Frank Miniter

Some Men Are Now “Lumbersexuals” … Really?

lumberjack-treeAn article at The Atlantic by Willa Brown, a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Virginia, says a “crisis in urban masculinity created the lumberjack aesthetic” now making a “comeback.” She says some urban men are growing beards, wearing plaid shirts, jeans and work boots to pretend to be something they’re not and likely don’t even comprehend. She says these effeminate urban men in flannel can be seen sipping lattes at the local Starbucks as they type text messages with their moisturized and un-callused thumbs. She calls these wannabe men a new name coined by Tom Puzak at GearJunkie: “lumbersexuals.”

Puzak writes, “He looks like a man of the woods, but works at The Nerdery, programming for a healthy salary and benefits. His backpack carries a MacBook Air, but looks like it should carry a lumberjack’s axe. He is the Lumbersexual.”

No doubt a few such fake men exist. Many have noted that a lot of urban men seem to have something earthy, and therefore masculine, missing from their metropolitan identities.

Being caught, as they are, in an image-stricken culture, perhaps a few such urban men shop for a new and manlier image as they grow a little facial hair to complete the Paul Bunyan part. They then look in the mirror and see a man. In appearance only, but who can say? Maybe next they’ll pick up a copy of Field & Stream. Maybe they’ll go and catch a fish or shoot their own dinner. If so, in each outdoorsy step along the way, they just might become the masculine men some part of them is seeking.

Okay, maybe that’s a leap too far for many. But maybe they’ll at least read some Raymond Chandler, Jack London, Ernest Hemingway or Robert Ruark as they find other ways to get some dirt under their nails. Maybe they’ll camp out and so have to chop wood for a fire or maybe they’ll start mountain biking, rock climbing or canoeing.

For all Brown knows, maybe a lot of them have done many of those things, but now they’re working in a land of asphalt, concrete and corner coffee shops. Maybe they happen to like what both the urban and rural environs offer different parts of themselves.

The point is Brown is judging from appearance.

Click here to read the rest of my article at Forbes.com.

How The Obama Administration Plays the Media

Attorney General Eric Holder has been controversial. Emails show where his media tactics come from.

Attorney General Eric Holder has been controversial. Emails show where his media tactics come from.

The U.S. government told gun-store owners to sell known gunrunners as many guns as they wanted. The government didn’t even hide some secret NSA tracking device in the guns. Nor did they follow the guns with some super-hi-tech drone. They just let the guns go into the arsenals of bad guys. Obama administration officials knew the next time they’d see the guns would be at crime scenes. Then, in December 2010, two of the guns (AK-47-style rifles) were found at a crime scene where a U.S. Border Patrol agent was shot dead.

That, in sum, Operation Fast and Furious before the congressional hearings, the whistleblowers, the attacks on the whistleblowers, and the desperate cover-up that now includes a president using executive privilege to hide emails sent from Attorney General Eric Holder to his wife (Sharon Malone).

All that sounds so far-fetched just explaining it kicks up a smokescreen of disbelief. Then, when you add in the fact that much of the media has mostly been reluctant to investigate, it’s clear why when someone in the know mentions “Operation Fast and Furious” most people ask, “Um, do you mean ‘The Fast and the Furious’ movies?”

The emails now made public can change this. A judge forced the Obama administration to make the emails quoted here and other documents public last month. Researches are still going through the thousands of pages of documents. Judging by the amount of redaction (blacking out) of these documents and President Barack Obama’s overzealous use of executive privilege—the administration is even using executive privilege to hide talking points they sent to favored media—there’s a lot more to come.

First, I should note that none of this would be public if it wasn’t for a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, a conservative-leaning government watchdog group. Judicial Watch filed suit in September 2012 to make the Obama administration honor a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on records related to Operation Fast and Furious.

 

Holder’s Lesson in Spin

In 2011 Attorney General Eric Holder claimed he didn’t have knowledge of Operation Fast and Furious until he saw media reports. As head of the Department of Justice (DOJ), Holder also oversees the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE). In 2011 emails between Holder and his then communications adviser, Matthew Miller, show why he decided to take this position. (Before you read this, it’s worth noting that when Miller decided to leave the DOJ Holder said in a statement that he was “greatly saddened” by Miller’s departure and that he would “miss his judgment, humor and spirit.”

Here is some of the advice Miller gave to Holder:

1. Send a letter to the Hill explaining what happened. Put in context the amount of information you get every week, say that you don’t recall reading those bullets or being aware of Fast and Furious at any time before early this year, but in any event, you certainly weren’t aware of the gun walking aspect of it until the news broke earlier this year (at which point you took immediate steps to have the IG investigate, etc.)….

2. Find a way for you to get in front of a reporter or two about this. You don’t want to call a press conference on this because it will blow things out perspective, but if you have any events in the next few days (preferably tomorrow), you could find a way to take two or three questions on it afterwards.

Or if that’s not easily doable, you could find a way to “run into” a couple of reporters on your way to something. Maybe Pete Williams, Carrie, Pete Yost — that part can be managed….

Click here for the rest of my article at Forbes.com.

Could a CA Ruling Redefine the Right to Bear Arms?

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Heller (2008) that the Second Amendment obviously protects an individual right to bear arms. It then ruled in McDonald (2010) that this right also restricts state and local governments. But since 2010 the high court has stayed out of the battle to define what the Second Amendment specifically protects. Now a California case—Peruta v. San Diego County—might change this.

The California Rifle and Pistol Association Foundation brought the case on behalf of five individuals who were denied the right to carry a handgun by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. Last February a three-judge panel in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the government can’t require residents who want a concealed-carry permit to first prove they really need their rights by showing official documentation, such as restraining orders or letters from law-enforcement agencies.

After the court found such requirements unconstitutional, San Diego County Sheriff William D. Gore declined to appeal the decision. This prompted California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris to officially petition the 9th Circuit to have its full 11-member panel review the decision. Months later, on November 12, the 9th Circuit declined this request.

The case, however, isn’t necessarily finished. David Madden, a spokesman for the 9th Circuit, said the state of California has the right to ask the 11-judge panel to review the decision. If the state does so—and many legal experts expect them to—then, however the panel rules, the case would likely be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Before we get to those national implications, let’s cut through all this legal wrangling with why this is a big deal. Edward Peruta and the other plaintiffs in this case weren’t able to obtain concealed-carry permits because they couldn’t prove they needed to protect themselves to the local sheriff’s satisfaction.

According to California law a person applying for their Second Amendment right to carry concealed must: 1) be a resident of their respective city or county, 2) be of “good moral character,” and 3) have “good cause” for such a license. Citizens must also pass a firearms training course before they can utilize their Second Amendment rights. California law also allows cities and other municipalities to pass even stricter gun-control laws. So, though many rural California counties accept self-defense as “good cause,” some urban sheriffs and chiefs of police weren’t. In fact, San Diego County Sheriff William Gore denied almost everyone. The few who attained permits had to beg, plead and show imminent danger to their lives through restraining orders and other legal documentation before Sheriff Gore was compelled to bequeath a woman being stalked or some other unfortunate person their right to bear arms.

Imagine if a local sheriff or other official was permitted to treat other constitutionally protected rights this way. Could a police officer search your home without a warrant if you don’t have some state documentation showing you particularly need your Fourth Amendment rights? Could a district attorney require you to testify against yourself unless you somehow proved to their satisfaction that you really, really need your Fifth Amendment rights? This treatment of the U.S. Bill of Rights obviously doesn’t even pass the laugh test.

So what does this mean for the future of Second Amendment rights?

Click here for the rest of my article.

Canada Is Balancing Its Budget

Canada's Conservative Party have gotten their country to a balanced budget.

Canada’s Conservative Party have gotten their country to a balanced budget.

Our quiet neighbor to the north is set to balance its budget this fiscal year. To reach this goal Canada’s Conservative-led government has been outmaneuvering its liberal opponents. They’ve taken on their public unions, used private-sector ideas in the federal bureaucracy and streamlined government agencies. There are a lot of lessons here Republicans now running both houses of Congress should hear. For the answers I contacted Tony Clement, an elected member of the Canadian Parliament who has been serving as Canada’s President of the Treasury Board since 2011.

First, a little background on Clement will help to put what they’re doing in perspective. After graduating from the University of Toronto with a degree in political science (1983) and in law (1986), Clement worked in the private sector before becoming a central part of Ontario’s “Common Sense Revolution.” (If only Republicans had such simple catchphrases for their political movements.) The main goal of Canada’s Common Sense Revolution was to lower taxes while balancing the budget. Their strategy for achieving this was basically to shrink the size and role of government. Mike Harris, a Progressive Conservative premier of Ontario from 1995 to 2002, led this movement. While Newt Gingrich had his “Contract with America,” Harris, Clement and other Canadian Conservatives repeated the slogan: “Work for Welfare, Scrap the Quota Law [Affirmative Action] and Tax Cuts for Jobs—Common Sense for a Change.”

After Conservatives gained a majority in the Canadian Parliament in 2011, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Clement as the President of the Treasury Board and tasked him with leading a government-wide spending review. In Canada, the President of the Treasury Board is comparable to a company’s chief operating officer. Whereas Canada’s Minister of Finance sets the budget—making him the Santa Claus of the Cabinet—Clement’s position is closer to the Scrooge.

Since being placed in this penny-pinching position, Clement’s goal has been to find ways to contain and reduce government spending. For example, on November 2, 2013, Clement backed a motion at the Conservative Party’s national convention to find ways to get public-sector pay and benefits under control. At the convention he vowed, as the minister responsible for negotiations with the civil service, to “alter the dynamics of collective bargaining as it has been done in this country over the last few decades.”

Now, a central part of the Common Sense Revolution was to do “exactly what I say I will do.” Clement is still following this mantra.

When asked about overall federal spending in Canada, Clement said, “We’ve made a major impact on wasteful spending. We’ve cut the budget by an average of 7.9 percent per department. In the process we’ve broken the spending culture by targeting back-office operations. By ‘back-office’ I mean the bureaucracy. For example, we found that every government agency had its own IT department that often ran different software on systems that weren’t always cross compatible. Fixing that issue alone reduced expenditures by 15 percent.”

Click here for the rest of my article at Forbes.com.

Why Hipsters are Really Conformists

hipster1The mathematician and neuroscientist, Jonathan Touboul, wanted to know why all hipsters look alike. He did some research and published “The hipster effect: When anticonformists all look the same.” The key insight his mathematical model unearthed is there is a delay in fashion and lifestyle and that hipsters get caught in the delay as they try to stay ahead of the other hipsters. What results is a vicious cycle of dress and likes that is forever caught behind the mythical few and real nonconformists. In other words, they’re following fashion and are caught up in this year’s attire when what they really want is tomorrow’s.

Maybe so, but that theory presupposes that all hipsters with those under-sized Fedora’s, tight jeans and lattes really do want to be ahead the pack; certainly some do, but aren’t a lot of them more likely trying to fit in with the cool crowd?

The truth is hipsters have really been chasing each other around since at least Ernest Hemingway’s “Lost Generation.” Hemingway actually called them the “weird lot” in a 1922 article titled “American Bohemians in Paris.” He wrote: “The scum of Greenwich Village, New York, has been skimmed off and deposited in large ladlesful on the section of Paris adjacent to the Café Rotunde. New scum, of course, has risen to take the place of the old, but the oldest scum, the thickest scum, and the scummiest scum has come across the ocean, somehow, and with its afternoon and evening levees has made the Rotunde the leading Latin quarter show place for tourists in search of atmosphere. It is a strange-acting and strange-looking breed that crowd the tables of the Café Rotunde. They have all striven so hard for careless individuality of clothing that they have achieved a sort of uniformity of eccentricity.”

Why Police Officers Need Cameras

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 1.32.30 PMShawn R. Glans, a now former Saratoga County, N.Y. sheriff, was forced to resign after a video of him went viral on YouTube. In the video you can hear what sounds like Glans slapping a man named Colin Fitch. Fitch had refused to let the officer search his car for a gun without a warrant. The officer said he’d get a search warrant and Fitch calmly replies, “If you want to take that route.” The officer then seems to strike Fitch. The apparent slap can be heard on the video at the 30-second point. It can’t be seen. The person filming the traffic stop was keeping his cellphone hidden. After the possible slap, the officer threatens Fitch with expletive-filled tirade during which he says he’d “rip [Fitch’s] head off and s— down [his] neck.” The video has now received over 600,000 views on YouTube. The officer reportedly told the Times Union he would have acted differently had he known the incident was being recorded.

Most cops, of course, are not like Glans. Most, however, do have to deal with the worst in society on a daily basis. For their protection—and for ours from cops like this—more officers should wear cameras. I’ve also argued in Forbes that police officers’ guns also need cameras.

Should the SEAL Who Shot Bin Laden Be Stepping Forward?

The former SEAL Team Six member who allegedly shot Osama bin Laden—called “the shooter” in an Esquire Magazine article—will appear on Fox News on November 11 and 12. This has brought a blunt and critical letter from the SEAL’s master chief of Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC). The letter said SEAL’s should live as “quiet professionals” when serving and after leaving the teams. The letter points out: “At Naval Special Warfare’s core is the SEAL Ethos. A critical tenant of our Ethos is ‘I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions.’ Our Ethos is a lifelong commitment….”

The Seals—like other elite forces—live a quiet, tough and stoic creed. The criticism from NSWC resonates because it’s designed to protect individuals still taking risks for our nation and way of life and because they are protecting operational secrets that could benefit our enemies. Also, a lot of people were a part of the hunt for Bin Laden, the SEAL team that killed him was simply the tip of the spear, so why should a particular person get all the public credit?

The argument from the few individuals who’ve written books, such as No Easy Day, is that generals and former CIA directors write books and so get fame and potential money, so why can’t those who risked their lives do the same?

There are other arguments to be made for the soldiers who write books and appear on news broadcasts. Just consider that the Ancient Greeks would have carved statues for these heroes and would have written and put on plays in their honor. The Ancient Romans would have had them ride chariots down streets filled with applauding people. These celebrations of heroes created role models and real heroes for young adults to look up to. We are now in a society where the most famous people are actors, singers and reality show exhibitionists. Wouldn’t a few heroes who served provide good balance in this society?

For these reasons I think some heroes should come forward, but that they should clear their books and more through the Pentagon. Meanwhile, our military and other branches of government shouldn’t be afraid to tell the truth about our heroic figures. Our government too often attacks whistleblowers and others who do the right thing for our country. We need more stand-up examples of what a good U.S. citizen should be.

Should the IRS Be Able to Silence Priests Who Talk Politics?

Many of the framers of America’s founding documents had likely studied the writings of the French political philosopher, Baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755), who wrote:

“A more certain way to attack religion is by favor, by the comforts of life, by the hope of wealth; not by what reminds one of it, but by what makes one forget it; not by what makes one indignant, but by what makes men lukewarm, when other passions act on our souls, and those which religion inspires are silent. In the matter of changing religion, State favors are stronger than penalties.”

Despite the fact that the Bill of Rights was designed to be restrictions on the federal government, not the people, today the IRS has succeeded in gagging churches by requiring them to stay out of politics. If they talk politics, they risk losing their nonprofit tax status. The Founders may have thought they’d avoided Montesquieu’s warning by ratifying the First Amendment’s “establishment clause,” but the U.S. government, through the IRS, has shackled religion to state favors backed by a severe financial penalty—the IRS tax code, a document that’s now longer than the Bible.

Church leaders have historically spoken their minds to the American public. Outspoken religious figures include George Whitfield (1714-1770), an Anglican Protestant minister who helped spread the “Great Awakening” in the American colonies, and Father Charles Edward Coughlin (1891-1979), a politically controversial Roman Catholic priest who had more than 40 million listeners tuned to his weekly broadcasts during the 1930s, and Reverend Jerry Falwell (1933-2007), a Baptist pastor and conservative commentator. Religious figures have always been involved in political debates in America, at least until Congress changed the rules in 1954.

The law banning religious leaders from endorsing political figures was engineered in 1954 by then-Senate Minority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973). Johnson wanted to silence two non-profit organizations in Texas that had opposed his reelection, so he pushed the bill through. It wasn’t controversial because Johnson passed it off as a favor to churches. The legislation passed as an amendment to another bill via an up-or-down voice vote in the U.S. Senate.

Most churches in America have since organized themselves as 501c3 tax-exempt religious organizations—501c3 churches are prohibited from endorsing politicians and otherwise stepping into the political fray. However, in 1995, for the first time in history, the IRS revoked the tax-exempt status of a church for engaging in political activity. The Branch Ministries, Inc., doing business as the Church at Pierce Creek, in upstate New York, ran a newspaper ad just before the 1992 presidential election saying that Bill Clinton’s position on abortion ran counter to the Bible. The ad asked, “How, then, can we vote for Bill Clinton?” After Clinton won the election, Americans United for Separation of Church and State wrote a letter to the IRS saying that the church had violated its tax-exempt status. After an investigation, in 1995, the IRS revoked Branch Ministries, Inc.’s tax-exempt status. Many conservatives then pointed out that many inner-city, Democratic-leaning churches had endorsed Bill Clinton, yet these churches were not investigated.

Now many religious leaders are taunting the IRS. Before the 2014 midterm election more than 1,600 pastors, priests and other religious leaders mentioned politicians from the pulpit by name, according to Alliance Defending Freedom. This is a movement designed to force the government to prosecute priests. Religious figures are supposed to be the moral leaders of communities. They argue they should be able to express this morality politically—doesn’t American politics need a little more moral oversight? If they go too far, they could lose their flocks. Isn’t that the proper check on a free people?

The Thing About “Hero Shots”

This Montana mule deer didn't hear me coming.

This Montana mule deer didn’t hear me coming.

I was creeping through knee-high Montana grass toward antler tips just down a mountain. The wind was touching my right cheek. The sun was diffused in low clouds. The mountain rolled below into chokeberry thickets and aspen with yellow leaves. This bottom twisted between hills the color of brown-yellow grass to green fields and a barn of bare wind-washed wood. Black angus cows were in the bottom and everything was so quiet and still the mule deer just in front of me seemed to be meditating—if deer meditated—as he looked down the mountain. I’d spotted this buck from far below. The stalk to get around him took hours. Now I was within yards with a CVA muzzleloader in my hands like some frontiersman. Any sound at this distance would make that mule deer’s ears turn and then his head would follow and then he’d be gone. This is the edge mountain lions live on. They creep and hug the ground until they’re so close not even a deer’s quick hooves have a chance to get a buck safely away. In that pounding silence of my feet moving and hands holding a gun I felt sure a doe would see me or something would and the whole scene would explode with bouncing mule deer. Instead I stood slowly up and could see the back of the buck’s head and his wide antlers and his chest just 60 feet away.

Then I shot cleanly and it was over and the mule deer that had been bedded around him were running downslope. Soon everything was quiet again and I had meat for the winter and the melancholy of the hunter set in. I missed the buck and loved the buck and I thanked him out loud and in my heart. This is nature and is natural and I am drawn to it.

Soon a friend was there and we took photos; what hunters call “hero shots.” I hate that phrase. For me when I see the photo I see and feel again everything I’ve touched on here and more. Others don’t. They can’t. All they see is me smiling with a dead buck. I can’t blame them for not understanding. I can only blame them for not trying to understand. Because to me this is a celebration of life.

How Gun-Control Legislation is Affecting This Election

Sheriff Mike Lewis and his father outside an "Old-West town" in the suburbs of Salisbury, MD.

Sheriff Mike Lewis and his father outside an “Old-West town” in the suburbs of Salisbury, MD.

Many sheriffs in states that recently passed gun-control laws have signed letters saying they are opposed to the laws, saying the gun bans won’t make America safer. Some even say they won’t enforce these new laws. This has gotten some press. What hasn’t been reported is the very governors in New York, Connecticut and Maryland who signed those gun and magazine bans are also reluctant to enforce them. They don’t want a political backlash. They don’t want journalists making martyrs out of otherwise law-abiding citizens who might be charged with felonies for doing what they’ve done all their lives.

They know that a majority of sheriffs in New York and Colorado publicly oppose the new gun-control laws. Sheriffs are in a unique position to speak out, as nearly all of America’s 3,080 sheriffs are elected. Still, the sheriff’s opinions on guns are held by a lot of the men and women who protect us. In 2013, a survey of police officers by the National Association of Chiefs of Police found that 86.8 percent of those surveyed think “any law-abiding citizen [should] be able to purchase a firearm for sport and self-defense.” Also, a survey done by PoliceOne.com of 15,000 law-enforcement professionals found that almost 90 percent of officers believe that casualties related to guns would be decreased if armed citizens were present at the onset of an active-shooter incident.More than 80 percent of PoliceOne’s respondents support arming schoolteachers and administrators who willingly volunteer to train with firearms.Virtually all the survey’s respondents (95 percent) said a federal ban on the manufacture and sale of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds wouldn’t reduce violent crime.

With a majority of law enforcement and millions of gun owners opposed to the gun and magazine bans recently passed in New York, Connecticut, Maryland and Colorado it’s not surprising that governors who voted to heavily restrict the citizenries right to bear arms are reluctant to enforce their own laws.

Click here for the rest of my column at Forbes.com.