Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Biggest Problem With "50 Shades"

Much has been written about the problems with the “50 Shades of Grey” series. Through all the discussion, however, few have hit on the most compelling moral problem of the trilogy.

People have discussed how Christian Grey, the hunky billionaire at the center of series, is controlling and manipulative and a borderline stalker. Volumes have been written regarding the sado-masochistic nature of the relationship between Grey and Anastasia Steele, the protagonist of the books, as well as the fact that their relationship began with Grey basically offering to pay her for sex. The codependency of the relationship has been covered as well as the charge that the series is, at its core, dressed-up pornography.

After losing a bet with my wife that required me to read the series, I discovered the biggest and most dangerous problem of the trilogy. First, let me say that the books are much better than the movies. My wife acknowledges this as well. The written version is less creepy and, as with many book-to-screen projects, provide a better understanding of what is happening to the characters.

My wife has said that the books would be good reading for men who want to understand women. She says that author E.L. James does a good job of explaining how women think and feel. Unfortunately, if you want this insight you’ll have to read the books because this does not carry over to the movies.

She also says that the primary attraction of the books is not the kinky sex, but the love story at the center of it all. The problem here is that the unlikely love-at-first-sight-with-a-hunky-billionaire plotline reflects a morality that is almost a mirror-image of reality. “Fifty Shades of Grey” comprises the modern myth that sex leads to love rather than the traditional ethos of love, marriage and then sex.

Granted, “50 Shades” is far from the first franchise to make this claim. Starting with the sexual revolution of the ‘60s and the advent of the birth control pill, sex has become increasingly divorced from love. Radical feminism preached that women could empower themselves by rejecting traditional sexual mores. These days sexual hookups with no emotional hang-ups can be had as easily as swiping right on Tinder.

The result has been a cultural cataclysm. Out of wedlock births have exploded since the 1960s to the point where almost half of all births are to unmarried mothers. Unsurprisingly, government entitlement spending has shown a corresponding increase over the same period.

“Fifty Shades” includes [spoiler alert] the subplot of an unplanned pregnancy, but for Anastasia the shocking news came after she was already married to Christian. Millions of women are not so fortunate. I applaud the pro-life message of the book here as Anastasia rejects the idea of not keeping her baby, but without marriage it seems plausible that a man of Christian’s persuasion would have pressed for an abortion or abandoned her entirely.

The damage has not been limited to unmarried mothers, entitlement spending and a soaring national debt. While sex may easy to find, long-term relationships are not. The marriage rate has steadily declined as people miss out on the fulfilling relationship with a lifelong partner in exchange for a series of one-night stands or casual flings.

Not everyone is unhappy with the arrangement. Conventional wisdom holds that men give love to get sex and that women give sex to get love. If sex is separated from love, many men are getting what they want, but women are left unsatisfied.

That doesn’t mean the arrangement is necessarily good for men. The tradeoff used to be that men would fall in love with a woman and get married, in part to get regular sex, and the women would settle the men down and help them mature. Without the civilizing effects of marriage and the pressing need to provide for a family, many men are suffering from a Peter Pan syndrome in which they never grow up and are content to drink beer and play video games or engage in extreme sports as their lives slip slowly away.

“Fifty Shades of Grey” is a fantasy. Women want to be swept off their feet by a rich, sexy man. They may even want a bit of rough sex. There is nothing inherently wrong with the bondage and masochistic sex described in the book as long as both partners consent. In that respect, “50 Shades” may help to spice up some marriages.

But the real and most damaging fantasy of “50 Shades” is that casual sex leads to love. In most cases it does not. It is far more likely that one or both partners will emerge from the relationship emotionally damaged and possibly with lives financially ruined as they try to support a baby on their own.

The reality is that great sex comes from strong relationships with someone that you love. You’re more likely to find great sex if you find love first. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

DOH! Ted Cruz Invokes The Simpsons

Ted Cruz might want to reconsider holding up Homer Simpson as a Republican icon. Earlier this week at CPAC, the Texas senator claimed the majority of the Simpson clan for Republicans, but the comment may have backfired.

“The Democrats are the party of Lisa Simpson and Republicans are happily the party of Homer, Bart, Maggie and Marge,” Cruz said in response to an interviewer who likened the current gun control debate to a “Simpsons” episode.

While smug, condescending Lisa is clearly a liberal, the political affiliation of the rest of the family is less certain. Maggie is a baby and Bart is a borderline juvenile delinquent. As one would expect of most children, neither has shown much interest in politics.

A 2016 Simpsons clip casts doubt upon Cruz’s claim about Homer and Marge as well. In the sendup of Hillary Clinton’s “3 a.m.” ad from 2008, Marge says, “I can’t make love until I’ve decided who to vote for.”

“It’s the American way,” Homer answers.

The couple then imagine an oh-dark-thirty phone call to each potential president. Bill Clinton hands the phone to Hillary, telling her, “It’s for you.”

Hillary grumpily retorts, “From now on, it’s always for me.”

Donald Trump declines the call so that he can tweet about Elizabeth Warren. When he finally answers the call, it takes a team of makeup artists, complete with a canine toupee and fake large hands, to prep him before he gets out of bed. When told that the Chinese fleet is advancing, Trump says, “Just build another wall. Yes, in the ocean, loser.”

The tag line of the ad is “paid for by Americans who are really starting to miss Obama,” a tacit admission that the creators of the show weren’t impressed by either candidate.

Marge says that her mind is made up and Homer hesitantly says, “I’m voting for Trump, right?” Marge immediately gives him the cold shoulder and Homer announces, “And that’s how I became a Democrat.”

In fact, Homer may have been a Democrat before. In a 2008 clip, Homer tries to vote for Barack Obama, but a rigged voting machine registers his votes for John McCain. Granted, this is “Treehouse of Horror XIX” which can be considered an alternate reality to the show.

In 1996, Homer also had a feud with George Herbert Walker Bush when the former president moved to Evergreen Terrace. The two engaged in a neighborhood prank war until the Bushes moved out and Gerald Ford moved in. Homer and Ford immediately hit it off, enjoying beer and nachos while they watch football.

Homer Simpson is apparently not a reliable Republican voter. In fact, Homer is the kind of person who seems oblivious to politics. He better represents the undecided and moderate voters who make up their minds on the way to the polling place. In reality, it is these voters who decide most elections. That should be a sobering thought.

Even if Homer were a reliable Republican, he isn’t the best role model for gun owners and conservatives. When Homer buys a gun for home protection (from a shop called “Bloodbath and Beyond”) he is so careless and reckless that Marge won’t let him keep it.

Cruz’s comments drew widespread ridicule from the left. Al Jean, the showrunner for “the Simpsons,” tweeted back that Cruz “could use a pacifier” and that “the way things are going even Mr. Burns is thinking of becoming a Democrat.” The response was entirely predictable considering that last year the show ran a clip of Donald Trump, again with a canine toupee, attempting to bribe Robert Mueller.

Cruz’s comments were apparently an off-the-cuff response to the interviewer, but the senator has mentioned the cartoon family on other occasions as well. If I could give Mr. Cruz some advice, I’d say, “Don’t.”

As a rule, politicians should avoid stirring up needless controversy with fictional characters. Just ask Dan Quayle about Murphy Brown.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, February 23, 2018

Four Deputies Waited Outside During Parkland Massacre

A new report indicates that as many as four Broward County deputies may have arrived at the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School last week while the shooting was still taking place. The report from CNN indicates that the officers arrived on the scene but did not enter the school to confront the active shooter.

Per the report, when officers of the Coral Springs Police Department arrived on the scene, they found four deputies with guns drawn standing behind their cars. None had reportedly entered the school. The report states that the deputies directed the Coral Springs officers toward the school, but apparently did not accompany them when they entered.

The actions of the deputies reportedly has caused friction between the two departments with some Coral Springs officers considering the failure to enter the school immediately “dereliction of duty.” It is not known whether the killer was still in the school while the deputies waited outside, but it is possible that a quicker entry might have saved the lives of some students who had been shot.

The school resource officer assigned to the school resigned earlier this week after it was revealed that he had waited outside the school for four minutes after the shooting started. Scot Petersen was originally suspended without pay and then decided to resign.

In the midst of the heated debate over gun control that erupted after the shooting, the inaction of the deputies underscores the need of citizens to be able to protect their own lives. For anti-gun activists who would like to make guns more difficult for law-abiding citizens to obtain, the fact that armed police waited outside rather than intervene in the massacre raises difficult questions about whether citizens can depend on police to charge in and take down an active shooter.

The delayed entry by the Broward County deputies is not unique and may be more common than many realize. For instance, at Columbine officers were on the scene within five minutes according to CBS News. The officer assigned to the school exchanged gunfire with one of the shooters, who retreated into the school. Six officers then waited outside while the killers stalked the school. It took almost two hours for a SWAT team to storm the school. By then, both shooters and 13 innocent people were dead.

The motto of the police is “to protect and serve,” but if officers believe that they are outnumbered and outgunned, they won’t necessarily charge into an unknown threat. There is no legal duty for them to do so. In fact, Supreme Court precedent holds that government police protection is a “benefit,” not an “entitlement.”

The fundamental lesson to learn is that police will protect citizens if it is feasible for them to do so. If officers fear for their own safety, protecting innocent civilians may well become a secondary consideration to protecting themselves and containing the shooter.

Keeping that in mind, law-abiding citizens should seriously consider how to protect themselves until the police arrive and form into a force that is deemed safe to go after the criminals. For many, that may mean getting a gun of their own and a permit to carry it. Even at school.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Trump Moves Left On Guns

In the wake of the Parkland school shooting, Donald Trump has done something that no other Republican president would have done (except maybe John Kasich). In a series of moves that seem calculated to test the strength of support from his base, the president has endorsed a series of new gun control proposals.

Trump’s left turn on guns began with instructions to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday to “propose regulations that ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns.” The move would use new interpretations of existing laws to ban bump stock devices such as the one used by Stephen Paddock to kill 58 people in Las Vegas in October 2017.

The proposed executive bump stock ban was quickly followed by a presidential Twitter endorsement of raising the legal age to purchase long guns to 21 from 18, expanding background checks to include mental health histories and arming teachers with concealed weapons. Federal law currently mandates that buyers of pistols be at least 21 and establishes schools as “gun-free” zones.

The reaction from Republicans to Trump’s embrace of stricter gun controls has been muted. In a town hall meeting in Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) signaled a willingness to accept the increase to the minimum age as well as new limits on the size of magazines, but opposed the idea of arming teachers.

President Trump said that many congressmen and pro-gun activists had indicated support for his proposals, particularly the idea of expanding background checks. “There's a tremendous feeling that we want to get something done ... including at the [National Rifle Association],” Trump said in a White House meeting with law enforcement officials.

The effectiveness of Trump’s proposals is likely to be mixed. A You Tube video shows how gun owners can make their own bump stock device from commonly available parts and underage school shooters typically obtain their weapons illegally or steal them from their parents. On the other hand, including mental health information in background checks would have prevented many spree killers from buying guns legally.

Prior to 2016, the idea that conservatives would rally around a president who openly supported expanded gun control would have been laughable. Then again, the idea of Republicans nominating a president who once openly favored the assault weapons ban and waiting periods was also once unthinkable. No longer.

Originally published on The Resurgent

NRA Is 'Beer Drinkers,' Not 'Beer Sellers'

In the brouhaha that has followed the Parkland school shooting, the media has repeatedly shown its liberal bias against legal gun owners. Amid the demonization of the National Rifle Association by most media outlets, there is an occasional breath of fresh air. Michael Graham’s op-ed for CBS News is one such point of clarity and honesty.  

Graham cuts to the heart of the liberal attacks on the NRA by comparing the gun rights organization to the National Beer Wholesalers Association. Unlike the beer trade group, which is made up of corporations, the NRA is made up of individuals who have banded together to protect Second Amendment rights.

“The NRA isn't the beer sellers,” Graham points out. “It's the beer drinkers.”

At its core, the NRA is a civil rights group made up of concerned American citizens. The NRA gets its power from the fact that a large segment of the American public believes that the right to keep and bear arms should not be infringed upon.

Much has been made of the money that the NRA donates to political campaigns, but little consideration has been given to where the NRA gets that money. The group does not sell guns or ammunition. Instead, those funds come directly from members who believe in the NRA’s pro-Second Amendment positions.

The NRA does support friendly politicians as well as attacking unfriendly ones. The same is true of many other political organizations on both the right and left from the ACLU to the World Wildlife Fund. The right to band together as an association and to petition members of Congress is guaranteed by the Constitution.

A common trope among politicians and pundits on both sides is to attack “special interests.” In reality, special interests are groups of voters whose positions are on the opposite side of the political spectrum from the speaker. Special interests are union members, environmentalists, feminists and, yes, gun owners.

When the left attacks the NRA, it isn’t because the group is made up of evil people who chortle with glee at the thought of another school shooting. The NRA is a staunch proponent of law enforcement and responsible gun ownership. Instead, the left attacks the NRA because it is effective at defending the right to keep and bear arms and the left desperately wants to outlaw guns.

The problem for the left is not that the NRA’s campaign contributions convince members of Congress to oppose their agenda. The problem is the fact that the NRA has five million members who vote their pro-gun principles. Politicians are much more afraid of angering voters and losing their jobs than they are of losing a few thousand dollars in campaign contributions.

As Jim Butcher wrote, ad hominem attacks are “usually used to distract the focus of a discussion - to move it from an indefensible point and to attack the opponent.” The left’s attacks on the NRA are a reflection of the fact that the liberals have not been able to make a logical case for gun control and have been incapable of winning the American people to their cause.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Democrats Don't Realize That Trump Can Make Their Wishes Come True

Trump derangement syndrome (TDS) is real malady and Democrats have it bad. Democrats are so invested in Trump hatred that they don’t comprehend that they are on the cusp of realizing much more of their agenda under Donald Trump than they could possibly have accomplished under Hillary Clinton.

The first sign of hope for Democrats was the Republican failure to reform Obamacare. The tax reform bill repealed the individual mandate and that was enough for President Trump to proclaim Obamacare “essentially repealed,” leaving the vast majority of the health law untouched. The GOP has gone silent on further attempts to repeal, reform or replace the Affordable Care Act. Republicans fought for six years under President Obama to repeal Obamacare, but President Trump has apparently stifled the repeal movement.

Next, President Trump turned to immigration and infrastructure, two subjects near and dear to liberal hearts. The president proposed a deal with Democrats to extend DACA and unveiled a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan. In keeping with the Trump-brand philosophy of doing things in a “YUGE” way, Trump’s proposals were even bigger than the programs enacted by his predecessor. President Obama’s DACA program enrolled about 700,000 participants. Trump’s version would expand that to include an additional 1.1 million. President Obama’s 2009 infrastructure bill had a price tag of $787 billion. Trump’s plan is twice as hefty at $1.5 trillion.

CNBC editorialized that “Democrats would be crazy to reject Trump's DACA deal,” but reject it they did. Were they crazy or were they merely deranged?

But wait, there’s more. A promise kept by candidate Trump was to engage in protectionist trade policies. In 2016, Trump said that his views on trade were “very similar” to those of Bernie Sanders. Trump withdrew from the TPP, is renegotiating NAFTA and has enacted several tariffs. Protectionist Democrats should be ecstatic.

Democrats have spent years calling for a gas tax in the name cutting carbon emissions. President Trump recently endorsed the idea of a twenty-five cent gas tax as well. The Trump tax would not be intended to stop global warming and would instead be used to generate revenue for his infrastructure spending, but will Democrats really want to quibble over the purpose when they can soak auto owners, save the planet and blame a Republican president?

To top it all off, President Trump today signed a memo that instructed the attorney general to propose regulations banning “devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns.” That’s right. President Trump is not only enacting the first significant gun control legislation since 1994, he is using his executive authority to bypass Congress to do it. What liberal cannot celebrate a new gun control law that isn’t subject to the congressional stalemate?

In fact, President Trump’s progressive proposals are more likely to become law than anything Hillary Clinton would have proposed. Hillary’s agenda would have been DOA with Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. On the other hand, Trump can probably deliver enough Republican votes to pass the Democrat wish list into law… if the Democrats can get over their TDS to form a bipartisan coalition.

On the other side of the aisle, there has been remarkably little furor as President Trump moved to the left. Immigration and deficit hawks have been largely silent as Trump acceded to “amnesty” and a trillion-dollar deficit. Thus far, there has also been little reaction to his bump stock ban even though conservatives have traditionally had zero tolerance for new gun control measures.

Apparently, Trump Derangement Syndrome is a bipartisan epidemic.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Trump Is Repeating the Obama Administration's History

A wise man once said that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it definitely rhymes. That seems to be the case these days in politics as both parties stumble along, making the same mistakes as their predecessors.

The Republicans began 2017 with a majority in both houses of Congress. Nevertheless, much like the 2009 Democrats, they were able to accomplish little. Democrats enjoyed a brief Senate supermajority that allowed them to eke out victories on healthcare and financial reform before the Republican wave of 2010, but accomplished little else.

For their part, the fractious GOP coalition could not muster together 51 votes to reform Obamacare, but they did manage to score a win on tax reform. Although opinions were initially unfavorable, the Republican tax overhaul is proving to be more popular than the early Democratic legislation.
Both presidents, Obama and Trump, quickly became unpopular and divisive figures. Rather than being coalition builders, both men practiced identity politics. Obama championed the traditional Democrat constituencies while Donald Trump rides a wave of anti-immigration and protectionist sentiment. Their partisan rhetoric makes it difficult to achieve bipartisan majorities to enable legislative victories.

Both presidents have spending proposals that match their oversized egos. Obama led off with a $787 billion infrastructure stimulus and a new healthcare entitlement. President Trump has proposed an infrastructure bill that costs $1.5 trillion, almost exactly twice as much as Obama’s spending bill, as well as new family leave entitlement.

Both presidents increased the deficit dramatically. President Obama presided over the first trillion-dollar deficits, which were later pared back by the Republican House. President Trump’s budget also calls for deficits in excess of a trillion dollars annually.

Both presidents also favored the use of executive authority to bypass the stalemated Congress. President Obama is known for his Iran deal and his executive creation of the DACA program while President Trump has issued a plethora of Executive Orders on everything from abortion to immigration.

Both presidents were also plagued by scandals. President Obama had the ATF program that allowed the shipment of guns to Mexico, Solyndra, the IRS harassment of conservative groups, his dealings with Iran and the  Benghazi cover-up. So far, Trump has the Russia scandal, the firing of James Comey, numerous personnel problems in the White House and his daily Twitter feed.

Obama’s excesses led to the Tea Party waves of 2009 and 2014. There are indications, including a wave of Republican congressional retirements, that 2018 may yield similar good fortune for the Democrats. That depends, however, on whether Democrats can break the mold of another historical lesson from the Obama years.

Throughout the Obama Administration, Republicans believed that Obama was so unpopular that all they had to do was be anti-Obama and anti-Obamacare. That worked to some extent, but it failed to win the White House for Mitt Romney. Democrats may be making the same mistake now.
Democrats assume that if they play to their anti-Trump base, they will be assured of victory in 2018 and 2020. That may not be a good assumption.

Polling for Republicans is improving in the wake of the tax cuts and attacks on Trump seem to be yielding diminishing returns. If Democrats, mirroring the Obama-era Republicans, choose to run as anti-Trump rather than championing a positive agenda, they may be disappointed and disillusioned once again in November.

Disappointment for Democrats would continue the parallels between the Trump Administration and the Obama Administration. After all, Republicans spent eight years in the wilderness as they blamed one another for their defeats. Republican rage grew until they finally reached a point where they would rally behind someone -anyone- who would carry the fight unapologetically to the leftist elites, conservative principles and character be damned!

If the pattern of mirror image rhyming of history continues, the next six years will be a wild ride.

Originally published on The Resurgent