Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Tragedy and Politics in Orlando

The first news reports from Orlando called the mass shooting in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando called it the worst terrorist attack on America since 9/11. By the time President Obama made his remarks, the story had changed to the biggest mass shooting in American history. Despite calling 9-1-1 twice to profess his allegiance to ISIS and other Islamic organizations, that aspect of the massacre has been almost totally lost, buried under various agendas. This highlights one of the most shameful aspects of politics in America.

The two most commonly heard demands are that AR-15 style guns should be outlawed and that people on the terrorist watch list should be prohibited from buying guns. In short order the AR-15 was proclaimed the weapon of choice of terrorists, based on four shootings. This ignores the fact that the Sandy Hook shooter didn't choose his gun, he stole the gun his mother used for target shooting. The Aurora shooter had a tactical shotgun and a Glock as well as an AR-15-style rifle.

Keep in mind that Omar Mateen, the shooter, also carried a Glock handgun and no figures have been released about how many people were shot with which weapon, how many shots were fired, how many times he reloaded or other relevant data. He also carried something that may have been a bomb.

There is an important message by all of the attention devoted to so-called Assault Weapons*. These weapons were tools used by someone bent on murdering multiple people. If he had been unable to obtain an "assault weapon" then he would have used some other type of gun. That might have reduced the number of dead and injured but it certainly would not have stopped him. By focusing on "assault weapons" the message is that stopping this type of assault isn't really important. It's enough to reduce the number of dead and injured by an unknown amount. This is nothing but political posturing.

The reality is that rifles are seldom used in crimes. More people are killed by knives than all types of rifles combined. There are 20-30 million AR-15s alone. Target shooters love them because of the low recoil and because they are easily customized. Most crimes are done with handguns, not rifles. This is common sense. It's much harder to conceal a rifle. This is also true of mass shootings. By some measures, there have been hundreds of mass shootings since Sandy Hook but only four were mentioned when "proving" that this is the weapon of choice.

The watch list is even more posturing. It's true that Mateen was on the FBI list at one point but he was investigated and removed. He was not on the list at the time he bought his guns. As far as we know (the list is secret so we can't be sure) no mass murderer to date has been on a watch list when he bought his weapon. Congress should be investigating that rather than pushing meaningless legislation. they should be exploring ways to identify self-radicalized people.

The tragedy is being used other ways to advance various agendas. Many people have used it to condemn the Right for being anti-gay as if being against gay marriage is equivalent to wanting gays dead. A lawyer for the ALCU with a Muslim family insisted that right-wing Christians are to blame.

The left has been overly delicate about Islam. Islamic countries have no toleration for gays. Several Muslim countries will imprison or execute gays but any criticism is dismissed as hate speech. That is part of why the left is so quick to bury mentions of Mateen's religious motivations. That includes President Obama who has problems reconciling the Islam he remembers from his childhood with today's savage killers. That's part of Trump's appeal and refusing to acknowledge Islam's part in the tragedy only helps him.

* There is no official definition, the term generally describes semi-automatic guns that resemble military ones.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Hillary's Problems

Hillary Clinton will certainly become the Democratic candidate for President and is still the favorite to win but she has far more obstacles than expected.

First there's history. The White House normally changes parties every 8 years. People are usually tiring of the sitting president and his attempted successor is usually seen as a shadow or the President. That makes for a hard sell. George H. W. Bush was the only successor to score a decisive win. Hillary wasn't even vice-president. She was only Secretary of State for one term.

Bill Clinton has emerged as a bigger liability than an asset. As a campaigner he's touchy about his own record and doesn't stick to the script but that's minor. It's his history as president that's the problem.

In 2008, Hillary had a great campaign message - elect me and I'll turn back the Bush years and bring back the Clinton years. That's no longer valid. Bill took office 24 years ago and left office16 years ago. He's ancient history and any attempt to bring back the Clinton years is seen as rolling back the Obama years as well as the Bush years.

The Democratic Party has changed considerably since Bill left office. A short list of Bill's major accomplishments includes NAFTA, Welfare Reform and his Crime Bill. Bernie is running against all of those. Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act are also from Bill's years and despised by current Democrats.

Then there's Bill's record against women. By today's standards, he sexually assaulted several women and may have outright raped two. He was impeached for lying about a relationship with an intern. While Hillary cannot be blamed for Bill's actions, she can be blamed for her own complicity. She took the lead in covering these up and lead a campaign of personal destruction against any women who came forward. It's hard to see someone as a champion of women's rights when she acted like this.

Hillary can be her own worst enemy. She lacks Bill's warmth. Her campaign prefers small, controlled events to the huge rallies that Bernie and Trump hold. That's because she comes across as shrill and unlikable at large rallies.

She has few actual credentials. In 1988, CBS ran a series on George H. W. Bush entitled "Tracks" that implied that he had held a lot of positions but left few track. The same is true for Hillary. Her time as First Lady was billed as a co-presidency but her only actual assignment, health care reform, died on the vine. She was considered a Senate leader but only because everyone knew that she was using it as a spring-board to the Presidency. She accomplished very little in her 8 years. This was also true of her 4 years as Secretary of State.

Few people trust Hillary and with good reason.She has a long history of questionable activities. Most people have forgotten her commodities trading when she made $100,000 in one day then quit. Whitewater began as an investigation to see if Bill used his authority as Governor of Arkansas to try to save his investment in a real estate deal. The White House travel office was fired and replaced with Clinton campaign staffers, reportedly at Hillary's insistence. The White house Lincoln Bedroom was turned into a bed and breakfast for major donors. The Clinton Foundation has been described as the Clinton's personal slush fund with the possibility that large donations were made to it with the expectation of favors from the State Department. Hillary's $200,000+ speeches to Wall Street were probably more about gaining the favor of a future president than hearing her financian advice.

Expect Trump to dig up all of this.

Finally, Hillary is trying to sell herself as a candidate of change when she represents the status quo better than any politician alive. Both Bernie and Trump are attracting huge support by claiming that the system is rigged against regular people. Their details differ but both promise to change international agreements to benefit average Americans. Hillary will never be able to convince people that she is as much an agent of change as these loose cannons. Her only real option is to run as a stabilizing influence.