A Song From My Uncle

 

It was sung at his memorial service Saturday. My cousin, Mary, said he never wrote a note of music in his life. You’re just supposed to sort of give yourself to the music with an Irish enthusiasm. It works.

Take my heart, O Lord, take my hopes and dreams.
Take my mind with all its plans and schemes.
Give me nothing more but your love and grace.
These alone, O God, are enough for me.

Take my thoughts, O Lord, and my memory.
Take my tears, my joys and my liberty.
Give me nothing more but your love and grace.
These alone, O God, are enough for me.

I surrender, Lord, all I have and hold.
I return to you your gifts untold.
Give me nothing more but your love and grace.
These alone, O God, are enough for me.

When darkness falls on my final days,
take the very breath that sang your praise.
Give me nothing more but your love and grace.
These alone, O God, are enough for me.

— John Bossidy (04.18.1931 – 06.18.2019)

Departing Freedoms

 

Flights out of the Hong Kong airport have been canceled today as the increasingly worrisome protests in Hong Kong moved into the terminals. The protests are worrisome not in that Hongkongers [an actual term for Hong Kong citizens by the way] are protesting, but because the backlash from the Chinese government promises to be brutal.

Rather than a modern dystopian film—where the evildoers are sophisticated and the coercion subtle—China’s response is noticeably old school: police and others have been brutally suppressing protestors while a seemingly endless caravan of troop transports has started arriving in Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong.

I doubt this what Tom Friedman had in mind when he wished to be “China for a day,” but he has been oddly low-key about China’s “reasonably enlightened” leadership literally beating people with sticks.

You see, democracy doesn’t die in darkness, as the Washington Post haughtily asserts. No, democracy dies after a tumble down the stairs at its McMansion, pushed by an intellectual class long on ego and a thirst for power and short on humility and memory. Democracy doesn’t die because of some metaphorical darkness falling across the land, but when folks like Friedman praise the “efficiency” of China, or when economists like Joseph Stiglitz praise Venezuela and Hugo Chavez. Perhaps worse, though, is the simple shrug given by these same folks when China begins pummeling people or Venezuelans are forced to eat zoo animals.

The protests in China provide a clear reminder to us all: even if China is getting wealthier, even if the food and technology there is improving day-by-day, there is still a marked difference between democracy and freedom and one-party rule and subjugation. The two systems are not just bureaucratic variations on the same theme and we’d do well to remember that.

The Mistake of “Hire and Forget”

 

This is part two of Hiring with a Purpose. You can read part one here.

When I was a manager, unfilled positions were one of my biggest headaches. They required me, or members of the team, to cover for the vacancies. Heaven forbid if it was a specialist slot that could not be easily covered. I once had a therapist sit in with a temporary doctor to type notes because patients had to be seen.

Obviously, I am not alone in these experiences. When I became a CEO, I heard them from my directors and from their managers. Everyone was focused on getting those slots filled as fast as they could.

In the military, there is a type of missile called “Fire and Forget”. It does not require further guidance after launch and can hit its target without you being within line-of-sight.

What I have seen in business is the mistake I call “Hire and Forget”. After multiple resumes, a number of interviews and an affirmative response from a candidate, the manager finally has someone to fill the opening. The candidate is sent to Human Resources, and the manager, breathing a sigh of relief, can move on to the next crisis.

Perhaps the new employee will receive some one-on-one time post orientation, but usually by 30 days later, it is business as usual. The employee is hired and HR becomes the guidance system to get the new employee to target.

Meanwhile, the manager is frequently focused on tasks other than being a manager. This is often because they earned their promotions because of their output. Being down a position regularly means the output is reduced, but that should not be an excuse to ignore the new hire.

Lack of feedback and support from managers is among the top reasons people report leaving jobs. Find the time to have one-on-one talks about the challenges of the job and about how to meet expectations. If your employee knows you are engaged with her, then she is more likely to remain a long-term employee.

Hiring someone is not sending a missile to blow something up, it is adding, maintaining, and often building an asset for your organization. The number one way to have engaged employees is to have engaged managers.

Not all positions, however, are going to be filled long-term. Lower-level positions tend to have high turnover.

In a previous role, we had positions with an extremely high turnover rate due to low pay and high stress. The quality of employees we were attracting was commonly less than what the program director was seeking. So we decided to stop fighting the turnover trend and embrace it. Instead of seeking long-term employees, we looked to new graduates with college degrees in psychology who were working towards their masters.

We knew we would only have them for two to three years at the most, but by adjusting our expectations we found good employees who could work flexible hours.

The art of hiring and maintaining excellent employees, of building an asset for your organization, is not about hiring and forgetting, it is about having managers who find the time to engage their workers individually and as members of the team.

Hire and Inspire should be your weapon of choice.

This article was originally published at TalkForward as part of my monthly series of thought leadership articles.

True Stories

 

Why does everything in the world today have to be, so to speak, a federal case? Why is everything suddenly an outrage, a pathology – a “life-ending” mistake? Used to be you could say or do something stupid, or even not-so-stupid, and it wouldn’t make you an outcast or even a bad person.

But then, it used to be that we told happy stories, true stories, once upon a time . . . Stories that weren’t just abstract or hothouse notions in the heads of their creators, perpetuated when people who don’t know any better take them seriously and think they’re representations of real life.

Stories can be dangerous things – especially when encountered by young, inexperienced people – and a story can be as small as a word and as vast as the assumptions it encompasses. Stories can warp lives, even if we don’t realise what we’re surrounded by is a story.

It can work another way, too. If you take away the stories that people used to live by – stories of heroes and happy endings, of honour, honesty, and truth, and yes, of true love – then what alternatives do they turn to instead? And what follows from that?

But then, maybe that is, as they say, another story . . .

More Rats! And Racism?

 

RatsThe left has settled on the election strategy of screaming “racist, racist, racist” at President Trump and any who dare show any support for him. It need not be true if it works, as Senator Harry Reid shamelessly admitted after smearing Mitt Romney into defeat. Yelling “that’s racist!” is also a defensive move by Democrats, fearful of President Trump showing they no longer have a monopoly on peoples’ votes based on skin color. President Trump can win bigly in the 2020 election, and put his tormentors on the back foot now, if he simply goes on offense, keeping his promises made in on Trump’s New Deal for Black America. In so doing, he can make a substantial positive difference in the lives of forgotten and exploited Americans, cleaning up the rats, and the dirty rotten rats in local and state governments.

Rats and Dirty Rotten Rats

My mother served as a nurse in the Philadelphia Department of Public Health in the late 1950s. This was before the national, and then transnational, drug gangs cranked up the level of violence from knives, chains, and zip guns, to effective late 19th century, early 20th century firearms (double-action revolvers, eventually superseded by semi-auto pistols). The old men sat on their tenement stoops keeping watch. Young nurses, women, often white, walked alone because they were under community protection.

And. She treated small children in their apartments for rat bites.

In the process of compiling a short video history of rats in Baltimore, “Rats!,” I made note of a CBS Philly video: “Philadelphia Worst in Country for Rodent Infestations.” That, in turn, called to mind a former Florida police detective telling me that the scariest day of his life was entering a certain section of Philadelphia as part of a law enforcement team, to extract a very bad dude to answer for his crimes in Florida. Lack of effective civil society, in which government actually delivers the services for which they claim to exact our taxes, leads to both rats and violence proliferating.

Read this partial transcript from Tom Skinner at Urbana 1970 (then go read the rest if you identify as Christian, or watch the Tom Skinner video on Vimeo):

Harlem was more than 40% slums. Thousands of people lived in rat-infested, rundown, dilapidated apartments where the landlords never came around to provide services.

It was not uncommon for some mother to wake up in the middle of the night and send a piercing scream through the community as she discovered that her two-week-old baby had been gnawed to death by a vicious rat. You could set your watches by the police who drove into the neighborhood to collect their bribes to keep the racketeering going.

Now, during this great upsurge in revolution and rebellion that has been going on, there have been great numbers of evangelical Christians who have joined the hoot and cry for “law and order.”

But how do you explain “law and order” to a mother who stands at the foot of her bed watching her baby lie in a blood bath, when she knows that that baby would never have been bitten by the rat in the first place, and the rat would have never been in the building, if the landlord to whom she had been paying high rent had been providing the kind of service she deserved for the kind of rent she was paying?

How do you explain law and order to her when she knows the building code inspector, who represents the city administration, who is supposed to check out violations in buildings, came by that building the day before but was met at the front door by the landlord who palmed a hundred dollars in his hand, and the building code inspector kept going? Now that is lawlessness.

But the point is, we never arrest the landlord. We never lock up the building code inspector. But I tell you who we do lock up. We lock up the frustrated, bitter, sixteen-year-old brother of that two-week-old sister who in his bitterness takes to the street and throws a brick at that building code inspector. Then we lock him up and say, “We gotta have law and order!”

Make no bones about it: the difficulty in coming to grips with the evangelical message of Jesus Christ in the black community is the fact that most evangelicals in this country who say that Christ is the answer will also go back to their suburban communities and vote for law-and-order candidates who will keep the system the way it is.

Eliminating Rats and Catching the Dirty Rotten Rats

This multigenerational problem of public corruption, which we would never accept in our own town, is why state or federal authorities have to move in. People, beyond the token mayor, must be perp-walked. Police have to arrest building inspectors and negligent property managers with the same great show as with a gang unit operation. I was struck, in the middle of a Baltimore video, by a man of my age bitterly remarking, as a gaggle of city officials trooped by with camera crews, “This is the first time I’ve seen this in my whole life!”

Oh, and before you go running to “it’s his fault he didn’t throw the bums out,” understand the local pols, everywhere, structure the voting dates and the way seats are apportioned, to their own benefit and that of a small, concentrated group of interests. Most municipal elections are the next best thing to a self-licking ice cream cone. Let’s really get constitutional here and contemplate Article VI, Section 4, of the Constitution of the United States:

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence.

Candidate Donald J. Trump had a different vision, laid out in the 2016 position paper: “Trump’s New Deal for Black America: With a Plan for Urban Renewal.”

The following are ten promises announced by Donald Trump on October 26, 2016 in Charlotte, NC that will define a new deal for Black America…

1. … We will allow every disadvantaged child in America to attend the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school of their choice. …support for trade and vocational education.

President Trump has made little progress on this, and should be standing in poor communities with parents tired of waiting for “Superman.” He has shown real steps on the trade and vocational education side, in partnership with employers. Two African-American workers talked recently at the White House about training leading to job openings and advancement. A key part of making schooling successful is providing basic safety on the street and in the schoolhouse.

2. …We will make our communities safe again.Every poor African-American child must be able to walk down the street in peace.Safety is a civil right. We will invest in training and funding both local and federal law enforcement operations to remove the gang members, drug dealers, and criminal cartels from our neighborhoods.The reduction of crime is not merely a goal –but a necessity.

President Trump should shift gears from counter-punching to all-out offense, mustering all-American outrage at the lack of basic public safety in Baltimore and Chicago, to start. To that end, he should push Attorney General Barr hard, now, to shock the rotten rats with high profile perp walks, fulfilling his third promise.

3. …We will apply the law fairly, equally and without prejudice. There will be only one set of rules –not a two-tiered system of justice. Equal justice also means the same rules for Wall Street.

If it applies to Wall Street, then it must apply to the crooked local and state employees and businesses responsible for the multi-generational breakdown of basic public services. Reflect on Tom Skinner’s words again: “we never arrest the landlord. We never lock up the building code inspector.” Now imagine federal teams raiding and seizing local officials as they did to Paul Manafort.

4. …Tax Reforms to Create Jobs and Lift up People and Communities. We will lower the business tax from 35 percent to 15 percent and bring thousands of new companies to our shores.We will also have a massive middle class tax cut, tax-free childcare savings accounts, and childcare tax deductions and credits. We will also have tax holidays for inner-city investment, and new tax incentives to get foreign companies to relocate in blighted American neighborhoods. We will empower cities and states to seek a federal disaster designation for blighted communities in order to initiate the rebuilding of vital infrastructure, the demolition of abandoned properties, and the increased presence of law enforcement.

Here President Trump can again claim credit for promises kept, while beating the Congress mercilessly if they do not fund “…federal disaster designation for blighted communities in order to initiate the rebuilding of vital infrastructure, the demolition of abandoned properties, and the increased presence of law enforcement.”

5. …Dodd-Frank has been a disaster, making it harder for small businesses to get the credit they need.The policies of the Clintons brought us the financial recession –through lifting Glass-Steagall,pushing subprime lending, and blocking reforms to Fannie and Freddie.It’s time for a 21st century Glass Steagall and, as part of that, a priority on helping African-American businesses get the credit they need. We will also encourage small-business creation by allowing social welfare workers to convert poverty assistance into repayable but forgive-able micro-loans.

This addresses both local and national problems and points to bi-partisan favoring of the powerful few in the false name of the many.

6. Trade That Works for American Workers.We will stop the massive, chronic trade deficits that have emptied out our jobs. We won’t let our jobs be stolen from us anymore.We will stop the offshoring of companies to low-wage countries and raise wages at home –meaning rent and bills become instantly more affordable….

President Trump trumpets both trade and jobs good news daily. He is making the case to African-Americans that he is keeping this promise and getting results for them. This drives the Democrats to scream “racist,” to distract people whose votes they thought they owned.

7. … We will restore the civil rights of African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and all Americans, by ending illegal immigration. No group has been more economically-harmed by decades of illegal immigration than low-income African-American workers.

Here, the president scores points with every story about the border wall, about fighting back against states and judges, and about getting other countries to start helping. The recent ICE raid in Mississippi, if the first in a series, is a clear example of promise-keeping. President Trump can connect his trade and immigration policy to real results for African-American employment and wages.

8. … We will cancel all wasteful climate change spending from Obama-Clinton, including all global warming payments to the United Nations. This will save $100 billion over 8 years. We will use these to help rebuild the vital infrastructure, including water systems, in America’s inner cities.

President Trump should insist on targeted infrastructure spending in Baltimore, Chicago, Flint, and Detroit. He should demand the “ice rink” standard of on-time and under-budget performance. While he is at it, he should do the same with the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. He should demand high-profile perp-walks of crooked politicians and contractors. Equal justice includes timely delivery of infrastructure without a corruption bite taken out.

9. …We will protect religious liberty, promote strong families, and support the African-American church.

This includes, and is about far more than, preventing shootings, bombings, or church burning. Linking family to basic community and economic success in essential. Giving voice to churches that will speak the truth in tough love is foundational to changing hearts and minds, taking away the conditions needed by the gangs and other predators.

This is also about protecting the African-American church against predators in black robes who would invert the First Amendment and 14th Amendment by setting the false constitutional category of sexual identity against the real constitutional categories of race and religion. Of course, significant portions of a number of denominations have changed their doctrine, as is their earthly right, subject to the judgment of God, not Caesar.

10. …We will stop trying to build Democracies overseas, wasting trillions, but focus on defeating terrorists and putting America First.

This is a popular idea on most points of the political spectrum. It lets President Trump claim another promise kept and link that promise to creating space for rebuilding cities here instead of in foreign countries. At the same time, he can point out that infrastructure requires security and honest administration.

President Trump can do well and “be best” by doing good. Specifically he will win reelection with a mandate if he really keeps his promises, both on Second Amendment rights, and on “Trump’s New Deal for Black America.” If he will only settle back down into those two instincts and his core brand of “promises made, promises kept,” he will win like never before and really Make America Great Again.


This is an extensive revision and extension of an earlier post, pointing to specific promises and ideas already surfaced to address the problems identified. What are your thoughts on what has worked locally? How might President Trump best keep his ten promises?

Neutralizing Conscience: How the Left Gets Away with Murder

 

Everyone is speculating on the recent spate of mass murders and the motives of the murderers. So, I figure you have the right to my opinion, too. My title is a bit of an exaggeration, but only a bit. The Left has had murderous intent toward Judeo-Christian Western civilization for decades.

“Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Civ has got to go!” If you’re of age, you remember this piece of (un)wisdom from the 1987 student protest at Stanford, but the sentiment is much older. In fact, it goes right back to The Beginning and rejection of a transcendent moral authority by Adam and Eve and, before them, Satan himself. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. How can we explain people who hold ostensibly “liberal” principles acting so illiberally as leftists do?

Quillette had an excellent explanation of Neutralization Theory using the case of Andy Ngo’s assault by “anti”-fa as an example in the article: Neutralizing Ngo: The Apologetics of Antifascist Street Violence. Some excerpts:

1. Denial of Responsibility: The Offender as Faultless for their (sic) Actions

… ‘ “It’s not a surprise a conservative writer was bloodied in a street brawl in Portland,” explains the standfirst to a piece at HuffPost, “far-right extremists have been freely hosting skirmishes there for years.” Implicit here is the idea that, because a skirmish has been “hosted,” the other side must participate, and that attacking a journalist somehow necessarily follows. Thus, it might safely be disregarded as mere distraction from what “really” went on.’

2. Denial of Injury: The Offense as Harmless

… ‘Others downplayed the assaults by emphasizing the milkshake and silly string elements, while reducing the rest to “a few punches” that “didn’t even knock him down,” or omitting it altogether. Some reduced Ngo’s injuries to “a few scratches and bruises,” while others speculated that the brain injury was a fabrication, based on as little as, for example, Ngo’s ability to send a tweet…’

3. Denial of Victimhood: Blaming the Victim

…’Others reached further back in time to characterize Ngo as a “doxxer” of Antifa members, an “Islamophobe” and “eugenicist,” who is responsible for a “kill list” of left-wing journalists, and so on. And, of course, some rationalized that he got what he deserved for being a “fascist”—a somewhat necessary connection to draw at some point, one supposes, when attempting to justify “antifascist” violence. However, its rhetorical utility runs deeper than simply drawing semantic congruence between the action and the target…’

[Speaking of “fascism”] ‘It is the (fittingly Orwellian) notion of “preemptive self-defense,” endlessly interpretable and applicable without the limitations of conventional language or logic, distilled down to a single epithet: “fascist.”’

4. Appeal to Higher Loyalties: A Wrongful Action Excused in the Service of a Greater Good

‘If antifascism can be vague—even deliberately so—about what it is against, it is murkier still about what it for. It is difficult to frame Ngo’s assault as just a broken egg for the sake of an omelet, when it isn’t clear what’s on the menu. However, as a creature of the Left and of modern society, it is important that antifascist actions are not framed as antagonistic to the values of the mainstream.

As such, it becomes very important to make clearall else aside—that Andy Ngo is not a journalist. Or, if he is a journalist, his identity as a “fascist” supersedes that status…’

We might call this rationalization by demonization; or, moral dissonance resolution by delusion and denial. Lefties who proclaim the evils of “white privilege” and extol the virtues of Michael Brown (Ferguson’s “gentle giant”) will brutalize people of color for wearing a MAGA hat (ask Jahangir “John” Turan of Manhattan). Neutralization of that still small voice — a.k.a., conscience — is a necessary precondition for behaving so directly in opposition to one’s stated principles.

I’m attempting a psycho-social accounting and it’s difficult to express, but I’ll confess I hold the Left almost entirely responsible for our current condition. I give leftists more credit than some do. The lefties I know personally are highly intelligent, capable people. But, they’ve rejected the wisdom of the ages passed down through our Judeo-Christian cultural heritage and have embraced multiculturalism, identity politics, moral relativism, queer theory… whatever the demands of the latest lefty fad. Because they have no Yardstick by which to measure the good, the true, and the beautiful, and the inverse of those things, they’ve become their own, fully atomized moral arbiters. Moral chaos rules and isolation and disaffection are its handmaidens.

Everyone’s favorite atheist (now that Hitchens is dead), Sam Harris, goes so far as to argue that morality is grounded in science. He believes there is objective truth and natural moral laws which science affirms in observing the evidence of human and animal flourishing. But, who’s to say human flourishing is a good? Certainly not global warming alarmists who believe people are pollution — especially if they’re flourishing in advanced societies! Is it possible to be coherent, let alone objective, if you believe men and women are not only equal — they’re the same! Unless one is transgender, and then he’s totally a woman as distinct from a man.

The killers of El Paso and Dayton (and too many other locales) are living in a society which demonizes white males as racist, homophobic, xenophobic, sexist, intolerant, transphobic, and bigoted… until the next victim group comes along we can tag on. Should we be surprised some young men choose to live down to such standards? To become the despised and deplorable?

“Disaffection” may be my new favorite word to describe the phenomena. These mass killers show no affection for the people they’re living among. The semiautomatic rifles they use are a distraction from the moral rot at the heart of their actions. The Dayton shooter was the more obviously morally depraved of the two. He shot his best friend and his sister in the car they’d used to drive him to the scene. Is it any wonder he signed his emails #HailSatan? The El Paso shooter appears to break the outright demonic mold in that he feared outliving his murder spree because he cared that his family would despise him for it. He heard a whisper from that still small voice. And then he ignored it.

Skinny Towers and the Letter of the Law

 

The local news had a story the other day that they teased as a “David vs. Goliath” battle. In this story, the “David” was the little guys living in $3-5 million apartments. “Goliath” was developers building $10-40 million apartments for the superrich. So, even a one-percenter can be the “little guy” when up against the 0.1%.

The issue here is new super tall, but skinny, skyscrapers being built that will block the views of those in some of the older buildings. A few years back I started to notice some of these residential towers while looking at the midtown skyline from the Jersey side. In the past, the really tall buildings were iconic ones like the Empire State Building or the Chrysler Building. These new towers have none of the styling of the older buildings and are just very thin rectangles sticking up into the sky.

The controversy here has to do with the zoning laws. There are limits to the residential square footage allowed in a building. That, however, does not include any structural or mechanical spaces. Since a 90th-floor apartment can be sold for much more than a 40th-floor unit, developers add numerous mechanical spaces to help them push the residential spaces skyward.

432 Park Avenue stands 1,400 feet tall. According to the New York Times, a large percentage of that space is designated as mechanical:

But 432 Park also has an increasingly common feature in these new towers: swaths of unoccupied space. About a quarter of its 88 floors will have no homes because they are filled with structural and mechanical equipment.

These voids allow for a taller building with penthouses in the $30 million range.

Exploiting this loophole may seem a little sleazy to some, but it is also very clever. In a bigger sense, it shows a problem that goes beyond construction and zoning laws. Laws are more complicated than they need to be and the people voting on them don’t know what they are voting for. When politicians try to regulate things they don’t understand, they are going to mess up.

This is true for too many issues. Politicians who call every rifle an AR-15, who don’t understand the difference between automatic and semi-automatic, who judge weapons by appearance rather than firepower, they want to give us “common sense” gun laws. They give tax credits for things like solar and wind, when no one knows what form the next great innovation might take. Where else do you see regulations that don’t do what they were meant to do because politicians got in their own way?

Hong Kong: Why the Stakes Are So High

 

A cursory reading of the situation is that the Hong Kong people are advocating for the freedoms and liberty of Hong Kong. They are doing that. But it is more than that, as the Chinese government surely sees.

If Hong Kong manages to protect its freedoms, then riots will – eventually – break out in Shanghai and Beijing and everywhere else. The future of all of China depends on crushing the Hong Kong protesters. The Chinese understand this. What they (and nobody) understand is what consequences may come from putting down protesters in a society that (still) has a free press, using soldiers and live ammunition. Tiananmen Square was before Social Media. Those consequences could include enormous economic pain from sanctions and businesses avoiding both countries, and it could readily spark a global recession.

This is a Very Big Deal.

Indeed, I think the only way in which Hong Kong emerges with freedoms intact is if Chinese dissidents simultaneously act in Beijing and Shanghai and elsewhere. Which would mean a complete revolution in China.

Member Post

 

When I hear of a person who’s having a problem I want to act. But sometimes I think that what God wants me to do is first pray silently*, then to wait, for hours, days, or years, while watching. Watching may reveal that the prayer has been fulfilled. Or it may reveal the right moment […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Checking Off My Summer List, Part One

 

Summer in Northwest Montana goes by in a blur. One breezy, sparkling day, a season I call “late spring” emerges out of the weeks of rain, mud, fog, and false starts. I’m ogling the blossomy landscaping at our McDonald’s drive-through and thinking that this must be the prettiest corner of the prettiest region in the US. We’ve arrived, and I vow to hold on to each day so that the months don’t flip by quite so quickly. But then after just a couple family visits, an out-of-town trip, several smoky days we hope will go away, and some weeks of tourist-packed traffic, we’re suddenly back to new teacher training at my job. And then I see the back-to-school supplies at WalMart. And finally—the death knell for summer—come the first crimson leaves that signal we’re about to enter that other season, that one that is unpredictably glorious, and we hope long, but always the gateway into weeks of bleak indoor weather.

With a timeframe like this, those of us who have moved here because the lush woods and mountains drew us like powerful magnets have some things to get done in our spare time. We rebuke ourselves each sunny day that we’re indoors, especially when it’s not too hot (the sun out here is brutal) or threatening rain. I tend to have a mental summer checklist of things that need to happen by mid-September, because I’m lucky if October is hospitable enough for such things. I’d say I’ve done a fairly good job of covering the list this summer, with time to spare for more:

Walking: To those of you in milder climates, having walking on your bucket list sounds silly. Out here, getting out for walks in beautiful surroundings is a gift. I have so delighted in exploring the quiet neighborhood of this town via evening walks. In early spring this year, I was unimpressed with the icy puddles and frigid river flanked by brown vegetation. The lake was still iced over, and I was not going to be enchanted with this place.

Then late spring arrived, and I fell in love. I loved the bridge spanning the river, from which I could look down into water that was so clear and still that you had to see the clues to know which way the current flowed. I loved the paved walkways, with their graceful curves and picturesque bridges, so smooth that walking felt like no effort at all. With no uneven ground to trip over, I felt like I floated above the walk, powered along by the gracious sweep of the footpath, the open blue sky, grass and trees, blossoms everywhere, and green mountains looming just a few miles to the north. The birdsong was so clear and close, I started wondering whether there might be speakers hidden in the trees, like at the zoo.

And after all those years of walking out in the backcountry, I realized the residents contributed some of the best parts of the small town walking experience—their rows of charming houses, their cozy front porches with chairs arranged just to get one daydreaming about the ideal life, their love of floating down the river in kayaks, no life jackets necessary, in Montana’s late twilights. I loved their unruly gardens with giant peonies along the fence, the occasional red door, the shockingly not-up-to-code features one came across. When the weather became friendly, the whole neighborhood came gleefully outdoors. There were big gatherings and bonfires and smells of meat grilling. An ultralight ascended from around the lake a block away and circled the area, stalled and banked, and went on his way again. That’s when I knew the town was fully awake.

My daughter and I have taken to naming our walking routes—we have a number of them—but we almost always go by the lake. I will have to save that for next time.

Just Because G-d Is Hidden Doesn’t Mean He’s Not There

 

Here’s a beautiful thought from Sivan Rahav-Meir (translated from the Hebrew):

“In this world, in which G-d is hidden from us and does not reveal Himself to us, we grasp onto proofs for the existence of G-d like fish arguing about the existence of water.”

Why Is There No Third Temple?

 

Why wasn’t the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, twice destroyed by our enemies, rebuilt in the last 2,000 years? We have had all those years to pray, to yearn. And yet we are seemingly no closer to the rebuilding of the Temple than we were after the destruction of the Second Temple by Titus.

The question is especially pertinent when we accept that, for the first time during this period, the Jewish people are now in control of the land on which the Temple, the “Home of the Tabernacle,” stood. And so I used to think as many others do: that we simply lack the courage to do what needs to be done. If this is so, we could say that our medieval, ghetto mindset has not been updated by the existence of the State of Israel. I think this is part of the answer. But it is not a complete explanation.

Until we understand why the Temple was destroyed in the first place, there is no reason why G-d should give us another chance. After all, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” (Rita Mae Brown). We had the first two temples. And we lost them both, which means that thinking that if we restore what we had in the past we would get a better result would be, in a word: insanity.

If we were “doing” the temple wrong the first two times, then perhaps we are not supposed to build the third Temple until after we understand why G-d commanded the tabernacle to be built in the first place!

The serious gap in our understanding rests with a major purpose of the Temple: to offer sacrifices. Yet, the prophets and psalms have no shortage of exhortations about G-d NOT wanting the sacrifices that He told us to bring! Here is but a short sample:

For I desired mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of G-d more than sacrifices. (Hosea 6:6)

and

Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats? (Psalms 50:13)

Yet the Torah commands us to bring sacrifices! What were the prophets and the psalms trying to tell us? Why did they seem to contradict G-d’s expectations for sacrifices? Does G-d want sacrifices, or not?

I think the prophets were making a more subtle, but profound argument: G-d wants us to understand that the commandments are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. And what is that end? God wants us to behave and live in a holy manner: Mercy. Love. Justice. Growth, both personal and societal.

So, too, the Temple, the house of the Tabernacle where we bring our sacrifices, is also a means to an end. Each of the parts of the tabernacle is rich with symbolism and meaning, capable of guiding us through the ages – but only if we appreciate the importance of seeking understanding, as opposed to merely ticking the boxes.

The problem is that throughout history, the Jewish people have forgotten G-d’s expectations and slipped back into mindset of Cain (G-d as a powerful entity requiring a payoff), Korach (G-d as pagan deity who is ultimately uninterested in the affairs of men as long as He gets His own offerings), and countless Jews who see G-d as nature and nature as G-d. For all these deities, man merely has to go through the motions, and the god is assuaged. None of these gods requires the worshipper to seek personal spiritual growth, to find ways to love the widow, the orphan and the stranger – let alone one’s own neighbor.

But the G-d of the Torah stands qualitatively apart from all pagan (and for that matter Greco-Roman, Norse and other) deities. G-d is not nature or one of its forces. Nor does He want us to serve because we acknowledge His power: He wants us instead to acknowledge and emulate his mercy and justice.

Hashem also wants and craves a relationship with us, one in which we seek to understand and perceive His thoughts. He commands us to bring sacrifices not because He is hungry, but because sacrifices, given properly, can help us grow and move on in our personal development and deepen our connection to and our relationship with Him.

When we instead practice what I term “Rain Dance Judaism”, we are reverting to a kind of “fill in the blanks” service to G-d that is much more pagan than Jewish. Instead of understanding why we have commandments, we think all we really need to do is follow the commandments, with slavish attention to detail. If we do things just right, then the Celestial Slot Machine will come up bells, and we’ll be rewarded with a cascade of quarters. This is precisely the same trap into which the Judaism of the Temple periods fell into!

Instead of understanding why we brought sacrifices, people assumed that as long as they followed the letter of the law, G-d would be happy. Instead of understanding why the Mishkan was commanded, we instead assumed that we didn’t need to know the reasons; we were only to show our devotion by doing precisely as we were told. And instead of understanding and internalizing the lessons contained within sacrifices, we mailed it in: give G-d lunch, and He’ll bless us – or at least leave us alone! We have forgotten that all of these actions, these commandments were intended to bring us closer to G-d and to emulate Him in our actions, words, and deeds.

Until we come to understand what the commandments are for, we will not have the opportunity to practice them fully, to use them as a way to learn and understand G-d. As we read on the day commemorating the destruction of the Temples:

Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches. But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23,24)

And it is in these things, lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, that we have been given the Torah and all its commandments. The challenge for us is to try to understand how and why the commandments in the Torah, including all of those of the tabernacle, lead us to making ourselves and our societies more loving, just and righteous. As we do that, we grow in our understanding and knowledge of G-d Himself.

When we meet that mental challenge, then we will no longer be doing the same thing over and over again, and we will be able to reasonably expect a different result. At that time, we will be ready for the Third Temple.

(another @iwe and @susanquinn production!)

Member Post

 

I think it was in the National Review (or possibly in The Washington Examiner) that I came across the casual use of “unsavory characters” applied to Sebastian Gorka (along with someone named, I think, Tim Holt). The writer assumed I would agree and need no evidence. I know the left has slimed him, but whom […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Some of the Good Guys

 

The picture below shows members of Yamam, the anti-terrorist unit that tracked down the murderers of Dvir Sorek, who was 18 years old.

One of Dvir’s teachers told this story about him:

“He was an amazing man, very sensitive, smart, modest, who fused wisdom and quiet. This is a man who at the beginning of the year saw an Arab walking around the area with a donkey that looked unwell, sick, so he offered to buy the donkey. He bought it, treated it, and sent it away,” Rabbi Sarel Rosenblatt, who taught Sorek, told Channel 12 news.

“I wanted him to be a man of standing in Israel, who would contribute a lot of his light to Israeli society, and his light was taken from us,” he added, describing him as a “sensitive man with a heart of gold.”

Dvir’s father, Yoav, reacted to the terrorists’ capture as follows:

“We are grateful to the security forces for their swift action in catching the terrorists, though we are disappointed they were captured alive. We are glad that Dvir, may G-d avenge his blood, didn’t see the faces of his killers, and we will try not to see them either, not now and not in court.”

Whether captured or killed, the terrorists’ families are richly rewarded by Abbas and company and, in reaction to the murder of any Jew, there is a celebratory mood as candy is handed out.

Are Democratic Voters Buying This?

 

Imagine someone who really believes that Donald Trump colluded with the Russians, and that somewhere there is some evidence that Mueller didn’t have time to uncover, that proves that Putin cheated in our election to get Trump elected. And then imagine that that very same person also believes that the same government that manages our Post Office and DMV offices should manage our healthcare and retirement plans. And then imagine that that very same person also believes that Christians are more dangerous than Muslims, and that we can improve the safety and security of our country via open borders. And then imagine that that very same person also read a news story that says that (to quote Matt Walsh) “A global sex trafficker who could implicate some of the richest and most powerful people on Earth (including Bill Clinton – ed.) as pedophiles died in his jail cell while under suicide watch in federal prison on the very night that his case files were unsealed” and thinks nothing is amiss. That person thinks to himself, “Golly – another lucky break for Bill Clinton! He must be relieved to have this misunderstanding resolved! Thank goodness we can Move On! Again!”

I have a couple of questions about the person described above. First, how many people are there in the United States who actually believe all that stuff? Some, certainly – I’ve been to college – I know that there are many people who work hard at appearing more foolish than the next guy – it’s like a competitive sport. But still, how many? Enough for Democrats to ride that base to victories in national elections? I mean, socialism is crazy enough. But just think of all the other stuff you have to believe (or at least ignore, I guess) to actually vote Democrat. It makes my head hurt.

Second, the herd of politicians running for the Democrat nomination may not be as mind-bogglingly stupid and crazy as they try to make themselves sound. If the guy in the first paragraph above is their base, then they’ve got to say some insane stuff to sound sane. To him. Maybe those Democrat candidates are rolling their eyes at this stuff just like we are. I certainly hope so. But I don’t know…

In a democracy, we don’t always get the government we want, but we usually get the government we deserve, so the crazier we get, the crazier our leaders become. I guess. Many people thought George McGovern was crazy in the late ’60s. Imagine what those people would have thought of Marianne Williamson. Or Pete Buttigieg. Or, heck, Bernie Sanders, who very nearly won the presidency a few years ago.

But back to the guy above. I wonder how many Democrat voters are looking at Epstein’s death right before he testified against Bill Clinton and, in their own private thoughts, in the dark of night, wonder if, perhaps, something just might be amiss? Epstein did not come across as the ethical man of principle, who could not bear bringing shame on his family. Perhaps he hid his sense of personal morality well? Or perhaps he just happened to discover his morality, like misplaced car keys, on the very same night that his case files were unsealed.

Or perhaps – just perhaps – something is amiss.

It just seems so incredibly improbable that this could happen unless somebody wanted it to happen. So who is that somebody? Inquiring minds want to know.

Or perhaps they don’t.

The Clinton history is so notorious that there were tasteless memes about Epstein’s upcoming surprise suicide as soon as he was arrested and people realized that Bill Clinton had accompanied him to “Lolita Island” multiple times. Everyone knows that if you have dirt on the Clintons, you can’t buy life insurance. Too many coincidences, over too many years, to ignore.

Unless you really want to.

Are Democrat voters buying this? Any of it? Russian collusion against the party that seeks to cooperate with them and shares their worldview? The security of open borders? Government’s competence? The danger of Episcopalian terrorists? Clinton’s innocence? Anything?

Or are they just ignoring a lot of craziness because they’re incapable of independent thought and they’ve been taught that Republicans are evil? So they should vote for whoever the other option is.

I really hope it’s the latter.

Because if they really believe this stuff, things are even worse than they seem.

Quote of the Day: The Need For Gratitude

 

“For someone who needs gratitude, the New Deal is the natural philosophy, because it lets you do things for people, and therefore gives you the greatest opportunity to get gratitude”.

Robert Caro, The Path to Power, quoting an assistant to Lyndon Baines Johnson when LBJ was secretary to a Texas congressman in the early 1930s.

“Ambition was not uncommon among those bright young men [assistants to congressional representatives] . . . but they felt Johnson’s was uncommon – in the degree to which it was unencumbered by even the slightest excess weight of ideology, of philosophy, of principles, of beliefs. ‘There’s nothing wrong with being pragmatic’, a fellow secretary say. ‘Hell, a lot of us were pragmatic. But you have to believe in something. Lyndon Johnson believed in nothing, nothing but his own ambition’.”

Robert Caro, The Path to Power, of LBJ during the same period in the 1930s

For LBJ the ability to get gratitude linked to huge ambition unguided by any principles, and an ability to read people, proved a powerful tool. Robert Caro has published four volumes of his LBJ biography since 1982; The Path to Power (1908-41), Means of Ascent (1941-48), Master of the Senate (1948-58), The Passage of Power (1958-64) and is working on the fifth and final volume. It’s an astonishing piece of work, with the first volume being among the best political biographies ever written. Caro has done both a character study and a study of how political power works, how it is accumulated and how it is used. No matter what you think of LBJ personally or of his presidency these volumes are worthwhile reading because their insight into power.

LBJ’s career also raises a more general issue. How important are motivations when measured against actions? For all the disasters of LBJ’s presidency – Vietnam and the Great Society – the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were the finest achievements in domestic legislation of the 20th century and LBJ was key to their enactment. Many of us know, and it’s come up many times at Ricochet, that LBJ made many conflicting statements about his motivations in pushing these bills through Congress.

But reading Caro’s books you realize that was the essence of LBJ from his start in politics in the 1930s. For 30+ years he said whatever he needed to say to whomever he needed to say it to in order to achieve his goals. Caro has multiple accounts of LBJ telling one politician X and two minutes later telling the next one Y. Reading in Master of the Senate how he manipulated everyone on both sides by telling them what they wanted to hear in order to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1957 (the first civil rights bill since 1875) was eye opening. And it wasn’t just what he said; LBJ had a remarkable ability to read people and figure out what they wanted, and to cultivate useful political connections with powerful older men who would look upon him as a son, like Sam Rayburn (who, unlike LBJ, comes across as an admirable person in the Caro books), Richard Russell, and even FDR.

We can’t take any of LBJ’s statements about the 1964 and 1965 Acts at face value. We simply don’t know what he really thought. Even he may not have known. In the end what counted were the acts.

The era of LBJ is now gone in American politics. It was before the great ideological sorting out of the parties that began in the last quarter of the 20th century. In LBJ’s day both parties were coalitions of very different and otherwise incompatible groups. From Master of the Senate I learned that liberal political science professors in the 1950s urged an ideological sorting out of the parties in order to help government function better. I think it debateable how well that sorting has turned out.

Sun-Struck

 

He woke to the sound of distant music, a gentle sea breeze washing over him from somewhere. He heard the creak of timbers around him. Where am I this time, he found himself thinking. He seemed to be in a low wooden room, decorated with carvings, but otherwise empty. The carvings were . . . strange: Mermaids singing, maps like something out of an old storybook, and smiling young ladies with . . . banjos? He shook his head, walking out onto the main deck. As his eyes got used to the bright sunlight, he saw that he wasn’t alone.

There was a man — weathered and dressed in rags, his long white beard trailing down over the deck — tied to the mast and fast asleep. The ship around him apparently wasn’t in great shape. There were areas of broken woodwork, as if some huge monster had smashed through them. Through one of these he could see the ship’s wheel, lashed into position. Off to one side, there was an island on the horizon. He was no sailor, but as best he could tell, the ship was going round in circles. ‘Well,’ said a voice as old as the sea, ‘don’t just stand there — untie me, confound it! I want to see what that music’s all about!’

*

He stood and stared. This all seemed strangely familiar somehow . . . Though he couldn’t quite put his finger on why.

‘Hey, I don’t have all day, here,’ said the old man, complainingly. ‘As long as you’re just standing there, you could make yourself useful. There’s a bottle down there somewhere – feels like I haven’t had a drink in centuries.’

‘I . . .’ he shrugged and started looking round. No bottle.

‘What’s wrong with ye, you got wax in your ears? Don’t say the moment one of you lazy bums finally wakes up I gets the idiot – say, wait a minute . . . You don’t look like one o’ my crew . . .’

There was splashing from the sea below. ‘Hello up there!’ called a voice, a young lady’s, sounding like it was trying to keep pace with the moving ship. It was a . . . nice voice. He found himself wandering over to the rail to see who it belonged to.

‘Hey,’ said the old man, his beard ruffling in the breeze, ‘where’re you going! Come back here – I didn’t mean it, honest— Bah! Fine, be that way. ’S no fun being on an enchanted ship circling — anyway, what do you care. I hopes you fall over the side and go to the mermaids! (Now that I come to think of it, wasn’t that what happened to all the others . . . I been out here so long I can’t remember . . .)’

Which of course, would be when a sudden gust of wind blew by. A low wooden boom, trailing ragged pieces of sail and broken ropes as it went, swung round without warning. There was a heavy thunk, and a splash, and about the last thing he remembered was a slow sinking feeling . . . 

*

He dreamed . . . Or at least, he thought he was dreaming . . . There were bright red fish, singing a strange, strange song. And a trail of spun gold. And a face that lit up like the sun . . . Then there was a hand grasping his shirt . . . Then blackness . . . 

*

He opened his eyes. He was lying in the sun . . . surrounded by cheerful music from somewhere . . . and the smell of, he sniffed . . . barbecue?

‘Get back, give him some room,’ said the nice voice from before. Things were rather blurry, but he found himself looking up into a pair of bright, emerald-green eyes that seemed to sparkle in the sunlight.

‘Does he talk?’ said another voice.

‘How’s his head?’

‘Can he dance?’

‘And would he like something to eat? Sarissa, are those sea-cow steaks ready yet?’

‘Almost!

‘Has anyone seen my banjo . . .’

‘Your banjo? Has anyone seen my snarkle-horn, it needs tuning . . .’

As the world slid back into focus, he saw a girl, a young woman really, looking down at him with a warm, concerned smile. ‘Hey . . .’ she said. ‘Thought we’d lost you for a moment there . . . My name’s Elysia, I . . . fished you out of the water when you fell – do you . . . have a name?’

‘And would you like some barbecue?’ said another voice.

‘You like music, right?’ 

‘It’s just we’ve got this big dance, and . . .’

Other figures crowded round. All of them dressed in curiously old-fashioned swimming-dresses. One held a banjo, another a seashell that looked weirdly musical; yet another held out a large leaf with a browned steak on it that smelled delicious . . .

His head was swimming, a dull, throbbing ache running through it. ‘Where . . . where am I?’

Elysia opened her mouth to speak, but got nudged into silence.

‘Don’t. He’ll get the wrong idea—’

‘But—’

‘Oh, for heaven’s sakes,’ said a girl with long honey-coloured hair done up in an old-fashioned style, ‘if you don’t tell him, I will.’

One of the other girls gave him a nervous smile. ‘. . . How much have you heard about the Isle of the Sirens . . . ?’

Member Post

 

UPDATE: Monday, August 12: Please note that I’ve changed the headline for this post. Previous video of troop transports were characterized when posted by their creators on YouTube as entering Hong Kong, when in fact the vehicles are still outside the city in Shenzen which borders it. No credible news sources have indicated at this hour […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Member Post

 

  Yesterday, I came across this post by Christopher Tremoglie at the NRO Corner. August 9th was the 5th anniversary of the justified shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Democratic Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren sent out this tweet in honor thereof;   5 years ago Michael Brown was murdered by a white […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Bliss It Was To Be Alive

 

When I started college in the early 1960s, there was, in the parlance of the times, something going down: Colleges were drifting left politically, a few beatniks (who morphed into hippies) were showing up on campus, and the urban folk music scene was getting started. I remember going to a coffee shop a block off the University of Oregon campus and sitting on a bale of hay to listen to some folkies sing about how society should be rearranged.

The old-time folkies were still around, most notably the lifelong Communists (or fellow travelers, if you wish), Woody Guthrie (mostly a figurehead by now) and Pete Seeger. But a new generation of left-wing folkies, including Joan Baez and her boyfriend for a time, a scruffy kid by the name of Bob Dylan, were singing protest songs in Greenwich Village. The times they were indeed a-changing.

It was a heady time to be part of the Zeitgeist.

When Wordsworth, now something of a conservative, wrote The Prelude, he looked back on his flirtation with radicalism in his youth, especially his infatuation for the French Revolution, and exclaimed, “Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive. But to be young was very heaven.”

When I read The Prelude for the first time, I knew exactly what Wordsworth meant by those words. Even now, as a longtime conservative, I look back with some measure of fondness for the folk and left-wing political scene of the sixties.

I wasn’t exactly a part all of this ferment. I was a mild leftie who loved folk music. I even took up the guitar and banjo and subscribed to “Sing Out!,” a small magazine which ran not only articles about folk music (Pete Seeger was a columnist), but also some left-wing stuff. To this day, acoustic folk music is still my thing. When Bob Dylan showed up with an electric guitar at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, I wrote him out of the movement.

All this was heady stuff for a kid from a family of Okies who moved to Compton, California — and then, after a stint in the Army, moved up to Eugene to attend the University of Oregon. How could I not feel the pull of the folkie and left-wing atmosphere?

In 1964, I remember wondering how anyone could vote for Goldwater. (I’m reminded here of the apocryphal story of Pauline Kael, the film critic for the New Yorker, saying that she couldn’t believe Nixon won because she didn’t know anyone who voted for Nixon.)

So when it came time to pick a major, I chose English Literature, a specialty that seemed in some way associated in my mind with the left-wing and hippy movements— and about as far from my Okie roots and my dad’s work in the oil fields as one could imagine.

After declaring my major, one of the first classes I took was called “Folk Literature,” taught by a hip young professor who smoked in class (and sat his cigarette on end on his desk) and who would occasionally bring in his guitar and sing a folk song to illustrate some point or another. I wanted to make a living doing what that guy was doing, at least the non-singing part.

Over time, I became more and more conservative, until the riots outside the Democratic Convention in 1968 sealed the deal. I didn’t want to be on the side of those who spit in the faces of the cops.

But I still look back with fondness for those days when it “was bliss to be alive.” I’ve completely abandoned my infatuation with the political Left of those heady days, but I think there is still a touch of the hippie lingering within. I always liked the hippies better than I did the lefties.

And that’s where I am today: a little bit hippie and lot of conservative.

Postscript: I may have drifted into my English Lit major almost on a whim, but it somehow worked out well. What other job would have allowed me to sit in a corner office on the top floor of Faculty Hall and, for the most part, read and drink coffee? Then go down a few floors to the classroom and talk about what I enjoyed reading, sometimes for as few as nine hours a week. Even better, I mostly dealt with people who had every reason to be nice to me. That’s what I call sitting in the catbird seat.

Postscript on that last sentence within the Postscript: If that expression is beginning to get on your nerves, cut me some slack. I’ve been terribly fond of it ever since I met it in a James Thurber story, The Catbird Seat, about a man who is driven almost insane by his office mate, a woman who uses mysterious sayings throughout the day: “Are you tearing up the pea patch?,“ she asks him. “Are you hollering down the rain barrel?” she cryptically inquires. And especially, “Are you sitting in the catbird seat?” The man has no idea what any of those things mean, but they annoy him so much that he starts a plan to murder the woman who uses them. Thus far I’ve used the expression a number of times on Ricochet without reproof. Ricochet people are a forgiving lot.

Postscript number whatever: Some Ricocheters — you know who you are — feel shortchanged when I don’t post a pic of Bob. For those of you, here is my son Alan with the Bobster.

Concealed Carry: It’s Time

 

Shooting a gun never appealed to me prior to five years ago. My attitude towards guns has shifted to a point where it seems natural and necessary to have one.

When my husband pressed me to have a gun in the house, I resisted for a few years. We live in a gated community, and having a gun in the house seemed excessive. I didn’t object to guns, per se, but I also didn’t much appreciate them. Since my husband was so determined to have one, given there has been minor crime in our development, I agreed. His first gun was a Glock 19. It felt heavy and intimidating to me, but I wasn’t going to use it—until my husband expressed his desire for me to learn how to use it, since it was going to be in the house. (Reflecting on his rationale, I don’t find it very persuasive, since I am rarely here without him!) But I finally tried it out at the first gun range which we joined.

The darn thing felt heavy. And the noise in the gun range was unbelievably loud. Even with earplugs and ear muffs, it was disturbing and difficult to tolerate. The trainer recommended a couple of adjustments, like getting my hair off my ears, and the ear muffs fit much better. Still, the indoor range was very loud, and I always jumped at the first shot fired by anyone.

Gradually I found I kind of liked shooting. We bought better ear protection, so that helped my attitude. I wasn’t a total disaster on my aim, but the gun still felt heavy to me. So we decided to buy a Ruger for me. That wasn’t a good idea. It had a kick that I disliked and it interfered with my aim. So I started to use my husband’s gun again, discovering that with my ongoing comfort with the idea of shooting, the weight didn’t bother me.

Eventually, my husband suggested I get my own Glock (and I suggested he get the newer model), and we also found a gun range, indoor/outdoor, closer to home (20 minutes). Long story, short—he now calls me Annie Oakley and I really enjoy the discipline and challenge. Before I go on the range, I always repeat the three rules: assume the gun is loaded; point in a safe direction and keep your finger off the trigger (when you’re not shooting).

But now the question of concealed carry has come up. A while ago my husband decided he should get one because the time might arrive when a citizen would not be permitted to have one; I thought that possibility sounded a bit extreme. With the latest proposed laws, and watching Republicans cave to ridiculous justifications for limitations on guns, I figured at the very least, I needed to get a permit.

This step and its significance for me is a big deal on a number of levels. I resent having to consider concealed carry because of the stupidity and ambitions of the Republicans. They are not even looking at the data to figure out which existing laws simply need to simply be applied, which new laws will make no difference at all, which proposals will cripple our current rights, and whether gun control is good for citizens and for the country. I resent living in a time when I don’t feel safe, that I have to take more responsibility for my safety, and that my peace of mind regarding my day-to-day life has been compromised (however little), so that I might need a gun. I resent feeling that I may be overreacting to the possible dangers, that I may be becoming paranoid, and that I am acquiescing to a trend.

At the same time, I read some statistics from 2018 (updated since) that made me feel less like an outlier and more in alignment with others who appreciate their Second Amendment Rights and concealed carry:

  • Last year, despite the common perception that growth in the number of permit holders would stop after the 2016 election, the number of permits grew by about 890,000.
  • Outside the restrictive states of California and New York, about 8.63% of the adult population has a permit.
  • In fifteen states, more than 10% of adults have permits, up from just eleven last year.
  • Alabama has the highest rate — 22.1%. Indiana is second with 17.9%, and South Dakota is a close third with 17.2%.
  • Four states now have over 1 million permit holders: Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
  • Another 14 states have adopted constitutional carry in all or almost all of their state, meaning that a permit is no longer required. However, because of these constitutional carry states, the nationwide growth in permits does not paint a full picture of the overall increase in concealed carry.
  • Permits continued to grow much faster for women and minorities. Between 2012 and 2018, the percent of women with permits grew 111% faster for women and the percent of blacks with permits grew 20% faster than for whites. Permits for Asians grew 29% faster than for whites.
  • Concealed handgun permit holders are extremely law-abiding. In Florida and Texas, permit holders are convicted of misdemeanors and felonies at one-sixth of the rate at which police officers are convicted.

I’ve made excuses for quite a while to avoid getting a concealed carry permit. I still dislike the idea of wearing a gun or carrying it in my purse. And yet–

It’s time.

Elite Fear and Loathing

 

Why are so many of the most privileged people in all of human history so meanspirited and narcissistic? The educated elites in the developed world have a higher standard of living than has ever existed. Instead of a sensibility of gratitude, generosity, and open-mindedness, they (we?) are spiraling into a mindless tribalism in which signaling membership has replaced a substantive moral perspective.

They adhere to a mandatory oversimplified model of the most complex phenomena on earth (climate) in which ideology punishes inconvenient observations and calls that “science.” They opt for “solutions” like the demonstrably silly Paris Climate Treaty which is hideously costly and would have no measurable effect on climate. But that “solution” accomplishes the tribe’s usual dual purpose of (1) appearing to Do Something, and (2) disproportionately hurting the non-elite.

The “revolution” from 1960s radicals which the modern elite carries like a low-grade contagion has seeped into society resulting in the degradation of every social institution large and small, mostly to the detriment of the nation’s lower socioeconomic classes. The malformation of our young men is especially troubling but none of that can be discussed because the tribe offers no self-aggrandizing signals on such topics.

This is why Gun Control is such a sacred signal. Like the Paris or Kyoto Accord, these regulations offer zero curative effects but they distract from discussions that might reflect badly on the weltanschauung of the tribe. They are a form of harassment and a beatdown of non-elites and they strongly signal what now passes for virtue and a clean conscience.

The utterly incoherent immigration positions cheered by elites signal the tribe’s transcendence over outmoded and tacky allegiances such as patriotism and national identity. If implemented (even by inaction and legislative stalemate), they would disproportionately impact the non-elites as it already does by ratcheting down wages, creating troubled neighborhoods, and draining limited social welfare resources. But as a means of signaling, it’s a major win-win for those eager to remain in the tribe.

My mother’s southern family fiercely distinguished themselves from “poor white trash” by a sustained almost aristocratic demeanor even as the Great Depression greatly reduced the economic difference between them and their lessers. I see something similar in the tribe. The fear of falling out of the elite triggers an intense hatred of a caricature of the non-elite. The latent moral pull of the religion and traditions of immediate ancestors must be fought with a denigration of all religious people lest they be dragged back into less self-celebrating practices and duties. (Islam, Buddhism, and Native American religions have no such ancestral claims and can be safely respected like dolphins or the rainforest.)

We see millions of privileged young people in horrific debt to pay for bloated college administrative salaries (I fear I could endorse a revolution that focused on these people first). Their intellectual formation is noticeably inferior to that of older alumni, which makes them less able and far less confident about questioning the common wisdom. The sheer worthlessness of that education must foment an abiding feeling of vulnerability, as if they could be dragged down to live among the deplorables at any moment. Thus, the need to signal and affirm an utterly vacuous yet putatively elite sensibility is especially strong. We have produced a privileged class with little noblesse oblige and lots of fear and loathing.

It Could Be Suicide or Murder. But Incompetence Is a Certainty.

 

A question that @paddysiochain has asked needs to be answered: Is it even possible that Jeffrey Epstein was an actual suicide? Sure it is. Anyone remember the Baader-Meinhof gang? German terrorists of the Seventies, a cross between Antifa and the Manson family. Their leaders were caught and mysteriously committed suicide in jail. Almost everyone who’s seen the subsequent evidence says that it’s airtight: they really did commit suicide. But they were so high profile, and suicide seemingly so improbable, that on that day and for decades after, the hard Left and the hard Right don’t believe it.

Epstein’s world collapsed faster and more comprehensively than Harvey Weinstein’s. After his arrest, he was incredulous that he wasn’t offered a bail deal. He’d never see freedom again, let alone Lolita Island. Yes, I could see him as a suicide. Maybe. But…

When NYPD turned someone over to Federal custody (a rare experience for a uniformed officer), the MCC is where they were processed; it’s relatively modern. The high-profile guys are kept in 10 South, where the lights and CCTV cameras are on 24/7.

If after all this publicity Epstein wasn’t in 10 South, either people were idiots or money changed hands somewhere. If this was murder: However much it was, it ain’t going to be enough. Not this time. Some jailers are going to jail, and there’s not going to be any “Shawshank” payoff when they get out. Which prison psych took him off suicide watch? Which prison official put him in a cell without cameras? I’d seize and scan the socials, bank statements, etc., of MCC staff top to bottom. When I said this in the PIT, @Django replied,I’m even more cynical than you are, Gary. I’d look, sometime, in the near future, for a guard whose performance evaluations went from mediocre to superstar and who got an unexpected promotion and substantial raise.”

The Dems had far more reason to “off” Epstein than the GOP. But let’s not brush away an unpleasant fact: This is not an NYC problem, it’s a federal facility, Attorney General Barr was in charge. I know, the bureaucracy, the permanent government, etc., etc. – but even if the Deep Blue bureaucracy was 15 levels deep, the AG could have picked up the phone and said, like every pundit in America was yelling, “If anything happens to this guy, your [butt] is on the line – no excuses, no mercy.” There’s no sign he did so. If this had been AG Rudy Giuliani, he would have moved his office staff to the MCC just to keep an eye on them. Does this make President Trump a conspirator? Of course not. But murder or suicide, some of his appointees showed total incompetence, with nobody to hand it off to. They let this happen and some of them better suffer for it.

There are about a dozen, maybe a hundred ways they could have kept him alive. Sure, none are ever perfect, but let ’em try. I’ve mentioned that they have a unit with constant video surveillance. They could have put that camera on a net feed. If I’d been AG Barr I would have ordered that, and quietly ordered a rotating squad of loyalists to monitor the feed 24/7 in shifts

As Adm. Rickover said, “You can delegate authority. You cannot delegate responsibility.”

The Rime of the Ancient Libertarian

 

“I used to be a registered Libertarian and I have the Gary Johnson yard signs to prove it.” 

Think back into the past with me, back to the dark days of April, 2016. Bernie Sanders has become the first (and I believe only) American Presidential candidate to receive an invitation to meet with the Roman Pope, Hillary Clinton is lapping up primary elections like an old dog about to die, and that joke candidate from the 2012 Presidential election, Donald J. Trump, just won’t stop winning.

This was particularly annoying to a Rand Paul guy like me, who was willing perhaps to throw in with Ted Cruz if Paul wouldn’t stop charging to the Center. This was my first time considering a vote for a major party in a national election, and I felt a sort of thrilled terror at the prospect.

See, I’d just burned my draft Libertarian Party membership card, and proudly filed with the County Recorder as a valued member of No Party.

Three things drove me away from the LP, a party I had supported since I was old enough to pull a lever:

First, Gary Johnson lied to me, both about what he believed and in claiming to be a Libertarian. He kept his mouth shut when he ran in 2012, basically mouthing the Standard Platitudes that guarantee ~1% of the vote. On three occasions after the election, I asked him to go into detail on his philosophy of the 2nd Amendment, and the most I ever got was, “that’s an important issue and we should have a conversation about it”. In 2016 he went off his leash, and became a pandering, liberal parody of Harry Browne;

Second, after voting for Libertarians in all elections for decades, I’d never seen one win;

… and Third, the jab-cross-left uppercut-cross: Donald J. Trump’s first position paper on his website, an absolutist Constitutionalist interpretation of the 2nd Amendment I would have expected to find at a Tea Party rally, coupled with leaked video of a candidate for Chairman of the Libertarian Party, a nudist apparently, delivering a National Convention speech completely naked. Sure, it’s his right and he may have done it on a dare, but this kind of adolescent acting out had been dragging the party down for years, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that every gathering of capital-L Libertarians would basically devolve into a pantomime of a YouTube comment section.

One useful carryover from my days as a dancing naked fat man Libertarian is that I won’t vote against someone, only for someone. Donald Trump’s 2nd Amendment support got me to cheerfully jump on board the Trump Train. I not only bought the MAGA hat and yard signs, I bought them for all my friends too. We all went to his rallies, met his motorcade on its way back to his hotel, attended Mike Pence’s rally at Living Word, and continued to support him even at the cost of mockery, theft and vandalism (all interesting stories in themselves).

Suffice it to say that as a voter who still naively clings to the ancient and obsolete idea that principle has a place in politics, I was happy in supporting Mr. Trump.

Until the bump-stock ban.

And the comments about bypassing due process (and ignoring current law barring the possession of firearms by the mentally ill).

And the disparaging remarks about suppressors.

Now, I know my President has a tendency to rattle off at the mouth without properly thinking things through, so I’ve been giving him the benefit of the doubt. Two of those three points had no force of law so I’ll chalk it up to a basically decent man struggling to understand evil in the wake of a tragedy. However, the Ban was something else–it turned thousands of American Citizens into felons over night. I’ve never owned a bump stock, am unconvinced of their utility, and look at them like those fancy golf clubs that promise to turn you into Tiger Woods overnight. I would have to try real hard to care at all about bump stocks. But in signing that executive order, he gave the left and future presidents the infrastructure and precedent to start banning other accessories. It’s terrible… but I gave him a pass, because he was making moves in other areas I agreed with and I was still resolved to vote for him in 2020.

Now he’s pushing for “red flag” laws, setting up more infrastructure for future gun seizure attempts that Col. Brown has already gone into great detail about, and I’m actually considering what my other options might be in the coming election. Have I been hoodwinked into joining the Establishment by a New York Yankee? Sure I still support many of his other policies, but the one issue that is most important to me, my God-oradained right and responsibility to defend my life and my family with everything I can get my hands on, is under greater threat from the guy I voted for than the guy that preceded him, who I couldn’t stand. Is the light at the end of the tunnel the train I’m on? Are we just going to plow over our Constitutional rights in the name of forward progress? I could use some help on this one guys.