Listen to the Voices 7/16/2016

Guns, Misconduct, and Strategy

What must we do when society’s weakest links can inflict deadly damage, and a bad shooting can involve a good cop?

We become more secure when those who protect us are given measured, tested, state-of-the-art strategies.

We become less vulnerable when we restrict the ability to inflict widespread violent force to those whom we can trust.


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Guns, Misconduct, and Strategy

It was a bad shooting. A kid, innocent of any crime, would never walk again.

He was shot in the back by a detective while deciding what sandwich to buy at the counter of a little sub shop in Baltimore. The detective caught a glimpse of metal as the teen pulled an object out of his pocket. The detective fired.

The flash of metal turned out to be a lighter. There was no imminent danger, no crime in progress.

A police review was later quoted in civil suits against the city of Baltimore and the detective.

The detective “did not accost the suspects, identify himself as a Police Officer, and conduct a stop and frisk” or “identify himself as a Police Officer to the owner or employee of the Pizza shop and request they telephone for a back-up unit.” And “there existed insufficient facts and circumstances to warrant reasonable belief of imminent danger to himself.”

17 year old Ja-Wan McGee lost the use of his legs. He lived with that forever.

The police detective lived with it, as well as the loss of his career, for the next quarter century. Former officer Scottie McCown died in 2004.

Years after the incident, author David Simon defended the detective.

The area in which the shooting occurred had been afflicted with a series of robberies. One of the perpetrators had brandished a small silver pistol. The officer had watched the young man and a friend peering through the shop window as if planning something. He saw the metalic flash as that pistol, a gun putting the life of the shop owner in danger.

Simon goes on to a more general observation: that we in the non-policing public are often afflicted with a false expectation. We construct what Simon calls “the myth of perfection.”

It doesn’t matter that a shouted warning concedes every advantage to the gunman, that death can come in the time it takes for a cop to identify himself or demand that a suspect relinquish a weapon. It doesn’t matter that in a confrontation of little more than a second or two, a cop is lucky if he can hit center mass from a distance of twenty feet, much less target extremities or shoot a weapon from a suspect’s hand. And it doesn’t matter whether a cop is an honorable man, whether he truly believes he is in danger, whether the shooting of a black suspect sickens him no less than if the man were white.

– David Simon, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, 1991

In the deepest part of human nature, we abhor injustice. In a sort of emotional version of fight-or-flight, we face opposite motivations. We find ways to work against injustice, or we find ways to justify injustice. We blame the perpetrator or we blame the victim.

What we often fail to do is to acknowledge the terrible fact that some tragedy happens without malevolence. People can be injured or die when no guilty party is to be found, when no villain exists.

We cannot bring ourselves to believe that a bad shooting can happen at the hands of a good police officer. And yet it can and does.

That is not always the case, of course.

Redditt Hudson is a retired veteran of the Police Department here in St. Louis, where he served for 5 years. He agrees with the rough estimate of one expert police instructor.

On any given day, in any police department in the nation, 15 percent of officers will do the right thing no matter what is happening. Fifteen percent of officers will abuse their authority at every opportunity. The remaining 70 percent could go either way depending on whom they are working with.

If 5 out of 6 police officers act fairly in protecting citizens, then that means most encounters will be fair and benevolent. It also means that some encounters will be the moral equivalent of Russian roulette. Will the approaching officer be the 5 out of 6? or the 1 out of 6 you do not want to meet?

People of color are disproportionately the victims of police misconduct.

Police culture has a deep influence, and it varies from department to department. At our own occasional family gatherings in Illinois, relatives who travel by car share information on what routes they have learned to take.

On this road you’ll be safe if you obey the law, on that road you’re liable to be stopped and harassed as soon as you are seen driving while black. And if you are stopped, keep your hands visible – on the steering wheel until instructed by an officer to move. Some encounters with police can be counted on to be exercises in deliberate humiliation, with a whiff of danger.

A few politicians deny that police misconduct is a meaningful issue at all. They point to attacks by black criminals on black citizens as having a greater impact than police misconduct. That has both the virtue of being the truth and the fatal flaw of being irrelevant. Ordinary citizens should revile criminal predators. Ordinary citizens should not have to fear their own government or the agents of that government who are assigned to protect them.

There are sometimes collisions, even among people of good will. Can we understand spur-of-the-moment conduct that turns out to be fatally improper?

How can we not empathize with an African American motorist in Minneapolis who does everything he is told to do by a police officer, and does it with precision? Explaining to an officer that he has a firearm, and that he is licensed to carry the weapon, then obeying an instruction to reach for his driving license and automobile registration does not seem to leave much room for guilt. This seems to have been a man shot for doing the right thing.

The temptation is to judge every police shooting in a statistical context. Too many officers guilty of unjustifiable conduct are not held accountable, the logic seems to be, and so the next incident needs to result in an imposed penalty on an officer. Resisting that logic means that each case needs to be judged in its own context.

We do not yet know it to be the case, but it is not impossible to envision the reaction of a nervous police officer on a bad day, stopping a motorist who announces that he has a weapon and who then reaches suddenly for what turns out to be his wallet.

The fact, if it turns out to be fact, that the officer ordered the shooting victim to reach for his license and registration may not have been the only departure from safe practice. Experts explain that, with training and drill, tactical decisions can defuse bad split second decisions well before they can even happen. On-the-spot misjudgments are reduced when those judgments are replaced by strategy that is planned beforehand. Human beings do not have to decide what to do in a fraction of a second if they already know what to do.

Moments before shooting began in Dallas, police mingled with those who were protesting police misconduct, exchanging greetings, posing with protesters for photos. It was not an isolated event that came from spontaneous good will. The friendly interaction was part of a pattern that has been developing for years.

The Dallas Police Department has reduced complaints against officers from 147 in 2009 – 147 – to 13 so far this year. In the same period, serious crime also went down. This was not accomplished by cracking down on the police, or even by encouraging officers to be kinder and gentler. Training, management, and professional accountability have had an effect. It would in any organization composed of humans who are called upon to perform an important specialized role.

Much of the Dallas strategy came from science. A few years ago, Dallas police began participating in a national task force on 21st century policing. Experts joined with experienced professionals to examine and measure what has worked and what has not.

Like any professional organization, society is composed of humans. A professional organization can effectively act to make every weak link stronger. When everyone in an organization is affected by every weak link, making every link stronger will have an effect.

Human society is not so simple. Empowering those of good will is an intuitive step. But asking folks to be good guys does not, by itself, seem to be an effective answer.

Regardless of general good will, society’s weakest links have a disproportionate effect on the rest of us. Part of that comes from technology. The ability to efficiently kill or injure large numbers of people is becoming increasingly available at a lower cost.

Reflexive opposition to every rational step toward gun safety does afford a high degree of gun freedom. The most enthusiastic of gun advocates suggest that unrestricted freedom to own powerful weapons provides a needed check on the heavy hand of government, as enforced by agents of the law.

We have seen that philosophy put to deadly action by a sniper in Dallas. Agents of the law were precisely targeted.

The terrible reality is that society will always have some share of weakest links – those subject to emotional vulnerability, mental illness, religious zealotry, or simple malevolence. When we cannot have even delays in the sale of heavy weapons to those known by authorities as suspected terrorists, something is wrong.

Gun ideology, taken to an extreme, has made all of us vulnerable to every weakest link. I want to trust the friendly police officer patroling my neighborhood. With a little more caution, I can even trust a heavily armed neighbor, if I know him. I do not want to trust my life and the lives of my family to every armed stranger any of us may encounter.

  • Police and community can act together to promote cooperation and safety. We know this because, in many communities, it is being done.
  • Police tactical skills can be developed as we measure what strategies are effective in protecting police and the public. We know this because, in many police departments, it is being done.
  • As society continues to progress, perhaps we can even come to a time when people of color, when people of every color, no longer need to develop informal skills in order to survive encounters with some small number of those assigned to protect us.

Perhaps we can someday even find ways to invite every neighbor to live in peace.

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Clinton So Evil, Benghazi, Media Equilibrium, Free Will

  • Infidel753, a nearly always astute internet presence, has severe medical problems, and feels “alienated from the American liberal internet” over gun control and other issues. He announces that he will no longer be with us, at least for a while. Our loss.
    Ironically, I had recently mentioned Infidel as one of the few bloggers capable of presenting a good case against gun control.
    Elvis has left the building.
    Sad to see him go.
    Hope he returns.
  • Jerry Wolfe at Dog Bless Us One And All cannot resist his addiction to ClintonHate. Bill Clinton’s dumb-as-a-head-of-lettuce visit with Loretta Lynch is not enough opportunity. Not only is Jerry certain about improper process-tampering, but now the life of the Attorney General is in danger. After all, remember all the one time Friends of Bill who ended up murdered by the former First Couple of Killers? Remember how Ron Brown died in a plane crash?
    Yeah, that’s what he says.
  • Last Of The Millenniums carries the message as Andy Borowitz appreciates the depth of the latest investigation of Benghazi.
  • Jack Jodell at The Saturday Afternoon Post contemplates the boorish whoppers told by Mr. Trump and the desperate contortions of mainstream reporting to be balanced rather than truthful.
  • The Big Empty finds a campaign ad pretty much guaranteed to convince all but the lost souls of the hopeless to oppose Donald Trump.
  • tengrain at Mock Paper Scissors quotes Republican Senator Ron Johnson, WI, on whether insurance companies should be able to cancel coverage for any client who develops cancer.
  • Oh wow. Wisconsin conservative James Wigderson has a near death experience, and writes an open letter of sorts to the driving slacker who nearly killed him.
  • Max’s Dad tries to take a break from gun and death issues and ends up at a concert, where he celebrates Ringo Starr.
  • In The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser, Melody begins with the apparent contradiction between God’s omniscience and human free will, writing about the curious Christian resistance to curiosity.
    Her starting point reminds me of the late Isaac Bashevis Singer, who summed up the argument, “We have to believe in free will. We’ve got no choice.”
    I sometimes have to struggle with impatience at the occasional Christian embrace of incurious certainty. I have for years carried with me this, from Jesuit philosopher Thomas Merton. It helps me maintain.
  • Flags are at half-staff by Presidential order for five officers murdered by sniper during a peaceful protest in Texas. Officers had been posing with protesters moments before shots were fired.

    Additional prayers in Missouri for a police officer shot from behind during what ought to have been a routine traffic stop in Ballwin, here in St. Louis County.

Gun Laws: We Will Not Tolerate Disruption

We begin with Alabama Governor George Wallace, as portrayed in a trailer for the movie Selma, talking about putting down demonstrators agitating for civil rights.

The Governor explained that he would not tolerate agitators.

We will not tolerate agitators attempting to orchestrate a disturbance in this state.

Apparently, he suspected them of attempting to orchestrate a disturbance.

The things they never taught us in high school history.

When I went to school in the 1950s and 60s, American history was still in the grip of research that had been done decades before.

School books written for my generation accepted as fact research that could be traced into the previous century. America had been playing hide-and-seek with slavery ever since the Civil War. So we were told that the bloody conflict was largely fought as a principled states rights issue with slavery as an important factor. Abraham Lincoln was a moderate who was interested in ending slavery, but was mostly concerned with playing fair and going easy on the defeated post-war South.

The South was implicitly defined as the white south, and “going easy” was accepted as having a relaxed attitude toward the rights of former slaves. None of that was printed, of course. None of it was said. What is unstated doesn’t have to be defended, or even subject to questioning.

We were told that, after Lincoln was killed, Radical Republicans were far from interested in playing fair. They only wanted to punish the South. But Andrew Johnson, who inherited the Presidency from Lincoln, resisted those harsh measures. He remained loyal to Lincoln’s broader vision of union, peace, and generosity in victory.

It was history as reflected in a funhouse mirror. Distorted. It had every virtue except fidelity to the truth. It was a lie.

One of my favorite stories from real American history involves John Quincy Adams. It was not presented in any school book that I was ever shown. I came across some bit of scholarship later in life. I’ve written about it before.

John Quincy Adams was President number six. Until George W. Bush took office, he was the only President who was also the son of a President. His father was John Adams.

We were taught that John Quincy Adams was Secretary of State for James Monroe, and that he was a pretty good Secretary of State. But he was elected President in a very close four-candidate race and became a bit of an jerk in office. He lost re-election, but became the only President ever to later become a member of Congress.

I have become a bit of a skeptic about the jerk-while-President chapter of history. Partly it’s because of the way he kept breaking the rules later on while he was in Congress. The man was a genius.

In the late 1830s Congressional Representatives from slave-holding regions began to get fed up with petitions favoring abolition. The Constitution guaranteed the right of petition, but the irritation got to be too much. The conservative Congress passed a rule forbidding consideration of petitions about slavery. Then they banned any debate about slavery at all.

Former President John Quincy Adams, by then, had become a member of the House. He began finding ways to force the issue. The rule prohibited any member of Congress from presenting any petition from his constituents about slavery. So John Quincy Adams presented a petition to allow petitions about slavery. Pro-slavery Congressional representatives objected to this. They insisted that talking about petitions to allow petitions about slavery was the same as talking about slavery, and that broke the rules. So Adams demanded a debate on whether they were right about the rules. During the debate about whether the petitions about petitions would violate the gag rule, he went on at length about slavery.

Eventually, he lost the debate and was told that debate about petitions about petitions about slavery was out of order, and he had better not ever do that again.

Then he presented a petition from a group saying the spirit of the Declaration of Independence was against slavery. He was ruled out of order. He presented another petition that simply asked Congress to respect the Declaration of Independence. That was ruled out of order.

That was considered a major Congressional embarrassment. He had gotten the conservative Congress to come out against the Declaration of Independence.

Since a petition on abolishing slavery had been ruled out of order, he asked for a ruling on whether a petition could be heard on whether to extend slavery, thus allowing for discussion against the petition. During the debate about the right to petition in favor of slavery, he spoke extensively about, well, slavery.

Irritation escalated with each provocation. Slaveholders became outraged. A motion was finally introduced to formally censure the former President. He had broken the rules of the House of Representatives by violating the gag order. Adams insisted that he had the right to defend himself against the charges. He used a lot of his time … you guessed it … to discuss his feelings about slavery. After all, it pertained to the charges against him.

This sort of thing went on and on, year after year. Adams seemed never to wear down.

Eventually the House of Representatives got sick of being forced to come out against everything held sacred by Americans, just to enforce a gag rule that was being violated anyway. The rule was abolished six years after it was established.

How could someone like that have been a jerk earlier in life when he was President?

I thought about this continuous working around the rules in the aftermath of more recent events in Congress.

Or out of Congress, depending on the rules.

After the Orlando shootings, the greatest number of people killed by a single shooter in American history, Congress. held. a moment. of silence. Democrats finally got mad. They demanded a vote on a very modest new gun rule. Anyone who had been on a terrorist no-fly list, or on any terrorist watch list and who was about to buy a weapon capable of such mass killing would be investigated before the purchase could be final.

Conservatives became hyper-sensitive about the rights of accused terrorists. They argued that innocent people could find themselves on a terrorist watch list. Due process is important. Democrats suggested that an investigation into the background of an accused terrorist would only result in a delay of a few days of gun ownership in cases involving those who are innocent of being terrorists.

To those of us outside the legislative process, and perhaps insufficiently concerned with the second amendment rights of accused terrorists, it became hard to understand why anyone would actually want high grade weapons to be sold to followers of ISIS. Someone with a sociopathic desire for manufacturing profits, perhaps. Maybe some organization functioning as a lobby group for sociopathic manufacturers. But who else?

It seems like a bumper sticker issue:
“Is your representative voting to allow the NRA to sell weapons to ISIS?”

Democrats wanted a vote. Republicans control the House of Representatives and they said no. So Democrats held a sit-in.

Republicans adjourned the House of Representatives, then reconvened long enough to declare a legislative day to begin and end, and adjourned again. Then they turned off the cameras.

Well okay. All to be expected.

But technology does have some benefits.

The sit-in members had cell phones and they sent out videos of the sit-in. Social media and C-SPAN picked up the videos. Almost as good as the official images would have been if official business was being conducted.

The results are a little confusing.

Republicans are accusing Democrats of using those videos of official proceedings for social media activism, including the raising of funds for gun-safety groups. That’s against the rules. Members of Congress cannot use videos of official proceedings for raising funds.

But the house cameras were turned off by Republicans, right? That’s because they adjourned Congress so the proceedings were not official.

  • So the official proceedings were stopped by Republicans.
  • So the cameras could be turned off by Republicans.
  • The unofficial events were sent out by cell phone to social media by Democrats.
  • Which Republicans say is illegal, because the unofficial proceedings were actually official proceedings.

Got that?

In the meantime, Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said that the sit-in was just a publicity stunt, and that it better not happen again. “We will not take this. We will not tolerate this.”

It did remind me of similar confrontations in the past. John Lewis led the House sit-in, demanding a vote against selling guns to accused terrorists without any investigation. That happens to be the same John Lewis who was nearly killed in civil rights demonstrations in the south during Jim Crow days. Paul Ryan’s reaction also struck a chord.

He will not tolerate a publicity stunt designed to orchestrate a disturbance in the House.

Compare Paul Ryan:
“We will not take this.”
With George Wallace:
“We will not tolerate agitators attempting to orchestrate a disturbance in this state.”
With Paul Ryan:
“We will not tolerate this.”.

Parallels are sometimes merely coincidental. They can rhyme without overlapping.

Civil rights eventually had victories, although there is still a distance to go on voting rights, discrimination, and poverty. And a bill keeping gun manufacturers from selling guns to accused terrorists may also see some progress.

Paul Ryan, who will not tolerate agitators in the House, has, in the end, agreed to a vote.

Probably nothing more than a symbolic move, but symbolism is all Martin Luther King started with, if you get the rhyme.

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Wexit, Brexit, Koch, UN Black Trucks, Sit-in, Romney, Aliens

  • The Big Empty watches George Will walk away from the Republican Party, renouncing membership, changing registration, making a public announcement, and reflects on how poor Mr. Will helped create the problem he deplores.
  • Vincent at A wayfarer’s notes does not know whether the vote to leave the European Union was wise, suggesting it was largely unknowable because of a lack of reliable non-biased propaganda. He does celebrate that the vote could happen at all, a reflection of the value of democracy. He seems to be saying that part of the price of freedom is the ability to exercise bad judgment.
  • Nothing succeeds like success, right? Determination, the willingness to knock down and destroy any obstacle, gets a portion of our weekly worship. Jack Jodell at The Saturday Afternoon Post takes a different view as the Koch brothers apply that ethic to knocking down and destroying the primary obstacle to profits. That chief obstacle being democracy itself.
  • tengrain at Mock Paper Scissors notices Sarah Palin asking hard questions about UN trucks spotted going through Virginia. So tengrain investigates by – you know – reading, and comes up with answers.
  • nojo at Stinque examines the frustrating institutional ritual of ceremonial post-shooting grief in Congress – everybody bows heads for a moment of silence – then reviews the John Lewis led sit-in. A little hope can go a long way.
  • At Crooks and Liars, Frances Langum assures conservatives that the blog’s endorsement earlier in the year of Mitt Romney for President – replacing Donald Trump – was an April Fool’s joke. Republicans can stop trying to make the joke real.
  • Let’s be clear. James Wigderson is pretty much always a superb writer supporting, as he does, conservative causes. When he strays from politics to entertainment, he becomes more entertaining than the entertainment itself. For example, his review of Hamlet and the drama surrounding the filming of it.
  • Jerry Wolfe at Dog Bless Us One And All goes to the movies and discovers he really doesn’t like the sequal to one sci-fi flick about aliens re-invading the earth. When will they ever learn?

Pre-autopsy – Why the Republican Party is Crashing

Things looked dismal in 2010 as Democrats watched the approach of electoral disaster.

It was a season of conservative rage. Pretty much every season is a season of conservative rage. It has been so since President Obama first took office.

But 2010 was also a time of slow, frustratingly slow, economic recovery.

January 20, 2009 had seen the first inauguration of the first African-American President of the most powerful country in the history of the world. January 20, 2009 had also seen the single meeting designed to slow and, if possible, stop the sluggish economic recovery.

Republican legislative leaders gathered at a Washington restaurant and hammered out an agreement. They would oppose, and delay, and, whenever it could be done, kill any proposal that came from the new President. Reform, efficiency, appointments, laws, would all be on the chopping block. Even proposals that had been eagerly advocated by Republicans in previous years would be opposed by Republicans for the next four years.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell had organized the meeting. He issued the guiding principle. There would be only one priority. This President will not, must not, have a second term. That meant one mission, one above all others. Anything that might promote economic recovery would be tied up in legislative obstruction.

In the world outside of Washington, the economy was paramount. Senate procedures, the tool by which Republicans worked tirelessly to break the recovery, were an arcane mystery to most most of the public. The glacial recovery looked lost, and voters saw a Democratic majority. Who you gonna blame?

By 2010, the answer to that was clear. Republicans were in the ascendancy, the surge seemed across the board.

In the midst of all that, I rashly predicted the demise of the Republican Party as a national force. Within the next ten years, I said, the death throes would be evident. It hasn’t happened yet, but today it does look plausible. The process has been accelerating just below the surface for a generation. Teutonic shifts that precede massive earthquakes can be unnoticeable on the calm surface of everyday living. But those shifts are sometimes detectable none-the-less.

This shift has been in front of us for decades, hidden in plain sight. The process goes step by step.

  1. If GOP candidates get few enough votes in enough elections, the party will disappear. That seems obvious enough.

  2. If the GOP grows extreme enough, it will attract fewer voters, thus fulfilling the primary condition. Republicans will get fewer and fewer votes in enough elections, and the party will disappear.

  3. If less conservative members continue to leave the party, the party will become increasingly extreme. Thus fulfilling the secondary condition. The GOP will grow extreme enough, attracting fewer and fewer voters, few enough for the party to disappear.

  4. If more conservative members of the party continue to believe intolerance is the key to victory, they will continue to make the GOP a less and less hospitable home for mainstream conservatives. Thus fulfilling the tertiary condition, and making the rest a certainty. When intolerance becomes the only standard, less conservative members will continue to leave the party. The party will become increasingly extreme. When it becomes extreme enough, it will attract fewer and fewer voters, few enough for the party to disappear.

  5. If extreme conservatives listen to what they are being told by conservative media, they will become increasingly certain that any setbacks are caused by a lack of purity. That means those who vote in primaries will continue to believe intolerance is the key to victory. They will make the GOP a less and less hospitable home for mainstream conservatives. Intolerance will become the only standard. Less extreme members will leave the party. The party will become increasingly extreme. When it becomes extreme enough, it will attract fewer and fewer voters, and the party will disappear.

  6. If conservative media stop telling extremists they are right, extreme conservatives now have the easy ability to find other more conservative media alternatives. Thus making it all come together in a very happy, yellow-brick-road ending.

    Extreme conservatives listen to what they are being told by conservative media. They are increasingly certain that all setbacks are caused by a lack of purity. Those who vote in primaries are making the party a hostile party for mainstream conservatives. Less extreme members are leaving the party. The party has become increasingly extreme. When it becomes extreme enough, it will attract fewer and fewer voters, and (all together, now) the party will disappear.

That last step has no precedent.

Through history, political parties have occasionally moved away from the mainstream. In most cases, they have suffered defeat. When defeat has been massive and continuous, the cruel message has been overpowering. Parties must move toward the political center or they will lose again and again.

This time, the message has been lost. Beginning in the early 1990s, Republican victories have been by lower and lower margins. Republican losses have been by more and more. Republicans have lost the majority of voters in 5 of the last 6 Presidential elections, bouncing back in 4 out of the last 7 midterms.

If Donald Trump loses the next election, as seems possible, Republicans will have been rejected by most voters in 6 out of 7 elections for President.

As Hillary Clinton takes office, if she takes office, that newest Republican loss will not demonstrate the Republican death cycle. Losses, even massive losses, come and go, as parties adjust to reality.

The mortality of the Republican Party will instead be demonstrated by the continuing embrace of Trumpism by those Republicans who still remain Republicans.

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Why Trump, Finding Workable Policies, Liberals Learn to Fight

  • Blogenfreude at Stinque apparently doesn’t mind doing research – finding the main reason Republicans support Trump.
  • Jack Jodell at The Saturday Afternoon Post discovers a new source dedicated to finding solutions to systemic challenges faced by the United States.
  • At Crooks and Liars, Frances Langum shows how Lyndon taught liberals how to fight.
  • The Big Empty notes the reaction of many conservatives to Orlando includes a desperate prayer for divine guidance.
  • Conservative James Wigderson decides on what to drink in celebration of Brexit.
  • tengrain at Mock Paper Scissors takes on the Sisyphean task of whipping mainstream media into actual journalism. This time he goes after Politico for an amazing quantity of anonymously sourced quotes in a single report. The story has to do with Donald Trump’s poor fundraising, but lazy journalism itself has become ubiquitous.
  • About the time Donald Trump was gracing the world by being born, the great sports writer Red Smith answered a question about writing with a bit of sarcasm. It is easy, he said. “You just sit at your typewriter until little drops of blood appear on your forehead.”
    Vincent at A wayfarer’s notes has no use for blood beads. “Writing is not easy. The trouble is, I’m too full of ideas,” he laments his sad fate.
    Oh, for the love of God, Vincent! The opulent man sits before the starving, at his very own table of plenty, crying out in panic about so much to eat and so little time.
    Vincent not only writes, he writes well. In this case, he delves into the advice of the talented and famous, finally ending his rich and layered self-examination, deciding to stop waiting for the right moment and just go ahead and write. As always with wit, elegance, and insight, he makes it look easy. As always, he is well worth reading.
    For all of which I struggle to forgive him.