The “Courage” of the Mob

On October 30th, shortly after the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, I published a column — which was also published in my local newspaper, The Signal — under the title “Casting couch probably has not seen its last days”. As the title implies, I believe that once the dust settles things in Hollywood – and elsewhere – will return to pretty much the pre-Weinstein status quo.

In the meantime, though, we’re being treated to a hair-on-fire spectacle of absurd proportions, a lynch mob straight out of a 1950s “B” Western two-reeler. To paraphrase a line from the Bogart classic Treasure of the Sierra Madre, “Evidence? We don’ need no steenkin’ evidence!”

Every pat on the knee, persistent flirt, failed seduction attempt, inappropriate joke, unthinking comment, or unwanted compliment has been elevated from the level of innocent interaction or boorish behavior to the equivalent of the rape of the Vestal Virgins.

The biggest problem with all this hyperventilation is that it ends up trivializing and camouflaging the real offenders, those such as Weinsten. To paraphrase another saying, this time from the realm of civil rights, “when everything is rape, nothing is rape”.

At the Golden Globe Awards ceremony female attendees demonstrated their “courage” by vowing to wear black. I hate to be the one to break it to such vacuous luminaries, but real “courage” is putting on a camo-pattern uniform and fighting ISIS in the Middle East, not donning a black gown by Givenchy with plunging neckline and side slits from floor to derriere.

The hypocrisy on display at the Golden Globes was also breathtaking in its depth. Apparently, before Oprah Winfrey and Meryl Streep became such figures of “courage”, and spokeswomen for “oppressed” victims, they were pretty much besties with Harvey Weinstein, if we can believe pictures of them with him before his precipitous downfall. And since his “proclivities” were such an open secret in Hollywood, it’s hard to believe they didn’t know anything about his perversions before they became splashed all over the pages in the media.

The other major problem with the current hysteria is that we’ve entered a “no proof required” zone. All it takes is an unsubstantiated accusation – sometimes even made anonymously – for the outrage machine to gin up to destroy some guy’s life.

Every accuser is given the presumption of driven-snow purity and victimhood, and every one of the accused is given the presumption of villainy and guilt. There’s no effort made to consider facts or circumstances in play at the time of the alleged offense. No thought as to whether or not the “victim” was, at the time, a willing participant. Whether or not the accusation is actually an expression of “buyer’s remorse” in regretting an action that they may even have encouraged at the time. No recognition of the reality that sexual mores have changed over the last couple of decades, and that behavior that’s now considered out of bounds was perfectly routine and acceptable just a short while ago. No acceptable possibility that truly innocent words or actions were completely misconstrued by the accuser.

In other words, it’s a witch hunt.

Am I saying that there’s no fire causing all this smoke? Of course not. Weinstein alone is the only example one needs to recognize there’s a real problem, and the evidence against him is incontrovertible and overwhelming. But in no way does that justify the irrational furor we’re seeing today.

We’ve been down this road before. In 1921 Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, one of the top film stars of the Silent Era, was accused of raping Virginia Rappe, who had died after falling ill at a small party being held in Arbuckle’s hotel suite in San Francisco.

Because of the stature of Arbuckle’s celebrity and the salacious nature of the accusations – that he’d raped her with a foreign object – the event became a national scandal of epic proportions, fueled by the yellow journalism of the Hearst newspaper empire.

The San Francisco District Attorney filed criminal charges and took Arbuckle to trial… three times. The first two trials ended in hung juries, in both cases 10 – 2 in favor of acquittal. The third trial concluded with the jury not only unanimously finding Arbuckle “not guilty” after a mere six minutes, but they spent about five of those minutes composing a formal letter to Arbuckle apologizing to him for having been put through the ordeal.

But the damage had been done. The completely spurious allegations had ruined his life, and his career never really recovered. In spite of his actual innocence and acquittal at trial, the scandal alone was enough to make him essentially unemployable in Hollywood from that point forward.

Arbuckle’s ordeal should serve as a cautionary tale for everyone. There’s no “courage” necessary to be a member of a lynch mob.

 

©Brian Baker 2018

 

(Also published today in my local newspaper, The Signal )

 

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My Debate On Gun Rights

 

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been debating the issue of legislation pending in Congress that would mandate that concealed gun permits (CCWs) issued in any state be honored by every other state when the license holder is in that state on a temporary basis.

This debate has been taking place in my local newspaper, The Signal, and I’m including below the entire debate for your consideration.

The opening salvo ( Link ), written by a local hardcore leftist named Anthony Breznican, was published on December 14th:

Anthony Breznican: Congressman’s law would endanger law enforcement

I read an article in the Dec. 8 edition of The Signal in which Congressman Steve Knight was boasting about his new bill that will allow concealed carry permits across state lines. Essentially, this law makes the states with the weakest, least restrictive guidelines the law of the land.

That pleases the gun lobby, but it makes our nation more endangered at a time when we have already been horrified by bloodshed from reckless gun proliferation.

Those from other states who might be blocked from carrying a concealed gun in a state like California, which has restrictions on such a license for those with a record of spousal abuse or other criminal behavior, will now be able to enter carrying a loaded weapon with impunity.

Knight’s bill is under heavy criticism from law enforcement. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck calls it a cop-killer, writing in the Los Angeles Times: “In addition to jeopardizing public safety, concealed carry reciprocity would endanger the lives of law enforcement.

“The mere presence of more concealed weapons on California streets would make police work here much more hazardous. What’s more, if LAPD officers stopped someone with a loaded, concealed handgun, that person could claim to live in a state where permits weren’t necessary, and the officers would be unable to confirm whether it was true.”

Beck adds: “Given our intensifying focus on the potential for homegrown terrorism, the last thing we need is to make it easier to carry concealed, loaded firearms across state lines.”

We should heed his words. Beck’s outrage is also shared by the commissioner of the NYPD and by numerous law enforcement groups, including the Fraternal Order of Police, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and 66 of the largest police and sheriff’s departments in the United States.

The bill from Congressman Knight, R-Palmdale, weakens the public safety laws of individual states at a time when we need stronger gun safety laws. As a former cop himself, Knight should be ashamed of his support of this bill, which so many police organizations say will endanger men and women in blue.

But I’m sure Knight will be offering his “thoughts and prayers” to the eventual victims of his bill.

My first response ( Link ) was published on December 21st:

Brian Baker: Different side of concealed carry permits issue

The Signal published a letter Dec. 15 entitled “Congressman’s law would endanger law enforcement” regarding the legislation pending in Congress that would establish national reciprocity for concealed gun carry permits (CCWs) that are legitimately issued by any state, and that would require that all other states honor such permits.

As is his wont, letter writer Anthony Breznican’s attack on this proposal, and on Steve Knight for supporting it, seems to be relatively free of facts.

Since the liberalization of CCW issuance started about 30 years ago in Florida, and in stark contradiction to all the “Wild West” hysteria of the time and since, wherever CCW issuance requirements have been eased, the rate of violent crime has fallen.

Further, those people who actually have CCWs turn out to be pretty much the most law-abiding people there are. Their participation in criminal activity happens to be far lower than the national average. It’s almost non-existent.

This is no different from drivers’ licenses. When people from other states come here for a visit, they don’t have to get a California license in order to drive a car. Every state recognizes every other state’s licenses for non-residents. I see absolutely no reason why CCW licenses should be treated any differently.

Further, the very issues that would disqualify anyone from being issued a CCW aren’t any different in other states from what they are in this state, since the basic qualifications are based on federal, not state, laws.

Breznican absurdly claims, “Those from other states who might be blocked from carrying a concealed gun in a state like California, which has restrictions on such a license for those with a record of spousal abuse or other criminal behavior, will now be able to enter carrying a loaded weapon with impunity.”

The problem for Breznican is that federal law bars such people from even owning guns, let alone being issued CCWs, so that claim makes no sense except as an inflammatory bit of groundless rhetoric that has no basis in reality.

His claims may be true in the land where unicorns live, but not here in the real world.

My opponent volleyed back on December 22nd ( Link ):

Anthony Breznican: Concealed carry: the debate continues

A fellow reader was flatly wrong about the proposed concealed carry reciprocity bill and the dangers it poses, and he used wordplay to dismiss a serious concern of both police and victims of abuse.

Brian Baker responded in print to my earlier letter, which cited LAPD Chief Charlie Beck’s withering criticism of the bill Congressman Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, has co-sponsored.

The bill allows those with concealed carry permits to cross state lines regardless of whether they would qualify for such a permit in that area.

The proposal has also been denounced by the NYPD commissioner, the Fraternal Order of Police and dozens of the largest police and sheriff’s departments in America.

And for good reason.

I used the example of a spousal abuser, who might be restricted from carrying a hidden weapon in one state, but under this new bill would be allowed to carry one wherever he likes as long as he’s from a state with lax laws.

Mr. Baker correctly notes there is a federal law against spousal abusers getting concealed carry permits. But the fact remains: the federal law is extremely limited and does not cover dating partners, those who abuse family members besides a spouse or child, or even those convicted of stalking.

That’s why many states have passed more stringent restrictions covering these red-flag individuals, but other states have not. The concealed carry reciprocity law Knight supports reduces the national standard to the state with the weakest laws.

For instance, only 35 states specifically ban dating partners who have been convicted of abuse from carrying hidden handguns in public. Only 28 states prohibit convicted stalkers from carrying concealed guns.

There are 12 other states that have absolutely zero restrictions on who carries a hidden gun. There is no concealed carry permit required in those states. No safety training.

No restrictions whatsoever.

The bill Knight co-sponsored would force all states to allow these kinds of permit-free carriers to carry hidden guns across their borders, even to states that have the more stringent rules.

This undermines the individual state laws and the safety of those states’ citizens. It also forces our police to face a tangle of excuses and conflicting laws as they try to enforce California’s permit rules.

Mr. Baker’s exploitation of semantics is a perfect example of this chaos. He zeroed in on the shorthand use of “spousal” to try to dismiss the very real concerns expressed by law enforcement leaders.

That just shows how America’s hodgepodge of lax laws, loopholes, and ultra-narrow restrictions are manipulated by technicalities to empower criminals and exacerbate dangers.

These are facts. These aren’t just opinions. These are the concerns of the police. But they are of no concern to our own congressman, Steve Knight.

Now the latest salvo ( Link ), written by me and published today:

Brian Baker: Still more on concealed carry

The day after my last letter was published regarding Anthony Breznican’s hysterical assertions about reciprocal interstate recognition of CCWs (concealed gun carry licenses) The Signal posted a rebuttal written by him.

The problem for him is that in addition to “misstating” (I’m being kind) the law, as he did in his original letter, in his rebuttal he “misstated” what I had written in my original response.

He wrote: “(Baker) zeroed in on the shorthand use of ‘spousal’ to try to dismiss the very real concerns expressed by law enforcement leaders.”

That’s flat-out false. Actually, I quoted him thusly: “Breznican absurdly claims, ‘Those from other states who might be blocked from carrying a concealed gun in a state like California, which has restrictions on such a license for those with a record of spousal abuse or other criminal behavior, will now be able to enter carrying a loaded weapon with impunity.’”

He’s the one who specifically mentioned “spousal abuse”. That was his argument, not mine. I was quoting his own letter. Everything I wrote was true and correct, and was in direct response to his wild-eyed claims. Just as I wrote, federal law is the superior authority, and those who wouldn’t qualify for basic gun ownership because they’re “prohibited persons” under federal law for having committed some criminal act certainly won’t be qualified to possess CCWs… in any state.

Further, and just as I wrote, the “opinions” of politician/cop “law enforcement leaders” notwithstanding, this is no different from universal reciprocity of drivers’ licenses. Different states also have different licensing requirements for those, too, but every state recognizes every other state’s drivers’ licenses when those residents visit regardless.

Thanks for the opportunity to set the record straight.

I suspect this will be the end of the debate in the pages of The Signal. They’re not going to give us endless ink to go round and round in circles.

More importantly, though, is that this is a great example of what we as conservatives face when arguing issues with American socialists: They blatantly lie about underlying fundamental facts, and when caught out in their lies, continue to refuse to acknowledge facts, to the point of lying about what we ourselves have said, right to our faces.

 

How Did We Get Here?

I found Maria Gutzeit’s 28 November column “Watching the world burn” (link) to be very interesting and well-written. But I think her wish for a society free of partisan politics, though admirable and well-meant, is at its heart naïve and unrealistic.

The problem, I believe, is that we’re currently engaged in a cultural civil war in this country that’s every bit as profound and fundamental as the one that took place in the 1860s, though so far pretty bloodless. Thank God for that, at least.

Historically, political rancor, and even violence, is nothing new in this country. Elected representatives were known to whack one another on the head with their canes right on the floors of Congress; Burr killed Hamilton in a duel over politics; and, of course, there was the afore-mentioned Civil War itself.

World War II was the event that created a rare period of national unity which lasted well into the post-war era of the ‘50s and early ‘60s, when the world was rebuilding from that war’s destruction. That was the “Leave It To Beaver” era for which so many wax nostalgic, or mock mercilessly, depending on their political inclinations.

That era came to an abrupt and dramatic end with the riots at the 1968 Democrat Party convention in Chicago, which underscored the rise of the counter-culture that rejected the ethos of the later-named “Greatest Generation” – their parents’ generation – in favor of a radicalized vision of what American culture should be.

That counter-culture, firmly rooted in the ideology of collectivist socialism, ironically found its home in the very Democrat party it had so violently rioted against, and in the subsequent almost half-century rose to positions of prominence and power within that party. As a result of their de facto takeover of that party they’ve managed to radically alter its underlying principles to the point that they now reflect much of the agenda of those original radicals who rioted in Chicago.

We see much of its strategy deriving directly from Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”, a primer for the counter-culture of the ‘60s and ‘70s, which is essentially a blueprint for political disruption and manipulation. This is evidenced by class warfare pitting the “haves” against the “have-nots”, and the demonization of the “one-percenters”, as well as the creation, proliferation, and perpetuation of “victim” groups, which then go on to even compete against each other for prioritization, leading to further fragmentation and balkanization of the society and culture.

In such a noxious and confrontational political climate, our national motto, “E Pluribus Unum” – meaning “out of many, one”, a message of unity – has been effectively reversed for all intents and purposes into its mirror-opposite, “out of one, many”.

In her column, Maria writes: “The win will come when we all sit down and acknowledge common goals and work on that without uttering the words ‘democrats’, ‘republicans’ or ‘politics’… Imagine if we focused on electing people to improve and implement good policy, rather than ‘win’ for ‘our side’.”

While I think that’s a very nice thought, I also think it’s about as realistic as a kid’s Christmas wish list as he tells it while sitting on Santa’s lap at the mall. The reality is that “politics” is how we determine public policy in this country, and there’s at least one very sizeable portion of the body politic that seems determined to completely redefine the social and cultural fabric of our society. To destroy it in order to replace it with a system that is completely alien to traditional American ideals and constitutional principles.

In consequence, we see the politicization of almost everything, even sports, which used to be one of the few remaining bastions of political neutrality. Instead, we see the NFL immersed in their “taking a knee” controversy. We see popular media – TV, movies, and even books – showcasing political correctness at the expense of entertainment value. Higher education has become, at many universities, a venue of indoctrination rather than enlightenment.

In this adversarial climate, I believe the wish for reconciliation and cooperation, though well meant, has very little chance of being realized.

 

 

©Brian Baker 2017

(Also published today in The Signal)

Harvey Weinstein Is A Pig, But He’s Not The Only One

I have a few thoughts on the Harvey Weinstein affair which seems to dominate so much of the news cycle currently. 

Back in my acting days (IMDB) the casting couch was a well-known phenomenon, and basically just a “given” as being part of “the Biz”. It wasn’t a guarantor of success – there were plenty of stories, whether apocryphal or not was hard to know, about people who succumbed but then ended up on the cutting room floor anyway, their careers going nowhere.

I was a good-looking guy back in the day, so I got the occasional “offer”, from both gays and straights, which I’d simply shrug off. In the “arts”, particularly show business, there are a lot of attractive people, many with the morals of alley cats, in a fluid social situation and work environment with a constant flux of people coming in and out of the setting. Opportunities for what’s nowadays called “hooking up” abounded, so human nature being what it is, there were many who exploited it for sexual gratification.

I think what sets Weinstein apart from others is his aggression, and lack of any restraint; his willingness to push beyond the bounds of “normal” sexual pursuit and engage in acts of outright perversion, and assert force against completely unwilling victims. Not only using, but grossly abusing, his position of power in a disgustingly thuggish manner. His refusal to take “no” for an answer.

Right now this issue’s getting a lot of play, and Weinstein seems to be getting his much-deserved comeuppance (though we’ll have to see how that plays out in the long run). But if people think the phenomenon of “workplace harassment” is going away, I think they’re in for a big disappointment. Unfortunately, we’re talking about something that’s part of the human experience: exploitation, whether for sex or other ends.

This isn’t unique to Weinstein or show business. We’ve all read about the same types of activities taking place in other venues: the military, the board room, the office, politics.

The Weinstein affair is getting all this attention because of the celebrity of the people involved; their notoriety, their high profiles, their magazine-cover fame. But ultimately, this dust will settle, and then what?

Frankly, I don’t think things will change very much. The Hollywood denizens will have expressed their outrage, and patted themselves on the back for their “courage” in speaking out, and everyone will go back to what they were doing before the headlines were splashed all over the place. The “casting couch” will continue, though more discretely. The Weinsteins of the future won’t go as far as actually forcing themselves on unwilling victims, but other than that the status quo will probably remain largely unchanged.

In saying this, I don’t think I’m being cynical. Simply realistic. History is replete with examples. The Fatty Arbuckle scandal of almost 100 years ago; Howard Hughes’s “stable of starlets” back in the ‘40s; Hugh Hefner, the ultimate “dirty old man”, and his revolving door of “playmates”; Bill Clinton’s “bimbo eruptions” and Lewinsky’s blue dress. Harvey Weinstein is simply the latest in a long and sordid line of scandals that have hit the public’s radar only to quickly fade away.

La plus ça change, la plus c’est la même chose.

 

Brian Baker 2017

 (Also published today in my local newspaper, The Signal).

Sometimes Crazy Is Just Crazy

In the wake of the recent horrific Las Vegas massacre the leftist anti-gun coven has kicked their hair-on-fire hysteria into overdrive. In the immortal words of former Obama chief-of-staff and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, “Never let a good crisis go to waste”.

Contrary to their hysterical assertions, gun violence and deaths are in fact at historical lows. For the last 30 years violent crime rates, including murder, have been decreasing at a rate in direct correlation to the easing of restrictive gun laws, particularly for concealed carry, in those jurisdictions that have enacted such policies. In contrast, where gun laws are the most restrictive, those jurisdictions suffer disproportionate violent crime rates, including murder. Chicago, DC, and many other urban areas illustrate that fact.

The actions of this madman are no different from those who have driven their cars into crowds and committed mass murder, including recently in Las Vegas, but I don’t see anyone talking about banning cars. Why is that? Cars are at least as “dangerous” as guns, with a higher death toll.

I’ll answer my own rhetorical question: it’s because we don’t discuss abridging the rights of the vast mass of law-abiding citizens because of the actions of some lone nut job…. EXCEPT when it comes to guns.

Is there an unfortunate price to be paid for people to enjoy those rights? Yes, sadly there is. But that’s unavoidable in a free society, and the only way to avoid it is to eliminate the freedoms themselves.

That’s an unacceptable price. If we’re not willing to do it with cars, why should we do so with guns? Just because leftists don’t use or like them?

But there’s an even more important underlying issue, too. The Second Amendment isn’t about hunting. It’s there to assure that citizens have the ability to protect themselves if the government fails to do so, either by failing to respond in a crisis, or by trying to impose tyranny.

We saw this illustrated most vividly during the Los Angeles Rodney King riots in 1992, when the Korean shop owners protected their businesses, and themselves, with their own weapons – including semi-automatic “assault rifles” – when the cops and National Guard refused to enter the area for several days. The Koreans were on their own, and if you’re stuck in what is essentially a war zone, you want to be able to bring the most firepower to bear that you can if you have to.

But the Founders’ ultimate purpose in the Second Amendment was to make sure that the citizens had the ability to prevent their own government from trying to impose tyranny, and the only way to do that was to make sure that said government couldn’t outgun them. Never forget that they’d just fought a successful revolt against their own previous legitimate government, and they weren’t foolish enough to think it couldn’t happen again, right here at home.

In order to realize that potential, it’s important that the citizens have the same firepower as the average grunt they could be facing across the firing line. And that’s not some scoped bolt-action hunting rifle.

The “militia” to which the Second Amendment refers is not the active duty military, what our Founders called the “standing army”, of which they were very leery. In fact, as defined under 10 U.S. Code Section 311 (Link) the “militia” is composed of the National Guard (as anti-gunners dutifully note) as well as the “unorganized militia” which is composed of all law-abiding people of military age “who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States” (which the anti-gunners always manage to conveniently forget). That’s all of us, folks: you, me, and Joe Sixpack.

The AR-15s used by the Vegas madman, contrary to the hoplophobes’ characterizations, aren’t “weapons of mass destruction” or any of the other hyperbolic descriptions. In fact, they’re no different from any other semi-automatic firearm, in that they only fire one round per trigger pull. Further, as they’re the most commonly-owned rifle in general circulation, the Supreme Court decision in the landmark case of “D.C. v. Heller” assures their legitimacy.

Calling these guns a “full-on grade military arsenal”, as Gary Horton did earlier this week in his rant column against guns, is like calling Johnny Depp a real pirate. It makes no sense at all. In fact, if you ever found yourself on an actual battlefield and all you had was an AR-15, your life expectancy could be measured in minutes.

In Vegas, the killer used a “bump stock”, an after-market device that attaches to the rifle, to increase the rate of fire of his guns. Frankly, I’d never heard of this device before, and I’m pretty knowledgeable about guns. Whether or not this is an illegal modification of the guns is, I believe, a legitimate topic for discussion. But other than that, the jihad against AR-15s is a cynical exploitation of this tragic event to piecemeal advance the anti-gunners’ ultimate objective of trying to completely outlaw gun ownership in this country.

To that end, I want to acknowledge and thank Representative Steve Knight for his courage and conviction in standing firm for the rights of gun ownership. It’s thanks to people like him that we have any rights left at all.

The reality is that there isn’t any law at all that would have prevented that maniac from committing his insane act. None. We don’t know why he did it. We probably never will. I don’t think it matters. Sometimes crazy is just crazy.

He wanted to kill a bunch of people. He rented a hotel room and used guns. He could have rented a van and mowed them down. Timothy McVeigh rented a van and used fertilizer. The 9/11 jihadis bought airline tickets and hijacked jet aircraft.

Sometimes crazy is just crazy.

 

 

 

©Brian Baker 2017

(This column was published today in the print edition of my local newspaper, The Signal, as part of a pro/con debate on the issue of gun control in light of the Las Vegas massacre)

Like Clockwork

 

Leftists hate the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Last week it was the First Amendment; this week it’s the Second. Under attack, one after the other, like clockwork.

In the wake of the horrific events last weekend in Las Vegas, a massacre perpetrated by a madman, anti-gun leftists (are there any other kind?) wasted not a minute in raising the hue and cry to exploit the tragedy for their own political agenda.

In the Wednesday, 4 October edition of The Signal (link), Gary Horton’s column entitled “America the unexceptional” typified their hysteria.

I anticipated the now-standard emotional hyperbole from the Left every time something like this happens. It’s as predictable as the sun rising in the east. But really, Horton’s exceeds even those expectations.

Horton: “It’s time for a moment of silence and thought in America.”

An empty, hypocritical platitude. The shooting took place Sunday night. The column was published Wednesday. In order for his column to have been in that day’s edition The Signal’s editors would have had to have it in hand Monday. Which means there wasn’t any “moment of silence” from Horton. Oh, no.

Like some grisly vulture, I have no doubt that within hours at most, like the rest of his leftist ilk, he was at his keyboard scrawling his bile before the bodies had even cooled.

I noticed that his little chart of the gun death rates in various countries seemed to be real selective. Why is that, I wonder? For example, Switzerland has virtually universal gun possession, yet their rate of gun deaths is about 1/3 of that in this country. Under his inane thesis, shouldn’t their death rate be at least as high as ours? Or could it be that the underlying problem is something other than possession itself of guns?

To that point, how come I never see leftist loons bleating for car bans every time some nut commits mass murder by driving his car into a crowd?

Horton: “Freedom to amass personal military arsenals – or a simple freedom to simply gather un-assaulted in public spaces?”

As I already illustrated, it’s not an either/or issue. They’re not mutually exclusive at all. But let’s consider a practical element. Now, I know this is alien territory to Horton and those like him, what with their leftist unfamiliarity with practicality and all. But let’s give it a shot. Let’s say Horton could get some law passed banning …. something. He’s not even clear on what he actually DOES want to ban (as usual with those guys), but let’s say he could waive his magic wand and pass some kind of ban.

Then what happens?

Does he actually think every gun owner is going to waltz into the local cop shop and hand his guns over? If he does, that’s laugh-out-loud funny.

Is he going to stop murders, or even mass murders? Killers are already ignoring the law just by doing their killing. Does he think they’re going to worry about a gun control law? And what about all the people who kill – including mass killings – with other implements?

Under his loony thesis, this country should be drug-free! Yet heroin and cocaine flood the streets. Not to mention (though mention it I will) all the illegal aliens who shouldn’t be freely walking around. After all, it’s “against the law”, right?

Even more problematic is the underlying idea, as expressed by Horton in this case, that any right enjoyed by this country’s citizens is hostage to the actions of a very tiny fraction of that population that abuses the right. Well under one percent of legally-owned guns in this country are ever used in a crime, yet Horton et al would severely restrict, if not outright outlaw, private gun ownership, a fundamental right.

We’ve seen the same thing happen regarding the First Amendment right to free speech with calls for banning so-called “hate speech”. Such “hate speech” laws have actually been enacted in some “free” countries, to sometimes devastating effect.

The real threats to liberty – and yes, our security – come from the opportunistic and cynical policy proposals advanced by leftists like Horton, who swoop down on every tragic event to exploit it for political gain, and to advance their own divisive and destructive agenda.

Don’t ever let them succeed.

 

 

©Brian Baker 2017

 

Liberty Is Under Fire

 

Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and

murders itself. There was never a democracy yet that didn’t

commit suicide – John Adams, 1814

 

Anthony Breznican’s column “Hart’s Messina wrong man for leadership role” in the Weekender edition of The Signal (Link) published September 23rd was a reminder to me of how dangerous leftism is to the liberties we take for granted in this country.

Breznican’s focus is on Hart school board member Joe Messina, and views Messina has expressed in social media (apparently Facebook) and a self-published book, both of which Breznican claims are “disturbing acts”. Breznican complains that in spite of those stated views “the district has taken no action to censure or demand even an apology from him about his inflammatory remarks.”

Nor should they. This may come as a surprise to Breznican, but what a citizen says or does on his own time, as long as it’s legal, can’t be sanctioned by any governmental agency. It’s called the First Amendment. It’s not subject to the district’s approval or disapproval.

From what little I know of him I happen to agree that at least some of what Messina says makes no sense, but if that were some kind of threshold, I can’t think of anybody in the Dem/socialist party who would be qualified to hold public office.

If that board tries to do anything, that’s the action of a government body reacting to, and taking action against, a person for exercising their right to express an opinion, which is EXACTLY what the First Amendment prohibits.

Breznican goes on: “”That’s what Joe Messina has done. He is harming the students and the district with these fabrications.”

Well, that’s Breznican’s opinion, and it’s only an opinion. Clearly, a lot of people don’t agree with him, or Messina wouldn’t have been able to get elected. And at the next election, if other people share Breznican’s opinion, Messina won’t be re-elected. Right?

I think that Bernie Sanders is a Trotskyite communist, and his ideas and policies are insane, but that doesn’t mean I think he should be silenced, or booted from the Senate. He was duly and properly elected to the Senate by his constituents, as crazy as that seems, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it.

I think every Dem/socialist in Sacramento, along with about two-thirds of the GOPers, are nuts. But that doesn’t bar them from office, or justify any form of governmental sanction.

That pesky First Amendment again.

Which brings us back to that threat to our liberties that I mentioned at the beginning of this column. Conservatives believe that the liberties guaranteed to us by the Constitution and Bill of Rights mean exactly what they say. I may not agree with you but I won’t try to silence you. Or, as attributed to Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

But the Left… Ah, the Left. If they don’t like what you say, they’ll try to destroy your life, demonize you, silence you, shun you, exile you from the public square, get you fired from your job, and outlaw what you can say.

If that’s not a threat to liberty, I don’t know what is.

 

©Brian Baker 2017

 

(Also published today in my local newspaper, The Signal )

Political ‘purity’ demand deserves ‘blue wall’

(This column, written by me, was published today in my local newspaper, The Signal) 

 

In his Sept. 7 column “Heeding Robert E. Lee’s advice,” (here) Jim de Bree told us of how, as a youth, he was “obsessed” – his word – with Civil War-era history, and how statuary and monuments to Confederate heroes helped him understand the context of that conflict.

He goes on to say that perhaps the time has come to reassess the propriety of the continued display of such monuments, particularly in light of the current political climate.

Though many of his points are well-taken, the “statue problem” of today doesn’t fall into the orderly historical model.

If municipalities (for example) want to erect public monuments, they usually go through a public democratic process to decide whether or not to do so. The ongoing process of installing a monument to our local war KIA in Veterans Plaza is an excellent example. It’s been going on for over a year, and now we’ve finally broken ground to actually install it.

The same process is available to determine whether or not to remove such monuments. And in my opinion every jurisdiction certainly has the right and power to determine for itself whether to erect or remove such monuments. It’s a deliberative mechanism.

Of course, it’s even simpler on private property. The property owner can erect, or remove, pretty much whatever he or she wants.

But what’s different now is that we don’t have an orderly process taking place. We have mobs, ginned up with sanctimonious outrage, running around creating riots, threatening and carrying out violent acts, and defacing statuary.

More than anything else, they remind me of the Taliban taking over in Afghanistan, then destroying thousand-year-old statuary because it didn’t conform to their religious fervor.

Further, the current “outrage” doesn’t confine itself just to Civil War Confederate figures. There have already been calls to shun, or even take down, the Jefferson Memorial because Jefferson owned slaves. The Lincoln Memorial has been defaced.

There’s no end in sight to the iconoclasm of the fanatics in their efforts to impose some undefined and amorphous requirement for political “purity” on historical figures.

The very first step toward putting an end to this nonsense is for the legitimate institutions of this country – the city councils, universities, media, state governments, everyone – to stop giving credence to these outlaws – which is exactly what they are – and meet their violence with a “blue wall” of cops, backed up with high-pressure fire hoses and tear gas, ready to deploy at the very first hint of violence, followed by the arrest, prosecution, and incarceration of any and all offenders.

Then we have to stop treating the demand for purity with any legitimacy at all. It should be met with the scorn and mockery it so richly deserves.

Until those things happen, I think the lunacy will simply continue.

 

 

©Brian Baker 2017

 

Both Political Parties’ Establishments Don’t Get It

Donald Trump’s election to the presidency was as clear a clarion call as there could be that “business as usual” was no longer acceptable to the voters. The GOP Establishment seems to be utterly deaf to the message.

We’ve seen this reality play out from Trump’s first announcement of his candidacy right through to the present day.

During the election primaries, none of his opponents thought he had a slightest chance of actually winning the nomination, an incredulousness shared by the party machine. They mocked and belittled him, refusing to take him seriously. They were utterly stunned when he went on to actually win that primary.

But did that win alert the GOP that something profoundly different was going on this time around? Nope.

Many of Trump’s former opponents refused to endorse his candidacy, a few even threatening to endorse his opponent, Clinton. The GOP’s candidates for other offices continued to run on the promise to “repeal and replace Obamacare” in their own campaigns, repetition of a 7-year-old party campaign theme. But clearly, most of them didn’t take Trump’s campaign seriously, either.

How do we know this? Because when the most shocking and unexpected event took place, and Trump actually won the General Election, nobody was prepared to actually move forward and fulfill the promises they’d campaigned on for many years.

Having secured both chambers of Congress and the White House, was the GOP now prepared with a “shovel ready” plan to actually live up to and fulfill that years-old campaign promise of getting rid of Obamacare?

Not even close. They had absolutely nothing, because, as a party, they’d banked on the idea that Trump had absolutely no chance of actually winning the election.

In scientific parlance, this is what’s called “stupid”.

Compounding the problem, that stupidity continues, with no sign of abating. The “Never-Trumpers” are still in full roar, glorying in their “moral superiority”, reminiscent of Nero fiddling while Rome burned, utterly oblivious to the voices of that plebian mass in fly-over country that elected Trump. Elitist snobbery personified.

On the other side of the aisle, Hillary Clinton’s defeat was sending the same message to the Democrat Party, with the same result: deafness and denial.

When the campaign season opened the Establishment Democrats deemed Clinton the ordained candidate, and no other “mainstream” Democrat even threw their hat into the ring.

And then along came Bernie Sanders, the Democrat equivalent of Trump, an “outsider” who wasn’t even a member of the Democrat Party, having been elected throughout his career in the House and Senate as an “Independent” who only caucused with the Democrats.

To the consternation of the Establishment Democrats, Sanders’s candidacy put the coronation of Clinton in serious jeopardy, to the point that party officials conspired with Clinton campaign people to cheat Sanders out of any chance of winning that party’s nomination. Needless to say, the Sanders supporters were outraged by this when it became publicly known.

Once Clinton had secured the nomination, the DNC and her campaign apparatus evidently felt so confident of her chances of winning, and so scornful of Trump, that they decided to concentrate their campaign on the coastal urban centers and special-interest coalitions that in reality were already in the tank for her, utterly and completely ignoring everyone in “fly-over country”, as well as the masses of people who were ardent and now-outraged Sanders supporters, essentially wasting their time, energy, and resources.

Then the unthinkable happened. Trump actually won.

The result? A Democrat party in complete disarray and dissension, to the point of being in a shambles. A schism over what the meaning of such an unexpected and catastrophic loss means.

The Clintonistas are welded to the idea – really just an excuse – that it was “the Russians” and Comey at fault, unwilling to accept that Clinton was a terrible candidate who ran an incompetent campaign.

The Establishment, with a very few exceptions, can’t seem to decide whether their message to the electorate was too far to the left, not far enough to the left, too married to “corporate” interests, or what.

The very few who seem to get it have said that their party needs to take a serious look at the direction they’ve taken and the policies they’re promoting, and that it could be that the emphasis on social engineering – letting men use the same bathrooms as little girls, amnesty for illegal aliens, and the like – taking priority over bread-and-butter concerns about jobs and the economy may just be a very big mistake. The far-left culture-war policies that play so well in the coastal blue regions and some other major urban areas don’t go over at all well in areas outside of those enclaves.

Unfortunately for the Democrat party, if they want to be relevant on a national scale moving into the future, those voices really are being lost in the wilderness.

I think voters are clearly signaling to their respective parties that the old “Establishment” way of doing business isn’t going to cut it anymore. In the case of the GOP, that means they’ll no longer accept empty campaign promises that aren’t followed up with serious and concerted effort to actually implement the promised policies if elected. For Democrats, it means dropping the obsession with Social Justice and class warfare, and directing attention to matters that are of more concern to average everyday Americans.

Will anyone in either party “Establishment” pay any attention?

I don’t think Trump is the causative agent of any of this. The success of his primary campaign, and Clinton’s failure to beat him in the general election, are merely symptomatic of a greater dissatisfaction in the body politic, and the results of the last election – from primaries to general election – were the overt expression of that exasperation.

What’s truly interesting is how both parties are suffering at the same time from the same kind of malaise and disaffection. How this will play out at the polls is anyone’s guess.

Or in the streets.

 

 

©Brian Baker 2017

(Also published today in my local newspaper, The Signal)