Life in Deplorable Land

 

So, today, I had to go to the local Xtreme Cycle Outlet, down there at Exit 2 of I-70 in Western PA. I realize it’s a location that some of you wouldn’t favor. I mean, really: Motorcycles. ATVs. Trump supporters. Noisy stuff. Deplorables. Fat people. My neighbors. And so on.

My purpose in going there was to complain about the battery I’d purchased (at great expense) for our Polaris XR ATV in November of last year. Now, I have no desire to go circling around in mud going vroom, vroom, vroom with said ATV. But it’s bloody useful around the farm. And I was quite irritated when the battery appeared to have died, just when I wanted to use the vehicle, a couple of weeks ago today.

So, right now, I made the trek. Good news! No masks. Rational social distancing. And, once (at my request) they’d verified that the battery wouldn’t take a charge and that it was still under warranty, they replaced it at no expense to me. Hooray!

The most charming moment of the day, though: The young man who gave me a shout-out on my T-Shirt. It’s an advertisement for “Big Ass Fans.” I’ve had the original Big Ass Haiku fan for years, in my upstairs, since I’m congenitally allergic to most models of fans that (IMHO) look as if they belong in Victorian brothels. I love it. Clean. Beautiful. Efficient. And low in energy use.

He was totally OK with the idea that an old lady (I expect I might be his grandmother) had done more research on fans than he had. And that she might have reached a rational conclusion as a result.

God Bless the USA!

Burning Down the Country

 

January seems like decades ago. Those were great times. The markets were up. Employment figures were strong across all demographics. Indicators of poverty were themselves becoming impoverished. We’d revisited trade deals with Mexico, Canada, the European Union, China, etc. and reversed the outgoing tide that had caused an unending exodus of US jobs and wealth. In the meantime, walls were being built to secure our borders and stop the flow of illegal immigrants invading from the South. We had been freed of any reliance on foreign oil and in fact, the US was exporting both oil and natural gas. We’d become the largest producer of oil and natural gas in the world.

From this position of strength, we were engaged with China on many fronts and had an ongoing dialog with North Korea. ISIS was in tatters and the Iran Nuclear deal was abandoned, replaced with harsh sanctions.

America was on the rebound. Big time.

Leftist Democrats were more than willing to use the authority of the administrative state, the complicity of the press, an appointed Special Counsel, and the feckless House of Representatives to remove DJT from office. Twice. When those efforts failed, they were desperate. Worse yet, the economy showed no signs of slowing even as predictions of imminent decline were floated in the press. And the coup de grace, the economy was helping poor inner-city communities. Pols showed a surge in support for Trump among African Americans. This would be devastating for Democrats in November if allowed to stand.

Then came SARS-Cov-2 and the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police.

These situations were both notable and worthy of attention and intelligent response, but in both instances, the Left did not react in any kind of thoughtful way. Democrats reacted in a continued state of panic and chaos, each situation ratcheted exponentially until it could only be described as unconscionable and absurd.

The potential for a pandemic provided an opportunity for economic self-destruction, eliminating DJT’s major success. The death of George Floyd provided an excuse for anarchy and a chance to re-invigorate the Black community’s antipathy for Republicans. The Left chose to pursue those opportunities with vigor.

And there is only one explanation for this. The Left is willing to force the US to pay any price to stop Donald J. Trump and regain power. Remember when the Left was protesting the federal response to the caravans from Central America? They called for the elimination of ICE, so we should not be surprised with recent calls for the defunding (abolition) of police in response attempts to restore order amid riots and looting.

Fate handed them SARS-Cov-2 and the unfortunate death of George Floyd and they took those fires and went to work pouring on the accelerants.

They seem willing to burn down the entire country to regain power.

This needs to end. Soon.

Campus Intolerance Comes of Age

 

1960s SignFor the past half-century, a class of people used to making the rules of society and culture – and more importantly, seeing them obeyed – are tightening their grip on a politically chaotic time. The old guard media soothsayers, keyholders to political office, and ivory tower academia were thoroughly embarrassed by the 2016 election. But it didn’t just strike a blow to the elitists. It provided an opening for a new kind of illiberal warrior brought up in the very institutions the well-heeled and cocktail-circuit coastal class created. We’re seeing it played out in the pages of television and print news, media, sports, politics, and culture. The only thing most Americans might agree on is that we’ve collectively lost our minds.

The New York Times staffers who staged a temper-tantrum badly disguised as a ‘virtual walkout’ for principle over Senator Tom Cotton’s opinion piece proved nothing but their intolerance for the very freedom of expression and First Amendment rights that they long held as the press’ duty to defend. One could think they suffered a momentary lapse of judgment, but history shows us the Times sets a low bar for accepting and publishing op-eds from less than savory characters – even America’s enemies, and blatant anti-Semitic cartoons – but the opinion of a duly-elected US Senator was a bridge too far.

We’ve seen these little fires of ideas squelched by our journalist ‘firefighters’ with the cold water of herd delirium. Personal offense outrage is the tidal wave from which no one is safe, and once it builds enough power, the destruction is swift and total. The phenomenon is the latest symptom of a culture obsessed with self-virtue and political moral ascendancy. Its roots are planted deep in educational institutions that taught a generation to ignore America’s exceptionalism and eternally apologize for the sins of our forefathers. It isn’t just going back through high school yearbooks or MySpace comments from 20 years ago, the problem is rooted in a sheltered, fearful social structure, intolerant of ideas that bring about personal offense. When kids are conditioned to think words and ideas are violence, and only allowed to accept one set of viewpoints as legitimate, they grow up to become the intolerant adults they were told exist in an America founded on racist, sexist, even fascist principles, and must do everything possible to destroy dissenting views.

Now, these college graduates from esteemed institutions are storming the gates with their diplomas and idealism and demands in hand. At the New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Bon Apetit, ESPN, the NFL and nearly every cable news outlet, the marketplace of ideas is being replaced with the soft Marxism of pledging allegiance to only one legitimate viewpoint. Even here in Minneapolis, where social-justice warriors display Equality bumper stickers and yard signs like badges of honor, the mob descends with unquestioning intolerance. The famed Holy Land Deli had its lease terminated and several Midwest Costco stores stopped selling Holy Land products after it was publically revealed the owner’s daughter posted racist tweets and Instagram posts going back at least eight years. This is after the owner fired his daughter for her behavior. But the mob would not be satisfied. I’m not defending her language, but if we are to live in a society that truly values free speech, we must consistently apply the standard of defending the good and the bad.

Now we have a situation in which the same crowd proclaiming that words are violence, who expound their moral authority through virtual walkouts and foot-stomping also laud the actual violence that hijacked a legitimate protest and practice of First Amendment rights. So it’s no surprise that the same people who self-virtue by pledging to shut-down a needed national conversation about race relations, poverty, police violence, and equality based on the merits of the debate are willing to trade any semblance of good faith to achieve solutions – or at least work towards them – to further an intellectual or policy debate for petty whining and hurt feelings. And now we see the results of caving to the mob. Weakness is provocative and emboldens the attackers. The goalposts of compliance are moved ever forward. It’s not enough to be a neutral observer. One must pledge his soul to the cause and the dogma of the most powerful. Not only did the New York Times tantrum-children win the resignation of its editor, they turned their ire on people like Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss who I think work within the scope of their employer to further publish ideas to enrich the conversation, not mute it.

This is the most consequential battle in the culture war. I’m skeptical conservatives can wait by the sidelines, thinking the progressive and radical left will destroy itself. We have been on this path for decades and America has only drifted further left. Every time a gender is added, every drag queen story hour, every insistence that a man can menstruate, proves there is no limit to the nonsense passing as ‘a truth’ when a young person’s feelings are at risk. And if they don’t apologize for being proven wrong about charging dissenters as Grandma Killers, don’t bother waiting for one after charges of thought-crime or word-violence. And when they’re wrong about how they pushed the country to the brink of civil upheaval and economic ruin, they’ll rewrite history to benefit their narrative – just as they did with the 1619 Project. At best the new radicals will gaslight or memory hole the real story. This is a war that will not be won in a single election cycle, but rather will take generations.

The country is harvesting the poison crop from the seeds planted by the Woodstock generation. They clamored for a seat at the public debate table, demanding to be heard on issues from war to civil rights, drugs, and abortion. They sang about holding hands, speaking up, and reaching out. They grew up and traded the flowers in their hair for university tenure and political influence. Their heir apparent coming of age now would insist they’d scoff at those demanding a boycott of farmer Max Yasgur for providing his farm for the biggest gathering of hippies on the planet. But the truth is, if Max was on the other side of the debate today he would be mercilessly attacked. They wouldn’t stop at boycotting his milk, they’d kills his cows and burn his farm.

So much for make peace, not war.

Letter to a Progressive Young Relation

 

Dear Pepsi,

I think I told you about a book I’ve read by Melita Maschmann called Account Rendered; a dossier on my former self. Maschmann grew up in Germany and joined the BDM (the girls’ version of the Hitler Youth) eventually becoming one of its lead propagandists. She traveled around the Third Reich, working to organize the resettlement of “ethnic Germans” on expropriated Polish farms.

After the war, she realized what she had taken part in—though it took her longer than one might imagine–and 
this memoir was the result. It takes the form of a letter, addressed to her best school friend, a Jewish girl.

Maschmann wishes to explain ( not excuse) herself. She wants her friend to understand how an ordinary, normal German girl came to be a full and active member of a movement for social justice (that was the term they used), one that would eventually force her Jewish friend to emigrate from Germany to escape the Holocaust that murdered millions.

What is striking about Maschmann’s account — what I want to emphasize to you, my beloved Pepsi — is how sincerely she believed herself and the movement she was part of to be motivated by love. She thought she was helping the poor, and seeking justice for the oppressed.

She even tried to get her Jewish friend to join the BDM, in the honest belief that Nazi anti-Semitism was about “The Jews,” an abstract, malevolent force responsible for the miseries of her countrymen and the world, and yet somehow not directed at actual Jews–her best friend, or the nice neighbors in the apartment downstairs.

Maschmann imagined that the “excesses” of Kristallnacht, “provoked” by the murder of German by a Jew, was an aberration, the result of excess zeal on the part of a few. The Night of Broken Glass revealed nothing to her about the core values of National Socialism. She was offended at the thought that people might believe it should.

I hasten to point out that this young woman did not conform to Nazism because she was afraid to do otherwise. Throughout the war and beyond, she confidently counted herself a patriot, an independent and philosophical thinker, and anything but a mindless zombie. She openly criticized her peers when she thought they were letting the side down, worked incredibly hard, and sacrificed much and even bravely for what she believed to be an honorable and–yes!–ultimately loving and humane cause.

Though she claims not to have known about the gas chambers, she certainly knew about the ghettos in Poland because she saw them herself. She looked right at suffering people on the other side of the wire, and found ways to translate them into something other than human beings. On the occasions when she felt uneasy, she gave herself a “rational” talking-to.

It is unnerving to read the book, because she is so completely recognizable. She could be any of us.

Just how easy is it for an honest, intelligent, unusually idealistic person to get seduced by a movement that harnesses idealism to cruelty, and teaches nice men and women to rationalize the demonic?

UNSPECIFIED: Pedestrians glance at the broken windows of a Jewish owned shop in Berlin after the attacks of Kristallnacht, November 1938 (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

There are, obviously, limits to comparisons between the pre-war Jews of Europe and American police officers and of course, there are big differences between the American socialist left of 2020 and the National Socialists of Germany circa 1938.

Still, I think it is worth looking at those photographs and doing a gut check. If some “extreme” elements of your movement are smashing shop windows, burning houses of worship, looting businesses, throwing bricks and bottles of urine at police officers and attacking innocent people (and, if it comes to that, specifically targeting Jews) might all this ‘fringe” activity, in fact, be more closely related to the core values of the movement than you might want to admit?

“The tree is known by its fruit.” So maybe it is you, rather than I, who misunderstands what this is about?

And how much responsibility will you be willing to accept should the result of all this protest and turmoil  turn out to be other than a racism-free, peaceful paradise?

Unlike Jews, police officers, if they are tired enough (and they are very, very tired) can, with some personal and financial sacrifice, quit. Many are quitting. “In droves” is the phrase being used most often.

And do you say to that, “good riddance?”

A total of nine (9) unarmed black people were killed by American police officers in the whole of 2019. Twice that many died in a single night this week in Chicago, when the police were stretched so thin that they could not provide even the inadequate level of protection their diminished and demoralized numbers had managed before the riots began.

Minneapolis was already short four hundred cops—and the city council refused to fund new hires, claiming to wish to spend its money on other priorities. So when the riots started, Minneapolis police officers were already over-stretched, overworked, over-tired, and burned out.

The upshot is that we already know what it looks like when you “dismantle” or “defund” the police. It looks like this:

Thanks to a mendacious and ill-conceived “movement,” signed onto by far too many Democratic politicians (I notice that both Biden and Bernie are expressing, at last, some sense in all this) it is already getting harder and harder for any agency to find and hire any warm body to be a police officer, let alone to attract the kind of thoughtful, discerning and self-disciplined people we want and need to do the job.

Nationwide, police recruiting is already down 63%, and yes, I think you should understand that the “F*** the Police” chants of the “peaceful” protesters create the context in which violence against police takes place, and violence suffered by the police is interpreted. Thus, it is getting harder to persuade people to apply for law enforcement jobs. Even the Portland, Maine Police Department had to offer signing bonuses for new hires last year. 

And it is getting harder to convince them to stay.

Who on earth would want to be a police officer in Minneapolis? In Chicago? The NYPD has been running on history and the fumes of the Giuliani years; how long will it be before the once-proud NYPD will be unable to fill vacancies, or be forced to drastically lower its hiring standards in order to do so?

And how are they going to pay these guys, or the unarmed social workers and restorative justice teams they imagine substituting for law enforcement? Already, businesses are pulling out of the looted cities, and with them go jobs and the income and profits that can be taxed to pay for services. Why would Target re-build stores in a city that not only failed to protect their property and the lives and well-being of their employees, but now plans to reduce police protection or withdraw it all together?

If Target doesn’t rebuild, and if Walmart, Walgreens and all the rest decide it’s simply not worth the effort to invest in cities that appear to be enthusiastically embracing dysfunction in the name of “justice” the result will be fewer city services, more and wider food deserts, more black and brown people who have nowhere to go to buy food, get their prescriptions filled, buy diapers and school supplies or apply for entry-level jobs.

On the plus side, our state, like other purple and red states, may actually benefit by the exodus of qualified law enforcement from blue states, and blue cities. We may also benefit from the need of businesses for safer working environments. So we can look forward to seeing yet more “white flight” from Democrat-controlled cities—though to the extent that most black Americans are middle-class, the outflow will be more diverse than the term suggests.

Already, my sister and brother and (black) nephew, who left DC and San Francisco respectively to flee the Coronavirus are thinking maybe they’ll just remain in Maine…though not, of course, because Maine is mostly-white. They support the protests 100%…but do find they like living in a place that is safe, friendly, clean and orderly…and they like having grocery stores and drugstores nearby, and well-trained, professional law enforcement to protect them, their property and the order of their lives.

Welfare-dependent white people in this state, unburdened by the tender solicitude of progressive “allies,” will be able to share in these goods, and their lives will be better and more hopeful as a result. But the lives of inner-city black Americans will be immeasurably worse. Thanks to the protests. Thanks to you.

I Was a Teenage Rock ‘n’ Roller

 

I’m in my dotage now, so old and out of touch that young people look right through me, an invisible man. But there was a time when I was opaque. That was in the 1950s and I was a teenager in Compton, CA, about the same time that teenagers were being invented.

I did my part toward that invention. I put a lot of pomade on my hair and wore a ducktail for a while, and I used teenage slang; words like “made in the shade” (doing well), “going Hollywood” (wearing sunglasses), and “bitchin’” (something that’s good).

But it was music where I helped the most to shape that definition. I listened to Elvis, The Everly Brothers, and Buddy Holly on the radio. I talked smugly about the guitar licks of Les Paul and the shuffle rhythms by Bo Diddley (Bo Diddley). I knew the lyrics, and still do, of “Chantilly Lace” (The Big Bopper) and “Yakety Yak” (The Coasters). And I actually shelled out some of my pinsetting money for a couple of Fats Domino albums. Loved the Fat Man.

But the closest I came to being a part of the new teenage rock ‘n’ roll zeitgeist was when I bought a Little Richard album, Here’s Little Richard (1957), the one with a photo of Richard, the quintessential rock ‘n’ roller, with his big hair, sweaty face, and open mouth that looked like he was screaming. My mom visibly shuddered—or at least I liked to think that she did — when she‘d come into my room and see that album lying face up.

I bought that album after I saw the movie The Girl Can’t Help It. In a scene I’ll never forget, Jayne Mansfield, with that impossibly small waist of hers, gets up from her table at a swanky Hollywood night club and, her pneumatic breasts ajiggle, sashays her way across the floor on her way to the powder room. Little Richard accompanies her walk, standing up at the piano on the stage, by singing/shouting out the song, “She’s Got It!” Forget Olivier’s St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V. Mansfield’s stroll to the bathroom makes all other movie scenes pale by comparison. It haunted my adolescent dreams for a long while.

In 1956, I tried Compton Junior College for a couple of semesters before I dropped out. Then the Army drafted me in 1958 and that was the end of my life in Compton (I never came back to live) and my rock ‘n’ roll days, such as they were.

Yours truly,
The Invisible Man

Day 142: COVID-19 That Was Then, This Is Now

 

Yesterday I spoke of The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine beclowning themselves. Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) is performing beclowning number n+1 again. This time it involved one of our favorite epidemic fears: asymptomatic spread (contagion). Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead of COVID-19 response and the head of emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, made news by announcing that after extensive review of contact tracing data from some reliable countries it had been established that asymptomatic spread was rare — suggesting that, no, there is not a high risk of stealthy spreaders seeding disease everywhere.

If true, this was obviously good news and it suggested that people could be more confident that so long as someone is not displaying symptoms the risk of contagion is low. The lockdowns were primarily justified because you couldn’t know who was infected and if people could be infected, remain asymptomatic, and spread the disease, than anyone could be a threat to public health. That justified quarantining healthy people, not just the obviously sick and/or people in the household of the ill person. If asymptomatic spread was rare, then lockdowns are unnecessary.

But the one thing about this epidemic is that there can be no such thing as “good news.” So, dutifully, Dr. Van Kerkhove was trotted out 24 hours later to “clarify”:

On Tuesday, she clarified her message saying that asymptomatic spread is a “really complex question” and much is still unknown.

“We don’t actually have that answer yet,” Dr. Van Kerkhove said on Tuesday. “I was responding to a question at the press conference. I wasn’t stating a policy of WHO or anything like that. And in that, I used the phrase very rare. I think that was a misunderstanding to state that asymptomatic transmission globally is very rare. What I was referring to what a subset of studies [that found asymptomatic transmission rare in the places studied]. These are estimates, and there’s a big range from the different models. Some estimates of around 40 percent of transmission may be due to asymptomatic, but those are from models and so I didn’t include that in my answer yesterday [that reflected reports from tracking and contract tracing of infected persons].”

***

Dr. Van Kerkhove stressed that there’s a big difference with asymptomatic spread, where a person never shows symptoms, and a person being “presymptomatic,” where they transmit the virus before developing mild symptoms. [emphasis and my clarifying insertions added]

OK, that’s clear now, right? So when contact tracing data do not confirm our models, then a really complex question remains unanswered but we continue to rely on our models.

There is an alternative way to square her two statements: asymptomatic includes both people who never get sick as well as people who later get sick before they get sick. This latter group is, as Dr. Van Kerkhove states, “presymptomatic.” There are lots of viruses where people are contagious for a day or two before symptoms present. These are obviously unknowing spreaders until they get sick and take action to avoid infecting others.

Does that interpretation affect a lockdown strategy? You still have stealth spreaders, just not as many and not for as long. So a lockdown as a containment strategy is still viable. But, if employed, it would need to for a period such as the President initially suggested — tied to the length of time between infection and symptoms — and then ended except for the ill persons needing to be quarantined through the remaining time of their illness. It would stop the spread if you timed it perfectly and “slow the spread” if you were off slightly. But it would have to be very tight or not worth doing. The various governors, as politicians do, elected to perform “health theatre” which did not that much good in fighting the disease, but which did great harm to far more people than would ever get the disease.

And speaking of which, a post that I made on March 22 popped up on the Main Feed today: Mr. President, Free the Death Grip on Main Street. Although the states have eased the lockdowns in varying degrees since that post, I think it holds up pretty well. There remain restrictions that are either only marginally effective or, in the case of social justice protests and riots, totally ignored. Those restrictions and the process of easing them lay bare the true instincts of some politicians in this health crisis — to interfere with a free people and “manage” their populations. This is the age-old battle between negative rights and positive rights. Positive rights is the progressive agenda and ultimately enslaves a nation no matter how high sounding those rights are made to seem. Restraining government power is the only safeguard for liberty even though such liberty results in poor outcomes for some.

[Note 1: I will be arbitrarily ending the daily COVID-19 posts on Day 150. It is clear now more than ever that this is not a public health crisis, it is a public policy crisis dressed in whatever garb best suits those that promote government control over our lives. That will be the constant battle of the remainder of my life. But it has nothing to do with the disease we labeled COVID-19.]

[Note 2: Links to all my COVID-19 posts can be found here.]

The Year of the Plague

 

2020 has been quite a year already.

The Commies visited upon us a terrible plague. It swept across America. Large corporations quickly addressed the situation in the hopes that it wouldn’t hurt them too badly, but some small business owners faced setbacks or complete loss, their businesses unable to reopen.

Politicians at every level responded with emotional appeals, confusing the public with mixed messages. As a result, public demands were also mixed. Some wished for stricter enforcement while others demanded no enforcement at all.

Not all states nor even all large cities were affected equally. In some places, you wouldn’t know that anything had really happened. Nevertheless, community action was demanded nearly everywhere, and large portions of the public adopted ritualistic behaviors as a means of keeping safe. You couldn’t turn on the television without seeing it at the top of the news. Corporate America directly addressed it in every advertisement, and where not blatant, the subtext was still present.

Typically, every politician staked out a position, saying what they hoped their constituents wanted to hear. The bluest of blue zones were hit the hardest, with many needless deaths, but it’s not clear whether the leadership in those areas will learn from their mistakes. Many still refuse to acknowledge the Communist origins in spite of the obvious, but for politicians, it’s a matter of knowing which side of your bread is buttered.

As this plague spread and then waned, it appears to have diminished somewhat, but we seem to have entered a “new normal” in America, and many fear a second wave this fall.

But before all that, there was this whole Coronavirus thing.


Map above from USA Today, showing locations of demonstrations, shaded states indicate that the National Guard was activated in response.

It’s All Rainbows and Unicorns

 

There are a lot of experts on policing in the United States, some of them are actually police officers. I’ve never been in the habit of telling other people how to do their job. For instance, I’ve been a passenger on many different airlines, but I’ve always resisted the urge to enter the cockpit and telling the pilots that; “You’re doing this all wrong, you should do it this way.”

There are a lot of elected officials out there that are now experts on police work. They haven’t spent any time on a ride-along with their police officers. The same is true of Radley Balko and David French. Lot’s of experts that would last for about 10 minutes out on the streets before their rear end was handed to them by someone who is mean before they get drunk.

I’m well aware of the fact that there are officers that should not be cops. Just like there are attorneys that steal from their clients, accountants that are a step away from prison for tax fraud, and leaving you with a hefty tax bill. There are surgeons out there that kill their patients. Abortionists that take a life on a regular basis. Elected officials that take bribes. Name the profession, any profession, and there are flawed human beings that find their way into those professions. Before Moses came down from the mountain with just 10 commandments the rules were being broken before he got back to camp.

The media has been very careful to show you the images that they think you need to see, and discarding the images you shouldn’t see. I’m willing to bet that the media doesn’t want you to see this video. You should watch it. You should watch it because when they defund police departments it’s not going to be rainbows and unicorns. They are going to cave to the mob, and you will be expected to accept this. The Portland Police Bureau caught up with this violent young man that delivered the kick to the head. He’s 14 years old.

.

France Diary 2018-2020 (You Think American Police Have a Tough Time)

 

I don’t know what kind of lunatic would ever open a store in Paris these days. And if you think American police have a tough time let me tell you, French police are so martyred that I have taught my children to smile at them in the street, and they wave to them from the window of our apartment.

On a Saturday in the fall of 2018, the gilet jaune (Yellow Jacket) riots started, initially in reaction to the carbon tax which President Macron imposed. Don’t let the mainstream media tell you it was some “normal French striking thing.” It continued very intensely, every Saturday afternoon for about a year, across the country, and not only in Paris but in all the major cities: Lyon, Toulouse, Lille etc. Macron tried to be highhanded and ignore it for about a month or more until finally, he had to give an official speech to the nation.

Here’s what it was like on the ground: At the very beginning, I, very pregnant, ran out in the morning before lunch to get wrapping paper (for Christmas) and luckily chose to go to the branch of Monoprix (a kind of high-end Target + supermarket) which wasn’t on the very big boulevard. There was a lot of agitation and by the time I got back to the house, things were in full swing, and we were essentially under siege in our apartment until evening. The protesters, to whom my husband and I felt sympathetic initially, were mostly middle-aged people from the middle-class suburbs, and they wore the yellow vests the government requires people to keep in their cars. But somehow right away the hoodlums from the rough suburbs (not wearing yellow vests) joined in for the ride and destroyed things in their wake. Graffiti, burning and destroying cars, newspaper kiosks… They even entered our little street and we watched from the windows while they overturned a dumpster and burned it. We were actually quite alarmed so we went upstairs to visit with our neighbours and the kids were put in a back room so they couldn’t watch. I remember thinking “The French Revolution must have been like this.”

That afternoon, the rioters turned on a high-end children’s clothing store on our street, and welding the electric scooters that are parked everywhere, they systematically smashed the unbreakable glass windows, and looted the place entirely top to bottom, saying “Vêtements des bourge!” (rich person clothes) and passing out trash bags full of loot in the street. The store remained closed, as did many stores, through the Christmas shopping season, finally reopening three weeks later. It was utterly destroyed with a vengeance.

The next morning, Sunday, I did a grocery shop and surveyed the damage. It was, for me, like the Blitz or something.

So this continued every Saturday afternoon for a year: burning and looting. And so what normal people did was this: you scurried out to do your shopping and errands in the morning, before lunch, and then you took shelter until evening.

Gradually (relying on my memory here) it stopped being citywide (meanwhile people in other French cities had other situations: I am talking specifically about Paris here) and the Gilet Jaunes would announce where they would be (I think French law requires this of protesters). So they would be at Place de la République or avenue des Ternes, and you would plan your day accordingly so as not to be stuck in the rioting.

I gave birth at the end of December 2018 and I remember my obstetrician coming in to see me in my hospital bed, complaining that she couldn’t get to her hairdresser.

Three months later, I was at the hospital across the Seine because of complications with my scar, and I tried to take a taxi back to my side of the river and was stuck in the taxi on the bridge for about an hour or more.

Four months later, we went to brunch at some friends’ house, after having first verified where the “manifestation” would be that day. “Good – they are on the other side of the neighbourhood today.”

In the mornings, people came cautiously out of their homes to look things over. The Haussmanien buildings all had been tagged with graffiti: “Manu, j’ai traversé la rue” (Manu, I crossed the street). “Manu” is the diminutive of Emmanuel, and it was in the news because the President scolding a high school boy in a crowd for calling him “Manu” instead of Monsieur le Président. Then “crossing the street” part came from this typically tone-deaf encounter the President had with an unemployed man who complained that he couldn’t find a job. The President, who really is somewhat autistic in these situations, told him he had only to “traverser la rue”, “cross the street” and the phrase trended on Twitter for days, reappearing in the form of graffiti all over the country during 2018-2019.

They burned out the fancy restaurant Fouquet, where Sarkozy infamously celebrated his presidential victory years before, as well as the poor newspaper kiosk at the corner. The poor man who worked in the kiosk told the Figaro newspaper mournfully, “I make 900 Euros a month. Why me?”

My family came to spend Christmas with us in December 2019, a year later, and by this time the RATP and SNCF were on strike for two months because of the retirement pension reforms pushed by Macron so there was no public transport (another blow at the holiday season to commerce), and people worked from home or walked to work if possible, and the public school lunchrooms were closed because the employees couldn’t come to work from the suburbs, AND the gilet jaunes continued to march every Saturday. Many people couldn’t get to see their families on Christmas because the countrywide trains were blocked and canceled. The SNCF has a policy where you can retire at 55 (I believe) on full pay and given people’s lifespans, you will end up retired longer than you will be working! Most French people I talked to found this scandalous.

Again, we had to take taxis to the church so the kids could rehearse for the Christmas pageant, and watched from the window while the protesters and riots moved past. By this time, the movement had shifted to include people waving Palestinian flags, the usual effigies of the President, as well as, bizarrely, climate protesters (even though the initial protest had been against a carbon tax), the usual stuff about rich people etc. My kids stood at the window waving first at the protesters than at the police in riot gear following them. And there were police armoured vehicles and trucks stretching all the way in the distance. It was again, very dramatic, for Americans from the midwest such as my parents to see.

In the midst of all this, we are still on terrorist alert, so this is all very amusing for the police and military, who since Charlie Hebdo in 2015 have been on alert, and we see trucks full of the military going by on “vigipirate”.

Then we had the lockdown, which started here on 16 March (just previously, the President and his wife had encouraged the French people to go to the theater!). Soldiers were deployed to try to get “the 93” (Seine-Saint-Denis) to stay in their houses, and there was frequent violence with the usual suspects, hoodlum kids, roving the streets, attacking ambulances and firefighters and police, who were trying to enforce the lockdown. The usual.

There was a “lone wolf” terrorist attack with a Sudanese migrant, predictably called Abdallah Ahmed-Osman, who, for reasons inexplicable to most French people, had been housed and put in a job training programme in a little town called Romans-sur-Isère, stabbed two French people to death and wounded four others waiting in line at a butcher shop while yelling “Allah Akbar”. This made hardly a blip on the national media (unlike, say, George Floyd, thousands of kilometres away!), and was quickly explained as Abdallah being “sick of being locked down.” The poor guy. By the way, there is a Twitter feed called FrenchLivesMatter. I invite you to check it out. It condemns the violence inflicted on French people on a regular basis by the people the government or the EU has decided to invite in to share our generous big state benefits.

Soon after this small and unimportant episode, there was a crazy lady yelling on my quiet, affluent street all morning. (I actually think she lives around here because I have seen her before). My kids rushed to the window. Then two Vigipirate trucks of soldiers came by, and seeing her yelling, they stopped. (Since the trivial incident with Abdallah’s lockdown frustration, they were clearly tense.) Both cars stopped and 8 heavily armed soldiers stepped into the street and called out to her, questioning her. Eventually, they were satisfied that she was harmless, and started to get back in their cars. My kids were waving at them from the window and they smiled and waved back. Then I had a great idea and ran to get this big French flag that François Hollande had urged French people to purchase and put in their windows after the “Charlie attacks” in 2015. We all agitated the flag furiously in the window and the soldiers were very pleased and I felt good all week. They don’t get much thanks, soldiers and police in France, and I am not sure they get to avail themselves of their obligatory 5 weeks of vacation per year. If anyone works like crazy in France, it’s them.

Mr. President, Free the Death Grip on Main Street

 

My understanding is that nine states (or counties thereof) are now imposing some form of “shelter in place” orders for all “non-essential” workers and shuttering “non-essential” businesses: California, New York, Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Missouri (counties), Kansas (counties). The California order is open-ended. I don’t know whether and when the other orders expire.

In talking to my local restauranteurs the thought that the original county order here of three weeks was survivable. Beyond mid-April, the shutdown is going to be a death sentence for many. If you are wait staff and have been idled, job #1 is to figure out where your next paycheck is coming from. Good luck getting a job with an “essential” business. Of course, there may be an increased demand for food delivery personnel. “Learn to code,” seems to be the attitude toward far too many hourly workers.

The theory behind the closures is a kind of “fire break” mentality. Deprive the virus of fuel to slow down the rate of spread. OK, I get it. And no doubt that may be effective and particularly efficacious for reducing demand relative to the supply of health care. But there are unintended consequences that we have to recognize. Just like the Fed pumping money into the system and the stock market falls, the moves reek of panic, so people panicking is not unexpected. And part of the panic puts more demand on healthcare, not less. If Oregonians are calling 911 for lack of toilet paper, what do you think anyone with a sniffle is doing?

In general, government is always outsmarting itself (if the objective is to deliver good results for the people), and only its citizens pay.

As I watch the state governors weighing their options I can’t help but think of the bank failures of 1929. I hope President Trump does not emulate President Hoover whose big-government solutions were actually carried forward by his successor: FDR. And with the heavy hand of government, the Depression was prolonged and the recovery delayed.

I don’t know what powers President Trump has to curb the calculating progressives and the panicking Republicans. I just hope he has his eyes open to how much damage the shutdowns are doing over time and finds a way to declare a “fire break” victory and extoll the need to get back to work with reasonable social distancing and personal hygiene. He will get no help from the media. They already want to blame him for the problem and they won’t tell people that his actions are the solution.

The progressive governors make nice with President Trump when he is doing things they want, but there is no reciprocity. This has been the pattern and it will continue to be the pattern. Good economic and physical health for the people do not promote their plans for a strong central government. The parasites are going to feed.

Remember, throwing money at a problem at this point means printing more money, not generating value through productivity. Why would we think that extending the Democrat plantation beyond the communities of color will give us better results than what those communities got under Democrat presidents? Main street is the only solution. Even under Jim Crow, the Black Main Street was a source of strength and support for the victims of Jim Crow beyond that which was provided under the Great Society.

Mr. President, free the grip on Main Street that indefinite health orders are creating.

Sittin’ on tn The Dock of the Bay on Repeat

 

 

I have always loved the music of Otis Redding, and I never tire of listening to his final hit recording, “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay.” At under three minutes, this song always feels too short. I used to have the best of Otis Redding’s songs on a CD, “The Ultimate Otis Redding” and would listen to it over and over again. “The Dock of the Bay” came to mind again recently because I have finally been allowed to make my annual pilgrimage to the Delaware Bay (the quarantine requirement for out-of-state visitors expired on June 1). I have been to the bay every summer of my life, and in many other seasons, too. Even though Otis was singing before I was born and was inspired by a completely different bay, his voice still communicates a range of experiences and emotions in a way that has had universal appeal since it was recorded.

It is not surprising then, that the website dedicated to his life and work contains this lovely nugget:

The idea that music could be a universal force, bringing together different races and cultures, was central to Otis’ personal philosophy and reflected in his everyday life. At a time when it may not have been considered politically correct, Redding had a white manager, Phil Walden, and a racially mixed band. He took care of business, setting up his own publishing and record label, Jotis Records, making unprecedented moves for a black music artist in the ’60s. While it was not Otis’ prime motivation, he was seen as a role model by blacks. He was someone who got paid and paid well without the usual horror stories of being ripped off by promoters, agents, managers, or record company executives. (https://otisredding.com/about/)

On my visit to the bay the other day, I couldn’t help humming a little Otis Redding and “watchin’ the tide roll away.”

What songs or singers just make you want to keep listening after the song ends, even decades later?

Insanity and Hope

 

We’re not even halfway through 2020 yet, and it has already been an appalling year. To me, our country seems to be in the grip of mass insanity.

I am not surprised that the radical Left is widespread, and powerful, and dangerous. I am only a little surprised at how widespread their grip on the public mind seems to have become. Their methods, rhetoric, and unreasoned hatred seems to have reached a new peak. This is to be expected, I suppose.

Far more troubling, to me, is the dissension among my supposed friends on the political and cultural Right.

First, we had the ludicrous and baseless impeachment and Senate trial. Then the little Roger Stone sentencing… remember this one… in which we were told that it was a “grossly improper abuse of power” for the President to claim the “right to interfere in criminal cases” in the Justice Department, of which he is the Constitutional head. Third, we had March Madness with the COVID-19 pandemic, the bizarre spread of coronaphobia, and shocking economic damage due to a misguided policy overreaction, falling principally on the working class and small business owners. Who, but the way were vilified as murderers with blood on their hands if they wanted to do something as horribly selfish as trying to earn a living.

Now, the race riots. The barbarians aren’t just at the gates, my friends. They’re inside the gates, burning and pillaging the city.

The reaction from politicians and the media has been appalling. I have a few examples:

  • “Minneapolis Had This Coming,” today in The Atlantic (here).
  • The strange insistence in the media that an autopsy performed by the independent county medical examiner is biased, while the opinions of an expert hired by the plaintiffs’ lawyer representing the Floyd family are “independent.” CNN here, ABC here, CBS here, the LA Times here, The Hill here, PBS here, Vox here, Time here). You get the point. Except that you don’t, because this narrative is not just on the Left. Fox News said the exact same thing, here.
  • A member of Congress calling the police department a “cancer” (here). I know, it’s Ilhan Omar, arguably one of the vilest haters of America ever elected to political office. She said: “I will never stop saying not only do we need to disinvest from police but we need to completely dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department… The Minneapolis Police Department is rotten to the root. And so when we dismantle it, we get rid of that cancer and we allow for something beautiful to arise. And that reimagining allows us to figure out what public safety looks like for us.” As you’ve probably heard, the Minneapolis City Council and others seem to be on the same anti-police bandwagon.
  • I find the general acceptance of the unproven — and in my view dubious — conclusion that Mr. Floyd was murdered, even by people on the Right, to be surprising. Examples are Ben Domenech of The Federalist (here, claiming that the cop “went too far and murdered a citizen for the crime of passing a counterfeit bill”) and Charlie Sykes and David French at the Dispatch (here, in a podcast whose summary refers to “unrest over the murder of George Floyd”). Regarding the latter, I did not listen to the podcast (I can’t imagine that I could stomach it) so perhaps they are more nuanced, but their site does claim “murder” in the podcast summary.
  • Sen. Mitt Romney marched with Black Lives Matter radicals. (OK, maybe this wasn’t so unexpected, but still . . .)
  • A high-ranking NYPD official “took a knee” with BLM protesters. (Video here.) Here’s another video of multiple officers “taking a knee.”

I think that this “take a knee” thing may be the worst insanity of all. This is explicitly a symbol of disrespecting the American Flag. We’re not even expected to kneel before the flag. But here we have officers kneeling, frankly, before the hateful, anti-American banner of Black Lives Matter.

It is a bit hard to find hope in these circumstances.

There are some good signs. I’m starting to see the truth breaking through, particularly about the questionable allegation that Ofc. Chauvin’s actions caused Mr. Floyd’s death. I detailed this in my post about the autopsy on June 6, here. Roger Kimball has an article at American Greatness (here), on the same day as my post, which raises the same question (and makes many other important points). Mr. Kimball’s article is linked on RealClearPolitics, so there’s a good chance that these alternative explanations will begin to break through the media narrative.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. I don’t know what caused the death of George Floyd, beyond the general and unhelpful conclusion of “cardiopulmonary arrest.” My prior post detailed several possibilities, including fentanyl overdose.

So the country is going crazy, but maybe this isn’t the end. Maybe it’s the darkness before the dawn. Maybe it’s the turn of the tide. I prefer to hope that the insanity will end.

Member Post

 

Nothing but hot takes from Korea today. Fun with brainstorming and fever dreams. So, apparently part of Seattle has seceded from the Union. What say we call their bluff? Hands off, mostly, BUT… Cut off all utilities until they purchase them from the United States. Remove US currency from banks there. Set up international borders. […]

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I Voted Today

 

I have been torn on how to vote today in the Republican primary. My anger with Lindsey Graham and Joe Wilson, both of whom seem to be coasting through the path of least resistance in Congress, had convinced me both needed to be retired for fresh blood, a more conservative person with fire in the belly. This was my chance to send a message. Had the election been held last week, even this past weekend, I would have voted for both of their opponents, while intending to vote for whomever the Republican was on the ballot in November. What happened?

1. Big bucks from out-of-state donors have been fueling the Democrat opponent’s campaign, a popular football player. Seems he thought the US Senate was an entry-level job. Warning bells sounded.

2. Graham’s Republican opponent had little social media presence, couldn’t even tell you his name. Big bucks weren’t floating in from out-of-state to fund his campaign. More warning bells went off.

3. The election-year rumor that Graham is gay draws the usual yawn around here. Seems we aren’t near as homophobic as the left paints us. However, this time it was different. This time there were tawdry descriptions typical of leftie hit jobs, not the language of Christians. Also, I found it insulting for it reflected the image those pushing it had of us, i.e., how we would react to proof he might be gay. (Note: we don’t care.) Furthermore, it takes big bucks to dig up (and pay) people to come forward with election-year revelations. Graham’s opponent can’t even fund a good state campaign, much less a serious oppo research project. This was a deeply-funded (leftie) hit job. More warning bells.

4. Then I thought, is sending a warning to Graham by voting for his opponent, even though he probably can’t win today, outweigh sending an encouraging signal to rich lefties that would tell them this seat might be picked off if they flooded the state with more dollars. I have already seen Graham’s opponent didn’t have big daddies funding him so he would be at a dollar disadvantage. The loss of the Senate would be catastrophic. The loss of House, Senate, and Presidency would be the end of times. So, today, incumbents got my vote.

I want the RINOs gone but partisan politics forbids me to risk voting one out.

For Live PD fans, the popular sheriff in Richland County, Leon Lott, has a primary opponent. He has a great department, the most popular one on the show. Officers are quite professional and very popular.

Member Post

 

EducationExpand parental choice. Letting parents choose the schools to which their children go gives all schools incentives to improve the quality of their teaching. EmploymentEliminate minimum wage laws.Minimum wage laws penalize companies for hiring low-skilled workers, making it more expensive to hire such workers and making it much harder for the least employable – that […]

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Member Post

 

Kristallnacht, German for Night of Broken Glass, November 9-10, 1938.  German S.A. and civilians throughout Nazi Germany went on a spree of smashing the windows of Jewish establishments as German law enforcement looked on without intervening.   And America, the year 2020:  Young nitwits calling themselves “Anti-Fascist” (it’s in the name!) are behaving very much […]

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J.K. Rowling and the Thought Police

 

I was interested to see that J.K. Rowling has come under fire for expressing an opinion not in accord with the prevailing winds. Rowling describes herself as liberal, but is also an absolutist when it comes to free speech, as you can see here.

Her transgression was tweeting about her belief that gender is biological and that there are two different sexes. I noticed in one publication yesterday that “some” were “concerned” that she was “undermining” LGBTQ rights. And Daniel Radcliffe, the star of the Harry Potter films, has criticized Rowling’s opinions, which you can read about here.

I don’t know that I am a free speech absolutist, and I suspect that there are limits to Rowling’s philosophy also. You shouldn’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater, as the old saying goes. And, a person’s sexuality and sexual preference are irrelevant to my general (grumpy) philosophy of life, which is, leave me alone. I suspect that is true for many on this site.

I am, however, interested in the backlash she is experiencing from people in line with her politically simply for stating a scientific fact about chromosomes. I don’t see it as undermining anyone’s rights. J.K. Rowling can both respect a person’s desire or need to live as a person of the other sex, and also recognize that there are some things about biology that humans cannot change, no matter how scientifically advanced we are.

If the usual timeline is followed, she will now sincerely apologize for her opinion, say she didn’t realize how hurtful it was, and thank her many fans for helping her see the light.

I am always amazed that the people who lecture us most loudly about diversity are the people who want us all to be exactly the same.

A Geyser of Propaganda

 

Not content to let Amazon, Netflix, and Walmart beat it in the virtue-signaling Olympics, the health conglomerate to which my doctor belongs has invited all its victims patients to “join” the BLM movement. In an email sent today to unfortunate Ohioans, the hospital system urges us all to “confront the public health crisis of racism” by browsing articles and books from a linked reading list.

On this list are classics like Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “The Case for Reparations,” the NYT‘s 1619 Project, and Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility. But the best of all is Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist, which recommends the following:

The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination. . . . To fix the original sin of racism, Americans should pass an anti-racist amendment to the U.S. Constitution that enshrines two guiding anti-racist principles: Racial inequity is evidence of racist policy and the different racial groups are equals. The amendment would make unconstitutional racial inequity over a certain threshold, as well as racist ideas by public officials . . . [The anti-racist amendment] would establish and permanently fund the Department of Anti-racism (DOA) comprised of formally trained experts on racism and no political appointees…. The DOA would be empowered with disciplinary tools to wield over and against policymakers and public officials who do not voluntarily change their racist policy and ideas.

So, there you have it — America in 2020. Hospitals are now hawking openly revolutionary, openly totalitarian political propaganda. Thank God nobody reads these emails.

I never felt the need to own a gun. But now, I do. I’m not going down without a fight.

Competing Approaches: Stand Fast or Manipulate?

 

In this cultural war, which we seem to be losing, we have a problem: the Right no longer can communicate with the Left. We do not speak the same language, and every conversation is en passant — we talk right past each other. Which means that conversation (as opposed, sometimes, to experience or tribal affinities, etc.) almost never changes anyone’s mind.

In other words, we cannot even agree on what a “fact” is, let alone what facts are “true.” Doubt me? Open up Vox or the Guardian.

I propose that we will be more effective if we get smart. The purpose of any conflict is not to destroy the enemy, but to destroy their strategy. We seek to win, not score points by jumping up and down and insisting that the facts are on our side. And we can win by getting a lot more clever. We can infiltrate the Left, and help them eat their own. We can encourage ever-more-ridiculous Maoist sessions until people come to realize how stupid and dangerous they are. We should be using humor to destroy the liberal philosophy, but not from the outside (where it cannot be heard) but instead from the inside.

You cannot win an argument if you cannot be heard. And you cannot be heard unless the opposition is willing to listen. Which means we have to excel at pretension and manipulation.

Less virtuous? Sure. But far more likely to be successful, and more fun as well!

Member Post

 

After the killing of George Floyd, a black man at the knee of a white police officer in Minnesota; protests, and riots, erupted across the country— and even across the globe. A disgusting ideology is now manifesting itself as a response to this incident— anti-Americanism. This is an ideology which has been quietly growing in […]

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Something has gone wrong with our relationship with the police, and it’s more than an uptick (perceived or real) in police violence. It’s deeper than that, and its roots start in the bottomless greed of our progressive politicians. If you’re like me, you grew up being taught that the man with the badge was there […]

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My COVID Experience Today

 

Maybe about two months ago our office opened back up to allow the construction contractors to return and resume the renovation work. Because of the nature of the space, they have to be escorted and we worked out shifts so people only had to watch them a few hours each week. Four weeks ago we were allowed to come back in teams, one week in the office and one week at home continuing telework. This is my week off but this morning I received a call that one of the contractors had tested positive for Kung Flu this weekend. I didn’t get all of the details but he claims to be asymptomatic but got tested. The last time he was in our space was the end of May, which was my week off.

We had a staff meeting at three with some details. They’ve closed our building for a week. The military members have to get tested. Civilians can’t be forced to get the test, but can’t return for fourteen days. My boss went to a testing location that closed at three and said that he’d have results in one to three days. I looked online to see if any other places were still open. One down the street was, so I drove over. I entered the lobby, answered no to having any symptoms. When I mentioned that I might have had contact at work, I was told that they had to do curbside testing, which is only done at three of their other locations.

I headed over to the nearest curbside location. A sign on the door said not to enter the lobby and call their number. I did and was told that it would be a 45-minute wait and to come into the lobby. Also, results take seven to ten days. One, if it’s going to take seven to ten days I might as well wait the 14 days and not have my brain stabbed. Two, if the other location told me to go to a curbside location, why was it okay with me being in the lobby? I could catch it during the wait or infect someone if I do have it. I’m going to wait until morning to go to the place offering a one to three day wait. How serious is this disease if the sign says not to enter the lobby for a COVID-19 test but then they tell me to come on in after I call? I don’t expect to test positive but now I have to do the waiting game.