Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Heinlein Experiment


This happened around 20 years ago, at a SciFi convention in California, but I'd like to know if there are any fans out there who remember seeing it. 

Back then, in California at least, a lot of conventions were pushing a strict "weapons policy" that limited or outright forbade any "real" or even "realistic looking" weapons.  Given the imaginations of SciFi fans, "realistic looking" covered a lot of ground, even more than Democrats give to "assault weapons".  Remember, this was at the height of the popularity of gun control.

This led to an amazing number of stupid actions.  I met a ten-year-old boy in a Ninja costume who complained that his plastic "throwing stars" had been stolen by an officious gopher.  I met a fantasy fan dressed as a wizard who'd had to have a plastic "peace-tie" attached to his wizard's staff.  I met an asthmatic fan who'd had to fight to keep his asthma-inhaler from being confiscated because it looked like a ray-gun.  Needless to add, I'd made my opinion known -- loudly and often.

In the midst of all this, some fans at a northern convention went out and bought me a present: an electric guitar with the body shaped like an AK-47, and a form-fitting guitar-case to match.  I had a good laugh over it, dubbed the instrument "Hambo", promised I'd learn to play it and would bring it back and perform with it at the same convention next year.  Well, I kept my promise -- though it involved buying some heavy-duty cables and an amplifier, and experimenting with different kinds of strings and slide techniques. 

The year rolled around and I came to the convention, as promised -- but I came prepared.  I'd hunted up the convention's archivist-videotaper and let him know when I'd be arriving.  I also took care to have my and my colleagues' luggage collected at the front door curbside and sent up to our room, so that I walked into the hotel carrying nothing but my gun-shaped guitar case, with the gun-shaped guitar inside.  Yep, the videotaper met me at the door and dutifully followed me around inside, recording my adventures.  First, trusting my roommates to handle the hotel registration and pick up the keys, I went straight to the convention registration table to pick up my membership.  The Con-Reg clerks spotted my guitar-case, and the videotaper, giggled like mad and handed over my badge and convention books.  We all carefully ignored the prominently-posted flyers displaying the Weapons Policy.  One of the clerks deliberately asked: "Is that the guitar you were awarded here last year?"  I happily agreed, and added: "I promised then that I'd bring it back and play it for the filk-track, so here it is."  The videotaper caught it all.

Next I went to the dealers' room, where I made my usual first circuit, greeting friends -- who likewise spotted the guitar-case and snickered -- while the videotaper dutifully followed.  I'd reached the far end of the room when one of the dealers, a bookseller as I recall, looked over my shoulder and then quickly asked: "Oh, is that the guitar I head about?  Can I see it?"  Guessing that something was up, I cheerfully agreed.  I laid out the case on the table and flipped the lid open, revealing the gun-shaped guitar -- which the dealers admired and cooed over while the videotaper recorded. 

Just then, up came huffing a member of the ConCom, glowering furiously.  She glared at the exposed guitar, glared at me, opened her mouth -- and then saw the videotaper, with his camera aimed straight at her.  She shut her mouth quickly, opened and shut it a couple more times, then asked sulkily: "Did you bring that here just to defy our weapons policy?" 

Carefully not breaking character, I looked innocent and replied: "Nonsense.  I was awarded this guitar by the Filk fans at this convention last year, and I promised I'd play it here this year, so here it is." 

The petty enforcer glowered at me, glowered at the videotaper, then turned her back and walked away quickly.  Dealers all over the room, who had seen the whole thing, exploded into a storm of giggles.  One of them came up to me and announced: "You know, there's space on the schedule for a write-in panel, and I really think that convention weapons-policies deserve a panel of their own.  Would you like to serve on it?"

Well, of course I would -- just so long as it wasn't before noon.  He promised to write it in for after lunch, and trotted off to gather more panelists.  And the videotaper recorded it all.  Seeing that the stage was set, I didn't bother heading off to Convention Security -- which otherwise would have been my next stop -- but commented that I had to go up to my room and get unpacked.  Scene end: fadeout. 

Fade in: a large discussion room filled with at least a hundred fans, five people (including me) seated at the table in the front, with hastily-printed name-cards before us.  The same videotaper is standing in the back of the room, camera now mounted on a tripod, recording everything.  The panel moderator announces the title of the subject and opens the panel for discussion. 

Now I'll name no names, except to mention that I recognized three of the other four as published authors -- including a distinguished older gentleman with snowy hair and moustache, and a dark-complected middle-aged athlete.  I was seated at (wouldn't you guess!) the far left end of the table.  The fourth panelist (seated at the far right end of the table) was a fiercely passionate-looking young man in a slightly-rumpled sports shirt whom I'd never seen before.  The topic fell like a stone into a pool, and away we went.           

The topic of SciFi convention policies soon slid into the concept of gun control and weapons control in general, and patterns soon emerged.  The white-haired gentleman quoted facts and statistics and their verifications, the athlete described his own experiences, the other panelist and I varied between the two, and we politely waited until each of us was done speaking before cutting in with a relevant fact, figure or anecdote.  It was the Terribly Passionate Young Man who cut in without warning, shouted refutations without basis, argued purely from emotion, insisted that no really moral person could possibly disagree with him, and quoted slogans.  Four of us argued patiently that "hoplophobia" -- fear of weapons and armed citizens -- was irrational as well as unconstitutional.  The fifth (guess who!) insisted that weapons are always evil because "they kill people!", and that any connection with them -- even in harmless imitation -- was evil by similarity, if not contagion (which is classic Magical Thinking).

After more than half an hour of this, I was fed up and looking for an opportunity to break the pattern.  I found it when one of the other reasonable panelists rather pointedly brought up Heinlein's famous quote -- "An armed society is a polite society" -- and the Terribly Passionate Young Man promptly down-shouted him with an unsupported slogan: "How can you say that, when more guns in a society mean more gun-crimes?!" 

At that point I stood up and said: "I propose an experiment."

That, of course, caught the attention of the audience -- they being Science-Fiction fans.

"An experiment to test Heinlein's Hypothesis, right here and right now.  Will someone please close the doors so we won't be interrupted?"

Two or three fans hastily stood up to close the doors, and then stand beside them to make sure they wouldn't be easily opened. 

To the audience I went on: "In the last 40 minutes you've all had ample opportunity to see for yourselves just which of us up here on the panel have been reasonable and polite, and which have been... not so much." Then I turned to my fellow panelists and said: "Members of the panel, will each of you take out and display here on the table all the weapons that your have on you right now?"  While everyone else absorbed that idea, I promised: "I'll go first." 

I knew, of course, which weapons I always carry with me, and I'd made a pretty good guess about the others.  So, while everybody else was still reeling, I pulled up my sword-cane and drew it, and laid both blade and sheath down on the table.  When I drew and set out my little-bitty North American Arms .22 revolver it was almost anti-climactic.  By the time I'd pulled the folding-knife off my belt, the next panelist was reaching back between his shoulder-blades -- from which he drew a very respectable Bowie knife;  by the time I'd gotten into my belt-purse and took out my plastic airport-knife (disguised as a thick comb), he'd also laid out a small semi-auto pistol.  The white-moustached gentleman laid out a classic Colt .45 semi-auto and a couple of folding knives.  I didn't see where he drew it from, but the athlete laid down a small wakazashi short sword -- followed by a cluster of throwing-stars.  The audience was dead silent, watching.

Finally, all the panelists finished displaying their weaponry -- except for the Terribly Passionate Young Man at the end.  Everybody looked at him expectantly.  At last he pulled out his key-chain -- on which was a tiny (one-and-a-half inch) folding knife, and threw it down on the table -- and then started laughing hysterically. 

I turned to the audience, poker-faced, and said: "I believe you have enough evidence to draw a conclusion." 

The whole audience broke into uproarious laughter, which continued until the end of the assigned hour, while we panelists calmly packed up our assorted weapons and put them back where they'd been. 

The Terribly Passionate Young Man was the last to put away his key-chain knife, and all that time he only sat there thoughtfully, not saying a word. 

And the videotaper recorded the whole thing.

I never got that videotaper's name, but I hope he kept an edited copy of all that footage.  I'd really love to see it, after all this time.


--Leslie <;)))><     
























         
   

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Almost Desperate Drooling

As I've mentioned before, Rasty likes to sit down in front of the TV in the late afternoon and watch MSNBC for hours, laughing uproariously at all the Trump jokes.  So of course we both got to see a good three hours worth of MSNBC's pundits practically drooling as they repeated -- and analyzed to death -- the FBI raiding Trump's lawyer Cohen's office and hotel room and storage unit and grabbing everything they could find, supposedly in relation to the Stormy Daniels case.  Of course the FBI didn't say if they'd found anything juicy, but the media pundits hoped out loud for anything from more tidbits about Daniels' performances to revelations of the Russian Caper.

They did mention how unusual it was for the FBI to go after a sitting President's lawyer, and they speculated endlessly on how getting a federal judge's okay for the raid must have meant showing him oodles of Probable Cause -- specifically concern that vital evidence might disappear if the suspect's door didn't get kicked down this very night.  Oooh, with all that smoke, there just has to be a flame!

It doesn't seem to have occurred to the newsies that this was a simple case of vengeance, the FBI getting back at Trump for his shucking of Comey... and Comey's cronies.  And yes, the FBI is quite capable of such nasty vengeances, as Rasty could tell you.  ...And there are dark rumors about the "accidental overdose" death of Abbie Hoffman...

The "Deep State" -- i.e. the federal bureaucracy and its corporate friends -- as I've noted before, has its own politics, with different departments often at loggerheads.  Usually -- though not always -- the departments stay loyal to the political party that first established them, which explains why the FBI remains fiercely supportive and protective of Democrat administrations. Obama was a master at manipulating the federal bureaucracy, and he installed a lot of adoring followers in the FBI who happily accepted his own political bent.  Particularly, Comey was an Islamophiliac who invited CAIR agents into the FBI as "advisers", and wouldn't let the FBI even use the words "Islamic terrorist".  Considering where we're fighting wars right now, Comey's passion verged close to treason.  That's the real reason Trump fired Comey, and it's understandable why he didn't say so outright.  He's been busy since then throwing more of Comey's cronies out of the FBI, and the remaining cronies resent it.  That's why they raided his lawyer's office: intimidation, throwing their weight around, and hopefully grabbing something they can use against him.  I hope Cohen had the sense to keep all his important papers somewhere other than his office, or storage unit.  I suspect that, as Trump's legal fixer, he did.

And then there's the enigmatic Stormy Daniels herself, who is clearly no fool;  she wouldn't  have lasted so long and so well in the porn-film business if she were.  Certainly she has the sense not to try blackmailing a sitting POTUS, so just what game is she playing?  I suspect that the infamous $130,000 that Cohen paid her was not just for her "entertainment services", nor just for her "non-disclosure" during the campaign;  what if it was specifically to come forward and create a distraction when Trump needed one?  Heaven knows, she's provided one spectacular distraction!  She's managed to make the media almost forget about the Mueller investigation and the supposed Russian Caper --and the interesting fact that Trump has not made any effort to fire Mueller, much as the media are expecting he will. 

My take on it is that Trump has no intention of firing Mueller.  He's got Mueller right where he wants him: in the spotlight, the darling of the Democrats, watched intently to see what he'll do next.  I daresay Mueller can't scratch his butt without a dozen upper-class paparazzi counting the strokes.  Mueller absolutely can't make a legally shady move, but has to go strictly by the book.   And therefore, when Trump finally goes to talk to Mueller -- and drops the other shoe he's been holding so long about the real Russia story -- Mueller will have no choice but to clear him, and all the anti-Trump media will go into a screeching meltdown.

During the frenzy Trump will go on quietly draining the bureaucratic swamp, letting the military actually win the long war against the Jihadis, and dealing decisively with North Korea.  He'll be able to do it because he has the help, and advice, of both the military and the CIA -- two departments of the Deep State that are GOP-supportive for a change. 

Trump has always been good at playing off recalcitrant underlings against each other, and that's what I think is going on here. 


--Leslie <;)))><           

      

Monday, April 2, 2018

Bully in the Alley: Another Chicago Tale


This was back when I and my roommate Mary were living in a rental coach-house behind a rental residential house, in a working-class neighborhood off Halsted Avenue.  Our house was backed up right on the alley, where we could see and hear everything that happened there. 

One night while we were channel-surfing (remember, this was before cable TV), looking for something halfway decent on local TV, when we heard shouting coming from the alley.  Naturally, we went to the alley-facing window and sneaked a peak through the curtains.  There we saw a young couple dressed in Yuppie clothes, consisting of a tall medium-build man and a small willowy woman, halted under the alley's lone streetlamp, arguing...sort of.  We couldn't work out what they were saying, but the man was doing all the outraged-tone shouting -- and waving his fists around in the air -- while the young woman looked and sounded apologetic, mollifying, taking the classic Submission Posture of the Chacma Baboon.  Since the young man showed no sign of being mollified, but was clearly stoking his outrage -- working himself up to... something, we decided to stroll outside and provide witnesses. 

Just as a precaution, I took along my sturdy 12-gauge pump-action shotgun. 

So out the front door we went, over to the passageway between our house and the neighbor's garage, through the alley gate and out to the edge of the alley, where we stopped to watch.  I held the shotgun by the grip, with the barrel hanging down along my leg where it wouldn't readily be seen.  Bellowing Boy had gotten to the "She said you said I said" stage of the argument, and didn't notice.  No sooner had we taken out position than a couple more neighbors quietly came out and joined us.  I saw some neighbors come out of the houses on the opposite side of the alley and do the same.  As we watched, still more neighbors came out and added to the lines, bending them into a circle that crossed the alley.  None of them said or did anything;  we just encircled the couple at a respectful -- 20 foot -- distance, and watched.

Eventually, even Bellowing Boy noticed the crowd.  He stopped intimidating and yelling at his girlfriend, and looked around, going "Whuh...?"

Nobody said anything.  We just looked at him. 

He looked around the circle again, this time clearly calculating, looking for a weak spot.  I could see as well as he could that all the other neighbors were men, of moderate to respectable size, with the usual working-class muscle.  The only women in the circle were me and Mary, and Mary was maybe an inch taller than I was and easily 50 pounds heavier.  In short, the smallest person in the circle was me.

Therefore it didn't surprise me at all that Bellowing Boy came stomping toward me, yelling curses and shaking his fists.  Seeing what he'd displayed of his personality, I was the obvious choice.

I didn't flinch nor say a word.  I only flipped up the muzzle of the shotgun, clamped my other hand firmly on the fore-stock, and pointed the muzzle toward his midsection.

Oboy, you never saw a bully screech to a halt and back-scramble so fast!  He retreated to the center of the circle beside his girlfriend, who had gone silent and was looking around the circle too. 

Finally she took a step toward the far end of the alley, intending to walk away.  The neighbors at that end of the circle, seeing what she wanted, obligingly got out of the way.  Seeing a clear path, Bellowing Boy reasserted his Mastery by saying, "C'mon, let's get out of here," and hurrying ahead of her so he could play the Leader.   

As they walked past me, I couldn't help calling out: "Leave him, girl.  You can do better." 

The rest of the crowd chuckled quietly, and then took up the chant: "Leave him, girl.  Leave him, girl."  And repeated that chant after them all the way through their walk to the end of the alley and out to the street.  Once they were gone, the neighbors dispersed and went back to their own houses and business.  Nobody, as far as I know, even called the cops.  And why should we?  The crisis was past, none of us even knew the participants, and if the girl chose to continue mollifying Bellowing Boy, that was her choice.

No, we never saw Bellowing Bully-Boy again -- nor his mollifying girlfriend, as far as I know.

What I particularly remember about that incident was how effective simply displaying the shotgun was.  Hoo-hah, did that ever deflate that bully fast!  I was under the impression that bullies take a little more than that to make them back off.  The second memorable thing about that incident was how obvious Bellowing Bully-Boy's personality was.  How could anybody watch him for more than a few minutes and not know him for what he was?  Why did that masochistic girl bother to stay with him that long?  How naive could she have been? 

But the third memorable thing was how the neighbors all responded to the noise, and the situation.  They all showed up, did nothing to interfere but only watched, providing witnesses.  The fact that nobody seemed surprised, or upset, when I flipped up my shotgun shows that they were quite willing to use vi-o-lence if Bellowing Bully-Boy had actually taken a real swing at his girlfriend with those wagging fists.  The way they parted the line to let the girl through showed a wonderfully keen observation, and the way they took up my commentary as a chant shows a nice practical morality.

Now this was just a random collection of working-class Chicagoans, united by nothing more than geography and situation.  I've seen similar remarkable performances in a Michigan winter, in the aftermath of the Loma Prieta earthquake in California, and minor crises here in Arizona.  What they all show me is that the American masses are remarkably smart, level-headed and practical -- and share a common practical morality. 

This shows why democracy works as well as it does -- which is way ahead of whatever is in second place.

--Leslie <;)))>< 


Saturday, March 24, 2018

ERSATZ



I don’t think it’s coincidence that the TV cable channels which specialize in history have been running documentaries about the Civil Rights movement and the Anti-War movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s – during the same couple of weeks that CNN and MSNBC have been hyping the Parkland students’ anti-gun movement, destined to climax in the “March For Our Lives” today.  For anybody who had any real experience with those historic grassroots movements, the contrast is downright painful.

First off, nobody helped us organize any picket-lines or demonstrations, let alone big marches on the capitol.  We had to learn the whole process ourselves, from the ground up. Before the age of the Internet, we had telephone-trees and community bulletin-boards to spread the word;  newspapers, TV stations and radio stations wouldn’t touch us – unless we bought paid advertising.  We had to learn for ourselves that any chapter of a reform group, no matter how small, needed at least one lawyer – to bail us out when the cops grabbed us up for “disturbing the peace” or “blocking a public thoroughfare”, and also to figure out what permits and paperwork we needed to file in order to march in the streets or rally in a public park.  We needed to learn about transport, to find out where to rent busses, calculate how many busses would be needed, where they would pick us up, let us off, and park until we needed them to get home.  We had to learn the hard way about getting extra garbage services, renting and servicing porta-potties, getting sound-systems set up, providing insurance for the same, and arranging for discreet medical tents and staffs.  We also learned how to go to legislators’ offices and present petitions.  We evolved a handful of standard slogans and symbols that were instantly recognizable.  And of course we had to learn how to collect funds for all this.  Even with the help of old and experienced labor union organizers, it took us years to learn all these techniques.  It took still longer to get the media to recognize us as anything but “rioters”. 

Eventually we produced an organization called the National Mobilization to End the War – the “Mobe” for short – which specialized in organizing big political demonstrations in Washington, DC, and nothing else.  We timed our actions by the Mobe’s calendar, experimented with new techniques locally and sent their descriptions to the Mobe’s headquarters if they were successful.  The Mobe was certainly not a governing body for the movement – nothing could be – but any technique or tactic that the Mobe disapproved of was left to the local group that favored it, which was then completely on its own.  I’ve often wondered what happened to the old Mobe organization after the Civil Rights law was passed and the war ended.  I doubt if those experienced organizers just disappeared.

Considering all that, no, I don’t believe that this new March For Our Lives anti-gun movement was created entirely by some 700 high school kids, in less than a month.  I don’t think the kids really organized any of it.

What I’ve seen, over the past month, was first CNN (and then MSCNBC) blatting the story of the school massacre – and carefully blaming gun owners and the NRA -- all over the airwaves, at least 12 hours out of every 24, supplying sympathetic Talking Heads to weep and wail over The Horror, staging interviews with particular kids from the school – even grooming and coaching and providing scripts for especially good actors among them (see David Hogge) – and carefully weeding out kids from the school who came up with different ideas about the cause of the massacre and prevention of any such future event (see Ariana Klein, Kyle Kashuv, and Colton Haab).  Before the first week was out, they’d attracted some enthusiastic Democrat politicians and had organized the first demonstrations and marches on the Florida state capital – all thoroughly covered and advertised by CNN. 

This is strangely reminiscent of William Randolph Hearst using his newspapers to start a completely unnecessary war.  I know that media professionals have regarded that feat with awe and envy ever since.

Of course, the media managers didn’t do it by themselves.  Anti-gun-rights politicians, celebrities, corporate managers and certain labor union administrators were happy to jump on the bandwagon, providing funds and support.  The mayor of Baltimore happily promised $100,000 to send local schoolkids to the march on Washington, despite the fact that her city’s school board didn’t have enough money to keep the schools heated this winter.  There are reports of schoolteachers urging their students to join the protests, giving homework assignments about “why I’m in favor of gun control”, and actually punishing students who complained or came up with alternate ideas.  There are a dozen corporations, including Citigroup, which have come up with tricks for punishing firearms companies, legal firearms dealers, and of course the NRA.  None of this, obviously, was organized by schoolkids.  It certainly was not the students of that Parkland high school who organized the anti-gun/anti-NRA marches, walkouts, and demonstrations in all the other states in the US.  Neither did the kids alone come up with that list of “common sense” gun laws which the campaign is pushing – blissfully unaware that some of the laws they’re asking for are already on the books, and poorly enforced.  Other laws that they’re thoughtlessly crying for – because they’ve had the slogans handed to them – are plainly unconstitutional, and are already beset with lawsuits.    
   
Right now, no doubt, the kids are thrilled at all the attention and flattery and TV time being given to them, not to mention the encouragement to Express Their Emotions – rather than think.  Some of them have blissfully mentioned their dreams of going into politics.  They seem to have nary a clue about how much they’re being used, or by whom.

Then again, the Salem Witch Trials – which likewise centered around a group of Afflicted Children – were orchestrated by adult political factions too.  So was the original Children’s Crusade.  Those did not end well for the involved children.  


--Leslie <;)))><              


Friday, March 16, 2018

"A Nation of Cowards"

--Leslie <;)))><

As I've said elsewhere, I rarely reprint other folks' articles, but this one summarizes the whole argument extraordinarily well, despite having been written nearly 25 years ago -- at the height of the gun-control mania, just as the pendulum was beginning to swing back.  Enjoy!

************************

To get plaintext: ftp ftp.rkba.org, get /public_html/comment/cowards.txt The WWW URL is: http://rkba.org/comment/cowards.txt
Jeff Chan


A NATION OF COWARDS


Jeffrey R. Snyder


OUR SOCIETY has reached a pinnacle of self-expression and respect for individuality rare or unmatched in history. Our entire popular culture -- from fashion magazines to the cinema -- positively screams the matchless worth of the individual, and glories in eccentricity, nonconformity, independent judgment, and self-determination. This enthusiasm is reflected in the prevalent notion that helping someone entails increasing that person's "self-esteem"; that if a person properly values himself, he will naturally be a happy, productive, and, in some inexplicable fashion, responsible member of society.
And yet, while people are encouraged to revel in their individuality and incalculable self-worth, the media and the law enforcement establishment continually advise us that, when confronted with the threat of lethal violence, we should not resist, but simply give the attacker what he wants. If the crime under consideration is rape, there is some notable waffling on this point, and the discussion quickly moves to how the woman can change her behavior to minimize the risk of rape, and the various ridiculous, non-lethal weapons she may acceptably carry, such as whistles, keys, mace or, that weapon which really sends shivers down a rapist's spine, the portable cellular phone.
Now how can this be? How can a person who values himself so highly calmly accept the indignity of a criminal assault? How can one who believes that the essence of his dignity lies in his self-determination passively accept the forcible deprivation of that self-determination? How can he, quietly, with great dignity and poise, simply hand over the goods?
The assumption, of course, is that there is no inconsistency. The advice not to resist a criminal assault and simply hand over the goods is founded on the notion that one's life is of incalculable value, and that no amount of property is worth it. Put aside, for a moment, the outrageousness of the suggestion that a criminal who proffers lethal violence should be treated as if he has instituted a new social contract: "I will not hurt or kill you if you give me what I want." For years, feminists have labored to educate people that rape is not about sex, but about domination, degradation, and control. Evidently, someone needs to inform the law enforcement establishment and the media that kidnapping, robbery, carjacking, and assault are not about property.
Crime is not only a complete disavowal of the social contract, but also a commandeering of the victim's person and liberty. If the individual's dignity lies in the fact that he is a moral agent engaging in actions of his own will, in free exchange with others, then crime always violates the victim's dignity. It is, in fact, an act of enslavement. Your wallet, your purse, or your car may not be worth your life, but your dignity is; and if it is not worth fighting for, it can hardly be said to exist.

The Gift of Life

Although difficult for modern man to fathom, it was once widely believed that life was a gift from God, that to not defend that life when offered violence was to hold God's gift in contempt, to be a coward and to breach one's duty to one's community. A sermon given in Philadelphia in 1747 unequivocally equated the failure to defend oneself with suicide:

He that suffers his life to be taken from him by one that hath no authority for that purpose, when he might preserve it by defense, incurs the Guilt of self murder since God hath enjoined him to seek the continuance of his life, and Nature itself teaches every creature to defend itself.
"Cowardice" and "self-respect" have largely disappeared from public discourse. In their place we are offered "self-esteem" as the bellwether of success and a proxy for dignity. "Self-respect" implies that one recognizes standards, and judges oneself worthy by the degree to which one lives up to them. "Self-esteem" simply means that one feels good about oneself. "Dignity" used to refer to the self-mastery and fortitude with which a person conducted himself in the face of life's vicissitudes and the boorish behavior of others. Now, judging by campus speech codes, dignity requires that we never encounter a discouraging word and that others be coerced into acting respectfully, evidently on the assumption that we are powerless to prevent our degradation if exposed to the demeaning behavior of others. These are signposts proclaiming the insubstantiality of our character, the hollowness of our souls.
It is impossible to address the problem of rampant crime without talking about the moral responsibility of the intended victim. Crime is rampant because the law-abiding, each of us, condone it, excuse it, permit it, submit to it. We permit and encourage it because we do not fight back, immediately, then and there, where it happens. Crime is not rampant because we do not have enough prisons, because judges and prosecutors are too soft, because the police are hamstrung with absurd technicalities. The defect is there, in our character. We are a nation of cowards and shirkers.

Do You Feel Lucky?

In 1991, when then-Attorney General Richard Thornburgh released the FBI's annual crime statistics, he noted that it is now more likely that a person will be the victim of a violent crime than that he will be in an auto accident. Despite this, most people readily believe that the existence of the police relieves them of the responsibility to take full measures to protect themselves. The police, however, are not personal bodyguards. Rather, they act as a general deterrent to crime, both by their presence and by apprehending criminals after the fact. As numerous courts have held, they have no legal obligation to protect anyone in particular. You cannot sue them for failing to prevent you from being the victim of a crime.
Insofar as the police deter by their presence, they are very, very good. Criminals take great pains not to commit a crime in front of them. Unfortunately, the corollary is that you can pretty much bet your life (and you are) that they won't be there at the moment you actually need them.
Should you ever be the victim of an assault, a robbery, or a rape, you will find it very difficult to call the police while the act is in progress, even if you are carrying a portable cellular phone. Nevertheless, you might be interested to know how long it takes them to show up. Department of Justice statistics for 1991 show that, for all crimes of violence, only 28 percent of calls are responded to within five minutes. The idea that protection is a service people can call to have delivered and expect to receive in a timely fashion is often mocked by gun owners, who love to recite the challenge, "Call for a cop, call for an ambulance, and call for a pizza. See who shows up first."
Many people deal with the problem of crime by convincing themselves that they live, work, and travel only in special "crime-free" zones. Invariably, they react with shock and hurt surprise when they discover that criminals do not play by the rules and do not respect these imaginary boundaries. If, however, you understand that crime can occur anywhere at anytime, and if you understand that you can be maimed or mortally wounded in mere seconds, you may wish to consider whether you are willing to place the responsibility for safeguarding your life in the hands of others.

Power And Responsibility

Is your life worth protecting? If so, whose responsibility is it to protect it? If you believe that it is the police's, not only are you wrong -- since the courts universally rule that they have no legal obligation to do so -- but you face some difficult moral quandaries. How can you rightfully ask another human being to risk his life to protect yours, when you will assume no responsibility yourself? Because that is his job and we pay him to do it? Because your life is of incalculable value, but his is only worth the $30,000 salary we pay him? If you believe it reprehensible to possess the means and will to use lethal force to repel a criminal assault, how can you call upon another to do so for you?
Do you believe that you are forbidden to protect yourself because the police are better qualified to protect you, because they know what they are doing but you're a rank amateur? Put aside that this is equivalent to believing that only concert pianists may play the piano and only professional athletes may play sports. What exactly are these special qualities possessed only by the police and beyond the rest of us mere mortals?
One who values his life and takes seriously his responsibilities to his family and community will possess and cultivate the means of fighting back, and will retaliate when threatened with death or grievous injury to himself or a loved one. He will never be content to rely solely on others for his safety, or to think he has done all that is possible by being aware of his surroundings and taking measures of avoidance. Let's not mince words: He will be armed, will be trained in the use of his weapon, and will defend himself when faced with lethal violence.
Fortunately, there is a weapon for preserving life and liberty that can be wielded effectively by almost anyone -- the handgun. Small and light enough to be carried habitually, lethal, but unlike the knife or sword, not demanding great skill or strength, it truly is the "great equalizer." Requiring only hand-eye coordination and a modicum of ability to remain cool under pressure, it can be used effectively by the old and the weak against the young and the strong, by the one against the many.
The handgun is the only weapon that would give a lone female jogger a chance of prevailing against a gang of thugs intent on rape, a teacher a chance of protecting children at recess from a madman intent on massacring them, a family of tourists waiting at a mid-town subway station the means to protect themselves from a gang of teens armed with razors and knives.
But since we live in a society that by and large outlaws the carrying of arms, we are brought into the fray of the Great American Gun War. Gun control is one of the most prominent battlegrounds in our current culture wars. Yet it is unique in the half-heartedness with which our conservative leaders and pundits -- our "conservative elite" -- do battle, and have conceded the moral high ground to liberal gun control proponents. It is not a topic often written about, or written about with any great fervor, by William F. Buckley or Patrick Buchanan. As drug czar, William Bennett advised President Bush to ban "assault weapons." George Will is on record as recommending the repeal of the Second Amendment, and Jack Kemp is on record as favoring a ban on the possession of semiautomatic "assault weapons." The battle for gun rights is one fought predominantly by the common man. The beliefs of both our liberal and conservative elites are in fact abetting the criminal rampage through our society.

Selling Crime Prevention

By any rational measure, nearly all gun control proposals are hokum. The Brady Bill, for example, would not have prevented John Hinckley from obtaining a gun to shoot President Reagan; Hinckley purchased his weapon five months before the attack, and his medical records could not have served as a basis to deny his purchase of a gun, since medical records are not public documents filed with the police. Similarly, California's waiting period and background check did not stop Patrick Purdy from purchasing the "assault rifle" and handguns he used to massacre children during recess in a Stockton schoolyard; the felony conviction that would have provided the basis for stopping the sales did not exist, because Mr. Purdy's previous weapons violations were plea-bargained down from felonies to misdemeanors.
In the mid-sixties there was a public service advertising campaign targeted at car owners about the prevention of car theft. The purpose of the ad was to urge car owners not to leave their keys in their cars. The message was, "Don't help a good boy go bad." The implication was that, by leaving his keys in his car, the normal, law-abiding car owner was contributing to the delinquency of minors who, if they just weren't tempted beyond their limits, would be "good." Now, in those days people still had a fair sense of just who was responsible for whose behavior. The ad succeeded in enraging a goodly portion of the populace, and was soon dropped.
Nearly all of the gun control measures offered by Handgun Control, Inc. (HCI) and its ilk embody the same philosophy. They are founded on the belief that America's law-abiding gun owners are the source of the problem. With their unholy desire for firearms, they are creating a society awash in a sea of guns, thereby helping good boys go bad, and helping bad boys be badder. This laying of moral blame for violent crime at the feet of the law-abiding, and the implicit absolution of violent criminals for their misdeeds, naturally infuriates honest gun owners.
The files of HCI and other gun control organizations are filled with proposals to limit the availability of semiautomatic and other firearms to law-abiding citizens, and barren of proposals for apprehending and punishing violent criminals. It is ludicrous to expect that the proposals of HCI, or any gun control laws, will significantly curb crime. According to Department of Justice and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) statistics, fully 90 percent of violent crimes are committed without a handgun, and 93 percent of the guns obtained by violent criminals are not obtained through the lawful purchase and sale transactions that are the object of most gun control legislation. Furthermore, the number of violent criminals is minute in comparison to the number of firearms in America -- estimated by the ATF at about 200 million, approximately one-third of which are handguns. With so abundant a supply, there will always be enough guns available for those who wish to use them for nefarious ends, no matter how complete the legal prohibitions against them, or how draconian the punishment for their acquisition or use. No, the gun control proposals of HCI and other organizations are not seriously intended as crime control. Something else is at work here.

The Tyranny of the Elite

Gun control is a moral crusade against a benighted, barbaric citizenry. This is demonstrated not only by the ineffectualness of gun control in preventing crime, and by the fact that it focuses on restricting the behavior of the law-abiding rather than apprehending and punishing the guilty, but also by the execration that gun control proponents heap on gun owners and their evil instrumentality, the NRA. Gun owners are routinely portrayed as uneducated, paranoid rednecks fascinated by and prone to violence, i.e., exactly the type of person who opposes the liberal agenda and whose moral and social "re-education" is the object of liberal social policies. Typical of such bigotry is New York Gov. Mario Cuomo's famous characterization of gun-owners as "hunters who drink beer, don't vote, and lie to their wives about where they were all weekend." Similar vituperation is rained upon the NRA, characterized by Sen. Edward Kennedy as the "pusher's best friend," lampooned in political cartoons as standing for the right of children to carry firearms to school and, in general, portrayed as standing for an individual's God-given right to blow people away at will.
The stereotype is, of course, false. As criminologist and constitutional lawyer Don B. Kates, Jr. and former HCI contributor Dr. Patricia Harris have pointed out, "[s]tudies consistently show that, on the average, gun owners are better educated and have more prestigious jobs than non-owners.... Later studies show that gun owners are less likely than non-owners to approve of police brutality, violence against dissenters, etc."
Conservatives must understand that the antipathy many liberals have for gun owners arises in good measure from their statist utopianism. This habit of mind has nowhere been better explored than in The Republic. There, Plato argues that the perfectly just society is one in which an unarmed people exhibit virtue by minding their own business in the performance of their assigned functions, while the government of philosopher-kings, above the law and protected by armed guardians unquestioning in their loyalty to the state, engineers, implements, and fine-tunes the creation of that society, aided and abetted by myths that both hide and justify their totalitarian manipulation.

The Unarmed Life

When columnist Carl Rowan preaches gun control and uses a gun to defend his home, when Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer seeks legislation year after year to ban semiautomatic "assault weapons" whose only purpose, we are told, is to kill people, while he is at the same time escorted by state police armed with large-capacity 9mm semiautomatic pistols, it is not simple hypocrisy. It is the workings of that habit of mind possessed by all superior beings who have taken upon themselves the terrible burden of civilizing the masses and who understand, like our Congress, that laws are for other people.
The liberal elite know that they are philosopher-kings. They know that the people simply cannot be trusted; that they are incapable of just and fair self-government; that left to their own devices, their society will be racist, sexist, homophobic, and inequitable -- and the liberal elite know how to fix things. They are going to help us live the good and just life, even if they have to lie to us and force us to do it. And they detest those who stand in their way.
The private ownership of firearms is a rebuke to this utopian zeal. To own firearms is to affirm that freedom and liberty are not gifts from the state. It is to reserve final judgment about whether the state is encroaching on freedom and liberty, to stand ready to defend that freedom with more than mere words, and to stand outside the state's totalitarian reach.

The Florida Experience

The elitist distrust of the people underlying the gun control movement is illustrated beautifully in HCI's campaign against a new concealed-carry law in Florida. Prior to 1987, the Florida law permitting the issuance of concealed-carry permits was administered at the county level. The law was vague, and, as a result, was subject to conflicting interpretation and political manipulation. Permits were issued principally to security personnel and the privileged few with political connections. Permits were valid only within the county of issuance.
In 1987, however, Florida enacted a uniform concealed-carry law which mandates that county authorities issue a permit to anyone who satisfies certain objective criteria. The law requires that a permit be issued to any applicant who is a resident, at least twenty-one years of age, has no criminal record, no record of alcohol or drug abuse, no history of mental illness, and provides evidence of having satisfactorily completed a firearms safety course offered by the NRA or other competent instructor. The applicant must provide a set of fingerprints, after which the authorities make a background check. The permit must be issued or denied within ninety days, is valid throughout the state, and must be renewed every three years, which provides authorities a regular means of reevaluating whether the permit holder still qualifies.
Passage of this legislation was vehemently opposed by HCI and the media. The law, they said, would lead to citizens shooting each other over everyday disputes involving fender benders, impolite behavior, and other slights to their dignity. Terms like "Florida, the Gunshine State" and "Dodge City East" were coined to suggest that the state, and those seeking passage of the law, were encouraging individuals to act as judge, jury, and executioner in a "Death Wish" society.
No HCI campaign more clearly demonstrates the elitist beliefs underlying the campaign to eradicate gun ownership. Given the qualifications required of permit holders, HCI and the media can only believe that common, law-abiding citizens are seething cauldrons of homicidal rage, ready to kill to avenge any slight to their dignity, eager to seek out and summarily execute the lawless. Only lack of immediate access to a gun restrains them and prevents the blood from flowing in the streets. They are so mentally and morally deficient that they would mistake a permit to carry a weapon in self-defense as a state-sanctioned license to kill at will.
Did the dire predictions come true? Despite the fact that Miami and Dade County have severe problems with the drug trade, the homicide rate fell in Florida following enactment of this law, as it did in Oregon following enactment of similar legislation there. There are, in addition, several documented cases of new permit holders successfully using their weapons to defend themselves. Information from the Florida Department of State shows that, from the beginning of the program in 1987 through June 1993, 160,823 permits have been issued, and only 530, or about 0.33 percent of the applicants, have been denied a permit for failure to satisfy the criteria, indicating that the law is benefitting those whom it was intended to benefit -- the law-abiding. Only 16 permits, less than 1/100th of 1 percent, have been revoked due to the post-issuance commission of a crime involving a firearm.
The Florida legislation has been used as a model for legislation adopted by Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Mississippi. There are, in addition, seven other states (Maine, North and South Dakota, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, and, with the exception of cities with a population in excess of 1 million, Pennsylvania) which provide that concealed-carry permits must be issued to law-abiding citizens who satisfy various objective criteria. Finally, no permit is required at all in Vermont. Altogether, then, there are thirteen states in which law-abiding citizens who wish to carry arms to defend themselves may do so. While no one appears to have compiled the statistics from all of these jurisdictions, there is certainly an ample data base for those seeking the truth about the trustworthiness of law-abiding citizens who carry firearms.
Other evidence also suggests that armed citizens are very responsible in using guns to defend themselves. Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck, using surveys and other data, has determined that armed citizens defend their lives or property with firearms against criminals approximately 1 million times a year. In 98 percent of these instances, the citizen merely brandishes the weapon or fires a warning shot. Only in 2 percent of the cases do citizens actually shoot their assailants. In defending themselves with their firearms, armed citizens kill 2,000 to 3,000 criminals each year, three times the number killed by the police. A nationwide study by Kates, the constitutional lawyer and criminologist, found that only 2 percent of civilian shootings involved an innocent person mistakenly identified as a criminal. The "error rate" for the police, however, was 11 percent, over five times as high.
It is simply not possible to square the numbers above and the experience of Florida with the notions that honest, law-abiding gun owners are borderline psychopaths itching for an excuse to shoot someone, vigilantes eager to seek out and summarily execute the lawless, or incompetent fools incapable of determining when it is proper to use lethal force in defense of their lives. Nor upon reflection should these results seem surprising. Rape, robbery, and attempted murder are not typically actions rife with ambiguity or subtlety, requiring special powers of observation and great book-learning to discern. When a man pulls a knife on a woman and says, "You're coming with me," her judgment that a crime is being committed is not likely to be in error. There is little chance that she is going to shoot the wrong person. It is the police, because they are rarely at the scene of the crime when it occurs, who are more likely to find themselves in circumstances where guilt and innocence are not so clear-cut, and in which the probability for mistakes is higher.

Arms and Liberty

Classical republican philosophy has long recognized the critical relationship between personal liberty and the possession of arms by a people ready and willing to use them. Political theorists as dissimilar as Niccolo Machiavelli, Sir Thomas More, James Harrington, Algernon Sidney, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau all shared the view that the possession of arms is vital for resisting tyranny, and that to be disarmed by one's government is tantamount to being enslaved by it. The possession of arms by the people is the ultimate warrant that government governs only with the consent of the governed. As Kates has shown, the Second Amendment is as much a product of this political philosophy as it is of the American experience in the Revolutionary War. Yet our conservative elite has abandoned this aspect of republican theory. Although our conservative pundits recognize and embrace gun owners as allies in other arenas, their battle for gun rights is desultory. The problem here is not a statist utopianism, although goodness knows that liberals are not alone in the confidence they have in the state's ability to solve society's problems. Rather, the problem seems to lie in certain cultural traits shared by our conservative and liberal elites.
One such trait is an abounding faith in the power of the word. The failure of our conservative elite to defend the Second Amendment stems in great measure from an overestimation of the power of the rights set forth in the First Amendment, and a general undervaluation of action. Implicit in calls for the repeal of the Second Amendment is the assumption that our First Amendment rights are sufficient to preserve our liberty. The belief is that liberty can be preserved as long as men freely speak their minds; that there is no tyranny or abuse that can survive being exposed in the press; and that the truth need only be disclosed for the culprits to be shamed. The people will act, and the truth shall set us, and keep us, free.
History is not kind to this belief, tending rather to support the view of Hobbes, Machiavelli, and other republican theorists that only people willing and able to defend themselves can preserve their liberties. While it may be tempting and comforting to believe that the existence of mass electronic communication has forever altered the balance of power between the state and its subjects, the belief has certainly not been tested by time, and what little history there is in the age of mass communication is not especially encouraging. The camera, radio, and press are mere tools and, like guns, can be used for good or ill. Hitler, after all, was a masterful orator, used radio to very good effect, and is well known to have pioneered and exploited the propaganda opportunities afforded by film. And then, of course, there were the Brownshirts, who knew very well how to quell dissent among intellectuals.

Polite Society

In addition to being enamored of the power of words, our conservative elite shares with liberals the notion that an armed society is just not civilized or progressive, that massive gun ownership is a blot on our civilization. This association of personal disarmament with civilized behavior is one of the great unexamined beliefs of our time.
Should you read English literature from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries, you will discover numerous references to the fact that a gentleman, especially when out at night or traveling, armed himself with a sword or a pistol against the chance of encountering a highwayman or other such predator. This does not appear to have shocked the ladies accompanying him. True, for the most part there were no police in those days, but we have already addressed the notion that the presence of the police absolves people of the responsibility to look after their safety, and in any event the existence of the police cannot be said to have reduced crime to negligible levels.
It is by no means obvious why it is "civilized" to permit oneself to fall easy prey to criminal violence, and to permit criminals to continue unobstructed in their evil ways. While it may be that a society in which crime is so rare that no one ever needs to carry a weapon is "civilized," a society that stigmatizes the carrying of weapons by the law-abiding -- because it distrusts its citizens more than it fears rapists, robbers, and murderers -- certainly cannot claim this distinction. Perhaps the notion that defending oneself with lethal force is not "civilized" arises from the view that violence is always wrong, or the view that each human being is of such intrinsic worth that it is wrong to kill anyone under any circumstances. The necessary implication of these propositions, however, is that life is not worth defending. Far from being "civilized," the beliefs that counterviolence and killing are always wrong are an invitation to the spread of barbarism. Such beliefs announce loudly and clearly that those who do not respect the lives and property of others will rule over those who do.
In truth, one who believes it wrong to arm himself against criminal violence shows contempt of God's gift of life (or, in modern parlance, does not properly value himself), does not live up to his responsibilities to his family and community, and proclaims himself mentally and morally deficient, because he does not trust himself to behave responsibly. In truth, a state that deprives its law-abiding citizens of the means to effectively defend themselves is not civilized but barbarous, becoming an accomplice of murderers, rapists, and thugs and revealing its totalitarian nature by its tacit admission that the disorganized, random havoc created by criminals is far less a threat than are men and women who believe themselves free and independent, and act accordingly.
While gun control proponents and other advocates of a kinder, gentler society incessantly decry our "armed society," in truth we do not live in an armed society. We live in a society in which violent criminals and agents of the state habitually carry weapons, and in which many law-abiding citizens own firearms but do not go about armed. Department of Justice statistics indicate that 87 percent of all violent crimes occur outside the home. Essentially, although tens of millions own firearms, we are an unarmed society.

Take Back the Night

Clearly the police and the courts are not providing a significant brake on criminal activity. While liberals call for more poverty, education, and drug treatment programs, conservatives take a more direct tack. George Will advocates a massive increase in the number of police and a shift toward "community-based policing." Meanwhile, the NRA and many conservative leaders call for laws that would require violent criminals serve at least 85 percent of their sentences and would place repeat offenders permanently behind bars.
Our society suffers greatly from the beliefs that only official action is legitimate and that the state is the source of our earthly salvation. Both liberal and conservative prescriptions for violent crime suffer from the "not in my job description" school of thought regarding the responsibilities of the law-abiding citizen, and from an overestimation of the ability of the state to provide society's moral moorings. As long as law-abiding citizens assume no personal responsibility for combatting crime, liberal and conservative programs will fail to contain it.
Judging by the numerous articles about concealed-carry in gun magazines, the growing number of products advertised for such purpose, and the increase in the number of concealed-carry applications in states with mandatory-issuance laws, more and more people, including growing numbers of women, are carrying firearms for self-defense. Since there are still many states in which the issuance of permits is discretionary and in which law enforcement officials routinely deny applications, many people have been put to the hard choice between protecting their lives or respecting the law. Some of these people have learned the hard way, by being the victim of a crime, or by seeing a friend or loved one raped, robbed, or murdered, that violent crime can happen to anyone, anywhere at anytime, and that crime is not about sex or property but life, liberty, and dignity.
The laws proscribing concealed-carry of firearms by honest, law-abiding citizens breed nothing but disrespect for the law. As the Founding Fathers knew well, a government that does not trust its honest, law-abiding, taxpaying citizens with the means of self-defense is not itself worthy of trust. Laws disarming honest citizens proclaim that the government is the master, not the servant, of the people. A federal law along the lines of the Florida statute -- overriding all contradictory state and local laws and acknowledging that the carrying of firearms by law-abiding citizens is a privilege and immunity of citizenship -- is needed to correct the outrageous conduct of state and local officials operating under discretionary licensing systems.
What we certainly do not need is more gun control. Those who call for the repeal of the Second Amendment so that we can really begin controlling firearms betray a serious misunderstanding of the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights does not grant rights to the people, such that its repeal would legitimately confer upon government the powers otherwise proscribed. The Bill of Rights is the list of the fundamental, inalienable rights, endowed in man by his Creator, that define what it means to be a free and independent people, the rights which must exist to ensure that government governs only with the consent of the people.
At one time this was even understood by the Supreme Court. In United States v. Cruikshank (1876), the first case in which the Court had an opportunity to interpret the Second Amendment, it stated that the right confirmed by the Second Amendment "is not a right granted by the constitution. Neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence." The repeal of the Second Amendment would no more render the outlawing of firearms legitimate than the repeal of the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment would authorize the government to imprison and kill people at will. A government that abrogates any of the Bill of Rights, with or without majoritarian approval, forever acts illegitimately, becomes tyrannical, and loses the moral right to govern.



This is the uncompromising understanding reflected in the warning that America's gun owners will not go gently into that good, utopian night: "You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands." While liberals take this statement as evidence of the retrograde, violent nature of gun owners, we gun owners hope that liberals hold equally strong sentiments about their printing presses, word processors, and television cameras. The republic depends upon fervent devotion to all our fundamental rights.


Thursday, March 8, 2018

Pushing Cultural Cowardice


--Leslie <;)))>< 

I was originally going to tell an interesting tale from my Chicago days, but an amazing claim by a news pundit set me off on a different course.  As I've mentioned before, Rasty has a crush on Rachel Maddow, so when he settles down in the afternoon to watch TV he tunes it to MSNBC and leaves it there.  MSNBC spends about 20 hours out of every 24 denouncing Trump, his staff, his family, his policies, and anything related to him.  Its anchor-critters haul in psychologists who've never met him to "analyze" Trump's personality and declare him nuts, defeated business rivals to call him economically incompetent, and blatant political enemies to accuse him of being a demagogue.  It was one of the lattermost who made the amazing claim.

"Trump's tactic is Fear," this pious Expert said, and went on to say that Trump always stimulates his listeners' fears: of foreigners, of economic losses, of other races, of "cultural change", etc., etc., which Trump then exploits by offering his own solutions.  I hadn't noticed that myself, but I suppose an Expert would notice subtleties that I'd miss.  Trump's audiences seem to miss it too, for I've never seen a Trump audience that looked frightened: plenty of other things, but not afraid.  And of course he didn't mention that the Democrats right now are exploiting the Parkland high school shooting for all it's worth, but half-truths are common in politics.  If he'd stopped there he might have had at least an arguable point, but he just had to take it a step further.

"We're all afraid of our own inadequacies," he went on, with the blonde anchorwoman nodding complete agreement with him.  He dipped into a brief psycho-babble about how fear makes all of  us incapable of thinking, and then soared off into insisting that just beneath the surface all Americans are afraid of something most of the time.  He didn't mention the old canard about gun owners, or Preppers, or any kind of survivalists, "living in fear" because of some sort of sexual inadequacy, but the implication hung in the air. 

Wait a minute.  I certainly don't live in fear, of "inadequacy" or anything else.  Nobody I know does.  Of course most of the people I know are either cultural weirdos -- SciFi fans, SCAdians, other historical recreationists, Pagans, folk-crafts preservationists, heirloom-seed organic gardeners -- or practical working-class folk used to making do for themselves.  When threatened by anything, from natural disaster to obnoxious neighbor, they don't "feel inadequate" or get frightened;  they get grim in their practicality, or they get angry -- and often still practical.  Panic is frowned upon.  Now the number of SciFi fans et al in the general population is probably small, but the working class is not.  So where did this supposed Expert get the idea that most, if not all, Americans are always so frightened?

Well, people tend to judge others by themselves -- especially if they interact only with others of their own culture.  The very fact that the anchorwoman unquestioningly agreed with the Expert reveals that both of them share the same assumptions, and the same culture.  It's a culture we've all seen all too often, which some people call Limousine Liberals, or the Socialist Elite, but I still call by the old labor union term of Parlor Pink.  It's a classic example of the culture of class -- and the blindness of rulers.  How many of you out there have seen the old poem about Boston -- "Where the Cabots speak only to Lodges, and the Lodges speak only to God"? When you generally speak only to  your own class/culture, you have to rely upon informers/spies/pollsters for your information -- and those may not be accurate, especially if they're rewarded for telling you what you want to hear.  So the question is, do the folks of the upper-class/culture believe that the rest of the populace really are fearful because they simply want to believe it?  Or do they believe because that's how they feel, and they project their attitudes onto everyone else?  Considering how their young behave at various high-ranking universities -- where they claim to feel "threatened", "uncomfortable", "intimidated" and "traumatized" by mere words, let alone opposing arguments -- I'd guess it's the latter. 

I've heard other folks notice how "Liberal fear" seems to be as common as "Liberal guilt", but I have to wonder what causes either, or both, of them?  There have been enough analyses of Liberal guilt to identify it as the originally-religious recognition of the "income gap", intended to flog the rich into being at least more charitable -- if not less exploitative -- toward the poor.  But that should have eased off when the Labor Movement and the great Progressive Reforms of the 20th century made it possible, for example, for Henry Ford's workers to buy Henry Ford's cars -- and also when the decline of the power of the various churches weakened their power to induce guilt.  And why should the Limousine Liberal crowd be afraid?  Aren't they certain that they control the welfare systems, the educational systems and enough of the media to keep the blue-collar class properly appeased and manipulated?

Apparently not.  The voters did, after all, vote for Trump in enough numbers to keep Hillary out of the White House.  Since not even the Southern Poverty Law Center can claim that nearly half the population is made up of sexist, fascist, White racists (plus the fact that many "people of color" voted against Hillary), the only answer is that the blue-collar classes aren't nearly as stupid, ignorant, gullible or controllable as the Parlor Pink crowd believed.  To the Limousine Liberals that concept is downright terrifying, as their frantic near-hysterical reactions to Trump reveal -- and there can be only one logical reason for that.  Liberal guilt and Liberal fear have the same origin.

They know that they've exploited the blue-collar class to their own gain, and they fear the vengeance of their victims. 


             
       

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Children's Crusade Remake


What's more outrageous than *allowing* a vicious and well-armed punk to stroll into a school and proceed to murder, injure, and terrorize the helpless kids therein?  Why, exploiting and manipulating those dead, injured and terrorized kids in order to propagandize a political agenda, of course!

As the facts have trickled in over the past 10 days about the Parkland, Florida school shooting, a lot of nasty details have reared their heads.  Let's take them in consecutive order.

First, there was exactly *one* armed guard -- a Sheriff's deputy, assigned to protect the entire school.  He heard the shots starting, and the fire-alarm going off, hurried toward the building where the shooter was reported, and *did not go inside*.  He stayed out, talking to the sheriff's department on the radio, until the punk finished his rampage.  In his only press statement, the deputy claimed he was "following the active shooter protocol".  The Broward county sheriff later said that the guard/deputy, was being fired (keeping his pension) for his "failure to engage".  However, he wasn't the only one.  When town police from nearby Coral Springs arrived on the scene, they found the assigned guard *and three other sheriff's deputies* outside the building, hiding behind their cars with their weapons drawn -- and not going in.  It was the Coral Springs police who ran into the building to confront the shooter -- who had, by then, finished his fun and jettisoned his gun and hidden among the students evacuating the building.  

The question is, was it pre-established "protocol" or direct orders from the sheriff's department that made all four deputies "stand down", and "not engage"?  The deputy/guard's lack of response is peculiar, seeing that he was previously named "school resource officer of the year" nominated Sheriff's "deputy of the year", and had worked at the school for five years.  And what but direct orders from the sheriff's department could have restrained the other three deputies?  This would be odd enough if it were the only case, but local police were also ordered not to "interfere with the drill" at Sandy Hook, and the local police were also ordered to "stand down" -- until someone was killed -- during the Charlottesville clash-of-protesters riot.  There are too many coincidental cases of police being ordered *not to prevent the killing*.  What sort of police "protocol" would order this?

Second, during a tear-jerking "interview with a survivor" on MSNBC, a teacher told how she had heard the alarm and the shots, and hurried to do what the school's "active-shooter protocol" had told her to, which was to *turn out the classroom lights*.  While she was flicking switches, the shooter burst in through the doorway and fired several shots, killing two of the students and wounding the teacher before he scampered out and went looking for other prey.  The question nobody thought to ask, amid the teary sympathizing, was: *why wasn't the first step in the 'protocol' to LOCK THE CLASSROOM DOOR*?  For that matter, why was the classroom door unlocked in the first place?  Why weren't all the doors in the school locked as soon as the students arrived?  Wouldn't the "inconvenience" of locking and unlocking doors a half-dozen times a day be outweighed by the safety gained?  Why did nobody ask these questions?

Third, the surviving students claimed to have put together a protest organization, a march on their state capital, and a widespread media campaign with *remarkable* speed.  In less than a week, they had their organization spread to high schools across not only their state but the whole country, had their marches on the capitals set up, picket-signs printed (not hand-drawn), rides -- and rented busses -- arranged, and a national "town hall" program arranged on CNN -- all thoroughly and lovingly covered by the media (primarily CNN, secondarily MSNBC).  Now I've done my share of protest-organizing, marching in various capitals, and trying to get the attention of the media;  and believe me, it doesn't happen that fast, that easily, or that cheaply -- *not without rich and powerful patronage*.  For one thing, who paid for those thousands of printed signs and hundreds of charter-busses?  High school students don't have that kind of money lying around.  Hell, most college students don't.  Generally, neither do their parents.  And the media don't give special coverage for free.  And where did the kids learn about obtaining official "parade" and "assembly" permits?  Just who bankrolled -- and assisted -- those kids?  This whole campaign looks as if it were set up beforehand, like the usual gun-control boilerplate argument, a plot just waiting for an example to pounce on.    

Fourth, whoever did that organizing carefully picked the "protesters" it wanted, the questions they'd ask or answer, what they'd be allowed to say and what slogans they'd be allowed to chant (or carry on their picket-signs). A bunch of students in a gym, who heard the shots and alarm and guessed what was happening, quickly *locked the doors*, piled up wrestling-mats to make a bullet-proof barrier, grabbed various pieces of sports equipment to use for weapons, and waited -- ready to fight -- until the local police arrived, identified themselves by shoving their badges under the door, and told the boys they were safe;  and these quick-thinking boys had to tell their story on the Internet because the TV news media didn't want to talk to them.  A junior ROTC student, who shielded other students while they were evacuating, volunteered for the CNN Town Hall program, wanting to ask questions and give his opinion on armed guards and armed teachers -- and had his question ignored, was given scripted questions instead, and was told to "Stick to the script".  The nature of the scripted questions made him decide not to attend at all.  When he posted his complaint on the Internet, CNN hotly denied it.  CNN pundit Chris Cuomo also repeated as truth a false story about a 20-year-old with an expired ID buying an AR-15 at a gunstore -- but it was MSNBC anchors who persuaded one of the school-shooting survivors to repeat the story as if it were his own.  On the other hand, several of the surviving kids complained that it was MSNBC which ignored their statements and questions about mental health care in order to concentrate on "gun control" and to belittle Trump's response to the shooting -- but it was CNN that hyped the student protests as the new "Children's Crusade". 

I think we can guess who's been funding, organizing, and above all *advertising* the students' neatly-sculpted campaign.  

Somebody ought to tell those students what happened to the kids in those earlier Children's Crusades.  Gullibility, no matter how passionate, is not a survival characteristic.   



                  

     

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Very Tired of Florida


It's been less than two years since a Jihadist with an AR-15 walked up to the Pulse night-club in Orlando, Florida, shot the lone armed guard at the door, strolled in and began shooting up the -- unarmed -- bar patrons at the height of Gay celebration night.  The bar patrons could do nothing but try to run and try to hide.  The vicious bastard killed 50 people and wounded another 58 before he was done.  It was a fish-in-a-barrel killing;  Florida law forbade anybody with a firearm to enter any place where alcohol was served.  That's why the lone armed guard was stationed outside the bar, easily spotted, easily shot.  The Liberals/Democrats/media raised the usual boilerplate howl about how legal guns were the problem.  The NRA offered free Concealed Carry qualifying classes to Gays.  A lot of Gays across the country took them up on it.

Today, at MS Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a 19-year-old punk who'd been kicked off the school grounds many times before sneaked back on campus with -- oh yes -- an AR-15 and shot up the school, killing 17 people and wounding 50.  This time the victims were a little better prepared;  as soon as the shooting started, somebody pulled the fire-alarm.  Kids and teachers who heard the shots phoned the police.  Two minutes later the school was evacuated.  This time the shooter was captured alive, and no doubt the psychiatric crowd will pick his brain for motivation.  Nonetheless, 17 people were killed and 50 injured.  Again, the Liberals/Democrats/media are promptly trumpeting their shop-worn push for more gun control.  The pro-gun-rights crowd have said nothing yet, but are busy digging for facts in the case.

Now what, besides the murderers' choice of tool -- the famous AR-15 (actually a light "varmint" gun, much more likely to wound than kill any animal the size of a deer, including a human) -- and choice of state, do these killings have in common?

The killers both chose gun-free/legally disarmed/fish-in-a-barrel targets -- whom the state legislature has done nothing to protect.

Now what if, after the horrific Orlando shooting, the state govt. had seen the error of its ways and allowed bar personnel -- or even designated-driver non-drinking patrons -- to carry concealed firearms inside bars, or other so-called "gun free" zones?  What if Florida schoolteachers who have CCW permits had been allowed to carry (concealed) inside schools?  In fact, what if the state of Florida had required all its schoolteachers to get firearms, train with them, obtain concealed-carry permits, and carry concealed firearms on the job at all times?  Florida law does, after all, not only allow but encourage banks to have armed -- and not always uniformed -- guards in banks, to protect the customers' money;  how much more valuable are its people, especially children?

But no.  In the nearly two years since the Orlando shooting, the Florida government has done nothing realistic, nothing effective, to prevent these fish-in-a-barrel shootings of helpless, unarmed citizens -- just the usual mouthings about "gun violence" and threats to disarm the innocent even further.  What can you say about a government that neither adequately protects its citizens nor even lets them protect themselves?

So much for Florida being a "red" state, or a "southern" state;  it's a hypocrite state with a useless government that ought to be thrown out in the next election.

--Leslie <;)))>< 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Another Chicago Tale

This is the story I was planning to tell before I learned that John had died.  It's a little more hopeful.

Back when I was living in Chicago, working with the union, there was a small shop just down the block from the IWW office that we liked to visit during the day.  (There was a tough bar up toward Halsted street where we went after hours, but that's another story.)  It was, so help me, a tea-shop.  It sold hot tea and homemade sandwiches which the customers could eat and drink at a handful of little folding tables and chairs, that were artfully covered with cloth throws, and it sold boxed teas of all kinds and flavors, as well as exotic incenses, incense-holders, and little brass statuettes.  It was the kind of elegant little shop that would have done well among the artsy crowd near the university campus or in an uppah-clahss neighborhood, but alas, the lady who ran it hadn't had the funds to pay several months' rent in one of those neighborhoods.  She had settled for what she could afford, a small storefront -- facing the park, at least -- in a poor-but-honest working-class neighborhood.  We loved the place, and patronized it as much as we could afford, but it never drew the crowds it needed.

There was no husband in evidence, but the lady who ran the place had a cute little boy named Charlie -- no more than seven years old -- who was clearly half-Asian.  We saw him often, because he'd come straight to the shop after school, sit in the back and do his homework until the store closed, and then go home with his mom.  On weekdays that was understandable, but when I saw him there one Saturday, looking miserable, I knew there was more going on than just schoolwork.  As a regular customer I'd become something of a friend, so I ventured to ask the lady why Charlie wasn't outside on such a nice sunny day.  She was almost desperately willing to tell me.  It seems that a bunch of the local kids had formed a small gang devoted to picking on Charlie, and they'd ambush or chase him and beat him up anywhere outside school or the shop or home.  She had no idea what to do about it, and was frantic for suggestions.

Ah, this was a situation I knew all too well from my own childhood, and I knew what to do about it.  So I finished the last of my tea, zipped up my black leather jacket, and said to the kid: "Hey Charlie, let's take a walk."

He was willing enough to get out of the shop under the protection of an adult -- and I must admit that in my leather boots and jacket, I must have looked pretty fierce to a little kid -- so out we went.  The first question I asked him once we got out the door was: "Where does this gang usually hang out?"

He pointed to the parking-lot just another storefront (closed) down the block, so I said: "Then let's go this way," and led him up the block toward Halsted Street and the drugstore on the corner.  There I bought him a chocolate ice-cream sandwich, and led him back out to the bus-stop where he could eat it in peace.

While he ate, I told him: "Charlie, you've got to settle with these bullies.  You're going to have to fight them, and fight them to a standstill, or else they'll just have fun keeping at you and making your life hell."  He looked grim, and nodded.  I went on: "You'll have to fight them, but I can set up the fight so that they have to come at you one at a time.  I can also give you some tips on how to beat them.  You willing to do that?"  He finished off his ice-cream, and nodded again.  "Okay.  You ready to do it now?"  He thought for a moment, stood up and said: "Yeah."

So we marched back down the side-street, and I told him to walk a good ten yards ahead of me so that the other kids wouldn't know we were together.  And sure enough, as Charlie walked past the edge of the parking-lot, out pounced half-a-dozen kids, aged seven to ten, one of them holding a bamboo stick taller than he was.  Charlie dropped into a defensive crouch, and the kids started to surround him just as I came marching up.

"What a fine gang of cowards!" I bellowed.  "What a great gang of chickenshits!"

That got their attention, and they all turned to look at me.  Apparently the sight impressed them.

"Six against one!" I went on, "And most of you bigger than him, and some of you have sticks.  Gee, what is he, Superman?  Or are you just a bunch of bullying cowards?"

At that they began to squirm and look sheepishly at each other.

"You want to fight him?" I continued, "Fine!  But you can at least have the guts to fight fair.  Let's go into that parking-lot and do it right."

I herded them, with Charlie tagging along, deep into the empty lot where I picked a good clear parking-space.  "You guys," I pointed, "You all stand on that side of the line, and you, kid--" pointing to Charlie, "Stand on this side."  They did, and he did, leaving the empty parking-space between them.  I marched into the empty mini-arena and asked: "All right, which of you wants to fight him first?"  Of course the leader of the pack -- also the biggest -- volunteered.  "So you stand here," I said, waving him into the parking-space.

Then I went to Charlie and whispered instructions.  "Run in fast, duck under his swing, and grab him hard around the body.  Press your face against his belly, so he can't punch it.  Use your arms to hang on tight, and pummel him with your legs, your knees and feet.  Got that?"  He nodded once, grim-faced and eyes narrowed.

"Okay," I said, stepping back to the head of the parking-space.  "Go at it!"

Charlie dashed into the arena, ducked low, and rammed hard into the bigger kid, hard enough to knock him down, but he managed to wrap his arms around the bigger kid's ribs.  Sure enough, he buried his face against the bigger kid's belly and hung on like a leech.  The bigger kid rolled over, trying to pry him off, but Charlie held on and used the opportunity to pummel with his knees.  The bigger kid rolled completely on top of Charlie, who now had clear space to kick high and hard with his feet.  The bigger kid punched futilely at Charlie's back, and rolled again.  Pretty soon they were rolling up and down the parking-space while the other kids yelled and cheered wildly, and I just stood like a statue, silently refereeing.

Finally the bigger kid pried Charlie's arms from around him -- and dashed out of the arena to the safety of his "side".  The other kids fell silent, amazed.  Charlie stood up, rumpled and panting, but triumphant.

"Okay," I said, striding to the middle of the makeshift arena, "Who's next?"

Instant silence.  The kids darted glances at each other, but nobody volunteered.  Slightly surprised, I strolled down the line of them, trying to make them meet my gaze.  "Nobody else?"  I asked, then pointed to another kid.  "You're the next biggest;  how about you?"

"Nah," the kid mumbled, shuffling backward and looking at his feet.  "I don't wanna fight him."

I sneered and moved on to the kid with the bamboo stick.  "How about you?" I challenged.  "You've got a stick."  I tossed a look back at Charlie and said to him: "You know how to fight a stick, don't you?  Same method."  Charlie thought for a second, then nodded.  But the other kid also backed away, muttering: "I don't wanna fight him."

"Nobody?" I snapped at them.  "None of you?  ...Yeah, just as I thought: a bunch of cowards, too chicken to fight one-on-one.  What punks!"  I turned my back on them and went to Charlie.  "Come on, kid," I said, "I'll walk you home.  Where do you live?" --as if I didn't know.

As we walked away, I heard the big kid muttering behind me, trying to salvage his pride: "He must know Karate," to which the other kids hastily agreed.  It was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud as I took Charlie home.

When we got back inside the store, Charlie ran to his mother and hugged her jubilantly.  "I don't think he'll have anymore trouble," I reported, "At least for awhile.  If Charlie needs somebody to walk him home from school, just let us know."  Then I went back to the union hall.

Next time I dropped into the shop, a few days later, the lady couldn't thank me enough for what I'd done for Charlie.  Apparently the bullies had chosen to keep away from the very site of their humiliation, and had vanished from the block.  Charlie had no more trouble on the way home from school or anywhere else on the street.

Alas, the tea-shop succumbed to economic realities, and closed a few months later.  I never learned where Charlie and his mother went, never saw them again, but I daresay the kid did pretty well wherever they moved to.  I just hope he found another "referee".

To this day, when I look back on all that, what amazes me most was how fast the little bully-gang gave up once their leader got thrashed.  Was it just the presence of an impressive "referee" making them stick to the rules, or was it the upset of having their pet victim beat their best?  All I know for certain is what I learned as a little kid myself: when attacked by bullies, fight back;  at worst, you'll hurt them enough to spoil their fun, and at best, you can send them running.

--Leslie <;)))><             

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Another Good Man Gone


I was planning on telling another amusing tale from my wild and wooly days in the midwest, but it looks like I have to write another eulogy for an old friend.  Damn. 

Mary Creasey phoned me yesterday to tell me that her husband John had died.  It wasn't unexpected -- he'd been in a nursing home for nearly two years, trying to get his weight and blood-pressure down, and a couple months ago he had a neurological "incident" that behaved like a stroke, and since then he'd had one organ failure after another -- but, dammit, it was still a jolt.  The last time I talked to him he was bragging gleefully about having lost a whole 105 pounds, and I joked about not recognizing him when I saw him next.  I was so sure he was getting better!  I imagined that in another month or two he'd finally get the knee surgery, and be able to walk, and could go home again and take up half the reins of Random Factors Ltd., and we'd get those albums started...

Not to be.  Not to be.

Now everything's changed.  We'll get the albums done, just not as soon or easily as we'd hoped.  Random Factors will go on, so will the family, so will all of us, but it will be a lot harder.  I was hoping, last year, to get him to sing bass back-ups on the remake of Firestorm;  he had probably the best bass voice in southern-Cal filk-fandom.  And he did the marvelous photos for the cover of the two Kipling-album CDs.  And how I wish he'd written down all those incredible stories about his growing up in Ethiopia where his family worked on the country's first commercial airline, or his mother's tales of being an army nurse in World War Two, or his fascinating work with the little company that makes gas-flow regulators for spaceships...

And there was all the work he did in fandom, and not just in co-creating Random Factors.  I confess, I talked him and Mary into doing that, after Off-Centaur fell apart.  Other filk-publishers have come and gone, but Random Factors has lasted.  It needs to last, and not just for me and Mary, or to preserve/archive the works of filkers come and gone.  With all the changes wrought by the advances in the technology, the near-instant dissemination of MP3s, then near-infinite storage possibilities, the question of how anybody's going to make money selling what's running free on the Internet -- still, somebody has to do the original recording.  There still have to be CDs.  John was working on some ideas about that, but he never did write them down.  Now it's up to us. 

...For some reason I keep remembering a whacky dream John told me about, a few years back.  He dreamed he was at a big LA convention -- maybe LosCon, maybe a WorldCon, he wasn't sure -- in a hotel suite that was setting up for a party, when suddenly the numbers on the door began glowing.  There came a knock on the door, John went to open it, and Superman himself walked in, looking confused.  Nonplussed, but always the gracious host, John offered him a chair and a beer.  A moment later the numbers glowed again, there came another knock on the door, and in walked a puzzled-looking Thor.  Again, John offered a seat and a beer.  Another knock, and this time it was Green Lantern.  By now the first two guests had recovered enough to start questioning why they'd been yanked out of their respective lives/worlds/comic-books and brought here.  Another knock, and in came Captain America, soon followed by Batman, then Wonder Woman.  The crowd of superheroes determined that they'd been collected for some vital purpose, and were trying to figure out what it was.  John's comment was, "Well, I'd best go to the con-suite and get some more beer."

And at that point he woke up.

At the time he told me the story, I thought that yes, that sounded very much like fandom in action.  Now, I'm wondering if it wasn't prophetic.  We -- fandom in general and filk-fandom in particular -- are the bewildered "superheroes", however scattered into our separate worlds, who were gathered together by some unknown power (karma?) into John's hotel-room, for some mysterious purpose which it's left to us to figure out.  And John has gone out for the beer.

Damn, but we'll all miss him.

--Leslie <;)))><