Campus protests against the ACLU?

Over at The Federalist, Robert Tracinski writes that “Campus protests against the ACLU are a sign that American ‘liberalism’ is being destroyed by the forces it unleashed and its own inherent contradictions.

The moderate left has spent the past few years running interference for Black Lives Matter and Antifa, and some of us have been warning them that the far left hates the liberals, too. They’re now finding that out up close and personal, and I hope it terrifies them…

In the twentieth century, American liberalism was defined by a very specific ideological mix: advocacy of freedom of speech, political freedom, and resistance to government regulation in the field of personal morality and culture—combined with advocacy of broad and ever-growing government control over the economy…

So how is it that “liberal” came to refer to someone who advocates freedom in one area and government control in another? There is a specific philosophical answer to this, and that answer explains why today’s liberals are being eaten by their far-left offspring.

(John Stuart) Mill set out to make a case for liberty that was not based on “natural rights” but on utilitarianism. He starts with the principle that everyone should be allowed to do whatever he likes, so long as it doesn’t harm others: “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

But what constitutes a “harm”? Refusing to give someone a job? Charging “too much” rent for an apartment? Hurting someone’s feelings? To limit the concept of “harm,” Mill emphasized the difference between the private and the public, and between ideas and actions. The ideas you hold privately are nobody’s business but your own, while actions you take publicly might be harmful to others and can in principle be controlled by government…  [his] main legacy was the creation of this division between intellectual freedom, which he treated as an inviolate basic principle—”over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign”—and economic freedom, which was to be defended on purely pragmatic grounds…

What happened next was the rise of economic theories—particularly Marxism—that argued the entire capitalist economy is a giant engine of exploitation, that it inherently consisted of people using their economic freedom to harm others. The framework created by Mill allowed the moderate left to adopt this Marxist view of the economy, but without going full totalitarian. They could agitate for control over just about everything in the economy, but they were still “liberals” because they defended free speech and political freedom and what one summary describes as “the freedom to pursue tastes (provided they do no harm to others), even if they are deemed ‘immoral.’” Free to be you and me, baby.

That’s how we got the basic mid-twentieth century “liberal.” But it couldn’t and didn’t last.

At the height of liberalism, in the early 1970s, Ayn Rand summed up the contradiction this way: “The liberals see man as a soul freewheeling to the farthest reaches of the universe—but wearing chains from nose to toes when he crosses the street to buy a loaf of bread.” Obviously, you can’t be both of these things at the same time. This strict separation of ideas from action, of the private from the public falls apart the moment you try to apply it to reality. What’s the point of being free to think if you’re not free to act on your thinking? And how can we say that private thinking and private preferences have no effect on others, when they clearly influence the way people act?

So the liberals either had to return to the idea of individual rights that protect our freedom of action in all of life, or they had to resolve the contradiction by calling on government to regulate everything. Guess which one they chose.

Just as Marxism created a whole system for finding real and imagined harms to be regulated in the realm of economics, the extension of Marxism to race and gender created a whole system for finding real and imagined harms to be regulated in the realm of ideas, behavior, and culture. It invoked a whole system of “triggers” and “microaggressions” that marginalize and exclude certain victim groups, even if the people in that system are not conscious of any intent to do so. Therefore, we have to be constantly on the lookout for the harm caused by ideas and root out all of these thought crimes.

 

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The arc of his life vindicated his moral critics, conservative and feminist

OMG what an opening paragraph!  Now that is writing.

Hugh Hefner, gone to his reward at the age of 91, was a pornographer and chauvinist who got rich on masturbation, consumerism and the exploitation of women, aged into a leering grotesque in a captain’s hat, and died a pack rat in a decaying manse where porn blared during his pathetic orgies.

The entire piece is lovely.  Excerpts:

Hef was the grinning pimp of the sexual revolution, with Quaaludes for the ladies and Viagra for himself — a father of smut addictions and eating disorders, abortions and divorce and syphilis, a pretentious huckster who published Updike stories no one read while doing flesh procurement for celebrities, a revolutionary whose revolution chiefly benefited men much like himself.

The arc of his life vindicated his moral critics, conservative and feminist: What began with talk of jazz and Picasso and other signifiers of good taste ended in a sleazy decrepitude that would have been pitiable if it wasn’t still so exploitative.

Needless to say the obituaries for Hefner, even if they acknowledge the seaminess, have been full of encomia for his great deeds: Hef the vanquisher of puritanism, Hef the political progressive, Hef the great businessman and all the rest. There are even conservative appreciations, arguing that for all his faults Hef was an entrepreneur who appreciated the finer things in life and celebrated la différence.

What a lot of garbage. Sure, Hefner supported some good causes and published some good writers. But his good deeds and aesthetic aspirations were ultimately incidental to his legacy — a gloss over his flesh-peddling, smeared like Vaseline on a pornographer’s lens. The things that were distinctively Hefnerian, that made him influential and important, were all rotten, and to the extent they were part of stories that people tend to celebrate, they showed the rot in larger things as well.

And his appreciation of male-female difference was rotten, too — the leering predatory sort of appreciation, the Cosby-Clinton-Trump sort, the sort that nicknames quaaludes “thigh openers” and expects the girls to laugh, the sort that prefers breast implants to female intellect and rents the charms of youth to escape the realities of age.

And in every way that mattered his life story proved that we were wrong to listen to him, because at the end of the long slide lay only a degraded, priapic senility, or the desperate gaiety of Prince Prospero’s court with the Red Death at the door.

Now that death has taken him, we should examine our own sins. Liberals should ask why their crusade for freedom and equality found itself with such a captain, and what his legacy says about their cause. Conservatives should ask how their crusade for faith and family and community ended up so Hefnerian itself — with a conservative news network that seems to have been run on Playboy Mansion principles and a conservative party that just elected a playboy as our president.

You can find these questions being asked, but they are counterpoints and minor themes. That this should be the case, that only prudish Christiansand spoilsport feminists are willing to say that the man was obviously wicked and destructive, is itself a reminder that the rot Hugh Hefner spread goes very, very deep.

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Hidden (and illegal) bailouts to insurance companies

Live by the “phone and pen,” die by the “phone and pen.”  It’s no way to run an alleged self-governing republic.

There’s a reason American political scientists argue that wide-reaching public policy needs to be bipartisan, and not crammed through with parliamentary skullduggery and administrative shenanigans – as was so clearly the case with Ocare.

At that point in his presidency, if he’d given the GOP anything – tort reform, selling across state lines, almost anything – he would have peeled off enough votes to call it bipartisan and have it be a more permanent legacy.  But instead he decimated the party down ballot and his legacy is being undone.

Andrew C. McCarthy points out that Trump is faithfully executing the law of Ocare, and as a result, it is collapsing, only too quickly for the “charlatans” who sold it.

Notwithstanding the many outrageous, mendacious things the president says and tweets, the press is aghast that his “fake news” tropes against mainstream-media stalwarts resonate with much of the country. Well, if you want to know why, this latest Obamacare coverage is why. What Trump has actually done is end the illegal payoffs without which insurance companies have no rational choice but to jack up premiums or flee the Obamacare exchanges. The culprits here are the charlatans who gave us Obamacare. To portray Trump as the bad guy is not merely fake news. It’s an out-and-out lie…

The subsidy payments to insurance companies may be “critical” to sustaining the ACA, but they are not provided for in the ACA. The Obamacare law did not appropriate them. No legislation appropriates them. They are and have always been illegal. …

Everyone has known this from the beginning. It was not an oversight — lawmakers did not mind being seen as generous with tax credits for low-income Americans, but they did not want to be seen as money funnels for corporate insurance titans. That is why the Obama administration quietly made annual appropriation requests to Congress when Obamacare was first implemented. And it is why Congress has refused to appropriate the funds.

President Obama understood that without reimbursement, the insurance companies would flee the exchanges or raise prices prohibitively. His signature legacy monument would be threatened. To prevent that, he violated the law. In 2014, his administration unilaterally began making non-appropriated cost-sharing payments to insurance companies. …  These payments are blatantly illegal. The federal district court in Washington so ruled last year. For what it’s worth, I believe Judge Rosemary Collyer was wrong to grant the House of Representatives standing to sue the Obama administration. The Constitution gives Congress its own powerful tools to confront presidential lawlessness; the Article I branch does not need the Article III branch to do its heavy lifting. That said, Judge Collyer’s decision on the merits is unassailable.

The media-Democrat narrative that President Trump is imperiously flouting the rule of law has it backwards. In cutting off the insurance-company subsidies, Trump is enforcing the ACA as written, consistent with his constitutional duty to execute the laws faithfully. It was President Obama who usurped Congress’s power of the purse by directing the payment of taxpayer funds that lawmakers had not appropriated.

Finally, the claim that Trump is “unraveling” the ACA would be laughable were it not so cynical. You can’t unravel something by honoring its terms. Obamacare is unraveling because it was designed to unravel. This is not a bug, it’s a feature.

Democrats want single-payer, socialized medicine, with all the central planning and rationing that implies. The public does not want that. Oh, it is fair enough to say the public doesn’t know what exactly it wants. It insists, for example, on mandatory coverage of pre-existing conditions (which is the opposite of insurance) but objects to a mandate (or other form of tax) needed to pay for it. Still, the public has a strong sense that it does not want government-run health care.

The Democrats grasp this. They know they can accomplish The Grand Plan only by inuring the public to it incrementally. That is what Obamacare is built to do. It is intended to unravel, only gradually and with the right villains taking the blame, while the government — having actually caused the problems — emerges as the savior.

Each juncture of the ACA’s inevitable collapse is orchestrated to highlight greedy insurance companies who opt out, or ruthless Republicans — and now, of course, the monstrous Trump — who cut off desperately needed funds. The idea is that when the system finally implodes, the public will be so contemptuous of the insurers and the GOP, they will see the government — the Democrats’ panacea of “free” universal health care — as the only viable option.

This is why the role played by the Democrats’ media allies is so vital. The story can never be that, because of the way the ACA is structured, the insurance companies have no choice but to opt out if they are to survive. It can never be acknowledged that Congress did not actually provide for all the funding Obamacare needs to function because, if Democrats had been straight with the country about costs and objectives, the ACA would never have been enacted.

Republicans are afraid to deep-six Obamacare because they have never explained how bad it is. They do not want to be seen as shafting the people who benefit from it, even though it is at the expense of others who are badly harmed. Meanwhile, the public does not comprehend that Obamacare is unsustainable because the GOP, fearful of being framed for its failure, is actively complicit in (or at least passively resigned to) the shenanigans by which it is propped up.

The best way to make the case for repealing an atrocious law is to execute it faithfully.

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Passive observers of the polarization?

h/t Damon Linker writing in The Week:

Democrats are pragmatists, if they do say so themselves, deeply rooted in the reality-based community, beholden to facts, toiling valiantly and soberly to make the country a better, fairer place. Republicans, meanwhile, are ideologues monomaniacally fixated on cutting government spending and taxes for the wealthy, regardless of the consequences, and moving inexorably further and further to the extreme right.

However, if a recent Pew poll is to be believed, this story is nothing but a self-justifying myth. Yes, many Republicans are ideological, and the party has indeed been moving to the right in recent years. But the truth is that Democrats have simultaneously been moving to the left — and doing so with greater unity and, on some issues, more rapidly than Republicans have been moving right…

What do these changes portend electorally for the future of the Democrats? How will a more coherent and unambiguously left-wing party fare in head-to-head competition with a more sharply divided Republican Party that has an increasingly extreme and highly mobilized right-wing fringe?

There’s no way to know for sure. But what we can know is that Democrats will be much better off if they take a good honest look at themselves, drop their pretenses to fact-based pragmatism, and accept that they’re not passive observers of the polarization that’s gripped our political culture in recent years.

When it comes to identifying the origin of this troubling phenomenon, there’s plenty of blame to go around.

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The new normal: antagonisms, inflamed

Victor Davis Hanson in Columbus Day: Melodrama or Tragedy?

Campuses and Western critics in the last half-century have turned a once risk-taking and heroic Christopher Columbus into an evil emissary of disease and destruction. History is now seen as one-dimensional melodrama in which our contemporary duty is to pick sinners and saints of the past based on our own modern (quite imperfect) perceptions of morality and then judge them worthy of either hagiography or banishment from memory — rather than history as tragedy in which various agendas are often far more complex than just evil versus good.

In the so-called Columbus exchange, true, diseases were inadvertently brought into the New World by rapacious explorers and grasping settlers who followed Columbus that killed millions, but then so were horses, wheat, and rice, which enhanced the human condition. If history is to be reduced to a tit-for-tat scorecard, who can calibrate the good of the imported New World potato and tomato versus the bad of New World tobacco, cocaine, and, most likely, syphilis that would go on to kill and maim hundreds of millions? Without the fertility, climate, and access of the New World, Old World sugar, in small amounts previously imported from India, would have still remained a relative expensive rarity in the West; after Columbus, it would become a staple, with all its lethal results.

Certainly, inherent in the Columbus narrative is now a one-sided anti-Western bias, in which Columbus is demonized for epidemics that followed in a way that, say, the advancing Mongols of the 14th century are not censored as the importers of the plague to Europe that killed more Westerners than any single event until World War II.

Columbus left a continent in which, as elsewhere in the world, religious persecution, slavery, and civil wars were commonplace — and found mostly the same in the New World; the difference in destruction was largely one of scale that hinged on demography and smaller New World populations. Otherwise, the organization and efficacy of religiously driven human sacrifices of Aztec prisoners and subjects sometimes had a proto-Auschwitzean nature about them — but without dissident voices and opposition.

So, what did Columbus accomplish? If demography was destiny, he found a New World in which, to take one later example, North America was by European standards largely underpopulated and his successors opened it to exploration and settlement from a continent whose cities were sometimes 100 times more densely populated. Whereas Europeans had the ability to navigate around the world, indigenous people tragically did not. The logical result was that the more technologically advanced, poor, and overpopulated were going to seek out the naturally rich and sparsely settled, not out of evil per se, but out of collective individual desires to survive and prosper. Both tragedy and civilization followed.

It is fashionable to trash the civilization that created Columbus as destructive and pathological, but those who do so often have never experienced the alternative first-hand or at length, and assume that their own prosperity, security, and protected freedoms are birthrights rather than fragilities that exist largely only in the West and Westernized Asia or emanate only from the Western anomalies of self-criticism, secular rationalism, unfettered inquiry, free expression, constitutional government, free-market economics, private property and religious tolerance.

Today, millions from often premodern conditions in Africa and in southern Mexico and Central America vote with their feet to seek out Europe and the United States, not because it is perfect or they like the West, but because they believe it is potentially advantageous for them in a way their own familiar landscapes and environments have proven quite disadvantageous. In my own environs, Mexican flags and Aztec statuary are quite commonly on display as proof of indigenous credibility, but the real emotion arises at any hint that the border might be closed and pathways into the United States and all that it is and represents, might be curtailed. In some strange reductionist and iconic way, the symbolic world of the Aztecs is romanticized — and left far behind; the world of Columbus is still demonized but constantly sought out. History is ironic and tragic, not a modern melodramatic morality tale.

William McGurn in When Life Imitates the Sopranos:

(The) way it captures the strife and mindlessness that are the harvest of progressive protests pretending to be about diversity and expanded respect for other cultures…

But for all the talk about the “real” Columbus, protesters are unlikely to take up the invitation for further study and debate. For the defining fact of the modern progressive is that he is a pest, and what he wants here is simply to ruin any public celebration an ordinary American might enjoy, whether it be Italian-Americans celebrating Columbus or NFL fans sitting down to watch a game.

Ditto for the call to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day. Few Americans would have an issue with dedicating a day to the achievements of our continent’s native peoples, or even with the claim that these achievements have not been given their just due. But again, the anti-Columbus movement is not about making room for the celebration of indigenous peoples. It’s about taking away a holiday enjoyed by others, or at least creating enough dissonance to suck the life out of it…

Meanwhile, there is now a 24-hour police presence around Columbus Circle. Welcome to the progressive normal, where antagonisms are inflamed, celebrations of a hero of the American founding become politicized—and statues that went unmolested for decades aren’t safe without police protection.

“To paraphrase Mencken,” says Mr. Scalia, “progressivism has become the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be celebrating America.”

 

 

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The 2nd & passionate non-sequiturs

The NRA agrees bump stocks should be regulated like automatic weapons and the NYT calls the 2nd Amendment a cancer that should be repealed outright.  Remind me again who’s the extremist?  Yikes.

It’s a sterile debate full of passionate non-sequiturs.

I’m aware of no other issue that can rival this one for misinformation.  It’s akin to people who’ve never seen a movie or used social media wanting to restrict the 1st Amendment because the founders could never have envisioned modern communications technology.  If you’re one who thinks a semi-automatic is a “machine gun” and that there is something called a “gun show loophole,” you have not done enough homework to argue, oftentimes angrily, about chipping away at the fundamental liberty to self defense.  A liberty that is meaningless if you are denied the means.

Over at The Federalist, Meredith Dake-O’Connor writes that “The loudest voices are often the most ignorant and propose policies that have nothing to do with the tragedies.

Whether it is an explosive news story or a late-night show host, journalists and celebrities are pretty ignorant about guns. I can see why the Left constantly feels right-wingers are deflecting the gun debate because we get pedantic at details, constantly correcting things like the inappropriate labeling of “assault rifles.” While this is an extremely emotional issue after a tragedy, it’s also a policy debate.

Good policies should be extraordinarily specific, explicit, and, you know, accurate in describing what it’s actually legislating. It’s hard for Second Amendment advocates to believe that the loudest voices are approaching this policy issue with seriousness when they constantly get even the most basic details wrong. I don’t want legislation that’s been emotionally manipulated into existence, I want legislation that is shown to actually do what it is intended to do…

I find it hard to have an honest and vulnerable conversation about a deeply held right when the starting point is often challenging my motives while coming from a place of ignorance on firearms. If you’re really looking to win over your gun-loving friend, try reading up on firearms, dumping anti-NRA talking points, and assume her or she is equally committed to preventing these evil acts.

Charles C.W. Cooke responds more directly to the NYT’s description of the “fetish” with the 2nd Amendment here:

I have never understood the conservative fetish for the Second Amendment,” writes Bret Stephens today. And then he proceeds to prove that.

His column is not a rigorous one. Indeed, it is barely a column so much as it is a brusque list of ill-considered assertions that do nothing to grapple with the many arguments to their contrary. …  Had Stephens thought about this topic for the first time yesterday, it is hard to see what would be different about his essay. What a pleasure it must be to sync up with the editors.

The logical jump at the heart of his case is an astounding one. Stephens concedes that the gun-control crowd is a hapless bunch, unable to get even modest measures through Congress, and he concedes that this is because voters know that the Democrats are only paying “lip service” to the Second Amendment and thus don’t trust them around the edges. And then he submits that these same people should switch their focus to all-out repeal. Or, put another way, Stephens argues that the people who can’t get anything because the voters think they want everything should now move to the most extreme position available.

the Second Amendment was not an “amendment” at all, for, unlike some of the subsequent changes to the charter, it represented neither a change in policy nor a remedy for an error. Rather, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights it was the product of a disagreement as to how to best protect freedoms that were generally considered unalienable. For reasons outlined in The Federalist Papers, Madison believed that the power of the federal government would be constrained by its structure; if the central state had only a handful of carefully enumerated powers, he contended, it would not be able to exceed them. Others, the “Anti-Federalists,” disagreed, demanding a belt to add to the suspenders. The debate that followed was strictly structural — not a fight over speech or due process or arms, but over how best to ensure the maintenance of ancient liberty. Madison acknowledged this when introducing the Bill of Rights in Congress. The rights he had included, he made clear to his peers, were those “against which I believe no serious objection has been made by any class of our constituents.” …

They were also responding to the lessons of history. Stephens seems convinced that the Second Amendment is contingent; that is, that its meaning and relevance rely upon the continuing prevalence of redcoats. Surely, Stephens insists, if Madison could see the modern world he would change his mind. I must venture that the very opposite is true. Were he to pick up a history book today, Madison would be shocked indeed. But his surprise would be at the sheer scale and disgrace of the tyrannies that have scarred us since he died. The American Revolution was a beautiful and necessary thing, and yet if one were to have read the litany of complaints to a man in the Warsaw Ghetto, or in Dachau, or in the Gulag, or in the Laogai, or, yes, in the Reconstruction-deprived post-bellum South, he would have laughed in your face. The colonists were that upset  over . . . that?

Well, yes. They were. And they should have been. But let us not pretend that their anguish was equivalent to what came next — in Germany, in Cuba, in Russia, in China, in Mississippi. And let us not pretend that there was more need for safeguards against George III and the Declaratory Act than against the blood-soaked 20th century. … Power, ambition, human nature — these are constants, not variables. And it is for that reason above all else that our enduring Constitution must be cherished. There is rarely a good reason to kick over Chesterton’s fence, even when it is chipped and knotted around the edges, and the villagers are scratching their chins.

Kevin D. Williamson further explains why this is essential, and not some fetish:

Put another way: The right to keep and bear arms would still be there without the Second Amendment. Like the right not to suffer political or religious repression, it exists with or without the law. It is an aspect of the human being, not an aspect of the governments that human beings institute among themselves. The state does not grant the right — the state exists because the right exists and needs protecting from time to time. The state protects our rights from criminals and marauders, and the Constitution protects our rights from their protectors.

No doubt that sounds like a lot of crazy talk to many of our progressive friends. “Rights from God! Imagine!” That is a critical failure of our most progressive institution, the schools, which consistently neglect — or decline — to provide our students with even a rudimentary education in American civics and the history of the American idea. It isn’t that the modern left-winger is obliged to accept the intellectual and philosophical basis of the American order, but he ought to understand that things are the way they are for a reason. The idea that the Second Amendment could simply be repealed —that’s that! — isn’t only an attack on the right to keep and bear arms: It is an attack on the American constitutional order per se. That our progressive friends often are so pristinely ignorant of the moral order underpinning the American founding is one of their great intellectual failures. They do not understand the American idea, and, as a result, they do not really understand their own ideas, either

Our modern progressive friends scoff at the notion that the Second Amendment could really allow ordinary Americans to frustrate the tyrannical ambitions of a modern federal government with the modern U.S. military — gunships, nukes, and all — at its command. That’s probably true, though one need not be a sophisticated military tactician to appreciate the fact that the mighty America military has been bogged down for 15 years in Afghanistan, unable to tame a raggedy gang of modestly armed rustics — there is more to warfare than armaments.

But there is much, much more to that question than revolutionary fantasies. The government’s ability to maintain order does break down from time to time, if only locally and temporarily. The Second Amendment is not only for imaginary revolts against overbearing authorities in Washington. It is for events such as the Los Angeles riots of 1992, during which the local police authorities comprehensively failed in their duty to protect the lives and property of citizens…

The right to bear arms is intrinsically linked to citizenship, another fact well understood by the Founders but lost to many of our contemporaries. From the ancient world through feudal Europe to the American colonies themselves, some people enjoyed the right to bear arms and some did not. In the latter category were serfs and slaves. Slaves and free blacks were of course widely and generally prohibited from owning weapons in the antebellum United States: Under Louisiana law, a black man carrying a cane in public was subject to summary execution; Maryland law forbade free blacks from owning dogs, which were considered a potential weapon. If you desire to know who is really considered a full citizen, look at who is permitted to bear arms. For the Founders, a society in which only government officials enjoyed the right to bear arms could not be a proper democratic republic at all, because the vast majority of the people would have been excluded from full citizenship.

Again, there is nothing requiring the modern American progressive to share this philosophy. But we ought to ask ourselves what the alternative is. The short answer is totalitarianism, in principle if not in practice. If rights come from the state, and if we enjoy our liberty and our property only at the sufferance of the state, then nothing is outside the state, and there are no limits on it other than passing democratic whimsy. (If you think “whimsy” is too loose, consider this progression: Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump . . . ) If everything is negotiable, then there are no rights at all, properly understood.

Daniel Henninger offers politic advice to those making the NYT‘s argument:

Gun control is by now the oldest, most sterile, wheel-spinning issue in American politics. It has nowhere to go, but it keeps coming back

Once again—this may be among the reasons the Democrats lost the 2016 election, have lost control of most state governments and could lose Senate seats next year.

The NRA and pro-gun sentiment doesn’t defeat them. What defeats them is that their compulsive moral condescension impedes their ability to see the country clearly.

Because this debate comes up every time a male brain convinces itself that it should murder masses of people, the opinion polls frequently plumb American opinion about it. The findings are more complicated than what passes for public debate about guns…

Whether that security applies to one’s person, home, neighborhood, city or the nation, progressives and conservatives see humankind and the world it inhabits through a different mental lens. Progressives embrace the benign, while conservatives fear the malign. Liberals say, give peace a chance. Conservatives say, Annie get your gun.

But on this issue, the center in the U.S. has shifted. Conventional Democratic liberalism admitted the reality of security needs, an accommodation being displaced by a progressivism that is largely disdainful of security. So the division is more acute. No matter: The chance that the American people will ever disarm remains zero. Spin on.

Mona Charen agrees that gun-control advocates need to “live in the real world”:

A nation with a Second Amendment, a strong belief in the right to self-defense, and 357 million guns in circulation is not going to have an Australian-style confiscation. Gun-control absolutists need to live in the real world. The U.S. is not going to become Japan, which has almost no guns, or Switzerland, for that matter, which has a gun in every home and virtually no violence…

Machine guns, grenades, and other weapons have been heavily regulated since the National Firearms Act of 1934. A 1986 amendment made it illegal for civilians to own a fully automatic weapon manufactured after May 19, 1986. Machine guns of older vintage are available, but extremely expensive and highly controlled. That’s as it should be. No one thinks our Second Amendment rights are compromised because machine guns are nearly impossible to obtain. So are bazookas and Stinger missiles.

David French explains that we could “do something!” but it’s not what many think:

This is a vital point — one that Powers and other gun-control advocates miss. Refusing to support ineffectual gun-control policies isn’t the same thing as “doing nothing.” Indeed, Second Amendment advocates have a host of ideas for combatting gun crimes and limiting gun deaths — including ideas that might actually prevent mass shootings.

Encouraging businesses to open their premises to armed customers (i.e., limiting the number of “gun free zones”), allowing weapons on college campuses, and permitting qualified and trained teachers to carry weapons in schools gives innocent men and women literally a fighting chance to stop a massacre, and when men and women have that chance they can stop a killer in his tracks. In fact, just days before the terrible attack in Las Vegas, a concealed-carry permit holder stopped a mass shooting at a church in Nashville. Showing incredibly bravery, he physically attacked the shooter, wounded him in the melee, then retrieved his gun from his car, and held the injured attacker at bay until police arrived.

In fact, there are a host of ways to dramatically decrease gun violence while still protecting the Second Amendment. How do we know? We’ve been doing it for a quarter-century. At the same time that legislatures across the country have been loosening gun laws, Americans have purchased an unprecedented number of guns, and millions of citizens have obtained concealed-carry permits — and violent crime has plunged.

It’s too simplistic to say that increased gun ownership is responsible for this decline in crime (though there’s research claiming that it played a part), but the undeniable fact that American gun violence declined even while Americans bought millions more guns shows that there are multiple ways to combat gun violence.

Do we see spikes in violence in cities? Conservatives ask whether changes in police tactics have produced negative results. They also ask, Are existing gun laws unenforced, permitting criminals to obtain guns in defiance of the law? Are more people committing suicide? Thoughtful conservatives seek creative ways to preserve families and strengthen the spiritual institutions that provide the most vital interventions in troubled lives. Is a mass shooter inspired by jihad? Conservatives try to extinguish the terrorist entities that inspire violence and better monitor potential jihadists here at home.

In other words, conservatives offer prayers and policies. It’s just false to claim that “thoughts and prayers” conservatives throw up their arms and say that there’s nothing we can do. They offer multiple potential remedies, but without promising what no person can guarantee — that any set of public policies can stop every evil person hell-bent on mass murder.

Let’s throw this challenge back to the Left. If you reject “thoughts and prayers” in favor of so-called common-sense gun control policies that wouldn’t stop either the Las Vegas shooting or any other mass shooting in the recent past, I’d ask that you’d do something actually constructive. Start praying. Because prayer helps. Your policies won’t.

Michael Brendan Dougherty points out that there is, still, a valid defense against tyranny within the 2nd.

They ask something like this: “Do you really think Bubba in camo gear hiding in the forest is going to take on the U.S. military? The U.S. military has nuclear weapons!”

Who exactly do you think has stymied the U.S. in Afghanistan for 16 years? The Taliban is made up of Afghan Bubbas. The Taliban doesn’t need to defeat nuclear weapons, though they are humiliating a nuclear power for the second time in history. They use a mix of Kalashnikovs and WWII-era bolt-action rifles. Determined insurgencies are really difficult to fight, even if they are only armed with Enfield rifles and you can target them with a TOW missiles system that can spot a cat in the dark from two miles away. In Iraq, expensive tanks were destroyed with simple improvised explosives…

All great powers take into account the moral and manpower costs of implementing their rules and laws on a people. … The British technically could have deployed their entire navy, blockading the restive island, and starving any rebellion into submission. But they were unwilling to pay the moral price, or the price in blood. …

And just as in the 1770s or the 1920s, governments in similar positions today or in the future would have a difficult time maintaining military morale while trying to impose rule on a people who resist it manfully.

You can acknowledge this and still deplore America’s gun violence, as I do. You can wish and even work for an American future where there are fewer weapons in untrained and unsteady American hands. And, we all should wish to maintain a law-governed and orderly society that doesn’t inspire thousands or millions of Americans to resist its government in an insurgency. But in the meantime, don’t do violence to history itself. With just the moral support of the society they are living in, and a number of rifles, a small group of men can make it impossible for tyrants to rule.

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True socialism

Jonah Goldberg writes on the NYT’s “Red Century” feature.

It’s an incredibly useful debating tactic to say that every failed socialist country wasn’t really socialist because it had a ruling class. The problem is that there will never be a “true” socialist country because ruling classes are inevitable. The unapologetic reds should spend a little less time reading Marx and read more Max Nomad, Milovan Djilas, Max Schachtman, James Burnham, and other Communists and former Communists who understood that any attempt to create a “true socialist” society runs into the Iron Law of Oligarchy. Every organization requires some small group of people to make important decisions. They may use their special knowledge and power to help people, but it’s also a sure bet that they will use it to help themselves as well. A society without democratic institutions and market mechanisms by its nature will invest bureaucrats with enormous power to make choices about how other people will live.

Anyway, what got me thinking about Communism in the first place was this story. It turns out that Russian meddling in the election wasn’t reserved for generating an army of MAGA Twitter bots:

A social media campaign calling itself “Blacktivist” and linked to the Russian government used both Facebook and Twitter in an apparent attempt to amplify racial tensions during the U.S. presidential election, two sources with knowledge of the matter told CNN.

This is amusing for a bunch of reasons, but the relevant one brings us back to the Times’ Red Century stuff. It is absolutely true that many dedicated American Communists and Communist sympathizers cared sincerely and passionately about civil rights. And that cause was indeed good and noble. But what gets left out of the picture is that Soviet support for their cause was not good and noble. It was, simply, evil and cynical. First of all, the notion that a totalitarian dictatorship that murdered and enslaved its own people actually cared about civil rights for Americans shouldn’t have passed the laugh test…  when you read about how American Communists and fellow-travelers had the best of intentions and were on the right side of history, bear in mind that these people were at best noble dupes and useful idiots for an evil empire.

The Times ought to remember that century was also red as in blood, largely because it was red in politics.

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