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So, according to Yahoo News, some guy, a public health employee of Los Angeles County, delivered horse manure in a Christmas package to Steven Mnuchin’s house in Los Angeles as a protest against the tax bill. This is a quick back-of-the-envelope list of why this stunt was foolish:

1) It plays right into the idea that liberal extremists are rude exhibitionists who just don’t other, more square, people very much. Giving somebody – anybody – the digested leavings of a horse – really? Just thoughtless and unkind. And despite what the sender thought, really unfunny (see #3)

2) The letter of protest along with the manure was signed, “The American People”. It is highly presumptuous to do almost anything in the name of “The American People”. “The American People”, like any group of 300 million people, have a hard time agreeing on virtual anything of controversy. Think about it – the war in Afghanistan, single payer health insurance, nuclear power, Taylor Swift as an artist – the American people have a range of opinion on each. To claim to speak for all of them on any matter – especially one like this millions of them will lose money and millions more will get it – is an exercise in moral narcissism.

3) As I imagine the sender well knows, senior public officials get regular threats against themselves and/or their families. That’s why this letter wasn’t funny. Somebody had to figure out this package contained merely horse manure. Officials had to x-ray the thing because it could have been, and occasionally is, something more dangerous. So this package and its contents needlessly messed up the workday of some poor employee not named Steven Mnuchin (who wasn’t home and likely went on his way blissfully unaware of any security concerns).  Furthermore, it needlessly cost taxpayers money.  I figure the sender, being a public health official in Los Angeles County, would consider public funds scarce enough.  I don’t see why he thinks he has the right to make them even more so.  Unless of course, like in paragraph #2 (so to speak) – moral narcissism.

At the risk of costing the taxpayer another fifty cents, Mr. Mnuchin might want to have a short note sent to the sender to thank him for his gift and letting him know the Secretary would be using it to improve his daffodils.  Such a delicate response might be noteworthy for the presence of a little good-natured humor and its lack of Trumpian sound and fury.

Look, I’ve got a few issues with the tax bill and more with Mr. Mnuchin personally. He strikes me as a guy who was born fabulously wealthy and had his path through Goldman Sachs blazed for him by his father and older brother, so he never had to struggle or worry about finances like regular Americans. He’s not the person whom I would have chosen for Treasury Secretary. No matter. Despite what the sender might imagine, this wasn’t funny or even clever. I would be upset if this had been done to any member of any administration. It is no way to treat a public official or really, anybody.

-1TF

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Politico reported on widespread speculation on Capitol Hill that then aging and ailing senior senator from Mississippi, Thad Cochran (R-MS), may retire early next year. (h/t politicalwire.com)

Should that happen, the Magnolia State’s governor, Phil Bryant, will have the responsibility of choosing a successor. This writer respectfully implores the Governor to appoint someone who won’t embarrass the state or the Republican Party. Please avoid the debacle that occurred next door. When Jeff Sessions resigned his seat in Alabama, the embattled then-governor Robert Bentley appointed the attorney general that had been investigating Mr. Bentley for ethics and law violation. How that was not investigated for obstruction of justice, I know not. That mal-appointed senator, Luther Strange, never, ever should have accepted something of value – namely the Senate seat – from the governor he was investigating. Strange managed to lose a primary to disgraced judge Roy Moore, who then managed to lose the seat to Democratic prosecutor Doug Jones. The whole thing was just a perfect storm of depravity and incompetence.

Please, Governor Bryant, should the moment present itself, choose someone who won’t embarrass your state. Choose someone who can withstand a primary challenge from anyone who would embarrass your state. Cast a wide net in your search.  Get caught looking for someone other than a white male.  I’m not saying you can’t choose a white male; the best candidate may wind up being one.  But your pool of contenders should look like the citizens of Mississippi, who last I checked, included about 1.5 million females and more than a million African-Americans.  I’m a pro-life conservative; I would hope any new senator would be as well.  But there are conservatives with whom moderates can work, and conservatives who only speak to their base and turn off everyone else.

I wish Senator Cochran good health and that he and his family have times of peace and love in the days ahead.  Meanwhile, I suspect that the Governor will have to make an important choice.  There are plenty of right-of-center, inclusive possibilities.  Choose wisely, Governor.

– 1TF

 

The news this morning carried an article about Bill Gates investing in land to build a “smart city” in the Arizona desert. It got me to thinking about the word “smart” being used to advance progressive policies.

People who like new-urbanism like to promote “smart-growth”.  The problem with this type of talk is that it makes the unspoken assumption that opposing ideas are by definition, “dumb”.  Hillary Clinton used to talk about “smart power”, the obvious unsaid statement being that other ways of projecting power were the result of ignorance. This came from a person who supported toppling both the Iraq and Libya invasions, against the 2007 surge of American troops, and oversaw the mistake-ridden aftermath in Libya. It takes some nerve to talk about “smart power” after all of those decisions.

I met a whole lot of so-called “smart” people in law school. Some really were smart. Some were merely book-smart. Some were industrious overachievers. And a few, I wondered what they were doing there.  As noted in the famous Fredo and Michael scene in Godfather II, even stupid people hate being considered stupid.

Describing policies as “smart” sounds smug, self-satisfied, exclusive and in a democratic society that depends on the votes of the many, well … kinda dumb.

Congressional passed a use of force authorization on September 14, 2001, three days after nineteen Saudi Arabian terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center, Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. It is now October 2017., and high time for the American people, through their Congress, to check our azimuth and see if we want our military to make a course correction. We shouldn’t drift aimlessly into the next armed conflict in some country where we least expect it. Our country’s military has fought in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines, Yemen, Somalia amongst others. The Marine Corps has been a major tenant in Djibouti for more than a decade. Millions of Americans were surprised to learn of U.S. troops dying in military operations in Niger and Mali, being wholly unaware we even had troops there.

While it’s not Congress’ job to micromanage combat operations, it is Congress’ job to decide whether we should be in certain theaters of war in the first place. The vast majority of the 2001 authorizers are retired and/or dead. The Senate co-sponsor, Jesse Helms, has been dead for nine years. We are now on our third president since the original authorization. It’s time to review that authorization, scope and bound it if need be, and make sure our military is actually doing what the country wants it to be doing. A review once every sixteen years isn’t too much to ask.

– 1TF

On Las Vegas

Words feel pretty useless at a time like this. On Sunday, October 1st, one man with an arsenal of weapons shot hundreds of concert goers in Las Vegas.

A few thoughts:

1) The gunman shot people attending a Jason Aldean concert. That makes me question . While most folks on the coasts probably aren’t familiar with Aldean, he is immensely popular amongst those in the “Flyover States” (which is also the name of a major Aldean hit on country radio). It seems an odd demographic to shoot up if the gunman was simply a conservative “angry white male” striking out at the modern world. There’s something else going on here, which brings me to #2.

2) Look hard at the gunman’s finances. He’s supposed to have been rich, but he really liked to gamble.  A lot.  Maybe he lost a lot more money than those around him realized, and was angry about it.

3) ISIS has claimed credit.  On the one hand, ISIS tends not to claim credit for attacks that aren’t there’s, so it’s worth checking this claim more deeply.  On the other hand, the facts as released so far don’t appear to bear their claim out.  Perhaps ISIS, whose land under control is down to just a sliver along the Iraqi-Syrian border, is trying to change the narrative by claiming this shooting.  But still … worth checking.

4) My guess is that a week ago, most folks had never heard of bump stocks; I know I didn’t.  Fully automatic weapons are for all intents and purposes illegal.  So should be something that operates as a workaround to turn a semi-automatic weapon (which is legal) into a fully automatic one (which is not). I support the Second Amendment fairly broadly, but I think reasonable people across the spectrum ought to agree in the narrow area of bump stocks and another workaround, trigger cranks.

5) He shot from the 32nd floor, making it virtually impossible for anyone to return fire. It’s a scenario I hadn’t considered before. Those of us who are Second Amendment supporters need to think how we address that situation. The shooter has opened a terrifying window. Does anyone think terrorists haven’t noticed? In the short term, perhaps large city police forces may have a sniper on standby or stationed at a high perch over large assemblies. But in the long term, we really need to consider how we are to deal with the high altitude shooter. A bump stock and trigger crank ban is a good start, but don’t expect the bad guys to actually follow the rule. How do we deal with the next one? The idea that we simply accept it as the “cost of freedom” isn’t the right answer. Scrapping the Second Amendment isn’t the right answer either. We’ve got to come up with a better one.

– 1TF

Yesterday, former acting CIA Director Michael Morrell resigned his position at Harvard to protest the school’s Institute of Politics’ fellowship offer to former Army Private First Class Chelsea Manning, who as PFC Bradley Manning, was troubled by actions of military personnel in Afghanistan and thus passed along secret military information to WikiLeaks.  Late word has come down that Harvard has rescinded that disputed fellowship offer.  I think the school  belatedly made the right decision.

If Harvard is looking to have a transgender fellow for its Institute of Politics, surely the number of transgender individuals is such that Harvard can look a little harder and do better than to hire someone who gave confidential military information to WikiLeaks.  If Harvard is looking to have a Fellow with ground-level knowledge of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there are literally thousands of former Marine and Army squad leaders who led troops and interacted with the native population in both peace and war – black, white, male, female, liberal, conservative, gay, straight, etc.  It’s a population large enough that if Harvard looks hard enough, it can pretty much find exactly what it wants ideologically without resorting to someone who gave away secrets.   Plus, they could offer a more granular level of knowledge of what it’s like to be front-line soldier.  Former Private First Class Manning manned a computer at an operations center; it’s relevant, but it’s not front-line knowledge.

I understand PFC Manning’s deep concerns about some ways in which the war was being conducted.  But that’s why there’s an Inspector General in each Army division.  There was a legal way to raise a red flag and it would have been well within PFC Manning’s rights and responsibility to do so.  But PFC Manning chose a path that was illegal and potentially dangerous for fellow American servicemembers.  And that’s just not okay with Director Morrell and the vast majority of American soldiers.

-1TF

 

Yesterday was the Feast of the Holy Cross in the Roman Catholic Church. This got me to thinking – when, one steps away and looks at it from a distance, the veneration of the cross is a strange thing. Victims of the Holocaust remember the crematoriums, but they certainly don’t venerate them. People may respect the patriots Crispus Attucks and Nathan Hale, but they don’t venerate the rifles or rope which ended them. Thomas More fans don’t venerate the ax.

So why this veneration of the implement of execution?  It may be the idea of displacement.  This has been seen done by the homosexual community appropriating the words gay and queer, and by doing so, turning them from pejorative terms four decades ago into mere descriptions these days.  More recently, “deplorables” and “nasty woman” were terms uttered by presidential candidates that were then gleefully used by their opponents to describe themselves.  In each of these cases, the objects of scorn turned the use of a term back on itself.

The cross on which Jesus was crucified may have been more in the shape of a capital “T” then in the form we think of now.  It appears this, not the current symbol was what early Christians used, taking its place with the fish, lamb and an X that supposedly represented Christ.   This implement of torture and death has been turned back on itself.  The practice has been largely eliminated; the church and its symbol go on.

So why the cross?  It’s not clear, but I propose on possibility:  it might just be smart politics.  While the fish was a way to say Christ would provide, the cross could be a way to say either “Christ loved us enough to die for us” or in the alternative “I am willing to take up my cross, and not even death will stop us.”  That can be a useful symbol of power and affirmation in a church that consisted of the poor and powerless for its first three centuries.  If nothing else, it didn’t appear to hurt.  By the time of the Emperor Constantine’s conversion in 315 A.D., Christians were regularly making the sign of the cross (although “crucifixes” or crosses with Christ on them wouldn’t appear for another 200 years.)

This implement of torture and death has been turned back on itself.  The practice has been largely eliminated; the church and its symbol go on.

` 1TF