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“Bump Stocks” Take a Dive

Every mass shooting incident is inevitably followed by a renewed push for stricter gun control laws, but so far none of them have brought about any significant policy changes. Sunday’s record-setting massacre in Las Vegas, though, seems likely to result in some sort of ban on something called a “bump stock.”
Despite the public’s natural instinct to do something to after a mass shooting, gun control advocates have been unable to come up with anything short of a total ban on private ownership that would have averted or mitigated the tragedy. A total  ban on private gun ownership would require two-thirds of the states ratifying a constitutional amendment to repeal the Second Amendment, which isn’t going to happen in any living American’s lifetime, followed by a nationwide confiscation program, and you don’t have to be paranoid about your gun-owning neighbors to foresee how that would wind up with a lot of guns being pried out of a lot of cold, dead fingers, so the proposals have mostly been limited to background checks and waiting periods and limits on the number of bullets in a magazine and bans on certain types of guns, along with other assorted tweaks. Background checks and waiting periods are already law, though, magazines can be so quickly replaced that limits are ineffective, and the deadliest firearms have been banned for decades.
Partly because gun control advocates are proud they know nothing about guns, and gun enthusiasts pride themselves on knowing everything about them, the Second Amendment has largely survived all the debates, even when the Democrats were in charge. The longstanding attempts to re-ban “assault weapons” have faltered when the gun enthusiasts rightly noted that it’s a meaningless term, sometimes used to describe rifles that are no more deadly than your pop’s hunting rifle but have certain scary-and-military looking features, and the gun control advocates seemed not understand the difference between the now-common semi-automatic weapons and the long-banned fully automatic ones.
“Bump stocks” blur that distinction in a deadly way, though, and both sides of the debate seem to understand that. It’s news to us, as well as to many far more enthusiastic gun owners than ourselves, but a “bump stock” is a gizmo that allows one to alter a perfectly legal semi-automatic rifle so that with one pull of the trigger it fires bullets as rapidly one of those long-banned fully automatic rifles. As of now the sale and purchase of these gizmos is legal, and although actually using one is a felony the fellow who killed 59 people and wounded more than 500 others in Las Vegas also decided to break that law. Such a deranged person would have broken any gun law you might have passed with any guns he could have gotten his hands on, of course, but it seems certain that he wouldn’t have killed and wounded quite so many people if a law had deterred someone from selling him those gizmos that he used on his armory of legally-acquired weapons.
The Democratic Party in general and its gun control advocates in particular sense a rare winning issue, and the Republican Party in general and its gun enthusiasts in particular don’t seem eager to fight this battle. The Speaker of the House has signaled his willingness to ban “bump stocks,” and even the National Rifle Association has agreed the Bureau of Alcohol and Tobacco and Firearms should tweak their interpretations of existing law to stop people from selling the gizmos. In the past they’ve taken a never-give-an-inch stance on any gun control regulation, with a plausible argument that it might wind up with a police state confiscating guns from cold, dead fingers, but the starting point on slippery slope has been a ban on fully automatic weapons ever since they were first banned in the 1930[s after the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and were more fully banned during the Reagan years, so they’re not giving much ground this time around.
Those sorts of gun enthusiasts who are preparing for a revolution against the better-armed “deep state” or the Zionist Occupying Government or a mass shooting on some public square will object that their Second Amendment rights are being violated, but we’d like to think that the vast majority of our gun-owning neighbors have no need for a “bump stock.” No one uses them for hunting, our more knowledgable gun-owning friends tell us that home defense is probably best handled with a semi-automatic hand gun with a full magazine, and for now we’re not ready to foment any armed revolution in the country. Let the gun-grabbers win this battle, as far as we’re concerned, and let a reasonably-interpreted Second Amendment win the war.

— Bud Norman

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On the Murders Sunday in Las Vegas, Lawrence, and Elsewhere in the United States of America

Three people were killed and two others were injured early Sunday morning when at least 20 gunshots were fired on a crowded downtown street in Lawrence, Kansas, but you probably didn’t hear about it. Later that same day a shooter in Las Vegas killed at least 59 people and injured another 500 or so, setting a new American record, so that understandably took up almost all of Monday’s news.
By now mass shootings are almost numbingly routine, and despite the outrage and heartbreak they always provoke most Americans would be hard pressed to recall any details of the last one or the one before that, but this time might prove more memorable. There’s the record-setting death toll, the apparent use of a fully automatic weapon, the much older than usual age of the shooter, and an especially frustrating lack of any plausible explanation.
There’s never an adequate explanation for these slaughters, of course, but usually there’s some detail or two in the initial stories that gives some clue what going on the deranged mind of the shooter. Sometimes they’re named Mohammad and shout “Alahu Akbar” and had posted Islamic screeds on their Facebook pages, other times they’re white guys with haircuts and Facebook postings that announce their racial grievances, the guy who shot up the a Washington, D.C., softball field and wounded a Republican congressman had a deep-seated hatred of Republicans, and the guy shot up a political rally in Arizona and wounded Democratic congresswoman apparently did so because she had failed to an incomprehensible question he’d asked at a town hall, and usually they turn out to be kind of crazy that family and friends and neighbors had long noticed but never knew quite what to do about it.
None of that amounts to an adequate explanation, but it’s something to cling to as we humans instinctively search for some reassuring reason when tragedy occurs.
This time around the Islamic State terror gang claimed the shooter was a recent convert who had heeded their call to jihad, but they always they do that whenever someone kills random people, and it’s quite unusual for recent converts to any religion to keep quiet about it and so far everyone who knew the shooter says he never expressed any religious opinions at all. The target of the shooting was an outdoor country music festival, so there was immediate internet speculation that the shooter was someone who wanted to killed a lot of Republicans, which quickly led to some irresponsible right-wing sites fingering an innocent fellow with a lot of pro-Democratic Facebook postings, but apparently this shooter never expressed any political opinions of any sort, and was said to be a country music fan himself. According to everyone the armies of reporters have rounded up to interview, the shooter was an undeniably odd duck but not in a way that made you think he’d spray automatic rounds at a crowd of random strangers.
According to the neighbors he mostly kept to himself in his comfortable gated over-50 community in rural Nevada, and was often away from home for long periods of time during high-stakes gambling binges in Las Vegas. He’d apparently done well as an accountant and made some savvy real estate investments, and without any children to worry about he could afford the indulgence and still lavish gifts on his mother, so neither the neighbors nor his family found it worrisome. His brother gave a lengthy interview to a cluster of news cameras and microphones that was clearly too distraught to be at all disingenuous, and he was clearly surprised to learn that shooter had acquired a veritable armory or deadly weapons.
The usual post-mass-shooting debates about gun control are already underway, but this time around they’re all the more complicated for both sides. Apparently all of those weapons had been acquired legally, with the shooter’s previously pristine legal record and lack of any noticed mental health problems carrying him through all the required background checks, and automatic weapons have long been illegal, it’s too late to charge the now-dead-by-self-inflicted-gunshot shooter with the apparent crime of altering his semi-automatic rifles to fully automatic, and it’s hard to think of anything that would have stopped this guy without imposing onerous restrictions of the rights of the vast majority of peaceable gun owners. Those peaceable gun owners have long made the reasonable argument that if there’s some crazy guy shooting up a crowd you don’t want him to be the only one there with a gun, but in this case he was shooting from 400 yards away where none of those of presumably gun-toting country music fans would have known where to shoot, and if any of them had drawn their weapons during the panic the police and security on hand would have been well within their rights to shoot them.
The same dreary arguments will continue, nonetheless, along with the ancillary debates about why so many Americans wind up getting shot to death every year. Across most of America the murder rate has happily declined over the past few decades, those mass shootings and the daily carnage in Chicago and a couple of other cities notwithstanding, but the numbers are still high by first-world standards and merit national concern. Those mass shootings are by now a longstanding problem, too, dating back at least to a sniper attack from the University of Texas’ landmark tower in Austin in 1966, and back in ’76 a guy started shooting from the balcony of what was then the tallest building in our hometown of Wichita, and there was a kid shot up his junior high school in a nearby suburb back in ’85, and when we think about we can recall the schoolyard in Connecticut and the homosexual nightclub in Orlando and far too many details of other mass shootings.
An autopsy showed that the Texas shooter had brain disease, that guy in Wichita had just been jilted by his girlfriend, the junior high kid in the nearby suburb had endured the usual junior high bullying, the Connecticut shooter was so clearly crazy his mom had been warning the cops about him, the homosexual nightclub was another one of those “Alahu Akbar” incidents, and when we think about we can recall some semblance of a reason for all those other mass shootings. According to the police in the normally placid university town of Lawrence those three victims who died there early Sunday morning weren’t random targets, and that the violence was the result of some beef between low-lifes who have always used guns to settle their differences, and we note that the incident followed a rap concert at the school’s arena, so we’ll make the same stereotypical assumptions that some people make about country music concerts, and hope it’s all enough to satisfy our all too human need for some reason that tragedies occur.
None of it amounts to an adequate explanation, though, and we hope that America in its extraordinary greatness will take time out from the usual political to ponder why it has such a persistent and extraordinary problem with Americans getting shot to death, and how it might be addressed without stripping the vast majority of cherished rights.

— Bud Norman

On “Tweeting” and Terrorism

The good people of Great Britain suffered another horrific terror attack by radical Muslims over the weekend, the third in as many months, and the best thing America could do about it was to offer our sympathy and full support and try to discern whatever lessons might be learned. For at least a respectful moment or two, it was probably best advised to avoid any disrespectful “tweets” about it.
President Donald Trump did “tweet” to the British people his sympathy and promise of our country’s full support, with his apparent sincerity emphasized by many capital letters, but that came in the midst of a “Twitter” storm that wound up needlessly antagonizing many of them. He made some good points, too, but he didn’t make the complicated arguments very well in his allotted 140 characters. All in all, it was another argument for someone in the “deep state” to revoke the presidential “Twitter” account.
Which is a shame, because for all his faults Trump does seem to be one of the rare world leaders who somehow grasps some of the more obvious lessons to be learned from Britain’s heartbreaking situation. All of the recent attacks were clearly motivated by an Islamic ideology that has been a persistent if not always dominant force in the Muslim world for the past 1500 years so, and would not have occurred if Britain hadn’t unwisely decided to start allowing mass immigration from the Muslim world some 60 years ago, and there’s no compelling reason that America should repeat the mistake. Britain has also clearly erred by not insisting that its Muslim citizens and residents adhere to established western values and find some peaceable and productive role among it, and say what you will about Trump at least he also doesn’t fall for that multi-cultural and morally-relativist blather. Had Trump merely “tweeted” his sympathy and support, and otherwise stayed out of the way while the rest of the world absorbed the obvious lessons, he might have won a rare news cycle.
Instead, Trump “tweeted” some invitations to losing arguments. He renewed a long-standing “Twitter” feud with the Mayor of London, a fellow with the telling name of Sadiq Kahn, charging that “At 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!” London’s Mayor is usually one of those multi-cultural and morally-relativist blatherers, as far as we’re concerned, but in this case he’d called all the local constabulary’s literal big guns in response to the situation, and that was what he was actually telling his fellow Londoners to not be alarmed about. Most Londoners, if not most Americans, scored that a win for the multi-cultural and morally-relativist weenie. Trump hasn’t yet gotten around to getting an ambassador to the United Kingdom confirmed in the Republican-controlled congress, so even the Obama-holdover acting ambassador wound up siding with the Mayor, which is probably just as well for Anglo-American relations.
Trump’s reasonable resistance to mass Muslim immigration included an arguably unreasonable campaign promise to ban any Muslim whatsoever from entering the country, which for the coming months has his arguably reasonable restriction on travel from six certain countries all tied up in court, so of course he “tweeted” about that. None of the perpetrators of any of the recent British terror attacks would have been affected by Trump’s proposed travel restrictions, of course, and have no no bearing on the legal merits of the case, and Trump probably should have let his lawyers make the arguments.
Trump also injected the domestic gun rights debate into the issue, noting that the attacks were carried out with cars and knives, but we wish he hadn’t. We’re staunch advocates of gun rights, and in the context of our domestic politics we well understand the argument that killers won’t be deterred by the lack of handgun, and that their potential victims should be free to defend themselves by any means, but Trump simply handed the gun-grabbers the argument that the terrorists wouldn’t have been more lethal if they had access to the weapons that Britain’s extraordinarily restrictive laws seem to effectively ban. A well-armed citizenry might have limited the carnage of firearm-bearing terrorists, but an efficient police and a stiff-upper-lip citizenry that retaliated against the knife-weilding terrorists with nearby beer bottles also limited the carnage, so it’s an inopportune time to bring all that up.
There’s a British parliamentary election coming up that will also choose a new Prime Minister and cabinet, but we’re pleased Trump seems to have somehow not weighed directly in that. From our prospective from across the pond and another half-continent away, we’re rooting for the Tory incumbent Prime Minister Theresa May, who seems to have absorbed all the obvious lessons, and we expect that despite their awkward relationship Trump has the same preference. Trump is not very popular in Great Britain, though, and probably less so after his latest “tweet” storm, so we expect she appreciates the silence.
Trump’s supporters should hope for some more of it, too.

— Bud Norman

A Laugh-in at the Sit-In

A full 170 Democratic members of Congress staged a “sit-in” on the floor of the on the House of Representatives recently, and Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan’s forceful response included turning off the C-SPAN and pool coverage cameras that were witnessing the spectacle. We think he passed up a propaganda coup by doing so, as those Democrats looked damned silly sitting there on that carpeted floor in their fancy suits.
Some Democrats of a certain age might have found it rather nostalgic, and the Cable News Network’s report on the incident included a helpful link to a photo montage of all those well-remembered “sit-ins” that occurred back in the long civil rights and anti-Vietnam war protest days, but those scruffier young Democrats who “occupied” all sorts of more uncomfortable places during the short-lived and happily-forgotten “Occupy Wall Street” movement of a few years ago were probably unimpressed, and we suspect that the vast majority of the rest of the country also thought it all looked damned silly. Those well-clad and comfortably air-conditioned protestors claimed to “fight the powers that be,” borrowing a hackneyed hip-hop slogan coined by the Maoist “gangsta rappers” called Public Enemy, but such well-clad and comfortably air-conditioned members of Congress are by any definition among the powers that be, and as Democrats they are arguably among the most powerful of the powers that be, and their cause certainly had nothing to do with civil rights or any sort of anti-war sentiment.
The whole hubbub started after yet another sexually-conflicted Islamist nutcase shot up an Orlando, Florida, nightclub catering to homosexuals on its “Latin Night,” killing enough people to earn the current American record for a mass shooting, and the Democrats instinctively blamed it on the gun-loving and xenophobic and homophobic and otherwise phobic Christian mainstream of America society. There were the usual Democratic calls for draconian gun control measures, this time with an emphasis on denying gun sales to anyone on the federal government’s “no-fly list,” and when the congressional Republicans offered to do just that so long as those people who somehow found themselves on the “no-fly list” were entitled some sort of due process the Democrats voted down that radical idea and instead decided to sit and pout on the House floor until they got their way. They no doubt hoped this would somehow simultaneously enhance both their peacenik and tough-on-terror stances, but to anyone paying close attention they come off as a bunch well-clad and comfortably air-conditioned powers that be demanding more power yet.
The late and great Franz Kafka once wrote a dystopian novella titled “The Trial” that described some poor schmuck finding himself under the thumb of a totalitarian state for reasons that are never to explained to him, and the resulting phrase “Kafka-esque” aptly describes that “no-fly list.” If your neighbor has done something to irk you can easily retaliate by screwing up his next vacation with a an anonymous phone call to any number of federal agencies and reporting that there’s something fishy about him, and if those sit-in Democrats get their way he’ll have absolutely nothing to about and it won’t be able to buy a gun to protect himself from whatever other mischief you have in mind. There should certainly be some legal consideration of any allegations made against someone that would reasonably preclude their flying on an airline or owning a gun, so the proposed Republican compromise that some due process should be involved isn’t so unreasonable as to justify a “sit-in” on that carpeted and air-conditioned House floor.
Among the most prominent of the Democratic powers-that-be who was “sitting-in” on the House floor was Georgia Rep. John Conyers, who was also in on several of those well-remembered “sit-ins” of the of good old days and still enjoys a reputation as a hero of the civil rights movement, yet also once found himself on the “no-fly list,” along with the late Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy and some Republican but otherwise non-threatening reporters, and maybe even you, if you’ve somehow inadvertently done something to irk a neighbor. Thus the former civil rights hero was sitting on a carpeted and air-conditioned floor demanding that his civil rights be revoked, ostensibly to prevent an Islamist terror threat he will not name and prefers to implicitly blame on Republicans and the rest of mainstream Christian America.
Meanwhile the impeccably anti-establishment presumptive Republican presidential nominee is so admirably resolute against Islamist terrorism and so worrisomely indifferent to due process that he’s promising to talk his new-found friends at the National Rifle Association out of their more  hard-line stance on the question, and should he be elected and become in charge of the Kafka-esque “no-fly list” we expect all those sitting-in Democrats will suddenly rediscover their past enthusiasm for due process and other essential civil liberties. In the meantime, they just looked damned silly.

— Bud Norman

The Democrats’ Surreality Show

The Kansas City Chiefs’ playoff loss to the New England Patriots on Saturday ended our scant interest in the National Football League, and the Wichita State University Wheatshockers’ blow-out win over Indiana State University’s Sycamores satisfied our ongoing taste for college basketball by Sunday afternoon, so with nothing else to do on a cold winter night we sat down to watch the latest episode of the Democratic presidential race. Although it doesn’t get the ratings of the Republicans’ mini-series, for some reason, it’s an entertaining reality show in its own right.
Better to describe it as an alternate reality show, or perhaps as a surreality show. The tale takes place in an America where President Barack Obama is the much beloved leader of the land, his proudly eponymous Obamacare is universally regarded as a smashing success but there’s still some discussion of a more outright socialist system, the only problems with the economy are caused by a handful of top hat-wearing and moustache-twirling billionaires and Wall Street bankers who can be easily guillotined and whose vast plunder can be spread in all sorts of socially just ways, the past seven years of foreign policy have been so successful that terrorism and national security don’t merit much discussion, and a D- from the National Rifle Association is considered a scandalously good grade. The main characters are former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who plays the wicked witch with role with a gusto not seen since Margaret Hamilton was flying over Oz, and self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who plays the lovably cranky and kooky old coot next door so well he’s suddenly become the main character. There’s also former Baltimore Mayor and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, but not that you’d notice.
Tuesday’s night episode was set in South Carolina, which is an important plot detail. If you’ve been following the story through all it’s twists and turns you know that the lovably cranky and kooky old coot has lately been threatening to beat the wicked witch in both the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, which would seriously complicate the long foreshadowed storyline about the wicked witch’s eventual coronation, and therefore a win in the next-up state of South Carolina is all-important to her chances. There’s always a subtle racial undertone to these Democratic storylines, and those who are hip to the nuances will note that Iowa and New Hampshire are mostly comprised of white people, who seem to especially love the lovably cranky and kooky old coot, and that South Carolina is largely comprised of black people, with its Democratic primary mostly comprised of them, and that the wicked witch is assumed to be more popular with black people. The backstory for this peculiar preference is that the wicked witch once worked for the much beloved Obama, who even in reality is still much beloved by the black people of the land as the First Black President, and her husband was once the much beloved leader of the land, and was especially beloved by the black people of the land as the first First Black President, for reasons that no one can any longer recall, so they’re willing to give her a pass on wicked witchiness, and they’re no so crazy about even the most lovably cranky and kooky old coots from states comprised almost entirely of white people.
The wicked witch wasn’t taking any chances, however, and took every opportunity to ingratiate herself to the black people of her audience by associating herself with the beloved Obama. She even took umbrage that lovably cranky and kooky old coot had once dare speak ill of the First Black President, and was downright indignant that he should be so arrogant as to think he could improve on such a perfect creation as Obamacare. She also ventured from her theme to note that any attempt to do so would re-open a debate about health care, and suggested that even in the fantasy world of Democrat-land no one should want to get into all that again, which we thought a nicely subtle allusion to the reality exists just outside the show’s fourth wall. When they finally got around to talking about that terrorism and national security stuff the wicked witch heaped more praise on Obama, almost daring the lovably cranky and kooky old coot to find any fault with the past seven years of foreign policy, but he was of course able to blame it all on the hated George W. Bush, whose evil reign still lingers after seven as a bitter memory in Democrat-land. There was some talk about how many more black people go to prison than white people, a disparity which all the characters found upsetting, although we’re not sure if they intend to remedy this by letting more black people out of prison or sending more white people, especially billionaires and Wall Street bankers, into prison, and our guess is the wicked witch’s pandering on the issue probably prevailed. She also chided the lovably cranky and kooky old cot about that embarrassing D- he got from the NRA, when no self-respecting citizen of Democrat-land would ever settle for any less than a solid F, although we guess that was intended mostly for the white people of the audience.
The lovably cranky and kooky old coot got his digs in, though. It turns out the wicked witch has given speeches to and accepted large amounts of filthy lucre from many of those villainous billionaires and Wall Street bankers, and the lovably cranky and kooky old coot was just cranky enough make an issue of it. The wicked witch shot back that he had also been so sacrilegious as to criticize the much-beloved First Black President over the same sorts of arrangements, and assured the audience she would continue to wield same might sword that her beloved leader has already used to slay billionaires and Wall Street bankers with such successful “regulatory-schemes” as the Dodd-Frank law. As we say, it’s an alternate reality show, and you have to suspend disbelief to embrace its own internal logic, which we admit we haven’t fully grasped yet. The wicked witch was shrewd to use the magical Obama shield, but the loveably cranky and kooky old coot has a good point that she’s wealthy trading favors with the billionaires and Wall Street bankers who so desperately need guillotining to bring about social justice, and by now the audience is probably thinking that of the two only he is pure of heart enough to pull the lever and let the blade come down.
There was even a brief, tantalizing moment of sex scandal that couldn’t have helped the wicked witch. Probably because he realized his network’s broadcast was being routed in the ratings by whatever post-game football shows or “ultimate fighting” cage matches or other manly and somewhat realistic sporting programs were airing elsewhere on your television dial, one of the moderators strayed from the respectful script and asked about the lovably cranky and kooky old coot’s recent statement about the fact that the wicked witch’s beloved former leader and First Black President husband is a serial philanderer and predatory perv. This part of the backstory had gone unmentioned in the previous debate-format episodes, and indeed had gone largely unmentioned in the tales of Democrat-land all along, but lately the wicked witch has been trying to pander to the women people of the realm by vowing to slay all the serial philanderers and predatory pervs who still persist in the land, probably because of those billionaires and Wall Street bankers, so it can’t help sinking into the current plot. The lovably cranky and kooky old coot confessed that he had expressed a negative opinion about the wicked witch’s husband’s past behavior, but only because he had been asked, and felt obliged to respond frankly, but didn’t want to make an issue of it, what with him being more concerned about those billionaires and Wall Street bankers and social justice and all that jazz. He didn’t have make it an issue of it, of course, and we’re sure he’ll be pleased if anyone else wants to mention the matter, as we do, but he’s probably smart to act so lovably gallant about it even if it doesn’t help the ratings. Neither did he mention an ongoing investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation into possible felonies committed by the wicked witch, having already said he’s damned sick and tired of hearing about potentially felonious e-mails, but the question keeps coming up in the show the wicked witch is clearly displeased to have answer and it’s a potential ratings-boosting  plot twist somewhere along the line. At one point the wicked witch said that no bank should be “too big to fail” and somehow also blurted out “and no individual should be to jail,” which got an audible gasp from the audience and had us laughing loudly.
That O’Malley guy dropped in from time to time during the episode, but not that you’d notice. He’s a bit out of touch with the surreality of the showing, and even sounds downright sensible at times, too boring even for a show that won’t even exploit its obvious sex scandal angle, and his major accomplishment in office lowering crime rates in Baltimore and Maryland is somehow offensive to the black people of Democrat-Land, so we don’t see him getting much more air time.
Another off-screen villain that figured in the episode was billionaire real estate mogul and reality show star Donald Trump, formerly of “The Apprentice” but now starring on the Republicans’ presidential race, last seen tying a virginal young lass with adorable ringlets to a railroad track, whom all the characters seem eager to face in next season’s general election race show. Such a storyline would go further into surreality than the combined imaginations of Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali fortified by two tabs apiece of Owsley acid could ever reach, but given the sorry state of over-the-air network broadcasting these days that might well be what we wind up with. For those of us who prefer a more realistic and high-toned sort of drama, and especially one with a happy ending, the prospects for this show are not at all heartening.

— Bud Norman

Guns and Tears and Shady Statistics

One hardly knows where to begin grousing about that awful speech President Barack Obama gave about guns Tuesday. There was the usual annoyingly self-referential style, the same old calls for respectful argument and the same old slurs against those disagree with him, typically distorted statistics, yet more executive actions that override duly passed and signed laws, the predictable bad policies billed as “common sense,” the obligatory assurances that he believes in the Second Amendment and the rest of all that constitutional stuff, and he even threw in a couple of tears to make it seems as he cares.
Perhaps the most galling thing about the speech was that Obama chose to give it in the first place. He had a chance to persuade the public to persuade their legislators to pass his favored gun control laws when his fanatically loyal party controlled both chambers of Congress, and then again when the major media were crusading for more gun regulations after the mass shooting at a Connecticut school, and at this point we suspect that most Americans would prefer to hear what their president is doing about the inflamed Middle East or the sputtering economy or the rapidly accumulating national debt or almost anything other than some pointless gun control rules that only the most rule-abiding gun owners will abide.
We say “rules” rather than “laws” because there are already laws that quite specifically define who is a gun dealer and thus has to conduct background checks and obey other existing laws, and Obama’s executive action extends that definition to anyone who wants to sell his brother-in-law an old handgun. The extra-constitutional power grab is all the more offensive because it is unlikely to prevent any criminal or mentally ill person from acquiring a gun, and is more likely to prevent a law-abiding citizen from acquiring a weapon needed for self-defense. By now such rule by presidential fiat is taken for granted, and even some Republicans seem eager to wield such newfound imperial powers, but one can hope that some outrage about it still persists.
How insulting, too, that Obama would shed few a tears over the deaths that his policies won’t prevent. About two-thirds of those 30,000 gun deaths that Obama lamented are suicides, so as long as there are poisons and razor blades and tall buildings and gas ovens and rope and other means of self-inflicted death no amount of gun control will stop those, and we can’t recall when Obama has never spoken about the largely white and middle aged suicide problem. Another phony-baloney statistic that Obama offered was about Connecticut’s 40 percent decrease in gun deaths since it passed laws similar to what he has proposed, which is true enough but best understood in context of the unmentioned fact that the national homicide rate has declined 50 percent in that time while gun ownership has increased as substantially. He also mentioned an increase in Missouri’s homicide rate after loosening its gun laws, but neglected to say anything about the spike in the St. Louis area’s murders since the “Black Lives Matter” movement sent the police there into retreat. Nor did he mention the interesting statistic that his own Justice Department has had 38 percent fewer convictions on existing duly passed and signed gun laws than the gun-crazy Bush administration, and of course he once again didn’t say anything about alarming rate of murders in Chicago, the community he once organized and is now under the imperial control of his former chief of staff.
Don’t worry about slippery slope toward even more draconian gun restrictions, though, because Obama once again went through the “ritual” — his own term — of assuring the American people that he was a former adjunct professor of constitutional law and is sure enough committed to the Second Amendment. He didn’t say “If you like you guns, you can keep your guns,” but it had the same suspicious ring to it. It’s enough to make one cry, even if you’re not the lachrymose type like former House Speaker John Boehner, who was laughed at by the same people who were choked up by Obama’s tears, but we react more in anger than in sorrow.

— Bud Norman

Peace, Love, Tolerance, and the Hard Facts of Life

The more we learn about Wednesday’s horrific massacre in San Bernardino, the worse it looks for the peace and love and tolerance side of each of the acrimonious debates that always follow these sorts of tragedies.
While much of the peace and love and tolerance side of the divide spent most of Wednesday hoping that it would turn out to be another rare case of white Christian males motivated by a homicidal hatred of the Planned Parenthood clinic that was reportedly a mere 1.3 miles away, it turned out to be a man and a woman of Middle Eastern descent who considered themselves devout Muslims. All the Republican presidential candidates spent the day awaiting more facts and offering thoughts and prayers for the victims in and their families in the meantime, which was widely ridiculed by the more secular sorts who thought it more appropriate to being paying homage to all the gun control catechisms rather than any of that God-bothering stuff, and The New York Daily News went so far as to headline it’s tabloid cover with “God Isn’t Fixing This,” but even in this post-religious age we expect that those Republicans candidates got the better of that exchange.
The male half of the murderous duo was an employee of the San Bernardino County Health Department that was targeted, leading to faint hopes that it was just another one of rare cases of “workplace violence” that happen in a country where gun rights are allowed, much like that Army psychiatrist of Middle Eastern descent who was shouting “Allahu Akbar” as he shot down thirteen men at women at the Fort Hood Army Base, but the multiple reports of a massive arsenal and thousands of rounds of ammunition and numerous bombs and radio-controlled delivery systems found in his house, along with the apparent planning involved in the massacre and his previous travels in the Middle East and his electronic contacts with the more radical elements there all suggest this wasn’t a spontaneous reaction to some office spat. By the end of the second day even President Barack Obama was speculating about “mixed motives” for the shooting, and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was glumly conceding that the shootings were an act of terrorism, although she still wouldn’t say of what sort. All of the Democratic presidential candidates and seemingly the rest of the party have steadfastly eschewed any reference to radical Islamic terrorism, which leaves them on the ridiculous side of all the resulting exchanges about a variety of related.
The assurances of the administration and its party that the there is no such thing as radical terrorism, that the pesky terrorist groups and lone wolf and lone couple-of-wolves terrorists who insist otherwise are simply mistaken, that the Islamic State that has recently inflicted an even deadlier toll on Paris and Ankara and Beirut is merely a “jayvee teams” that is “on the run” and “contained” and being “degraded” while on the way to be shortly “destroyed,” and that a conference about “climate change” is the most powerful rebuke to such nothing-to-do-with-Islam annoyances, all suddenly seem less credible. Those old saws about terrorism being a result of rampant anti-Islam sentiment and lack of opportunities afforded to Muslims in the west aren’t holding up well, either, given that the male murderer was gainfully employed by his local government and living in comfortable home in a well-regarded community that was amply stocked with weapons and ammunition and pipe-bombs and radio-controlled delivery systems, even if he wasn’t the son of a billionaire, like Osama bin Laden, and he seems to have no trouble importing his murderous wife from the Middle East, and even in supposedly Islamophobic America the neighbors who were slightly suspicious of conspicuous radicalization were reluctant to say anything for fear of being accused of Islamophobia.
Neither do the facts of this case help those who are arguing that peace and love and tolerance requires allowing many thousands of refugees from the war-torn Middle East in the country. We’re assured that the refugees are mostly children and elderly widows, and although most of them are actually fit young men of fighting we’re assured that their backgrounds will be thoroughly checked, but a murderous male and the murder wife whose immigration was routinely allowed suggest the government might so efficient about such things as it claims to be, and once again we expect they’ll get the worse of the exchange.
The peace and love and tolerance side of the debate still seems hopeful that the incident will help them persuade the country to disarm its lawful and patriotic citizens, but we expect that the more pragmatic portion of America will be clinging to its guns all the more bitterly in the aftermath of this event. None of the “common sense” solutions put forth so far would have prevented the murders in San Bernardino, or any of the all-too-frequent mass shootings that truly did not have nothing to do with Islam, and all of them would make it harder for the average American to defend himself when they do inevitably occur. Even if the San Bernardino murders had been the long-anticipated yet never-realized act of crazed Tea Partiers, we think the peace and love and tolerance side of the debate would still have fared badly.
Still, we hope there’s some practicable measure of peace, love, and tolerance in the solutions that are pursued, no matter how debased those noble values have been rendered by their high-minded advocates. The righteous outrage of the French people to the similarly motivated but even more deadly attacks on Paris have vaulted the unsavory Le Pen party to the top of the polls, similar events in other European countries have benefitted similarly unsavory parties, everywhere in the west where the established and respectable parties have adopted a policy of unfettered immigration and self-debasing multi-cultularism a potentially dangerous backlash is brewing, and there’s no reason to believe it couldn’t happen here. The Democratic Party seems committed to pretending there is no such thing as radical Islamic terrorism and that even if there is the only solution is to disarm the American people, so it therefore falls on the Republican Party to formulate a more sensible response that is honest and frank but not inflammatory or authoritarian. We’re cautiously hopeful that might prove true, and quite convinced that the peace and love and tolerance side of the debate is currently getting the worst of it.

— Bud Norman

Spinning Another Mass Shooting

As we write this there is still no explanation for why three heavily-armed people entered a southern California social services agency on Wednesday and killed 14 people and seriously wounded ten others, but the predictable cocksure speculations started as soon as the afternoon’s carnage first interrupted the regularly scheduled programming. By now it’s an all too familiar ritual of these all too frequent mass shootings for both sides of the political divide to skip past the mournful prayers for the victims and their families, or even a respectful moment of silence by the more secular sorts, and immediately proceed with the more important matter of spinning the dreadful facts for the debates that inevitably follow.
The horrible events in San Bernardino follow shortly after a mass shooting in Colorado Springs, which turned out to be a white male who chose to commit his murders at a Planned Parenthood clinic, which the leftward side of the political divide found useful for tarring white males in general and Planned Parenthood’s more principled critics in particular, but despite the hopefulness of countless “tweeters” and cable news contributors this will require a different narrative. Our policy is to not mention the names of killers, but suffice to say that the only suspect thus far identified by the authorities has a name most Americans would by now immediately recognize as Middle Eastern, and the suspicions that raises for even the most tolerant and nonjudgmental and up-to-date Americans has been been confirmed by interviews with the suspects’ family and friends who describe him as a Muslim who had become conspicuously more devout in recent years, all of which is not so useful to the leftward side of political divide. Any connection to the Tea Party or the Koch brothers or evangelical Christianity seems unlikely, so the big story over the next couple of days will be about not painting with too broad a brush or drawing any conclusions or resorting to rank demagoguery. There were guns involved, though, which  the president and others were quick to note, so of course that debate will continue as usual.
Someone with the same Middle Eastern name as the suspect was employed by the same San Bernardino city government department that was having a Christmas party at the social services agency, and it seems likely although yet unconfirmed that they are the same person, so there will be the ready explanation that it was just another case of “workplace violence” that occasionally occurs with white male postal workers and Army psychiatrists with Middle Eastern names, but it’s going to be a tough sale. There were two other people involved, making this the first mass shooting with multiple killers since two high school losers teamed up for the Columbine massacre, and one was reportedly a woman, another odd twist to the incident, and it’s highly unlikely that all three were motivated by the same animus against the San Bernardino County Health Department. The shootings also follow shortly after coordinated attacks on Paris, not so long after the murder of a satirical magazine staff in that same city, and also in the wake of attacks by armed gunmen in Mumbai and numerous cities around the world, as well as that Army psychiatrist with the Middle Eastern name shouting “Allahu Akbar” during his “workplace violence” in another memorable mass shooting, and the leftward side of the political divide will be hard-pressed to convince the rest of the country that it has nothing to do with Islam.
A shrewd friend of ours suggests it might be a case of what he calls “workplace jihad,” where the killers take out their generalized religious rage on a particular personalized target, which strikes us as the most probable explanation for the facts as they are tentatively understood, but that is also mere speculation, and we are ashamed to admit that it serves our political purposes. The debates about various kinds of guns and what to call to them and what to do about them, and about radical Islamic terrorism and what to call it and what to do about it, and about white males and men with Middle Eastern names and almost every other ongoing debate that will be tied to this tragedy all matter, though, so we will reluctantly take sides.
Those 14 dead and 10 wounded also matter, though, and so do their families and friends and all their traumatized neighbors, and so do the relatives of the killers who are revulsed by the tragedy but might be judged guilty by association, and so does everyone trying to get all along in a world that was already so dangerously complicated, so if you’re not inclined to mournful prayers we urge at least a respectful moment of silence.

— Bud Norman

The Cultural Contradictions of Liberalism

There was another mass shooting in another “gun free zone” last week, so of course there is the usual clamoring for more restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms. This time around the President of the United States has gone so far as to praise the gun laws of Australia and Great Britain, where the right to keep and bear arms has essentially been revoked altogether, and we were once again reminded of the strangely contradictory logic of modern liberalism.
The smart fellows over at Powerlineblog.com smartly observed that the same president who sneers it would be absurd to even contemplate rounding up and deporting an estimated 11 million or so illegal immigrants is now suggesting the country emulate laws that would involve rounding up and confiscating an estimated 350 million presently legal firearms. We are told by open borders advocates that rounding up and deporting so many illegal aliens would require not only a police state but a society of snitches and would foment open rebellion, and we take their argument seriously even as we insist on some level of enforcement of the immigration laws, yet they offer only a condescending chuckle in rebuttal to the argument that rounding up a far greater number of weapons from law-abiding citizens long accustomed to exercising their constitutional and God-given rights to self-defense might raise similar concerns. We’ve known enough gun-owners during our long life on the plains to understand that all that talk about prying guns out of cold, dead hands isn’t just bumper sticker braggadocio, and in the circles we run in we’ve also met enough anti-gun zealots to know they’d happily cooperate with whatever police state was required to satisfy their bien pensant souls, and on the whole we think it would be a far messier project than enforcing a border, but somehow the more liberal eye sees it otherwise.
Similar contradictions occur elsewhere in the immigration debate. We’re always struck that the same people who decry the incurable racism and xenophobia of American society are the ones assuring us that the introduction of tens of millions of foreigners into a rotten-to-the-core country, at an unprecedented rate that currently exceeds the number of jobs being created by a debt-laden economy, will prove no problem at all. Although we don’t share the same low regard for our fellow countrymen, most of whom seem to be enjoying all the excellent authentic Mexican and Asian restaurants that are suddenly flourishing in our town, and otherwise getting along with everyone reasonably well, we do understand human nature well enough to worry about how two separate cultures might co-exist within the same space. In our extensive reading of history we haven’t encountered any previous occasions when this occurred, but we’re aware that modern liberals tend to get their history from other books.
The immigration debate has lately been enlivened about what to do with the mass of reggaes fleeing the outbreaks of war in the Middle East, where the president is boasting about the peace he has wrought, and the same people who decry the incurable sexism and homophobia of American society are insisting that our allegedly Judeo-Christian culture can bring in tens of thousands of people from cultures that don’t allow women to feel sunlight on their faces and toss and homosexuals off tall buildings without any ensuing cultural conflicts. This is also with precedent, of course, and will strike anyone other than a doctrinaire liberal as unlikely.
All the rest of that blather about about the racist and sexist and homophobic nature and the moral equivalence of societies that condone slavery and forced genital mutilation of women and toss homosexuals off tall buildings seems rather contradictory, too. We can think of other examples of the mutually exclusive arguments offered by modern liberalism, but the hour is growing is late and at this point we’ll be satisfied if the latest gun-grabbing proposals are easily repelled as the more modest proposals that were put forth after the last mass shooting. The latest mass-shooting was by a mixed-race nutcase with an apparent animus toward Christians, so there’s little chance we’ll be having one of those “national conversations” about anything else.

— Bud Norman

Murder, Live on Television, and Its Complications

The murders of Alison Parker and Adam Ward on Wednesday morning were broadcast on live television and posted on the internet by the murderer, which of course makes them impossible to ignore. Otherwise the media happily ignore it.
Both of the victims were white and heterosexual, their murderer was black and homosexual, and except for the inevitable arguments about the need for new gun laws there’s nothing about the case that advances the preferred media narrative. The heartbreaking tales of the victims’ promising lives make the Democratic Party’s sudden embarrassment to state that all lives matter seem callous, the murderer’s firing from the television news organization he attacked now seems well justified no matter or his race or sexual orientation, and his declared intention to start a race war with the shootings of his former colleagues doesn’t suggest that the post-racial era promised by the current president has come about. Except for the fact that there was a gun involved, nothing about these brutal murders is of much use to the press.
The more conservative portions of the press will properly note that the preferred narrative of the media is sympathetic to the grievances of blacks and homosexuals and especially black homosexuals, and that this might have led some obviously crazed black homosexual who kept getting local television news jobs despite his obvious mental and emotional deficiencies to commit such a horrible crime, but we will resist this temptation. We don’t like it when people who take a principled stand against late-term abortions are implicated in the murder of a doctor who performs late-term abortions, or when a rather insignificant political figure is blamed for a bizarre shooting of another obscure political figure because of a rifle-sight figure on a political blog, and for all our contempt for the Only Black Lives Matter movement we’re not going to blame them for some random lunatic’s amoral actions. We can’t say they helped, but we can’t say they’re to blame.
All we can say is that we’ll pray for the victims and their families and loved ones, and that the government doesn’t do anything crazy to undermine the right of self-defense as a result, and that the next news cycle somehow brings better news.

— Bud Norman