May 12, 2015

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We have a couple of posts today on the recent shooting in Texas. Mark Steyn is first and he has some cartoons drawn by the winner of the contest in Garland that the jihadis had gone to break up.

As we mentioned a week ago, I’m none too well at the moment, and it so happens my preferred position in which to write causes me severe pain – which is presumably some kind of not so subtle literary criticism from the Almighty. But I’m back, more or less, with lots to catch up on. …

… If the American press were not so lazy and parochial, they would understand that this was the third Islamic attack on free speech this year – first, Charlie Hebdo in Paris; second, the Lars Vilks event in Copenhagen; and now Texas. The difference in the corpse count is easily explained by a look at the video of the Paris gunmen, or the bullet holes they put in the police car. The French and Texan attackers supposedly had the same kind of weapons, although one should always treat American media reports with a high degree of skepticism when it comes to early identification of “assault weapons” and “AK47s”. Nonetheless, from this reconstruction, it seems clear that the key distinction between the two attacks is that in Paris they knew how to use their guns and in Garland they didn’t. So a very cool 60-year-old local cop with nothing but his service pistol advanced under fire and took down two guys whose heavier firepower managed only to put a bullet in an unarmed security guard’s foot.

The Charlie Hebdo killers had received effective training overseas – as thousands of ISIS recruits with western passports are getting right now. What if the Garland gunmen had been as good as the Paris gunmen? Surely that would be a more interesting question for the somnolent American media than whether some lippy Jewess was asking for it. …

… In Copenhagen, in Paris, in Garland, what’s more important than the cartoons and the attacks is the reaction of all the polite, respectable people in society, which for a decade now has told those who do not accept the messy, fractious liberties of free peoples that we don’t really believe in them, either, and we’re happy to give them up – quietly, furtively, incrementally, remorselessly – in hopes of a quiet life. Because a small Danish newspaper found itself abandoned and alone, Charlie Hebdo jumped in to support them. Because the Charlie Hebdo artists and writers died abandoned and alone, Pamela Geller jumped in to support them. By refusing to share the risk, we are increasing the risk. It’s not Pamela Geller who emboldens Islamic fanatics, it’s all the nice types – the ones Salman Rushdie calls the But Brigade. You’ve heard them a zillion times this last week: “Of course, I’m personally, passionately, absolutely committed to free speech. But…”

And the minute you hear the “but”, none of the build-up to it matters. A couple of days before Garland, Canadian Liberal MP (and former Justice Minister) Irwin Cotler announced his plan to restore Section 13 – the “hate speech” law under which Maclean’s and I were dragged before the Canadian “Human Rights” Commission and which, as a result of my case, was repealed by the Parliament of Canada. At the time Mr Cotler was fairly torn on the issue. We talked about it briefly at a free-speech event in Ottawa at which he chanced to be present, and he made vaguely supportive murmurings – as he did when we ran into each other a couple of years later in Boston. Mr Cotler is Jewish and, even as European “hate” laws prove utterly useless against the metastasizing open Jew-hate on the Continent, he thinks we should give ‘em one more try. He’s more sophisticated than your average But boy, so he uses a three-syllable word:

“Freedom of expression is the lifeblood of democracy,” said Cotler, who was minister of justice under Paul Martin.


Free speech is necessary to free society for all the stuff after the “but”, after the “however”. There’s no fine line between “free speech” and “hate speech”: Free speech is hate speech; it’s for the speech you hate – and for all your speech that the other guy hates. If you don’t have free speech, then you can’t have an honest discussion. All you can do is what those stunted moronic boobs in Paris and Copenhagen and Garland did: grab a gun and open fire. What Miliband and Cotler propose will, if enacted, reduce us all to the level of the inarticulate halfwits who think the only dispositive argument is “Allahu Akbar”. …

… Can Islam be made to live with the norms of free societies in which it now nests? Can Islam learn – or be forced – to suck it up the way Mormons, Catholics, Jews and everyone else do? If not, free societies will no longer be free. Pam Geller understands that, and has come up with her response. By contrast, Ed Miliband, Irwin Cotler, Francine Prose, Garry Trudeau and the trendy hipster social-media But boys who just canceled Mr Fawstin’s Facebook account* are surrendering our civilization. They may be more sophisticated, more urbane, more amusing dinner-party guests …but in the end they are trading our liberties. …



Craig Pirrong of Streetwise Professor has kudos for the policeman in Garland.

A few words about Garland.

First, the traffic cop who blew away two Islamist would-be mass murders is a total badass. He took out two guys who surprised him and were spraying him with assault weapon fire: pictures from the scene show dozens of evidence markers on the ground, most of which are likely indicating ejected brass from their assault weapons. His assailants were wearing body armor, which means he took them out with freaking head shots while taking rifle fire. With a service pistol. If that isn’t coolness and courage under fire, I don’t know what is. …

… Third, this event has provoked the left into paroxysms of rage . . . at Pamela Geller and Geert Wilders, for having the audacity to engage in politically incorrect speech. As in the aftermath of Charlie Hebdo, I’ve lost count at the number of talking heads and pixel stained wretches who condemn the violence but . . . The “but” involves some variant on the theme that Geller engaged in hate speech, and had it coming, or at least the government should constrain such offensive speech to prevent such unfortunate events from recurring.  Indeed, the “buts” are more frequent and insistent here, because the Hebdo staff were hard core leftists, and Geller and Wilder are most definitely not.

As my father would say when I would try to talk my way out of something: No buts. Period. …

… The fact that a local traffic cop was the only thing that saved hundreds from the homicidal plans of two Islamist fanatics (one of them a native born American citizen) is deeply concerning. But what is far more disturbing is that this isn’t what disturbs what I would wager is a clear majority of the chattering class. What disturbs them (or what they opportunistically claim disturbs them) is speech that they disagree with, and which they are hell-bent on limiting the rights to engage in such speech. They are not targeting hate speech: they are targeting speech and speakers that they hate.

Fine. As we say in Texas: Come and take it.



Michael Barone has written 5,200 words on the British elections. We have some of it and then a link if you want to read more.  

Big surprises in Thursday’s British election. For weeks the pre-election polls showed a statistical tie in popular votes between Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party and the Labour opposition led by Ed Miliband. It was universally agreed that neither party could reach a 326-vote majority in the House of Commons. A prominent British political website projected that Conservatives would get 280 seats and Labour 274.

But the exit poll, released when voting ended at 10 p.m., projected Conservatives with 316 seats and Labour with only 239. It showed the Scottish Nationalist Party sweeping 58 of Scotland’s 59 seats and the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives’ coalition partners for five years, reduced from the 57 seats they won in 2010 to 10 this time. That turned out to be pretty close to the mark. The main error was that even this underestimated the Conservative wave.

Both major parties were suffering because of choices they had made. As party leader since 2005, Cameron made the Conservatives more metropolitan- and less traditional-oriented. The result was a strengthening of the anti-European Union, anti-immigration United Kingdom Independence Party, which was getting 13 percent in pre-election polls.

As Labor leader since 2010, Miliband abandoned Tony Blair’s New Labour philosophy and turned Left. But Blair’s creation of a separate Scottish parliament whetted rather than slaked the desire of Scots for independence. Scotland voted against independence by only a 55 to 45 percent margin last September, after which the Scot Nats rallied to seriously contest parliamentary seats, 41 of them held by Labour.

So how did Conservatives come to win?

Scotland was a large part of it. In televised debates SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon promised to support a minority Labour government to keep Cameron out of No. 10 Downing Street. But that raised fears that the SNP would force left-wing policies on the whole country — and demand more subsidies for Scotland. “They would take money from the West Midlands,” one Conservative candidate there said, “and send it to Scotland.” So Labour failed to make the gains in England predicted by the pre-election polls. …

… Still, the Conservative victory shows that, once again, the appeal of economic redistribution and the opposition to “austerity” have been overestimated. Maybe that’s a lesson for America too.



After a few days reflection Barone has some observations. 

… Were the 2015 results far out of line with historic precedent? Not really. In fact, if you look at each party’s percentages of the popular vote, you see that Conservatives and Labour were very close this year to their percentages in 2010. Conservatives have clearly recovered from the trough they found themselves in during the Blair election years (1997, 2001, 2005) but still below the percentages they won in the Thatcher and Major election years (1979, 1983, 1987, 1992).

However, the Liberal Democrat vote evaporated far below the level of all those previous elections and the Ukip (United Kingdom Independence party) did much better and the Scottish Nationals somewhat better than in previous contests (keep in mind that the Scots Nats fielded candidates only in the 59 Scottish seats and not in the 591 English, Welsh and Northern Irish seats). …

… 2. Why were Conservatives able to get a majority in 2015 when they weren’t able to do so in 2010 with a similar popular vote margin over Labour?

The first answer is that this year they had more incumbents, who had been able to perform constituency services over the past five years: that can be good for 1 or 2 percent and occasionally more: the difference between victory and defeat in a target seat. I noticed this tendency in the Watford constituency, where the hard-working Conservative Richard Harrington was re-elected by a wide margin in a seat which was close in 2010 and in which Conservatives finished third in 2005.

The second and more important reason — though here I am speculating — is that the Conservative campaign, run by the Australian campaign guru Lynton Crosby, seems to have targeted districts shrewdly and bombarded them with messaging emphasizing especially the dangers posed by the possible Scots Nats dominance of a Labour government.

Perhaps in some places this included a high-minded appeal not to break up a Union which has existed since 1707 and under whose Union Jack flag Scots and Englishmen fought and died in battles that saved the world from tyranny. The more typical message would be similar to the Conservative billboard showing former SNP leader Alex Salmond picking a man’s pocket and urging voters not to let the Scots Nats steal their cash.

The appeal might be aimed particularly at Ukip sympathizers and supporters: the only way to stop the Scots stealing your money is to vote Conservative. My hypothesis — I need to see more evidence on this — is that prompting Ukippers to vote Tory is the best explanation of why Labour won so few of the Conservative seats it targeted in England and Wales, and why Conservatives managed to take Labour seats there in significant numbers. …


Follow this link if you want to read more of Barone’s analysis.

Here are some further observations about the British election, based on further analysis over the weekend.



Roger Lowenstein reviewing David McCullough’s biography of the Wright Brothers calls them “the workingest boys.”

In “The Wright Brothers,” David McCullough has etched a brisk, admiring portrait of the modest, hardworking Ohioans who designed an airplane in their bicycle shop and solved the mystery of flight on the sands of Kitty Hawk, N.C. He captures the marvel of what the Wrights accomplished and, just as important, the wonder felt by their contemporaries. John T. Daniels, who witnessed the first flight in 1903, wrote: “It was one of the grandest sights, if not the grandest sight, of my life.”

Aviation was an improvement that people did not expect to see. The Washington Post had stated plainly that “it is a fact that man can’t fly.” There had been many attempts in the 19th century, mostly leading to humiliation. “The difficulty,” Mr. McCullough observes, “was not to get into the air but to stay there.” The predecessor who seems to have gotten furthest, at least conceptually, was a German, Otto Lilienthal, who disparaged the popular air balloons and, hoping to mimic the technique of birds, built more than a dozen gliders before fatally plunging from an altitude of 50 feet in 1896.

Lilienthal inspired Wilbur, then 29 and the proprietor with Orville, 25, of a thriving bicycle business in their hometown of Dayton, Ohio. Nothing in their prior lives hinted at epoch-making greatness; they were talented mechanics, unusually well-read (books were among their few possessions) and a bit eccentric. The brothers, Mr. McCullough observes, “worked together six days a week, ate their meals together, kept their money in a joint bank account” and even, according to Wilbur, “thought together.” …



Speaking of work, ESPN Golf Writer Bob Harig writes on the prospects for Tiger Woods being able to learn how to again grind out the work that precedes wins on the Tour.

Tiger Woods gingerly made his way from the 18th green Sunday, fans screaming his name as he headed toward the scoring area, about to sign for his worst 72-hole score ever at the Players Championship.

Sweat continued to pour from his face as he took questions afterward, summing up a week he described as “a mixed bag,” probably something all should have expected given his lack of play both recently and in general.

Perhaps that might explain why Woods walked a bit carefully, maybe it was fatigue, possibly stiffness setting in after a rare 72-hole tournament of late. The Players marked the first time since December of 2013 that Woods played a fourth round in consecutive tournaments, and that really says everything about his game at the moment.

A nine-week break starting in February was a necessary step to get numerous issues in his game back in working order. Then came the Masters, where he surprised many by not only making the cut, but by finishing 17th. A month later brought a tie for 69th at the Players Championship on a TPC Sawgrass course that doesn’t allow for the inconsistency Woods is fighting now.

A healthy dose of perspective is again in order, and Woods typically is the one lacking it. So many times he stubbornly pushes forward, looking for results now instead of patiently looking toward the future. And yet it was Woods who took the long view on Sunday. …

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