingency without hurting someone. Yet failing to create such a contingency becomes ammunition in support of the GOP’s War on Women?

Such a run to turn an extreme event into a is common the Left, from claiming the Tea Party had blood on its hands over the Gabby Giffords shooting (perpetrated by a lunatic leftist) [h/t TheRightPlanet] to Todd Akin’s statements, where the entire Republican Party broke the sound barrier distancing themselves from his comments, to no avail from the Obama administration echo chamber in the media which pounced and portrayed every Republican as a religious zealot.

Judging by the social media comments of my liberal friends I notice that some of the same people claiming the moral high ground over the Akin episode also support Julian Assange, accused of rape in Sweden. Instead of rallying around his accusers in Sweden (both women) they cheer Assange’s flight from facing justice in the bastion of socialism often trumpeted by the Left as a moral example – except when it comes to rape then suddenly Sweden is Louisiana just with better looking rednecks I suppose. What about his accusers rights to justice? Where is the moral outrage for two women who may have been actually raped versus Akin’s statements in which no woman was harmed?

I have discussed cognitive dissonance, or the holding two opposite and conflicting opinions throughout this journal, but I’m still amazed when I see it at work among people whom I would consider otherwise intelligent. The malady is insidious, and we all must regularly question our own beliefs, especially our most deeply held, to prevent falling into its trap.

As Charles Krauthammer noted, “If you vote for Romney he will kill your mother with cancer, throw your dad out of work, prevent your sister from getting contraceptives and kick your son out of college.” There are plenty of reasons not to vote for the GOP candidate this year, but the War on Women shouldn’t be one of them.

Thirty Minutes with an American Patriot

It isn’t easy being an American these days. It seems that everybody either wants to kill us, rule over us or sell us something overpriced so that they can use that money to kill us or rule over us. On top of that we have a ruling progressive class that is naive about the world, alarmist about the environment, bigoted against religious people, intolerant of any opinion that disagrees with their own and deprecating of America and its values. After years of this I’ve found myself losing my faith in this country, my belief in a better future for my family, seeing only darkness in our nation’s future.

Today I listened to a man from India who has lived for 12 years in the United States tell me how wonderful America is. The conversation had begun when I told him that the Wife and I were musing about a trip to India, especially since the Kashmir is open again and she had fallen in love with the place on a visit there a long time ago. But as we talked he hijacked the conversation, telling me how different India was from the United States. For the next 30 minutes he spoke about things both real “To get my birth certificate in India I have to go to one office to get a form, then another office to get a stamp, then to another to get a signature – and I have to bribe each person to do their job. Here I can order a copy of my son’s birth certificate online for a few dollars,” – and what strikes me as idealistic, “In India if you pay a teacher a 1000 rupees, he will teach you a 1000 rupees worth of knowledge. If you pay him 10,000 he will teach you 10,000 rupees worth. Here in America my son’s teachers love to teach. They send progress reports home all the time for each student, I can’t believe it.”

Thirty minutes. I found myself humbled by this man who endures a painful separation from his parents and brothers in southern India, only visiting them every 2 years because the trip is terribly expensive for him to take his family back home, “But I want them to know their grandparents and their uncles, aunts and cousins – and still enjoy life in America.” He is an extremely intelligent man who knows more computer languages than I can name let alone program in, and though his accent is heavy, his words were light and uplifting.

His words reminded me why my Irish ancestors arrived on these shores half starved after the Potato Famine. His words showed me why my Bohemian great-grandparents paid their last ducat in emigration tax to the Austro-Hungarian empire 40 years later to journey to a land where central Europeans were viewed as simple peasants.

His words gave me hope that no matter how screwed up America gets, no matter how far we’ve traveled down the wrong path, there are men and women like him, born on foreign shores who come here ready to move us forward, and put us on the path we belong.

RIP Astronaut Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong was my kind of hero. Daring yet humble, a quite man who let his actions speak for themselves. After the limelight of making history, he never sought it again.

Upon his death I have nothing to say except to pass along the words of a 19 year old hero, a man whose words echo whenever the Angels’ Trumpets sound.

“High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air….

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space, – Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

The Democratic Party’s War on Children

Much talk is being made about the Republican War on Women. But there is a war on that people sense but don’t really talk much about. It’s a war with real casualties and suffering. It will devastate lives of the innocent and guilty without differentiating between the two. It is the war on children being waged by the Left that dominates the Democratic party.

The war starts before birth with the elevation of abortion to sacramenthood including gruesome battles such as the legalization of partial birth abortion and the killing of infants who survive (both laws supported by the High Priest in Chief, Barack Obama.) These battles are supported by Malthusian fears manifested in the religion of environmentalism that views bearing children as sinful, except for the high priests such as Al Gore and “Population Bomb” author Paul Ehrlich who are free to procreate as they see fit. In light of this view the Left has supported one-child policies and forced sterilization that has led to sex-selective abortion and infanticide of females in India and China. It’s ironic that the enlightened feminists of the Left who continue to support these policies do so to the benefit of the patriarchy and detriment of women in these countries, leading to the births of 120 boys for every 100 girls in China. The New York Times attributes the “imbalance almost entirely to couples’ decisions to abort female fetuses,” yet China’s One Child Policy continues to be lauded by scions of the Left such as Tom Friedman. Yes, for connoisseurs of Irony the Left provides an endless buffet.

The war wages after birth, as the interests of children are ignored by the Left’s disparagement of traditional marriage even though children fare better with two parents in a stable relationship rather than in single parent or divorced parent households. Since the 1960’s the Left’s clarion call has been freedom without attendant responsibility, and that has resulted in broken homes or in many cases, no homes. Children in single parent homes are poorer than those in mixed parent (divorced) homes who are then trumped by children living with their birth parents together under one roof. The traditional family has always been uncool to the American Left, and as a result children have suffered.

The Left’s stranglehold on education has damaged children for life. Public schools are geared more towards providing teachers and administrators work than they are towards teaching children. Teacher’s unions have fought reform efforts such as vouchers and charter schools every step of the way. Curricula across the country have been dumbed down in an effort to indoctrinate the next generation with Leftist ideology. Since every culture is equal, precious time is frittered away discussing the contributions of minorities while downplaying the role of “dead white men” in American history. The rigor of mathematics is ignored because boys do better at the subject than girls so neither is taught. Boys are taught the same way as girls even though boys need more physical activity and learn better while active than girls, who do well seated and in a calm environment. Leftist dogma refuses to recognize sex differences so instead boys are sent home with notes insisting that they be medicated to make them as placid as girls, with the added benefit that they thus become easier to control.

Children in-debt themselves to attend colleges and universities filled with non-teaching administrators and staff in environments that would make Stalin proud. Hate speech codes limit free expression thereby ill-preparing children for the day when they enter the world and are forced to deal with people who do not think like them and perhaps even hold opposite opinions. Codes of conduct control interaction between the sexes, protecting young women from the responsibility of their actions while burdening young men with the knowledge that a man can be accused of any crime on campus without the constitutionally guaranteed right to a fair trial. Courses are geared towards the interest of faculty or the short-term attention spans of students instead of providing the skills necessary for successful careers and intellectual achievement after college.

It’s not the matter of teaching college kids how to program in C#, it’s teaching them how to evaluate and argue a position, something the Greeks do well but being dead white men are politically incorrect to teach. So kids exit college knowing how to spout slogans without how to evaluate the ideas behind them or to argue their points because they lack the intellectual tools to dissect an idea or persuade. The result is an entire generation that believes winning a debate is forcing your opponent into not responding to your sound-bites, and as a result talk past each other incapable of understanding others as well as their own opinions.

Finally, the war on Children reaches its Waterloo with the mountain of debt. $1 trillion of student loan debt. $16 trillion in federal debt. $1.2 Trillion in state debt. $355 Billion in underfunded private pension debt. $673 Billion in underfunded federal pension debt. $2.2 trillion in underfunded public state and municipal pension debt.

Add up the numbers and assume that the US population size and age ratio don’t change (the former won’t, the latter will, requiring even more young people to send checks to doddering old farts who yell at them to get off their lawns) and I get $21.5 trillion to be paid for by 120 million workers. That’s roughly $180,000 waiting for each child to enter the workforce. Estimates for average lifetime earnings are around $1.6 million, so that $180k represents  11%, so we can expect that American children are going to have roughly a 10% lower standard of living thanks to these debts than their parents or grandparents.

This is real money that won’t disappear. It must be paid either through the current generation living within its means, working longer, accepting higher taxes, benefits cuts, reduced services and ultimately a lower standard of living. Somebody is going to be eating cat food, and maybe even a few cats, but $21.5 trillion will be paid by someone. It won’t be inflated away. The government can’t borrow that much to pay off that debt. Instead children, even those lucky enough to escape the “choice” of abortion, are expected to be enslaved to bear this burden. Vice President talks about Republican’s wanting to put black people in chains, ignoring his own personal responsibility as a congressman and senator for nearly 40 years during which time he helped drive the country into debt and its future children into economic slavery.

Well how about the rich? Isn’t it time they paid their “fair share?” In this case, fair share means everybody’s debt not just theirs, but let’s assume that we hold guns to their heads and give them a good mugging just like the Soviets did in the early 1920’s. We could use the most recent issue of Forbes’ Top 400 richest Americans as our economic hit list and confiscate the wealth of everyone on it, from Bill Gates (net worth: $59 billion), through Warren Buffet ($39 billion), who can finally lose his guilt for paying a lower tax rate than his secretary, George Judenrat Soros ($22 billion) who can perhaps finally atone for his war crimes, all the way down to Peter Lewes ($1.05 billion), the progressive chairman of Progressive insurance. Wiping all 400 out, leaving them with nothing except the promises of the Socialist State, medicare and social security, will net us a whopping $1.5 trillion – leaving us $20 trillion short. We would need 14 Bill Gates’s, Warren Buffets, Peter Lewes’s and 14 times the rest of the 400 list to pay for it all. Instead the Democrats intend our children and grandchildren to pay for it.

And that’s not even covering  Social Security. Remember that lockbox talked about 12 years ago? Well we never went to the store and bought one so Congress raided it. At a time when we should have been socking away surpluses to pay for the retirement of Baby Boomers, we blew the money on what? Blow and hookers? Beats me, but the money’s not there. Disability will be underfunded starting in 2016. Social Security itself won’t last for more than a decade beyond that and requires an investment of $200-300 billion per year to remain solvent – and relevant – for when today’s children need it.

Someday America’s children will grow up and understand what the Democrats have done to them, but by that time the only memory of Joe Biden will be a street named after him in Scranton and Obama will replace Jimmy Carter as the doddering old fool of the Left who the Democrats cart out at conventions to remind America how psychotic the party leadership has become after purging sane members like Dick Gephardt and Zoell Miller. I hope he lives long enough to see America’s children realize they have been the other side in a decades long civil war, and they fight back.

The Council Has Spoken: Aug 24, 2012

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Joshuapundit - Is Israel Preparing A Fall Strike Against Iran?

Noncouncil: Andrew McCarthy/NRO - Egypt’s Military and the Arab Spring

Full voting here.

The Council Has Spoken: Aug 17, 2012

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Bookworm Room - Other than all that, what has Paul Ryan ever done for us?

Noncouncil: SultanKnish - The Most Divisive Campaign in American History

Full voting here.

In Support of Pussy Riot

Eugene Volokh supports the trial and jailing of anti-Putin rockers Pussy Riot.

I generally don’t like sentencing enhancements based on an offender’s anti-religious motivation, or on the religious nature of the institution against which the crime occurred, but even American law does often impose such enhancements. And a sentencing enhancement based on the trespass occurring at an institution being used by many people for quiet contemplation — a religious institution, a cemetery, a museum (especially a museum memorializing some solemn event), and so on — strikes me as proper.

The instinct of the Conservative is to side with Authority, which differentiates the Conservative from the Libertarian whose instincts are opposite. As a libertarian at heart I completely disagree with Volokh. He is apparently ignorant of the relationship between the government and the Russian Orthodox Church perhaps because there is no equivalent here in the US. The best analogy I can come up with is imagine the Dept of Health and Human Services was a religion, and Kathleen Sebelius wore a funny hat and stunk of incense instead of liberal shame. Then imagine Green Day performing a song in an HHS office. Would they get prison time? Nope. They might get fines of some sort, but prison time? Fat chance.

As a commenter to the piece writes “And I would hope that in some future America in which, say, the Roman Catholic Church were intertwining itself with a corrupt government, someone would protest it, even in the churches. Heck, especially in the churches.” That’s what PR is up against in Russia, and it is why they make every western punk and rock band of the past 20 years look lame in comparison even though their music sounds like squirrels being thrown into a chipper shredder.

One of my friends noted it’s pretty pathetic seeing Vladimir Putin, a man who flaunts his masculinity in public, running scared from a trio of young girls prancing around in sneakers and colorful skirts. Evidently these pussies have Putin running scared.

Florida Docs Charged in OD Deaths

In general, if you are hauling around cash in garbage bags, chances are you’re doing something that is going to send you to jail.

From Medscape (free login required):

Prosecutors say the physicians prescribed a standard “cocktail” of controlled substances — specifically, oxycodone and alprazolam — on an assembly-line basis without obtaining prior medical records, ordering alternative treatments such as physical therapy, or referring anyone to specialists. The clinics also dispensed the prescribed pain pills and accepted only cash or credit cards as payment to avoid the scrutiny of third-party payers. The cash was hauled to the bank in garbage bags.

The docs earned more than $1 million a year but now face life in prison. 7 other doctors received prison sentences up to 17 years behind bars.

Rot in hell, boys and girls, rot in hell.

The Bleeding Heart of the Cynic

84 Days Before Election Day 2012

I dream of a candidate who is honest, who tells the American people the truth – that our government has failed us because we as a people have begun looking at it as a surrogate parent who fights our battles for us and most importantly, gives us things that make us happy. I want a leader to explain to us that nothing is free, that there aren’t enough wealthy people on the planet that we can rob to provide us with free healthcare, defined benefit pension plans for all of our government workers, and low taxes.

I dream of a candidate who tells the poor that their condition should be temporary, that there is hope for them. I want a candidate to explain that every middle class and wealthy family did not arrive to this country rich, and for most of our history lived in a poverty that is unimaginable to us today. Yet they worked hard, often as slaves, sharecroppers or indentured servants, saved their money, and taught their children the skills they needed in life to do better than their parents. It often took generations for people to leave poverty behind in this country, but they all did it the same way – through hard work, education, self-discipline and priorities. They didn’t cover themselves in expensive tattoos or have their nails done. They didn’t outsource the responsibility of parenting and teaching their children to teachers. They saved every penny and dime, they taught their children themselves to support their lessons at school. They worked hard to create a better life for themselves and their families. The government did not shower people with money, and those who often found themselves in sudden wealth through luck or circumstance often lost it soon after, and I dream of a candidate who has the guts to say that to the American people. The leader teaches the people that the safety net is their for them, but like any safety net hanging below an acrobat, it is meant to bounce people up to safety. It is there to support them temporarily, and is not meant for them to lay upon permanently.

I dream of a candidate who tells the rich that they aren’t special just because they are successful. While most wealth in this country was hard earned, it is not the government’s job to protect the wealthy or provide them tax breaks to make them even wealthier. All of the great families in this country including the neo-royalty of the Kennedy clan arrived here in filthy coffin ships or packed like sardines and half-starved from months-long voyages that cost them everything. They must be reminded that wealth is fleeting, and that someday the descendant of the Mexican gardener that trims their lawns might employ their grandson or granddaughter, and consequently everyone deserves respect regardless of the size of their bank accounts.

I dream of a candidate that gets the government out of business, that tells Wall Street that while the regulatory hand on their business may not be as heavy as some may insist, it is time for laissez faire to return to the markets. To that end I dream of a candidate who sets about breaking up banks that are “too big to fail” and separating the boring bits of banking from the “exciting” risk takers of the investment bankers and derivatives traders. The days of the government being the lender of last resort, or what normal people would recognize as a metaphorical analog of their parents to come bail their asses out of a mess they created, are over. Every American already has a set of parents, and that includes Wall Street bankers. They can clean up their own messes and shouldn’t expect the government to make them whole again.

I dream of a candidate that recognizes that the American health care system is slowly imploding, and is willing to do something about it. That “something” means working with all stakeholders regardless of political affiliation to begin to address the issues at the core of the failing system. People have no idea what a doctor’s visit or a procedure costs while they are in the office. They have no concept of the cost of the services they consume, perhaps the only example of this opaque pricing in our economy. Such a candidate will ask “Why is it possible for me to buy car insurance from a nationwide provider but not health insurance?” The candidate will ask the American people whether they love the post office so much that they are willing to turn their doctor’s office into one. At the same time this leader will ask the trial lawyers how they can sleep at night knowing they inflate medical costs through excessive payouts and defensive medicine. The candidate will promise them that sleepless nights await them once he or she takes office.

I dream of a candidate who tells the rest of the world that America’s success does not come at its expense, and that the truth is quite the opposite that America prospers when the rest of the world grows richer and more peaceful. To that end he or she will offer friendship to Russia and China, but back the offer up with a strong, professional military. This leader will teach these nations that it is possible for an American to be a Sinophile or a Russophile and a patriotic American, that to love one’s country does not displace any others from their heart. As for our terrorist foes, he or she will promise them that they can run, but they will only die tired. Their future  is short and ends at the tip of a hellfire missile or a SOCOM bullet. The candidate will reward America’s friends, present an open hand of friendship to the wary, and an iron fist drenched in blood to our enemies.

I dream of a candidate that tells the elderly that their future is safe and they’ve endured enough changes recently, but turns to those in middle age and asks whether we are prepared to sacrifice a few more years of working for a guaranteed retirement a quarter century from now. I dream of a candidate I can disagree with on issues great and small without fear that deep down he or she disdains the country that he or she rules. I want a leader who shows humility and gratitude to the American people for selecting him or her to rule them, and will do so to the best of his or her ability even if it means skipping a few rounds of golf.

Finally, I hope that someday America deserves such a candidate because I’m not sure it does now.

The Council Has Spoken: Aug 10, 2012

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Joshupundit - Tom Friedman Beclowns Himself On Israel – Again

Noncouncil: Victor Davis Hanson - California: The Road Warrior Is Here

Full voting here.

Walking with My Son

I was walking with the Kid beside me, and I glanced at how tall he has become. He is in the bloom of manhood, and although he is still a tad shorter than me and lacks my upper body strength, the day will come very soon when he will best me in both height and physical power. The thought led to an unusual feeling, one that I had never felt before.

I felt less alone and even protected somewhat, as if someone I trusted “had my back.”

It was a remarkable feeling and one that I’m still carrying tonight.

When I Met Salman Rushdie

The following is based on a true story. Although the dialog has been edited for readability it is based on the transcripts taken from surveillance cameras that captured the incident.

The Scene: I was doing laundry in the basement when I heard the dogs barking outside the window. I looked outside and saw that they had surrounded something in the woods. Judging by the ferocity of the barking I knew it was something big, and with bears in the area I ran upstairs, told the Kid, grabbed a spotlight and opened the gun safe to arm ourselves. I like bears, especially teddy bears but out here the only type of bears we have are the hungry ones that kill dogs and attack people. Armed with an assault rifle and a Russian-made semi-automatic shotgun the Kid and I went outside. I flashed the spotlight on the dogs, and found they had surrounded a well dressed man with spectacles. I instinctively leveled my weapon and bellowed in a theatrically booming voice that I save for scaring the crap out of children or startling inattentive adults, “FREEZE!”

Man (raises hands): “Excuse me sir, I need your help.”

Me: “Do. Not. Move.” I called the dogs off, which wasn’t easy. Their adrenaline was pumping as much as mine. I advanced on the man and motioned for the Kid to stay back in the shadows in case the man tried something, or was bait for a home invasion by a group of people. He is a much better shot than I am and would have no problem taking out the old man from a distance.

I advanced closer to the man, and lowered my weapon as I recognized him. The dogs had pulled back in a broad circle awaiting my hand signal but I waved them off.

Man: “My entourage has been,well they’ve come upon some difficulties. Could I borrow yours?”

Me: “My what?”

Man: “Your entourage.”

Me (motioning around with rifle):  “You’re looking at it.”

Man: “This is your entourage.”

Me: “Mr. Rushdie, let’s move over to the deck. We can call the police from there.”

Sir Salman Rushdie (eyes widening): “You know me?”

Me: “Of course I do. I recognize you from the U2 videos. I also read the Satanic Verses.”

SSR: “Did you like it?”

Me: “Honestly, I don’t recall it much. I was on a Milan Kundera kick around the same time, and I don’t remember much of his work either. Just lots of sex and Soviet tanks. But you didn’t deserve a fatwa for it. So what brings you out this way Mr. Rushdie?”

SSR: “I was on my way to speak when my entourage was attacked by men with guns. We tried to outrun them but in the process my entourage protecting me was killed and our car crashed nearby. They are all dead. They were a good entourage. But I’ll call for another. Maybe I can still make it to my engagement. Can I borrow your phone?”

Me: “Don’t you have a cell phone? I’ve noticed you tweet a lot.”

SSR (waving an iPhone):”Ahh this thing. It’s great for texting and tweeting but it’s terrible at making phone calls.”

The Kid (keeping distance between me and Rushdie as he has been trained): “You know this guy?”

Me: “Of him. He’s Salman Rushdie. SIR Salman Rushdie. A British Indian novelist most famous for writing a novel that many felt blasphemed Islam. Scores died protesting it. Several people associated with publishing it were murdered. Rushdie himself got a death threat from the Ayatollah Khomeini who died soon after, making it impossible for the threat to ever be revoked.”

The Kid: “Sucks to be you dude.”

SSR: “Since then I have lived in hiding. Protected by my entourage of armed bodyguards.”

The Kid: “Sounds expensive.”

SSR: “No, no, not at all. I don’t pay for it.”

The Kid: “Then who does?”

SSR: “My friends, my fans, my publisher. Well, now that you ask I’m not really sure. I’ve had them for so long you see. Who pays for yours?”

Me: “I do. I buy the guns, pay for the ammo, training, dog food and vet bills.” I told my son to put down his gun and call 9-1-1. “It’s going to take awhile for the police to come.”

SSR: “The police? I cannot rely upon the police. The police will be good at investigating my death, not preventing it. That is why I need my entourage. You have no armed men?”

Me: “Just the Kid and I and my dogs. What more do you need?”

SSR (a bit panicked):  “You don’t understand. These men who are after me are bad men. They have guns.”

Me: “So do I.  I have trained to use them, reading books on them and learning from some of the best marksmen around. I also have dogs trained by an ex-Mossad agent. Some of whom now eat only kosher dog food. You know how difficult it is to find kosher dog food out in these parts?”

SSR: “I can only imagine.”  His eyes dropped down to my rifle.

Me: “You want one? I’ve got more in the house.”

SSR: “More? But there are only two of you. How many of these instruments of death does one need?”

Me: “Ask a mechanic how many tools a man who fixes his car on weekends needs. Or ask a carpenter how many the average homeowner needs to be handy around the house. They are just tools, and like tools they differ depending on the task they were designed for.” I raised the gun. “Take this American made semi-automatic rifle. It carries about 25 rounds and is extremely accurate out to about 100 yards. Now the Kid’s gun, it’s a Russian made semi-auto shotgun. It’s job is to put up a curtain of lead between you and the bad guys. Each gun is different because each has a different purpose.”

SSR: “The only purpose a gun has is designed for is to kill. And to do so as efficiently as possible. I would sooner touch a gun than a rotten corpse.”

Me: “That is a very common perception about guns, and a very wrong one. Look into the darkness surrounding us. There are things out there that seek to do us harm. For you it’s Iranian and Hezbollah agents. Me it’s the occasional bear or drugged up local. You are here by accident, I am here by choice. This is my home, a place I have chosen to live out my days in peace. I mean no one harm, and have been known to throw firecrackers to startle the bears away rather than shoot them. Ironically the firecrackers are illegal while shooting at the bears is not, but that’s the government for you.”

SSR: “You admit you chose this place. You live far from the police by choice. Perhaps you wouldn’t need guns if you lived in the city.”

Me (sighing): “No wonder Ted Nugent cleaned your clock on Bill Maher. Are you listening to yourself? The Aurora shooting was done within blocks of a police station. The cops were their literally within seconds of the first shots. Yet a dozen died. I’d have to live in a police station to be afforded the protection of the police. There are whole countries designed that way. They’re called police states, and are generally not nice places to live. I’ve lived in cities. I’ve been robbed at gunpoint a few blocks away from a police station. A man was stabbed to death in the atrium of my apartment building and another, a teenager was beaten to death with baseball bats by a gang out for some “fag bashing.” I can’t argue that America is a more violent society than other nations. But how is banning guns going to change this?”

SSR: “By taking guns out of the equation. Say you’ve been drinking and your wife comes home. She smells funny and won’t look you in the eye when you talk to her. You think she’s been out with another man. What do you do? You grab a gun and shoot her.”

Me: “Okay, take the gun out of the equation. I grab a knife and stab her 20 times in her heart.”

SSR: “That is much more difficult than pulling a trigger.”

Me: “I’m not so sure. There is something visceral about plunging a knife into a beating heart. Something primal, the smell of the blood, the shock in the eyes before they dull, the feel of the last breath on one’s cheek.”

(Silence)  Me: “I’m a writer too, only a bad one.”

SSR: “So what about Aurora? How many people would the madman have killed with a kitchen knife?”

Me: “None. He wouldn’t have used one. He would have gotten hold of guns whether they were legal or not. You know this is moonshine country and moonshine is illegal. I’ve been sober for over a decade but I know where to get some if you are interested. It’s also meth country. I think that stuff is pure crystallized Evil yet people around here have no problems finding it. So why would guns be any different? Or perhaps I didn’t want to go through all that trouble to find an illegal gun. I could do what Timothy McVeigh did and build my own bomb.”

Me: “You have to understand Mr. Rushdie that I appreciate where you’re coming from. I used to be a strong advocate for gun control and didn’t touch a gun until I was middle aged. I think I’ve changed my views because I’m coming to understand that there is real danger in this world. I hesitate to use the word “evil” again but as you have proven there are people who will do anything to get their way in the world and have no respect for the rights of others. If you write something that offends them, they are justified to kill you. If you have something they want, they are justified in taking it. If you think differently from them, you are fair game for them.”

SSR: “A failed writer, you say. Why am I not surprised with a broken monologue like that?”

Me: “My apologies. The words have never come easily for me. Gun control will not stop the Auroras, the Columbines, the Fort Hoods. All it will do is change their means.”

SSR: “How so?”

Me: “It is difficult to attribute rational motives to irrational people. But in general guns are only a means to an end for these massacres. Without guns explosives would be used, or poison gas as used by Aum Shinri Kyo in the Tokyo subway attacks and prior incidents in the Japanese countryside. The reaction is the goal, the horror, the notoriety, the pain. All these things can be achieved quiet easily with public knowledge available on the Internet and basic chemistry skills.”

SSR: “So ban the knowledge as well as the guns.”

Me: “Just as your work was banned? Is such a thing even possible? Has anything ever been banned out of existence? I have advocated for years an end to the War on Drugs. Why? Because heroin is as cheap as it has ever been on the street. Meth too. These are powerful drugs that kill thousands of people every year in my country, yet decades of bans have not stopped their availability. Banning isn’t the solution.”

SSR: “Then what is?”

Me: “I don’t know. I don’t think there is one. I think there will always be madmen among us and the least we can do is learn to protect ourselves.”

SSR: “This is what your friend Ted Nugent suggested. The solution to America’s gun problem is even more guns.”

Me: “Exactly.”

SSR: “Now it is your turn to listen to yourself. What you are advocating would lead to a free for all with people shooting each other.”

Me: “That’s the same argument I’ve heard against drugs. ‘Legalization will result in everybody becoming addicted to heroin.’ It’s not true. It didn’t happen after alcohol was legalized and it won’t happen after drugs are legalized. As for guns, people who advocate for gun control don’t understand guns or the people who have them. They don’t even try. Instead they build up acres  full of straw men to attack with no basis in reality.”

SSR: “Isn’t that what you are doing with me? Assuming that you understand where I am coming from?

Me: “I know very little about you, Mr. Rushdie, but what I did know impressed me. Someone of your stature, your native intelligence should have instinctively known that the violence issue is much more complex than simply banning guns. Maybe you’ve gotten intellectually lazy, or maybe you have forgotten that there are still people actively plotting to kill you.”

SSR: Trust me sir, I am well aware of that.

Me: Are you really? You have – or rather had – private security protecting you. For roughly the past quarter century you have received special protection that only the wealthy can afford. I’ve traveled in what used to be called the “Third World” and saw societies where the wealthy surrounded themselves with gates and walls, expensive security systems and battalions of armed security forces. Everyone else had to live with underpaid and easily bribed police who more often than not caused the crime they were employed to prevent. In almost all of these societies private ownership of guns was banned, and the people were left defenseless against criminals and their own governments. All the people, that is, except for the wealthy.

SSR: So your solution is to provide them arms?

Me: Yes.

SSR: That’s insane.

Me: I hear that all the time from advocates of gun control but no one tells me why. If I’m a robber, who am I going to target: an unarmed man or an armed one?

SSR: If you have a gun it will most likely be used against you either through accident or suicide.

Me: A spuriously sourced statistic that avoids the question. If the Aurora shooter knew that he was going to enter a theater where he had at least a significant chance of facing resistance, of being shot at, would he have done it?

SSR: You would have to ask him.

Me: I don’t think I have to. Men like him always choose soft, easily attacked targets. Schools. Churches. Public spaces where they are unlikely to face any type of resistance. When is the last time you heard of a massacre at a gun show or at an NRA shooting competition, or any event where guns abound? Even the Ft. Hood shooter chose an area where he knew the soldiers were completely disarmed.

SSR: What you suggest requires skill, and most gun owners lack such skills.

Me: How do you know? How many gun owners – besides your security guards – do you hang with? I doubt Bono carries.

SSR: Of course not because the Irish have sensible laws.

Me: Which may explain why the country is still occupied. Or at least that’s what some believe. Me? I’m not a fan of any of the terror groups Republican or Unionist. They should get down to doing what the Irish are best at, drinking and leaving the country.

SSR: How sweet of you.

Me: And what about those men you hired, those that protect you?  Men like you have always relied upon others to protect you, yet you denigrate them at every turn. Those men who died protecting you. They have people who loved them. Each was someone’s  brother, someone’s son, someone’s father. Yet you used them as cannon fodder in your own personal war.

SSR: You make me out  to be a war-mongerer? I wrote a piece of fiction, one that has been misinterpreted by Muslims who haven’t even read the book. I didn’t declare war on anyone.

Me: No you didn’t, but your actions caused one. Wars start many ways, and many begin completely innocently or unintentionally. So you found yourself in war, and instead of doing what Pym Fortuyn or Theo Van Gogh did by taking their own fates into their own hands, you outsourced it to a “rough and ready” type – someone willing to touch guns, a man willing to make the corpses that you find so repugnant.  As Churchill once said, “We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” You are nothing more than a parasite who feeds upon the honor and sense of duty of greater men then yourself.

SSR: Look what happened to those men, Fortuyn and Van Gogh. They are dead.

Me: Yes they are, but they died on their own terms. They chose to protect themselves, but did so in a society where self-protection isn’t possible. Both should have come here, a nation that is perhaps unique in the world as recognizing that self-defense is a human right. Still, they died with their beliefs intact and without denigrating those of us who value our right to protect ourselves. Unlike you.

SSR: Are you saying I should have let Khomeini kill me?

Me: Absolutely not. You can employ all the security guards you want. But where you cross the line is when you forget that all of us do not live in a cocoon of  safety and make fools of us for bearing the burden of self-protection. You seek to disarm us and subjugate us to your own power and childish attitudes towards authority.

A dull roar gradually grew as a long convoy of cars arrived, their headlights cutting through the heavy hair. One by one I counted no less than 3 black Suburbans with the entire county sheriff’s department in tow. I quickly put my rifle inside the door, as the dogs greeted the line of vehicles passing my gardens and pulling onto my driveway. I called them off.

SSR: It appears my entourage has arrived.

Me: Yes it has.

SSR: Well mister…

Me: Ockham. Bill Ockham. You can call me Bill.

SSR: Thank you for the conversation and… protection during my time of need.

Me: Just because I disagree with you doesn’t mean that I want to see you dead.

SSR: I appreciate that.

Me:  Can you say the same about me? Shab be kheyr!

I spoke to the men briefly and soon found myself alone in the darkness, back in my own fog wrapped cocoon. What I find fascinating is the chaos of the event – any event where normality is thrown out the window. 9-11 is the best example of this. I remember the internet and phones being jammed, and rumors filling in the information void as the event unfolded in my office. I also remember watching my son play at the playground in northern Delaware and the sky’s silence because all air traffic was shut down. Usually there are at least a handful of planes in various states of takeoff and landing at Philly Int’l. For days there was nothing, and the silence hurt.

I don’t mean to imply that the two events are equivalent, just that we have a mental picture of the world and when that picture becomes scrambled it is extremely difficult to operate. I was scared but I couldn’t show it. I had a terrible hollow feeling in my gut that made my knees weak and want to shake, but I had to stay cool. I started by controlling my voice, moving slowly (I tend to speed up when I’m excited) and speaking clearly (I tend to fall into my midwestern twang). I also added a flavor of authority to it. I used to flip out before I had my kid, but since I’ve realized how important it is to keep your wits about you.

Normality seeps in and the everyday pattern reasserts itself. The events get categorized and compartmentalized over and over again until they are woven into the very fabric of normality. Then we go on, believing we have control and that tomorrow will be just as today was except with a few minor changes.

And then Salman Rushdie appears in your backyard, and normality evaporates leaving the natural order in its place. And that natural order is nothing of the sort. It is Chaos. Some refuse to believe that this Chaos exists, and when it appears they are stunned, incapable of reacting to it. Others are stunned at first, but quickly change, accept the situation, and try to adapt to it.

The Council Has Spoken: Aug 3, 2012

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Joshupundit - The Obama Media And The Unbelievably Negative Coverage Of Mitt Romney’s Trip

Noncouncil: Sultan Knish - Invaders from Outer Space

Full voting here.