Monday, February 19, 2018

Gun Control Redux

I and some friends have had an ongoing - over several years - discussion about guns and gun control.

At one point I even bought a gun to see how I felt about owning one. I didn't feel any increase in godlike power nor did I feel like the world was now my oyster. I didn't feel safer for me or my family nor did I feel any increase in hostility for my fellow man.

I should say that I'm a fair shot with a bow - I can consistently hit a man-sized bale of hay at a distance of 100 yards. I own a couple of knives and I know how to use them. So absent a team of dedicated assassins, I am fairly confident about surviving for the next few years or so.

I have also had a very fast car: E39 M5, supercharged. So I've gotten that out of my system and I have every expectation of continued longevity (my Dad just turned 94 and seems to be in good health).

That all being said, the discussion has continued.

At first it was a bit hot and heavy, then I came to understand that it wasn't a condition that was amenable to discussion or persuasion. Gun owners acted like members of a cult. No amount of logic or reason would ever sway their opinions. Well, I said to myself: "So be it."

The other part of this is... [painful truth ahead, you won't like it but...] there are some 350 million people in this country and some 370 million guns. This means two awful things:

1) You'll never get the guns away from people, there are simply too many of them.

2) It doesn't really matter anyway because: statistically speaking gun deaths are insignificant - too small to matter on the great scales of history.

I know it seems horrible to think that but the numbers don't lie. Gun deaths, whether by cop or suicide or massacre just don't raise a blip compared to how many people there are in this country.

They don't matter.

So why am I raising the matter yet again?

I had another exchange with my group - and I should say that these guys are very open to discussion and are willing to talk and explain and even consider change (sometimes).

I got a statement from one of them and gave him my response: 

K:
You miss the point about gun control.
Sure other there are other countries with much stricter gun control, but they are not committing mass murder like our government did in Iraq, Waco, etc., and they were always somewhat draconian to start with
The US is committing mass murder, torture, and lots of other war crimes.
The US is the most dangerous country in the world right now, and it is attempting to stifle any and all resistance.
So gun control in the US is a far bigger issue than anywhere else in the world.
And yes it is worth killing and dying over I think.
Me:
Ah, but you miss the point. What has been shown time and time again is just how easy it is to commit mass murder with guns... even a child can do it. No one is worried about a G..... or a K... (my friends) going out and mowing down swathes of immigrants or children.
We are all a bit worried about so-called hunters getting plastered during hunting season and shooting anything or anyone who makes the underbrush twitch.
We're a little more worried about some dipshit teenager who doesn't have a clue to how his brain works and only has to decide whether to go to Syria and join ISIS or stay here and be a 'lone wolf' and mow down some defenseless teenagers or better yet some completely innocent children or settle for a few hundred country music fans. Funny I never notice them attacking a gun club or a police station.
I'm kinda surprised that gun people haven't formed some kind of vigilante society to detect, monitor and stop these idiots. It must have occurred to some people at least that this can't go on. Maybe you've shut down the outrage for this season or this generation but the anger against you is getting louder and louder. Do you thinks those kids in Florida are going to forgive or forget? The longer you guys cling to your guns the more certain will come the day when people have had it. And when that day comes they really will take your guns, all of them - no matter what it takes to do it. You are in the process of becoming pariahs and soon no one will care about your precious individual rights because they will see you as threatening theirs.
You guys really need to wake up and smell the cordite.

So that's where I'm at these days about guns, I'd be interested in your thoughts...

Monday, July 17, 2017

A friend asked me...



A friend asked me about politics and said he was meeting another conservative friend and would return loaded for bear

By now I’ve had a lot of experience talking with people who have other opinions (gasp). These talks have not, for the most part, gone well. They all tend to unravel into each person talking over the other or into agreements to disagree. Nothing seems to get resolved.

I myself try to apply critical thinking to politicians, especially presidential ones. This means that I do research on them whether I like them or don’t. When I’ve finished I usually have a good idea of what they really stand for and who they really are, at least sufficient knowledge for me to support or reject them.

My criteria are:

Is this person out for power or for service?

Do they understand the importance of the Rule of Law?

Have they read and understood the Constitution and it’s time and context?

Do they understand justice and compassion?

There are more of course but these are a start.

If I don’t want to get into arguments about bullet lists, what do I want?
I want to say to people: Here these are some of the books I read and some of the people I spent time with, trying to figure things out. I had to absorb this knowledge to get to a place where I could place things in their proper perspective, identify the real players and understand their agendas. These are the tools you need to get real about things.
It took me thirty years to get to this point so don’t despair. I also don’t expect everyone to have these experiences – frankly – if you just read all of Shakespeare you could throw about 95% of this stuff out. In fact you’ll learn more about human nature than all of the other books combined.

Economics
Adam Smith
Frederic von Hayak
Milton Friedman
Joseph Steiglitz
John Galbraith (Older and younger)
Paul Krugman
Karl Marx
Thomas Piketty
Politics
Sun Tzu – Art of War
Musashi – A Book of Five Rings
Von Clausewitz
Julius Ceasar – The conquest of Gaul
Marcus Aurelius – Meditations
Thucydides

Modern Times
William Schreiber – The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
Bruce Catton – The Civil War
The Federalist Papers
The Anti-Federalist Papers

People Whose Work You Should Know About
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Roger Taney
Benjamin Cardozo
Thurgood Marshall
William O. Douglas
Howard Zinn

People and Organizations You Should Know About So You Can Run From them in Terror
Charles Koch
Davis Koch
Fred Koch – yes, their father and the founder of the John Birch Society
Peter G. Peterson
James M. Buchanan (not the president, the economist)
The Heritage Foundation
The Cato Institute
The Fellowship – Doug Coe
The Ku Klux Klan – doing quite well thank you very much
David Duke
Jeff Sessions – remember him? He’s now US AG
A.L.E.C. – look it up
Alex Jones
Michael Savage

Rush Limbaugh (still)

Know your enemy. All war is a crime.

Friday, July 07, 2017

On the Subject of July 4th




As I often do on the 4th I reflect on our history and, more specifically on those who have fallen in its honor. Some who think they know me may be surprised but most of the others know of my deep respect for true patriots and true honor, however earned.

Since the Vietnam War was the war of my time, I focus on that conflict and try to understand the things I can’t. Perhaps the burning flames of that conflagration concentrate my thoughts in a way nothing else might.

Let me start (and end) by saying: “All War is a Crime”, by now this must be obvious to everyone yet we go about our daily lives acting as if this was not the case… I have no answer to this, it baffles me.

I was intimately aware of the Vietnam War insofar as I was eligible for drafting to serve (having exhausted my student exemption)… I was reprieved by a high draft number and escaped. 

I did have to consider my options:

I could have claimed conscientious objector status, except that I would not have – I thought that fighting Hitler was justified, for example.
I could have gone to Canada, except that I couldn’t justify that to my parents.
I knew that if I went to Vietnam, I would die… very hard to reconcile with abject cowardice.
So I was ecstatic and grateful for the draft number that spared me from that decision. 

As a natural consequence I have been troubled by the omnipresent moral monitor who always demands an answer: did you really do the right thing? I usually buy her a drink and try to forget…

Literature abounds with books on war which constantly smack me upside the head, sometimes they make movies…

In modern times there have been two movies, no, three, that bring things to a crux for me.

Oliver Stone’s ‘Platoon’ of course, which posits they conflict of Good and Evil sergeants to limn the way before us.

The masterful Terence Malick (James Jones) movie The Thin Red Line that was buried by the usual sloppy, soppy Saving Private Ryan of schlockmeister Steven Spielberg.

But there has also been another movie made more recently of “We Were Soldiers Once and Young”. Taken from the book (memoir) of the first real battle between the North Vietnam regulars and the US regular forces.

I need to stop here and say a few things:

First rant
I think Mel Gibson is a decent actor, not great, not horrible but pretty good within his limited range. I don’t begrudge him the money he has made Hollywood and good looks being what they are. But I do take exception to his truly awful personal beliefs. I don’t mind that he’s some kind of weird Christian fanatic but I do mind his faith-based opinions of others – I’m sure you’ve heard them many times over. And actually I don’t even mind that he has those beliefs: just shut the fuck up about them, please? Then we can all get along quite nicely.

Second rant
I generally like war movies and action movies in a desultory way. They while away the time and display manly men doing manly things in a manly way… they go well with popcorn. But I do get annoyed by the laziness of directors I guess. Almost always the battle scenes are just two groups of soldiers screaming and running at each other, seemingly with no battle plan thought out, no tactics or strategy. I realize that the 10,000 ft view can’t be detailed and that no plan survives contact with the enemy but it annoys me that there’s only chaos in view.

Rants over, thank you for listening.

We Were Soldiers… is a memoir by retired Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore and Joseph Galloway (the journalist at the battle).  It is a remarkable retelling of that battle at La Drang that went on for three days in November of 1965.
The movie is also remarkable, showing the tactics of both LtColonel Moore and North Vietnamese commander Nguyen Huu An. Attack and counterattack, backup plans and swift response to unexpected situations. And also showing the gritty reality of the battle itself.

Technically speaking the Americans were outnumbered 4 to 1 but they had far superior cavalry and aircover and were able to beat back NVA assaults. There is of course the irony of the ending when, having driven the NVA out of La Drang valley, they leave only to have the NVA forces immediately return.

As good a performance by Gibson as he could manage and Sam Elliot’s turn as the crusty Sgt Major is epic.

In its own way it is an anti-war movie in that it shows the senselessness and futility that all wars exhibit but it is also a showing of respect and honor for those who fought and those who fell.

Well done and a credit to all involved especially Moore and Galloway, it’s one of those things we can invoke on fourths of July.
  



   

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

An Open Letter to the Democratic Party


I’ve listening for months now to all the various pundits/partisans/prophets and fools giving their weighty opinions about why the Democrats lost the 2016 election.

It’s all self-deluded bullshit.

There are two main reasons the Democrats lost and until they fix those reasons they will continue to lose.

1st: They didn’t do the work.

2nd: They forgot who their base was, and is.

When I (or any rational observer) look out over the last forty years in the political arena, there is a glaring discrepancy. On the one side you have the Republicans: marching in lockstep down their road to hell, completely governed by their party leaders and speaking from an approved script. They have assiduously gathered together to overwhelm school board meetings, attack town councils, raise candidates for state legislatures – over and over and over again – until they win and win and win again. Where has there been opposition? Where are the Democratic candidates supported by ground pounding cadres ceaselessly turning out the vote? Answer: [crickets]

And we’re surprised to find out that the south and the middle of the country are solidly Republican? 

Let’s face it: the Democrats blew it simply by being disorganized and feckless. They blew it in 1968 when they let Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman run wild in the streets of Chicago. Anyone who saw that had an instant reaction; “There’s no way I want those morons in charge of the country.” And so we got Nixon. The original Mad King.

Notice that every so-called Democratic candidate thereafter was deemed an irrelevant sideshow.

And they were because the Democrats never woke up to the fact that they had to DO THE WORK of building a base that was respected and feared in the political world, they needed to fight for every school board seat, every town council member, every state legislator in order to prevent what happened: Republican control of the state houses and therefor control of drawing the congressional district maps after the census, i.e., gerrymandering, which gave them control of the House.  

Yes, the Republicans were aided by very smart people who crafted and plotted this insurrection and developed the propaganda and misinformation that guided the victory they achieved. It’s all true but it’s irrelevant The Republicans only won because the Democrats didn’t enter the field.

The crux of the situation is that the Republicans knew they were in a war and the Democrats never figured it out… stupid.

Stupid, which is also an apt word for the second reason the Democrats lost (and will continue to lose until they figure it out).

Who are (and were) the Democratic base?
Well nobody really knows do they? Let’s see: there are the Blacks and the Hispanics and the Women and the Indians and the LGBTQ people and the… whatever…

Notice anything odd about this list? No? Well I’ll tell you this one time: there are no white people. Sounds racist doesn’t it? It does sound racist until you go back and look at the history of the Democrats: from its founding the bedrock of the Democratic party has always been the unions: which have been almost exclusively poor blue collar white folks. The Democratic party’s bulwark has been the cadres of union members who could be reliably turned out for rallies, demonstrations… and voting.  

But not after Chicago 1968, then the party was more and more given over to interest groups and not to party unity. In part the Democrats were victims: the Mafia had so completely taken over the unions that no self-respecting pol wanted anything to do with them fearing, rightly, that they would soon be compromised and used as tools for mob enrichment.

Nevertheless, unions continued to dwindle and the Democrats continued to suffer the consequences.

So the Democratic party became, more and more, a collection of special interest groups. There’s nothing wrong with this per se, but special interest groups in general have an agenda: the welfare and benefit of their particular group. There’s nothing in their lexicon about ‘cooperation’. In the old days, the democrats could fall back on the unions to be the organizing drivers for the party and they would drag all the disparate factions along for the ride but that doesn’t work anymore. 

This time around we had the so-called ‘progressives’ (yet another faction) who, imo, knew they would lose and just did as much damage as they could (turned out to be quite a bit). And of course there was the hilariously boneheaded Black Lives Matter who apparently could only think of one target for their ire and showed up to hijack one of their own candidate’s rallies, instead of confronting a Republican rally  - I guess that was too hard.

So every little splinter group had their own agenda and none of them was prepared to even listen to any of the others… the results were predictable.
If the Democrats ever want to have political power again they need to remedy the two areas mentioned above. It won’t be quick and it won’t be easy, indeed. It may already be too late. But going along the way they doing now will only lead to more losing.