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Rumblings

  • In these times of strife and ugliness, remember, folks:  The guy in your group who wants you to blow up a building or steal weapons is probably a fed.
  • With the rush to destroy any public commemoration of the Confederacy, I wonder how many statues, buildings, and institutions dedicated to Woodrow Wilson will be torn down.
    • He was a racist bastard who segregated everything within his power, and oh, yeah, was quite OK with a movie about the KKK being shown in the White House.
    • He was instrumental in pushing through legislation that penalized Americans for expressing their opinion of World War I, the government in general, and him in particular.  And by penalized, we’re talking hard prison time, not community service hugging kittens down at the no-kill shelter.
    • Of course, he was a son of slave-owners, having been born and raised in the midst of some of the most famous battlefields of Northern Virginia.  And I don’t mean “His family went to visit them for picnics”.  I mean he was born in the Shenandoah Valley, was eight years old when the Civil War ended, and he actually met Robert E. Lee during the war.
    • Then again, a lot can be forgiven for the man who ushered in the first failed attempt to control what substances grown adults could imbibe, and was instrumental in drafting the Treaty of Versailles, setting up the rise of Adolf Hitler and the murder of 12,000,000 people during the Holocaust.
      • Just to summarize that, let’s just call him a proto-fascist, pre-Nazi sympathizer.
    • But I guess when you’re an OP (Original Progressive) who mouthed the right words, you can pretty much get away with anything, can’t you?
  • Now, don’t get me wrong.  I believe with all my heart that there is enough stupidity and douchebaggery to go around on all sides of the current kerfuffle.  A pox upon both their houses, as I’ve become wont to say lately.
  • Irish Woman and I were discussing the possibility that our property might be purchased for road improvements.  She’s quite worried about it, but I’m not.  As far as I can tell, not enough bribes have been paid to the right people environmental and hydrographic studies, as well as considerations of traffic flow and control, to get something like that to happen anytime soon.
  • Just when I start to believe that humanity might have a chance, folks start needing warnings to not stare at the sun and to not point their binoculars and telescopes at it during tomorrow’s eclipse.
    • I’ll feel bad for kids under, say, 12 who don’t have decent eyewear and don’t know how to poke a hole in a shoebox.
    • But if you’re older than that and don’t know to not concentrate direct sunlight on your retinas, I’ve got nothing for you.
    • I look forward to puff pieces on the news about this over the next year or so.  Heck, we might even get some feel good legislation passed just in time for the 2018 elections.
  • Now, if you all will excuse me, I gotta get up to work tomorrow.  Or, as my daughter’s professors would put it, I have to get up early so that I can have a full day of despoiling the earth and oppressing my fellow man in order to earn more than my fair share.

Couldn’t have said it better myself

Over at The Antisoma, Heroditus Huxley explains her view of compassion, and who deserves it.

Like the title says, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Look, I’m a pretty soft touch, all things considered.  It doesn’t take much more than someone, who truly needs assistance, asking politely for my help for me to give it.  A lot of times, you don’t even have to ask before a meal comes to your doorstep or an extra few dollars are in your hand.

But there are folks for whom that doesn’t apply.  I call them the “willfully poor,” and I know of which I speak.

You see, when my folks split up, my mother took us headlong into the welfare system.  Food stamps, Medicaid, housing assistance, energy assistance, free school lunches, and everything else she could get her hands on flowed through our home.  Us kids ate what food stamps and free lunches would provide and we wore what government checks would buy at the Salvation Army.

I met some very hardworking folks during those years.  Problem was, the vast majority of them were working hard toward the wrong goals.  These people made welfare a 9 to 5 job, and they burned the midnight oil trying to find some way to squeeze just a few more dollars out of the system.

Tattoos were uncommon then, but booze and cigarettes were an everyday experience. My mother’s friends on welfare always had name-brand soda and candy at a time when most folks in my town had store-brands as a very occasional treat.  The number of kids who found themselves labeled as having learning disabilities or other medical issues skyrocketed amongst my mother’s circle, with each case bringing in a little more cash or another excuse to not find work.

At the beginning of the month, it was pizza and beer and new clothes.  At the end of the month, it was rice and canned tuna and government cheese.  But somehow, there was always money for the adults to go out to eat or to go to the local bar on Friday and Saturday.

But there is a silver lining to this:  I will sell organs before I take a dime of government assistance.  Too many memories of my mother buying a 25 cent pack of gum with a $10 food stamp so she’d have the change to spend on whatever struck her fancy, along with the looks the lunch ladies gave me when they stamped my free-lunch card, have driven me deep into the “I’d rather be hungry, thanks” crowd.

There are those who have hit a rough patch, with some needing assistance for a long while, but want desperately to stand on their own two feet.  Then there are those who not only can’t fathom what not having someone bring them their checks and EBT cards, but also violently and vociferously object when you suggest that there is a better way to live.

For the former, I have compassion and sympathy, and I am willing to give until it hurts.  For the latter, well, not as such.  If that makes me too hard, then I’ll wear that badge proudly.

Legislation Suggestions

Since the political time of crazy doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, I thought I’d take a few minutes to suggest some things that might not stop the madness, but will at least move it in a direction that would make me happier.

The “Get Off Your Ass” Welfare Reform Bill

This bill would set a 24 month limit on use of social welfare programs per person in a 60 month period, require 20 hours a week of vocational training or volunteer time for adult recipients, and set a 60 month lifetime limit on receiving government welfare.  Waiver of these requirements and restrictions would be possible only upon a simple majority non-voice vote by both houses of Congress, and would need to be renewed every 180 days by the same process.

The “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is” Charitable Giving Reform Bill

Would amend the tax code to remove the cap on writing off charitable giving on personal and corporate income taxes.  Private charity is usually a more efficient alternative to government welfare, and this way the American taxpayer could decide which causes they want to support.

The “Why Does the Education Department Need Shotguns?” Federal Law Enforcement Reform Bill

This bill would restrict the ability of federal employees to arrest people and be issued a firearm to uniformed ICE officers, agents of the FBI and the Secret Service, and U.S. Marshals.  Let the ATF go to the Marshals or the FBI, or better yet, local law enforcement, if they need somebody arrested or somewhere raided.

The “Why Does the Marine Corps Need a Stealth Fighter?” Defense Acquisitions Reform Bill

An act that would require the military services to re-justify all programs that have been in development longer than five years and/or have cost more than 20% more than their original cost estimates.  I’ve always found it amazing how requirements get pared down when you make somebody re-justify something that isn’t working or has expanded like a tick on a hog’s rump.

So, do y’all have anything you’d like to suggest?  You get bonus points if you come up with a clever title to your bill.

 

You Say You Want A Revolution

 

Since about this time last year, the vitriol and bile in American politics has gone from a low simmer to just short of a boil.  On one side, we have celebrities on social media and crowds in the street calling for violent action.  On the other, we’ve got folks believing that one gentleman can take ten rascals, so let the bastards come.

The left seems to think that we will see a glorious revolution of the human spirit brought about by denying a stage to folks who profit by being shouted down, massive demonstrations with no cogent point, and maybe a little violence around the edges, just to show the other side they mean business.

The right, on the other hand, well, I’m not sure what the right believes on this one.  At the moment, the people I listen to are pointing and laughing at the left.  I am finding it difficult to find anything more than an attitude that they’d rather not have a civil war, but they’ll have one if the other side insists.    Not saying there aren’t whackjobs calling for the use of CAS to clear out the quad at Berkeley, but they’re not part of my personal political echo chamber.  The things I’m reading and hearing do tend to lean toward the “It’ll be easy, because we’ve got the guns” side of the counter-argument, and more than a few seem to be poking the left just to see them twitch.

The one thing I think both sides are saying is that violent revolution, no matter who starts it, will be quick, clean, and productive.

They’re both wrong.  If we continue down this road, both rhetorically and politically, what we will create will make the Civil War of the 1860’s look like a rather unpleasant dust-up.

There is no “North/South” or “Free/Slave” geographic dichotomy.  Densely populated liberal counties are sprinkled across the continent.  Granted, they are more prevalent along the periphery of the country, but they aren’t remotely as contiguous as the Confederacy ever was.

In other words, enemy territory just might be a couple of blocks over for much of the country.  There will likely be no true safe areas, no matter how red or blue they are.

The second Civil War will probably start when heated words turn to violence that is reciprocated.  What will happen when a store owner shoots the guy in a black mask who’s smashing his windows?  What happens when the fires from a protest consume a middle-class neighborhood?  What happens when all of this is broadcast over every cable network and the Internet, inflaming everyone on both sides who has had quite enough and just wants it to be over? What happens when some demagogue harnesses that anger and calls for a crusade?

I doubt that we will get many Gettysburgs, but I guarantee that we will get a bushel full of Srebrenica’s and Beslans.  Our war against each other will more closely resemble The Troubles than The Wilderness.  If you think abuse of civil rights is bad now, just wait until middle America is worried that some jerk is going to throw a molotov cocktail in the foyer of their kids’ school. In the end, it will rend our nation apart.

After a time, the sides may coalesce into geographically contiguous entities as areas are cleansed of the unbeliever, but in the beginning, it will be as easy to find someone from the other side as it is to go to Kroger for milk and eggs.   This will be a war of gangs and squads and flash mobs.  It will be a war of bombings, assassinations, and massacres. It will be a tit-for-tat, score-settling family fight where the memory of a political sign on somebody’s lawn gets their house burned to the ground.

The war will gain steam as folks who would normally turn away from the violence are struck with it.  It’s hard to convince someone whose children have been harmed that they can’t blame an entire block of other people for the crime.  It’s even harder to do when atrocities become commonplace.  Folks who normally wouldn’t harm a fly will revert to savagery against their neighbor when they’re scared or angry, and they won’t much care if that neighbor is actually their enemy.

In the end, we will all lose.  The slave/no slave, federal power/states’ rights argument of 1860 was simple compared to the gobblety-gook we have now.  We aren’t arguing about what the other side is doing, we are attacking the other side for who they are.  We have all gone a long way toward dehumanizing the other side already, and when you do that, it’s not a long walk to where our cities are burning and we’re filling in pits with bodies at the bottom.

So, to wind this up, I’m begging all of you – slow down.  I’ve seen the innocents hurt by civil war, and I know what the aftermath looks like.  It’s not where anyone wants our people to go.  If we do not turn from our current path, we will soon come to the place where folks will want the killing to start just to get it over with, and few of us will come way from that unscathed.

For the sake of our nation and our children, please don’t run toward our destruction.

Things That Work Versus Things That Don’t

In the last year or so, we’ve seen a lot of political posturing, blustering, and, let’s be honest, whining from both sides.   Personally, I’m sick of all of it, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to subside any time soon.

In order to try and help my fellow citizens understand what they can do to help the situation, and what they can do that will, at best, have no effect on the situation, I’ll contrast things that work with things that don’t work:

Peaceful, respectful protest versus violent rioting and vandalism

Want me to listen to what you have to say?  Try having a clear, articulate, and sane message that I can understand, either from the sound of your voice or the sign in your hand.  If you’d rather that I turn my back on you, all you have to do is assault those who disagree with you, destroy property, or put up with those who do in your ranks.

Getting off your high horse versus whining about voter ID and how elections are run

It’s 2017.  If you have the ability to read this post, you have the ability to get an ID before the next election.  I will have no sympathy for anyone who complains that they have trouble voting.  Girlie Bear was able to get an absentee ballot and vote on her first try, so there’s no excuse for you not figuring it out before 2018. Get your birth certificate, get your ID, and get your butt to the polls.  If you don’t like the electoral college or how primaries happen in your state, now is the time to get them changed.

 

Criticizing a politician’s policies and actions versus attacking his family

OK, I get it.  Folks made snide and outrageous remarks about your guy’s kids when he was in office.  It was heinous then, and it’s heinous now.  Decent folks, you know, the ones with jobs and a voter registration card, get turned off by crap like that.  Leave the families alone.

Reasonable discussion versus personal insults

I’ll admit it.  I’m a middle-aged white guy, the great oppressor.  The green-eyed devil.  But guess what?  You need my vote and my support, or at least you need me to not oppose you, if you’re going to get anything done.  If you keep accusing me of racism, misogyny, and all of the other bugaboos of the political insult machine, eventually I’m going to believe you.  If you want me to look at things from your perspective, tone it down and look at things from mine.

Being politically engaged versus being ‘woke’

OK, I’m proud that a lot of you have looked around and realized that the country isn’t exactly paradise.  Congratulations.  Now, do something about it.  Telling everyone on Facebook about what you’ve figured out is useless.  Taking polls and signing on-line petitions is useless.  Know what’s not useless?  Signing actual ballot petitions, sending letters and making phone calls to elected officials, showing up to town council meetings, and actually schlepping to the polls every year or so.  Jawing about how bad things are changes nothing.  Flooding the streets with women wearing oddly shaped hats does next to nothing. If everyone who ‘liked’ Sanders had gone to the polls, he would have gotten the nomination.  If everyone who screamed “I’m With Her” on Twitter had voted, you’d all still be drunk from celebrating her inaugural.

Perhaps if those who don’t care for President Trump start on these kinds of things now, 2018 won’t be an absolute blood bath for the Democrats, and in 2020, you’ll have a shot.  If not, well, it’s going to be a long few years, now isn’t it?

 

Live Blogging the Inauguration

10:06 – The President and Vice-President Elect have arrived at the White House.  Mrs. Trump brought Mrs. Obama a small gift, which Mrs. Obama looked at is if it were covered in dog slime.

10:11 – Is it just me, or do all of the Secret Service guys shave their heads?  Seriously, it’s like they all want to look like Mister Clean?

10:13 – NBC shows a shot of Marine, Army, and Navy flag officers walking out to the stands, all in their dress uniforms.  They were followed by some guy in a faux hawk.  Yeah.

10:18 – Wow, LucasFilm let them use Maz Kanata for the color commentary.  Oh, never mind, that’s Tom Brokaw.  My bad.

10:21 – Lester Holt just asked if Donald Trump was going to have a honeymoon as president.  Apparently, Mr. Holt needs his dosage upped a tad.

10:24 – If you’re old enough to reminisce about how cold the 1985 inauguration was, maybe you’ve been doing this too long.

10:32 – What a difference two decades make.  I remember when NBC reported on Bob Dole’s alleged involvement in an underground, Satanic, chocolate adulteration ring in 1996.

10:36 – Just saw John McCain.  For those of you who said in 2008 that he was too old and wouldn’t survive a term as President, there you go.

10:48 – Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Trump have come out to get in the limos.  Neither of them look happy to be there.

10:50 – President Clinton and his wife have arrived at the Capitol.  I’ve seen people walking to prison sentences with more mirth in their faces.

10:53 – Mr. Trump and Mrs. Obama are driving to the Capitol.  You all have no idea how much I would give to be a fly on that particular wall.

10:57 – Tom Brokaw just reminisced about the Jackson inaugural party/brawl.  It’s good that even at such an advanced age, he can still recall events from his youth.

10:59 – The last time I heard commentators throw this much shade on someone, it was in Pompey’s Theater on a beautiful March morning.

11:01 – Mr. Trump and President Obama have arrived at the Capitol.  I heard this from the back of some lady’s head.

11:07 – Whatever else happens today, this has been good PR for Apple and Cadillac.

11:18 – Is there a special school for political wives that teaches how to smile when you want to curse at the top of your lungs?

11:23 – Stay classy, Nancy Pelosi.  Nothing like making a political statement during a time that’s supposed to bring our country together.

11:25 – Obama descends the stairs with Biden.  After a little crowd work, he finds his way to his place.

11:27 – NBC reporters are doing political kabbalah based on everyone’s tie color.  Is this what we’ve come to?

11:31 – President Elect Trump comes down the stairs.  I’ve never seen anyone make sure they don’t fall down a flight of stairs so much in my life.

11:33 – And here we go.

11:35 – “Willing, but not enthusiastically” – An excellent description of the mood today.

11:36 – They’re invoking Lincoln.  Nobody ever got us into trouble without invoking Lincoln.

11:39 – Never heard that version of the Beatitudes before.  Interesting selection.

11:47 – Chuck Schumer takes the mic. I wonder if he’s going to reach across the aisle.

11:49 – Huh, Schumer didn’t mention the freedom to bear arms in that little list.  Strange.

11:51 – Interesting.  Schumer celebrates the words of someone fighting an army of Democrats in the Civil War.

11:52 – Clarence Thomas will now give the oath of office to Vice President Pence.  Perhaps this will be the thing that gets him into the African American history museum.

11:57 – It’s OK, Mr. Trump.  Not a lot of people know more than the first chorus to “America the Beautiful.”

11:59 – Chief Justice Roberts will now administer the oath of office to Mr. Trump.  I wonder if he will get it right this time.

12:00 – President Donald J. Trump.  Say it with me.

12:01 – Is anyone watching the skies over North Korea to see if they’ve launched their ICBM yet?

12:02 – President Trump takes the stand to make his speech.  Starts off by thanking everyone.

12:03 – Trump acknowledges and thanks President Obama.  Nice

12:04 – Then he starts tearing down the Washington power structure.

12:05 – “This moment is your moment.  It belongs to you’

12:06 – “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer”

12:09 – “We’ve defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own”

12:10 – “From this day forward, it’s only going to be ‘America First'”

12:11 – “We will get our people off of welfare and back to work”

12:19 – And the reporters remark about how insulting the President’s speech was.

12:21 – “If I forget thee, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.”  Now, that’s an interesting choice of words.

12:26 – Oh, good.  They found someone who could hit the note at the end of the Star Spangled Banner.

12:28 – And with that, the inauguration is over.  Godspeed to President Obama, and good luck to President Trump.

12:32 – Just when I thought I was done, NBC News Godwins the inauguration.  Apparently, saying “America First” is anti-semitic.  So, there’s that.

12:35 – President Trump is walking with President Obama.  I wonder how much Obama wants to punch Trump over that speech.

12:36 – President Obama is about to leave.  I hope that Trump supporters have more class as he goes than Obama supporters had watching President Bush leave in 2009.

12:37 – How interesting.  Before the ceremony, the reporters were remarking about how the crowd was graciously clapping and cheering for Mrs. Clinton when she came down the stairs and took her seat.  Now, they’re talking about how they boo’ed and jeered her.

12:38 – “Hyperbolic” “Dystopian” – Words a historian is using to describe President Trump’s speech.  Was Nick Cole his speech writer?

12:40 – Did Mr. Obama look back as he got on the helicopter?  I don’t think he did. (EDITED:  He did.  I just missed it.)

12:45 – Mr. and Mrs. Obama have flown away from the Capitol.  Of course, they’re only going to live a few miles away, so perhaps they’ll take this as an opportunity to figure out how they’re going to deal with Washington traffic.

12:47 – Now, NBC is comparing Trump to Huey Long.  Anyone got any idea until he’s compared to Pinochet?

12:50 – And I’m done.  It’s all done except the jawing, so I’m going to go and do something constructive.

Question

I woke up with some odd questions this morning:

  • Are public state universities an agency of state government?
  • If so, are they subject to equal protection and other Constitutional protections in the same manner as other government agencies?
  • If they are, could their employees be in legal trouble for promoting one political candidate or perspective at the expense of another?
  • How would this impact on-campus efforts to punish wrongdoers like students accused of sexual assault and other crimes?
  • How would this impact incidents where victims of crimes like sexual assault are turned away and discouraged from contacting law enforcement?
  • How would this impact such things as ‘campus carry’ if the state bans concealed carry in other state facilities?

 

These are the kinds of things my brain comes up with in my sleep.  Anyway, I’m going to get some coffee and ruminate.  Please let me know what you think in comments.

Political Roundup

As the new Congress gets moving and we approach the inauguration of the new president, I’m starting to see more and more rather interesting political news come across the wire.

 

First, It would appear that Congress is going to be considering a National Reciprocity bill this session.  Not sure how far this will get, but here’s hoping it gets through.  Here’s the NRA’s pitch for it:

NRA Backs Concealed Carry Reciprocity Bill in U.S. House 

Bill Would Eliminate Confusing Patchwork of State Laws

Fairfax, Va.— On behalf of its five-million members, the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) applauded the introduction of H.R. 38, TheConcealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, authored by Congressman Richard Hudson (NC-8). This legislation would eliminate the confusing patchwork of state carry laws by allowing individuals who possess concealed carry permits from their home state or who are not prohibited from carrying concealed in their home state to exercise those rights in any other state that does not prohibit concealed carry.

“The current patchwork of state and local laws is confusing for even the most conscientious and well-informed concealed carry permit holders. This confusion often leads to law-abiding gun owners running afoul of the law when they exercise their right to self-protection while traveling or temporarily living away from home,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA-ILA. “Congressman Hudson’s legislation provides a much needed solution to a real problem for law-abiding gun owners.”

This legislation would not override state laws governing the time, place or manner of carriage or establish national standards for concealed carry. Individual state gun laws would still be respected. If under federal law a person is prohibited from carrying a firearm, they will continue to be prohibited from doing so under this bill.

“Law-abiding citizens should be able to exercise their fundamental right to self-defense while traveling across state lines,” continued Cox. “This is an extremely important issue to our members and we thank Congressman Hudson for leading the fight to protect our rights,” concluded Cox.

Next, the Senate is considering a proposed constitutional amendment that would impose term limits on senators and representatives.  While there are good arguments supporting allowing good public servants to serve as long as their constituents want to keep re-electing them, unfortunately the Congress has practically become a job you can keep as long as you want it.

‘‘ARTICLE—

‘‘SECTION 1. No person who has served 3 terms as a Representative shall be eligible for election to the House of Representatives. For purposes of this section, the election of a person to fill a vacancy in the House of Representatives shall be included as 1 term in determining the number of terms that such person has served as a Representative if the person fills the vacancy for more than 1 year.

‘‘SECTION 2. No person who has served 2 terms as a Senator shall be eligible for election or appointment to the Senate. For purposes of this section, the election or appointment of a person to fill a vacancy in the Senate shall be included as 1 term in determining the number of terms that such person has served as a Senator if the person fills the vacancy for more than 3 years.

‘‘SECTION 3. No term beginning before the date of the ratification of this article shall be taken into account in determining eligibility for election or appointment under this article.’’.

Finally, my Congressman has re-introduced legislation to audit the Federal Reserve.  No matter what you think about how money flows in our government and the rest of the country, I hope we can agree that sunshine would make the process a lot easier to swallow and might just make things better.

U.S. Representative Massie Reintroduces Bill to Audit the Federal Reserve
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Thomas Massie reintroduced H.R. 24, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2017, also known as “Audit the Fed.” The bipartisan bill would require the Comptroller General to conduct a full examination of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Federal Reserve banks.
“The American public deserves more insight into the practices of the Federal Reserve,” Massie said. “Behind closed doors, the Fed crafts monetary policy that will continue to devalue our currency, slow economic growth, and make life harder for the poor and middle class.”
“No institution holds more power over the future of the American economy and the value of our savings than the Federal Reserve, yet Fed Chair Yellen refuses to be fully accountable to the people’s representatives,” said Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who introduced companion legislation, S. 16, in the U.S. Senate. “The U.S. House has responded to the American people by passing Audit the Fed multiple times, and President-elect Trump has stated his support for an audit. Let’s send him the bill this Congress.”

Former Representative Ron Paul (R-TX), who has long championed this cause, originally introduced the bill in 2009.
Massie concluded, “It is time to force the Federal Reserve to operate by the same standards of transparency and accountability to the taxpayers that we should demand of all government agencies.”
The Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2017 was introduced with 44 bipartisan original cosponsors. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), passed an identical version of the bill, which had 201 cosponsors, in May 2016, marking an important step toward getting the bill to the House floor for a vote.
Anyway, please take the time to look into these and other issues Congress is looking into, and make your wishes known to your Senators and Representative.

NRA Statement on Designee for the Secretary of the Interior

Below you ‘ll find the NRA’s statement on Secretary Designate Zinke, who has been chosen to head the Department of the Interior under the Trump administration.  Personally, I’m still forming my own opinions on the new cabinet, but I like what I hear so far about Congressman. Zinke.

 

NRA Statement on Nomination of Ryan Zinke to Secretary of the Interior
Fairfax, Va.— Chris W. Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, issued the following statement on the nomination of Congressman Ryan Zinke to be the Secretary of the Interior:“On behalf of our 5 million members, we commend President-Elect Donald Trump for nominating Congressman Ryan Zinke of Montana to be our next Secretary of the Interior,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action. “The sportsmen and women of this nation have long waited for an Interior Secretary who understands the need to preserve America’s outdoor heritage for generations to come. Ryan Zinke will champion those traditions with the devotion of a true outdoorsman while serving as our next Secretary of the Interior.”

Regaining Trust

Over at The Federalist, Mollie Hemingway discusses ways that the national press has lost the trust and confidence of middle America, and suggests ways they can begin gaining it back.  Her suggestions and thought process are excellent, and I suggest everyone check it out.

After reading through her piece, I thought I’d make a couple suggestions of my own:

 

 

Quit lying to us

I quit watching CBS News, which I had made my primary national news source for my entire life, after Dan Rather reported false stories about George W. Bush’s military service.  I had made watching Walter Cronkite a part of my day when I was in kindergarten, so it was quite a habit to break. Since then, none of the national news outlets have impressed me.  I find few outright lies, but there is a heck of a lot of selective reporting, verbal shading, and refusal to report anything that hurts the politics of “our side”.

We come to the news for facts so that we can make good decisions.  If we can’t trust the information you give us, we’re going to go somewhere else for those facts.  Want to know why so many people are taken in by fake news sites, including ones that aren’t meant as satire?  It’s because we’ve found we can’t trust the ‘real’ journalists to tell us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  If you lie to us, only tell half the story, or outright ignore important events, then you will continue to lose us.

Stop devoting a large part of your efforts to entertainment and trash

When I was young, the nightly national news mentioned movies maybe twice a year, and one of them was Oscar Night.  Tabloid journalism was only found in disreputable magazines and newspapers, and human interest got between thirty and sixty seconds out of a half-hour program.

Now, I am bombarded with vignettes about the special meaning of the latest blockbuster art house movie, coupled with ‘news’ about the antics of entertainers and their hangers-on.  Bonus footage is given to any female with large breasts or an ass that looks like a question mark, or a male with a bit of scruff on his chiseled features and a sardonic smile.

There are literally millions of websites devoted to trash reporting and entertainment news.  Quit trying to draw the eyeballs of the disinterested by dragging programming down to that level.  If you want to be taken seriously, do serious work.

Overuse of hyperbole and histrionics is not helpful

First, Reagan was sitting up all night, plotting how to subvert our freedoms and start a nuclear war.  Next, Bush was working to put us all under the thumb of a New World Order.  Clinton was going to send in black helicopters to murder us in our sleep, while George W. Bush was sending an entire generation of men off to create an American empire to enrich his friends.  Obama has been the root of all evil for the last eight years, while Donald Trump is either a greedy bumbler who will ruin the republic, a stooge of business and foreign interests, or a mastermind genius manipulator who is looking to set himself for life as God Emperor of the White States of America.

In between that, we have “ICE AGE! NO, ACID RAIN! NO, GLOBAL WARMING! NO, CLIMATE CHANGE!” as well as “ILLEGAL ALIENS! CRACK ZOMBIES! WELFARE QUEENS!”  splashed across newspapers, websites, and news broadcasts.  Every politician that stands in opposition to a journalist’s politics is worse than Hitler, or a communist, or a socialist, a crypto-fascist, or a secret Muslim.

Meanwhile, I’m shutting off my television and looking for alternate websites to get my news.

Y’all have been shouting at us so much that I’ve lost the ability to hear those frequencies anymore.  When you need to shout about something because IT’S ACTUALLY IMPORTANT, I won’t hear you. Learn to use your inside voice.

Draw a bright, hard line between news and editorial work

A lot of the journalists on the national platforms (cable news, major newspapers, websites) have lost the integrity of putting what they know on page 1 and putting what they think about what they know on page 6.

“Senator Backwash, who has not answered questions on when he stopped beating his wife, questioned the Assistant Junior Under Secretary for Corn Sexuality Studies during a long, tense, intrusive series of meaningless questions into the crucial necessity of researching the mating habits of the Lower Missouri River Corn Weasel.” has become a common way for someone to say “Senator Backwash posed several difficult questions to a representative of the Agriculture Department during yearly budget hearings.”

Journalists are, even if they’re not overtly trying to move an agenda, going to be influenced by their own beliefs and prejudices.  They’re human, after all.  But if a reporter can’t be honest enough to separate their activism from reporting the facts, then they should leave news and go into punditry full time.

If I have to work to separate the facts from the advocacy, you’ve gone a long way to losing me as a consumer.  If you lose me as a consumer, you lose me as a possible receptive audience for when I want to hear your advocacy.

Take a good, hard look at the pool of journalists in your organizations and start creating a diversity of opinion

Diversity of race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, and belly buttons in or out can add richness to any organization.  But when your product is information, you have to add diversity of thought as well, or all you’ll put out is pablum and screed.

If all you have on your staff are rock-ribbed, Kool-Aid drinking conservatives or Ivy League liberal arts majors who can quote from both Das Kapital and The Collected Wisdom of Woodrow Wilson,  then your echo chamber is indeed vast and comfortable.  When I want to read or watch news and commentary about a controversial topic, I don’t want to hear 90% of the message going one way, with a token whack job from the other side brought along for comic relief.  On a panel of five people, two should go one way, two should go the other way, and one should reflect me, who is in the middle trying to figure out the facts and what they mean.

 

Anyway, these are just my suggestions.  Go and check out Mrs. Hemingway’s article, and let me know what you think in comments.

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