Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Nobody wins in a domestic argument

"President Donald J. Trump is going to abandon our friends and leave them to be killed in the streets by a vastly superior force."

Translation: President Donald J. Trump is withdrawing US troops from Syria, where we have been providing military support to only one side in a domestic dispute that has been going on for centuries.  This makes him "Orange Man Bad".

OTOH, we are bound by NATO treaty - a treaty approved by the Senate and signed into law - to support the other side in that same domestic dispute.  Turkey became a NATO member in 1952, long before its most recent fall (dive?) into Islamic authoritarianism.  But we are sworn by treaty to defend it - not attack it.

So, according to the Democrats and the MSM, we're abandoning our friends, the Kurds - with whom we have no written agreement - to support a "frenemy" named Turkey - with whom we have a senate-ratified treaty.

If we want to discuss Orange Man Bad's actions toward (against?) the Kurds, let's step back a bit and see what happened in the recent past in Bashar Assad's Syria.  Let's remember that Assad dropped poison gas on his own population while President Obama was in office.  President Obama publicly announced that the use of chemical weapons was a "red line" and that using those weapons would result in some kind of punishment.  But, to appease Russia and thus work toward the JCPOA (aka the Iranian "deal"), President Obama took no action against Syria.  He also took no action to help the Kurds.

To break an untenable and quickly failing stalemate, President Trump sent American troops into Syria to go after ISIS strongholds.  After destroying those strongholds and taking thousands of prisoners, he announced that the US would be withdrawing troops from Syria and that the Kurds - some of whom had fought alongside American troops - would be taking charge of the prisoners (some of whom were also Kurds).  We would leave some military advisers in place, but would withdraw most American troops from the area.

Now, the same politicians who demanded that we not get involved in Syria, but supported the "boots on the ground" to attack ISIS, are demanding that we stay involved in Syria.  Their excuse?  "We are abandoning our friends."

Um, no.  We aren't "abandoning friends" - we are leaving a perpetual war zone.

President Trump asked, rhetorically, whether we should be involved in a perpetual war "until the end of time".  He was completely correct to ask that question.  The Middle East was rife with internecine battles for centuries, long before Israel was created, and it will continue to be a war zone as long as Sunni and Shiite Muslims are at each other's throats (as they have been for centuries).  The presence of US troops won't stop this: in fact, US troops have become targets and have been killed all over the Middle East because they seen as interventionists and not peacemakers.

We - the United States - may be the most powerful free nation in history, but we - the United States - cannot be the world's policeman.  In truth, that's the job of the United Nations, which does have an armed force (the "white helmets" and "blue helmets").  If the general consensus of the United Nations is that these wars should end, then the United Nations should be the organization to enforce the peace.

But it is time for the United States to withdraw from active-fire zones where centuries-old hatred still results in firefights - sometimes between different members of the same family.

Withdraw from Syria first.

Then withdraw from Afghanistan.

Then withdraw from other Middle Eastern countries where Americans are seen as viable targets.

We should maintain a presence there in case American forces are needed, but it should be in non-combat operations in a frenemy country, such as Kuwait.

But until it is abundantly clear that we have an overriding national interest in being the world's policeman, and until the expenses of those operations are defrayed by the rest of the world, it makes sense for the US to reevaluate whether it makes sense to spend American money - and spill American blood - in an area of the world where "perpetual wars" are the way of life.


Monday, September 30, 2019

"A Republic... if you can keep it."

Recently, Hillary Clinton has been complaining - once again - about losing the 2016 election.  She has been making various claims that her candidacy was sabotaged, or that people didn't pay attention to the evils of her primary opponent, or that she won the "popular vote" and would be President if it wasn't for that nasty Electoral College.

Sorry, Ms. Clinton, but none of those assumptions hold true - for one simple reason:

The United States is not a Democracy.  It is a Republic.

There are various memes about a Democracy being "two wolves and a lamb voting on dinner" or "the majority voting on what to take away from the minority".  Aside for the ironic nature of those memes, the basic truth is that a Democracy can enable a majority to act in a tyrannical manner against the minority.  A Republic can't.

The Founders were wise enough to know that a pure Democracy would be a failure if implemented in an environment where each of the original 13 Colonies had its own customs, economies, and products.  They knew that forcing some of the Colonies to submit to the demands of other Colonies was a recipe for an inter-Colonial war (which actually happened in the mid-1800s, but that discussion is for another time).

Instead, The Founders designed a "federalism" system of government (remember, we are a "federation of States").  Each State would provide its own State-level governing structure.  The citizens of each State would elect Representatives to their State-level government.  The citizens of each State would also elect Representatives to the central Federal government as well.

The intention was to allow each State to implement laws that it felt were good for its citizens, and that the Federal Representatives would implement laws that all of the States could agree on.  The laws of each State would only affect the citizens of each State, but the laws passed by the Federal government would have supremacy over the actions of every State.

Since this is a Republic, how could a Federal chief executive be elected in such a way that the majority could not completely overwhelm the minority, and where the minority could defeat a tyrannical majority?

The Electoral College was the solution.  Here, "electors" from each state, based on the number of Representatives and Senators to that state, would elect the President.  In this form, a state with a huge population would be no more powerful than many smaller states bound together.

This idea works because the President is the chief law enforcement officer of Federal laws- but has no power over State laws.  He is also empowered to enact or veto Federal bills - a "check" on the power of the Legislature.

The President is not empowered to change State law, nor is he empowered to change Federal law.  Hence, the electors from each State must cooperate to determine who "runs" the Federal government.  The Founders solved that problem by using the same rules as the rest of government: the members of the Electoral College, each representing their own State, elect their own Representative - the "President of the United States".

It's actually a very clever system and one where no individual, group of individuals, or outside agency - such as Russia - can shift an election one way or the other.

We are a Republic, and the Electoral College enforced the same rules of the Republic

Now, Ms. Clinton wishes to eliminate the intent of the Founders by changing the most important aspect of the Federal government from a Republic to a Democracy.

This is the lip of the slippery slope.  If we begin to change the Constitution - the "rules" for the United States - we could destroy the United States.

Ms. Clinton is not happy that she lost the election.  I suppose that's only natural.  But changing the Constitution because you aren't happy that you lost an election?

Perhaps, Ms. Clinton, you were unable to convince citizens of several states to vote for you instead of your opponent.  Perhaps you counted too much on States that supported your candidacy and not enough on states that were "unsure".  Perhaps you depended too much on "status quo" politics when your opposing candidate played according to different - but entirely legal - rules.

In any event, you should be ashamed of yourself for advocating the tearing down the current form of government because you depended too much on the "popular vote" and not enough on the Electoral College.

One last thing: if there was "interference" in the 2016 election, that interference would have had to be so extensive and so widespread that it would be obvious to a blind person.  It wouldn't be hidden from view and only seen through cracks and crevices by only those who make improbable connections between unrelated events.

You legitimately lost the election because there were sufficient States, and thus Electoral College members, who declined to support you.  And as I have explained, it had nothing to do with the "popular vote".

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

18 Years Later

My second cousin worked in the Woolworth building, a block north and a block east of Two World Trade Center - which is across the street from where one of the towers stood (the "north" tower). He was on the subway on his way to work when the train suddenly stopped and an announcement was made that there was an explosion at the World Trade center. It was election day and he had just voted in the primary, otherwise he would have been in his building - which suffered some damage when the towers fell.

My daughter was mad at me the previous week: "You're so unfair!" I hadn't allowed her to take a bus to NYC to meet with some of the faculty members of Boston's School of the Museum of Fine Arts. They were scheduled to have a "meet and greet" brunch on September 11, 2001 ...

... in the Top of the World restaurant at the World Trade Center.

She's not mad at me any more.

For me, 9/11/2001 is a day with mixed emotions. Anger and sadness that so many were killed or hurt, and thankfulness that my family remained safe.

Those who were paying attention knew that the Twin Towers were a target.  A previous attempt to bring them down 10 years earlier using a car bomb wasn't successful, although it did destroy much of one of the underground parking lots.

Those who were paying attention knew that the Twin Towers were a symbol of America's financial and economic strength, and that there were those in the world who hated us and them for what they represented.

Clinton treated multiple terrorist attacks as criminal acts, not as terrorist attacks.  Because of this, investigations were relegated to the local authorities instead of federal agencies.  Without calling these multiple attacks "terrorism", no agency or authority was tasked with "connecting the dots".

Post-9/11 recriminations ran rife with attacks against President Bush for not preventing the attack, even though the information about "airplanes being used as weapons to attack American targets" was so nonspecific that it was useless.  Questions were asked why President Clinton did not "take out Bin Laden" previously.  Accusations flew back and forth about emergency services being unable to communicate effectively.  Some in Congress blamed the Bush administration for "not connecting the dots" when the previous Clinton administration had not demonstrated the need to do so - and hadn't "connected the dots" either.

Some even ridiculed President Bush for not angrily racing out of a classroom during the attack.  He  had been reading a book to kindergarten children.Would frightening the children have solved a thing? The attack had already taken place, every plane in flight was ordered to land at the closest airport after the report of Flight 93 being hijacked, and Vice President Cheney was ready to give orders to Air Force fighters to shoot down any plane refusing to land.

18 years have passed.

In my opinion, we haven't learned a thing.  The proof is our failure to take actions to protect our nation since 9/11 and the proof that America is no longer protected by "ocean borders on either side".

We haven't strengthened our power transmission systems against EMP or other attack.

We haven't fully secured our southern and northern borders to prevent incursions (look at the statistics - some illegal entrants are from the Middle East).

We haven't significantly improved our methods to inspect goods received by container vessels at our multiple ports (marginal improvements, yes - but too many items still make it through the border).

We haven't reassessed our foreign policy to determine where the US military should be involved and where the US shouldn't even get involved.

These are only a few of the "open holes" in our nation's security.  Forums already exist where the question of national security are being legitimately discussed and where possible answers are being proposed.

For decades, we have paid attention to issues that some believe are necessary to demonstrate "who we are".  In many of the "who we are" arguments, some have argued against a strong military capable of defending America because "who we are" should not include using the military. Ever. At. All.  Even when necessary.  Some have even argued that we shouldn't defend America because this nation doesn't deserve to exist.

Maybe Washington is keeping itself occupied with nonsense issues because the big issues - the ones that need to be solved to actually protect America - are SO big and SO hard to solve that both sides are afraid to take the first move... and be accused by the other side of being "provocative".

9/11 both tore this nation apart and brought it together.  We were one nation for a short time - but only for a short time.  And then politicians on both sides of the aisle decided that "playing games" was more important than defending the nation.

Are we back where we were on 9/10/2001?

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

No point of no return

The comment du jour is that, as far as climate change is concerned, we’ve passed the point of no return.

The term “point of no return” is defined – in navigational terms – as the point along a route where the distance forward to the destination is now shorter than the distance back to the point of departure.  The point where you might as well keep going 'cuz - as the saying goes - "there's no going back".

If we’ve reached the “point of no return” climate-wise, then we’re reached the point where we can no longer return the Earth to a pristine “not affected by humankind” climate.

Taking this one step further, if we have reached the “point of no return” climate-wise, then there is nothing we can do.  Nothing. At. All.  We’re screwed.  Incapable of doing anything to fix it.  Humans are on their way to extinction, along with all of the other animal life on the planet.

The analogy is like being in a plane that has lost all power and is going to crash and nothing anyone can do will stop it.  This leaves you with a choice: you can spend your last moments screaming your head off in terror, or you can calmly reach for the drinks tray and get a serious load on.  Either way, it’s over and you know it.  Die with dignity?  Gimme a break.

If the environment has really passed the “point of no return”, then any attempt to clean shit up is useless.  Ya might as well stop worrying and get a gas-sucking big V8.  Or heat your home to 78 degrees in the middle of winter with your pellet stove.  Or get a camper and empty your black water tank all over the highway.  Remember: it’s over – and there’s nothing you can do about it.

In the 1959 film “On The Beach”, a US submarine arrives in post-apocalyptic Australia.  Nuclear fallout is wiping out human life around the earth and there’s no hope for a future (yeah, a really depressing film).  Some people give their whole families – including their children – suicide pills.  Others spend days in prayer in front of churches, hoping against hope for a miracle that will never come.  Others just sit and stare at the clouds in deep depression.

But a few hardy souls decide to do the stuff they’ve always wanted to do - but never did.  One of the protagonists enters a last car race with his rarely-used perfect-condition collectible speedster.  His reasoning? “Why not!”  It’s over.  Might as well enjoy your last moments on earth.

If we’ve reached the “point of no return” climate-wise, then it’s over.  Might as well enjoy our last moments on earth.  Why not?  If there’s nothing we can do about it, why not do whatever we want to do?

Unless, of course, the climate “point of no return” actually doesn’t exist, and the entire idea of a climate “point of no return” is entirely false and only exists in the mad fantasies of fear-crazed control freaks.  And if the well-publicized climate “point of no return” doesn’t really exist and it’s all just a scare tactic, what else are those fear-crazed control freaks lying about?

Oh, the guy in the car race… wins.  As if it really matters anyway: who’s ever gonna see the trophy?

Monday, August 12, 2019

Government protection

There are some who feel that the government can - and should - keep them safe and secure.  That by passing a few "well-intentioned" laws, the government can provide a high level of security for the general public.  A level of security only achievable through laws mandating government restrictions on the rights of The People.  Or as was noted by an old guy with a wig: surrendering liberty for safety.

Let's examine this for a moment.

If the government can’t keep you safe when you’re in a prison cell, then the government can’t keep anyone safe anywhere.

That’s the lesson from this past weekend's report about the death of a notable prisoner in a NY prison.

But this isn't about this prisoner, or that prisoner, or any other prisoner.  Nor is it about someone in a car, or a homemaker, or kids in school.

This is about demands that the government should "keep us safe".

There will be a demand for an investigation to find out why the prison cameras didn’t work or were pointed in the wrong direction.  And there will be a demand for answers and accountability from prison administrators, accusations and cross-accusations of fault, and a call for newer and stricter prison regulations.

Of course, there will be the inevitable “We need to know what went wrong so we can take action to prevent it from ever happening again.”  Yeah.  Right. We've heard that tune before.  As the saying goes, “Pull the other one.”

And yet, this person, someone whose testimony may have implicated other powerful individuals in criminal acts, and someone who was well known to authorities and the public at large, is dead.  In what should be one of the safest places in the country: a prison.  Yes, there are deaths in prisons every day, but this wasn’t a street criminal, drug dealer, or an ordinary thug.  And it didn’t happen in “the yard” or where multiple convicts can group together.

It happened in his cell.

Let's examine this for a moment, but in the context of the latest demands for disarming the general public (and that's what those thinly-veiled demands are meant to do).  If the government can’t keep someone safe inside a gun-free zone where body searches are performed to check for any weapons, which is inside a building with locked doors to prevent both entry and exit, and which is inside a gated facility patrolled by armed guards both outside and inside, then the government can’t keep anyone safe anywhere.

If the government turned its back on someone it was supposed to protect and keep alive, and that person somehow ended up dead - and without explanation - it means that the government isn’t competent to keep anyone safe.  Isn't the old complaint by conspiracy theorists, "who watches the watchers?"

And that’s the entire point: when we trust the government to do something we should do for ourselves, and when allow the the government to restrict our the ability to act on our own behalf, and when we trust the government to do what it is supposed to do, the worst can – and sometimes does – happen.

And that is a problem that no "well-intentioned laws" can solve.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Achieving a reasonable gun control compromise

As has been said before by many folks, there is no such thing as a reasonable gun control compromise.  Here's a repost in full from LawDog illustrating what "compromise" really means to anti-gun advocates.

Before we begin, here's the link to the original so you know that I didn't write this and I'm giving full credit to the original author: https://thelawdogfiles.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-repost.html

Now the full unchanged, unedited, unadulterated, unmodified, original text so you can read it without having to go chasing around to find a way to read it:

==

FRIDAY, JANUARY 25, 2013

A repost

"We cannot negotiate with those who say, 'What's mine is mine, and what's yours is negotiable.'"

-- John F. Kennedy, Address to the American People, 25 JUL 1961

Most people tend to substitute the word 'compromise' for the first 'negotiate' in that quote, and it does tend to fit the current circumstances.

Once again the anti-gun people are starting to trot out the tired and hackneyed meme of "compromise" in the "national gun conversation".

One of the more highly linked of my posts is the one about the "Gun Rights Cake" analogy, which I will now re-post and expand a bit:

I hear a lot about "compromise" from the gun-control camp ... except, it's not compromise.

Allow me to illustrate:

Let's say I have this cake. It is a very nice cake, with "GUN RIGHTS" written across the top in lovely floral icing. Along you come and say, "Give me that cake."

I say, "No, it's my cake."

You say, "Let's compromise. Give me half." I respond by asking what I get out of this compromise, and you reply that I get to keep half of my cake.

Okay, we compromise. Let us call this compromise The National Firearms Act of 1934.

This leaves me with half of my cake and there I am, enjoying my cake when you walk back up and say, "Give me that cake."

I say -- again: "No, it's my cake."

You say, "Let's compromise." What do I get out of this compromise? Why, I get to keep half of what's left of the cake I already own.

So, we compromise -- let us call this one the Gun Control Act of 1968 -- and this time I'm left holding what is now just a quarter of my cake.

And I'm sitting in the corner with my quarter piece of cake, and here you come again. You want my cake. Again.

This time you take several bites -- we'll call this compromise the Clinton Executive Orders -- and I'm left with about a tenth of what has always been MY DAMN CAKE and you've got nine-tenths of it. 


 Let me restate that: I started out with MY CAKE and you have already 'compromised' me out of ninety percent of MY CAKE ...

... and here you come again. Compromise! ... Lautenberg Act (nibble, nibble). Compromise! ... The HUD/Smith and Wesson agreement (nibble, nibble). Compromise! ... The Brady Law (NOM NOM NOM). Compromise! ... The School Safety and Law Enforcement Improvement Act (sweet tap-dancing Freyja, my finger!)

After every one of these "compromises" -- in which I lose rights and you lose NOTHING -- I'm left holding crumbs of what was once a large and satisfying cake, and you're standing there with most of MY CAKE, making anime eyes and whining about being "reasonable", and wondering "why we won't compromise" as you try for the rest of my cake.

In 1933 I -- or any other American -- could buy a fully-automatic Thompson sub-machine gun, a 20mm anti-tank gun, or shorten the barrel of any gun I owned to any length I thought fit, silence any gun I owned, and a host of other things.

Come your "compromise" in 1934, and suddenly I can't buy a sub-machine gun, a silencer, or a Short-Barreled Firearm without .Gov permission and paying a hefty tax. What the hell did y'all lose in this "compromise"?

In 1967 I, or any other American, could buy or sell firearms anywhere we felt like it, in any State we felt like, with no restrictions. We "compromised" in 1968, and suddenly I've got to have a Federal Firearms License to have a business involving firearms, and there's whole bunch of rules limiting what, where and how I buy or sell guns.

In 1968, "sporting purpose" -- a term found NOT ANY DAMNED WHERE IN THE CONSTITUTION, TO SAY NOTHING OF THE SECOND AMENDMENT -- suddenly became a legal reason to prevent the importation of guns that had been freely imported in 1967.

Tell me, do -- exactly what the hell did you lose in this 1968 "compromise"?

The Lautenberg Act was a "compromise" which suddenly deprived Americans of a Constitutional Right for being accused or convicted of a misdemeanor -- a bloody MISDEMEANOR! What did your side lose in this "compromise"?

I could go on and on, but the plain and simple truth of the matter is that a genuine "compromise" means that both sides give up something. My side of the discussion has been giving, giving, and giving yet more -- and your side has been taking, taking, and now wants to take more.

For you, "compromise" means you'll take half of my cake now, and the other half of my cake next time. Always has been, always will be.

I've got news for you: That is not "compromise".

I'm done with being reasonable, and I'm done with "compromise". Nothing about gun control in this country has ever been "reasonable" nor a genuine "compromise", and I have flat had enough.

LawDog

Monday, August 5, 2019

A painful truth

The news hit the nation hard this past weekend.

Two more mass-shootings.  Dozens killed and wounded.  Families and communities torn apart by violence.  And once again, the nation mourns senseless violence.

It's early Monday morning right now, so there's only a limited amount of information available.  But it is beginning to look like both of the shooters left trails behind them.  The San Jose shooter claims he was “radicalized” long before Trump, which would mean “during Obama’s presidency”.  The Dayton shooter was suspended from school twice for making threats, and the kids in school knew he could be dangerous.

Once again, the signs were there and nobody in authority did anything.

Once again, the claim is the “easy availability of assault weapons”.

Once again, the leftists are blaming Trump for “stoking racism”.

It’ll eventually come out that both of these shooters were known but weren’t on a “watch list”.  Psychologists will say that that, before the violence, they were “just kids expressing the normal anger that kids express”.  Authorities will claim their “hands were tied”.  Others will say that they "knew the kid was trouble" but kept to themselves.  And once again, there will be recriminations based in the fantasy that "if we had better gun laws, these shootings wouldn't happen".

The usual calls for gun control have already gone out: more demands for laws that wouldn’t have prevented these tragedies from occurring, more calls for anti-Constitutional restrictions on 2A, more demands for the elimination of legal gun ownership.  All in the false belief that a new law - any law - would prevent more events like this.

But nobody will call for additional restrictions and “watch lists” for people who have exhibited signs of serious antisocial activity.  Nobody will make the connection between the unpunished violence of AntiFA and the acceptance of violence as a means of protest.  Nobody will propose that HIPAA rules be modified to allow truly psychotic individuals (such as Adam Lanza) or those being treated by anti-psychotic drugs to be added to background check lists.

(Yes, there is a legitimate fear that nonviolent individuals with mild mental diseases (such as Downs syndrome individuals or elderly nonviolent Alzheimers patients) will be added to the rolls of those who may not possess firearms.  The question of "prior restraint" immediately comes to mind.  But this is a false equivalence: those who are taking anti-psychotic drugs are doing so for a reason.

No, I don't want to get into a long harangue about mental disease here.  This isn't a comment on mental illness.  It's a comment on how these two shooters were probably "known" to authorities for reasons we have yet to be told.)

AOC recently said that “marginalized communities may have no choice but to riot” (https://thehill.com/homenews/house/455553-ocasio-cortez-says-marginalized-communities-have-no-choice-but-to-riot) and nobody in the MSM held her accountable for enthusiastically endorsing and supporting the use of violence as a political tool.  But they all point to Trump and blame him for "stoking racism".

This wave of violence was predictable.  It began a long time ago but was endorsed during Obama’s tenure when the DOJ refused to prosecute Black Panthers for shutting down a polling station.  Obama’s negative comments about the Cambridge police (who were doing their jobs when they saw someone trying to break into a home and who wouldn't produce an ID proving he lived there) pushed the “racism” narrative full-force into the mainstream.  It was the Obama DOJ that initiated a breakdown in law enforcement with its restrictions that prevented police departments from doing their jobs, especially where anyone claimed that a single bad officer meant the entire force was racist.

These two shootings were predictable.  These two shootings were probably preventable as well.  Neither of these two shootings was due to Trump, or to conservatives, or the NRA.  The only persons responsible for these two shootings were the shooters themselves.

However, instead of examining the recent restrictions on law enforcement and the warning events that led up to these shootings, Democrats will blame Trump.

Don't get me wrong: Trump isn't blameless.  His rhetoric about illegal immigrants and "shithole countries" was unfortunate and should never have been uttered by the President of the United States.

But Trump isn't responsible for hamstringing police departments and calling them racist (for example: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-systemic-racism-in-baltimores-police-force/2016/08/10/86ce448a-5f3f-11e6-9d2f-b1a3564181a1_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.27fbfc749918).  Trump isn't responsible for releasing thousands of violent criminals and illegal aliens from prisons (https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/ice-releases-19-723-criminal-illegals-208-convicted-of-murder-900-of-sex-crimes).

Trump isn't the problem.  He may be part of the problem.  But then, so are liberal Democrats and their public pronouncements about how evil America is, and their refusal to "look in the mirror" to see who has been pushing anti-societal policies that both justify and endorse anti-societal actions.

As the Bard of Avon wrote, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves..."