Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Friday, June 26, 2009


Boy that got your attention didn't it?

It seems to have everyone's attention these days. At the latest count there are two political sex scandals in the news, one writer humiliating her soon-to-be-ex husband in print, and 24/7 coverage of the death of an accused pedophile pop megastar.

To wit:

- Senator John Ensign (R-NV) revealed he had an affair with a staffer - and was by the way cuckolding another staffer.

He came clean after they pulled what looks suspiciously like a Badger Game on him.

Anyone else remember that idiom? Its' an old con: woman seduces man, her husband walks in...

No less a politician than Alexander Hamilton fell for that one.

Ensign's wife issued a statement, "Since we found out last year we have worked through the situation and we have come to a reconciliation."

Since "we" found out? Was Ensign sleepwalking during this affair? Perhaps he had amnesia?

Of course liberals are ecstatic about this one. Oh the hypocrisy! Ensign is a born-again Christian and got awful holy about Clinton's adulteries a while back.

Leftist politicians are by definition not hypocrits about sex and extramarital affairs. It's only hypocrisy if you believe what you're doing is wrong.

The likes of Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy are not hypocrits, merely opportunistic liars. Their only regret is getting caught.

The hypocrits are the feminist leadership who make excuses for them when they treat women as disposable conveniences to be used and discarded, sometimes in shallow bodies of water.

Ensign showed a measure of backbone by refusing to be blackmailed.* Like the Duke of Wellington when a would-be blackmailer threatened to publish some damaging correspondence.

"Publish and be damned!" Wellington replied.

Of course, by that time the Iron Duke was in the House of Lords and didn't have to stand for no steenking election.

The Ensigns have three kids.

Note: remember that I foretold you here: http://rantsand.blogspot.com/2008/10/perfect-storm-of-left.html

Starting I think a year after Obama takes office, if there is a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, it's going to get very bad.

If the Republicans succeed in keeping a one or two-vote filibuster number, how much do you want to bet the news media can find a scandal or two to knock at least one Republican politico out of congress?

Told you.

- South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford (A Republican with a libertarian bent) fessed up he's been having an affair for, evidently a while now. His wife kicked him out of the house a while back, and more importantly didn't stand up with him in public while he made his obligatory public abasement. (Good for her!)

The thing that makes this scandal actually, you know... interesting, is the sheer airheadedness of the way Sanford sent emails which wound up in the hands of a local paper for months before the scandal broke, and left the state without doing his constitutional duty to turn the office over to the Lieutenant Governor during his absence.

By now EVERYONE knows emails should be considered about as private as a postcard. His ineptness in covering a flight to Argentina**, where he spent five days crying in homage to Evita, suggests that on some level Sanford wanted to be caught.

Governor Sanford's public confession was a weird mixture of painful and kind of sweet to watch.

It's always painfully embarrassing to watch a man fall apart in public. What was kind of sweet was, as he was maundering on about his Argentine inamorata, it became plain the guy's in love with her.

This isn't a Bill Clinton/Ted Kennedy-style conquest f**k, Sanford plainly adores this woman. Can you doubt this after reading the emails?

Lust can make you do extremely stupid things, but it takes true love to really motivate you to screw your life up.

He could have pulled a Sarkozy, divorced his wife, and married the exotic hottie. Liberals are always going on about how the Europeans are so much more sophisticated about sexual matters than we grim American puritans, they'd scarsely be in a position to kvetch* - but he's got four young boys.

If you think they're not going to hurt for a long time over this, maybe forever, you're fooling yourself. That goes for you too Sandra.

- Tsing Loh, sweet chariot...

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Well, as Paul Harvey used to say, "After all guys, it is their turn."

Sandra Tsing Loh, writer and performance artist (with a B.A. in physics, I'm impressed) has a piece in The Atlantic here:


that has a fair number of conservatives in a twitter. (Oh wait, that means something different now. And BTW, Sandra makes puns on her own name as well. She once had a radio show called, "The Loh Life," which I thought was pretty clever.)

"Let's Call the Whole Thing Off"

The author is ending her marriage. Isn’t it time you did the same?

Sadly, and to my horror, I am divorcing. This was a 20-year partnership. My husband is a good man, though he did travel 20 weeks a year for work. I am a 47-year-old woman whose commitment to monogamy, at the very end, came unglued. This turn of events was a surprise. I don’t generally even enjoy men; I had an entirely manageable life and planned to go to my grave taking with me, as I do most nights to my bed, a glass of merlot and a good book. Cataclysmically changed, I disclosed everything. We cried, we rent our hair, we bewailed the fate of our children. And yet at the end of the day—literally during a five o’clock counseling appointment, as the golden late-afternoon sunlight spilled over the wall of Balinese masks—when given the final choice by our longtime family therapist, who stands in as our shaman, mother, or priest, I realized … no. Heart-shattering as this moment was—a gravestone sunk down on two decades of history—I would not be able to replace the romantic memory of my fellow transgressor with the more suitable image of my husband, which is what it would take in modern-therapy terms to knit our family’s domestic construct back together. In women’s-magazine parlance, I did not have the strength to “work on” falling in love again in my marriage. And as Laura Kipnis railed in Against Love, and as everyone knows, Good relationships take work.

The rest is rather rambling and disjointed. In the middle it reveals that she finds some of her friends are thinking of doing the same, claims her two daughters are just fine, and ends with a rousing call to... what? Get rid of marriage?

Not quite, in spite of the title and subtitle. She does point out that marriages over time tend to get almost intolerably dull.

One is tempted to congratulate her on the triumphant discovery of the obvious.

She says the company of a good man who is a great father was ultimately never going to be as heart-poundingly exciting as trysts with her lover.


Although, there is curiously little about her lover in the piece. He, like her husband and even children, appear briefly onstage as curiously two-dimensional characters. The only people in the piece who appear fully fleshed-out are her female friends, who seem to stand in as extensions of herself and her need to gas on endlessly about her favorite subject, herself.

And though her encomiums to her husband abound in the article and the videolog she's keeping about the divorce process, one has to wonder what he did to her to piss her off so much that she should humiliate him in public?

Oh, she never meant to do that when she implied, or actively stated that she found him a bore in bed and cuckolded him with someone so much more exciting?

And no doubt her children will never get it back from their schoolmates because little kids don't read The Atlantic, and their parents would never talk about that kind of thing in front of them.

But do read the article, she does in fact have some interesting things to say. Also a great many misleading ones, such as the prevalence of divorce in America.

"One in two marriages ends in divorce," is true but does not mean that most couples are going to get divorced. Most people do in fact wind up in stable, long-lived marriages.

What the statistics (and observation) reveal is that the divorce average is inflated by 1) people who have one early marriage that fails, remarry and stay married the next time, and 2) a much smaller number of much-married relationship junkies who raise the average way high all by themselves.

(An ex of mine had just divorced husband number five last I heard. Which was some time ago, she may have done even more to raise the average by now.)

Loh discovered that living with the same person for a long time can become, we shall say routine, and going to bed with a good book and a glass of Merlot is what she looked forward to every day.

This, as I mentioned, is not news to the vast majority of married couples. So what is to be done?

There's good old-fashioned cheating of course. But that involves deception, which Loh evidently couldn't live with.

For Christ's sake, even Dear Abby (the original, not her daughter who took over the family business) said, if you slip; bury it, live with it, and don't burden your partner with it.

Open Marriage*** has it's advocates, though Loh admits the concept is kind of icky.

It is indeed, and I would point out that over thirty-odd years, couples I've known with open marriage agreements have had a 100 percent failure rate. Making "open marriages" far less stable than merely adulterous ones.

Listen, I understand, really I do. The desire for sex with someone new is a drive probably hard-wired into our brains by evolution, and I'll deal with that in a subsequent post.

Perhaps even more than the discipline of fidelity, the responsibilities of marriage with children weigh upon one. No matter how happy or content you are, from time to time you are going to be tortured by the possibilities that would lie before you if you didn't have the responsibility of caring for little persons who would be helpless without you.

I don't mean the freedom to tom-or-tabbycat around. I still dream of building that oil-drum raft and pushing off into the Pacific ocean like that 70-year-old man I read about in my youth.

Maybe I will someday - but that day is not yet. Not while there are little ones relying on Daddy to be there for them.

- And then there's Michael Jackson, the celebrity death that surprised me least.

I really can't bring myself to say much about that sad, pathetic person-of-male-gender.

Was he an active pedophile? So far all we have is a Scotch Verdict, "Not proven."

De morituris nihil nisi bonum est, but...

1) Paying a multi-million-dollar settlement is not the behavior of an innocent man. On the other hand, after paying once and realizing it really encouraged others to make the same accusation, he did fight tooth and nail the next time it happened. On the other hand, the behavior of that "welfare mother" Geraldo Rivera so plainly despises looked a lot like a greedy mother getting a kid to "take one for the team" - shades of The Godfather!

2) The saddest thing of all is that he hired women to create children for him, to be his playthings. Anyone want to take bets on how their lives turn out?

3) If he wasn't an active pedophile, his behavior with little boys was still mega-creepy.

Rest in peace Michael. Sadly, this is probably the only peace you've ever known.

* I'm going to say this again. The leftie sophisticates' claim that sophisticated Europeans see nothing wrong about this kind of thing is misleading at best. True, many cultures European and non-European like the Philippines, allow a man to keep a querida on the side, but the rule is you do not let it affect your marriage and you DO NOT humiliate your wife.

** It has however, produced one really great joke. His staff misheard when they said he was hiking the Apallachian Trail. He actually said he was tracking some Argentine tail. Thanks Gov.

*** 'Open Marriage' was the title of a book published in 1973 by anthropologists George and Nena O'Neil that quickly entered the language as a synonym for what the Brits call a "relaxed marriage."

The book was basically about marriage where the couple were comfortable enough with each other that they didn't feel the need to live in each others' laps, gave each other their space, etc. Stuff that sounds pretty orthodox now.

In precisely one short chapter they discussed the possibility of non-monogamous relationships - which were seized on by bunches of readers as permission to cat around.

They came to bitterly regret this, and Nena specifically argued for fidelity in a subsequent book. Largely because every one of the couples they knew with 'open marriages' got divorced in the interval between the first book and the second.

Previous posts on marriage, sex and relationships:



UPDATE: That article where Tsandra Tsings is evidently striking a chord. The morning after this was posted I opened MSN to find the article in full and a video interview of Sandra, with the obligatory defense of marriage shrink by her side.

Sandra's argument is weak, though to be fair she probably had all of 90 seconds to make it. The interviewer paraphrased it for her first: marriage is an invention of agrarian societies because intact family units were needed to work the farm.

No, marriage predated agriculture. It is a universal feature of hunter-gatherer societies as well.

Sandra made a revealing statement before the video cut off, "I decided I had better things to do with my time than over-parent my kids."

So is she divorcing her husband or her kids?

* UPDATE: Nope, it now turns out Mommy and Daddy were paying off the couple to the tune of $96,000 - so far as of the time of this update. That's not bad for pimping your old lady. The payments were explained as "gifts" to the wife, husband, and children.

I hope she was good John, that is one expensive piece of tail.

Hey kiddies, Mommy's taken an extra job to earn your college money.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Demonstrations that bring down governments

Note: A slightly different version of this appeared as the weekend editorial in the paper..

I’m watching the demonstrations in Iran with the oddest feeling I’ve seen this movie before. In fact, I think I was an extra in a street scene.

In late 1996 I was living in Sofia, Bulgaria, and working at the Institute for Foreign Languages as an English teacher. It was interesting work, my students were a delight to teach, and the country was very beautiful.

Unfortunately, the work was rewarding only in the spiritual sense. I was getting paid in the local currency, Bulgarian leva, which was inflating at the rate of about 10 percent a day. My last payday amounted to $40 for the month, which became $36 dollars by the end of the day without me spending any of it.

On top of that, government offices would not accept their own country’s currency for fees and permits.

About that time, I heard that a friend of mine, Tomas Krsmanovic, a Serbian dissident, was being leaned on by the secret police. After communicating with a dissident-support network I worked with, I decided to relocate to Belgrade, on the theory that if I lived in Tomas’ lap, the thugocracy wouldn’t want to murder him in front of a foreign witness.

What was happening in former Yugoslavia were demonstrations in the capital, Belgrade, and many other cities around the country, to protest electoral fraud attempted by the government of Slobodan Milošević after the 1996 local elections.
Before I left, I marched with the people of Sofia down the yellow brick road (I’m NOT kidding) past the government offices, in a protest that brought down the last communist/coalition government.

A British traveller told me, "You ought to head to Albania, you're on a roll!"

Within 24 hours I was in Belgrade in the middle of their demonstrations.
My friend helped me find jobs at two language schools and a room to rent (payment in Deutchmarks.) The lawyer of one school helped me get work and residence permits in order. (She was, by the way, a lovely young woman who bore, with reasonably good humor, the name Biljana Dracula.)

The demonstrations in Belgrade went on for 96 days and nights from November 1996 to February 1997, when Slobodan Milošević recognized the opposition victories.
Every night an estimated 17 percent of the city’s population (about 1,182,000 though it was hard to tell with war refugees and constant in-migration from the countryside) were on the streets marching, singing and making as much noise as they could during “pandemonium half-hour” when the official government news was broadcast. People not on the streets made noise from their apartment windows and balconies. Construction of homemade noisemakers was a thriving cottage industry.

I marched with students, working people, elegant ladies with furs, and little, old Babushkas beating on metal soup bowls. I couldn’t help it, the demonstrations were impossible to avoid. After work I just took the first demonstration heading home.
The government lined the streets with heavily armed paramilitaries recruited from Bosnian Serb refugees who had no connection with the local people - because the army announced they would not leave their barracks or fire on civilians.
The president’s wife, Mira Markovic or “the Red Queen,” made no secret she wanted the paramilitaries to fire on the demonstrators, but ultimately couldn’t find anyone willing to give the order. The order went down as far as it could go, to a vice-police chief who refused even after they had his son beaten up.

Finally, they had to cave in to the demands of the protesters, and the regime’s days were numbered. In revenge, they had the vice-chief murdered with machine guns Chicago-style, in a pizzeria not far from my work.

Milosevic had to resign from the presidency of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 2000 and ultimately died in prison while on trial in the Hague for crimes against humanity.

That’s how tyrannies fall, and that’s what we should watch for in Iran. Whether the demonstrators win this round or not, my gut tells me this is the death rattle of a dying regime.

Maybe later than sooner - this regime may indeed be willing to shoot down demonstrators by the hundreds. But if it does, it'll never be able to pretend legitimacy again, and our diplomatic president will have a really hard time explaining how his silver tongue will fix everything.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What's going on in Iran?

Note: This appeared as the weekend editorial in the Valley City Times-Record.

Lots of trouble it seems. Supporters of opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi in the recent presidential race are claiming President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stole the election.

There are riots in the streets of the capitol Tehran which have spread to other cities, and reports of demonstrators being killed.

So did Ahmadinejad steal the election, as all three opposition candidates claimed? It's hard to tell. It's not like he wouldn't, the results were announced suspiciously quickly and nobody really believed that he'd go quietly if he did lose.

Obviously, given the looming danger that a country ruled by crazy people will soon be a nuclear power, a lot of folks in Washington must be hoping this is the beginning of the end of the reign of the ayatollahs.

On the other hand, every time America meddles with Iran it gets burned. Iranians are still mad about Mohammad Mosaddeq, Prime Minister of Iran from 1951 until 1953 when he was overthrown by a coup d'état sponsored by the U.S. and Britain after he nationalized foreign oil companies.

They hold grudges longer than we do, since we seem to have all but forgotten the Iranian hostage crisis when Islamic radicals held American diplomatic personnel for 444 days in 1979-80. Former hostages say they seem to remember a guy who looked a lot like Ahmadinejad among their captors.

President Obama has taken a cautious, non-committal stance, though for once France and Germany are actually making forceful protests.

So who are these people in this “far off country of which we know little”? (Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain on Czechoslovakia after the German invasion.)

Iran is an ancient country, once one of the largest, most powerful empires in the world back when it was called Persia. Iranians are not Arabs and get testy if you make that mistake. Iran means “Land of the Aryans,” and today is still the 18th largest country in the world with a population of over 70 million. And of course, they have oil.

Iranians are mostly Muslims, but Shia, a sect whose adherents make up about one-third of all Muslims worldwide. And to make things interesting, there are minority communities of Baha'is, surviving Zoroastrians (the ancient indigenous religion of Persia), Yazidis, Iranian Jews, and no-fooling devil worshipers.

There are doctrinal differences between Shiites and the majority Sunni Muslims, but the division basically goes back to an ancient power struggle over the leadership of Islam.

When the Prophet Muhammad died in 632 A.D. Shiites believe Ali, Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, was his rightful successor. However, Ali didn't take power for 35 years, while three Caliphs rose and fell. He finally took power in 656 A.D. after the third Caliph was assassinated, and ruled until 661 A.D. when he was assassinated in turn. After that it gets really complicated.

What makes it so difficult for westerners to wrap their heads around politics in the Islamic world is, there's little difference between religion and politics.

Until the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iran was a monarchy ruled by a dynasty all of three generations old which ruled from 1925. It replaced another dynasty which ruled Iran from 1794 to 1925. That's the pattern, from time to time a vigorous new dynasty from the outlands rides in a takes over, but must rule through the educated administrative class which provides continuity.

The tradition was broken when the revolution did away with kings because the last Shah was a cruel tyrant – that and he was trying to drag Iran kicking and screaming into the 20th century.

So are the demonstrators going to overthrow the tyrant and create a liberal democracy so we can all be buds again? Would be nice.

However we should remember that Ahmadinejad is only the president. Above him is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, head of the council of Muslim jurists that wields the real power.

Khamenei can always throw Ahmadinejad to the mob and say, “See? All fixed now.”

Friday, June 12, 2009

Economics: a short guide to the dismal science

Note: This appeared as the weekend editorial in the Valley City Times-Record.

I suppose everybody agrees we're in an economic crisis now. Unfortunately that's about all everybody agrees on.

The president has his economic advisors working on the problem. The loyal opposition has their own opinions about what caused it and what to do about it.

George Bernard Shaw said, “If all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion.”

So if the experts disagree, what hope can we poor mortals have to understand the problem and evaluate any proposed solutions?

Years ago a distinguished economist, once advisor to presidents, at the end of his life revealed a closely guarded secret – economics is not all that complicated. In fact he said, all the economics you need to be an advisor to presidents is taught in the the Intro course for college freshmen.

The basic principles of economics are simple, quite easy to understand, and don't even involve math. When you get to the application, the details of production and consumption and measurement thereof, is where the math and razzle-dazzle comes in.

The 19th century historian Thomas Carlyle called economics “the dismal science.” Most people think it's because economics is complicated and boring. I suspect it's because economics tells you what you can't have.

The first principle of economics is: there's not enough of what we want for everybody. (The first principle of politics is to assure the electorate you can fix this.)

The second principle of economics is: to get something you want, you must give up something you want less, if only your time. (Political careers rely on telling the electorate the choices won't be painful.)

That's what's dismal about it, you can't have something for nothing. Unfortunately, the desire for something for nothing is part of human nature.

I once had an argument with an Englishwoman about the superiority of the British National Health Service. I pointed out the service is lousy by American standards. She countered that it's free, unlike our inhumane American system.

I said, “No it's not.”

She huffily informed me that she was after all English, and knew very well what British health service costs.

“I understand that,” I replied, “but it's still not free. Because nothing is. If you didn't pay for it, it means somebody else did – and not by choice.”

There's a reason paying for some things is not left up to individual choice. Economists call it the “common good,” or “free rider” problem. Things like infrastructure, police and national defense benefit everybody, whether they paid for them or not.*

But whether General Motors stays in business concerns me very little, as long as I can still buy a Ford or a Toyota. I feel for the Detroit autoworkers, honestly I do. But that money the government is giving them to make cars I don't want to buy is money I don't have to pay for my retirement, my kids education, or a car I'd rather buy.

How democratic governments get away with taking from many people, to give to a few people, is explained by a principle economists call, “concentrated benefits/distributed costs.” This simply means the amount any one special interest is able to extract from us, in direct subsidies or price supports, is not enough to complain about. Until we're nickel-and-dimed to death.

But for the special interests, those nickels and dimes add up to a lot.

Shaw explained it even simpler, “A government that robs Peter to pay Paul, can always count on the support of Paul.”**

* Libertarian purists and anarchists sail under the slogan "taxation is theft" and say all taxation is coercive and thus immoral.

No libertarian/anarchist theory has yet successfully demonstrated how a complex society can be maintained without tax levees.

On the other hand, nobody has satisfactorily explained how taking money by threat of force is different from theft either. Once you admit the right of taxation, how do you justify saying what amount is "too much"? How is 10% just and 50% unjust?

** Since Shaw was a Fabian Socialist and an admirer of both Hitler and Stalin, it is not clear to me whether he was speaking approvingly of this as a tactic or not.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Why are you so calm? Why am I so calm?

I've been wondering lately why I've maintained such a state equanimity while watching the news.

I started by wondering why the heck the country as a whole is so calm.

Yes, yes I know. Everybody is worried about their jobs, their homes and their 401 Ks. What they don't seem to be worried about is the fact that the president of the United States just tossed a long-established body of law in the shredder with a wave of his hand.

I'm referring (among other things) to firing of the CEO of GM, the overturning of creditor seniority in the Chrysler debt, and oh by the way the nationalization of a huge chunk of the auto industry. (You vill drive a peepuls vagen, und you vill like it!)

And this from a president who got testy when asked if he were a socialist!

Why isn't the whole damn country outraged?

For that matter, why aren't I outraged? There was a time this would have had me foaming at the mouth and climbing the walls.

You know, the only really serious analysis in broadcast media of the whole economic situation I see is on Glen Beck on FOX. GB regularly brings on really first-rate economists like Thomas Sowell, who go into technical detail that Common Wisdom says the American people are supposed to be too impatient to sit still for. And his ratings are waaay high.

Not bad for a guy that started out in stand-up comedy. (And yes, the obvious rejoinder has occurred to me.)

But even on FOX they seem eerily calm, all things considered.

Maybe purely economic issues just don't grab people the way say, mass internments or ethnic cleansing would.

Maybe two generations of indoctrination in universities, and increasingly at the secondary and even primary levels have readied our people for socialism. Or at least the variety of socialism technically called fascism, if anybody cared to use the correct term.*

Maybe those of us who aren't with the program have just become resigned to the notion that this country just has to have a fling with socialism/fascism again, as we did in the Wilson and Roosevelt eras.

After all, market processes seem uncertain, chaotic, often confusing and more than a little scary. The idea that order and predictability can be imposed on them is very tempting...

Terribly, disastrously wrong of course, but tempting.

Or perhaps, just perhaps, a fair number of people have reached the conclusion that this time maybe we're not going to pull back from the brink.

Maybe an increasing number of people fear that the long argument we've had since the beginning of this country is not going to be settled by talk and compromise this time.

The argument between those who believe if you just take away the restraints of power those surly, suspicious curmudgeons who created the Constitution put upon high office, they'll be free to create heaven on earth; and those who don't figure we'll ever get to heaven this side of the grave and mind your own damn business thank you very much!

If you go here: http://blogs.moneycentral.msn.com/topstocks/archive/2009/05/29/obama-and-supreme-court-nominee-sonia-sotomayor-send-gun-stocks-soaring.aspx

you'll find the MSN MoneyBlog TopStocks.

Obama's court pick, Sotomayor, keeps gun stocks soaring
Posted May 29 2009, 01:52 PM by Louis Navellier Rating: Filed under: investing, economy, Politics

President Obama's nomination of federal appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter heralds yet another victory for gun-makers. Yes, you read that right.

Let me explain.

While most investors have been rightly focused on the crisis in the markets and economy lately, some Americans have been focusing on other political issues, namely the Second Amendment.

They wonder, will the Obama Administration and new Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor put the right to bear arms in jeopardy? Clearly, many think so, as evidenced by an increase in gun sales and an associated rally in gun stocks.

Followed by some stock jargon. Then the author inserts one of those unsupported stealth opinions that journalists get away with too damned often.

But it's not just Sotomayor's nomination that has been lifting the gun-makers. The recession has helped, too.

Buying protection

You wouldn't think a recession as deep as the one we've been experiencing would be a boon to gun sales, but many citizens are arming themselves expressly because of the recession. You see, the recession has brought massive budget cuts to many municipalities. That means less fire and police protection. In response, gun sales are on the rise.

My response to this undercurrent is to recommend stocks that take advantage of the increase in gun sales.

Two of my favorite stocks to buy now make guns.
More stock jargon.

I'm pleased to see that the author has done his homework and confirmed what has been quietly circulating around for a while, that gun sales are through the roof.

His contention that people are afraid of crime because the recession is causing cuts in police funding is bullshit.

The unstated premise in this enthymeme** is: when the economy tanks, desperate people turn to crime to live.

There is not now, nor has there ever been a shred of evidence for this in the U.S. People who've lost their jobs do not go to liquor stores and gas stations gun in hand, seeking money to pay their bills and feed their families. They go cap in hand to the local Department of Human Services.

The author's assertion that funding for police is being cut is problematic at best. My town has a population of less than 7,000 and is located in a county the size of Rhode Island with a population of about 12,000. The police have lots of fancy equipment, and are getting more from grant monies.

People are buying guns because they are afraid of their government.

And I don't mean loud-mouthed a$$hole kids screaming "Revolution! F**k the fascist pig-state of Amerikkka!" I mean people with jobs, families, etc. You know, a life.

Specifically, they are afraid of the federal government in Washington, D.C. By and large they get along just fine with local cops and admire and respect the military.

So who do they expect to need those guns against?

I wonder if anybody really knows right now. Maybe it's a generalized anxiety that's soothed by having the means of self-defence on hand. Maybe it's a suspicion that conflict will arise between civilian factions of our society. (Paging Dr. Tiller!)

Or maybe it's a fear of social movements that bode no good at all.

Now go to the Washington Times here: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/may/29/protecting-black-panthers/?feat=home_editorials

The editorial in full, and just to make sure you know it's just as bad or worse than it reads, the video:

Imagine if Ku Klux Klan members had stood menacingly in military uniforms, with nightsticks, in front of a polling place. Add to it that they had hurled racial threats and insults at voters who tried to enter.

Now suppose that the government, backed by a nationally televised video of the event, had won a court case against the Klansmen except for the perfunctory filing of a single, simple document - but that an incoming Republican administration had moved to voluntarily dismiss the already-won case.

Surely that would have been front-page news, with a number of firings at the Justice Department.

The flip side of this scenario is occurring right now. The culprits weren't Klansmen; they belonged to the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. One of the defendants, Jerry Jackson, is an elected member of Philadelphia's 14th Ward Democratic Committee and was a credentialed poll watcher for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party when the violations occurred. Rather conveniently, the Obama administration has asked that the cases against Mr. Jackson, two other defendants and the party be dropped.

The Voting Rights Act is very clear. It prohibits any "attempt to intimidate, threaten or coerce" any voter or those aiding voters.

The explanation for moving to dismiss the case is shocking. According to the Department of Justice: "These same Defendants have made no appearance and have filed no pleadings with the Court. Nor have they otherwise raised any other defenses to this action. Therefore, the United States has the right ... to dismiss voluntarily this action against the Defendants." In other words, because the defendants haven't tried to defend themselves, the Justice Department won't punish them.

By that logic, if a murderer doesn't respond to the charges, he should be let free. That's crazy.

The Obama Justice Department did take one action against one of the four defendants: It forbade him from again "displaying a weapon within 100 feet of any open polling location" in Philadelphia. Given that it already was illegal to display a weapon at a polling place and that he was not even enjoined from carrying a weapon at polling places outside of Philadelphia, it is hard to see what this order accomplished.

We asked the Justice Department if it was unable to provide any explanation for dropping the case. Justice press aide Alejandro Miyar merely said: "That is correct." Multiple times we asked both the department and the White House to comment on charges that the dismissals represented political bias. We received no substantive response.

Hans Von Spakovsky, a legal scholar at the Heritage Foundation and a former commissioner at the Federal Election Commission, tells us, "In my experience, I have never heard of the department refusing to take a default judgment... . If a Republican administration had done this, it would be front-page news and every civil rights group in the country would be screaming about it."

Consider that the behavior of the defendants was so bad that witness Bartle Bull, a former Robert F. Kennedy organizer who did extensive legal work on behalf of black voters in Mississippi, testified it was "the most blatant form of voter discrimination I have encountered in my life."

Eric Eversole, a former litigation attorney with the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, told us: "It is truly unprecedented for the Voting Section to voluntarily dismiss a case of such blatant intimidation. The video speaks for itself."

We couldn't agree more. After the 2000 Presidential election, Democrats complained about voter intimidation in Florida by pointing to a police car that had been two miles away from a polling place. The police didn't do anything to anyone, but their presence was deemed sufficient to vaguely intimidate people en route to the polls. In this case, the New Black Panther Party actually blocked access to a poll.

Unlike the Florida incident, this case involving the New Black Panthers screams out for tough justice. Instead, the Obama administration looks the other way. This all but invites racial violence at future elections.

Well-written, but this one also has a chickenshit conslusion.

"This all but invites racial violence at future elections," is either a tremendous understatement, wishful thinking, or just plain dumb. This doesn't "all but invite," it frakking guarantees!

I'm not going to speculate about the motives of the president and his supporters in congress. Fact is, I don't have a clue if he has any long-term motives, or is just possessed of the kind of youthful arrogant certainty that given the power, he could solve all the world's problems by next Tuesday after lunch.

(Various people have told me that President Obama reminds them of an imperious tribal chieftan, Adolf Hitler, or various unsavory characters. Actually, what he reminds me of is me in my teens and twenties. Now that's really scary!)

But I am going to make this observation: a managed economy is going to need a thug-corps. Not because of the motives of the rulership, not because they are consciously aiming at tyranny, but because the logic of the situation demands it.

People will not consent to have their lives regulated in this way, to this extent without coercion. Police do not like to be involved in civil/property disputes, the military is aware their oath is to the Constitution not the president, and the ranks of both are drawn from the ruled, not the rulers.

My guess is that a fair number of people have at least a vague intuition of this, and are preparing accordingly.

* I tell you again and again, buy and read Jonah Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning." But wait for the paperback edition coming out soon. It's got a new afterword on Obama.

Goldberg gives a calm, well-reasoned argument supported by impeccable (and undeniable, that's why critics resort to name-calling and slander) research. But even Goldberg at the end seems to kind of lose steam, as if his conclusions are taking him to a place he doesn't want to go...

From a review by historian and former Leftist Ronald Radosh, "When Mr. Goldberg uses the term "liberal fascism," he is not offering a right-wing version of the left's smears. He knows it is a loaded term. What he is talking about is the historical idea of fascism: a corporatist and statist social structure that creates a deep reliance of its subjects on the government and engenders a sense of community and purpose. In American politics, this tendency toward statism has always been much more at home on the left than on the right."

** Enthymeme: in logic, a syllogism in which one of the two premises is assumed and unstated.

UPDATE: http://www.economist.com/world/unitedstates/displayStory.cfm?story_id=13788623&source=most_commented

In The Economist, "Soaring gun sales in Arizona."

American gun sales surged after Mr Obama was elected president. He had a voting record of raising the tax on guns and ammunition by 500%, and, on top of that, he hinted during the campaign that he might restrict gun sales and create a national registry of gun-owners. The election was seven months ago, and the buying spree has not flagged since. Data released by the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which serve as a gauge of actual sales, reported 1,255,980 checks in April 2009: a sixth monthly increase, and a 30.3% increase from the 940,961 reported last April.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

20 years since the “incident” at the Gate of Heavenly Peace

Note: A shorter version of this appeared as the weekend Op-ed in the Valley City Times-Record,

Thursday was the anniversary of what the Chinese government calls “the June 4 incident.” That nice bit of understatement describes the killing of somewhere between 241 and 2,600 protesters by the People's Liberation Army.

The first is the official government figure. The second is an early estimate by the Chinese Red Cross, which they now deny they ever said. Really. You must be confusing us with somebody else.

The Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 followed the sudden death of Hu Yaobang, former Secretary General of the Communist Party of China and prominent advocate of reform, from a heart attack. Hu had been forced to resign by the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and humiliate himself publicly in a “self-criticism” session.

A demand for a reversal of the verdict against Hu was the focal point for a growing demonstration in the 100-acre square in the heart of Beijing by Chinese students, workers, disillusioned Party members and masses of people who felt the longing people in communist countries had for anything resembling a normal life.

Protesting students erected a statue of the Goddess of Democracy, modeled on the Statue of Liberty with a Chinese face.

At the time I was a grad student at Oklahoma University, and helping a couple of Chinese students defect.

I'd gotten involved by helping Tang, an archeology student in our department, by proof reading his papers. I actually don't know how he'd gotten in, his pronunciation was horrible and his written English needed a lot of editing. And to give you an idea of how naive he was, he told me his original destination in the U.S. was Harvard, but a friend had talked him into coming to OU with him.

One evening at a party I was making small talk about history and made some off-hand remark about the good fortune of our country in having such a wealth of natural resources.

Tang burst out, “No! Here you are rich because you have freedom!”

“We've got to talk,” I said.

In the course of conversation, it turned out Tang desperately wanted to stay in America – and was an overstay on a J1 student visa.

The J1 visa allows one year of study in the U.S., after which the student must return to his home country and must wait two years before he or she is eligible to return. At the time, we had about 40,000 Chinese students in the U.S. on J1 visas.

It also turned out that Tang had been rather free with his pro-democracy sentiments and admiration of America, and had just discovered his room mate was an informer for Chinese Security. He found out when he got the phone bill, and saw the record of a few hundred calls to the Chinese consulate in Houston.

I couldn't help but laugh, “Tang this girl can't have been a professional if she didn't know all long distance calls are itemized on American phone bills. A real pro would sneak down to the pay phone on the corner.”

I introduced Tang, and his new fiancee Ying, to my housemate who was Director of Hispanic Student Services at the university, on the assumption he might know something about immigration problems.

All this time, the tension was building in Beijing at Tiananmen, the “Gate of Heavenly Peace.” We saw on TV that heroic, unnamed youth standing in front of a line of tanks, and making them back off.

Then the killing started and we all saw the face of a protester on the cover of Newsweek, lying on the pavement his face covered with blood.

The next day, the Chinese students on campus held a demonstration, and crossed their own Rubicon by signing a petition condemning the killings. I saw them on the oval carrying the American flag and singing the Star Spangled Banner.

Since the Vietnam war, the national anthem had left a bad taste in my mouth when I remembered young barbarians burning the American flag, and old scoundrels wrapping themselves in it. I hadn't sung the anthem myself in a long time, and here were all these Chinese kids singing their hearts out.

They were, in a word, awful. It's a difficult song at best and they were so off-key they needed a search party to find it. And in the middle of it I realized I was crying.

The rest is history. The protests were crushed, and a number of protesters tried and executed. But reportedly only workers, no students or intellectuals. The statue of the Goddess of Democracy was demolished. George Bush Sr. solved my friends' problem by unilaterally abrogating the visa treaty, and we got 40,000 new Americans.

But I came across the goddess years later, while out walking in Washington, D.C. There she was at the intersection of Massachusetts and New Jersey Avenues and G Street, NW, within view of the U.S. Capitol. She was chosen as the appropriate symbol for the Victims of Communism Memorial. There people from many lands lay flowers and light candles at her feet in memory of their own dead.