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Cheap Seats Online 2015

Cheap Seats 092414

rich@examinerpublications.com

  www.threedonia.com

July 22, 2015 - The Trouble With History
July 15, 2015 - Fighting Back
July 8, 2015 - Plain Speaking
July 1, 2015 - Flag Fail
June 24, 2015 - Sledgehammer
June 17, 2015 - Passing the Torch
June 10, 2015 - Beverly
June 3, 2015 - No column
May 27, 2015 - No, It’s Your Fault
May 20, 2015 - No column
May 13, 2015 - Drawing You-Know-Who
May 6, 2015 - Mobocracy
April 29, 2015 - Hot stuff
April 22, 2015 - No column
April 15, 2015 - Fear
April 8, 2015 - Frame-werks
April 1, 2015 - Facing Up
March 25, 2015 - Bet on Bibi
March 18, 2015 - A Letter
March 11, 2015 - Hollywood Twiticism
March 4, 2015 - Fighting Back
February 25, 2015 - Smearing Soon
February 18, 2015 - The Crusader
February 11, 2015 - No column
February 4, 2015 - No column
January 28, 2015 - Frack This
January 21, 2015 - Free Speech? Pas en France
January 14, 2015 - Winter In Paris
January 7, 2015 - No column
December 31, 2014 - On Our Watch

The Trouble With History

By Rich Trzupek

  The trouble with history is that so few people care to be troubled by it. Real history is messy, complicated and nuanced. For history buffs like your humble correspondent, that’s what makes it fun. But, I understand that I am in the minority. Most people want history to be full of clear cut, black and white certainties that requires little of no intellectual effort to understand.

  That’s why comparing anything or anyone you don’t approve of to Nazis is so appealing, and so utterly lazy. For the National Socialist Workers Party is one of the few cases in history that is pretty much black and white. There’s nothing redeeming or valuable in Nazism, or in any case there’s so little it’s not worth mentioning.

  Thus people play the Nazi trump card all the time. Although, as an aside, most play it incorrectly at that, identifying National Socialists as “ultra-right wingers”, when in fact they were “ultra-left wingers”.  The “socialist” part of their name wasn’t just window dressing. The nationalization of industry, wage control, suppression of religion and a host of other Nazi policies are staples of the far left, not the far right.

  But I digress. The point here is that dragging out the Nazis and laying on a moral equivalency to Nazism with whatever or whomever you disapprove is intellectually lazy, not to mention just plain stupid. True, Oliver Stone has made a career out of that kind of simplistic stupidity, but who wants to be Oliver Stone? Blech.

  A couple of weeks back a correspondent to this here publication made the Nazi-Confederacy equivocation that has been so popular among the politically-correct crowd in recent weeks. Disappointing, since that equivocation was made as part of an otherwise thoughtful, well-written and polite letter (albeit that I still disagree with most of it).

  But that’s become the thing to do, the simple way of getting rid of a rather annoying and complicated part of our history. You ban the stars and bars, for the same reason that you ban the swastika: because they are both symbols of evil! Are you for evil, you racist SOB?!

  There’s a couple of problems with that. One is we don’t ban the swastika in this country. And that’s a good thing, for displaying the swastika – as a flag, a tat, an armband, whatever – instantly allows you to identify the person displaying it as a douchebag. It saves all kind of time when evaluating whether somebody is a racist anal orifice or not.

  Defenders of the attackers of the Confederate flag would like you to believe that the Stars and Bars serves the same purpose. But it doesn’t. I’ll grant you that there are racist douchebags who attach themselves to the Confederate flag, but the fact is they are going to be racist douchebags whether they have it to fly around or not.

  Which brings me to my second point, comparing Nazi Germany and World War II to the Confederacy and the US Civil War is pitifully lazy and shallow. On the hand you’ve got a bunch of viscous jerks who have convinced themselves that they are the master race engaged in wholesale genocide as part of a war of conquest in which the vanquished are suppressed by a collection of thugs and homicidal maniacs wearing police uniforms, during an era where – if we hadn’t exactly become a color-blind society – the civilized world had gotten to a point where concepts like slavery and genocide were pretty much frowned upon.

  On the other hand, you’ve got a defensive war fought by men who overwhelmingly did not own, and never had owned, a slave, who were typically racists by today’s standards, but no more so than the vast majority of men they were fighting on the other side and whose oft-stated purpose in fighting the war was “to be left alone”.

  Many of their leaders were men of honor who followed a personal moral code that everyone, on either side, admired. And it speaks volumes about the character of their leaders that once the war was over, they – in the persons of men like Robert E. Lee and the much maligned Nathan Bedford Forest – told their men to go home and be good citizens of the reformed Union, thus sparing America the kind of endless, soul-sapping “guerilla war after the war” that characterized the conclusion of too many other internal conflicts.

  There is much good to found in the Stars and Bars, along with the bad, for those who choose to look for it. And before you go cheering useful idiots like Amazon for exercising their right not to sell Confederate merchandise, ask yourself this: if they’re so concerned with symbolism from history, why do they sell Che Guevara T-shirts when that punk Che was a mass-murder of the first order? Why do they sell Stalin memorabilia, when that thug was responsible for an estimated 40 million deaths. And why do the sell the “little red book” written by that all-time champ of the murderous tyrants, Mao Ze-Dong, who knocked off between 50 and 80 million of his countrymen and women?

 

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Fighting Back

By Rich Trzupek

  As veterans of the Cheap Seats are aware, I’ve testified before Congressional committees on environmental issues on a couple of occasions. One of the points that I touched upon during my testimony was the economic and related public health impacts of environmental regulation are not – in my opinion – fairly or properly considered in the regulatory development process.

  I am not the first to raise that issue, nor will I be the last. But rarely does anyone in Congress officially bringing it up in any meaningful way.

  So hat’s off to Representative Randy Hultgren for saying what should be said every day: when we adopt excessively stringent environmental rules in a needless effort to turn America’s largely pristine environment into an ultra-pristine environment, the poor pay the price.

  Well, he didn’t actually say that – I said that. Here’s what he said, speaking during a July 9 House Science Committee hearing: “It is clear [that a more stringent ozone standard] will have a disparate impact on low-income and minority communities, and seniors on fixed incomes.”

  Darn straight! Ultra-environmentalism is an indulgence for rich liberals looking for ways to feel better about themselves, but it’s the poor who ultimately suffer when we allow a collection of Felix Ungers to don white gloves and desperately search – metaphorically speaking – for a few specks of dust atop the nation’s cupboard.

  Hultgren was speaking about a proposed, ridiculously low new ambient air ozone standard that approaches, and in some cases is less than, the concentration of ozone naturally found in ambient air.

  Advocates of the standard will crow about how much it will save, quoting EPA fantasy data about “premature deaths avoided” and then placing a monetary value on each of those supposedly lengthened lives.

  They won’t talk about the effect that higher energy prices, job losses and increased costs of goods and services will have on people. They won’t factor in the effect of all of that on the poor and elderly, who inevitably are hurt the most.

  Advocates will insist a new standard is necessary to fight asthma, because ozone is known to aggravate asthma. They won’t point out that we have drastically lowered the amount of ozone in ambient air for over forty years and in that time asthma rates have increased, not decreased.

  This kind of silliness goes on all the time and it’s a wonder that we as a society still put up with it. Want to know why I have such a hard time believing the “settled” climate science? Because the same gang of crackpots who play the kind of games I just described are at the forefront of the Chicken Little global warming parade.

  I am reminded of a project that I worked on almost ten years ago. The goal was to build a large, wood-fired power plant in the village of Robbins. If you don’t know it, Robbins is one of the poorest, and possibly the poorest, municipalities in Illinois. At the time, they couldn’t afford to fix their water mains or pay their police.

  The power plant would bring jobs and millions in desperately-needed tax revenue. But, in order to make it happen, a gang of environmental interlopers (a.k.a. rich liberals) who lived nowhere near Robbins had to be appeased.

  The interlopers said they were concerned about “environmental justice” for Robbins, which was a pile of horse dung. For one, the plant would be burning wood. For another, the last place that gets at all impacted by the paltry amount of emissions dispersing from a tall power plant stack is the neighborhood the plant is actually located in.

  But, the beast must be served. And so it was that I found myself sitting next to the mayor Robbins, Dr. Irene Brody – a great lady, by the by – across from a gang of the interlopers, not trying to convince them to support the project, but just to keep their noses out of it so this community could get some badly needed economic development. They agreed to do that, eventually, but it took a good deal of work.

  At one point in the discussion, when the interlopers left the room to discuss some terribly important issue in private, Dr. Brody reached over and patted me on the arm and said: “Richard, I do wish outsiders would stop telling me what’s good for me.”

  That’s something we should all wish for when it comes to the eco-extremists, and kudos to Representative Hultgren for taking a stand.

 

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Plain Speaking

By Rich Trzupek

  Here’s what Donald Trump actually said: “When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending the best. They're not sending you, they're sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they're telling us what we're getting."

  Here’s what Donald Trump didn’t say: “Mexicans are drug dealers”. Or, “Mexicans are criminals”. Or, “Mexicans are rapists”. Or, “It would be a better world without Mexicans.” Or, “I hate Mexicans.” Or, anything like any of the above.

  We have a porous southern border. When a relatively wealthy nation has a porous border, the people who take advantage of the situation are not doctors, lawyers and CPAs living in other countries. Those people are doing alright for themselves, so why leave home?

  The poor take advantage of permeable borders, and not just here. The third wealthiest nation, per capita, in the western hemisphere is Trinidad and Tobago. They too have an illegal immigration problem. Approximately ten per cent of Trinidad’s population now consists of illegal immigrants, a situation their government pledges not to abide.

  In bringing the situation to light last fall, Trinidad’s Security Minister Gary Griffith said “It is just that I am opening this Pandora’s box. And I intend to put an end to it. It is totally unacceptable.”

  We can, and we should, have sympathy for poor illegals who cross the border in search of a better life, yet take care to respect the law (except for the legal immigration part, of course), find legitimate jobs and leave peacefully. There’s nothing in what Trump said that contradicts that statement and I am morally certain he would entirely agree with it.

  However, we know that there are a number of law-breakers crossing our leaky border with Mexico as well. Some are drug dealers. Some are common criminals. Some are rapists. And, in all of these cases, many of their victims – and I would bet it’s a majority – are other illegal immigrants.

  That’s true. It’s not racist to say something that is true – something that can be proven to be factually true though arrest records, crime statistics and other means. When it becomes racist to say something that’s true, we have real problems, because you can’t solve a problem if you refuse to admit the problem exists.

  When I read what Trump said, I don’t hear him saying that he doesn’t want America to continue to be the destination spot for tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to be free. What I hear is a guy recognizing that the system is broken and, because of that, a lot of bad people that we could – and should – be keeping out of our home are crossing the border.

  I don’t know that I’m going to vote for the Donald should he still be in the race when primary time comes to Illinois. I’m not ruling it out, but he’s not an early leader in my way of thinking. On the other hand, you never know.

  But, I am glad Trump is in the race for this if nothing else: the guy has the guts to say what he thinks. Though I don’t find his comments on illegal immigration racist, I will grant that his phrasing was a tad inelegant and I applaud him for that. I’m reasonably certain that I am not the only American who is totally sick of politicians, of both parties, giving politically-correct, bland, meaningless, sanitized answers to questions – primarily designed to offend nobody.

  The Donald is going to make a lot of his fellow candidates awfully uncomfortable, simply because he doesn’t give a damn for political pussy-footing. That’s going to push a lot of GOP candidates into places they don’t want to be, and I believe that’s a very good thing indeed.

 

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Flag Fail

By Rich Trzupek

  A deluded punk with a Moe Howard haircut shoots up a church in South Carolina and a significant percentage of politicians and pundits immediately target the real villain in this horror story: the battle flag of the Confederate States of America.

  It’s the reaction that one would expect from this, the Touchiest Generation – aka: Millennials. It’s wrong to paint any group of people or any generation with a broad brush, but (with apologies to W.S. Churchill) never in history have so many been so thin-skinned about so little. Not every Millennial is hyper-sensitive to language and symbols, but – sweet-smoking Jesus – those among them who embrace the “everything even marginally potentially offensive to somebody, somewhere, is in fact grievously offensive to everyone” philosophy of life positively abound.

  According to the latest, completely unscientific Examiner Publications poll that I have just made up, here is how the average American feels about the Confederate Flag:

- Eighty-five percent believe that it’s a quaint symbol of the south and southern culture, something you saw on the Dukes of Hazzard and such shows. And man, was Catherine Bach hot in those cut-offs or what?! I’d give her a ride in the General Lee, I tell you what! (OK, we might lose half of the eighty-five percent when we get into Catherine Bach’s pants – figuratively speaking - but you get the point).

  - One tenth of one percent believe that it’s a symbol of racial domination, celebrating the supposed dominance to the white man over the black man, and that – having reached that conclusion – they are obligated to be pissed off at the injustice inherent to our current “color-blind” society. Their job, as they see it, is to defend “white culture” against “black attacks”, almost always through the use of bluster, but – occasionally and tragically – through violence.

  - Seven point four percent on the far left who believe that the vast majority, if not all, of Republicans and Liberations belong to the eighty-five point one percent of all Americans described above and that here is no practical distinction between the two groups. That is, we’re all racist bastards who believe the Confederate flag is a memorial to racism.

  - Seven point five percent who believe that while there is undeniably a racial and bigoted component that can and should be associated with the Confederate flag, there are also a great deal of honorable and historically-important associations that should be considered as well.

  The Charleston shooter, Dylann Storm Roof, is a troubled, confused and obviously ignorant young man who was seduced by a philosophy. That philosophy preaches that white and black Americans have been and continue to be engaged in a race war of such magnitude that if drastic actions to win the war are not directly called for by the leaders of this undeclared war, such actions are clearly needed.

  A good deal of the blame for the existence, if not downright popularity, of such a philosophy in 2015 America can be attributed to race-baiters and grievance-mongers, the chief of which is Obama pal and liberal media darling Al Sharpton.

  Sharpton uses his various media outlets to encourage race-warfare, not by direct recruitment of course, but by continually working to convince his audience that whitey is sticking it to people of colors and the system is rigged to protect whitey and persecute his victims.

  When somebody uses warfare-like language long enough, listeners are eventually going to believe that a crisis is at hand and they must, therefore, do something to protect the “good guys”.

  It appears that this is the conclusion that Dylann Storm Roof before he embarked upon his “righteous” rampage.

  Do the Stars and Bars of the Confederacy represent white superiority and privilege? Maybe, to some. Not to me. Slavery makes up part of the Confederacy’s darker side, but every nation on earth has a darker side. At least any of consequence.

  The injustice of slavery is part of southern history, but so are other, more noble ideas that the Confederacy embraced. Ideas like a state should be able to choose its path largely independent of federal fiat, something that the left would call “freedom of choice” today. Ideas like a man’s word was his bond and to lose honor was to lose all.

  Brutal slave owners are part of southern history. So are southerners who stood for peace and conciliation. Like, for example, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, who ran a school to educate poor black children because he believed it was his Christian duty to do so. Or, people like General Pat Cleburne, one of the most talented of all Confederate generals, who find his career and ultimately his life cut short, in no small part because he publicly urged his country to free its slaves.

  Or, people like General Robert E. Lee, who, when given the choice of urging his troops to keep up the struggle after Appomattox and thus condemning the United States to decades of IRA vs. UK type guerilla warfare, chose the opposite course. He told his men to go home and be good citizens. Rarely, if ever, had the losing commander in a fratricidal conflict like the American Civil War acted so nobly.

  When Dylann Storm Roof was photographed flying the Stars and Bars, he was obviously using it as another way to support the deluded philosophy he had already embraced. That’s fine. But the fact that fools like Roof use that – or any symbol – in such a twisted manner does not place the symbol at fault, much less supporting the deeply flawed idea that removing symbols to which the deluded may attach themselves will somehow eliminate their delusions.

 

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Sledgehammer

By Rich Trzupek

  Governor Rauner rather famously started his campaign with a commercial in which he is shown hefting a rather large sledgehammer before heading down do Springfield. It was a well-conceived image. The message “this is a guy who isn’t afraid to raise some hell to get things done” resonated in a state that competes with California to have the most screwed-up state budget in the nation.

  Rauner has been true to his word, cutting where he can and threatening more cuts if the General Assembly doesn’t get on board with a balanced budget. He’s made Madigan and Cullerton the chief villains in this particular drama, roles that they more than deserve.

  We say “Madigan and Cullerton”, but really, it’s all about Madigan. He’s the ultimate player, the classic Chicago politician as firmly versed in the Machiavellian maneuvers of Springfield as anyone who has ever strolled the capitol rotunda.

  Mike is being backed into a tough spot by our brash new governor. He knows – for nobody has ever accused Madigan of being a fool – that the only way to crawl out of the debt hole that he and a succession of corrupt/incompetent Democratic governors have created is to grow our way out of it.

  We have long ago passed the point where we can tax our way out of this fiscal hole. That point being the spot where increasing taxes lowers income because the negative effect of driving away business and jobs more than cancels out the positive effect of bringing in more income from those employers who stick around.

  Illinois is surrounded by business-friendly states that tax less and impose fewer bureaucratic restrictions than our home state. Rauner knows that. Madigan knows that. Hell, everybody outside of the dimwit cub reporters who write for the paper that used to be the Chicago Tribune know that.

  State government can only climb out of fiscal holes as deep as ours in one of two ways: a) increase taxes, in order to increase revenue, or b) grow the economy, in order to increase revenue. Option A is no longer available to Illinois, so we’ve got to embrace Option B.

  Unfortunately, Option B involves a bit of pain. It’s pain we would not have to endure if Madigan and his shills hadn’t been so bloody irresponsible when Blago and Quinn were stinking up the governor’s office, but it’s where we are and there’s no getting around that.

  At this point, Madigan is stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place. Understand that Madigan, like most political creatures, is not motivated by any sense of serving the state in which he resides, but rather of protecting the office he holds and the party to which he swears allegiance. There are exceptions to this rule of course, as there are exceptions to every rule, but one will win far more often than one will lose by betting that a politician’s motivations are tawdry rather than noble.

  In order to maintain his party’s stranglehold on legislative power in the state of Illinois he cannot abandon the narrative that the rich – aka: the “one per cent” – aren’t paying nearly enough taxes and, if made to pay their fair share, life in Illinois will be cream and strawberries once more.

  It’s obviously a bizarre position, since Madigan and his party have had virtually unhindered control of state finances and tax rates for over a decade, so if the tax code were out of balance there would be nobody to blame it on but the man himself and his party. But class warfare is about the only refuge the Democratic Party has these days and tossing that crutch aside would leave Madigan and friends falling on their political faces.

  Madigan should do what he in fact did when Jim Edgar was governor, find common ground that would maintain private sector prosperity, which in turn would keep the public sector on solid footing. Unfortunately, for him, Madigan is unable to walk that fine line any longer. The irony is that he put himself in this position, a sad legacy for someone who has been in the position to do so much good for his state and has so ruinously failed to do so.

 

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Passing the Torch

By Rich Trzupek

  Milestones appear out of the mists during our journey through life, some of which we hardly notice and some of which shine with incredible brightness. To me and to the family to which I am blessed to belong, Saturday, June 6, 2015 stands out among the latter sort of milestone.

  Saturday, June 6, 2015 saw the solemnization of the bond between my sister’s eldest son, Dustin Sliwa, and his betrothed, Jennifer Lawson. We came together, two families and a multitude of friends gathering as one.

  There is a fascinating psychological dynamic that appears during weddings, at least during every wedding I have been a part of. The reception begins as a party, but by the time it ends the reception is ultimately transformed into something larger and more meaningful, almost mystical.

  But I fear I am getting ahead of myself. In practically every culture that I know of, marriage starts with a ceremony designed to recognize the importance and magnificence of two people pledging themselves to each other as they journey through life.

  In my church that ceremony is deemed to be sacred, for we believe that the bond between the between the betrothed are of sacred origin – something of this world, but beyond it at the same time.

  I do not know the degree to which Dustin and Jennifer feel that divine connection and purpose at this stage of their young lives, but they chose to recognize it by marrying within the church. I honor them for that decision, because I believe that marrying within the church will serve to create the opportunities to create bonds that couples would not otherwise have access to.

  That is not to say that every marriage within the church will be successful, nor is it to say that every marriage without the church will fail. It is only to say that when a couple invites spirituality into a relationship, they expand their horizons.

  I have known Dustin since my sister gave birth to him – her first child. He was, and remains, an engaging, thoughtful, caring and welcoming individual. I am certain that Dustin gets mad, but I cannot recall every seeing him angry. He is one of those individuals who radiates a joy for life and for living and for those accompanying him on the journey.

  It is impossible to deny that I often wring my hands and gnash my teeth over the courses chosen and values embraced by today’s younger generation. And while I recognize that most of my parents’ generation felt the same way about me and my fellow boomers, it’s hard for me to take comfort in the analogy. It often seems to me that we boomers largely pushed back against the ways that society attempted to choose and justify its decisions, while many of our children seek to undermine the very foundations of society itself. Thinking about the differences can be equal parts chilling and depressing.

  And yet, those pessimistic thoughts can be pushed aside, and hope for the future can blossom anew, on a night such as this. I know that Dustin is a man who values honor and honesty and conviction. I believe, from my brief – but delightful – interactions with his bride that Jennifer is of a like mind. A world led by the Dustins and Jennifers of the coming generation would be a fine world indeed.

  Dustin’s father Marc, a magnificent, salt-of-the-earth sort of Chicago native, reflected upon his son’s marriage and the recent marriage of my daughter. “I look at it this way,” he said. “We’re passing the torch. We did the best we could and now it’s up to them to make it work.”

  In some ways it’s painful to pass the torch, for in doing so one must acknowledge that one lacks the necessary strength to carry the torch much further. Occasions such as this remind us that there are always young people willing to pick up where we left off and carry the race forward. Here’s hoping that they not only find the finish line, but that they do so with love in their hearts and joy lighting up their faces.

 

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Beverly

By Rich Trzupek

  It’s odd how some pieces of your life flare brightly in your head as you get older and other pieces fade dimly away. I cannot recall the full names, much less the faces, of some of my friends in elementary school, but a classmate named Beverly – a girl I hardly knew at all – remains as fixed in my mind’s eye as if I saw her yesterday.

  If you’re thinking this will be the wistful “what might have been/ships passing in the night” romantic fantasy column, stop yourself. Your humble correspondent may be a hack, but he is not that big of a hack.

  Beverly was the fat girl. The ugly girl. The girl your buddies accused you of being in love with when your buddies wanted to get under your skin. The girl who got hit with a persistent and pervasive case of acne early in adolescence. The girl who endured everything from snickers to downright verbal abuse on a daily basis.

  Kids naturally fall into one of two camps when it comes to dealing with the Beverly’s of the world: those who participate in the abuse and those who don’t. We postulate, and these days even encourage, a third camp: those who actively stand up and defend Beverly. That camp doesn’t develop naturally among the young (see “Lord of the Flies”), but it’s noble to encourage kids to stake out such a camp. I’m not sure how effective those efforts are within the hidden-from-prying-adult-eyes reality of adolescent worlds, but it’s a lesson that should be taught, no matter how potentially effective or ineffective.

  As a kid, I was part of the camp that didn’t participate in abusing Beverly. The feces flung in her direction smelled foul to me, as it did for the others of a like mind. A part of me imagined, with horror, what it would be like to be Beverly and that added to my resolve not to be among her tormentors. Later in life I would come to understand that this revelation was the birth of something called “empathy”, an emotion that – while I do not believe I store in a nearly sufficient quantity to deal with a very cruel world – I feel blessed to possess at all.

  In that time and at that age, there was no question of coming to Beverly’s defense. Any attempt to do so would inevitably be wholly ineffective and, worse from a selfish perspective, make me a new target as a would-be defender. Silence was the best course.

  I do not mean to demonize my classmates who hurled abuse at Beverly. They were not demons, they were kids. Kids at varying levels of maturity, most of whom – I am morally certain – would develop empathy glands of their own as they got older. They saw no real harm in their fun. For them, Beverly was an abstract ideal to be ridiculed, not an actual human being whom could be hurt.

  Nor do I mean to consecrate Beverly as a martyr. We all suffer slashes and stabs growing up and though I am sure Beverly’s wounds were more numerous and more painful than the common lot, they were of the sort known and shared – to one extent or another - to anyone who has moved on to older ages.

  We all have scars, some more and some less. What sets us apart is how we deal with them. Some of us pick at them forever, recalling and perhaps multiplying the pain that accompanied their creation. Some of us attempt to ignore them. And some of us, too few of us I reckon, simply accept them. They are part of who we are, for better or worse, and it is up to the viewer to decide if they are ugly reminders of our weaknesses, or beautiful reminders of our character, or something in between. To us, they’re just us.

  I hope and pray that Beverly ultimately fell into that last group, though I know – given the length and severity of the abuse she endured – that is an unlikely result. Still, you never know.

  Let us now transition from Beverly’s story to the world stage and our role in it. Less some of my less favorably-inclined readers accuse me of crassly exploiting a personal and emotive story to make a global point, allow me to point out that: a) until a few paragraphs ago you had no idea that Beverly existed or what she went through, b) you went to school with your own Beverly’s and I’m pretty damn sure that the majority of you Cheap Seat haters never told their story privately once, much less in a public forum, and c) shut up.

  The global point of Beverly’s story is that when someone weak is unfairly abused and/or threatened, the strong can either look away and congratulate themselves for their forbearance, as an empathetic adolescent naturally does, or the strong can step in and actively defend the abused party, as we encourage our adolescents to do today.

  Yet, what we preach to our adolescents in a classroom environment, we – or rather the so-called “progressives” who dominate the White House and so infect the media – hardly practice on the global stage. Though it may not last much longer, at present no country is stronger than us. We are, far more than anyone, the one nation on earth capable of slapping down the earth’s bullies. And yet, under this administration’s fear of being disliked and in our comfortable contentment, we ignore the plight of many of the oppressed.

  ISIS kills and ancient Christian communities flee at their approach. We send in drones and drop some bombs and congratulate ourselves on being part of a meaningless and plainly ineffective coalition. Iran’s monstrous plans and capabilities to destroy Israel and dominate the Middle East proceed as the mullahs wish. We talk, but we bemoan that there’s really nothing to be done. The Castro brothers tyrannize Cuba for over half a century and we legitimize their tyranny. Somehow, that’s supposed to make life better for the oppressed Cuban citizens.

  And that’s where we are dear readers. Any attempt to frustrate the world’s bullies – in the perverse minds of the left – makes us the bully. We must fold our hands and stay silent, we are told, until these troublesome situations resolve themselves without our meddlesome interference. The Beverly’s of the larger world, like the Beverly’s in our personal worlds, must be left to fend for themselves.

  Good luck.

 

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No, It’s Your Fault

By Rich Trzupek

  After initial attempts to dismiss ISIS as small-time crackpots – or as the President so famously declared them: “the JV” – the left has rethought the rise of the new caliphate and come up with a startling conclusion. ISIS is on the march because:

  Wait for it…

  Wait for it…

  It’s Bush’s fault!

  Seven years out of office and W is still screwing up the world, at least to progressive eyes. I have little doubt that twenty years hence there will be a forest fire in some remote part of the world that results in the extinction of the rare sticky-fingered salamander or some-such and some lefty will declare that but for the misguided policies of George W. Bush the little fellas would still be walking the earth.

  It’s the eternal excuse, the reasoning that trumps everything. Whatever is wrong is, was and always will be Bush’s fault – with the possible exception of Detroit. On second thought, no. Let’s blame Detroit on Bush too. I’m not sure how you get there, but I’ve little doubt that some lib has the necessary theory.

  On the other hand, in progressive world, whatever is right is the result of far-sighted progressive policies and programs championed by the likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. And don’t you go throwing Hillary supporting going to war with Iraq in our face. It’s pretty darn obvious she was fooled by Bush. Or Cheney. Or Rice. Probably all three.

  Anyway, the “ISIS is Bush’s fault” logic goes something like this: When Saddam was in charge of Iraq, the Middle East – or at least that part of the Middle East that encompasses Syria, Iraq and Iran was a rather stable place. Oh sure, you had your atrocities, and your suppressions, and your sectarian violence. Who in the third world doesn’t? The important thing is that Saddam kept things relatively quiet, mostly by torturing, murdering and molesting anybody who disagreed with him, but it was a small price to pay for stability.

  An interesting sort of “stability” it was, to be sure. Saddam gleefully funded terrorists, especially those of the anti-Semitic variety. He and his boys worked the “oil for food” scam, enriching himself, his pal Putin and various UN scumbags. And, as even the New York Times was eventually forced to rather tortuously admit, Saddam did indeed have weapons of mass destruction, in the form of chemical weapons of the sort he had used against the Kurds.

  Most importantly, in the modern re-telling, religious fanatics weren’t out to destroy western civilization before we invaded Iraq, or if they were, Saddam’s iron rule ensured that they would remain powerless.

  All of this, of course, it complete and utter horse-puckey. The ISIS nuts are the same religious fanatics that have infected that part of the world for centuries. The only difference between ISIS killing and oppressing everyone they don’t like and Saddam doing the same thing is that Saddam didn’t do it the name of religion, at least not quite so openly.

  Iraq under Saddam was a nice place to live if you happened to be Sunni and often something of a hell on earth if you happened to be a Kurd or Shia. Wherever the ISIS cancer spreads, the same rules apply, often enforced by the same thugs.

  What’s frustrating as hell is that there was a brief period of time when the thugs were forced back into their holes, thanks to the remarkable efforts of thousands of American servicemen and women. But then some genius decided that doing what pretty much have always done when we’ve cleaned up somebody else’s mess – leaving a stay-behind force sufficient to keep the peace – wasn’t necessary in this case.

 

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Drawing You-Know-Who

By Rich Trzupek

  Among the right, center and that portion of the left that actually understands what liberalism is about there are essentially two schools of thought regarding Pam Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) contest that encouraged people to draw the prophet Muhammed.

  For some, there is no question that AFDI had the right, under the First Amendment, to sponsor such a contest and artists had the right, under the First Amendment, to compete in it. But, for this first group, this event was a knowing insult to Islam and therefore to many devout Muslims and it was poor judgement on Ms. Geller’s behalf to organize it. If anything, according to this first group, Ms. Geller set back the war against the looney-bin jihadis.

  For a second group, there is no question that AFDI had the right, under the First Amendment, to sponsor such a contest and artists had the right, under the First Amendment, to compete in it. But, this second group believes that an event that constitutes a knowing Islam and therefore to many devout Muslims is actually a good thing, because it demonstrates that our commitment to the First Amendment trumps the sensibilities of any religious group. If anything, according to this group, Ms. Geller has helped to clarify the war against the looney-bin jihadis.

  Veteran readers will likely expect that I will side with the second group and veteran readers will be right. It’s not that I enjoy knowingly insulting a religion – any religion – but because making the point that no religion is above insult in America is rather important right now.

  We have had plenty of people cowed by this particular prohibition. A young cartoonist from Seattle is still in hiding after suggesting that cartoonists should have a “draw Muhammed day”. A film-maker in California remains in jail after making a truly awful internet video that the Obama administration said was so insulting to Muslims that it sparked the violence in Benghazi. Threats of violence convinced Comedy Central to do something they had never done before: sheathe the comedic arrows of Trey Parker and Matt Stone aimed at a religion.

  As a practicing Catholic, I don’t care for the myriad of insults that Catholics and Christians of all sorts put up with on a daily basis. From comedians to comic strips to columnists, a day doesn’t go by without somebody, somewhere insulting my faith. The same is certainly true of those of the Jewish faith, and though they are not as numerous in this nation as other religious groups, I’m sure that Buddhists, Hindus, Druids and plethora of other faiths bear insults as well.

  Many of these insults fall into the category of what, in the Christian faith, we would call “sacrilegious”, with “Piss Christ” being the most famous, but hardly the only, example. In medieval times, that sort of sacrilege would see the artist dragged before an ecclesiastical court that would surely have ordered his execution is a particularly creative and painful way.

  These days, a Christian might write an angry letter or two, or – if they’re feeling especially motivated – participate in a peaceful protest, but for the most part we shrug, shake our heads and move on with our lives.

  Now though I will lay claim to knowing a good deal more about Islam than the average American, I make no pretense of being an expert. But we know that modern Christians and Jews and Buddhists, etc. react to insults aimed at their faith peacefully. We also know that some Muslims react to insults aimed at their faiths with violence.

  There are two possible reasons for that violent reaction: either people believe that Islam demands a violent reaction to such insults and members of the faithful are acting in accordance with that teaching, or people do not believe Islam demands a violent reaction to such insults and members of the faithful are acting of their misguided accord.

  If the truth is the former, then events like Ms. Geller’s help to bring that truth to light, a truth that is important to establish when fighting this global war on terror. If the truth is the latter, then events like Ms. Geller’s help bring that truth to light, a truth that is equally important to establish when fighting this global war on terror.

  Either way, America never has been and must never be a place where insults to any religion are prohibited, either by law or by public acquiescence to threats of violence. Kudos to Ms. Geller for driving that point home.

 

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Mobocracy

By Rich Trzupek

  It is a myth, albeit a popular myth, that the Founding Fathers of our nation designed America as a democracy. They did not. They designed America to be a republic in which the people are represented indirectly rather than directly managing the affairs of state as would happen in a true democracy.

  In truth, the founders had a healthy fear of democracy and with good reason. They believed that a pure democracy, in which everyone has an equal share in running the government, would quickly dissolve into chaos, anarchy and rule by the mob. This is of course exactly what happened when the French experimented with something that was supposed to be democracy after the revolution of 1789.

  Over time, the United States drifter farther and farther away from the original design of the republic. We can argue whether those changes have been for the better or not, but it really doesn’t matter because there’s no back to the way it used to be. Suffice it to say that if Thomas Jefferson or James Madison or any of the rest came back to life in 2015 they would be horrified to find how far down the road to pure democracy the country they founded has gone.

  In parts of the nation we are feeling the effects of democracy in action and the riots in Baltimore are just the latest example of what happens when popular rule leads to populist politicians being handed the keys of government.

  Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is unfit to run a rural town with two hundred residents, much less a major American city. Anyone in a position of power who throws their own police force under the bus and lends support to the absurd notion that the men and women in blue routinely target citizens for abuse because of the color of their skin is an idiot or an anarchist. (Not there is much difference between the two).

  There are bad cops to be sure, just as there are bad teachers, bad grocery clerks, bad carpenters, etc. You don’t define any of those professions by the worst examples you can find, you define a profession by the standard to conduct common to the profession and by the level of performance to be found among the rank and file to whom those standards matter.

  I’ve had the privilege of knowing a lot of cops during my time on this planet. The consistent level of professionalism that I have seen among cops today amazes me. There is no comparison to the police that I commonly encountered in my youth, growing up in the South Side of Chicago.

  They were good and, for the most part, sincerely dedicated. But there was a combination of smugness and cynicism among the cops of fifty years ago that made the “informal” part of police work as important, if not more so, than the by-the-book portion.

  A Chicago cop in the sixties had no time for a wise-ass punk like me. They had to deal with real criminals and having to futz around with petty teen-age vandalism was just a pain-in-the-rear that took time away from their real work. It wasn’t worth dragging my sorry butt through the court system and having to do all that paperwork, so they took care of things “off the book”, so to speak.

  At best, that might involve a call to one’s parents or parish priest. At worst, a quick trip to the local precinct might be in order. It’s amazing how persuasive the combination of a well-placed fist and phonebook can be.

  It’s different now. Today’s police officers are true professionals. They have to be equal parts counselors, attorneys, arbitrators, clerks and – if there is any time left – law enforcement officials. More than one retired cop has told me that they don’t know why anybody would join the cops in this day and age, with the threat of litigation and the reality of continued demonization of their profession looming around every corner.

  And now we have another idiot mayor joining the dolt in New York in trashing the people that lay their lives on the line to protect us, all for the sake of kissing up to the mob. Funny thing about mobs though. You can’t really control them. You might think that you’re on their good side, but they can change direction and come after you at any moment. Rawlings-Blake may have been fine with letting her police stand by as the mob burned and looted businesses in her city, but she might feel a little differently when the mob goes after City Hall.

 

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Hot Stuff

By Rich Trzupek

  The Global Warming crowd is in trouble. According to the polls, each year fewer people are concerned about the supposed effects that human activities are having on the planet’s climate. In a world getting uglier and more violent every day, the climate change fantasy is low on the average person’s list of priorities, if it even appears at all.

  In response, the alarmists have played the only card they have played and are capable of playing: hysteria. Or more to the point, they’ve doubled down on the hysteria level, yet again. The crisis, they cry, has reached epic proportions! 2014 was the hottest year on record! No March has been warmer than this past March! And on, and on, and on, and – on.

  Let’s start with the last assertion. Clearly, the March just past was not the warmest in Chicago history. Quite the opposite in fact. However, Chicago is not the world and it may be that global temperatures were moving in quite another direction last month.

  Now we arrive at an interesting place. How do we know whether temperatures are increasing or decreasing or holding steady? There are three main sources of temperature data. One is the Global Historical Climate Network (GHCN), which is administered by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The GHCN is best described as the surface temperature record, and it is the dataset that activists and politicians who ascribe to the alarmist point of view reference when they assert that the climate crisis is real and getting worse.

  There are two other significant global temperature records. These are the Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) and the University of Alabama (UAH) system, both of which use satellites to monitor global temperatures.  The RSS and UAH datasets disagree – strongly – with the GHCN data. According to the satellites, global temperatures have been pretty much stable since 1998, 2014 wasn’t the “hottest year on record”, March 2015 was not especially distinctive, etc.

  So the question is: why the disagreement? The alarmists would have you believe the satellite data is simply wrong, a rather remarkable assertion since the satellite networks were put in place to prove the “truth” of man-made global warming.

  But, there is something weird going on with the surface temperature record, which is – at the risk of repeating myself – the only global temperature dataset that supports the alarmist’s predictions.

  To understand what has been going on, let’s take a look at an entirely representative temperature record. The following is the temperature record from a weather station in Puerto Casado, Paraguay, in its raw form. That is, these are the temperatures that were actually recorded at the weather station:

   You don’t need a degree in the sciences to see that the raw data does not suggest there has been any sort of recent increase in temperatures at this station. And again, this station is typical of what the raw surface temperature data looks like at most every surface station.

  However, the raw data is not what the alarmists use when they appeal to hysteria. To do that, they need to use “adjusted” data that they claim is more accurate. Here’ is the same dataset, following NOAA “adjustments”:

   Rather alarming, no? But accurate? As the “adjusted” surface temperature record deviates more and more for the satellite records, an increasing number of scientists have questioned the basis and validity of the adjusted surface temperature data. Toward that end, a group of distinguished scientists, led by Terence Kealey, until recently vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, have gathered together to investigate the nature and effect of the “adjustments” that NOAA has been making.

  This investigation could be, and probably should be, the death knell of global warming alarmism. But, as invested as the left and their allies are in this particular fantasy, it probably won’t be the case. Mores the pity…

 

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Fear

By Rich Trzupek

  In 1770 British soldiers killed five colonists on the streets of Boston. The incident became known as the Boston Massacre, raising the same sort of fury among the populace that the Kent State shootings would two hundred years later.

  Captain Thomas Preston, officer of the watch during the incident, and seven other British soldiers were held for trial. Preston tried to find an attorney to defend him and his men, asking several loyalist lawyers to take the case. All refused, afraid of the reaction of the angry, rebellious radicals who would eventually push the colonies into revolution.

  Unable to find help among his sympathizers, Preston to turned to his opponents. He asked John Adams, already established as one of the leaders among the radicals, to lead the defense. Adams accepted, to the consternation of many of his compatriots.

  For Adams, it was a matter of principle. He believed that everyone, guilty or innocent, deserved representation under the law. The fact that he was working to end what he viewed as an illegal military occupation was neither here nor there. Members of that despised occupation force deserved a fair trial as much as anyone else.

  Thanks to Adams’ defense, the eight were acquitted of murder. Two were convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter, while the remaining six were cleared of any wrongdoing. Historians pretty much agree that justice was served.

  Adams, never known for his modesty, would later say that defending Preston and his men was “…one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested actions of my whole life, and one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country.”

  This is probably the most famous example of one of the features of American jurisprudence of which we are most proud: everyone gets representation. American attorneys have proudly, even arrogantly, followed that principle throughout history.

  Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, James Earl Ray and hosts of other reprehensible murderers found representation. When the American Nazi party went to court to exercise their right of free speech in Skokie, it was attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union – the kind of organization that would never be allowed to exist under Nazi rule – that stood up in defense of that hateful organization.

  Against the backdrop of that proud history, a recent New York Times story is truly chilling. According to the Times, no large American law firm is willing to represent those who oppose gay marriage in the case currently under deliberation by the Supreme Court.

  Why? Because they are afraid of backlash from the LGBT community should they dare to do so. I am not aware of any parallel in American history.

  This is not about how anyone feels about gay marriage. As a matter of my faith, I believe that marriage is a sacrament that is – exclusively – between a man and a woman. However, if secular authorities wish to define marriage in another way, that’s up to them. However the Supremes decide, I believe we should move forward and get along without rancor.

  What this is about is whether or not people are allowed to express their opinions regarding gay marriage. It is ironic that the LGBT community, which surely suffered at the hands of forces of repression, has now become the poster-child for repressive behavior. Having “made it” to the mainstream, so to speak, gays and lesbians have embraced the culture of censorship they justifiably complained about, to an extent rarely seen in the United States.

   It’s a sad situation, as some in the LGBT community have had the courage to admit. When the biggest law firms in the United States fear to follow a simple principle so famously championed by one of our Founding Fathers, one must wonder whether those firms have lost their way, or an interest group has grown too powerful for its own good, or both.

 

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Frame-werks

By Rich Trzupek

  So, apparently, the truth-challenged theocrats who run the intolerant nation of Iran have come to agreement with a deal that will allow the west to enforce a treaty that ensures that Iran is unable to produce nuclear weaponry in the future. Or so the story goes.

  Negotiations with Iran necessarily involved some aspects of self-deception. For the western powers, a prerequisite was the assumption that Iran was working toward some sort of legitimate, non-aggressive, goal by developing a nuclear program. Why in the world would anyone attempt to limit, rather than eliminate, this tyrannical theocracy’s nuclear capabilities unless that theocracy could establish some peaceful reason for needing that technology?

  In reality, everyone – including the Obama administration – clearly understands that Iran’s nuclear ambitions are solely about the development of weapons of mass destruction. Sitting atop a virtually unlimited pool of oil, Iran doesn’t suffer from a desperate need of alternative forms of energy.

  What of non-energy related nuclear science applications, like within the medical realm for example? Iran could obtain the isotopes needed for such work far more cheaply and much more easily by purchasing the material from established nuclear nations like Russia, France or the United States.

  Accordingly, we play this game. We pretend that Iran has legitimate need of a nuclear program and Iran pretends to be shocked that anyone would think otherwise.

  The President has pledged that Iran won’t get the bomb on his watch, a promise that would be comforting but for Obama’s failure to follow through on such pledges in the past. Remember that line in the sand that Assad was forbidden to cross, for example? Not only did the Syrian thug cross it, he positively danced his way across.

  I take the President at his word when he says that he doesn’t want Iran to get the bomb, in other words, but I have long ago lost any confidence that the guy knows what the hell he’s doing, particularly when it comes to dealing with foreign thugs. This is the administration who presented Russia with a “Reset” button for cripes sake. How’s that been working out?

  Part of the problem is that the administration, and many of the left, pretend there are only two ways to keep Iran from getting the bomb: reach an agreement, or bomb ‘em. But, there is a third way, one that we know works: keep the sanctions in place and, if possible, tighten ‘em up.

  Our message should have been “dismantle your nuclear infrastructure or we’ll double down on sanctions. You think your economy is up crap-creek now? Just wait.”

  Consider that about eighty percent of Iran’s populace are less than thirty years old. How long do you think young people like that are going to put up being ruled by eighty year old mullahs forcing a medieval form of theocracy down their throats if their economy continues to go to hell in an handbasket.

  Pressing forward with the sanctions would continue to destabilize the mullahs and – just as we saw in the USSR at the end of the last century – people will eventually rise up against tyrants when conditions get bad enough. Regime change represents our best chance of getting Iran to abandon its nuclear program and the sanctions represent our best chance of fermenting enough unrest to force regime change.

  Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll be stuck with this silly deal, which does nothing to destroy Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Instead, we have to hope that Iran will keep its promise not to use it.

  And once the sanctions have been lifted, how long do you think it will be before the mullahs start to refuse international inspection? I’d give it like a month.

  The people that will ultimately pay the price for this idiocy are the citizens of Israel. Unless Bibi takes action, which – once this deal starts to fall apart – I’d wager he’ll do in a heartbeat.

 

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Facing Up

By Rich Trzupek

  It is pretty clear at this point that the tragedy that cost 150 people their lives when a Germanwings airliner crashed in the French Alps was the deliberate act of a mentally disturbed co-pilot.

  One needs no more evidence than the fact that First Officer Andreas Lubitz set the auto-pilot on the doomed Airbus 320 to descend to 100 feet and then deliberately locked Captain Patrick Sonderheimber out of the cockpit as the plane plunged to earth. Sane people don’t do such things, by definition.

  Further details continue to emerge. It appears that Lubitz suffered from depression in the past and that his long-time girl-friend had left him the day before the crash. Vision problems that could have resulted in Lubitz losing his pilot’s license may have exacerbated a fragile mental state. His girl-friend chillingly recalls how Lubitz was determined to do something – presumably anything – that would make the name Andreas Lubitz resonate through history.

  Lubitz succeeded in his supposed quest for immortality. Air carriers have already instituted new procedures, and will continue to institute such procedures, to prevent a disturbed pilot from being able to commit mass murder in the future.

  As is, and has always been the case, the response to tragedy will be imperfect. Whatever corrections and protections we make as a society, evil will find a way around them. It has ever been so and will ever be thus.

  Yet, the knowledge that we mere humans are incapable of achieving perfection should never persuade us to abandon the pursuit.

  In that spirit, the Great Lesson that we ought to have learned from the Germanwings tragedy is the same one that we should have learned from the Newtown massacre and Columbine slaughter and the Egyptair crash – to name but a few examples: we need to take mental illness more seriously.

  I make that statement as one who has to deal with mental illness. Notice I didn’t say “suffers from mental illness”, because I think that use of a pejorative like “suffers” demands a victim status that is ultimately counter-productive. There is little practical difference between mental illnesses and breaking a bone. Both are painful, disruptive and – thanks to today’s medical miracles – ultimately treatable.

  My particular mental illness is defined as “anxiety disorder”, which is a form of bi-polar disorder that makes the un-medicated me somewhat manic/depressive and acutely prone to panic attacks. But for modern medicine, my condition would have long ago relegated me to hiding in my home, too terrified to deal with any of the uncertainties of real life. Would have kept me out of The Examiner as well, which would have pleased some percentage of readers!

  After being diagnosed in my early twenties, I first did what many of us who suffer from mental disorder did: I hid in the shadows. I was embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone to know. Over time, I came to understand that was stupidity to the nth degree. Either this problem was or was not of my making. If it was a weakness, then equally weak individuals should know that medicine could offer strength. If it was not a weakness, then equally afflicted individuals should know that medicine could offer a cure. Didn’t matter either way. The net result was the same.

  Accordingly, I became an unapologetic champion of mental health. As part of my everyday dealings with my fellow humans – whenever it comes up – I never, ever hide the details of my particular mental health story. Not because I think my story makes me a hero, which it doesn’t, but because I am sure that the world will be a better place the more we accept the simple fact that mental illness is just another form of illness.

  Tragedies like Newtown and Germanwings are the direct result of society tippy-toeing around mental health issues. As a civilized society, we tend to protect the individual’s right of privacy with regard to mental health problems. That’s noble – and understandable – but the fact is that mentally-unstable people in positions to endanger lives, whether they be fellow students or airline pilots, should be subject to mental health evaluations before they are put in positions where they can endanger other lives. Let’s stop worrying about the stupid stigma issues and start focusing on the mental health of those people who are in a position to cause hurt.

 

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Bet on Bibi

By Rich Trzupek

  To the consternation of the left, including the President of the United States, Benjamin Netanyahu not only won virtual re-election as Israel’s Prime Minister, he absolutely trounced the competition. What are we to make of this?

  The first thing that comes immediately to mind is that polling today is beset by corruption or incompetence or both. Pre-election polling in Israel almost universally predicted that Netanyahu’s Likud Party was going to lose a disturbing number of seats in the Knesset, making it difficult – if not impossible – for Likud to put together a coalition that would allow Bibi to retain office as Prime Minister.

  That is of course not what happened. Likud came of the election stronger than before, having captured 30 seats in the Knesset, more than any other party, putting it in a commanding position as negotiations to form the next government begins.

  How did professional pollsters miss this result? I’m no polling expert, but I suspect that polling in Israel suffers from the same sort of problems that beset polling in America. These days it seems that polls are often used as a political tool, reflecting the pollster’s desires rather than reality. Does that happen consciously or unconsciously? Your guess is as good as mine.

  The other, and much more consequential, result of this result involves President Obama’s reaction to it. I don’t subscribe to the conspiracy theories that frame Obama as a closet Muslim and/or anti-Semite who wouldn’t be at all disturbed if Israel were wiped off the map. I think he wants Israel to survive and believes it has a right to do so.

  But, I do believe that the President is naïve in his approach to foreign affairs. He appears to sincerely believe in the fiction that, but for Bibi, a “two-state” solution could finally bring a lasting peace to the Middle East.

  That’s utter nonsense. The two-state solution requires reaching an agreement with Hamas and any deal involving Hamas won’t be worth the paper it’s written on. Don’t take my word for it, take Hamas’. The following comes directly from their charter:

  “Israel will exist, and will continue to exist, until Islam abolishes it.” Hamas pledges to wage “jihad in the face of the oppressors, in order to deliver the land and the believers from their filth, impurity, and evil” in order “to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.”

  Given the opportunity, Hamas will happily agree to a two-state solution and then they’ll do exactly what they have always done: everything possible to destroy Israel. The state that used millions of dollars’ worth of construction supplies sent to it to build housing to instead construct dozens of terrorist tunnels cannot be trusted any farther than I can throw a Buick.

  Bibi knows that. The majority of Israelis know that. Moderate Arab states like Jordan and Egypt know that. They also all know that Iran cannot be trusted to follow through on any nuclear deal to which it purports to agree.

  Our current President is a petulant fellow. When he doesn’t get his way, he has marked a tendency to strike out – defying Congress, the Constitution, public opinion or whatever. Now that it appears certain that Bibi will stay in power, there is noise that the administration will do what had previously been unthinkable: abandon Israel at the UN.

  Heretofore, the United States has exercised our veto power in the UN Security Council to defeat any attempts to impose a Middle East “solution” upon Israel. There is talk – and one hopes to God these rumors are unfounded – that the President will reverse that policy in the near future.

  As a practical matter, no UN resolution cannot compel a sovereign state to agree to anything, so abandoning Israel in the UN won’t make any immediate difference in Mideast affairs. But, such a slight will have long-term consequences, every bit as disastrous as Obama’s decision – made against the advice of just about every military and policy leader – to entirely evacuate US troops from Iraq rather than negotiate a new status of forces agreement.

  Once the nut-jobs perceive that America is no longer dedicated to preserving Israel’s sovereignty, they will grow ever more emboldened and aggressive. Fortunately for the Israeli people, they have a leader who is up to that challenge, even if we do not.

 

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A Letter

By Rich Trzupek

  Last week, liberal Senators Markey, Boxer and Whitehouse sent out an intimidating letter to the Heartland Institute, an organization I proudly support, and ninety nine other businesses and institutions that dare to question global warming alarmism. Being a bit disgusted by their strong-arm tactics, I decided a reply was in order. Here’s what I wrote:

  Senators Markey, Boxer and Whitehouse,

  As a scientist who has volunteered my time and talent to help the Heartland Institute defend the tradition of open scientific discourse, I was saddened by the intimidating tone of the letters that you sent to Heartland and 99 other businesses and institutions that have dared to question “global warming” heterodoxy. As an American, I was appalled.

  How dare you. How dare anyone who has been elected to represent the best interests of the populace – not just that portion of the populace that can be counted on to preserve their exalted position in government – engage in this sort of bullying. I know, as you know – but as I am certain you will never have the courage or integrity to admit – that these letters did not result from desperate personal intellectual wrestling with the nuances and details of climate policy. The average American is not yet so dim nor so cowed as to believe that you have any personal grasp of these issues.

  I believe, and I am sure the majority of Americans believe – including your supporters – that these letters were generated at the behest of and largely authored by environmental advocacy groups that have a vested interest in promoting “global warming” hysteria, with suitable editing by your PR staffers. I very much believe that about the only thing that can be attributed to you personally regarding these letters is your signatures. If you would wish to dispute that, I invite you to discuss the “settled science” of “climate change” with me, with Joe Bast of Heartland, with Dr. Roy Spencer, with Dr. Richard Lindzen or with any of the cadre of public-policy experts and climatologists who dare to disagree with “climate change” heterodoxy in any public forum.

  You won’t do that of course. For that would force you to confront the greatest irony of climate change heterodoxy. You insist that climate change is the supremely important issue of our age, but you abrogate any personal responsibility to understand the science behind the claim – except for the most rudimentary (and therefore most meaningless) aspects of the issue.

  I do not understand how or why your personal refusal to personally learn the detailed scientific nuances of an issue that you say is so tremendously important to the future of civilization can be justified. If I thought planet Earth were in danger of extinction from pixie dust, I sure as hell would personally do everything I could to become an expert on the sources and effects of pixie dust. Most everyone on your side of the global-warming issue defaults to “the science is settled” BS, which is simply a way of making sure that you don’t have to personally understand the science while you create politically-profitable alarm.

  And when we talk about the science being settled or not, let’s be clear on what that means.

Everyone agrees:

1) That increased carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere will increase the amount of energy (heat) retained in the atmosphere,

2) That the increased use of fossil fuels to generate energy has, and will continue to, increase the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

  Bill Nye, the Science Lie, and Al Gore, the Warming Bore, have spent an enormous amount of time and money attempting to convince whom they seem to assume to be a moronic public of these two well-established facts. Everybody understands that everybody understands those two points, except global warming disaster fanatics and their pliable pawns in the mainstream media and left-wing politicos who try to convince the populace that “deniers” reject these facts.  

  Not so. The salient questions are: 1) how significant is the effect of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and 2) what can we do about those increasing concentrations. There is compelling case to be made that the answer to question one is “not much” and the failure of alarmist models to predict the global temperature stability we have experienced over the last eighteen years strongly supports that case.

  The answer to question two, as far as America is concerned, is almost certainly: “nothing”. For more than a decade, the U.S. has made tortuous efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases through a jumbled, ill-conceived, combination of federal, regional and state initiatives. Those efforts have clearly been successful. USEPA data clearly shows that domestic greenhouse gas emissions have continually declined since 2008, and anyone familiar with this ill-conceived jumble of federal, regional and state initiatives in place knows that trend will continue well past 2020.

  But, to what end? If you insist that greenhouse gases are pollutants, then you must admit that they are global pollutants and the data shows that the massive reductions the United States has made, and will continue to make, have no discernable effect on global concentrations of greenhouse gases. The bottom line is that if your concern about the supposedly catastrophic effects of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere were sincere, you would spend your time and energy to find ways to reduce emissions in China and India, rather than bullying independent organizations like Heartland and courageous scientists like Dr. Soon who dare to expose the appalling incompetence of alarmist climate scientists and the hypocrisy of those who support them.

  As a final note, I wish to make you aware that this letter will appear in Examiner Publications, a suburban chain of newspapers published in the Chicago suburbs. If you should wish to offer a reply, we will be happy to do publish it.

  Sincerely,

  Rich Trzupek

 

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Hollywood Twiticism

By Rich Trzupek

  Tinsel Town is full of insufferable people, but few are quite as unendurable as Sean Penn. The uber-lib Penn raised a few – mostly conservative – eyebrows when he said “Who gave this son of a bitch his green card?” before announcing that Birdman, directed by Mexican-born Alejandro Inarritu, won the Academy Award for best picture.

  Having mostly created the modern-day atmosphere in which no one can say anything remotely negative about anyone else on planet earth, even in jest, without an eruption of righteous outrage, liberals should not have been surprised that conservatives went down that familiar path.

  “Wasn’t that a racist remark?” “Would a conservative get away with saying something like that?” Etc.

  The answers to the above two questions are both “no”, but who cares? Penn was attempting to be ironic, a defining behavior of the especially smug pseudo-intellectual. Rather than reacting with manufactured shock – which Penn certainly feeds off of – conservatives should have answered with a yawn. Nothing bugs a prima donna more than being ignored.

  Penn responded to the criticism in his typical annoying style. According to an AP story, he had no regrets:

  "I'm always surprised by flagrant stupidity. I keep having more hope," said Penn of the widespread outrage that followed the moment.

  "The fact is that I understand it. I see it all the time. When somebody sees the opportunity to frame something in the comfort that it will be common that they can do that and they can get a group to look at them and that they will take on those positions and never really think about what it was," he added.

  "I have absolutely no apologies," Penn said with calm resolve.

  I hope the AP reporter’s recorder was having a bad day and Penn didn’t actually say all that. The first two sentences flatly contradict each other and the next three are gobbelty-gook that suggests he’s having flashbacks to his “Fast Times” days. Only the last sentence is evidence of functional grey-matter.

  Having warmed up, Penn then went for the throat.

  "In fact, I have a big (expletive) you for every ... anybody who is so stupid not to have gotten the irony when you've got a country that is so xenophobic," he said. "If they had their way, you wouldn't have great filmmakers like Alejandro working in this country. Thank God we do."

  One presumes that Penn’s vitriol is directed at those of us who believe that America’s immigration system is badly broken, especially with respect to our southern border.

  The real irony is that Penn doesn’t understand that his remark is actually supports us horrible right-wingers on the immigration issue. If Inarritu has a green card, then we know that he went through the legal immigration process, which all those of us opposed to porous borders want.

  But, in the lib world of identity politics, you are defined by your “group”, not yourself, thus opposition has to be racially-based. We’re xenophobes. Right.

  We are, in fact, the most welcoming nation on earth, a role that we have filled for the better part of two centuries. The melting pot that is America exists precisely because, as a matter of public policy, we make America open to everyone.

    Unfortunately, while the process of integration into the American fabric used to be orderly and controlled, in modern times it’s turned into chaos. That may be OK to an airhead like Penn who has no idea how lucky he is to live in our “xenophobic” prison camp of a country, but a lot of the rest of us are getting tired of anarchy.

 

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Fighting Back

By Rich Trzupek

  For many of us, it’s a matter of faith or upbringing or both, the idea is the same: if you have the ability and opportunity to help someone in need, it is your duty to do so. It’s a guiding principle in the way many people live their lives.

  So, for example, if I’m driving home and I see someone struggling to get their car out of a snowbank, and there is no more pressing demand on my time, I believe it is my obligation to pull over and lend hand as long as I am physically capable to doing so.

  This simple principle is at the core of what has made the United States a special nation, for we have acted time and again to fulfill our obligation to help people in trouble.

  If an earthquake devastates some portion of the world, American aid – both public and private – pours into the region. We have saved millions of lives in Africa combating AIDS in that beleaguered continent. The list goes on and on.

  Yet, there is a group of people in dire trouble that we could help, but whom our government has chosen not to help in any meaningful way. And yet, thanks to a very special group of selfless heroes, there is hope.

  It is estimated that there were once as many of 1.5 million Assyrian Christians living in Iraq. Today, thanks to systematic persecution by the thugs that call themselves ISIS, that population has dwindled to less than 400,000 according to best estimates.

  The President’s solution of playing whack-a-mole with airstrikes is clearly having very little effect and the rest of the international community is happy to ignore the situation. The thugs are winning and their ranks are growing and one of the world’s most ancient Christian sects is being systematically destroyed as a result.

  In steps Matthew VanDyke.

  VanDyke, a filmmaker, is the founder and CEO of Sons Of Liberty International (SOLI), an organization dedicated to helping oppressed populations defend themselves from murderous zealots.

  “The international system has failed [Christian] communities around the world in recent years," VanDyke said in an interview published by Fox News. "Christianity is about to be wiped out in Iraq.”

“They are down to less than 400,000. Many of those who have left will never return. They need to demonstrate that they can maintain and be responsible for their own security to encourage their people to stay – or else, within a couple of generations, there won’t be any Christians left in Iraq. This is their last chance.”

  SOLI volunteers, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been training Iraqi Christians to defend themselves – free of charge. The first battalion of what is being called the Nineveh Plain Protection Unit (NPU) was recently formed and more are on the way.

  That’s bad news for the fanatics, but a glimpse of hope to a long-suffering populace. Nobody should be persecuted for practicing their faith in this day and age, nor should anyone be driven from their home of lose their life because of it.

  It is said that God helps those who help themselves. Thanks to VanDyke and his fellow heroes at SOLI, Assyrian Christians will have the opportunity to do just that. If you make one donation this year, I hope you will join me by going to sonsoflibertyinternational.com and making a contribution in the defense of freedom and tolerance.

 

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Smearing Soon

By Rich Trzupek

  Environmentalists have a big problem: the planet isn’t heating up the way they said it would. As we discussed previously, the alarmist crowd has a variety of ways to try and explain away “the pause”.

  One is to say that the lack of any statistically significant warming over the past eighteen years doesn’t mean anything in the long term – warming will return, just you wait and see!

  Another is to say that all kinds of energy is being stored in the oceans and when the Pacific releases it during the next El Nino there will be hell to pay.

  There are other explanations and excuses, but they’re all diversions designed to stop up from focusing on a simple truth: the climate models alarmists have relied upon have not gotten it right for the better part of two decades.

  That’s embarrassing and the alarmists’ stubborn instance that their models are accurate in the face of increasing evidence to the contrary erodes their credibility every year, just as their continued push to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions in America, when even the most ardent alarmist is forced to acknowledge that those reductions would have no practical effect.

  I imagine the enviro-left is feeling more and more backed into a corner and, feeling threatened, they have lashed out, targeting a decent, honest man for a vile smear campaign.

  I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Willie Soon and to hear him speak. He is a personable, modest scientist of unquestionable personal integrity. To see him slandered by a couple of jerks working for the New York Times, acting as tools for massive, and massively well-funded, Big Green industry is loathsome. “Despicable” doesn’t began to cover it.

  The essence of the Times’ story is that Soon’s work – some of which disputes Big Green “climate change” orthodoxy – cannot be trusted because Soon is in the pocket of big energy companies.

  The Times figured this out because Greenpeace submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that showed that Soon has been awarded over $1.2 million in grant money from energy companies over the past decade.

  That was something of a waste of effort, since – to my knowledge – Soon has never denied that his research benefited from those grants. The flip side of that is that Willie’s bank accounts didn’t swell to the tune of $1.2 million over the course of a decade because of these grants. Only a portion – less than half – of the grant money awarded went to pay Dr. Soon.

  Further, if we were able to line up all of the grants awarded to “climate change” researchers by government, left-wing donors and left-wing foundations against those grants awarded to brave contrarians like Soon, I am confident the numbers wouldn’t be anywhere near close. The vast majority of cash that goes into “climate change” research goes to and comes from organizations who have a vital, vested interest in pushing global warming hysteria. But, of course, the Times doesn’t have a problem with that.

  But the most important part of this non-story is that it’s ultimately pointless. Casting aspersions at how a scientific study is funded has absolutely nothing to do with the validity of said study. The Times, in classic alarmist-apologist fashion, doesn’t even bother to deal with the science, except to trot out global-warming head cheerleader Gavin Schmidt of the notorious alarmist website Real Climate (an association the Times doesn’t disclose, of course) to crap on Willie’s work.

  Lovely.

  Soon’s biggest sin, it would appear, is to co-author a study entitled “Why Models Run Hot: Results from and Irreducibly Simple Climate Model” along with Lord Christopher Monckton, Dr. David Legates and “Statistician to the Stars” William Briggs. That study, which has received a lot of attention, has been able to predict actual climatic changes far better than any of the alarmist models and – horror of horrors – predicts far less warming in the future, to the extent that it would be almost impossible for a reasonable person to worry about greenhouse gas emissions moving forward.

  Can’t have that, not with billions of “climate change” research dollars at stake. So, the Chicken-Little crowd, unable to combat the message, resorts to the tried and true strategy of attacking the messenger instead.

  The more things change…

 

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The Crusader

By Rich Trzupek

  President Obama never ceases to amaze. Every time you think he can’t say something more condescendingly offensive, he manages to raise (or lower) the bar yet again.

  A couple of weeks ago, speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast, the Prez grudgingly admitted that there may be a certain group of fanatic, murderous, ideologues whom he seems unable to name, but whom we here in the Cheap Seats refer to as the Lollipop Guild, who represent a certain threat to peace, civilization and the concept of individual freedom. Maybe.

  However, that very painful admission (sort of) was immediately followed by the professorial finger-wagging that this President so adores. He admonished us not to “get on our high horse”, since Christians were guilty of atrocities during the Crusades and the Inquisition.

  There are a couple of rather obvious problems here that one would hope a Harvard-educated intellectual would be capable of coming to grips with. The first, and most obvious, is the fallacy of finding the lowest-common denominator to justify abhorrent behavior.

  Hitler is a particularly useful example of this phenomenon. Find some world-leader behaving badly and, inevitably, some idiot who wants to justify the tyrant’s actions will do so by saying that said tyrant isn’t as bad as Hitler. Well, hot dog!

  In Obama’s case it gets even more ridiculous, since he had to time-travel several hundred years in his rather pathetic attempt to make a moral-equivalency argument.

  Let’s start with the Crusades. We haven’t had a Crusade for many a century, which seems kind of relevant when western culture is living in the present and a significant portion of the Lollipop Guild is living in medieval times.

  It’s also important to note that the Crusades were a reaction to Islamic imperialism. In the latter half of his rule, the prophet Muhammad adopted an expansionist, aggressively militaristic policy toward his Jewish and Christian neighbors. Having failed to cajole them into conversion to Islam, the prophet decided that the sword was the answer and his successors kept up with that program.

  The Christian response to Muslim expansionism was the same as virtually every other expansionist push in history: Christians pushed back. While doing so, Christians undoubtedly committed atrocities, as did Muslims. It was the Middle Ages and war and atrocities went hand in hand on all sides.

  And the Inquisition? That was a part of a complex period of reform within Christianity. It wasn’t a part of which we Christians are particularly proud – looking back – but it’s ridiculous to consider the Inquisition in isolation, for it was a part of a larger movement in which the theocratic aspects of Christianity were thrown aside and the division between secular authority and religion began to form.

  Islam has yet to experience a Reformation analogous to that which changed the relationship between Christians and secular authority forever. Instead, the Muslim version of the Inquisition dominates a wide swath of the Muslim world, centuries after that particular form of persecution disappeared from Western culture.

  For the President of the United States to suggest that it is appropriate to compare Christian and Jewish sins hundreds of years old, committed in a time when such sins were commonplace, to the abominable behavior of modern-day thugs thumbing their noses at modern notions of freedom, liberty and self-determination is stupidity beyond belief.

  The President’s dopey remarks do nothing to help the many moderate Muslims in the world to defeat the fanatics and establish a healthy division between church and state. Instead, Obama’s idiotic comparisons merely embolden the enemy to more acts of terror, suggesting that if we don’t exactly approve of acts of barbarism committed in the name of God, we at least understand them.

  Asserting that kind of moral equivalency in the thirteenth century might have been justifiable. Doing so in the twenty first century is moronic beyond belief.

 

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Frack This

By Rich Trzupek

  Veteran readers of the Cheap Seats know that though I pretend to be an expert in many, many areas, I’m really only an expert in one: air quality issues. Accordingly, when the news came out that the state of New York has decided to ban hydro-fracturing (aka: “fracking”) because of air quality concerns, I was naturally curious about the details.

  The study that supposedly exposed the air quality issues associated with fracking was published at a website called Environmental Health and is publicly available. Here’s the url if you care to take a gander yourself: http://www.ehjournal.net/content/13/1/82

  After reading the study I was amazed to find that it doesn’t have anything to do with fracking. Seriously. Nor do the authors claim that their study has anything to do with fracking.

  Allow me to explain.

  Fracking is a one-time event that occurs during well completion and typically lasts two to three days. Once fracking is finished, the well enters a production phase that can last for years. (In certain instances a well may be re-fracked after years of production if the operator determines that further stimulation of the formation will improve production).

  Once a well goes into production there is nothing to distinguish a well that was hydro-fractured during completion from one that was not. The infrastructure, equipment, means of processing and other details of moving produced natural gas and petroleum products to market are exactly the same once a given well enters production.

  The distinction is important because the study does not examine the impact of fracking operations on air quality. It examines the impact of activities and equipment associated with producing wells on air quality. While the authors of the study make rather tortuous attempts to link air quality impacts (such as they are) to fracking, none of the data collected can be linked to a hydro-fracturing event. The indictment here – and it is, in my opinion, a very weak indictment – is aimed at oil and natural gas production and transportation operations as a whole, not against fracking.

  The authors claim to have found alarming concentrations of certain air pollutants that originate from equipment used to produce and transport natural gas. Some of these wells may have been fracked before they went into production, which – in the authors’ minds – creates a connection between fracking and these “dangerous” levels of air pollutants.

  There are a couple of very basic errors here. First, none of the equipment that produced the pollutants found had anything to do with fracking. For example, many of the “hits” involved internal combustion engines that run compressors needed to move natural gas through a pipeline. Those compressors would exist whether or not wells upstream owe their birth to fracking or to conventional drilling.

   Secondly, many of the “hits” resulted from sampling incredibly close to the exhaust of the (non-fracking related) equipment tied to the problematic pollutants. In the worst cases, samples were taken five meters from the exhaust of engines used to drive compressors.

  As an air quality professional, I can guarantee you that if you grab an air sample five meters downwind of any source of combustion, you are going to find alarming concentrations of some nasty compounds. This is true whether the source is an industrial engine or a backyard barbecue or the chimney of a fireplace.

  Those alarming concentrations would be an issue only if we spent our lifetime – or a significant portion thereof – five meters from the exhaust of an industrial engine or a backyard barbecue or the chimney of a fireplace. Most of us don’t do that, so this kind of chemo-paranoia is simply ridiculous.

  I have written up a detailed critique of this anti-fracking study and my friends at the Heartland Institute are going to distribute it soon. If you have the time, check it out and you’ll start to understand the difference between real science and politically motivated junk science.

 

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Free Speech? Pas en France

By Rich Trzupek

  Yeah it was embarrassing. The supposed leader of the free world was conspicuously absent as the leaders of forty other nations marched arm in arm through Paris. Even liberals – with the exception of the biggest die-hards – expressed their chagrin over Obama’s no-show.

  Let’s put that to the side for the moment. It was not the first time the Prez has embarrassed himself and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

  The more interesting issue involves a basic question: why were all those people marching? That answer is not as simple as you think.

  At one level, the Paris march was a gesture of defiance aimed at the Lollipop Guild. Some leaders even dared to associate the Guild with a deviant branch of a particular religion, something our dear leader would never do of course. But more of us are beginning to see a certain value in calling a spade a spade, not only in the west, but within the Guild’s sane and peaceful co-religionists, whatever religion that is.

  I’m OK with that motivation and, to some extent, agree that it existed. It certainly motivated leaders like Israel’s Bibi Netanyahu and the UK’s David Cameron. I doubt that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who also serves as leader of the terrorist group Hamas, shared their feelings.

  It’s kind of puzzling isn’t it? Why would a thug like Abbas attend an event that demonized the actions of “freedom fighters” of the sort that Hamas has recruited, trained and supported on a routine basis?

  If we dig down into the second, or perhaps third, layers of the story, Abbas’ attendance starts to make sense. Hamas exists because rich SOBs living in Muslim-led nations like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan funnel cash to them. Rich SOBS in Muslim-led nations like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan funnel cash to them because the west, especially (but not exclusively) European nations are unwilling to hold the de facto financers of terrorism accountable.

  Abbas is no fool. He knows that Hamas can endure American opposition, however tepid under this particular administration. But, Hamas can’t survive if Europe started taking the Lollipop Guild seriously, for such a decision would lead to holding those who fund the Guild accountable and that would well and truly mean serious trouble for Hamas. So Abbas marched in “solidarity” with western values, though he could not care less about those values and would certainly not extend the freedoms he supposedly marched in favor of to the citizens of his own nation.

  Abbas also understands, I think, that the publicly accepted motivation for the march was so much horse-puckey. In much of the media – mainstream, liberal and conservative – the Paris march was described as a demonstration in defense of free speech. Unfortunately, that was not true.

  Free speech, as we in America understand it, does not exist in France. As Americans, we believe – and our Constitutions ordains – that free speech is an inherent right granted to us by God, a right that government may only restrict for the most compelling of reasons.

  In France, free speech is a privilege, something the government “owns” and which it dispenses to the masses as it sees fit.

  If you went to the Paris march, you were “free” to wear an “I am Charlie” T-shirt. However, if you chose to wear an “I am not Charlie” T-shirt, you were escorted away. If you chose to wear a T-shirt that the authorities deemed to be in support of the Lollipop Guild, you were likely arrested.

  Today, French authorities are aggressively enforcing the nation’s laws against “hate speech” by arresting and prosecuting people who say or post words those authorities find offensive. I have little doubt that I would find those opinions equally offensive, but that’s hardly the point. Government should not be allowed to define “hate” any more than I should.

  Last week I wrote that free speech cannot exist in the absence of satire. It’s equally true that free speech cannot exist unless we – every one of us – allows people to say things that certain individuals find objectionable. That’s the issue at the heart of the Charlie Hebdo massacre and it’s the principle that nations like France would do well to remember.

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Winter In Paris

By Rich Trzupek

  Last week’s horrific, disturbing events in Paris have given rise to a great deal of discussion around the world. Some heartfelt. Some thoughtful. Some utterly ridiculous. Let’s take a gander at four quotes I found especially note-worthy.

  This, from journalist Claire Berlinski who was nearly caught in the crossfire herself and who witnessed the carnage after the murderers had finished their work. In the immediate aftermath of the slaughter she wrote this:

  “The assailants are as yet at liberty. I hope they’ll be dead by the time you read this. But if not:. You want me too? Come get me. Because nothing short of killing me — and many more of my kind — will ever shut us up.”

  Amen.

  “I know very few people go into comedy as an act of courage, mainly because it shouldn’t have to be that,” Jon Stewart said, adding that “…those guys at Hedbo had it, and they were killed for their cartoons.”

  Can’t add much to that either.

  On the other hand, there were no shortage of fools and cowards tripping over themselves to blame the victim. As a Catholic, I was particularly disgusted by a cowering idiot by the name of Bill Donahue who is president of something called the “Catholic League” (which has no official affiliation with the church, I should add).

  "Those who work at this newspaper have a long and disgusting record of going way beyond the mere lampooning of public figures, and this is especially true of their depictions of religious figures," Donahue wrote in a post. "What unites Muslims in their anger against Charlie Hebdo is the vulgar manner in which Muhammad has been portrayed. What they object to is being intentionally insulted over the course of many years. On this aspect, I am in total agreement with them."

  What unites the civilized world, Billy-boy, is revulsion over murdering a fellow human being over satire. Without satire, aimed at anyone or everyone, free speech cannot exist. Without free speech, freedom cannot exist. We Catholics have been the objects of countless satirical treatments in the entertainment world. Last time I checked, we don’t murder anybody over it. Be as offended as you like Billy-boy, but when murder is the response, the murder’s righteous indignation of perceived vulgarity, insults and blasphemy have no place in the discussion. Period.

  Finally, we have ex-Vermont governor and liberal icon Howard Dean. Speaking on MSNBC, Dean had this to say about the perpetrators of the Paris massacre:

  “You know, this is a chronic problem. I stopped calling these people Muslim terrorists. They're about as Muslim as I am. I mean, they have no respect for anybody else's life, that's not what the Koran says. Europe has an enormous radical problem. I think ISIS is a cult. Not an Islamic cult. I think it's a cult.”

  Dean took a lot of heat from my fellow libertarians and conservatives for those remarks. It may surprise you to learn that I am not among those critics. I’m no fan of Dean, who is about as loopy left on most issues as you one can get, but in this case I think he – like fellow lefties Jon Stewart and Bill Maher – are tortuously approaching the root of the problem: the existence of an organized gang of thugs who are a threat to western civilization and the very idea of liberty.

  I don’t care what we call these thugs and, in my not-so-humble opinion, our endless, boring, pointless attempts to parse the crazies from the larger group of sane folks serves no purpose. Every time you say “Muslim extremists” or “Islamic terrorists” or the like, you have to spend the next five minutes carefully explaining that you understand that the Jihadists do not represent the average, mainstream Muslim who accepts the division between church and state and who isn’t trying to convert the world by force, etc.

  The offensive part of those terms, for those who – like Dean – are offended by those terms and other like them are the “Muslim” and “Islam” parts. So let’s take such terms off the table. Let’s call this particular group of thugs something new. Let’s do as Dean suggests and call them a cult.

  I’ll humbly suggest that we start calling them “The Lollipop Guild”. Nobody is using the title as far I know, and those little bastards in the Wizard of Oz acted like they couldn’t wait to take over the Emerald City if the Wiz turned his back on them.

  So, how do we identify members of the new Lollipop Guild? For one, they like to kill people. They like that a lot. They also enslave people and they like to treat women like crap. They believe that their Guild Charter should take the place of every other form of government on earth. They will not be reasoned with and will not tolerate disagreement from anyone, of any creed, be that person Muslim, Jew, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu or whatever. You either submit to Guild Law, or you lose your head.

  I think we can all agree that the Lollipop Guild is a fargin evil organization and we should use every legal, civilized resource we can to render harmless Guild members and to isolate those nations that support the Guild. If we can be united to that purpose, the Guild’s days are numbered.

 

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On Our Watch

By Rich Trzupek

  On the day after Christmas, retired Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters published a brilliant, compelling, heart-wrenching column about what’s going on in the Middle East. Peters, who was an army intelligence officer, is one of the world’s pre-eminent experts on radical Islam and he pulled no punches in a piece entitled “The Feast of Stephen: Middle East’s Persecuted Christians Need Our Help”.

  He uses St. Stephen, whose feast day is celebrated on December 26, as the poignant centerpiece of his column. According to Christian doctrine, Stephen was the first martyr, choosing to be stoned to death rather than renouncing his belief in the Risen Christ. Unfortunately, Peters notes, that particularly viscous form of execution can no longer be relegated to ancient times:

   “Now stoning’s back, along with martyrdom, but we look away.  We refuse to see martyrs among the Middle East’s Christians. Politically correct toward Islam, while scoffing at Christianity and Judaism, we’ve abandoned the concept of martyrdom to our enemies, to devils in human form who, far from being martyrs, are murderers drenched in the blood of countless innocents.  Infernal organizations, such as the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, the Taliban and others, don’t produce “martyrs.”  They create them.

  Herod was mild in comparison.

  We have watched in near-silence as Christians and other minorities have been evicted from ancient homes and exterminated in a Biblical landscape. As churches shot flames heavenward, we explained away our enemies’ fanaticism and even blamed ourselves for his atrocities.  As two millennia of Christian culture in the Middle East suffered the greatest catastrophe in the faith’s entire history, we invented legal rights for blood-soaked barbarians.”

  With the native Christian populace gone and the west having washed our collective hands of the region, there are only two forces remaining in the Middle East that have the ability to take on the barbarians: Israel and moderate Muslims.

  Israel’s role can only be defensive, so there is no chance that it can do much to reverse the march toward Sharia Law and a new caliphate in that part of the world. So really, really, the only people who can stop the madness are Muslims themselves.

  Will they? Some have pointed to the way that Pakistan quickly brought Taliban killers to justice after the monsters killed 145 people, including 132 children, in a school. I would say rather that this was the exception that proves the rule. The nation that turned its back for years when bin Laden was living there is hardly likely to become a champion of liberty.

   There’s Jordan and Egypt I suppose, but one is too small and the other too poor and indifferent to make much of a difference regionally. Turkey used to be the one place in that part of the world where there was a clear delineation between the secular and the theological, but that line is blurring more every year.

  So, sad as it is to say, voices of moderation in that part of the world will inevitably fade away, because many of those voices will stay in hiding, while those who dare to speak out will find themselves silenced in the most brutal ways available. It’s ironic that the part of world that gave birth to civilization should now be the place to willingly abandon it. But, I will let Colonel Peters have the last word:

  “If recent reports from Iraq prove true—that four Christian boys were beheaded for refusing to convert—we are again in an age of martyred saints.  When “the Sea of Faith was once, too, at the full,” Christian Churches, east and west, would have sought the canonization of such believers.  But today displays of Christian devotion are mocked as blithely as Christ with his crown of thorns.

  Our entertainers laud their own “courage” for mocking Christians and Jews, but dare not make one joke about Islam. Our leaders care not a jot for the fate of the Christian civilization of the east—which dominated the faith’s first thousand years.  We refuse even to name the enemy honestly.

  The term “Holocaust” has been abused by those slovenly in language and in spirit, but we are, indeed, witnessing a Christian Holocaust. And it is nearing completion.

  “Never again” is humanity’s emptiest promise.”

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