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From time to time, I post links to content I find to be especially valuable. Here’s a probing discussion of an important issue. It’s worth your time:

 

Taking the Lawlessness into Their Own Hands

Once upon a time in American history, we had a President whom many accused of being a racist. He took Supreme Court rulings as mere suggestions, he wanted to separate entire groups of people from American Society at large. From the very moment of his Inauguration that scandalized Washington, D.C., he faced rebellion from many parts of the political establishment.

Some other politicians even went so far as to declare that their areas of the country would not abide by laws passed by Congress. They claimed the right to decide which laws, especially those about outcast peoples, would be obeyed and which ignored.

chicagoIt didn’t work out very well. In fact, it led us into civil war.

“It is the right of a State to interpose, in the last resort, in order to arrest an unconstitutional act of the General Government, within its limits.”

Those are the words of John C. Calhoun, segregationist Senator from South Carolina, in 1832. The ultimate conflict brought about in part by his assertion led to devastation in his state and throughout the states of the Confederacy. His utterance sparked what was called the Nullification Controversy, in which various jurisdictions claimed the ultimate right to negate rulings by the federal government and the Supreme Court.

copThis is Corporal Ronil Singh, 33 years old, celebrating Christmas with his young wife and child five hours before he was shot and killed on duty while making a traffic stop of a pickup without license plates driven by this man:

illegal

This man is known to local police and CNN is reporting that he is in this country illegally. Given the sad state of affairs in California, one has to ask whether the Governor will order state police to assist or obstruct in the apprehension of the alleged killer.

The irony here is that the dead officer was born in Fiji and came to this country with the expressed desire to be a cop. He was a legal immigrant who observed the laws concerning immigration and naturalization. He did things the right way.

The issue is not whether or not the U.S. should allow immigration into our country. Demographics and economics require that we do. The issue is whether or not we are a sovereign nation of laws, or an “open space” where even elected officials feel free to decide whether or not laws are to be obeyed, the same destructive notion behind those who claim open borders or a universal right to migrate to any nation on earth that one pleases.

Are you listening Pope Francis? Maybe tomorrow when you say Mass, you will remember Corporal Ronil Singh and pray for the repose of his soul. And maybe our elected officials will remember that they were elected to enforce our laws, not disregard them, like Senator Calhoun did in 1832.

 

UPDATE: 12/28 12 p.m. MST:

Police have confirmed that the suspect is now in custody. He is reportedly a member of Surenos, a Mexican gang engaged in murder-for-hire and  human smuggling. Surenos hold allegiance to other violent Mexican street gangs and to the “Mexican Mafia”, a group that operates out of California prisons.

shithead

 

Posturing, Anyone?

In a few short days, the Federal Government may be shut down over the issue of border security and illegal immigration. Lest anyone be deceived, the policy that the current administration is following is almost exactly the same policy that the prior administration followed, though you couldn’t tell this from watching the mainstream media. (There were even more deportations under Obama than there have been under Trump, but that’s another story.) What we really have here is political posturing, plain and simple. Don’t believe me? Watch the following:

or this:

or this:

or this:

Safe Space…the Final Frontier

Much has been made in recent months about the demise of 1st Amendment rights on American college campuses. Just this week, a Democrat party member of the House of Representatives (from California, of course) fretted that things would be so much easier, more peaceful, more convenient, if he could just circumvent the 1st Amendment.

If only the idea of “safe spaces” could be expanded from the campus to our everyday lives, right? Our lives would be free from having to hear, much less confront ideas and attitudes that differ from ours. Spare that child!

savioI suppose I could point out that such attitudes make me feel “uncomfortable”, but, you see, I am a white, heterosexual male, so what do I know? I am told that I am part of the problem.

Well, I’m not going to shut up. So there. And I won’t wear ribbons of any color, pussy hats, arm bands, or any of the other empty symbolic gestures that pass for courage these days. I won’t even wear a MAGA hat. Our society long ago abandoned actual civil dialogue in exchange for posters, buttons, bumper stickers, slogans, sound bites, “trending” videos, and Internet memes. These things are so much easier than either listening or actually thinking. We are the unreflected entitlement country now.

I’m going to propose a compromise, just so I can be sure to insult both sides of the political spectrum. Here goes:

From now on, let every Friday be designated as “safe space for free speech day.” Every Friday, every American is encouraged to exercise his/her/whatever 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech. Say what you want, as often as you want, as loud as you want, anywhere you want on Fridays.

The speech police can have their way the other six days of the week. But not on Fridays. On Fridays all Americans will enjoy their Constitutional right to free speech, unfettered. To be politically incorrect, brazen, and free. If someone doesn’t want to hear or see “uncomfortable things”, they are invited to turn off their TV sets and radios, laptops, tablets, and cellphones. Go read a book. Take a walk and contemplate Nature. Meditate on your own life and your own shortcomings. Write, paint, dance, and let others express themselves without interference from “social justice warriors” of the Left or narrow minds on the Right.

Throw off your shackles, speak up without fear. And listen. Nobody seems to want to do that any more. And don’t worry that something you say or write will destroy your career. After all, you said it on Free Speech Friday.

Who knows? Hollywood might even be able to find someone willing to host the Oscars, as long as they hold it on a Friday night.

 

 

Quote

The ignored story of ‘America’s biggest serial killer’ – George Will

The objectivity of the news media can be determined not only by what they cover and how they cover it, but also by what they choose to ignore. To wit:

via The ignored story of ‘America’s biggest serial killer’ – George Will

gosnell

The More Things Change…

On a a day when Chinese authorities announced they had successfully produced “gene edited” babies, it’s reassuring to know that some things never change. To wit: the tendency of politicians to believe they can rewrite history. Make no mistake, this is a bi-artisan conceit. It happens on both sides of the aisle. Looking for a good laugh some days? Try reading presidential memoirs or political memoirs in general, usually a morass of self-deception and self-serving conceit.

obama

The most recent instance of this practice comes to us from former President Barack Obama. Speaking to a crowd just prior to the recent election, he laid claim to the economic boom that followed on the heels of his stepping down from the presidency.

Claiming responsibility for the currently surging economy, Obama told the crowd at a rally in September, “Remember where this recovery started.” But facts are stubborn things.

Given that he took office in 2009 and inherited an economic mess from the outgoing Bush Administration, the best that can be said of Obama’s economic policies is that they didn’t make matters measurably worse. But “recovery”? An odd term to apply to the slowest rebound from a recession in our history, the only 8-year stretch of American economic history where the GDP failed to reach 3% growth.

I won’t go into all the numbers, but if you’d like to check them out, read this article from the Wall Street Journal of November 26, 2018: CLICK HERE

By any measure or yardstick, the economy did not turn around until Obama’s successor began cutting taxes, slashing regulations, and encouraging energy production.

The fundamental difference, as I see it, is that the Obama economic paradigm centered around the redistribution of wealth while the Trump policy is to generate more wealth for Americans of all economic levels, ethnic groups, and political persuasions.

One irony is that, while talking about narrowing the economic gap between rich and poor, the gap widened even faster during the Obama Presidency. And while Trump is seen by many (and most of the media) as a servant of the wealthy, the unemployment rate among Hispanic and Black Americans has never been lower than today, and more Americans have jobs than ever before. Over Trump’s first 21 months in office (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) job growth has averaged 75,000 per month. Over Obama’s final 21 months in office, the number of job openings increased an average of 900 per month. For every job Obama’s policies created, Trump has created 80.

Other statistics show the same pattern. The current boom did not begin until the new policies of the Trump Administration began and unleashed the pent-up powers of the capitalist American economic engine.

As a defender of freedom of speech, I stand by President Obama’s right to say whatever he wants. But facts are facts, and in this case, it’s just another politician attempting to put lipstick on a pig.

 

 

 

Ben Franklin Was Right, and Is Again.

As the American Revolution was breaking out, Benjamin Franklin said “We must all hang together or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

I was going to write a blog entry on the forces pulling America apart. I was going to write an article saying that Donald Trump, love him or loathe him, is not the problem, but rather the result of the problem America is facing (if anyone could stop shouting long enough to consider this).

Then someone beat me to it. That someone is Matt Welch, a fellow Libertarian who writes for Reason Magazine:

Don’t Cry for Kat Timpf, Cry for America Instead

Americans are becoming increasingly intolerant with each other over politics, and have special wrath for people who do not stay in identifiable partisan and even geographical lanes. This does not end well, people.

Let’s be clear: I am not asking you to feel sorry for Kat Timpf.

Yes, the 30-year-old television commentator and National Review writer was chased out of a Brooklyn bar a few weeks ago by a shouty woman enraged that Timpf works for Fox News Channel. Must have been unpleasant, especially considering it wasn’t her first time being physically confronted by angry strangers.

But you know what else is unpleasant? Being separated from your toddler at the U.S.-Mexico border. Watching your entire community burn to the ground. Living a life less luxe than a New York gal about town whose birthday parties make Page Six.

So let’s not talk about Kat, let’s talk about you. You who pivoted before I did to the whataboutism in the paragraph above. You who were already irritated at reading yet again about a non-Democrat being inconvenienced in public. You who are saying to yourself, “Fox News is toxic. It’s poisoning my dad’s brain. All collaborators are fair game to be shunned.”

Here’s the question for you: Do you think this ends well? Because it doesn’t.

As it happens, Timpf is one of very few Trump-skeptical libertarians working at 1211 Avenue of the Americas. When we were both on the libertarian-leaning “Kennedy” program on Fox Business recently, she said stuff like, “Oh, I’m personally not scared of the [immigrant] caravan. I think that Trump’s done an excellent job of making people scared.” Hound her from the building, and that’s one less non-#MAGA commentator on dad’s TV.

Not that Timpf’s views actually matter to her antagonists. “None of these people have even been able to tell me what exactly I have said or done myself that they had a problem with,” she told the Hill. The problem, one darkly suspects, is that she looks the part of Fox News villain — blond, pretty, false eyelashes that she refuses to take off when carousing in Brooklyn’s massive bloc of precincts that voted over 90% for Hillary Clinton.

Increasingly, Americans do not tolerate people who do not stay in identifiable political and even geographical lanes. There is probably no more hated politician right now than the temperamentally centrist lame-duck Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). Acres of pixels are expended most every time a perceived center-right type is hired by a reliably left-leaning news outlet — Kevin Williamson at the Atlantic, Bari Weiss at the New York Times, Hugh Hewitt at MSNBC.

These are successful public figures, so again, shed no tears. Think instead, in this Thanksgiving season, about your family, which probably includes members of the opposing tribe. According to a Survey Monkey poll before the midterm election, 61% of Democrats think the phrase “racist/sexist/bigoted” applies generally to the Republican Party, while 54% of Republicans think the Democratic Party is “spiteful.” More than one in five members of each bloc think the other can be rightly described as “evil.”

This is not a good place to be, America.

We are careening dangerously from a high-trust to a low-trust society. We trust one another less, we trust governmentand other mediating institutions less. This trend, which like many of our pathologies predates and arguably helped give rise to the Trump presidency, has ominous consequences.

High-trust societies have lower transaction costs, lower crime rates and less corruption. People are nicer and better behaved when they’re reasonably confident that the local grocer won’t steal their credit card information and the IRS won’t audit them based on their politics.

Low-trust countries are clannish, unable to develop the civil institutions of a free society, and those in power tend to use government authority like a club to punish political enemies. The resulting disorder builds demand for strongmen, for more centralized state power. None of this is good.

When President Trump accuses Democrats, without evidence, of “electoral corruption” in the Arizona Senate race (even as the local Republican candidate handles her loss with dignity), he is behaving like a caudillo from a low-trust country. When Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) says Republicans “can’t win elections fairly; they win elections by redistricting and reapportionment and voter suppression,” he too is contributing to the very dysfunction he claims to resist .

It’s damnably difficult to break out of this cycle, at least politically: As trust declines between the two main parties, untrustworthy behavior spikes. There are villains among us in politics, though thankfully some — such as the odious voter-fraud fabulist Kris Kobach in Kansas — get fired by voters.

But we can start closer to home with the recognition that our friends and family aren’t evil just because some of them have different ideologies or political affiliations. In a country of pluralities and coalitions and minority rights instead of heavy-handed majoritarian rule, we are cursed — and also blessed — to live with one another. We might as well learn how to peaceably share a drink.

This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

Blues Times Seven

If music is a universal language, I think of the Blues is its basic vocabulary. Nothing touches me as deeply on a personal and emotional level, not even Beethoven. Here’s a sampling for you of seven numbers that represent the past and hopefully the future of the Blues:

  1. “Smokestack Lightning”Howlin’ Wolf  Chester Arthur Burnett (a.k.a. Howlin’ Wolf) started singing the Blues in his home state of Mississippi before World War II. After the war, he traveled to Chicago and changed its music scene forever. Here’s his best known song, with Hubert Sumlin on guitar:
  2. “Damn Right I Got the Blues”Buddy Guy   Among those who followed Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters on the Chicago Blues scene was Buddy Guy, who arrived in the Windy City in 1957 and is still going strong to this day. Give a listen:
  3. “The Thrill Is Gone”B.B. King  I was fortunate to see B.B. do this song at the Fillmore East many years ago. It’s still as powerful today. One of the “Three Kings of the Blues” (along with Albert and Freddy) B.B.’s influence still prevails, he will never be forgotten.
  4. “Born Under a Bad Sign”Albert King He played his guitar upside down and left-handed, but his sound was unmistakably the Blues. Listen to Eric Clapton and you hear Albert King, and Freddy King as well. Here’s my favorite song from Albert:
  5. “If Trouble Was Money”Albert Collins  Speaking of Alberts, Albert Collins, known for his altered tunings and his mastery of the Fender Telecaster, took time out from his career as a painter to lay down this track with the late, great Irish guitarist Gary Moore. Love it:
  6. “The Worst Is Yet to Come”Keb’ Mo’  Who says the Blues and humor can’t match? Keb’ Mo’ combines them in many of his songs, never more hilariously then in this Blues song that will leave you laughing:
  7.  “Just ‘Cos You Can Don’t Mean You Should”Joe Bonamassa  I first heard of Joe Bonamassa when he was “Smokin’ Joe” a ten year-old opening act for B.B. King in Upstate New York. Now he’s perhaps the most successful of the modern Blues guitarists and has made it his life’s goal to “Keep the Blues Alive”. Something tells me he’s going to succeed:

There’s seven Blues songs for you. There are seven million more worth listening to, What are you waiting for? Happy Thanksgiving!

Seven By Sinatra

frank-sinatra-photoThis is the first in a series of blog tributes to great American artists. I start with Frank Sinatra, who for seven decades was a fixture on our popular music scene. Sinatra was appreciative of the songwriters, lyricists, arrangers, conductors, and musicians who made his work possible, and spent much of his life popularizing what he called “The Great American Songbook.” Here are seven of his finest performances:

  1. Drinking Again (1967) A great Sinatra saloon song from the later stages of his career. This is the last Johnny Mercer composition he ever recorded. It’s a post-midnight, story-telling number full of regret. You can almost hear the cigarette smoke in this one.
  2. From This Moment On (1957) Sinatra sings Cole Porter with a huge assist from arranger/conductor Nelson Riddle. Nobody interplayed Sinatra with the full orchestra better than Riddle, and this is one of their best collaborations. It starts out in a whisper, grows, and grows, and grows, Sinatra’s vocals challenging the orchestra until they both build to a raucous, rousing finale.
  3. When No One Cares  (1959) Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen were one of the great song writing teams and Frank Sinatra did their work justice. This is one of what Sinatra called “My Suicide Tunes” from the dark 1959 album of the same name.
  4. The Summer Wind  (1966) This one made the mid-1960s pop charts, one of a string of Sinatra hits at that time. Not as big as “Strangers in the Night” or “That’s Life”, I happen to think it’s the best of the lot. Another one by Johnny Mercer.
  5. I’ve Got Under My Skin  (1956) One of Sinatra’s greatest collaborations with Nelson Riddle. Frank first sang it ten years earlier on his radio show. Cole Porter’s song has to be the catchiest number ever to describe drug addiction (in this case, Porter’s cocaine habit.) You can’t tell from the music.
  6. All My Tomorrows  (1969) Another Van Heusen/Cahn number, Sinatra recorded this in the early 1950s with Nelson Riddle, but I prefer this 1969 Don Costa arrangement. A song of false bravado, perhaps, but of dedicated love as well. My favorite Sinatra tune of them all.
  7. One for My Baby  (1958) I have to finish with this one, it’s the song that first turned me on to Sinatra’s artistry. I came home very late one night in college, turned on WNEW-FM and this song came on. I listened in the dark, which, I think, is how this ballad should be heard. It’s the Ultimate Heartbreaker. Thanks again to Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen. And of course to Old Blue Eyes.

That’s it for now. My next arts tribute will be seven blues songs everyone should know. Next week, perhaps. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Watching America Bleed – part 1

130696_shrinkinggovernment21

If you had told me during my youth that I would live to see the dissolution of the Soviet Empire and that it would all happen without war, I wouldn’t have believed you. Yet it happened from 1989-1991.

Now, if you told me that I might also live to see the crumbling of America and that its decline would be self-inflicted, I would nod in solemn agreement.

You don’t have to be a political junkie to sense that things have gone all wrong. People choose whether or not to speak to each other based on their respective political beliefs. They chose restaurants, products and TV stations based not on any objective measure of quality or value, but on the perceived political bent of those who own the enterprises themselves. This is idiotic as well as destructive, and not just on the surface.

Earlier this month, we held a mid-term election that cost billions, settled nothing, and unsettled millions of American citizens. But why look for answers to this mess, when it is so much easier to merely point the finger of blame at others?

Let me try something downright dangerous these days: try to find an explanation for why things are such a mess and then suggest at least a partial corrective.

shackles

Why doesn’t the U.S. government work any more? Why has Washington, D.C. (drained or un-drained) become a swamp?

  • IT’S TOO BIG. Efficiency tends to decrease as size increases. Self-evident if you once had one responsibility and now have ten, if your once-manageable life has spiraled out of control when you take on too many tasks. The Federal government is so big, it can no longer be effectively operated, much less overseen by those tasked with the responsibility to do so. It’s why laws that once were clear and understood now run 900 pages and become the responsibility of ever-growing bureaucracies that are unaccountable to the American people;
  • THERE’S TOO MUCH POWER IN WASHINGTON, D.C. This is not to say that there aren’t legitimate areas where the Federal Government needs to assume control (more on this later), but nowadays there are precious few areas of our lives where the Federal Government does not presume a coercive or even controlling role for itself, constitutional or otherwise. Personal liberty is an endangered species. It reaches absurd heights. Yesterday, representative Joseph Kennedy III of Rhode Island called for the legalization of marijuana on the national level. To get the government out of our personal lives? Hardly. So that the federal government can more readily regulate its use, price, distribution, and, no doubt, taxing potential. Some day they will want to regulate the names we can give our children;
  • THERE’S TOO MUCH MONEY INVOLVED. Used to be that politics was a realm of ideals, at least on rare occasion. Now it’s a cash grab. Next year, the Federal Government is budgeted for $4.4 trillion. And, of course, they will exceed that number by year’s end, print and/or borrow more money to make up the difference and make every one of our hard-earned dollars worth a little less that it was worth last year.

Both major parties are not so much competing visions of America as they are competing agglomerations of moneyed special interest coalitions, vying with one another over who gets to control all that money and exercise all that power.

WHAT IF?

What if we limited government to its truly legitimate role (the way it was designed to function by our nation’s Founders)? Here are four suggestions:

  1. The Federal Government has as its primary purpose to protect the sovereignty and assure the safety of the country. That means military strength and preparedness, and an immigration policy that serves the interests of the United States first, and the rest of the world only secondarily. It means secure borders. It means state and local governments that follow national laws.
  2. The Federal Government has a duty to protect the strength of our currency. No deficits that weaken the dollar and diminish its value for all workers. No amassing of debt today that steals from our children and grandchildren down the road. It means fewer mandates passed on from Washington that burden the states beyond their financial capacities. It means nobody is “too big to fail.” It means no corporate welfare. It means the government lives within its means, like the rest of us have to do.
  3. The Federal Government assures equality of opportunity, not equality of results. All Americans deserve a fair chance to pursue their goals on an even playing field. Educational opportunity for all. School choice for the inner city poor. Freedom of personal choice, generally speaking. But let the government shun the role of choosing winners and losers, or imposing racial, ethnic, gender quotas on the results of equal opportunity. Don’t punish effort. Don’t reign in ability. Don’t tarnish success.
  4. The Federal Government assures equality before the law. Justice is color-blind, and blind to gender, economic  and social status. Connections don’t matter, only the law, equally and justly applied. If you want to erode the foundation of this nation, keep alive the growing sense that we have the best justice that money can buy. This especially applies to politicians, who are the ones seen as benefiting (along with their moneyed friends) from the system they have rigged, and from the laws they have enacted. The word oligarchy appears nowhere in the Constitution or Declaration of Independence.

I’m sure there are some who would dismiss all I have said as simplistic and idealistic. But simplification of an overly-complex system and a return to the ideals behind its founding is better, IMO, than continuing down our current path. We have to start somewhere, maybe by listening to one another, and to ideas that challenge the ones we currently have. Perhaps a new political party is the place to start. (More in my next installment on this theme.)

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