Posts Tagged ‘National Review’

Je Suis Charlie

January 11, 2015

That’s what everyone is saying in support of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo. Right now everyone is standing up for the editors and cartoonists’ right to satirize and ridicule whatever they choose even in the face of violence. I am afraid, however, that once the dust settles and the shock and memory of the recent attack fades, there is going to be an almost irresistible temptation for some people to blame the victim and propose craven counsels. The cartoonists and editors brought their trouble upon themselves, the argument will run. They should have known better than to mock the prophet of such an easily offended and potentially violent following. Certainly, they have a right to print whatever they want, but surely they should exercise some degree of  prudence and only mock safe targets, like the Pope.

Consider this partial transcript of a White House press briefing, provided by Breitbart.com,  from a earlier time when Charlie Hebdo published offensive cartoons way back in September 19, 2012.

REPORTER: The French government has decided to temporarily close their embassies and schools in several Muslim countries after a satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo, that published cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad. Is the White House concerned that those cartoons might further fan the flames in the region?

CARNEY: Well, we are aware that a French magazine published cartoons featuring a figure resembling the Prophet Muhammad, and obviously, we have questions about the judgment of publishing something like this. We know that these images will be deeply offensive to many and have the potential to be inflammatory. But we’ve spoken repeatedly about the importance of upholding the freedom of expression that is enshrined in our Constitution.

In other words, we don’t question the right of something like this to be published; we just question the judgment behind the decision to publish it. And I think that that’s our view about the video that was produced in this country and has caused so much offense in the Muslim world.

Now, it has to be said, and I’ll say it again, that no matter how offensive something like this is, it is not in any way justification for violence — not in any way justification for violence. Now, we have been staying in close touch with the French government as well as other governments around the world, and we appreciate the statements of support by French government officials over the past week, denouncing the violence against Americans and our diplomatic missions overseas.

Sure, they have a right to publish what they want, but they shouldn’t if what they publish leads to violent objections. As a call for freedom of speech and the press, this is somehow not quite as bold as Voltaire’s apocryphal, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”, or even Patrick Henry’s, “Give me liberty, or give me death”. It seems more like, “Give me liberty, unless someone is offended enough to shoot or bomb me.” Ian Tuttle has some more recent examples of this rush to blame the victims, National Review Online.

The reason that Muslim terrorists attack publications like Charlie Hebdo is because they have good reason to believe that such attacks will be successful in achieving the goal of silencing criticism of Islam. This strategy wouldn’t work if the political elites in Europe and America really believed in freedom of speech or at least had any real courage in confronting the threat that Islam poses  to Western civilization. As it is, they are all too ready to condemn any criticism of Islam as racism, bigotry, and Islamophobia. The Terrorists hardly needed to bother with shooting anybody. Given time, I am sure the French government or the EU would have been happy to shut down Charlie Hebdo for its hate speech.

220px-Charliehebdo

The problem with this sort of censorship against commenting on an increasingly obvious threat is that it cannot work in the long run. The average French, German, or British citizen is aware that there is a problem, no matter how much his betters try to reassure him. If the mainstream parties and politicians of Europe will not address the problem with reasonable solutions, European voters might well turn to the people who will talk about it, the real racists and fascists. Their solution is not likely to be reasonable or pretty, though perhaps more desirable than a Islamized Europe.

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The Paradise of the Real

April 26, 2014

That is the title of  an article by Kevin D Williamson at National Review Online that should be required reading for anyone who has ever had a discussion about economics with a liberal. I can’t even begin to express how informative this article is and can only provide a few excerpts. You really have to read it all.

Word Problem No. 1: It’s lunchtime for Mrs.Piketty’s second-grade class. Bobby has 20 GummiWorms, and Jenny has 20 SweeTarts. Bobby and Jenny both like Gummi Worms and SweeTarts, but both like SweeTarts a little bit more, so Jenny trades three of her SweeTarts for four of Bobby’s GummiWorms. Both are happy with this trade, so they do it again. Question: How many pieces of candy do the two students end up with for dessert?

Word Problem No. 2: Mrs. Piketty is unhappy with the inequality in her second-grade classroom. Jenny’s 20 SweeTarts are valued much more highly than are Bobby’s 20 Gummi Worms, trading at a rate of 3:4. To even things out, Mrs.Piketty gives Bobby a voucher for seven SweeTarts. Question: How many pieces of candy do the two students end up with for dessert?

Word Problem No. 3: Mrs. Piketty’sattempt to solve the problem of inequality in her classroom has yielded unsatisfactory results. Bobby has his 20 Gummi Worms, and Jenny has her 20 SweeTarts, and SweeTarts still trade for Gummi Worms at a rate of 3:4. So Mrs. Piketty enacts some new policies. First, she hires Bobby as a hall monitor and decrees that hall monitors receive a minimum income of at least ten SweeTarts or the equivalent value in Gummi Worms. Also, she decrees that the high price of SweeTarts — three of them cost four Gummi Worms — is oppressive, but she’s not an all-the-way-to-the-wall outright red, either, more of a social-democrat type with a subscription to The Nation, so she simply enacts some counteracting price supports for Gummi Worms, decreeing that they cannot be traded at a price less than 13/15th of a SweeTart. She enlists Mrs. Yellen from the next classroom over to provide zero-interest financing for the purchase of up to fiveSweeTarts per lunch period, increases Bobby’s voucher allowance to nineSweeTarts per lunch period, and offsets that on her budget with a “fairness” tax of two SweeTarts per lunch period on Jenny, who is the sole member of her tax bracket. Question: How many pieces of candy do the two students end up with for dessert?

Answers: (1.) 40; (2.) 40; (3.) 40. There are only 40 pieces of candy, and rules, vouchers, taxes, zero-interest loans, redistribution, and mandates do not magic more pieces of candy into existence. If Jenny does not like the trading price imposed by Mrs. Piketty, she can keep all of her SweeTarts, while Bobby gets none. If Mrs.Piketty sends out her second-grade tactical SWAT unit to seize Jenny’s SweeTartsand put some serious asset-forfeiture and social-by-God-justice up in her smug little1-percenter face, Jenny can still leave her SweeTarts at home, eating them before or after school, and maybe even save them up in the hopes that her third-grade teacher next year will not be a howling moonbat.

Forty is forty is forty, 10 times 4, 8 times 5, 6.32455532034 squared, 23 plus 17. You can set the trading ratio of apples to oranges however you like, but if you have 20 of each, you have 40 pieces of fruit at any price — and the only way to bring more of it into the world is to plant trees, cultivate them, and pick the fruit.

The whole of progressive economics, as well social policy is to deny that two plus two equals four. Naturally the person who insists that two and two make four is a racist, bigoted, homophobic, sexist hater.

Here is something for those concerned about  increasing income inequality.

Measured by money, things look relatively grim for the American middle class and the poor. Men’s inflation-adjusted average wages peaked in 1973, and inflation-adjusted household incomes for much of the middle class have shown little or no growth in some time. The incomes of those at the top of the distribution (which is not composed of a stable group of individuals, political rhetoric notwithstanding) continue to pull away from those in the middle and those at the bottom. The difference between a CEO’s compensation and the average worker’s compensation continues to grow.

But much of that is written into the code. If, for example, you measure inequality by comparing the number of dollars it takes to land at a certain income percentile, with a hard floor on the low end (that being $0.00 per year in wages) but no ceiling on the top end, and if you have growth in the economy, then it is a mathematical inevitability that incomes at the top will continue to pull away from incomes at the bottom, for the same reason that any point on the surface of a balloon will get farther and farther away from the imaginary fixed point at its center as the balloon is inflated. 

The rich are getting richer but the poor are also getting richer. What people are complaining about amounts to the fact that the rich are getting richer faster than the poor. That may be a concern but it is not true that the rich are getting richer by stealing from the poor. When the economy grows, everyone benefits, some more than others but I would be wary of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs by pursuing policies of redistribution.

With economic models, we are a little like Neo in The Matrix, before he takes the red pill: We are not in the real world, but in a simulacrum of it, one that has rules, but rules that can be manipulated by those who understand the code. Economic models and analysis are very useful, but it’s worth taking the occasional red-pill tour, leaving behind the world of pure symbolism and taking a look at the physical economy.

That is an important point to remember.

The physical economy — the world of actual goods and services — looks radically different from the symbolic economy. Measured by practically any physical metric, from the quality of the food we eat to the health care we receive to the cars we drive and the houses we live in, Americans are not only wildly rich, but radically richer than we were 30 years ago, to say nothing of 50 or 75 years ago. And so is much of the rest of the world. That such progress is largely invisible to us is part of the genius of capitalism — and it is intricately bound up with why, under the system based on selfishness, avarice, and greed, we do such a remarkably good job taking care of one another, while systems based on sharing and common property turn into miserable, hungry prison camps.

We treat the physical results of capitalism as though they were an inevitability. In 1955, no captain of industry, prince, or potentate could buy a car as good as a Toyota Camry, to say nothing of a 2014 Mustang, the quintessential American Everyman’s car. But who notices the marvel that is a Toyota Camry? In the 1980s, no chairman of the board, president, or prime minister could buy a computer as good as the cheapest one for sale today at Best Buy. In the 1950s, American millionaires did not have access to the quality and variety of food consumed by Americans of relatively modest means today, and the average middle-class household spent a much larger share of its income buying far inferior groceries. Between 1973 and 2008, the average size of an American house increased by more than 50 percent, even as the average number of people living in it declined. Things like swimming pools and air conditioning went from being extravagances for tycoons and movie stars to being common or near-universal. In his heyday, Howard Hughes didn’t have as good a television as you do, and the children of millionaires for generations died from diseases that for your children are at most an inconvenience. As the first 199,746 or so years of human history show, there is no force of nature ensuring that radical material progress happens as it has for the past 250 years. Technological progress does not drive capitalism; capitalism drives technological progress — and most other kinds of progress, too.

Read those last paragraphs over and over until you get it. We are living in an age of unprecedented peace and prosperity. A lot of people have come to believe that this is the norm. It is not. The norm is poverty and misery. There is a lot more here on this but I will skip ahead a little.

For the conservative, people are anasset — in the coldest economic terms, a potentially productive unit of labor. For the progressive, people are aliability — a mouth to be fed, a problem in need of a solution. Understanding that difference of perspective renders understandable the sometimes wildly different views that conservatives and progressives have about things like employment policy. For the conservative, the value of a job is what the worker produces; for the progressive, the value of a job is what the worker is paid. Politicians on both sides frequently talk about jobs as though they were economic products rather than contributors to economic output, as though they were ends rather than means. The phrase “there aren’t enough jobs” is almost completely meaningless, but it is a common refrain.

Remember all the talk about overpopulation that was popular a couple of decades ago. The people who worry about that sort of thing see people only as blind consumers, stomachs that need to be fed. The truth is that a more people is a net asset since each person has two hands that can work and a brain that can think.

This next part is great.

For example, The Nation yesterday published a hilariously illiterate essay by Raúl Carrillo, who is a graduate student at Columbia, a Harvard graduate, and an organizer of something called the Modern Money Network, “an interdisciplinary educational initiative for understanding money, finance, law, and the economy.” All three of those institutions should be embarrassed. Mr. Carrillo is the sort of man who thinks that 40 pieces of candy can be divided and recombined in such a way as to arrive at a number greater than 40. His essay, “Your Government Owes You a Job,” argues that the federal government should create a guaranteed-job program, “becoming our employer of last resort.” Mr. Carrillo’s middle-school-quality prose must be read to be appreciated — “Would jobs for all skyrocket wages and prices, spurring inflation? Such unfounded belief holds the jobless hostage to hysteria” — but his thinking is positively elementary. It does, however, almost perfectly sum up the symbolism-over-literal-substance progressive worldview: “You need dollars to eat,” he writes, “and unless you steal the dollars, you generally have to earn them.”

But you do not need dollars to eat. You need food to eat. Experiment: Spend six months locked in room with nothing other than a very large pile of dollars; measure subsequent weight loss.

I sometimes hear commercials on the radio and on the internet stating that the economy is due to collapse and therefore I should buy gold. If we end up in a sort of Mad Max style post-apocalyptic society, gold is going to be completely useless. You can’t eat gold. A dollar bill is just a piece of green paper. It is the goods and services that the dollar can buy that is important. Don’t confuse wealth with money.

Mr. Carrillo’s intellectual failure is catastrophic, but it is basic to the progressive approach. Mr. Carrillo argues that a guaranteed-job program would “pay for itself,” mitigate deficits, empower women, strengthen communities, liberate us from Walmart and McDonald’s — I half expected him to claim that it would turn asandwich into a banquet. But the question he never quite gets his head around is: Jobs doing what? Americans in guaranteed government jobs “needn’t construct trains or solar panels,” he writes. Instead, they could be employed in “non-capital intensive” sectors such as “child-care, eldercare, and” — focus in here, kids — “community gardening.” Experiment: Offer for sale at a price of $250 a voucher entitling its bearer to one year’s worth of meals at McDonald’s, one year’s worth of groceries at Walmart, or one year’s worth of produce from your local community garden; compare sales figures.

Mr. Carrillo cites William F. Buckley Jr., who once recommended that welfare dependents be put to work tidying up parks. What Mr. Carrillo does not understand is that Mr. Buckley’s case was not an economic one but a moral one; he believed idleness to be a sin. (“I get satisfaction of three kinds,” he said. “One is creating something, one is being paid for it, and one is the feeling that I haven’t just been sitting on my ass all afternoon.”) Mr. Carrillo’s argument is an explicitly economic one, and it is illiterate. The economic difference between paying a man to engage in “community gardening” and paying a man to sit on his ass all afternoon is negligible, as good as the spade in the soil might be for his soul. Our food does not come from community gardens for the same reason that we do not generate our own electricity at home or build automobiles in a million mom-and-pop shops across the fruited plains.

I think this is what Cliven Bundy was trying to express with his controversial remarks.

The more removed you are from actually producing anything, the more likely you are to be a progressive.

The farther away we move from the physical economy into the manipulation of symbols through public policy, the more progressive ideas make apparent sense. And symbolism is more comfortable for progressives in general, owing to a disinclination to literally get their hands dirty. There is, for example, no environmentally clean way to produce energy, and the really productive ways of producing energy — like fracking for gas in Pennsylvania — give them the fantods. There is no environmentally clean way to build a man a house, either, or provide him with clean drinking water, or to heat that house, or to grow a crop of wheat, or to make that wheat into bread. If you think you can have health care and electric cars without steel mills and oil refineries, you are mistaken. But actually expanding physical production within our own political boundaries, for instance by building more pipelines to connect petroleum producers with petroleum refiners, scandalizes the progressives. Every smokestack is another Barad-dûr to them — even as they bemoan the loss of “good factory jobs,” the largely mythical former prevalence of which provided their political forebears with a deep bucket of solutions to throw at the problem of potentially bumptious poor people. They detest the economic use of undeveloped lands, whether for energy or timber or grazing cattle — as though beef comes from Trader Joe’s. They refuse to understand that if you want more oranges and apples, you have to plant some trees — maybe even cutting down some other trees to make room for them, or, angels and ministers of grace defend us, harassing a tortoise in the process.

 

Though there are many exceptions, the closer a man’s occupation takes him to the physical economy, the more skeptical he is of progressive central-planning ambitions. You do not meet a great many left-wing corn farmers, copper-mine operators, oil drillers, or house builders. You do meet a fair number of progressives on Wall Street and Silicon Valley and on the campus of Harvard utterly failing to teach the likes of Mr. Carrillo the fundamentals of economics, prose composition, or anything else. Follow that road to its terminus and you end up at the place in which the secret to national prosperity appears, self-evidently, to be stimulating demand, as though the nation could grow wealthier by wanting more rather than by making more, as though we could consume that which has not been produced.

What can I say? Read the whole thing again and again, and remember that two plus two equals four. No politics can change that in the slightest. You cannot just legislate prosperity.

 

 

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Steyn Stands Strong

December 23, 2013

One of the problems that conservatives have had is that all too often they buy into liberal premises about what is acceptable discourse. If the progressives insist that whole topics are out of bounds and any deviation from orthodoxy is racist, homophobic, islamophobic, bigoted, hateful, ignorant, greedy, and whatever other labels they can think of, all too often, conservatives will back down and agree to abide by the progressive’s rules. This has to stop. We have got to be on the offensive, or we will lose this country. Above all else we must be defenders of liberty, even if it means defending the rights of people we don’t necessarily approve or or whose speech is somewhat less civil than we might like. Mark Steyn from National Review understands this. I wish more conservatives did.

Having leaned on A&E to suspend their biggest star, GLAAD has now moved on to Stage Two:

“We believe the next step is to use this as an opportunity for Phil to sit down with gay families in Louisiana and learn about their lives and the values they share,” the spokesman said.

Actually, “the next step” is for you thugs to push off and stop targeting, threatening and making demands of those who happen to disagree with you. Personally, I think this would be a wonderful opportunity for the GLAAD executive board to sit down with half-a-dozen firebreathing imams and learn about their values, but, unlike the Commissars of the Bureau of Conformity Enforcement, I accord even condescending little ticks like the one above the freedom to arrange his own social calendar. Unfortunately, GLAAD has had some success with this strategy, prevailing upon, for example, the Hollywood director Brett Ratner to submit to GLAAD re-education camp until he had eaten sufficient gay crow to be formally rehabilitated with a GLAAD “Ally” award.

It is a matter of some regret to me that my own editor at this publication does not regard this sort of thing as creepy and repellent rather than part of the vibrant tapestry of what he calls an “awakening to a greater civility”. I’m not inclined to euphemize intimidation and bullying as a lively exchange of ideas – “the use of speech to criticize other speech”, as Mr Steorts absurdly dignifies it. So do excuse me if I skip to the men’s room during his patronizing disquisition on the distinction between “state coercion” and “cultural coercion”. I’m well aware of that, thank you. In the early days of my free-speech battles in Canada, my friend Ezra Levant used a particular word to me: “de-normalize”. Our enemies didn’t particularly care whether they won in court. Whatever the verdict, they’d succeed in “de-normalizing” us — that’s to say, putting us beyond the pale of polite society and mainstream culture. “De-normalizing” is the business GLAAD and the other enforcers are in. You’ll recall Paula Deen’s accuser eventually lost in court — but the verdict came too late for Ms Deen’s book deal, and TV show, and endorsement contracts.

Mark Steyn understands what the progressives are trying to do better than most of us here in the US. As a former resident of Canada, he has had personal experience with attempts to criminalize and de-normalize politically incorrect opinions.

Up north, Ezra and I decided that, if they were going to “de-normalize” us, we’d “de-normalize” them. So we pushed back, and got the entire racket discredited and, eventually, the law repealed. It’s rough stuff, and exhausting, but the alternative is to let the control-freaks shrivel the bounds of public discourse remorselessly so that soon enough you lack even the words to mount an opposing argument. As this commenter to Mr Steorts noted, the point about unearthing two “derogatory” “puerile” yet weirdly prescient gags is that, pace Marx, these days comedy repeats as tragedy.

I am sorry my editor at NR does not grasp the stakes. Indeed, he seems inclined to “normalize” what GLAAD is doing. But, if he truly finds my “derogatory language” offensive, I’d rather he just indefinitely suspend me than twist himself into a soggy pretzel of ambivalent inertia trying to avoid the central point — that a society where lives are ruined over an aside because some identity-group don decides it must be so is ugly and profoundly illiberal. As to his kind but belated and conditional pledge to join me on the barricades, I had enough of that level of passionate support up in Canada to know that, when the call to arms comes, there will always be some “derogatory” or “puerile” expression that it will be more important to tut over. So thanks for the offer, but I don’t think you’d be much use, would you?

Precisely. The end game is to make it impossible to fight against the progressives because you are unable to even articulate any opposing views. This is what George Orwell foresaw in 1984. This is the sort of mindset we are facing. It is no good trying to compromise or get along with these people. They are not interested in getting along. They mean to crush any opposition. We had best grow spines and fight.

 

Two Revolutions

March 13, 2013

Rand Paul gives his opinion on two recent populist movements, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. I read about his comments at the Washington Examiner.

Speaking yesterday at a National Review breakfast, Sen. Rand Paul R-Ky. explained what he thought about the Tea Party movement vs. the Occupy Wall Street movement, as Jon Ward reports in the Huffington Post.
“The Tea Party, I always say, is more like the American Revolution, and Occupy Wall Street is more the French Revolution,” Paul said.

Paul explained that the Tea Party looked back to the rule of law.

“We hearken back to sort of rules,” Paul said, identifying with the Tea Party. “We weren’t unhappy with people just because they were rich; we weren’t happy with you if you were making money off of our taxes and we were bailing you out. If you were making $100 million, your bank goes bankrupt and all of a sudden we bail you out and you’re still making $100 million — that upset us.”

Occupy Wall Street, Paul suggested was more of an emotional protest.

“I think Occupy Wall Street was more of a generic sort of, ‘We just hate people who have any money, and why can’t they give it to us?’ kind of thing,” he said.

I agree, though I would identify the two movements in slightly different terms, orcs vs. hobbits.

 

Let Them Die and Decrease the Surplus Population

February 21, 2013

If there is anyone today who would echo Scrooge’s callous dismissal of the poor who wanted better lives, it might be the contemporary Green movement. I have long believed that the more radical environmentalists are motivated more by misanthropy than by any abstract desire to save the planet. You really don’t have to read too much of their literature before you encounter their anti-American, anti-capitalist, anti-technological, and ultimately anti-human ideology.

Robert Zubrin knows this better than most. Last year he wrote a book titled Merchants of Despair, which tells of the excesses of the environmental movement. Yesterday, he had a column in National Review Online, rebutting an editorial in the Denver Post, written by Phillip Cafaro. Cafaro writes of the link between illegal immigration and climate change. Robert Zubrin’s answer is worth reading but I want to examine how Cafaro’s editorial shows the anti-human bias of the Greens. Here are some excerpts.

According to U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s website, reforming immigration policy and combatting climate change are two of his key legislative goals.

But there is no evidence that the senator sees any connection between them, despite the fact that the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has identified population growth as one of the two key drivers of global warming, and that most of the increase in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in the past two decades has occurred due to population growth, while per capita emissions have remained relatively flat.

As can readily be seen, even at present immigration rates, the U.S. is on track for huge population increases during the 21st century, from a current population of 315 million to 524 million people by 2100. It is not clear how such increases can be accommodated in an ecologically sustainable manner.

Further increasing America’s already generous immigration rates, as proposed by Sen. Bennet, could add another 145 million people to our population. That increase itself is equal to almost half our current population. It would ensure that the U.S. more than doubles its total population by 2100, to 669 million people.

And make no mistake: Immigrants are not coming to the United States to remain poor. Those hundreds of millions of new citizens will want to live as well and consume energy at the same rates as other Americans.

All this suggests some obvious questions: What climate change mitigation measures does Sen. Bennet plan to put forward that could possibly equal the increased greenhouse gas emissions we would lock in by adding 145 million more new citizens to our population?

Now, my major concerns regarding immigration are assimilation and legality. I oppose illegal immigration simply because it is illegal. I bear no particular ill will for the immigrants but they are in violation of our immigration laws. I do not think it is wise to simply not enforce these laws. If there is a need for more immigrants in this country, than the laws should be changed. I oppose any sort of amnesty simply because I feel that it would be essentially rewarding people for breaking the law.

Having said all that, I have no problem at all with legal immigrants coming here and making a better life for themselves. It is my sincere desire that they do live as well and consume energy as much as other Americans. In fact, I wish that for higher standards of living all over the world. It shouldn’t be necessary to leave your home in the hope of having a decent life.

Cafaro feels otherwise. He wants the immigrants to stay home and stay poor. It’s necessary for them to stay poor and hungry in order to save the Earth. In fact, since there are really too many people, it might be best if they were to starve.

 

The Conversation

December 18, 2012

The liberals have been demanding we have a conversation on the issue of gun control since the Newtown Connecticut shootings. I imagine that this conversation will be much like the conversation that Attorney General Eric Holder wanted to have about race, or the conversations about gay marriage, healthcare, or any of the other conversations liberals want to have. The liberal idea about what a conversation entails seems to be for the liberals, secure in their moral and intellectual superiority to the rest of us, telling us what to think and do, and the rest of us sitting still and listening. Anyone who disagrees is  a racist, sexist, homophobic bigoted hater. In the conversation about gun control, those who are against stricter gun control laws must like to see children mowed down by psychopaths.

But, if we are going to have a conversation about gun control, then let’s have a real conversation. We can use Glenn Reynold’s remarks yesterday as a starting point.

SO IF WE’RE GOING TO HAVE A “NATIONAL CONVERSATION ON GUNS,” HERE ARE SOME OPENERS:

Why do people who favor gun-control call people who disagree with them murderers or accomplices to murder? Is that constructive?

Would any of the various proposals have actually prevented the tragedy that is the supposed reason for them?

When you say you hope that this event will finally change the debate, do you really mean that you hope you can use emotionalism and blood-libel-bullying to get your way on political issues that were losers in the past?

If you’re a media member or politician, do you have armed security? Do you have a permit for a gun yourself? (I’m asking you Dianne Feinstein!) If so, what makes your life more valuable than other people’s?

Do you know the difference between an automatic weapon and a semi-automatic weapon? Do your public statements reflect that difference?

If guns cause murder, why have murder rates fallen as gun sales have skyrocketed?

Have you talked about “Fast and Furious?” Do you even know what it is? Do you care less when brown people die?

When you say that “we” need to change, how are you planning to change? Does your change involve any actual sacrifice on your part?

Let me know when you’re ready to talk about these things. We’ll have a conversation.

We can move on by discussing John Fund’s recent column at National Review Online, in which he mentions some facts about recent mass shootings that somehow are not being discussed in the mainstream media.

Mass shootings are no more common than they have been in past decades, despite the impression given by the media.

In fact, the high point for mass killings in the U.S. was 1929, according to criminologist Grant Duwe of the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

Incidents of mass murder in the U.S. declined from 42 in the 1990s to 26 in the first decade of this century.

The chances of being killed in a mass shooting are about what they are for being struck by lightning.

Until the Newtown horror, the three worst K–12 school shootings ever had taken place in either Britain or Germany.

Almost all of the public-policy discussion about Newtown has focused on a debate over the need for more gun control. In reality, gun control in a country that already has 200 million privately owned firearms is likely to do little to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals. We would be better off debating two taboo subjects — the laws that make it difficult to control people with mental illness and the growing body of evidence that “gun-free” zones, which ban the carrying of firearms by law-abiding individuals, don’t work.

First, the mental-health issue. A lengthy study by Mother Jones magazine found that at least 38 of the 61 mass shooters in the past three decades “displayed signs of mental health problems prior to the killings.” New York Times columnist David Brooks and Cornell Law School professor William Jacobson have both suggested that the ACLU-inspired laws that make it so difficult to intervene and identify potentially dangerous people should be loosened. “Will we address mental-health and educational-privacy laws, which instill fear of legal liability for reporting potentially violent mentally ill people to law enforcement?” asks Professor Jacobson. “I doubt it.”

Gun-free zones have been the most popular response to previous mass killings. But many law-enforcement officials say they are actually counterproductive. “Guns are already banned in schools. That is why the shootings happen in schools. A school is a ‘helpless-victim zone,’” says Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff. “Preventing any adult at a school from having access to a firearm eliminates any chance the killer can be stopped in time to prevent a rampage,” Jim Kouri, the public-information officer of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, told me earlier this year at the time of the Aurora, Colo., Batman-movie shooting. Indeed, there have been many instances — from the high-school shooting by Luke Woodham in Mississippi, to the New Life Church shooting in Colorado Springs, Colo. — where a killer has been stopped after someone got a gun from a parked car or elsewhere and confronted the shooter.

Economists John Lott and William Landes conducted a groundbreaking study in 1999, and found that a common theme of mass shootings is that they occur in places where guns are banned and killers know everyone will be unarmed, such as shopping malls and schools.

I spoke with Lott after the Newtown shooting, and he confirmed that nothing has changed to alter his findings. He noted that the Aurora shooter, who killed twelve people earlier this year, had a choice of seven movie theaters that were showing the Batman movie he was obsessed with. All were within a 20-minute drive of his home. The Cinemark Theater the killer ultimately chose wasn’t the closest, but it was the only one that posted signs saying it banned concealed handguns carried by law-abiding individuals. All of the other theaters allowed the approximately 4 percent of Colorado adults who have a concealed-handgun permit to enter with their weapons.

Now that we have dismissed the policies that will not work, like disarming the potential victims of crime and putting up signs that criminals will simply ignore, we can begin to have a conversation about what will work. I am looking forward to that conversation

Mourdock for Senate

April 19, 2012
Official photo of Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN).

Official photo of Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The editors of the National Review Online have decide to endorse Richard Mourdock in his campaign for Senate against Richard Lugar in the Indiana Republican primary.

One need not support formal term limits to recognize the existence of informal ones, and the tightening polls in the Indiana Senate Republican primary suggest voters there may be starting to think Senator Richard Lugar has been in Washington long enough.

The conventional wisdom has been that the six-term incumbent Lugar is a safer general-election bet than his opponent, state treasurer Richard Mourdock. But the primary has heretofore shown Lugar to be out of touch with Hoosiers, an institutionalized Capitol Hiller who for a spell was ruled ineligible to vote in his own primary after a local board determined he hadn’t owned a home in Indiana in three decades. Though a subsequent ruling allowed Lugar to claim a family farm as a residence, the die is cast. Lugar has become a carpetbagger in his own state.

By contrast, the low-key Mourdock’s mantra has been “capable, competent, and conservative,” a line he used last week after a fine performance in his sole debate with Lugar, and one that could describe our impression of the man after he met with National Review editors recently. Mourdock is popular in Indiana, having won reelection as state treasurer with 63 percent of the vote, and has impressed the grassroots, securing endorsements from a number of Tea Party groups and delivering a strong speech at CPAC. Like so many who have seen the light, Mourdock became a conservative in the age of Reagan; he is a successful oil geologist whose growing interest in thinkers such as Milton Friedman led him to run for Congress and eventually win county and statewide office. As treasurer, Mourdock has shown himself to be both fiscally prudent and possessed of a certain fighting spirit, most prominently when he (unsuccessfully) sued to recover $6 million the state’s pension funds had lost when the Obama administration’s auto bailouts arbitrarily rewrote a century of bankruptcy law.

 

The debate between Mourdock and Lugar showed that latter still has the reflexes for the kind of homer politics that goes under the name “constituent services”; he assured the audience, for instance, that he is “thinking about corn and soybean prices every day.” But after 36 years in the Senate, Mr. Lugar evinces a political philosophy so subtle that in unfavorable light it scarcely seems to exist at all. Whether it is his limp defense of ethanol subsidies (which Mourdock opposes), his cold praise of the “scholarly” Ryan plan, or his seeming unfamiliarity with his own voting record on Social Security, Lugar cut the figure of a man grown more accustomed to the backslapping of the cloakroom than to the candid back and forth of the town hall. Even on foreign policy, where he is often praised as a statesman, Lugar lacks his opponent’s clarity on the United States’ role in the world. His opposition to the surge in Iraq was poorly thought out and, ultimately, wrong, and he was a champion of the New START treaty, which was a gift to Russia.

Lugar is a decent man who has in the past been more reliable than not on a number of important conservative issues. Arlen Specter he is not. But we can do better. Mr. Mourdock strikes us, for instance, as a man who would not cast votes, as Lugar did, to confirm Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Nor would he co-sponsor the DREAM Act, support the auto bailouts, or oppose the Vitter amendment to limit taxpayer-funded abortion, as Lugar did and does.

For these reasons we support Mr. Mourdock in the Indiana Republican primary. We think he will make a strong candidate and a good United States senator. After Lugar’s long career in Washington, Hoosiers deserve new blood and Lugar deserves a happy retirement and a gold watch. We’d be happy to spring for one.

I am glad to see this. Richard Lugar is a good man and an able public servant and no hint of scandal has ever been associated with him. Indiana should be proud to have had him as our Senator. Still, he is eighty years old and has been in the Senate for thirty-six years. No one can stay in Washington for that long without becoming out of tough with the people back home. It is a continual source of frustration for Conservatives that the people we elect to serve us become steadily more acclimated to the Washington culture and drift leftwards. Lugar is not as bad as many, but I think it is time for him to step down.

 


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