Texas v. Washington: Partisan Unity in the Fight for Drones on the Border

(MQ-9 Reaper Photo by CBP)

 

Another article for The Texian Partisan. Click below.

http://texianpartisan.com/331-2/

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President Fail: Bidding Good Riddance to Barack Obama.

The twentieth of January is upon us, the end of a four-year cycle. This means that later today, the USA will have a new chief executive. Many people are looking forward to the forth-coming installation, either with gladness or grief, but for me the day holds one flicker of eager anticipation: the end of the reign of President Barack Obama. As he leaves office, there are so many retrospectives already written that go into the details of his eight years, both critical and in praise of; I won’t do that here. What I will do is openly reflect on what the Obama’s Presidency has meant to me, as well as give what few general highlights important enough to mention from his misbegotten management.

When Barack Obama was inaugurated, I didn’t feel grief-stricken nor celebratory. Though I wasn’t a supporter, I did have an appreciation for the historicity of the first non-white President taking office. I think many were, at least in some small way, desirous of this, even if (like myself) one didn’t think race added much to one’s inherent qualifications. For the most part, it was a bit like routing for an underdog football team, and for no other reason than that a win for them would mean more than for a perennial victor. Still, beyond this was the whispered promise that his election and leadership might deliver something towards making race in the U.S. more insignificant. This was tantalizing, to have a national catharsis of racial grievance, allowing the American people to move past the pain of the past and start viewing each other as individuals rather than groups. I don’t know exactly how much hope I held for this, but I was open to its possibility. Undoubtedly, believing such an idea was encouraged in the Obama camp. However, I certainly didn’t predict Obama being the active participant in furthering racial polarization that he turned out to be. Call it naivety, but I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.

In addition to Obama’s failure on being (as Colin Powell put it) a “transformative figure” for the country, the achievements of the Obama administration are abhorrent. Because he was too weak a President to work within the existing legal structures, and since his lack of humility precluded his working with the loyal opposition to hammer out any real compromises, most of his legacy was written on an etch-a-sketch rather than chiseled in stone. That which will survive Obama’s Presidency is the damage he’s caused. He matched the worst recession since the 1920’s with the worst recovery since the same, and this while he held all the cards of government. He played fast a loose with the law, illicitly rewriting passed legislation and ruling through executive fiat. He politicized departments of the executive, such as the Justice Department and the IRS, becoming the reality of what was feared under Nixon. He illegally expanded the powers of the Presidency, setting precedent that he now passes to incoming President Trump and any successors. With his party, he greatly increased the authority of the federal government over the ordinary citizen, taking decision-power out of their hands in unprecedented ways. He doubled the national debt, enlarging it to such an extent that it now exceeds our own GDP. He engineered the US’s decline in the world, emboldening our enemies while discouraging our allies. He squandered our military victories abroad, birthing new threats, leaving a world on fire for his lack of steadfast leadership. He crusaded against nuns and people of conscience while praising and coddling murderous dictators. His administration was fraught with incompetence and scandal. He leaves behind a government more corrupt, life more difficult and expensive, and the citizenry less free. And in a seeming farewell rebuke, he is pardoning and commuting the sentences of as many rapists, terrorists, traitors, and murderers as he thinks prudent, unleashing them upon us and the world. One would almost think that this was his way of rewarding a country for failing to grasp his dubious splendor.

The reason for the almost complete fiasco of Obama is a doctrinal one. If a computer has faulty programming, it can only produce error. Obama’s blind faith to progressive philosophy, beliefs that proceed from false premises and lack of understanding, guaranteed that he would repeatedly miss the mark. However, like a bad factory machine left unrestrained to churn out monstrosity, he continued as planned, sure that the results he wanted would come despite failure being his constant companion. For as weak as Obama was, his political adversaries were still weaker and could not, or would not, stop him. In Obama we have a superlative example of the terrible nexus of confidence and incompetence demonstrated in the way that only power can tell.

I don’t know how the eye of history will judge the Obama administration. Who can know what historians will dispassionately record when distanced from a contemporary media and academia that are determined to make the first black US President a resounding success, even if they must change the English language to do so? Nevertheless, this is my epitaph for the Presidency of Barack Obama: few US Presidents (perhaps none) were swept into power with higher approval, well-wishing, and (dare I say) hope; and no other President failed as badly to justify his people’s faith in him as did he. Obama leaves the USA and the world worse off for his inept stewardship than when he came in, by every estimation that matters. I can’t say that I’m glad to see him go; glad’s not the right word. I mourn the fact that he ever was President. His absence is welcome, but can never truly compensate for all the mischief he’s made in this country. The Trump Presidency’s history has yet to be written, but Barack Hussein Obama is leaving the bar for an American President so very low that it will be a challenge for Trump to fall beneath it. Time will tell if Trump meets that challenge or not.

 

– Ryan Thorson

Streep Fighter vs The Twitter Warrior

Did anyone catch Meryl Streep’s speech last night? Donald Trump certainly did! His tweeted response was typical Trump fair: attack them personally, link them to your political opponent, deny the charges, remind the audience that Trump is a winner, attack the media, etc. Well, without unpacking Streep’s whole speech, here are a few thoughts on it. ‪
It was enevitable that the left, and its propaganda arm in Hollywood, was going to find something not to like in a Republican President. This would have been the case whether the occupant was the walking faux-pas that is Trump or the less flawed Marco Rubio. That being said, it is disingenuous, bordering on the ridiculous, for Trump to pretend that Streep had no point. Trump did poke a little fun at a certain reporter’s disability. He told his rally audience, “You gotta see this guy,” and then begin flailing his arms around in mockery of this person’s particular affliction. Hey, he can do that if he wants to; he’s breaking no law! If Trump wants to establish new heights for the avant-garde of sticking-it-to-the-establishment by bucking their stupid rules about not attacking weaker people, he can. Seems a silly crusade, but ok. However, he shouldn’t lie about it, especially when the reality is so obvious to anybody with access to YouTube. Also, the PEOTUS shouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people, even Hollywood types, find his particular form communication troubling. If Donald is a little ashamed or embarrassed by what he did, he should try apologizing. However, at least be man about it.

As for Streep’s other concerns, not everything was objectionable, at least on its face. Besides her plea for civility from those in power, she called for the need of a “principled press” to hold power to account while making an authority appeal to the Constitution. What’s to disagree with? The President does need to be accountable to the Constitution, and held to account by a watchdog press (lately playing Obama’s lapdog). Assuming I disagreed, don’t even vapid liberal actors, who are as far removed from regular people as Michael Moore is from a salad, have just as much right to use their particular platform to advocate for their beliefs as anyone else does?

There is one issue, however, regarding the Golden Globes editorial that deserves addressing: consistency. I must have missed the time that Ms. Streep showed concern for the Constitution and an independent press when Barack Obama was ruling through executive fiat and having his Justice Department conduct raids on reporters who were investigating his administrations various scandals. For some reason, that didn’t seem to bother Meryl, or at least she didn’t use her fame then to criticize the President on some of the more troubling abuses of his authority. Don’t misunderstand me. It’s nice to hear from all these born-again federalists! Welcome to the party! However, it is noteworthy that when a more favorable tyranny was being perpetrated by one from her own political persuasion, Streep saw fit to not speak out.

There are many areas that Donald Trump is and will be deserving of critique. Certainly, Streep’s performance was only one of many salvos yet to come from the S.S. Tinseltown. Yet, until Streep and her class of actors-cum-political gurus address and apologize for 8 years of turning a blind eye to the violation of the principles they now seem to have whole-heartedly embraced, they’ll have zero credibility. Their criticisms will fall on deaf ears, persuading no one that doesn’t already agree. Good thing for her, credibility or persuasion isn’t what Streep’s after, nor Martin Sheen, nor any number of celebrities that have been popping up to do insipid and homogeneous political ads. Rather, what they want is to signal to their pals, other vapid Hollywood actors, to say “Look at me! I’m a good person!” Well, to that I’d say, “Mission accomplished!” Be satisfied, because you’ll have little else. I still loved Streep in Julie & Julia, however!

-Ryan Thorson
**UPDATE***

New info has come to my attention that Trump wasn’t mocking the aforementioned man’s disability. Though the video on its own with Trump’s words seemed pretty clear, I have to admit that this time I got it wrong.

Chicago Hate: Crime, Racial Prejudice, and the Media.

Breaking last night, was the story of four Chicago residents that had been arrested for kidnapping another Chicago-area man with mental disabilities. They forced this man to drink from the toilet, bound him, beat and kicked him, cut the clothes from his body, and assaulted him with a knife, drawing blood. And since our society has undergone a shame-ectomy, all of this was done live on Facebook. In viewing the video, it becomes clear by the choice of insults used by the perpetrators that this crime was racially and politically motivated. The victim has been reported recovering in a hospital, and the perpetrators have been charged with committing hate-crimes as well as other charges. “Tragic,” you might say. “I hope they receive the fullest punishment that the law can provide.” Correct. They should. However, there is a component to this story that has some in the main stream media a bit perplexed on how to handle it. The peculiar part of this story is that the perpetrators were black and their victim was white, and they carried out their attacks saying, “F**k Donald Trump. F**k white people.”

Since hate-crime legislation started being enacted, it has not been unknown to find examples of criminal behavior that meet the definition of a hate-crime and yet are perpetrated on whites. A simple search on YouTube will yield numerous videos of white people being attacked by groups of non-whites, beating them, and hurling racial epithets at them. For instance, also in Chicago, in a recent post-election attack, a middle-aged white man was pulled from his car and beaten for stated racial and political motives. However, it’s not often you hear of hate-crimes charges being filed in such cases where the victim is white. Until recently, the reason for the charges in the Chicago case hadn’t even been fully specified. Earlier reports indicated that the Chicago Police incredulously maintained that the attack wasn’t racially motivated, but because of the victim’s mentally disability. This, even though the perpetrators were shown cutting at this man and saying, “F**k white people,” on the aforementioned video. That evidence would seem pretty cut and dry, to most people. It’s not like they said, “F**k the disabled,” is it? However, according to this afternoon’s CPD press conference on this case, they made clear that the racial component of this crime received equal consideration in the decision to file hate-crime charges. I’m glad they were clear on this point. It would be a horrible message to send that the crime in this was in selecting a victim from the protected list, “but feel free to target competent whites!”

The way the media has been reporting this story has been has a bit of a mixed bag. Some articles and TV stories have reported this on the merits, while others have not. Few want to justify it, though some have. Some have even gone the extra step of blaming Donald Trump in some capacity. Particularly egregious was the way CNN’s Don Lemon approached it. While one of his panel called the attack “evil,” Lemon himself refused to categorize it as such, saying, “I don’t think it’s evil. I don’t think it’s evil. I think these are young people, and I think they have bad home training.” Certainly Mr. Lemon is entitled to his strange opinion. However, if this act didn’t make his cut, one should wonder at what Lemon’s definition of evil is.

Don Lemon is just one example of the gentle consideration that media gives when dealing with crimes perpetrated by non-whites. For instance, the media has a reputation for often omitting the ethnicity of the perpetrator in reporting crimes committed by minorities, while at the same time rarely flinching from exposing the background of a white assailant. As to why they do it is speculative, but I’d wager it probably comes from a mixture of varied left-wing opinions, such as reporters generally have penchant for. These beliefs could include the unique culpability of whites for historic injustices (including racial disparities in U.S. prisons), the patronizing belief that racial minorities should be coddled and held to low expectations for civilized behavior because of historic injustice and cultural relativism, and the belief that whites will retaliate against innocent minorities if they report the racial make-up of said perpetrators. If this is what they believe, the sensible thing would be to just omit the ethnicity of all suspects, but that’s not always the case. It is curious, however, how fears of racial prejudice lead to actual racial prejudice.

The Chicago attack and like attacks should give us pause before we continue business as usual, employing the same failed solutions championed by our politically correct culture. If the goal is to reduce or eliminate racial prejudice, then perhaps we should de-emphasize race. No one should be automatically considered in the victim class or the oppressor class. We all should be on the protected list, or none of us should be. One thing we might consider is dropping this whole ridiculous notion of hate crimes. Those kidnappers from Chicago committed crimes against a weaker guy, and that’s all that should matter. I don’t care if they hated this man personally or if they just hated whatever group they saw him representing; such as white, disabled, or a Trump supporter. I only care that they committed a crime. If the races were reversed, to me it would matter just as much. This should be the case with the law, the media, and society. It isn’t, though. Justice, far from being blind, seeks to favor ideological bias over the evidence or law. It’s time we start insisting that our society stop showing any favoritism on a racial basis. At some point, people must be responsible for their own actions, alone. Pretending otherwise leads to crimes like what happened to this man in Chicago. If we keep trying to play this game of favorites, we aren’t going to have a society much longer. For if we can’t agree that such actions are “evil,” what can we agree on?

 

– Ryan Thorson

 

Rogue One: A Fan-Film Story

Now that the political season is over, I thought I’d concentrate a little more on the cultural side of things. That’s right, I have a few more belated movie reviews to throw your way. And so that I don’t sound like I’m way behind the curve, I thought I’d begin with a review last month’s anticipated offering from Lucasfilm/Disney, Rogue One: a Star Wars Story. If you haven’t seen this film by now, any reasonable expectation of not having anything ruined for you should be gone. So, read on at your own risk.

26200797002_95a305038a_bRogue One is the story of how the Rebel Alliance acquired the legendary Death Star plans, the McGuffin of the first Star Wars. The film focuses on the character of Jyn Erso, the daughter of Galen Erso, one of the Death Star’s less than willing progenitors. As the film progresses, Jyn transitions from a child fugitive of the Galactic Empire, to pawn of the Rebellion in an assassination attempt on her father, and from there to the leader of a suicidal effort to recover the Death Star plans from an Imperial data center. The data, once recovered, should reveal the Battle Station’s weakness, purposely manufactured into it by Galen, and provide the Rebels with one shot at destroying this ultimate weapon that before it destroys them.

The film is technically amazing, as one should expect from such an expensive big-studio space opera. I disagree with those who felt that the first half of the film was slow, finding the pacing pretty spot-on. The musical score was adequate, having a good enough balance between original material and reprises from John Williams. And while many of the characters seemed to be underdeveloped in the motivation department, there were many good performances, and the whole effect was satisfying. It will doubtless make a lot of money. However, I am a Star Wars fan, and as such am probably a little more gracious then I would be if Rogue One were a stand-alone film wholly unconnected to the power of nostalgia-vision.

To me, Rogue One felt like the greatest fan-made Star Wars movie ever filmed: a product created out of love for an existing property, but not necessarily an example of great story-telling. Beyond the inescapable problem that the film focuses on the quest to steal the plans to destroy the Death Star, rather than the quest to destroy the Death Star itself, the other obvious flaw is that the film is not very accessible to the casual viewer at times. Although this may not matter if you can get the gist of who these characters are and what they’re doing via context clues, at other times an audience may be a bit lost due to their probable lack of more esoteric Star Wars knowledge, info beyond knowing who Vader is. Think the original theatrical cut of Dune, and how it was received, and you’ll see what I mean. The way Rogue One dished out copious amounts of SW references and cameos had even me blushing at times! The combined effect of returning prequel actors, re-cast original trilogy characters, re-purposed SW footage, expensive CGI re-creations of long-dead thespians, or even walk-ons by new actors in familiar costumes somewhat took the film off the focus of advancing the plot and brought it into the dark valley of “wouldn’t it be cool if…?!” Don’t get me wrong, for the ten-year-old boy in me loved all of them! The Darth Vader scenes alone were worth the price of admission! Even the return of Grand Moff Tarkin as a functional character in the story (not that you forgot for a second you were looking at CGI) was very enjoyable. However, often the homecoming of all these characters, props, and vehicles to the Star Wars universe felt a bit too saturated, and was at best only partially useful in organically advancing the story.

Even though this film errs on the side of self-referencing sentimentality, there are still things to be grateful for. For instance, Rogue One doesn’t hit you over the head with some ham-fisted political message! Sure, it panders a bit in the ethnic diversity area, but who cares? Someone must play the characters, and it’s not as if having a multi-ethnic cast of new main characters in the Star Wars universe affects the story in any adverse way. Criticism aside, Star Wars has always featured some ethnic diversity (to earthly eyes), and so this film is not inconsistent nor distracting. After all, ethnicity among the human characters in Star Wars has no meaning; it’s alien/human relations that get attention. Free from an in-cam shot of a flashing arrow neon sign declaring “DIVERSITY,” people are free to draw as much or as little meaning from this as they please, like all good Sci-Fi.

Additionally, I’m quite happy that the final cut was spared the over the top “I rebel” line given by Jyn Erso in the film’s trailer. At the time, it looked like we were in for yet another cinematic example of the ascendancy of teenage-girl models as some kind of new super-human, effortlessly sliding into their roles without the need to gain new skills (or a man to help them) and accomplishing their tasks with ease!  Lately, this has been the approach of Hollywood to women in fantasy films, making every would-be damsel in distress into a sword-wielding fighter with an attitude! That’s fine for the first 50 films, but after that, it starts to lose its novelty. Although, if you listened to the film-makers, you’d think they were the first one to try it! Applicability is one thing, propaganda is another. I don’t mind having a strong female leader in a film, even for pandering, but if it does so at the expense of the story telling, then no thanks. The problem with superwomen is the same as with supermen: invulnerability means no compelling story. No character is interesting without a struggle. However, Rogue One seems to narrowly escape this fate. Aside from incredulity of rough-and-tumble rebels choosing to disobey the Alliance and follow Jyn on a heist mission after her short yet less-than inspiring speech, I found that the presentation of the female protagonist wasn’t half as bad as it could have been. Although she could have been better developed, Jyn had weaknesses as well as strengths and made for a fairly good character.

Rogue One provides plenty of fun and excitement, in addition to a lengthy walk down memory lane. Even though my review may seem a bit brutal towards Rogue One’s nostalgia-goggles, I’m mostly satisfied with this newest offering, an experiment as Disney figures out how it will handle the Star Wars property. I for one would prefer that Disney go on making nostalgia films based on Star Wars (I can at least appreciate that) than either trying something new that destroys what the public already likes about this property or taking it into the realm of political advocacy. Once you start down that “dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny” as it has with other revived and ruined beloved properties. Three out of five.

 

-Ryan Thorson