Isn’t It Strange?

From Walter E. Williams:

There is a letter titled “Isn’t It Strange?” making the rounds in email boxes. It asks questions to which our fellow Americans should know the answers, save for those caught up in modernity.

It starts off asking, “Isn’t it strange that after a bombing, everyone blames the bomber, his upbringing, his environment, his culture but … after a shooting, the problem is the gun?” In other words, after a shooting, it is the gun, an inanimate object, that is the culprit, but after a bombing, it is not the bomb that receives the blame but the evil individual. In both cases it is the evil individual who is to blame.

Ronald Reagan had it right when he said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”

Speaking of guns, the letter has a 1950s photo of high school girls at an indoor shooting range. The photo caption states: “Back in the 1950s and even later, many high schools had shooting ranges. Students even brought their own rifles to school.” It asks, “What changed in society that we could trust such activities then, but not now?”

Youth involvement with guns has a long history. The 1911 second edition of the Boy Scout Handbook made qualification in NRA’s junior marksmanship program a prerequisite for obtaining a BSA merit badge in marksmanship. In 1918, the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. established its own Winchester Junior Rifle Corps. The program grew to 135,000 members by 1925. In New York City, high school gun clubs were started at Boys, Curtis, Commercial, Manual Training and Stuyvesant high schools. I would like to ask America’s anti-gun fanatics what accounts for today’s mayhem: Have guns become more evil or have people become more evil?

The letter contains several photos under the caption, “These men support your right to bear arms.” The photos are of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. Below it is the caption, “These men oppose it,” with photos of Adolf Hitler, Fidel Castro, Josef Stalin, Idi Amin, Vladimir Lenin and Barack Obama. Then it asks, “Who do you trust?”

Later on in the letter, there is a statement asking us to rename government programs, saying, “Get it straight: Welfare, Food Stamps, WIC … are not entitlements. They are taxpayer-funded handouts, and shouldn’t be called entitlements. Social Security and Veterans Benefits are ‘Entitlements’ because the people receiving them are entitled to them. They were earned and paid for by the recipients.”

Then there is a warning: “No society ever thrived because it had a large and growing class of parasites living off those who produced.” If one listens to the current debate and rhetoric of most politicians, both Democrats or Republicans, it is about expanding the class of Americans who live at the expense of other Americans, whether they are promising “free” education and medical care or forcing Americans to purchase products such as ethanol in order to enrich others.

John Wayne put it best, particularly for my colleagues in academia. “I’d like to know why well-educated idiots keep apologizing for lazy and complaining people who think the world owes them a living.”

Toward the letter’s end there is a statement that rings so true and beyond debate: “I vote Democratic, because I’m pro-choice … except on schools, guns, trade, health care, energy, smoking, union membership, light bulbs, plastic bags, Walmart, what kinds of food you can eat. …”

Finally, there is a most important message from our 34th president, Dwight D. Eisenhower: “If all that Americans want is security, they can go to prison. They’ll have enough to eat, a bed and a roof over their heads. But if an American wants to preserve his dignity and his equality as a human being, he must not bow his neck to any dictatorial government.”

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Showman-in-Chief

From Thomas Sowell:

Those who have been marveling at Donald Trump’s political showmanship were given a reminder of who is the top showman of them all, when President Barack Obama went on television to make a pitch for his unilateral actions to restrict gun sales and make a more general case for tighter gun control laws.

It was beautifully choreographed, like a great ballet, and performed with consummate skill and understated eloquence. First of all, the scene was set with a room full of people who had lost loved ones to gun violence. A father whose son had been gunned down made a long introduction before the president showed up, walked down the aisle and up on to the stage to growing applause.

As political theater, it put Donald Trump’s rantings in the shade.

As for the substance of what Obama said, there was very little substance, and much of it false, but one of the signs of great artistry was that the presentation overshadowed the substance.

None of the things proposed by the president is likely to reduce gun violence. Like other restrictions on people’s ability to defend themselves, or to deter attacks by showing that they are armed, these new restrictions can cost more lives on net balance. The most we can hope for is that the effects of the new Obama-created rules will be nil, rather than harmful.

Like most other gun control advocates, President Obama invoked scenes of mass shootings, as if what he is proposing would have prevented those tragedies. But, almost invariably, mass shootings occur in gun-free settings. Yet gun control zealots seem determined to create more gun-free settings.

How often have supposedly mentally unbalanced shooters opened fire at a meeting of the National Rifle Association? They are apparently not that mentally unbalanced. They pick places where people are not likely to shoot back.

A mass shooting at a movie theater a few years ago took place at a theater farther away from where the shooter lived than other theaters in the area that were showing the very same movie. The difference was that this theater had advertised that it was a gun-free zone.

Who is more mentally unbalanced, those who are doing the shooting or those who refuse to examine the facts about what kinds of places attract such shooters? Schools and religious institutions are sitting ducks, and the shootings there have gone on until someone else with a gun showed up on the scene. That is what puts an end to the carnage, not gun control laws.

People who are prepared to defy the laws against murder are not very likely to be stopped by laws against guns. Only law-abiding citizens are likely to be stopped by gun control laws, and to become sitting ducks.

As for facts and statistics, the only ones likely to be mentioned by gun control zealots, including the media, are those on how many people were killed by guns. How many lives were saved by guns will never make it through the ideological filters of the media, the political establishment or our educational institutions.

Yet factual data on how many threats or attacks were deterred in a given year by displaying a firearm have long been available. Seldom is it necessary to actually pull the trigger to get some thug or criminal to back off and go elsewhere, often in some haste.

Are the only lives that matter those that are lost, usually because there is no gun immediately available to protect them, but not the lives saved because they did have a gun at hand to protect them?

Gun control zealots seem especially opposed to people being allowed to carry their guns concealed. But concealed weapons protect not only those who carry them, but also to some extent those who do not, because criminals have no way of knowing in advance who does and does not have a gun.

Muggings and rapes become much more dangerous activities for criminals where many law-abiding people are allowed to carry concealed guns. It can take a lot of the fun out of being a thug.

President Obama said that we are the only “advanced” nation with so much gun violence. But there are a number of countries with higher murder rates than ours and stronger gun control laws. But that leaves the definition of “advanced” to Obama — and makes for clever political theater.

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Required Reading for Republicans

The country is in desperate need of another Ronald Reagan.

From VDH:

On almost every contemporary issue there is a populist, middle-class argument to be made against elite liberalism. Yet the Republican class in charge seems ossified in its inability to make a counter-argument for the middle class. Never has the liberal agenda been so vulnerable, a logical development when bad ideas have had five years to prove themselves as very bad ideas. When Obama is all done he will have taken high presidential popularity ratings, a supermajority in the Senate, and a large margin in the House and lost them all — if only the Republicans can make an adequate case that they represent the middle class, the Democrats only the very wealthy and the very dependent.

Illegal Immigration

We know the entry of 11 million illegal aliens depresses the wages of the poor and entry-level working class. Illegal immigration overwhelms state services, and that too hurts citizens most in need of help. The lower-middle classes do not have low-paid nannies, gardeners, and house-keepers. We know the illegal influx pleases La Raza activists, most of them second- and third-generation elites in government, politics, journalism and education, who without illegal immigration would not have much of a moral or legal justification for the continuance of affirmative action and identity politics, given that statistically Latinos would soon follow the pattern of other assimilated groups. (For example, is there affirmative action for Armenian immigrants? An Italian Razza movement? Punjabi Studies?)

We also know that cheap labor in the shadows benefits corporate business, eager for low-wage laborers. So how hard is it for a Republican simply to say, “I oppose illegal immigration because (1) it is illegal. It undermines the sanctity of the law and discriminates against the law-abiding waiting in line to enter the U.S. legally. (2) It benefits corporate grandees at the expense of working people. (3) It is driven by self-serving elites of the ethnic-grievance industry to enhance their own advantage, rather than to help poor folks struggling to find decent wages and schools. Illegal immigration, in short, is the most illiberal issue of our time.

Energy

Fracking and horizontal drilling help the middle class. Stopping them on federal lands or banning Keystone makes the lower classes pay for the pipe dreams of the upper class. The Berkeley Sierra Club professor doesn’t worry whether he can find a job welding on a pipeline. He does not drive along the Westside 50 miles to work and so cares little about the price of gas for his third-hand pick-up. It is about 70 degrees year round in Menlo Park, so it is easy to jack power bills up to subsidize wind and solar, when you don’t need to survive 105 degree temperatures in Bakersfield. Discouraging energy development is a pastime of the rich, who have the money to shield themselves from the consequences of their advocacy, and do not associate with the less well-off, who always seem to suffer from elite pipe dreams. Why not headquarter the Sierra Club in Bakersfield, where the cost of electricity is real for real people? Cannot a Republican rebuttal to the State of the Union simply say, “Mr. President, you are shamelessly taking credit for gas and oil production that you did all in your power to thwart. The middle class is enjoying a temporary cut in gas prices, despite, not because of, you.”

Gun Control

How hard it is for Republicans to say to liberals, “I accuse! The wealthy have their security details, most of them armed. The underclass has access to illegal weaponry as the armed crime sprees in a Detroit or Chicago attest. Why then go after the middle class, who neither outsource their security nor break the law? Before we issue sweeping edicts aimed at the law-abiding, let us disarm all the security guards of Hollywood and Washington, D.C., and put away for good the criminals who use illegal firearms to hurt the innocent.”

The Federal Reserve

Barack Obama’s Wall Street is booming, not because of a superb business cycle, but because there is no interest on capital anywhere else to be found. The rich profit from their more sophisticated knowledge of stocks, the poor from debt relief. The middle?

What good is it to them that they played by all the rules and saved money — if only to receive no interest on any of their passbook accounts? The self-employed man who was not a pensioned employee in the public sector, who does not chat with his stock broker each week, and who is not eligible for mortgage-debt relief, student-debt relief for his children, credit-card relief, or any federal relief of any sort is a veritable fool. He socked away each month a few hundred dollars in his savings — but in an era when having cash in the bank means that inflation eats it away faster than minimal interest can preserve it.

Young People

Obamacare is a gift to the old and affluent, who use subsidized health care from the young and poor. It is the greatest tax on the youthful cohort in the history of the republic at a time when student debt already exceeds $1 trillion. How liberal is that? Or for that matter, how liberal were colleges to up their annual tuition rates higher than inflation, assured that their own pyramidal cultures (compare the disparities in salaries of the part-timer and full professor for the same class) were subsidized by federally guaranteed (and mostly high-interest) loans? How many rants on race and gender are necessary to win exemption from the exploitation in the classroom next door?

“Fairness”

We talk about fairness. Do men and women make the same on the president’s own staff? Why does Kobe Bryant make so much and some of his gifted colleagues make so little in comparison? Does Johnny Depp really need $40 million a year when the Hollywood sound tech cannot afford a cottage in South Central L.A.? Did not the Malibu grandees hear their president say that they did not build their film careers, and at some point long ago had made enough money? Could not the gardeners or nannies of Santa Monica at least be unionized? Is there a chapter of ACORN at Google? Can graduate-school TAs get the SEIU interested in their plight? At some point cannot a conservative make the case that liberalism, as preached by its elites, is a psychological mechanism to shield wealthy progressives from the ramifications of their own ideology? Do Apple executives not outsource? Does Facebook not offshore? What is so liberal about Mark Zuckerberg besmirching his opponents as nativists, as he tries to access as much cheap labor as he can, at a time when the Other in Silicon Valley — from his gardeners to computer programmers — could not afford to rent a cot in his tool shed? Cannot a Republican ask Obama at least to forgo Martha’s Vineyard next summer or the next zillionaire golfing outing if he wants to rant about the perks of the 1%?

Green

How liberal was it that a few hundred Bay Area elites went to court over the last few years to divert about 20 million acre-feet of precious irrigation water to flow out to the sea, in vain pursuit of their fantasies about expanding bait fish populations in the delta or in hopes of seeing a salmon jump out of the river by Fresno? Tens of thousands of poor people will lose their jobs this summer, as irrigation water reserves are exhausted and acreage goes out of production. What is more liberal: allowing an out-of-work poor logger of 23 to go into the Sierra to salvage timber from a burned-out Sierra Nevada forest, or to keep him jobless and on the dole in order that the precious lumber rots and breeds precious populations? In the liberal calculus, is Coleoptera more valuable than homo sapiens? Is the distant bark beetle a more cuddly creature than the jobless, tobacco-chewing chain-sawer having a beer at the Lakeshore bar?

Diversity

Yes, let us all hail diversity and insist that it be applied across the board. Cannot California find a senior elected leader other than Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, and Nancy Pelosi? How diverse, given California’s trumpeted diversity, are three elderly multimillionaire women, with hyper-capitalist spouses, who live within commuting distance of each other in the Bay Area? Should the United States Postal service base correct its current labor profile by hiring in accordance with ethnic percentages within the population? Should Asians depart from UC Berkeley so more whites, blacks, and Latinos might enroll commensurately with their percentages in the population? Should the NFL have quotas for non-African-Americans, to give others a chance — to paraphrase Kanye West — to have insider contacts to land such lucrative athletic billets? How many Asians are on the L.A. Lakers versus the size of the Asian community in L.A. County? Have the military casualties of the last decade in Afghanistan and Iraq been computed to ensure that all groups suffered commensurately? Just when or when do we not insist on proportional representation based on ethnicity? Are the heads of Hollywood studios reflective of the rich diversity of California? And if we are going down the diversity and fairness routes, then surely Al Gore needs a sermon — after he unloaded a failed network to an anti-Semitic, carbon-burning medieval sheikdom, in failed efforts to beat the new capital gains tax that he so strenuously supported. How fair, how egalitarian, how diverse is all that? What is the ethnic profile of Sierra Club membership?

In 2014 Republicans are going to be kamikazeed by very wealthy, highly educated, and relentless operatives in the Boston-New York-Washington, D.C., nexus, with backup from the San Diego to San Francisco bookend coastal corridor. These critics mostly rest at the top of the capitalist heap, and will assail those who are not, on grounds that they are unfair to every hyphenated group in America.

To survive, Republicans must go on the offensive and point out that their accusers never live the lives they advocate for others. Liberal feminists seem to be John Edwards and Bill Clinton. Liberal men of the people are Al Gore, John Kerry, and Jon Corzine. Their populists who deplore outsourcing, offshore accounts, and non-unions are Apple and Facebook grandees who embrace all three. White privilege is not the fate of the West Virginian or West Texan working at Target, but the tiny, inbred old-boy and old-girl world of prep-school to Ivy League to the insider pull of Dad and Mom to land up with a phoned-in job in journalism, politics, finance, entertainment, the arts, and academia on the East and West coasts, followed by pro forma praise of diversity — for others. Open-borders zealots have their children behind the walls of private academies.

Surely there is a populist case to be made — or is the Republican establishment to manage a permanent, sober, and judicious out-party, as it is demagogued to death by the privileged?

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Words vs. Facts

From Thomas Sowell:

Words seem to carry far more weight than facts among those liberals who argue as if rent control laws actually control rents and gun control laws actually control guns.

It does no good to point out to them that the two American cities where rent control laws have existed longest and strongest — New York and San Francisco — are also the two cities with the highest average rents.

Nor does it make a dent on them when you point out evidence, from both sides of the Atlantic, that tightening gun control laws does not reduce gun crimes, including murder. It is not uncommon for gun crimes to rise when gun control laws are tightened. Apparently armed criminals prefer unarmed victims.

Minimum wage laws are another issue where the words seem to carry great weight, leading to the fact-free assumption that such laws will cause wages to rise to the legally specified minimum. Various studies going back for decades indicate that minimum wage laws create unemployment, especially among the younger, less experienced and less skilled workers.

When you are unemployed, your wages are zero, regardless of what the minimum wage law specifies.

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Emotional Pornography

From Charles C. W. Cooke:

Unabated, unabashed, and increasingly unhinged, the sordid parade continues apace. Last week, Barack Obama flew some of the Newtown families to Washington, D.C., for a rally at which he argued for the putting aside of “politics” that disagree with his own, warned against “political stunts” (presumably with the exception of the one he was performing), and declared a monopoly on “common sense.” This weekend, the president ceded the pulpit of his weekly address to Francine Wheeler, a grieving mother, so that, in the name of “doing something” that might have prevented her son’s death, she could urge the passage of a set of policies that the Left has supported for years.

Over the last three months such behavior has been common. In countless appearances, the president has suggested that the interests of “our children” and “the gun lobby” are diametrically opposed,” he has brazenly maligned the intentions of those who have the temerity to disagree with him, and he has made catharsis for the families of the Newtown massacre a national priority. It has been shameless. There is, it appears, no emotional pornography that the administration will refuse to distribute in the pursuit of its agenda.

But the approach betrays a certain desperation. As Kathleen Parker observed bluntly in the Washington Post last week, “nothing proposed in the gun-control debates would have prevented the mass killing of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and everybody knows it.”

Everybody does — which explains the mawkishness. The sole purpose of wheeling in innocent children, of pointing incessantly to the grief of victims of gun violence, and of relating tales of family suicide (as Harry Reid recently did on the Senate floor) is to dare your opponents to be hard-hearted enough to oppose your agenda. Instead of engaging his critics on substance, the president has done his level best to circumvent the debate by transmuting a dispute over the wisdom of new laws into an up or down vote on whether or not one is sad about gun violence.

This is cynical and grotesque, but it is also clever. What better way of deflecting criticism than by encouraging your antagonists to censor themselves? Anyone foolhardy enough to write what I am writing here knows full well that he will be accused of “attacking” grieving families. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the likes of Media Matters, whose fatuous claim that Fox News was “dismissing the voices of the families who suffered in a mass shooting in Newtown, CT by claiming they’re being used and exploited by Democrats” is sadly typical. Or Greg Sargent, who characterized Mitch McConnell as “callously rebuffing” families that wished to meet with him. Or Michael Moore, who argued that if Harry Reid’s kids were shot, he would change his mind on gun control. Moore, Media Matters, and Sargent have the same hope: that their opponents, cowed by emotional blackmail, will stay quiet, allowing the president free rein.

It makes no rational sense whatsoever to privilege the testimony of Newtown’s parents in our deliberations. The children of Sandy Hook were randomly chosen victims of abhorrent and reckless violence. It is reasonable to seek the counsel of victims if you suspect that they can help you prevent future atrocities. But we wouldn’t expect the casualties of bombings to have particular insight into how best to deal with security, nor the victims of a gas leak to shed light on the details of piping infrastructure. Cruel as it might seem to observe, you are not afforded greater insight into the legal and economic questions surrounding gun control because a bullet fired by a madman has hit you or somebody you love.

This, of course, does not mean that the victims of gun violence, or their families, should sit down and “shut up.” Far from it — they can and should say whatever they wish and they should explain the devastating consequences of gun violence. But they should not be treated as expert witnesses.

In March, when the chances of a gun bill looked remote, the president griped that the public was forgetting the scale of its outrage. Perhaps so. But if true, this is healthy. Laws that are passed in haste and designed to assuage raw emotion are almost always disastrous. (New York State’s recent debacle illustrates this perfectly.) The president is a good campaigner, and he is smart enough to know that, if he is to cram something through Congress, he has to keep the outrage levels up and the focus on grief. He thus takes the perverse position that Americans will be able to produce a proper response to what happened in Sandy Hook only if they maintain their raw emotions and keep logic out of it.

The rest of us should take the opposite approach: What America does next will be best considered in the cold light of day, and that will mean looking past “the children” — and their parents, too.

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