Category: Deep Thoughts


As is the case with recent mass shootings, I will not talk about the shooter. He’s garbage. Instead, we should be thinking about the victims: 17 amazing kids and their teachers who should be still be alive today but were cut down by a monster.

We are in the midst of the usual cries to “do something”, which translates to “pass the gun control laws desired by Democrats, whether they would have stopped this or not”. I’ve been over this many times on these pages — how America leads the civilized world in non-gun murders as well as gun murders, how the evidence that gun control would work is thin to nonexistent. A lot of attention has focused on the AR-15 — falsely called a “weapon of war”. But we’ve been down this road before. In the 90’s, we tried to ban the TEC-9, the weapon of choice of 90’s mass shooters, including the Columbine murderers. It didn’t stop anything, just changed their weapon of choice. And I’m not sure what the point is here: to make the massacres slightly less deadly? One of the deadliest shootings in our history was Virginia Tech, which involved two pistols. And the deadliest massacres in American history — the Bath School disaster, Oklahoma City — involved bombs.

The simple truth is that these mass shootings are of a character that is more similar to terrorism than anything else (as indeed, the San Bernadino and Charleston shootings were). These aren’t the actions of people who “snapped” and grabbed a weapon. They involved months of planning and preparation. Note especially how they’ve been picking their target for maximum carnage, where escape is almost impossible: a night club, a theater, a school, an open-air concert. Each shooter is learning from his predecessors, imitating them. We are witnessing a social contagion the likes of which we have not seen.

So can we do nothing? As I said about Sandy Hook, the main thing we need to do is to keep our eyes open, to identify these killers before they strike. Taking away a killer’s AR-15 might save a life or two. Preventing him from acting in the first place would save all of them.

In that vein, the most disturbing discovery in the last few days is that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies were alerted to the Florida killer on many occasions. And not, “this guy’s a bit weird”. These were clear warnings that he was going to kill a bunch of people. They failed to follow up on it.

So if you want to do something, here’s a suggestion everyone could agree to. How about we take the FBI agents involved in garbage “anti-terror” stings or playing vice cop with local police and put them on the shooting beat? Mass shootings are rare; you’re looking for needles in haystacks. But if putting FBI agents on needle duty means we prevent one massacre, it will benefit the country way more than another round of “sex trafficking” busts that consist of arresting consenting adults or “anti-terror ops” that consist of building a terror plot around some gullible idiot.

Let’s treat this like it’s a terror issue. Only let’s be smart about it this time. More eyes on the street, more follow-up of tips, more vigilance. That crosses me as far more constructive and beneficial than taking away millions of guns that will never be used for anything more violent than target shooting.

Merry Christmas

Today is a day of celebration. We celebrate brotherhood, community, family, love, and a sharing of life and it’s bounty, hope on earth and goodwill towards our fellow man. It is a day of optimism, of thankfulness, of traditions we pass down to our kids, and new ones that they will pass down to theirs. It is not only a day that we embrace our cherished existence and good fortunes, but it is also of hope, hope that the better angels of our nature will prevail in the future.

Hug your kids, tell your wife (again) that you love her, remember those less fortunate and do something that will genuinely enrich their lives, give to charities, watch those sappy Christmas movies on Hallmark Channel (I love those), but mostly, live life (not just today) for the purpose of depositing goodness and mercy to the sum total of the world’s character bank.

For Christians, today holds a special appeal, the birth of a savior and a new hope, THE reason for the season.

God bless you all.

Turkeys and Drumsticks 2017

For ten years running, I have taken advantage of the Thanksgiving Holiday to give out my awards for Turkey of the Year and Golden Drumsticks. The latter are for those who exemplify the best traits in our public sphere. The former are for those who exemplify silliness and stupidity. I rarely give them out to someone who is evil; they are reserved for those who regularly make me shake my head and wonder what they’re thinking. It’s a sort of “thank you” for making blogging easier.


Texas Massacre

A few thoughts on yesterday morning’s awfulness in Sutherland Springs.

  • It is hard to overstate how devastating this is to that community. About 1 in 14 people who live in the town are dead this morning, murdered because they were going to church. There are no words for this kind of devastation.
  • I can not comprehend the kind of evil that goes into this kind of act. Murdering for money or out of anger or something is vile enough. But how evil do you have to be to just go into a church and start shooting people, including children?
  • A lot has been made of the fact that three of the five deadliest shootings in American history have taken place in the last few years. A few points on that: first, that only applies to since the mid-20th century. Before then, you will find many shooting massacres that were deadlier. We just called them “race riots” because that was a more convenient term than “white people murdering a bunch of black people because reasons”.
  • That having been said, I do wonder if these mass shooters are refining their methods. We know the Sandy Hook shooter was fascinated by earlier shootings. We are seeing a pattern: multiple guns, rapid-fire guns, tightly-packed crowds, places where there will be little to no armed resistance.
  • I don’t know if we can do anything about that. But maybe not giving these shooters the post-mortem fame they crave would help.
  • This shooting appears to have been made less deadly by the intervention of an armed citizen. While this is the first time that’s applied to this level of massacre, we have seen many shooting stopped by armed citizens either before anyone was killed or after minimal loss of life.
  • The angry Left-Wing response to “thoughts and prayers” seems badly misguided. In the face of incomprehensible tragedy, many people pray. That’s the way religion works.
  • And frankly, given that the immediate response to this sort of thing is a demand for gun control, I would argue that the Left is praying too. They’re just praying to a different god: the tin-plated one of government power.

Events are still unfolding. We’ll hear a lot about the shooter. But my only interest in him is in what we can learn to prevent future incidents. What I really want to hear about is the victims. They’re the ones we should be talking about, not the dirtbag who killed them.

Sixteen Years

This day is, I think, a good day to call or write to friends you haven’t heard from in a while or family members who’ve grown a bit distant. It’s always a good time to remind people that they’re in your heart. But today of all days is a good time to remember who quickly and horribly someone can be snatched away from us.

How Cool Is This?

One of the most memorable scenes in the movie “Jaws” was when Quint, after comparing battle scars with Hooper (what guy is not proud of his body scars?), recounts his personal survival tale in the sinking of the USS Indianapolis (you can find that scene on youtube), chilling.

Most guys are familiar with the USS Indianapolis story, a remarkable story. After a top secret mission to deliver the unassembled parts of the atomic bomb to the island of Tinian (The American airfield where it was loaded onto a B-29 superfortress and dropped on Japan), it was later torpedoed on return to the Philippines. Sinking in 12 minutes, most survivors did not have life jackets. 5 days later what was left of the survivors were rescued by a spotter plane who by blind luck was in the area.

About 5 years ago I read In Harms Way, not only a must read for any history buff, but a book that will honestly scare the bejesus out of you and keep you up at night.

So it was with great interest that I read just the other day that the USS Indianapolis has at last been found;

300 sailors are still entombed in the wreckage. I suspect that the ship will be given the grace and respect afforded to others, like the USS Arizona but it will be interesting to see what film footage the finders can capture as they explore the wreckage.

As an aside, about 10 years ago I read the biography of Admiral Ernest King, the alter ego of George Marshall, but on the Navy side. A real SOB, it was his call to court martial the ships captain (The only captain in WW2 court martial-led for losing his ship). He wanted this guy so bad that he had aides fly to Japan, find the Japanese captain of the submarine that sank the ship, fly him to Pearl, and testify. But this backfired when the sub captain testified that the weather conditions were ideal, there was nothing the ship commander could do, and it was an impossibility to miss the shot.

Sadly, the ship captain received a constant barrage of letters from loved ones who died, blaming him for the deaths, and he took his own life in 1968.

Empathy in Politics

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how bad things have gotten in politics. When I started this blogging thing back in 2004, blogging about politics was a lot of fun. It wasn’t just that “my guy” was in the White House, if Bush was ever “my guy”. It was that the internet had opened up a million voices. It could allow someone like Lee to rise to some degree of prominence by making smart, focused and often hilarious arguments in favor of his beliefs.

Over time, however, a lot of that has curdled. Not just on the internet but everywhere. The most powerful voices are, often as not, those that demonize the opposition. Arguments tend to be less about facts than name-calling. Liberals are dysfunctional snowflakes who are, nevertheless, turning America into Nazi Germany. Conservatives are mindless thugs who are also turning America into Nazi Germany. It’s a big reason why I blog less and have been engaging less on Twitter. And it’s odd (or maybe not so odd) that the tone has gotten so bad considering that the policy differences between our two major parties are smaller than they were when I was coming of age in the 70’s and 80’s.

I’m used to a bit of crazy in politics, especially from the side out of power. Megan McArdle long ago coined Jane’s Law: “The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.” But what’s distressing is that we’re now seeing insanity from the devotees of the party that is in power. We saw some of this with Obama but it’s been ratcheted up to 11 with Trump. Charles Skye has a great piece on conservatism and how it has lost its way:

If there was one principle that used to unite conservatives, it was respect for the rule of law. Not long ago, conservatives would have been horrified at wholesale violations of the norms and traditions of our political system, and would have been appalled by a president who showed overt contempt for the separation of powers.

But this week, as if on cue, most of the conservative media fell into line, celebrating President Trump’s abrupt dismissal of the F.B.I. director, James Comey, and dismissing the fact that Mr. Comey was leading an investigation into the Trump campaign and its ties to Russia.

While there are those like Sean Hannity who are reliable cheerleaders for all things President Trump, much of the conservative news media is now less pro-Trump than it is anti-anti-Trump. The distinction is important, because anti-anti-Trumpism has become the new safe space for the right.

Here is how it works: Rather than defend President Trump’s specific actions, his conservative champions change the subject to (1) the biased “fake news” media, (2) over-the-top liberals, (3) hypocrites on the left, (4) anyone else victimizing Mr. Trump or his supporters and (5) whataboutism, as in “What about Obama?” “What about Clinton?”

For the anti-anti-Trump pundit, whatever the allegation against Mr. Trump, whatever his blunders or foibles, the other side is always worse.

But the real heart of anti-anti-Trumpism is the delight in the frustration and anger of his opponents. Mr. Trump’s base is unlikely to hold him either to promises or tangible achievements, because conservative politics is now less about ideas or accomplishments than it is about making the right enemies cry out in anguish.

That’s the conservative side. But I would argue that the liberal side has gotten just as bad if not worse. The entirety of the Left Wing media has lost its damned mind. I’ve backed off of all the late-night TV shows except Oliver (on occasion) because the tone has gotten so bitter and angry. We are constantly deluged with outrages Trump has committed. And while some of those are indeed outrageous, others are stuff Obama did (executive orders), stuff every President does (Loyalty Day) or stuff that did not, in fact, actually happen (the MLK bust removal). Despite no evidence that Trump colluded with the Russians and little evidence that anyone in his campaign did, it’s routine to see him denounced as a traitor and to hear Republicans denounced as complicit because they haven’t impeached him yet. And it culminated last week with a Democrat — one who loved Maddow and Maher and belonged to Facebook groups calling for revolution — taking shots at a bunch of Republicans.

Look at the comments section of any liberal blog or even a New York Times article on bad rhetoric. Republicans are routinely denounced as, in one of the top-rated comments, “ignorant, mean-spirited, inhumane, racist, misogynist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, culturally backward and/or downright stupid.” And if you have the temerity to point this out, you are blasted for “false equivalence”. We’re told MSNBC isn’t as bad as Fox News or that Colbert isn’t as bad a Limbaugh. Maybe. But which side rioted in the streets after an election? Which side has Antifa thugs punching people, looting stores and shouting down speakers? Which side is turning places like Evergreen College into Mickey Maoist clubs?

None of these points are new. The press, the media and the pundits have been talking about the extreme partisanship for some time. But I think they have tended to misjudge the problem. Most of the time, they simply decry “partisanship” or “rhetoric”. But … we’ve always had that. And frankly, it doesn’t bother me that much. I want people to be passionate for and motivated by the things they believe in. If you think abortion is a modern-day holocaust, I don’t think you should feel any compunction about saying so. And if you think abortion restrictions make women slaves to their wombs, don’t hold back. I want people to speak powerfully for what they believe to be right. If you remember Lee, you’ll know he wasn’t one to pull punches at all. That’s what I liked about him.

In fact, partisanship can be a good thing. McArdle points out one of the blind spots in policy wonkage — people don’t look too hard for evidence that invalidates their pet theories. Partisanship, however, becomes a natural balance to this:

The idea of perfectly neutral arbiters looking for “just the facts, ma’am” is an illusion; we are all human, fallible, and more than occasionally blind. Ideological diversity within a group means that even if the individuals are blind in different spots, at least the collective has a decent panoramic view.

That base, irrational, often angry “I know that’s wrong!” feeling that people get when reading an op-ed by the other team is actually the start of something wonderful: the search for disconfirming evidence that can falsify bad theories (the other team’s, of course), and refine good ones (yours, of course). So that bit by bit, jab by jab, we get closer to the whole picture.

So I don’t mind partisanship. Debate and argument are not just “not bad”; they’re essential for the proper functioning of a democracy. Partisan opposition killed some of the worst parts of Obamacare. Partisanship brought us a balanced budget back in the 90’s. Often, when we’ve blundered, it’s because of a lack of opposition. “Partisanship” usually translates out of Punditese as “people disagreeing with me” and calls to end “partisanship” are often misguided calls for one side to just concede.

No, partisanship qua partisanship isn’t bad; what’s bad is the lack of empathy for the other side. The problem is that both sides have decided that the opposition is not just wrong, but evil. That every argument “they” make is a disingenuous front to conceal their real motives. So the pro-life side can’t honestly be concerned about what they see as the extinguishing of millions of lives; no, that’s just a front to conceal their hatred of women and desire to control their bodies. And the pro-choice side can’t honestly believe women should control their own bodies; they want a hedonistic society in which sex doesn’t have consequences. We’ve defined each side not by the millions of reasonable people but by the thousands of crazy assholes. We don’t just hate politicians; we hate everyone who supports them.

Look at our current healthcare debate. One side is telling us that the Republicans want to literally murder millions of people so that rich people can get tax cuts. The other side insists Obamacare is the step to fascist welfare state. Never can it can be considered that maybe Republicans honestly think handouts are a bad idea and maybe Democrats honestly think people shouldn’t be terrified of losing their insurance.

We can’t bring ourselves to think that gun controllers may not want to create a policy state or that second amendment advocates may care about gun violence but don’t see gun control as the answer.

We can’t admit that maybe thawing our relationship with Iran is a good thing. Or that maybe getting close to another terror state is bad thing. Or that maybe we should be less involved with NATO. Or maybe NATO is more important now than ever.

We can’t admit that a lot of this nation’s poverty is a result of people making bad life decisions. Or we can’t admit that it’s easier to make the right decisions (and recover from bad ones) if you’re not born into poverty in the first place.

This, of course, has been fed by a media and social media machine that insists on a constant cycle of outrage. They define the other “side” entirely by their worst imaginings. And every misstep — be it a comedian’s bad joke or a politician’s awkward quip — is recast into some peek into their inner awfulness.

But it’s a deeper even than that. It’s a cliche to say that our debates suffer from an unwillingness to listen to the other side and that we all live in “bubbles” of websites, blogs and news stations that agree with us. That’s true enough but those bubbles are not some law of nature; they are created on purpose. They are a result of our need to divide the world into “our” tribe of decent people and the “other” tribe of bad people. And in this, they reflect a deeper and more malignant ill that is afflicting our culture: an inability to empathize with anyone beyond our own social circle.

The great advice columnist Amy Alkon has written about this many times — that we have minds evolved for the stone age functioning in a modern world. We tend to see people close to us — usually limited to a couple of hundred people — as human and fallible. When they make mistakes or have misfortunes, we sympathize. When they make arguments we think are wrong, we engage them honestly. But we regard those outside of that small circle as alien and view them with suspicion. This is why we tend to be rude to strangers, why we scream at cars in traffic, why we get furious at people we don’t even know. It explains why we so readily form internet shame mobs: because we understand if your uncle makes a racist joke he’s just making a bad joke. But if someone we don’t know does it, they’re a vile person. If your sister leaves her children in the car for ten seconds, she’s just being practical. If a stranger does, they’re endangering their kid. And so we quickly revert to our primal need to stone foreign devils.

Returning to politics, the 2016 election was the eruption of this malignancy into the political sphere. The primary qualification of both candidates was their ability to enrage the other side. Democrats loved that Republicans hated Hillary Clinton. And Republicans loved that Democrats hated Trump. And now it has progressed to where what Democrats most love is hating Trump and what Republicans most love is Democrats hating Trump.

We need to get past this is we’re going to be a functional society. It’s not just a need to listen to the other side; it’s that we need to empathize: to see their politics from their point of view. You can still think they’re full of shit (and you’ll probably be right because almost everyone is full of shit about something). But we have to engage them on the arguments they are making not the arguments we wish they were making (typically because those arguments would cast them in a bad light or are easy to rebut). We have to remember that, if we’d been born in a different place or raised in a different environment, we’d probably have the same views. We have to imagine that their views are held by someone we deeply care about and respect. Because inevitably they are held by someone that someone loves and respects.

(I’m as bad at this as anyone. I try to be better, mostly because I have good friends and family members in both ideological camps. It bothers me to see them at each other’s throats, mainly because of scrounging carnival barkers persuading them that the other camp is filled with vile uncaring monsters. But it’s hard not to just write off whole masses of the body politic.)

There are people who don’t have any political principles, of course. Both the 2016 candidates come to mind. But we can’t let them define our country. As much as I despised Clinton, her supporters were fundamentally decent people. And as much as I despise Trump, his supporters are fundamentally decent people. Almost everyone is fundamentally decent, regardless of their politics. Yeah, there are the deplorables — on both sides. Antifa and the Alt-Right crowds come to mind. But they are a tiny, tiny fraction of this country and even their ranks are filled more with misguided idiots than evil zealots. We can’t let our politics be defined by such debris. And until we stop, until we stop defining political success entirely as “winning” one from that awful awful other side, our politics will continue to get not only more nasty but more dysfunctional.

Bernie-bro does what the left has been fantasizing about: dnc lackeys cry out for gun control

So after several months of the insane leftist bullshit peddled by the dnc operatives with bylines and all the enlightened usual progressive virtue signalers showing their creds with such things as decapitated Trump heads or assassinated Trump Ceasar, we get a Bernie-bro that <a href=’” target=”_new”>that takes matters into his own hand. As soon as I heard this happened I was willing to be a kidney it would be a proggy or a member of the religion of peace, and that the media would cover that fact and immediately switch to the usual gun control pap. My favorite was the moron on tweeted the following:

No matter what his political beliefs were, the moment he used violence he became a right wing domestic terrorist.

Leftist ideology and insanity begets violence, and that makes you right wing. On the other hand, this explains why lefties want you to so desperately believe Hitler was right wing and not a socialist like them.

Here is some advice to the people claiming the problem is white men and guns: practically everyone of these nut jobs has been a progressive or a member of the religion of peace (and when they have told us otherwise it has usually been dnc operatives with bylines desperately trying to white washed those facts). Maybe instead of calling for gun or white men bans, we should ban that those two ideologies that seem to disproportionately produce these fucking nutjobs and violence?

Collectivism at work: After we run out of other people’s money edition

Well, a few years back every collectivist out there trying to peddle that failed ideology was lecturing those of us that see the inherent nature and end state of any collectivist experiment, on how Chavez’s revolutionary experiment had made Venezuela not just a more just and better place, but validated their faith in collectivism. The media and the usual big nanny state selling types could not stop talking about how great Venezuela was doing, and how it validated their beliefs and ideology. Chavez was visited by a host of virtue signaling douchebags, while the news cycle took every opportunity it could to tell people how collectivism in Venezuela was saving the poor. Those of us that pointed out that the natural course of events had not happened yet, and that eventually this experiment being lauded, when it reached its end state, would end in misery and failure, were basically mocked and called out as delusional wreckers and kulaks. That the historical president existed to actually validate the case of people pointing out that over time every previous big collectivist experiments the left praised and presented as proof of their ideological superiority, had imploded given enough time to run out of other people’s money, leading to the usual tropes about it not being true collectivism, the wrong people being in charge (a flip from them being the right people at first), the capitalist wreckers undermining the whole fairy tale, or a combination of all these things. It was never the fact that collectivism is a dumb idea because it goes both against human nature and practically every law of nature, physics, and economics.

Well, fast forward to today, and this is Venezuela. The place has been wrecked by the socialists, the corruption inherent in socialism, the attempts to force reality to bend to the will of an insane ideology, and of course, the fact that the saviors of the revolution really did the revolution so they could replace the oligarchy that existed with one of their own. I could be ironic and wonder why now that the place is falling apart the dnc operatives with bylines no longer have Venezuela constantly in the news, and on the rare occasion the do talk about the misery and horrible situation, they never find it in them to actually blame the cause for the current condition: collectivism.

there is a lesson here, but I doubt the people that should learn it will ever do so. Envy of what others have and the need to virtue signal are powerful things for the usual idiots that purposefully remain oblivious to the destruction, misery and death toll of their ideology. Queue the people that will now complain about me because there is no defense for the evils of collectivism outside the family unit.