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Setting the stage for 2018: Figuring out our allies and opponents

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Setting the stage for 2018 Figuring out our allies and opponents

Before we started deciding on the rules of the game, figuring out how to define the terms of the battle, we should first identify what freedom actually means to us and who or what stands in the way. That may sound rather like an obvious point, but at least in part, who or what we view as an obstacle is a good reflection of what it is we think we are protecting. If we are familiar with the basics of the Constitution, this should be relatively simple. Freedom is the freedom from government interference, and in generally, the ability to live, prosper, and pursue happiness so long as our actions do not infringe on the rights of others. By that token the obstacles to freedom are:

  1. Government interference
  2. Anything that stands in the way of life, liberty, prosperity, and pursuit of happiness – such as security threats, economic problems, crime, or natural disasters.
  3. People who are willfully promoting government interference with our lives or facilitate the security threats or other obstacles.

Most people would likely not have an issue with any of the above, not even the “villains” as we may perceive. The differences will usually either vary as to the degree to which others oppose those 3 items, or the interpretations. Then there is a group of people who is simply not familiar with the Constitution or the history of the United States, and may claim that the they think the First Amendment should have limitations, etc. In sum and substance, however, they are no different from people who are more familiar with the issues and formulate their interpretations in a more informed and deliberate way.

Now, there are many reasons why people may choose to adopt a different level of what they find personally acceptable under either of those three categories. We can spend hours going through them, but the worst case scenario is that we are facing an ideological adversary, who is pining for a society with very little freedom and is determined to destroy society as we know it. The other two categories of people to worry about: benevolent but deluded “fellow travelers” who firmly wish for everyone to live well, but essentially at some point check common sense at the door, and people who are so zealous about being perceived as freedom lovers than in pursuit of freedom and in opposition to the adversarial elements and “useful idiots”, become very much like them.

Besides those three groups, there exists a great number of people with highly complex and individualized views on various issues, who either don’t fit neatly into any boxes, or fall somewhere in between, or vacillate among different groups.  This is why the fight  for freedom is more complicated than we would like to admit. There often are no clear answers on who is an ally or an absolute adversary, because most people do not think in absolutes, contrary to the polarized views we are presented with in social media. So how do we deal with the ambiguity? How do we winnow out the absolute “enemies”, diffuse the fellow travelers, and win over everyone else?

The “Enemies”

The hardcore ideologues are usually firm in their convictions, aggressive, and politically astute. They do not care about the sacrifices they have to make in order to reach their goal. They may be revolutionary, but more often than not, they are revolutionary, understanding that it takes time to win over supporters without the use of political violence. They may implicitly or explicitly support or instigate violence, which we have seen some evidence of on campuses, but that tactic is a culmination of decades of relatively peaceful activism and brainwashing. The ideologues are usually the professors, not the students. Some of them are older and old-school, and have been “assets” of the Communist party, anarchists, and other movements. They make common cause with other radical movements, but they are patient, venomous, vengeful, and they understand how to use power. They are the true “haters”, who may be quite familiar with the history of the revolutions, and yet fully embrace the mentality and goals anyway. On the other end of this spectrum are the cynical manipulators who may not much believe in hard leftist or socialist ideologies, but who understand that these ideologies are a perfect vehicle to power, and it is ultimately the power and the control that they crave.

Such people are completely amoral, at least somewhat sociopathic, and view the means as justifying the ends just as much as the ideologues – but the ends for them are purely personal gain. I bet there may be an aggregation of data on professors, think tank members, public intellectuals, journalists, and others who belong to either of these categories, but if not, such individuals are easily discernible and those who are around them should be encouraged to be aware of them, their tactics, and their goals. Situational awareness is key part to preparation. These guys need to be rooted out, and their ideology debunked and delegitimized. In 99% of the cases, they are not going to come to a sudden miraculous revelation or realization of all the wrong that they did. The best outcome is that one day such mentality is marginalized, and anyone who follows it becomes socially unacceptable, and part of the fringe with no influence, no different from the Nazis. How is that achieved?

First, by raising awareness among target groups.

Second, by immunizing them against the worst tactics.

Third, by arming them with tools to combat the influence of such people – including development of critical thinking skills, a buddy system, where you have witnesses at every confrontation to prevent he said-she said situations and smear campaigns, record keeping, understanding the systems and the vulnerabilities within these systems that strengthen or are exploited by such individuals, developing the flexibility and the resilience to develop appropriate responses, and to recover from losses.

Workshops and training are excellent ways to develop and practice such skills. Remember, however, most of such battles are going to be in uncontrolled environments where many of these individuals will have an upper hand, control of the turf, and frequently, the element of surprise. That is why data about the presence of such people and their record is essential for advance preparation, and the more confident people can later choose these confrontations at their leisure. But the first stage will be much more like responding to asymmetrical warfare than a controlled strategy. The only unifying factor here is that most of such people will be in some position of power in areas where they are best position to promote ideologies or narratives adversarial to the US Constitution, culture, the idea of freedom, or Western society..

The ultimate goal should be to develop a system of first identifying and tracking such people, and second to exposing and eliminating them. These two could also be done simultaneously, but in the initial stages, information gathering should be separated from the action plan for reasons of developing a working strategy and expertise.

The Fellow Travelers

The fellow travels MAY be in a position of power, but more often than not, they are not “professional” ideologues, just people of all backgrounds with strongly held worldviews who act like political hacks or rebels, but firmly believe they are doing it for the good of the society they live in. They may not necessarily want a “fundamental” transformation, but their general arguments are a slippery slope, poorly thought out, and will eventually bring about a fundamental transformation, eating them along the way, much to their surprise.

The younger, revolutionary students and cultural warriors are likely manipulated by more experienced figures, and usually are predisposed to that either through family background, and early education, or various psychological vulnerabilities.  More often than not such people are looking for something meaningful to do, but may not put the hard work of researching and understanding their options. They may latch on to whatever “feels” good, even if it completely contradicts their values system or lifestyle (i.e. the largely meaningless Occupy Wall Street movement). Keep in mind that much more cynical forces can co-opt and infiltrate grassroots movements. But those forces belong to the above-described category and should be considered separately.

The activists more likely than not find facts, reason, and logic unconvincing, but emotionally appealing narratives that visually and experientially combat their preconceptions can work. Many of these kids mean well, even if they are confused and unaffected, so getting into big fights with them in public may be successful in mocking them and shutting down an annoying discussion, but will not break through their individual perspectives. However, people who are taught to hate a particular group or groups for the sake of helping some other perceived victim could be responsive to an invitation to dinner by a seemingly neutral person and exposure to kind individuals on a gradual basis. An alternative way to the same effect is organized, highly structured outreach effort that gives them reasons to join some worthwhile cause or movement before they are co-opted by stronger forces, maybe in high school rather than college, and simply channel their energy into something productive.

Keep in mind, most of such activists have no solid comprehensive history of the underpinnings of all these movements. They may be highly uneducated and ignorant of the source texts and earlier battles. Or they will have read the pop culture version of whatever it is they are proclaiming. Their worldviews may be fluid and easily confused. Interesectionality and increasingly more radical and bizarre views on transgenderism, various social norms, identity politics, and cultural relativism has to do with a lack of formal structure, expectation of discipline or boundaries, and basically a strong yearning to explore a sense of identity, but without any firm anchors or legitimate contexts for doing so. Whether this becomes a passing phase of belated teenage rebellion or something much more serious depends on how the people around them help them deal with it.  Neither mockery, nor aggressive response, nor unchallenged facilitation of what, in many cases appears to be little more than a desperate cry for attention coupled with confused paradigms, and poor manners will resolve the problem.

The adult/mature “fellow travelers” are a slightly different breed. They are likely to be more socially established, pursue more reasonable life paths and goals, and act “traditional” in many ways, yet have been reacting with excessive anger to recent political developments, and otherwise act like political hacks a lot of the time, refusing to admit even obvious facts that run counter to their worldview, arguing about increasingly absurd wedge issues, and hairsplittng when it is obvious that they are wrong, or using mountains of one-sided studies in lieu of well-thought out arguments.  Despite a general sense of exasperation, it is not hopeless to move them in a more reasonable direction. The very fact that they are willing to engage in discourse and risk being exposed for being wrong is a positive sign, and excessive defensiveness and movement away from such discussions into more comfortable echo chambers will do more harm than good.

Engaging in discussions, finding points of commonalities, identifying common humanity, and continuing to provoke thought with exposure to additional information is the best way to address this problem. Some minds may change on some issues some of the time. There is certainly no guarantee of anything, but so long as people can find in themselves to like and respect at least something about each other, and at least enough to stay in the discussion, all hope is not lost.

Everybody Else

Some of the best political advice I have ever gotten (and it was from Arnold Steinberg) was to maintain a broad tent, and to form alliances based on specific issues, despite all differences on other fronts. You don’t need to have a base of ideological purists, and most people will have some reasonable differences among themselves, evolve in their views, vacillate, and so forth.  It is ok to work with them or to discuss with them the one or two things you may have in common, rather than to frustrate oneself over the inability to find “enough” allies, who are close to you on most issues.  Flexibility is key to winning ideological battles, and not all battles will be won with the same people.

But before categorizing everyone you know under particular labels, start with yourself. The central part of winning any war is knowing yourself and where you stand on specific issues, and why. Remember, just as much as you are struggling to identify your future teammates, as well as the forces that may try to stop you, others will be doing the same to you. How open are you to having your mind changed and on what issues? What is a matter of principle for you, and what does not get you excited, no matter how important you think it should be? Only you know the answers to these questions, and only you ultimately define the kind of personal battle you are going to be fighting, though each battle, will, of course, be a part of a much bigger war.

Irina Tsukerman is a human rights and national security lawyer, based in New York. I can send something longer, but then it would go into all the other things I've been involved in and might be too long!

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Education

A Tale of Two Shootings

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It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Charles Dickens probably never thought of a shooting as the best of times, nor would anyone else. However, if you HAVE to have a shooting, then the obvious “best of times” is one where only the gunman dies. Unfortunately that isn’t always the case.

Today we had yet another, preventable shooting at a soft-target school, where the best defense the government can come up with is making the school a gun-free zone, and occasionally a couple of cops.

The facts will continue to play out, but while two police officers acted heroically today (take note, Broward County Sheriff’s Office) what we do know is that there were still far too many innocents killed. The first officer was shot before he knew what was happening, and the second seems to have moved as fast as he could, though no one can be everywhere at once.

This will obviously be a story that is played out in the press for days, while the talking heads on Fox News and CNN spout various “solutions” to the problems of mass shootings. Most of these talking heads won’t have the first clue what they are talking about.

I am a former military and civilian firearms instructor. I still teach friends and family who want to learn, but I don’t charge anymore. I was a Texas Concealed Handgun Instructor. I know the law in Texas. A 17 year-old having access to his father’s weapons like what happened today is a felony for the father. Yes, there is a DEFENSE to this charge if the gun was used in self-defense, but this was not the case here, and so the father can not use this defense in court, though I’m sure his lawyers will try if they’re paid enough. The father of today’s shooter (I won’t use his name and give him the fame so many of these killers desire) WILL see time in prison, if Attorney General Ken Paxton has anything to say about it. The father may have obtained his guns legally, but in no way was a 17 year-old legally using them.

Obviously, today’s shooting was the worst of times.

The best of times happened just yesterday in Dixon, Illinois, when a school resource officer shot a would-be school shooter. There were snippets about this in the NY Times and other major news outlets, but that story has already gone away, while this one will not. It SHOULD be talked about just as much as today’s shooting. We need to talk about successes in stopping school shootings just as much as we talk about failures. We need to have an honest conversation about what DOES and what DOES NOT work.

I’m not going to use this piece to go into a great detail on the gun-control debate, though I’m sure that’s where the Left will continue to take us, even though they admit there are no additional laws they want that would stop these horrific tragedies. I DO want us all to come to some common ground on this issue of school shootings though.

1. ALL of us (we, the common people) want these to stop. I say we the common people because there are a great number of politicians on both sides of the debate, but particularly on the Left, who make a great deal of hay when these incidents happen.

2. We have to have an honest conversation about what does and does not work. An HONEST conversation, by the way, Lefties, does not mean what levels of gun control we’re willing to accept.  And for those on the Right, yes, we need to talk about gun control. It’s our job to demonstrate to those who are ill-informed why gun control has not and never will work.

3. We need to approach this with logic and facts, not emotion.

This honest conversation has to begin with certain undeniable facts:

1. The shootings with the lowest body counts are those stopped by a good guy with a gun. It’s not ALWAYS a cop. Arming responsible teachers who both desire to carry and have demonstrated that they can handle a gun is something we need to talk about. I’ve heard good arguments for this, and one or two reasonable concerns against.

2. In nearly every incidence, mental health has played a factor, and could be seen BEFORE the shooting.

3. In MOST (not all) incidences, there were already mechanisms in place within current law that COULD have and SHOULD have stopped the gunman from obtaining firearms. Take today for example. Daddy is going to go to jail, and he should, for not having his firearms secured where his son could get them. I’m speculating here, but I’m willing to bet a lot of money as the investigation goes on, that the father of the gunman knew his son was disturbed, and should not only have kept his firearms secure from his son, as is the law in Texas, but also should have been seeking mental health for his son.

4. The Left is going to hate this one, but it’s an undeniable fact. Almost every one of these mass shootings, and ALL of them in schools, are in gun free zones. Those who know little to nothing about guns may think this irrelevant, but it is one of the most important points. They are soft targets that are chosen because most if not everyone there is completely defenseless.

There is more we could talk about on today’s shooting. We could talk about the explosives, the fact that neither of the guns used are ones the Left (currently) claims it wants to ban, or the instant calls for gun control. I did see something just yesterday that I found interesting from the Left. They were complaining that Parkland was disappearing from the news and it wasn’t getting any attention anymore, a month later. They wanted to push for gun control and nothing else.

Well, I have a solution for this. Adhere to the above rules for a conversation, and accept the undeniable facts above, and then engage us with logic and reason, instead of pure emotion. The kids from the Parkland shooting got famous not for their calm reason, but for their rage.

And before you think I’m not emotional ENOUGH about all this, just keep in mind I have two little boys in public school here in Texas. Yes, I’d love for the teachers and administrators in their schools (those who want to be) armed and willing to protect my kids. I’ll donate the time on the range to help them become proficient. I’ll even pay for the ammo and range time.

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Education

Hidden History: Colonial Rebellion Against Corporate Oppression

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Was “The Boston Tea Party” truthfully all about taxation?

It started with a famine-

Eight years after the Battle of Plassey in 1757, when British Major-General Robert Clive defeated the Nawab of Bengal (India), Clive granted British governmental powers of civil administration to the British East India Company in Bengal (BBC History Magazine, 2010).

As the functioning government over Bengal, the East India Company imposed taxes on goods, land taxes, and trade tariffs. A monopoly over tea and grains was achieved (Cambridge Forecast, 2006).

Laws were also passed prohibiting the Bengalese from “hoarding” goods, such as rice. “This prevented traders and dealers from laying in reserves that in other times would have tided the population over lean periods,” (Cambridge Forecast, 2006).

When a semi-regular dry spell, causing a decline in crop production, came upon the region in 1769, the peasantry’s surplus of staple crops proved inadequate for sustaining the population (Strasser, 2010).

Famine struck in 1770, “killing at least 1.9 million people – this was equivalent to half the population of the 13 American colonies at the time” (BBC History Magazine, 2010).

A plethora of bad press soon haunted the British East India Company.

The horrified public of Great Britain rightfully cast blame upon the East India Company for the man-made disaster.

Horace Walpole, the 4th Earl of Orford, wrote:

“The oppressions of India…. under the rapine and cruelties of the servants of the company, had now reached England, and created general clamour here,” (BBC History Magazine, 2010).

 

The American Colonies were slated to be next-

In 1773, the Crown devised a plan to aid the now economically flailing British East India Company in ridding itself of 17.5 million pounds of excess tea (BBC History Magazine, 2010).

The Tea Act was passed by Parliament in May of 1773.

The act imposed no new taxes.

Rather than imposing a new tax on tea, the Tea Act merely reinforced the taxes already in existence, put in place years before with the passage of the 1767 Townsend Revenue Act. Instead of imposing a new tax, the Tea Act of 1773 granted a full monopoly on the import and subsequent sale of tea in all American colonies.

This monopoly was granted to the British East India Company.

Americans feared that they too would suffer the fate of the Bengalese under the ruthless, corporate despotism of the East India Company.

“As Americans were well aware, the East India Company had turned itself into the actual government of east India, and there, the Company‘s irresponsible, ruthless, and inhumane greed had been directly responsible for millions of deaths in the Bengal famine of 1770” (Charleston Law Review, 2012).

In an impassioned objection against the East India Company, John Dickenson, a Pennsylvania lawyer, wrote:

“Their Conduct in Asia, for some Years past, has given ample Proof, how little they regard the Laws of Nations, the Rights, Liberties, or Lives of Men… cast their Eyes on America, as a new Theatre, whereon to exercise their Talents of Rapine, Oppression and Cruelty. The Monopoly of Tea, is, I dare say, but a small Part of the Plan they have formed to strip us of our Property. But thank GOD, we are not Sea Poys, or Marattas, but British Subjects, who are born to Liberty, who know its Worth, and who prize it high,” (BBC History Magazine, 2010).

For Americans, the issues at hand were quite simple:

“Would they allow England to press down upon America the corrupt class of royal toadies who would rule America by force, as they did east India? Would they allow England to siphon off the productive wealth of Americans and gladly watch Americans die in order to enhance their own corrupt profits?” (Dave Kopel, Charleston Law Review, 2012).

Their answer? No!

And so, on the evening of December 16, 1773, approximately 100 Bostonians –“supported by a crowd of thousands who safeguarded them”- boarded three ships filled with East India Company cargo and dumped 46 tons of tea into the waters of the harbor (Charleston Law Review, 2012).


Citations:

  1. “Bengal Famine of 1770,” Richard Melson, Cambridge Forecast, October 2006, Retrieved at http://www.cambridgeforecast.org/MIDDLEEAST/BENGAL.html
  2. “British East India Company and the Great Bengal Famine”, Strasser, 2010, retrieved at https://strassers.wordpress.com/2010/02/01/british-east-india-company-and-the-great-bengal-famine/
  1. “Defiance of The Patriots: The Boston Tea Party & The Making of America”, Benjamin L. Carp, (2010).
  2. “How the British Gun Control Program Precipitated the American Revolution, 6 Charleston L. Rev. 283, 2012, Retrieved at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1967702
  3. “The global origins of the Boston Tea Party”, BBC History Magazine, 2010 (Christmas Issue), Retrieved at https://www.historyextra.com/period/the-global-origins-of-the-boston-tea-party/

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Education

Hidden History: The Disarmament of Boston

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The first shots were fired in the American War for Independence on April 19, 1775, when 700 British Redcoats, led by Major John Pitcairn, attempted to seize American arms at Lexington and Concord (American Bar Association, 2012).

The patriots, however, had already moved their supply of arms to safety.

After an initial, successful battle against the patriots at the bridge at Lexington and Concord, the Redcoats were ambushed and eventually outnumbered 2:1 by American re-enforcements arriving from surrounding towns (Charleston Law Review, 2012, p. 310).

While some American fighters had arrived organized – illegally-formed local militias – a large number arrived and fought on their own, even taking up sniper positions whenever possible. Patriots who joined the fight even included a number of women and the elderly. Before long, the armed Americans harried Pitcairn’s Redcoats back into Boston (Charleston Law Review, 2012, p. 310).

“One British officer reported: ‘These fellows were generally good marksmen, and many of them used long guns made for Duck-Shooting.’ On a per-shot basis, the Americans inflicted higher casualties than had the British regulars” (American Bar Association, 2012).

Boston, where the Royal Governor, General Thomas Gage’s Red Coats were stationed, was now surrounded by armed American patriots.

Since their attempt to seize American’s arms at Lexington and Concord had gone badly for the British, and now finding themselves surrounded by armed patriots, Royal Governor Gage devised an alternate plan for disarmament.

On April 23, 1775, General Gage made an offer to Bostonians trapped within the city: turn in your arms and you can leave Boston.

“The Boston Selectmen voted to accept the offer, and within days, 2,674 guns were deposited, one gun for every two adult male Bostonians,” (American Bar Association, 2012). Arms collected included: “1778 fire-arms (muskets or rifles)… 634 pistols… 973 bayonets (bayonets attached to the long guns)… and 38 blunderbusses (short-barreled shotguns),” (Frothingham, 1849).

However, after “having collected the arms, Gage then refused to allow the Bostonians to leave. He claimed that many more arms had been secreted away than surrendered,” (American Bar Association, 2012). While inhabitants of Boston were supposed to receive certificates permitting departure from Boston, this rarely occurred in practice. Indeed, before long, “passes to leave issued by Gage quickly dried up,” (Halbrook, 2008).

Further complicating the matter was the fact that those Bostonians who were permitted to leave, were prohibited from taking any belongings with them (Halbrook, 2008).

The situation for Bostonians worsened over time, as food shortages began to take effect.

As one Bostonians wrote, in a letter to an acquaintance in Philadelphia (New England Historical Society, 2014):

You request my writing freely, which I must be cautious of, for reasons which will naturally occur to you. As to the inhabitants removing, they are suffered to go out under certain restrictions. This liberty was obtained after many town meetings, and several conferences between their Committee and General Gage. The terms mutually agreed to were, “that the inhabitants should deliver up all their arms to the Selectmen.” This was generally done, though it took up some days. On this occasion the inhabitants were to have had liberty to remove out of Town, with their effects, and during this, to have free egress and regress. But mark the event: the arms being delivered, orders were issued by the General, that those who inclined to remove must give in their names to the Selectmen, to be by them returned to the Military Town Major, who was then to write a pass for the person or family applying, to go through the lines, or over the ferry; but all merchandise was forbid; after a while, all provisions were forbid; and now all merchandise, provisions, and medicine. Guards are appointed to examine all trunks, boxes, beds, and every thing else to be carried out; these have proceeded such extremities, as to take from the poor people a single loaf of bread, and half pound of chocolate; so that no one is allowed to carry out a mouthful of provisions; but all is submitted to quietly. The anxiety indeed is so great to get out of Town, that even were we obliged to go naked, it would not hinder us. But there are so many obstructions thrown in the way, that I do not think, those who are most anxious will be all out in less than two or three months — vastly different from what was expected, for the General at first proposed, unasked, to procure the Admiral’ s boats to assist the inhabitants in the transportation of their effects, which is not done, and there are but two ferry-boats allowed to cross. They have their designs in this, which you may easily guess at. We suffer much for want of fresh meat.

“After several months, food shortages in Boston convinced Gage to allow easier emigration from the city,” (American Bar Association, 2012).

In the end, it was the “seizure of these arms from the peaceable citizens of Boston who were not even involved in hostilities,” which ultimately “sent a message to all of the colonies that fundamental rights were in grave danger” (Halbrook, 20008).

Citations:

  • “The Founder’s Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms”, Stephen P. Halbrook, 2008.

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