At Least It Doesn’t Mean Literal War

The Democrats’ drive to impeach President Donald Trump seems to gain momentum with every busy 24-hour news cycle.
Subpoenas have been issued to to Trump’s Secretary of State and personal lawyer and various other administration officials, press reports indicate that Australia as well as Ukraine and perhaps other countries were asked for information implicating Trump’s political foes, and the latest polls show the public increasingly approves of impeachment.
Meanwhile, Trump is “tweeting” at a furious pace, demanding that House intelligence committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff be arrested for treason and warning that the president’s removal from office would “cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.”
There’s no telling how it all turns out, but we’ll venture a guess that it doesn’t end with anything like a civil war. Trump has some very die-hard supporters, and they tend to talk tough and own a lot of guns, but they’re unlikely to rise up against the constitutional order to keep Trump in office. Many of them are too old for that sort of nonsense, for one thing, many more have families and jobs and bass boats they won’t to put at risk, and very few of them are so loyal as take up arms against the government.
In the highly unlikely event that 67 Senators vote to convict Trump on what are very likely be several articles of impeachment passed by the House, it will be because of some pretty damned overwhelming proof of high crimes and misdemeanors. At that point a civil war would be another lost cause, and even the southerners don’t have any appetite for another one of those.
Which is not to say things won’t get nasty. With charges of treason flying from both sides the argument is already quite heated, and both sides have enough crazies that some street brawls and gunshots can’t be ruled out. We hope not, but these days it seems all too possible..

If Trump is impeached by the House but not convicted by the Senate he’ll surely gloat about it, and there will be some very sore losers, but in less than 14 months there will be a very hard-fought election to settle the matter. The public can take into account all the information that the Democrats and the courts and the media come up with, and even if it’s not enough to convince a Republican Senator it might well prove more persuasive to the voting public. If the news goes on as it has lately and the trend in the opinion polls continues Trump will be removed from office by constitutional means in the long run, and absent some pretty damned overwhelming proof it was all the work of a “deep state” conspiracy even Trump will have to accept the outcome.
He won’t like it, and will probably make some dangerous noises on the way out, but he won’t get a second civil war to keep him in office. Even if we do, the nation did eventually heal the wounds of the first one.

— Bud Norman

Self-Interested Heroes and Bureaucratic Screw-Ups

There was yet another American mass shooting on Sunday, this time at a Waffle House restaurant in Nashville where a green-jacketed but otherwise naked man randomly fired shots from a semiautomatic rifle at the staff and customers. Four people were killed and two others were critically injured, but it could have been worse. This mass shooting featured a bona fide hero who limited the carnage, and the flaw in the system that allowed it to happen in the first place was quickly identified and might yet be corrected.
One of the customers was 29-year-old James Shaw Jr., who had passed up a more a crowded Waffle House to get a late-night meal with an old friend after a night of revelry. He instinctively dove for cover at the sound of the first shot fired. but when the shots briefly ceased for what he figured was either a gun jam or reloading some higher instinct caused the unarmed Shaw to leap at the gunman and wrestled the weapon from his hands. The gunman fled as soon as Shaw tossed the weapon behind the restaurant’s counter, with Shaw choosing not to give chase, and although a suspect has been identified he’s still on loose, but there’s no telling how many lives Shaw saved.
As is usually the case with bona fide heroes, Shaw insisted he wasn’t one. Although he was clearly relieved that lives had been spared by his action, he told bluntly told reporters that “I want everybody to know that I did that completely out of a selfish act. I was completely doing it just to save myself. I’m not a hero. I’m just a regular person, and I think anybody could have done what I did if they are pushed into that kind of cage. You have to either react of you’re going to fold, and I chose to react because I didn’t see any other way of living, and that’s all I wanted to do. I just wanted to live.”
Shaw further explained that “I kind of made up my mind, because there was no way to lock that door, that if it was going to come down to it, he was going to have to work to kill me.” Although he disavowed any heroic intent, he did describe himself as a college-educated AT&T employee and proud father of a four-year-old daughter, and said he considered himself “a pretty cool guy to be around.” He said he had no military or police training, other than his fights to get his daughter to bed on time, and attributed his actions to human nature.
Shaw’s disarming modesty — no pun intended — only enhances his heroism, as far as we’re concerned. The surviving Waffle House patrons have all expressed their heartfelt gratitude, including that longtime friend that Shaw freely admits he checked on only after the naked and unarmed gunman had run into into nearby woods, and the poor fellow will surely be overwhelmed today by the media’s interview requests and the nation’s admiration.
At least he won’t be made a political cause celebre, though, as he doesn’t fit the profile. The right’s argument about a good guy with a gun being the solution to a bad guy with a gun doesn’t apply here, as Shaw didn’t have a gun, yet Shaw’s admittedly self-interested heroism doesn’t fit well with the left’s arguments about anything. President Donald Trump recently boasted that even if unarmed he would have rushed into that mass shooting at a Florida high school that has reignited the gun debate, but it would be awkward for him to share a photo-op with a black man who’s obviously a pretty cool guy to be around and has more modestly demonstrated actual unarmed heroics, and if the left the tries to exploit that we expect this Shaw fellow will continue to insist he was just trying to his save his own black skin and try to get on with the rest of the life he so he richly deserves.
The suspected gunman has been identified as the same nutcase who had been arrested for an attempt last year to climb the White House gates in an attempt to meet with Trump to discuss something or other. The early news reports don’t make clear how those charges turned out, except that they did result in the confiscation of all the suspect’s guns and the revocation of his Illinois firearms license. Somehow or other the guns were eventually returned to the suspect’s father, who apparently returned them to his unlicensed son, and if not for a self-interested hero’s unlikely appearance it would have gone far worse. Another recent mass shooter had convictions for domestic abuse in military that would have prohibited him from owning a weapon if they had been reported to the civilian courts’ registers, and the kid who shot up that high school in Florida had promised to do so on Facebook and pretty much everyone who knew him didn’t doubt he’d actually do it, and that’s an all-too-common occurrence in these mass shootings.
We’re still steadfast defenders of the natural and constitutional right to keep and bear arms, but by now it’s clear that a few of our fellow citizens should be denied that right, just as a few of our fellow citizens are routinely and rightly denied other rights, and by now we’re getting better at identifying them, and we might yet start act accordingly and according to sensible laws.
In the meantime, we doff our caps to the self-interested but undeniably heroic Shaw, and wish the best for him and his four-year-old daughter.

— 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

Ahmed’s Clock and Its Ominous Ticking

Those sharp-eyed news aggregators over at the invaluable Instapundit.com web site routinely run stories about public school students victimized by paranoid educators and their ridiculous zero-tolerance policies, but so far the only one that’s been invited to White House is a 14-year-old from Texas named Ahmed Mohamad. Why he should be singled out for such a honor is unclear, but we have our suspicions.
Ahmed’s case is rather typical, after all, except that he was subject to arrest rather than just the suspensions and expulsions and public shaming that other victims of overzealousness have endured. Apparently the lad, an aspiring engineer, was showing off some sort of Rube Goldberg-esque electronic clock that he had been tinkering with, the clock was encased in a brief case and brimming with wires and looked enough like a bomb to a panicked English teacher that the police were called to the scene. The suspicions of the police were further aroused by Ahmed’s “passive aggressive” answers to their questions and his refusal to “offer any explanation about what it was,” and the student thus wound up in police custody on the class A misdemeanor charge of possession of a fake bomb before his release. One can imagine any number of reasons for Ahmed’s recalcitrance, some exculpatory and some damning, but given the facts as they were eventually established it does seem just another one of those numerous cases of students being victimized by paranoid educators and their ridiculous zero-tolerance policies.
It’s hardly the most outrageous case, though. For that title we’d recommend the case of the 7-year-old boy who was suspended from his Baltimore-area elementary school for chewing his toaster pastry into the shape of a gun, or perhaps the fifth-grade student in Milford, Massachusetts, who was kicked out of school because he made his hand into the shape of gun and cocked his thumb and said “bang,” or the high schooler who was arrested for wearing a t-shirt advertising the National Rifle Association. There are similar stories about first-graders being labeled as sexual harassers and subjected to police interrogation because of a pat on a classmate’s buttocks, 6-year-olds being suspended for kissing a girl’s hand, and other outsized responses to what once was considered normal childhood behavior. None of these students declined to explain their behavior, which in any case did not involve anything that could have possibly posed a threat to the safety of their schools, yet none rated an invitation to the White House for their travails.
Which is not all surprising. The current occupant of the White House is unlikely to make any gesture that could be interpreted as chastising the educational establishment’s gun phobias or its aversion to ordinary boyish behavior or its eagerness to censor the Second Amendment. With its Justice Department and Department of Education and the rest of the Democratic Party insisting on a guilty until proved innocent standard for any student accused of sexual impropriety on America’s college campuses, where a supposed “culture of rape” is the result of the left’s 50-year-old sexual revolution, the White House is even less likely to protest a crackdown on butt-patting and hand-kissing on the nation’s elementary school playgrounds. When the victim has a name such as Ahmed Mohamad, however, there’s an irresistible opportunity to blame it on that long-awaited anti-Muslim backlash rather than paranoid educators and their ridiculous zero-tolerance policies.
Ahmed’s name and Muslim faith might well have had something to do with that English teacher’s suspicions, as the student’s father angrily claims, as we can’t claim the White House’s ability to look into the heart of an English teacher in a Texas high school, but at this point we assume that every American public school employee has been properly taught to be exceedingly non-judgmental about Islam and downright paranoid about everything else, and the White House can’t wait around forever for that anti-Muslim backlash to materialize. There is indeed religious intolerance afoot in the land, but better to have a photo-op with some nerdy-looking would-be engineer as a photo op than any of the Jews who are victims of hate crimes at five times the rate of Muslims, or those nuns who are forced to purchase contraceptive coverage to subsidize the sex lives of those colleges girls at the mercy of the “culture of rape” that the sexual revolution wrought, or some protestant bakers who have been fined and forced into re-education camp for declining to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, or certainly some southern Christian white boy wearing an NRA t-shirt.
Better to send the loud and clear message that henceforth any nerdy-looking people with Arabic names and Muslim faith bringing brief cases full of funny-looking and unexplained wires into public building must be presumed innocent, even if paranoia is the appropriate response to nuns and dangerously-chewed toaster pastries and loaded fingers and schoolyard crushes and everything else. We expect that White House security will continue to take a more suspicious approach to their job, based on its recent paranoid reaction to an unattended coffee cup, and we suppose that is a good thing.

— Bud Norman

Another Year “Tweets” By

We rarely “tweet,” partly because it sounds so newfangled and sissified, partly because we can’t compress even a quick cussing into so few characters, but there’s no denying that Twitter is now the national soap box. Whatever people are “tweeting” about is what people are talking about, no matter what topics the big-time editors and producers might prefer, and we try to pay some heed to the vox populi.
With the year winding desultorily down and all the pundits writing about their looks back with regret, we were especially intrigued by a chart showing what topics “trended” on Twitter over the past months. The chart suggests that the public’s news judgment is no more astute than those of the big-time editors and producers, and that passing fancies can be become national obsessions before they pass, and that our own priorities are as usual markedly different from the average American’s.
One of the first noticeable spikes on the chart came after President Barack Obama’s annual State of the Union, which we had forgotten completely. We’re sure we wrote something or another about it, probably something snarky, but otherwise have no recollection of the event taking place. If anyone can recall a single line of the speech, they’re unlikely to be “tweeting” it now. There’s a conspicuously smaller spike following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but we suppose that doesn’t fit into “tweet” size as neatly as a State of the Union speech. A far bigger spike followed the release of a wiretapped audio recording of a professional basketball team owner’s racist rant to his young mixed-race mistress, and given that he was an already disliked old man and the mistress was young and kind of hot there’s an understandable interest in such eavesdropping, but we had also forgotten about that matter. Another biggie was the Supreme’s Court Hobby Lobby decision more or less upholding religious freedom over Obamacare, a matter we followed closely, but we recall that many of the “tweets” were lamenting that some mean old church-goers weren’t being forced to pay for abortifacients.
Then “MH 17” pops up, and we had to go to a search engine to find out that meant the Malaysian airliner which went mysteriously missing back when the weather was better, which was an intriguing puzzler but never came to any satisfactory conclusion and was suddenly cancelled like one of those endlessly plot-twisting network series. The shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri, produced the highest total of “tweets” all year, most of them decrying such outrageous abuses. Some pro football player beating up his girlfriend provided another spike, then an even surge came after the mid-term elections installed Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress for reasons having little to do with anything people were “tweeting” about. After some “tweeting” about the Ebola Virus, which we haven’t acquired yet and had largely forgotten about, the biggest spike came when a grand jury declined to indict that Ferguson police officer, apparently because of the overwhelming physical evidence and eyewitness testimony that he had acted in self-defense, and then there was “tweeting” about Sony’s computer getting hacked and it’s widely-planned comedy release being blackmailed.
Much of “tweeting” public is admirably apolitical, and prefers to express pithy opinions about personal matters, so we were further interested to see what topics had produced the most “tweets” from liberal and conservative “activists.” We’re not sure how these people were identified, but it’s a plausible comparison. Apparently conservatives were most concerned with guns, Iraq, Obamacare, Benghazi, Israel, the Ferguson matter and another black man’s fatal encounter with police, then immigration and the mid-terms. This seems to comport with our conversations with conservatives, although the order would be re-arranged. We’re told that liberals were most concerned with the Ferguson matter, the mid-terms, Obamacare, Iraq, guns, the Koch Brothers, Israel, Russia and Ukraine, then marijuana. Our encounters with liberals suggest they have little interest in foreign countries so long as American corporations are not profiting there, but the rest of it, especially about the Koch Brothers and marijuana, sounds about right.
International crises and cops and robbers and the resulting racial contretemps and the occasional scandal from the sports world will no doubt keep Twitter twittering through the next year, along with the Koch Brothers and marijuana and State of the Union addresses and all the other perennial topics, but we’ll try to form our own judgments of what’s important. We can’t do any worse than the general public or those big-time editors and producers.

— Bud Norman

People who advocate the right to bear arms are often described as “gun nuts,” and in a few cases we know of the description is probably apt, but there’s a far more rampant nuttiness among the anti-gun contingent.
There has been a slew of news stories lately, for instance, about teachers and school administrators punishing students for possessing perfectly harmless items that vaguely resemble guns. In one case a 6-year-old was suspended for extending his index finger and cocking his thumb as if it were a trigger, and in another a student was suspended for eating his toaster pastry into the shape of a gun. Such instances have become common enough that a Maryland legislator felt the need to introduce a bill that would prohibit similar acts of zealousness by anti-gun educators.
Although we have no strong affinity for firearms, neither can we understand anti-gun nuts’ squeamishness about the things. Playing cops-and-robbers with a hand folded in the form of a gun should surely be the constitutional right of every 6-year-old, and we have seen pastries eaten into far more disturbing shapes than that of a mere pistol. There’s a certain nuttiness about attributing an inherent evil to a firearm, which can just as easily be used for harmless recreation or self-protection as for murder or mayhem, but making the same attribution to anything even resembling a gun takes it another step further.
One can readily imagine the high-minded reasons those educators would offer for their heavy-handed methods, and they no doubt envision a better world that is free of guns and violence and even friendly competition. They’re not preparing the children for the world they’ll actually live in, though, as an instinct for self-preservation will almost certainly be required there. The lessons in governmental bullying might come in handy, at least.

— Bud Norman

How the Right Was Framed

Reality always asserts itself in the end, but it is the nature of people to prefer an appealing fiction in the meantime. Exploiting this well known human failing is called “framing the issues” or “messaging” in political parlance, and lately the left has been doing even more than the usual amount of framing and messaging.
Consider the curious case of the debt ceiling. Any discussion of the debt ceiling should begin with an understanding that term refers to the amount of money the government has limited itself to borrowing, and that raising it therefore allows the government to add to its $16 trillion debt. There should also be a general agreement that if the government continues to borrow another trillion or every nine months or so the debt will eventually reach a point where reality asserts itself with a ruthless vengeance, but apparently the fiction that such profligacy can go on forever is too appealing to resist. The president can therefore tell the nation’s press that raising the debt ceiling is simply a matter of “paying America’s bills,” which he implies were racked up by spendthrift Republicans over his penny-pinching objections, and the assembled reporters do not break into howls of derisive laughter. He can even go on to assert that failing to go an undisclosed number of trillions further into debt would be the height of fiscal irresponsibility, and do so not only with a straight face but a rather stern and indignant one.
There is no basis in legal or economic reality for the assertion that failing to raise the debt ceiling will inevitably result in America defaulting on its obligations, but it is unavoidably true that getting by without further borrowing will require deep and painful budget cuts, massive tax hikes reaching far into the pockets of the middle class, or a politically toxic combination of the two. Something untrue is obviously preferable to that sobering conclusion, so the president can safely assume that much of public will be easily persuaded that it would be imprudent not to rack up at least another couple trillion of debt.
Similarly nonsensical messages have been sent on the much-discussed matter of guns. Some of the assertions can be charitably described as debatable, but others have been flatly false. The current president’s claims about the number of unregulated gun sales is provably false, and former president Bill Clinton’s whopper about the incidence of mass killings is so conspicuously at odds with reality that even the Washington Post’s fact-checkers were compelled to say so. Such falsehoods are easily forgiven, though, because they serve a soothing argument that the government can protect all of its people from the tragedies that have always afflicted humankind. Anyone who publicly doubts this tale, and insists that the government allow individuals the means to defend themselves, is just as easily portrayed as a child-hating gun nut.
Conservatives are constantly in search of messages that will frame these sorts of issues in ways that will win the support of the average American, but they are at a natural disadvantage. Numerous pundits have offered suggestions about how the Republicans should talk about the debt ceiling, but anything other than blunt truth abut the hard choices facing the country would betray conservative principles. A friend of ours has shrewdly suggested that the Republicans speak of guns as a feminist issue, standing foursquare for a woman’s right to shoot a would-be rapist not only as a pro-gun rationale but also an effective rebuttal of the party’s sexist image, but even that compelling argument is unlikely to be effective against the less troublesome option of letting the government take care of things.
The fantastical nature of the left’s well-framed messages will sooner or later be revealed, of course, but that will only lead to more framing and more messaging. It will be explained that the country went broke because those parsimonious Republicans didn’t allow the president to borrow even more, that the next murderous outburst by an undetected lunatic occurred only because only because law-abiding gun owners hadn’t been denied of their rights, and that government still isn’t sufficiently empowered. Some people will feel obliged to state things more frankly, but they shouldn’t expect it to do much good.

— Bud Norman

All That Gun Talk

We just can’t shake a nagging suspicion that we’re being played for suckers every time we address the latest gun control frenzy.
There are plenty of other important issues to consider, after all. The economy is currently lousy, it’s likely to get worse after the upcoming “debt ceiling” debate is inevitably resolved by committing the country to yet another trillion or two of debt, and the taking of six American hostages by the supposedly routed al-Qaida terror group is just the latest reminder that the international situation continues to deteriorate. We also remain cautiously hopeful that all of the recent noise will ultimately amount to little. The most onerous of the proposed gun restrictions will likely face stiff resistance in Congress, including a key few Democratic senators facing re-election campaigns in rural states where many of the voters still bitterly cling to God, guns, and their God-given gun rights, and the numerous measures that President Obama has imposed by imperial edict are mostly such innocuous fluff as directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to “lead a national discussion” about guns.
No one can seriously believe that the nation suffers a dire shortage of discussion about guns, or that the HHS Secretary has any gift to lead it to any fruitful conclusion, but for obvious reasons Obama would prefer that we continue to discuss guns rather than any of those other important issues. He’s touting some dubious poll numbers which indicate that he’s taking only popular stands on guns, he nonetheless gets to pose as a politically courageous crusader against the all-powerful gun nut lobby, most of the media are cheering him on in the most hysterical fashion, he’s got cute kids lined up for the photo op, it’s all going to cost only a trifling few billion dollars, and at a time when the American public is reportedly demanding that he do something he is indisputably doing something. All that other stuff is so much messier for the president, too, and requires doing something that is an actual solution.
Still, attention must be paid to the gun issue or there’s no telling what the government might get away with. Included in the president’s orders and his proposals to Congress are not only serious assaults on the fundamental right to self-defense but also a potentially dangerous erosion of other liberties.
Although Obama’s directives don’t go so far as New York’s recently enacted gun law, which requires all mental health professionals to report any patient that might conceivably become violent, he does make it clear that the federal government would be quite grateful for such information. Given that Obama seems intent on giving the federal government a monopsony on all health care professionals’ services such gratitude could well prove an irresistible inducement. Those who regard psychiatry as an essential medical science should be concerned that such an arrangement will discourage the mentally ill from seeking treatment, and perhaps even rehearse all those clichés from the abortion debate about the government coming between patients and their doctors. Those of us who take a more skeptical view of the whole mental health boondoggle are entitled to worry that all manner of mental health professionals will start reporting even the patients most unlikely to become just to inoculate themselves against liability just in case they are wrong.
There’s something unsettling, too, about Ocala’s directive that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigate “the relationship between video games, media images and violence.” That’s another topic that has already been discussed ad nauseum, but when the government starts to take such an official interest it could easily to lead censorship. The Hollywood lobby seems to have better standing with the president than the gun owner lobby, so we don’t expect any restrictions on the big budget blood-soaked cinema that our supposedly conscience-stricken nation seems to love, but it’s not hard to see how more humble fare could be affected. If that strikes you as paranoid we suggest you consult Nakoula Nakoula, the poverty row producer who was sent to prison on a parole violation after his low-budget video was panned by the administration as “vile and disgusting.”
The price of liberty is eternal vigilance, alas, and it looks as if it will be required on several fronts in the coming months and years.

— Bud Norman

Unlucky Number

One year always leads to another, and we shudder to think where a year such as 2012 might lead.
Journalistic tradition dictates that an end-of-the year column either look back at the past 12 months or prognosticate about the upcoming dozen, and at this particular point in history neither task is appealing. The past year saw the United States go yet another trillion dollars and more into debt, with slow economic growth and fewer gainfully employed workers to show for it, the citizenry’s increased dependence on a government that is increasingly bossy about every aspect of life, various scandals from the cover-up of a botched gun-running operation to the “sloppy” foreign policy that resulted in the death of an ambassador and three other brave Americans in Libya and a body blow to free speech rights here, the ascendance of a belligerent and supremacist Islamism in key countries of the Middle East with American support, and an ever stupider popular culture. By far the biggest story of the year was an electoral majority of the country’s decision to vote for more of the same — lest those evil Republicans kill off Big Bird, continue their dastardly if entirely fictional war on women’s private parts, and generally harsh everyone’s buzz — so it’s hard to envision a reversal of this bad fortune.
All indications are that America will begin the new year by barreling over the “fiscal cliff,” that dire-sounding name given the across-the-board tax hikes and arbitrary spending cuts that almost everyone agrees will lead to a recession. Some sort of patchwork agreement remains a possibility, but although it will surely be hailed as further proof of Obama’s transcendent genius it will still involve job-killing taxes that won’t raise sufficient revenue to make a dent in the deficits. Indeed, the deficits are likely to swell when more workers sign up for the never-ending unemployment benefits and a slew of new entitlement programs are deemed necessary to deal with economic downturn. This might even be the year that America’s looming debt crisis finally arrives, and even if the country’s economy continues to crawl along the prospects for the rest of the world remain unpromising. The prospect of a Secretary of State John Kerry and a Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel certainly do not bode well.
None of this is any reason, of course, not to celebrate heartily tonight as the clock turns over to a brand new year. Nor is it any reason not to make the most of the next 365 days, whatever they might bring, and perhaps even prosper and be happy. Keep clinging bitterly to God and your guns, at least for so long as both are still legal, and give this whole 2013 idea a good shot.

— Bud Norman