Open Season on the Police

 Thomas Sowell

By Thomas Sowell

Published Oct. 20, 2015

In recent months there have been a series of cases reported in the media, where some teenage thug — white, black or Hispanic in different cases — has been stopped by a policeman for some routine violation of the law and, instead of complying with lawful instructions, such as "show me your driver's license," chooses instead to defy the policeman, resist arrest and finally ends up physically assaulting the cop.

In the most recent case, the teenager happened to be white, but the story doesn't seem to change much, whatever the complexion of the guy who violated the law. Nor does the sad ending change, with the young wise guy shot dead. Nor do the reactions of the media and the parents vary much.

"He was only a kid" is an almost automatic reaction of the parents and the media. "He didn't deserve to be killed" over a traffic violation, or because he didn't drop a toy gun when ordered to, or some other minor infraction.

Are we so addicted to talking points and sound bites that we can't be bothered to use common sense? If you are killed by a teenager, you are just as dead as if you had been killed by the oldest man in the world.

It doesn't matter how minor the law violation was that caused the young guy to be stopped. He wasn't shot for the violation — which could have been jay-walking, for all the difference it makes. He was shot for attacking the police, after having foolishly escalated a routine encounter into a personal confrontation.

Irrational statements by the young man's parents may be understandable when they discover that their son is dead. But for media people to make such mindless statements to a nationwide audience is just grossly irresponsible.

In an atmosphere where second-guessing policemen has become a popular sport in the media, as well as among politicians, there is always someone to say that there must have been "some other way" for the policeman to handle the situation.

Utter ignorance of what it is like to be in such situations does not seem to make the second-guessers hesitate. On the contrary, ignorance seems to be liberating, so that "excessive force" has become an almost automatic comment from people who have no basis whatever for determining how much force is necessary in such situations. You can't measure out force with a teaspoon.

The truly tragic cases involve some really young kid — maybe ten years old or so — who has a very realistic-looking toy gun, and has removed the red plastic attachment that is supposed to show that it is not a real gun. When he turns his realistic-looking toy gun on a policeman, and refuses to drop it, that can turn out to be the last mistake of his young life.

Someone in the media recently complained that a policeman shot a boy who had a toy gun "within seconds" of arriving on the scene. When someone has a gun, and refuses to drop it, a policeman can be killed within seconds. A dialogue under these conditions can be a fatal luxury he cannot afford.
There is something grotesque about people sitting in safety and comfort, blithely second-guessing at their leisure what a policeman did when he had a split second to make a decision that could cost him his life, leaving behind a widow and orphans.

You cannot have law without law enforcement. If cops are supposed to back down whenever they are confronted by some brassy young thug, that may indeed save a few lives among the thugs. But that just means that a lot of other lives will be lost under "kinder, gentler" policing.

After this year's widespread indulgences in anti-police rhetoric by politicians, the media and race hustlers, how surprised should we be by the dramatic upsurge in murders after law enforcement had been undermined?

Laws without law enforcement are just suggestions. Imagine if highway speed signs are replaced by signs that say, "We suggest you not drive faster than 65 m.p.h., please." Do you doubt that many more lives will be lost on the highways?

Maybe the parents who are so bitter over the loss of a son in a wholly unnecessary confrontation with a policeman doing his job might ask themselves if they did their job, when they raised a child without teaching him either common sense or common decency.


Hello I'm Special

Book Review: Hello, I’m Special: How Individuality Became the New Conformity by Hal Niedzviecki

As someone who has always defined herself as a non-conformist, I’ve noticed something recently. It used to be, being a non-conformist put you outside the norm, outside the cool, outside the places where things really happen. Now, though, it seems like everyone I meet is an iconoclast. Non-conformity is everywhere. What does it mean when everyone is a non-conformist? That’s what I was hoping Hal Niedzviecki would explain in Hello, I’m Special.
For Niedzviecki, the epiphany came when he got a mass-produced birthday card declaring “Happy Birthday to a non-conformist.” If you’re on Hallmark’s radar, Niedzviecki wondered, could you still be an outsider? That’s when Niedzviecki realized that being a non-conformist had become the norm. Everyone wanted a piece of the outsider action; everyone was special.
Just ask reality show contestants. These people, searching for their 15 minutes of fame, are the poster children for conforming non-conformity. During his research, Niedzviecki visits the Canadian Idol tryouts, where thousands of young people lined up overnight, every aspiring Idol convinced that this was the beginning of their fame. This was the stuff that pop dreams are made of.
At the Canadian Idol tryouts, I find thousands of bright, funny, interesting, horribly deluded people, new conformists every single one of them. They all share the same dream and pursue it in exactly the same way. Coincidence? Human nature? I don’t think so.
Therein lies the essence of the book: We are all looking for our own equivalent of an Idol moment, when the apparatus of pop culture will validate us by turning its attention our way. Being different is the way for us to get that attention. Being different gives our lives meaning, makes us more than worker drones in some hive world. Or, to put it into a journalistic maxim: Dog bites man isn’t a story. Man bites dog, on the other hand…
The reference is both flip and apt, encapsulating as it does what special means (extraordinary — outside the norm) and who the ultimate arbiter of specialness is. As a modern society, we are defined by the media; the media is what we use to know who we are. This, perhaps, was always the purview of art, to reflect back what it means to be human; but now, instead of looking for an everyman, we are looking for what makes us special, our thing, so to speak.
This desire to be special has implications, of course.
The compulsion to be noticed often translates into confusion and even a certain degree of sadness. Do we really want to quit our jobs, abandon our responsibilities, seize the day, break the record? Silly, of course we do. Who doesn’t? But, all too often, seizing the day is not so easy. It’s not clear what ambition we harbour, what world-changing activity we might embark on. Too often, we end up feeling depressed and devalued as we carry on through lives that have become all the more ordinary because glamorous pop stars are urging us to just do it.
Niedzviecki, who writes with a mainstream non-conformist’s informality, seems torn about the despondency that the I’m Special phenomenon can elicit. He is empathetic to people who are broken down by their failure to successfully fit in by standing out. He recognizes that it is almost impossible for a person to escape the zeitgeist of their times:
Force-fed the fattening syrup of self-esteem, we are nevertheless starving, hungry to graze amid the pastures of fame. To give up would be to admit that pop dream that is so much a part of our lives is a lie. For an ever-growing number of people, life has come to mean achieving the pop dream. In the schools, they call it self-esteem; in leftist cliques, they call it hedonism; and in New Age circles, they call it personal spirituality. What it amounts to is the new conformity—the search for a way in.
Still, Niedzviecki seems to see himself, for the most part, as outside this phenomenon. Sometimes, it seems as if he sees himself as a real non-conformist, bitter about the interlopers with questionable credibility. He has a tendency to treat his subjects with the kind of hipster detachment that flirts with derision. This is, perhaps, most evident when he cites the fat acceptance movement as an example of the absurd degree of acceptance for deviations from the norm:
In the age of individuality, you can be beautiful any way you are, never mind that [Dimensions Plus modeling’s DeLores] Pressley’s message of “self empowerment” is also one of mass delusion: In an age of unnaturally bloated bellies, in a country leading the way with 65 percent of its residents overweight, Pressley just might be doing a bit too good a job convincing us that it’s okay to be chunky.
Activism itself is a symptom of the I’m Special society, or at least a microcosm of it. Niedzviecki notes that activists aren’t that different from Idol contestants or Trekkies in their motivations.
I’ve observed first-hand the way activist communities provide a niche and a recognition that is not unlike that of pop-culture communities. I’ve seen youths arrested for taking over an abandoned building—action they ostensibly took to protest a lack of affordable housing#8212;hugging and high-fiving each other as they emerged from jail. They were clearly exuberant. Why? They achieved nothing except a paragraph in the paper and legal hassles. But in their minds they had also accrued real evidence of their personal commitment to rebellion, to the cause. While waiting for their accused offspring to be released, I watched annoyed liberal parents wring their hands in frustration. How to yell at your kid for wanting to do something to help others? And yet the parents all seemed to sense that altruism was not the sole motive behind their children’s actions. The line between the pop-culture-infused desire for individualistic adventure and commitment to the cause becomes blurred.
This observation articulates some of my own ambivalence towards activist causes. Anyone who has ever been involved in an activist group can tell you about power struggles that seem at odds with the altruistic mission statements of many of these groups. And it is not unusual for the groups themselves to become commodified. It’s a marketing trifecta when a product can sell us individuality, self-esteem, and do-gooder points. How could anyone resist something that promises all that? Again, Niedzviecki cites the fat acceptance movement to make his point:
What begins with an empowering not-for-profit indie magazine or support group ends, invariably, with a glossy magazine, a website, a consultant, and a whole new language of “curvy” and “plus-size”—all meant to make the overweight feel happy and represented. And, of course, they are encouraged to keep buying.
So who is to blame for the Special society? As mentioned earlier, Niedzviecki recognizes that it would be hard for anyone to resist buying into the mythology. After all, the media is constantly telling us just how special we are…or at least, how special we could be. Yes, the media and its need for consumers is the culprit here.
Pop culture, and especially its gift of “free TV,” gives us access to a world we will otherwise never know. From the Amazon rain forest to the operating room to Michael Jackson’s mansion to the mysterious life of a Mafia drug lord, we can enter into places far more exciting and seemingly real than our own everyday existence. At the same time, this process instills in us the desire to find similar intensity and excitement in our own lives. We don’t just want to watch the movie, listen to the song and play the video game, we try to replicate the scenario in our daily lives. Consumer-culture critic Juliet Schor has discovered in her research that the more time a person spends watching TV, the more money that person spends.
Meanwhile, our television gurus (and the pop culture tabloids), have a mantra that tells us that we too could grow up to be a Mafia drug lord, or a skin-disordered exile pop star, or any of a million other special things.
In preaching the self-esteem you-can-do-anything pop myth, most therapists—be they popular speakers and TV personalities (think Dr. Phil and Oprah) or accredited professionals—aim to create good little individualists who at once believe they can do anything, but don’t actually upset the ratio of one superstar to every million people by successfully managing to do anything.
Who wouldn’t need anti-depressants after a life-long force-feeding of messages of promise and almost no way to get any substance?
So, the culture of Specialness can be blamed for our rampant consumerism and our dissatisfaction with our lives. Other than anomie, what are the consequences? Well, for one, violence. Niedzviecki repeatedly references the Columbine shootings as a case where people, denied acknowledgment for their specialness, sought out a way to be sure they would be recognized. Niedzviecki posits that if Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris had had other channels through which to communicate, the tragedy would have been averted. And, Niedzviecki warns, it will get worse, not better.
With even our sanctioned mass culture becoming ever more violent and extreme, what is left to do that will shock and horrify and thereby proclaim I’m-Specialness? If you go to work like a good boy, you are labeled boring. But how far does the good boy need to go to shake off the aura off Corporate Ken and achieve the status of bad?
(We Need to Talk About Kevin, a fictional tale of school violence, also touches on the idea that eventually, even school shootings can become ho-hum.)
If we are so exposed to I’m Special stories that we have no other way to find meaning and to frame our lives, it is inevitable that we will look for the things that characterize a good story to also characterize our personal narratives. Just like everyone else, we are compelled to find the element in our lives that will make us stand out. For an increasing number of people, that storytelling is not just an internalized act, but also a deliberate, public one. That’s where the blog comes in. (What discussion of current sociological trends would be complete without blogs?)
Niedzviecki notes that online journals reflect:
Our desire to be noted (or at least footnoted) in the electronic mass community. In a culture where it is common to obsess over other people’s problems as a kind of entertainment—from the trials of the stars as chronicled in People and Star Weekly to the agonies of boy-toy doctors on the boob tube—it really isn’t much of a stretch for someone to decide, “Well, my problems can be entertaining, too.” And though there’s a problem of access to the airwaves of radio and television, no one has yet figured out how to keep us from chipping away at the entertainment monoculture via the net.
To Niedzviecki, blogs are a subversive way for individuals to seize a tiny patch of media estate to declare their own specialness. Bloggers, do you feel ready for your non-conformist birthday cards? In addition to blogging, Niedzviecki cites other instances where individuals try to recreate popular culture for themselves; backyard wrestling and Elvis impersonators are two meme that appear throughout the book. Blogging is a little different, though, because it doesn’t just appropriate a piece of pop culture for home use but rather allows the blogger to appropriate a bit of media and brand themselves however they see fit.
The question is where does all this specialness lead? Niedzviecki wonders if conformity might not be the new non-conformity. He offers up his brother’s dedication to Orthodox Judaism and John Walker Lindh embrace of the Taliban’s restrictive policies as two examples of people non-conforming by absolving themselves of much of the freedom considered the foremost perk of modern Western life.
As conforming specialness spreads, our problems as a society change. No longer are we trying to escape the confinement of restrictive parents, religions, and communities. Instead, growing numbers of us are trying to find situations in which we can replicate a sense of belonging in non-restrictive ways. We want to be noticed for being who we are and we want to be told, gently, who we should be.
People who move from big cities to small towns, even off the grid, are doing the same thing, says Niedzviecki.
The pressure of needing to constantly justify and give notice of your existence is ameliorated by living in a (comparatively) closed society… The clock is turned back. The nobody can be somebody just by existing. The roles—town drunk, town loon, town rabble-rouser, town gossip, town genius—provide identities that would otherwise have to be carefully maintained and retooled and projected. Perhaps this is why small towns always seem so sleepy and nonchalant. They are protected from the perpetual necessity of narrative reinvention.
In the end, Niedzviecki doesn’t have an explanation for how we came to be such a Special-centric society. He blames the media and notes that the non-conforming ideal tends to breed good “citizen consumers…passive, focused on the self, willing to work hard to buy the stuff that will make him stand out” rather than forcing us to acknowledge that it is statistically impossible for every one of us to be special, when special is by definition not the normal state of affairs. Nor does Niedzviecki offer an answer as to how we can get off this green screen scenery treadmill life and back to real dirt, in real woods, complete with the unpredictability of the outdoors. After all, there is no escaping culture.
Few can force themselves to suffer. We can’t choose to leave home still a boy, wander the backwoods, work as a logger in the days when logging meant heading off to the forest and cutting down trees by hand—a dangerous business, you could easily lose a life or a leg. Maybe that’s why most of the professional creators working in Western countries today seem to lack gravitas, seem to be complaining just for something to do, just because it’s the next move in playing the game.
In other words, I’m Special has us destined to mediocrity. It’s not the kind of message that will inspire you to go out and conquer the world, but maybe, just maybe, if we stopped thinking quite so much about how we as individuals are special and more about what we have in common with others, maybe the conformity could be revolutionary.


Why Have Elections?

Thomas Sowell

By Thomas Sowell

Published Sept. 17, 2015

Article HERE

In a country with more than 300 million people, it is remarkable how obsessed the media have become with just one — Donald Trump. What is even more remarkable is that, after six years of repeated disasters, both domestically and internationally, under a glib egomaniac in the White House, so many potential voters are turning to another glib egomaniac to be his successor.

No doubt much of the stampede of Republican voters toward Mr. Trump is based on their disgust with the Republican establishment. The fact that the next two biggest vote-getters in the polls are also complete outsiders — Dr. Ben Carson and Ms. Carly Fiorina — reinforces the idea that this is a protest.

It is easy to understand why there would be pent-up resentments among Republican voters. But are elections held for the purpose of venting emotions?

No national leader ever aroused more fervent emotions than Adolf Hitler did in the 1930s. Watch some old newsreels of German crowds delirious with joy at the sight of him. The only things at all comparable in more recent times were the ecstatic crowds that greeted Barack Obama when he burst upon the political scene in 2008.

Elections, however, have far more lasting, and far more serious — or even grim — consequences than emotional venting. The actual track record of crowd-pleasers, whether Juan Peron in Argentina, Obama in America or Hitler in Germany, is very sobering, if not painfully depressing.

The media seem to think that participation in elections is a big deal. But turnout often approaches 100 percent in countries so torn by bitter polarization that everyone is scared to death of what will happen if the other side wins. But times and places with low voter turnout are often times and places when there are no such fears aroused by having an opposing party win.

Despite many people who urge us all to vote, as a civic duty, the purpose of elections is not participation. The purpose is to select individuals for offices, including President of the United States. Whoever has that office has our lives, the lives of our loved ones and the fate of the entire nation in his or her hands.

An election is not a popularity contest, or an award for showmanship. If you want to fulfill your duty as a citizen, then you need to become an informed voter. And if you are not informed, then the most patriotic thing you can do on election day is stay home. Otherwise your vote, based on whims or emotions, is playing Russian roulette with the fate of this nation.

All the hoopla over Donald Trump is distracting attention from a large field of other candidates, some of whom have outstanding track records as governors, where they demonstrated courage, character and intelligence. Others have rhetorical skills like Trump or a serious mastery of issues, unlike Trump.

Even if Trump himself does not end up as the Republican nominee for the presidency, he will have done a major disservice to both his party and the country if his grandstanding has cost us a chance to explore in depth others who may include someone far better prepared for the complex challenges of this juncture in history.

After the disastrous nuclear deal with Iran, we are entering an era when people alive at this moment may live to see a day when American cities are left in radioactive ruins. We need all the wisdom, courage and dedication in the next president — and his or her successors — to save us and our children from such a catastrophe.

Rhetoric and showmanship will certainly not save us.

Donald Trump is not the only obstacle to finding leaders of such character. The ultimate danger lies in the voting public themselves. All too many signs point to an electorate including many people who are grossly uninformed or, worse yet, misinformed.

The very fact that the voting age was lowered to 18 shows the triumph of the vision of elections as participatory rituals, rather than times for fateful choices. If anything, the age might have been raised to 30, since today millions of people in their 20s have never even had the responsibility of being self-supporting, to give them some sense of reality.

We can only hope that the months still remaining before the first primary elections next year will allow voters to get over their emotional responses and concentrate on the life and death implications of choosing the next President of the United States.


Race, Politics and Lies

Among the many painful ironies in the current racial turmoil is that communities scattered across the country were disrupted by riots and looting because of the demonstrable lie that Michael Brown was shot in the back by a white policeman in Missouri — but there was not nearly as much turmoil created by the demonstrable fact that a fleeing black man was shot dead by a white policeman in South Carolina.

Totally ignored was the fact that a black policeman in Alabama fatally shot an unarmed white teenager, and was cleared of any charges, at about the same time that a white policeman was cleared of charges in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

In a world where the truth means so little, and headstrong preconceptions seem to be all that matter, what hope is there for rational words or rational behavior, much less mutual understanding across racial lines?

When the recorded fatal shooting of a fleeing man in South Carolina brought instant condemnation by whites and blacks alike, and by the most conservative as well as the most liberal commentators, that moment of mutual understanding was very fleeting, as if mutual understanding were something to be avoided, as a threat to a vision of "us against them" that was more popular.

That vision is nowhere more clearly expressed than in attempts to automatically depict whatever social problems exist in ghetto communities as being caused by the sins or negligence of whites, whether racism in general or a "legacy of slavery" in particular. Like most emotionally powerful visions, it is seldom, if ever, subjected to the test of evidence.

The "legacy of slavery" argument is not just an excuse for inexcusable behavior in the ghettos. In a larger sense, it is an evasion of responsibility for the disastrous consequences of the prevailing social vision of our times, and the political policies based on that vision, over the past half century.
Anyone who is serious about evidence need only compare black communities as they evolved in the first 100 years after slavery with black communities as they evolved in the first 50 years after the explosive growth of the welfare state, beginning in the 1960s.

You would be hard-pressed to find as many ghetto riots prior to the 1960s as we have seen just in the past year, much less in the 50 years since a wave of such riots swept across the country in 1965.
We are told that such riots are a result of black poverty and white racism. But in fact — for those who still have some respect for facts — black poverty was far worse, and white racism was far worse, prior to 1960. But violent crime within black ghettos was far less.

Murder rates among black males were going down — repeat, DOWN — during the much lamented 1950s, while it went up after the much celebrated 1960s, reaching levels more than double what they had been before. Most black children were raised in two-parent families prior to the 1960s. But today the great majority of black children are raised in one-parent families.

Such trends are not unique to blacks, nor even to the United States. The welfare state has led to remarkably similar trends among the white underclass in England over the same period. Just read "Life at the Bottom," by Theodore Dalrymple, a British physician who worked in a hospital in a white slum neighborhood.
You cannot take any people, of any color, and exempt them from the requirements of civilization — including work, behavioral standards, personal responsibility and all the other basic things that the clever intelligentsia disdain — without ruinous consequences to them and to society at large.

Non-judgmental subsidies of counterproductive lifestyles are treating people as if they were livestock, to be fed and tended by others in a welfare state — and yet expecting them to develop as human beings have developed when facing the challenges of life themselves.

One key fact that keeps getting ignored is that the poverty rate among black married couples has been in single digits every year since 1994. Behavior matters and facts matter, more than the prevailing social visions or political empires built on those visions.





Some prefer Canines, or Felines............ I prefer another variety.


The Fact-Free Left

Thomas Sowell

By Thomas Sowell

Published July 22, 2015

The outrage over another multiple murder of American military personnel on American soil by another Islamic extremist has been exacerbated by the fact that these military people had been ordered to be unarmed -- and therefore sitting ducks.

Millions of American civilians have also been forbidden to have guns, and are also sitting ducks -- for criminals, terrorists or psychos.

You might think that, before having laws or policies forcing fellow human beings to be defenseless targets, those who support such laws and policies would have some factual basis for believing that these gun restrictions save more lives, on net balance, than allowing more legal access to firearms. But you would be wrong.

Most gun control zealots show not the slightest interest in testing empirically their beliefs or assumptions. There have been careful factual studies by various scholars of what happens after gun control laws have been instituted, strengthened or reduced.

But those studies are seldom even mentioned by gun control activists. Somehow they just know that gun restrictions reduce gun crime, no matter how many studies show the opposite. How do they know? Because other like-minded people say so -- and say so repeatedly and loudly.

A few gun control advocates may cherry-pick examples of countries with stronger gun control laws than ours that have lower murder rates (such as England) -- and omit other countries with stronger gun control laws than ours that have far higher murder rates (such as Mexico, Russia and Brazil).
You don't test an assumption or belief by cherry-picking examples. Not if you are serious. And if you are not going to be serious about life and death, when are you going to be serious?

Unfortunately, gun control is just one of many issues on which the political left shows no real interest in testing their assumptions or beliefs. The left glorifies the 1960s as a turning point in American life. But they show no interest in testing whether things turned for the better or for the worse.

Homicide rates had been going down substantially, for decades on end -- among both blacks and whites -- until the 1960s. Plotted on a graph, there is a big U-shaped curve, showing the turnaround after the bright ideas of the left were applied to criminals in American courts of law in the 1960s.

This was not the only U-shaped curve, with its low, turnaround point in the 1960s. The same was true of the venereal disease gonorrhea, whose rate of infection went down in every year of the 1950s -- and then skyrocketed, beginning in the 1960s.

Teenage pregnancies had also been going down for years, until the late 1960s, when "sex education" was introduced in schools across the country. Then pregnancy rates rose nearly 50 percent over the next decade, among girls 15 to 19 years old -- exactly the opposite of what had been predicted by the left.
Another program that had the opposite effect from its advocates' claims was the "war on poverty" program created by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Contrary to what was said during the celebrations of its 50th anniversary last year, the loudly proclaimed purpose of the "war on poverty" was not simply to transfer money or other benefits to the poor. Both Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, and their supporters in Congress and in the media, all clearly stated that the central purpose of the "war on poverty" was to reduce dependency on government.

Both poverty and dependency on government had already been declining for years before this massive program began. The proportion of people whose earnings put them below the poverty level -- without counting government benefits -- declined by about one third from 1950 to 1965.

This was yet another beneficial trend that reversed itself after another bright idea of the left was put into practice in the 1960s. After half a century and trillions of dollars, the only response of the left has been to change the criteria, so that now the "war on poverty" could be portrayed as a success because it proved that, if you transferred more resources from X to Y, then Y would now have more resources. Who could have doubted that?

There is no way to know what is going on in someone else's mind. But sometimes their behavior tells you more than their words.

The political left's great claim to authenticity and honor is that what they advocate is for the benefit of the less fortunate. But how could we test that?

T.S. Eliot once said, "Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm — but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."

This suggests that one way to find out if those who claim to be trying to help the less fortunate are for real is to see if they are satisfied to simply advocate a given policy, and see it through to being imposed — without also testing empirically whether the policy is accomplishing what it set out to do.

The first two steps are enough to let advocates feel important and righteous. Whether you really care about what happens to the supposed beneficiaries of the policy is indicated by whether you bother to check out the empirical evidence afterwards.

Many, if not most, people who are zealous advocates of minimum wage laws, for example, never check to see if these laws do more good by raising some workers' wages than harm by preventing many young and inexperienced workers from finding jobs.

One of my own pieces of good fortune, when I left home at age 17, was that the unemployment rate for black 17-year-old males was in single digits that year — for the last time. The minimum wage law was ten years old, and the wage specified in that law was now so low that it was irrelevant, after years of inflation. It was the same as if there were no minimum wage law.

Liberals, of course, wanted the minimum wage raised, to keep up with inflation. The result was that, ten years later, the unemployment rate for black 17-year-old males was 27.5 percent — and it has never been less than 20 percent in all the years since then.

As the minimum wage kept getting raised, so did the unemployment rate for black 17-year-old males. In 1971 it was 33.4 percent — and it has never been under 30 percent since then. It has often been over 40 percent and, occasionally, over 50 percent.

But people who advocate minimum wage laws seldom show any interest in the actual consequences of such laws, which include many idle young males on the streets, which does no good for them or for their communities.

Advocates talk about people who make minimum wages as if they are a permanent class of people. In reality, most are young inexperienced workers, and no one stays young permanently. But they can stay inexperienced for a very long time, damaging their prospects of getting a job and increasing their chances of getting into trouble, hanging out with other idle and immature males.

There is the same liberal zeal for government intervention in housing markets, and the same lack of interest in checking out what the actual consequences are for the people who are supposed to be the beneficiaries of government housing policies, whether as tenants or home buyers.

Government pressures and threats forced mortgage lenders to lower their lending standards, to allow more low-income and minority applicants to qualify. But, after the housing boom became a bust, the biggest losers were low-income and minority home buyers, who were unable to keep up the payments and lost everything — which was the very reason they were turned down before lending standards were lowered.

Rent control laws have led to housing shortages in cities around the world. More than a thousand apartment buildings have been abandoned by their owners in New York alone — more than enough to house all the homeless in the city.

High tax rates on "the rich" — however defined — are an ever popular crusade on the left. Who cares about the consequences — such as the rich investing their money overseas, where it will create jobs and economic growth in other countries, while American workers are unemployed and American economic growth is anemic?

All these policies allow the political left to persist in their fact-free visions. And those visions in turn allow the left to feel good about themselves, while leaving havoc in their wake.




Masculinity is not something given to you, but something you gain. And you gain it by winning small battles with honor.


Where do you fall on the political scale?

"Political tags — such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth — are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort."  -Robert A. Heinlein

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The Battle of Barossa

From Britishbattles.com

War: Peninsular War
Date: 5th March 1811

Place: Outside Cadiz in Southern Spain

Combatants: British, Portuguese and Spanish against the French

Generals: The nominal commander of the British, Portuguese and Spanish was General La Peña. A British officers, Lieutenant General Thomas Graham conducted the battle. The French were commanded by Marshal Victor.

The Battle of Barossa
The Battle of Barossa

Size of the armies: The total British, Portuguese and Spanish force was 15,000 men. Graham commanded 5,200 British and Portuguese. There were 9,600 Spanish. The French force that attacked the British and Portuguese contingent was around 7,000.

Uniforms, arms and equipment: Uniforms, arms, equipment and training:
The British infantry wore red waist jackets, white trousers, and stovepipe shakos. Fusilier regiments wore bearskin caps. The rifle regiment wore dark green jackets.
The French army wore a wide variety of uniforms. The basic infantry uniform was dark blue.
The French artillery dressed in uniforms similar to the infantry, the horse artillery in hussar uniform.
The standard infantry weapon across all the armies was the musket. It could be fired three or four times a minute, throwing a heavy ball inaccurately for a hundred metres or so. Each infantryman carried a bayonet that fitted on the muzzle of his musket. 

The British rifle battalion carried the Baker rifle, a more accurate weapon but slower to fire, and a sword bayonet.

Field guns fired a ball projectile, by its nature of limited use against troops in the field, unless closely formed. Guns also fired case shot or canister which fragmented, but was effective only over a short range. Exploding shells fired by howitzers, as yet in their infancy, were of particular use against buildings. The British had ‘shrapnel’ a fragmenting form of shell, used against troops.

Winner: The aim of the raid, which was to destroy the French siege works, was not achieved, but heavy casualties were inflicted on the two French divisions and the British, Portuguese and Spanish force was able to return to Cadiz unimpeded. The British consider the battle a victory

Account: In January 1810 Joseph Bonaparte and Marshal Soult advanced south into Andalusia and captured Seville, the city from where the Spanish Cortes had been attempting to direct the war against the French. Soult delayed to continue the French advance on the important port of Cadiz, giving time to the Duke of Albuquerque to slip into the city and hold it against the French. Cadiz reached by an isthmus, was impregnable when fully garrisoned. Joseph left Soult to begin a desultory siege of the city and returned to Madrid. 

Map of the Battle of Barossa 5th March 1811
Map of the Battle of Barossa

The garrison of Cadiz was increased by further Spanish, British and Portuguese troops brought in by sea, the British and Portuguese contingent commanded by Lieutenant General Thomas Graham.
In early 1811 Soult took a substantial part of his Andalusian army north to Badajoz. It was decided to seize the opportunity to disrupt the French siege works outside Cadiz by an attack from the rear.
Graham and the British and Portuguese contingent took ship along the coast, ending in Algeciras, across the bay from Gibraltar. Graham was joined by troops from the Gibraltar garrison, in particular a battalion formed from the flank companies of the garrison, commanded by Major Brown of the 28th Foot.

La Peña arrived and, having a larger contingent, took command. La Peña ordered the army to march along the coast to the West, towards Cadiz. Criticism is mounted against La Peña that he marched the troops too hard and kept changing their destination.

Sergeant Masterman of the 87th Irish Foot capturing the eagle of the 8th of the Line at the Battle of Barrosa: the first eagle captured by the British Army

Rather than fulfilling the purpose of the expedition, which was to destroy as much of the French siege works as possible, La Peña resolved to march along the coast and hurry back into Cadiz with the assistance of the Spanish force waiting on the far side of the San Petri River.

The French were moving south to intercept La Peña’s force. Graham intended to hold a position on the Barossa Ridge, an area of high ground leading to the coast, some 3 miles short of the San Petri River crossing, but La Peña ordered him to march on, leaving a rear guard of a battalion and the few cavalry he had, while five Spanish battalions would join them to hold off the French. Graham gave this job to Brown with his battalion of flank companies and marched on to the West.

Soon Brown found himself threatened by two French divisions. He hastened to leave the ridge sending a message to Graham. Graham turned his British Portuguese column about and hurried back, sending on an order to Brown to recover his position on the Barossa Hill.

Graham led his battalion of flank companies into the attack up the hillside, suffering 236 casualties in his assault on the French. Coming up on Brown’s right, Colonel Dilkes’ brigade of Foot Guards attacked up the hill. The French sent down two counter-attacks, both of which were beaten off, the Foot Guards and Brown’s battalion forcing their way to the summit.

The Battle of Barossa  

Wheatley’s brigade (1st/28th Foot (less flank cos), 2nd/67th Foot, 2nd/87th Foot) assaulted Laval’s division on Brown’s left, his 2,600 men pitted against 4,000 French. Laval sent his division against the British in four columns. The British battalions waited until the French were within 50 yards and firing from line, two deep, decimated the French columns. The final blow was a charge by a squadron of King’s German Legion Hussars. The battle had lasted just one and a half hours.

Throughout, La Peña and his Spanish troops held aloof, leaving the British and Portuguese to fight alone. Had, at the very least, the Spanish cavalry joined the German Hussars the French losses would have been disastrous.

Once the French had been driven off Graham’s force resumed their march along the coast and crossed the river back into Cadiz. No attempt was made to destroy any of the French siege works.

British Regiments: 

Royal Artillery
1st Guards, the Grenadier Guards *
Coldstream Guards *
3rd Guards, the Scots Guards *
9th Foot, from 1882 the Norfolk Regiment and now the Royal Anglian Regiment
28th Foot, from 1882 the Gloucestershire Regiment and now the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment *
47th Foot, from 1882 the Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire) and now the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment
67th Foot, from 1882 the Hampshire Regiment and now the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment *
82nd Foot, from 1882 the South Lancashire Regiment and now the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment
87th Foot, from 1882 the Royal Irish Fusiliers and now the Royal Irish Regiment *
95th Rifles, from 1882 the Rifle Brigade and now the Royal Green Jackets *
* These regiments have Barossa as a battle honour.

British order of battle:
General Officer Commanding: Lieutenant General Thomas Graham
1st Brigade: commanded by Brigadier General Dilkes
2nd/1st Guards, 2nd/Coldstream Guards (2 Cos), 2nd/3rd Guards (3 Cos), 3rd/95th Rifles (2 Cos).
2nd Brigade: commanded by Colonel Wheatley
1st/28th Foot (less flank cos), 2nd/67th Foot, 2nd/87th Foot
Gibraltar Flank Battalion formed from 1st/9th Foot, 1st/28th Foot, 2nd/82nd Foot
Cadiz Light Bn. Formed from 2nd/47th Foot, 3rd/95th Rifles.
Portuguese Flank Battalion formed from 1st/20th and 2nd/20th Line Regiment.
Artillery: commanded by Major Duncan
10 guns of Hughes’ and Shenley’s batteries.

1st Guards lost 10 officers and 210 soldiers killed and wounded
The Coldstream Guards lost 3 officers and 54 soldiers killed and wounded
3rd Guards lost 2 officers and 99 soldiers killed and wounded
The Royal Artillery lost 8 officers and 46 soldiers killed and wounded
9th Foot lost 4 officers and 64 soldiers killed and wounded
28th Foot lost 8 officers and 151 soldiers killed and wounded
47th Foot lost 2 officers and 69 soldiers killed and wounded
67th Foot lost 4 officers and 40 soldiers killed and wounded
82nd Foot lost 2 officers and 97 soldiers killed and wounded
87th Foot lost 5 officers and 168 soldiers killed and wounded
95th Rifles lost 4 officers and 62 soldiers killed and wounded

French Casualties: The French lost 3,500 against the 1,200 British casualties.

Follow-up: Graham was furious at the failure of La Peña to support him and the way in which the Spanish general had conducted the raid. The Spanish Cortes awarded Graham the position of Grandee of the First Class which he refused, resigning his post as commander of the British and Portuguese forces in Cadiz and returning to the main army in Portugal.

Anecdotes and traditions:
  • Lieutenant General Thomas Graham of Balgowan was a Scottish Landowner and keen cricket player. While in France after the Revolution Graham’s wife died. A French mob treated his wife’s coffin with considerable disrespect. Enraged, Graham at the age of 45 raised a regiment at his own expense in his home county of Perthshire, the 90th Foot, becoming its colonel. The 90th became a light infantry regiment and was known as the “Perthshire Grey Breeks” from the colour of the soldier’s trousers. Prevented from further promotion by the Duke of York’s regulations any earlier, Graham became a Major General at the specific dying wish of Sir John Moore. Graham subsequently became Wellington’s second in command and a peer as Lord Lyndoch.
  • At Barossa Sergeant Patrick Masterson captured the first French eagle to be taken in battle, from the 8th of the Line, and was commissioned. One of the French regiments to take a prominent part in the battle was the 45th of the Line, which was to lose its eagle to the Royal Scots Greys at Waterloo.
  • Masterson’s regiment, the 87th Foot, were known in the Peninsular for their battle cry “Faugh a Ballagh”, the Irish for “Clear the way”. Following Barossa the regiment was “recommended to the Prince Regent” who awarded them the title of “Prince of Wales’ Own Irish Regiment” and directed that they wear an eagle on their colours and appointments.
  • Major Brown led his battalion into the attack singing his favourite song “Hearts of Oak”, or so it is said.
  • After the battle only two officers from the 28th Foot remained unwounded. See the picture by Matania of those officers toasting the King at supper that evening.