I know what you were thinking when you heard the news that two men beheaded a British soldier on a street in London.
Come on, admit it.
Thank Heaven not everybody is as bigoted as you. Hours after the event, NBC news was reporting that the barbaric crime “might appear” to be terrorism and British Prime Minister David Cameron mused that there were “some indications” that terrorism might be involved. Quite right: just because the two perps were reported to be shouting “Allahu Akbar” while they hacked at their victim is no reason to jump to conclusions.
And what about the riots over the past few nights in Stockholm, Sweden? You were thinking that just because the neighborhoods where cars and property went up in flames are predominantly populated by immigrants from Turkey, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Somalia, the conflagration might have something to do with Muslims.
Shame on you.
As the Chicago Tribune quite rightly points out, “Unemployment, Immigrant Poverty Fuel Riots in Sweden.” See? Nothing about Islam there.
And maybe you didn’t catch this news about a group of seven young people who were briefly detained for trespassing at a reservoir that supplies water to Boston. At 12:30 a.m. On a night where temperatures dipped to the 20′s. Just because those young people were from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Singapore, you might have jumped to the conclusion that they were up to something fishy.
Fortunately, cooler heads than yours prevailed, as local police – who clearly have received tip-top sensitivity training – concluded that there was “nothing suspicious” to the incident and released the frolicking youths without bond.
So straighten up , buster. Just because Muslim youths in Boston bomb the Marathon, Muslim youths in London hack off a soldier’s head, Muslim youths in Stockholm burn down their neighborhood and Muslim youths in Massachusetts go creeping around the water supply in the dead of night doesn’t mean there’s any pattern here.
Its all in your head.
“You cannot simultaneously have free immigration and a welfare state.” Milton Friedman
Today’s Drudge trumpets the Boston Herald’s report that the family of the Boston Bombers may have received as much as $100,000 in welfare benefits.
Why would this surprise anyone?
After all, the majority of immigrant households in the U.S. receive welfare benefits – including 71 percent of households with illegal immigrant parents and American-born “anchor babies”.
While other classes of immigrants face various limits on how much mooching they can do and when they can qualify, political refugees like the Tsarnaev family get the gold card treatment from day one: once their asylum status is validated, welfare concierges at the State Department waltz them through the paperwork maze of programs such as food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, Section 8 housing subsidies, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. And those are just the Federal programs – individual states offer a plethora of other goodies.
Indeed, it’s puzzling why the amount of benefits reportedly consumed by the Tsarnaev family is so low. Given that they were a family of six – the parents, the two bombers and two sisters – I’d estimate the true number is closer to $400,000. Add to that the costs to taxpayers of educating the four Tsarnaev children and we’re looking at $800,000 – $80,000 per year.
Quite a bonanza for a family that came here from Kyrgyzstan, a country with an average per-capita income of $1,296.
There’s much thumb-sucking in the media about why the Bomber Brothers might have turned so violently against the country that extended such generous refuge.
But that’s not the real question.
The real question is why we let them come here in the first place.
I should have listened to President Obama. I should have called my Congressman, my Senators, the Speaker of the House. But I just never imagined it would be this bad. Or happen so fast.
This morning, on walkies with my dog, I saw a feral pack of children – kids from the shuttered Marin Country Day School – gnawing hungrily on the remains of a grackle – growling at each other as they struggled over the already picked-over bones. Their Ralph Lauren toddler wear – so crisp and pristine just months ago, was soiled and ragged. They were confused, unable to comprehend the disaster that had visited upon them. First, their healthy, organic meals and snacks had been reduced to mere morsels of chicken nuggets and canned corn. Then the school’s Olympic pool was drained, their WiFi was disconnected and their flat-screen televisions went dark. And finally, for lack of vital Federal funding, the school was padlocked and the children were turned out to fend for themselves, like urchins in a Dickensian dystopia.
Later, behind my local Whole Foods Market, I witnessed a crowd of laid-off teachers, cops and firemen rioting as they fought for scraps from a dumpster. Women were trampled underfoot as men flailed their fists and, reduced to beasts, gnawed at each others’ ears.
This afternoon, fearful of total social collapse, I loaded up my car, slapped an extended magazine into my AR-15 and headed off to a remote mountaintop in search of a secure position with a clear field of fire. Highway 101 was virtually empty, except for zebras, giraffes and wildebeest – released from the de-funded local zoo – grazing in the overgrown median; and lions and tigers lurking in the blind spots where cops with radar guns used to hide.
Most of the radio stations have gone off the air, but I was able to tune into a station from Sacramento. My Spanish isn’t all that good, but I was able to make out that a shipload of rice – a gift from the people of Bangladesh – is sailing its way to the docks at San Francisco. We can only pray it comes soon.
For now, I still have good 4G reception, but I can hardly bear to read the news on my iPhone. President Obama has been forced to postpone his vacation. Congressional aides are subsisting on Ramen noodles. Joe Biden, on a vital mission to plead for help from Azerbaijan, is huddled, miserably, in a Super 8 motel.
God, what have we come to? What have we done?
I should have listened.
There was a brief span, in the last quarter of the 20th Century, when a small group of great visionaries stood firm for liberty against tyranny, for the individual against the oppressive state, for the values that were the foundation of the greatest civilization the world has ever known.
They were courageous and confident and firm in their beliefs. Savaged by a legion of detractors, they remained inspirational, optimistic, even joyful – and they reversed the decline of the West.
Then, in a short space of time, they left us. First Ronald Reagan. Then John Paul II. Then Milton Friedman and William F. Buckley, Jr.
And now the last of them – perhaps the fiercest and most original – has passed.
Now, in a fearful new century, we look for vision and leadership, but they are nowhere to be found.
The 20th Century ended yesterday.
And greatness is gone.
President Obama’s soon-to-be-unveiled budget includes sage counsel for upper-income citizens: You’re saving too much for retirement.
A senior administration official explains that some wealthy individuals (including Mitt Romney – yeah, they actually said that) are socking away millions of dollars in 401(k), SEP and other tax-sheltered accounts and this is…”substantially more than is needed to fund reasonable levels of retirement saving.”
Under this new proposal, tax-preferred accounts will be limited to a maximum balance that would provide $205,000 in withdrawals per retirement year. (Where do they come up with these numbers? It could just as well have been a flat $200,000, but flat numbers don’t sound quite as… scientific.).
But that’s not really the point, is it? The point is that it’s good class warfare.
The administration says this measure will “…bring more fairness to the tax code,” while raising federal revenues by $900 million a year – about what the Federal government borrows every five hours.
That’s not a lot of money and it probably only affects about a thousand taxpayers, but it provides a nice precedent for the next round, when the administration decides that the real cash-cow – the middle class - already has too much money socked away and it’s time for the Feds to dip into your piggy bank.
It worked in Cyprus.
So don’t lie awake nights wondering how much you should be saving for your golden years. Government will do that for you.
As a boy, I spent much of my time in a remote village in the High Sierras. A collection of two dozen weather-worn cabins shaded by towering trees, it was built in the 1920′s as the center of a massive logging empire, but when the crash of 1929 came, the enterprise went bust and, over the years, as the company railroad and the lumber mill were dismantled and sold for scrap, various people bought the cabins. Most of them were comfortable middle-class folks from the scorching Central Valley, who came for weekend retreats, while a few, like my father, were small-scale, hardscrabble lumberjacks.
The original hydro-electric generator had long gone to rust, so we made do with kerosene lanterns and wood stoves, but for a boy like me, that just added to the appeal. With a clear, babbling trout stream, wind sighing through the pines and miles of wilderness in every direction, the place was idyllic.
There was sort of a feudal system: one man owned all the land and employed all the loggers. He had a big house on a hill, where three healthy German Shorthair dogs spent their days sunning on a broad porch. They seemed to understand the uphill/downhill social divide and mostly kept to themselves.
On weekdays, when the summer-retreat people were away and I was the only kid in the village, I’d pack a sandwich, fill a canteen and head off into the forest. My dad had taught me to read a compass and recognize the local landmarks; if I wanted to wander in wilderness, so be it. It was just assumed I had the wits to find my way home.
But the boss man’s dogs had a less sanguine view of my intelligence. If they happened to spy me trekking towards the village boundaries, they’d rise up off the porch and trot down to surround me, like brown-and-white spotted bodyguards. The dominant female took point, the second female took flank and the male brought up the rear. This was clearly no pleasure jaunt for them – they were there to protect the dumb little people-pup because, somehow,their genetic makeup told them it was the right thing to do.
Occasionally, the point dog would catch a scent – bear scat, mountain lion, coyote, a rattlesnake den. She’d stop and stand tall with her nose into the wind, while the others halted and held position. Most times, satisfied that there was no lurking danger, she’d relax and move out, and the rest of us would follow, like a squad of soldiers on patrol.
But other times, clearly sensing something ominous, she’d turn around and come back down the trail. The other dogs would turn, too. They were all business now – it was time to go home.
I’m not sure those dogs even particularly liked me. They never came to me for a pat on the head or a scratch on the ear – they weren’t the sentimental type. They just had a job to do and, when we got back to the village, they’d trot back up to the porch without giving me so much as a backwards glance. Their package of stupid had been safely delivered.
I can’t say that I might be dead if not for those dogs, but it’s certainly a possibility. But I will say that if trouble had come, they would never have abandoned me. It’s who they were. It’s what they did. And I’ll always remember them for it.
Iraq was a stupid war. Afghanistan, after year one, has been a stupid war. Libya was a very, very stupid war.
But the stupidest war, and the longest-lasting and the most expensive is the war declared, in 1970, by Richard Milhouse Nixon: the War on Drugs.
That declaration was, as with most everything else Nixon ever did, raw political calculation. There was, at the time, a nascent backlash among older Americans to the excesses of the 1960′s counterculture. There wasn’t much Nixon could do about bell-bottom trousers or girly hair on boys or loud guitar music. But, by God, he could come down hard on drugs. This appealed to his working and middle-class white base, who still couldn’t figure out where hippy headbands and naked communes had come from, but they knew where marijuana came from. It came from Negros. And they just weren’t gonna abide that. Not in this house.
Forty-three years later, the War on Drugs, still in full swing, is a disaster. We’ve spent 1.5 trillion dollars, incarcerated millions of people, created at all levels of law enforcement what amounts to a police state, and introduced a legion of intrusive new measures (having fun opening that foil packet of sinus medicine?).
Meanwhile, we’ve engendered a whole new underclass. We currently arrest one person every 19 seconds on drug charges, more than half of them for simple possession of a small amount of marijuana. Once they’re in the parole and prison systems, their lives are wrecked.
So what’s the payoff? Well, in 1970 about two percent of the population could be classified as addicted to one illicit drug or another. Ten million incarcerations later, that number is…two percent.
And then there’s the corrosive affect this “war” had had on the relationship between citizens and law enforcement. There are so many incentives for cops to make drug arrests – from promotion to overtime pay to Federal dollars for shiny new cop toys – that they often come to see every contact with a citizen as an opportunity to ring the bell, whether or not that contact had anything to do with drugs in the first place. After enough years of that, everybody looks like a suspect. That’s not how the relationship between cops and citizens should be.
We’ve given Richard Nixon’s war four decades and all we have to show for it is millions of ruined lives, billions of dollars squandered and a grotesque distortion of the law enforcement function. Let’s end this madness.