President Barack Obama’s executive actions on guns aren’t just an unconstitutional overreach by the executive branch, but are really a tremendous missed opportunity. No, it’s even sadder than that, as he is using political theatre to pretend to have the high moral ground on guns while the policies he prefers have led to higher homicide rates in places like Chicago.
Let’s blow away this political smokescreen with what’s really happening.
To put what he is doing in context, think of Steven Spielberg’s 2012 movie Lincoln. President Obama had the cast and crew of the movie to the White House for a screening, so we can assume he has seen it. The movie details a moral crusade with Lincoln (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) working tirelessly and against great odds to win the votes for a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery.
Now realize that President Obama is doing no such thing. Instead of going through the at times messy democratic process of fighting for what he wants and perhaps compromising along the way, President Obama has opted for imperial decrees.
No wonder all of his political adversaries on this issue—and this includes a lot of pro-gun Democrats in Congress—are pushing back loudly and politically before the precise wording of these executive actions has even been presented to we the people. (There is a fact sheet at WhiteHouse.gov.)
Now, this would simply be a wrongheaded and illegal approach to passing policy if it weren’t for the seriousness of this constitutional issue. Everyone agrees, after all, that the National Instant Background Check System (NICS) is in need of reform. In fact, since shortly after the Sandy Hook school shooting, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for the gun industry (yes, the “gun lobby”), has been lobbying to get states to give the FBI the names of people who are legally barred from buying a gun for mental-health reasons—at the time some states weren’t giving any records. The NSSF calls its initiative FixNICS (FixNICS.org). The NSSF has had a lot of success. But they’ve had little help from the Obama administration and no credit from them. The Obama administration has instead cast the NSSF and the NRA and other gun-rights groups as an enemy that must be politically defeated. Why can’t the Obama administration work with them on this common ground?
Click here to see the rest of my article at FOX News.
The most profound things, the philosophical underpinnings having to do with right and wrong, good and evil, are best put simply, at least at first. They have too many layers for complex explanations in the beginning. When people really try to understand them they must relate themselves to questions about what honor is and more. This is a personal quest. If someone tries to do this for another person, at least too much, they’ll muddle the deeper points, as they must express their own points of view, experiences, and biases to explain. Soon the person being taught will misunderstand or even rebel as they correctly realize that this person isn’t the living embodiment of all this do-as-I-say advice. This is why a good guide shows the way, but also lets a person think and learn for themselves.
Good books, or speeches, on character walk this line. There are very few good books that do this well. Rules for a Knight is one of the few. It begins with the simple premise: feed the good parts of yourself and you’ll grow better, healthier; feed the bad parts and you’ll grow worse, unhealthier. This is old advice from people like Aristotle, Cicero, and Mencius. This timeless advice needs to be remembered is this age of moral relativism.
This little, but profound book, is then structured with rules—parts of the ideal. Ethan Hawke has said he wrote this for his children. Once upon a time the Roman orator and politician Cicero wrote On Duties for this son. I wrote The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide for mine and have a narrative-driven story on this topic coming out later this year. Rules for a Knight from Ethan Hawke is another book I will read to my son.
Most of the people who watched the GOP debate last night were likely sure of two things when they heard Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Chris Christie argue the government needs the power to snoop in this digital age and Sen. Rand Paul and, to a lesser extent, Sen. Ted Cruz, arguing that the U.S. Bill of Rights protects us from such unwarranted searches.
First, everyone agrees we must do what we can to prevent terrorists from killing us. This is why just after September 11, 2001 the Patriot Act passed 357 to 66 in the U.S. House of Representatives (with 145 Democratic votes) and 98 to 1 in the U.S. Senate. Still, don’t assume the act was written in a few days. The Patriot Act was actually a massive conglomeration of previously written bills. A large portion of the Patriot Act was taken from the “Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995,” a bill sponsored by then Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) after the Oklahoma City bombing. The bill had failed to make it to President Bill Clinton’s desk, even though Clinton supported it. This debate has been going on a long time.
Second, after people think a moment, they don’t want the government snooping on them. They simply want the government snooping on terrorists.
Balancing these two needs is the crux of the debate, but unfortunately it quickly descends into a big lie and a heap of wonky gibberish from complex bills and even more complex U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
So when Rubio attacked Cruz for supporting the USA Freedom Act, which stopped the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk collection of phone metadata, most people were probably shrugging.
This is why former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina probably had one of the best answers to NSA surveillance programs. She said, “I got a phone call from the NSA. They needed help. I gave them help…. We need the private sector’s help, because government is not innovating. Technology is running ahead by leaps and bounds. The private sector will help, just as I helped after 9/11. But they must be engaged, and they must be asked. I will ask them. I know them.”
When pushed, she said forcing the private sector to give up peoples’ personal data isn’t the right approach. She noted that the NSA just has to work with the private sector.
Click here to read the rest at Forbes.com.
Even if you’re not into guns you’ll likely remember the controversial sniper rifles TrackingPoint introduced a few years ago, as they were covered widely by cable news outlets and everyone else. TrackingPoint claimed that even a novice shooter could easily hit targets a mile away with one of its rifles. They had a lot of journalists come out to their Texas facility to prove the claim.
As a result, this rifle technology got a lot of hype, but with prices starting at around $10,000, consumers didn’t buy enough and the U.S. military still hasn’t offered a big, fat contract. In the excitement, TrackingPoint overextended itself. Last spring the company all but went out of business. They fell from about 130 employees to 24.
Now they are trying to rise from the ashes with a million dollar stunt. In what they’ve billed the “American Sniper Shootout,” they’re pitting a novice shooter armed with one of their rifles against a champion rifleman who’ll shoot traditional sniper gear. If the pro wins he gets $1 million. If the novice shooter wins TrackingPoint is hoping for a PR windfall.
The novice shooter is Taya Kyle, the wife of the late American Sniper. All the money raised from the competition—the public is welcome to watch—goes to the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation (CKFF) to help our returning soldiers.
Taya is a novice shooter. She told me her husband took her to the range a few times, but that she never seriously shot.
Her opponent is reigning NRA World Shooting Champion Bruce Piatt.
The shootout will take place Saturday December 5 in Mason, Texas. (Click here to see the event’s website: www.americansnipershootout.com) It’ll be 90 minutes long and made to be watched. There will be explosions, simulated gunfire, and moving targets as Taya and her opponent shoot and move.
They’re even going to recreate scenes from the war zones Chris Kyle fought in as a Navy SEAL. If you saw the movie, no doubt you remember the scene when Chris decided to take a 2,100-yard shot to take out Mustafa, a Syrian sniper and former Olympic rifle competitor, who was fighting for the insurgency in Iraq.
For the rest of my article at Forbes click here.
Manliness finally has a modern definition. A meaning we can all measures ourselves by thanks to an academic description pulled from the chronicles of decades of Hollywood parody.
Somewhere, up there, maybe James Dean is applauding.
It was Dean’s most-memorable role in the 1955 classic “Rebel Without a Cause” who asked his father: “What do you do when you have to be a man?” But his father didn’t know. Dean’s character was trying to prove himself, to grow up, but there were no guides or even real answers for him. They were all gone. That was the point of the movie. But the thing is that’s where manliness has been left, at least as far as pop-culture is concerned, ever since. And the feminists, the academics, and even the screenwriters, seem happy to leave it right there.
But now The Daily Beast has run a story, “How Machisomo is Keeping Bros Up at Night” by Samantha Allen, that’s about a study that found that men with “traditional views of masculinity” tend to believe more than other types of men—whomever or whatever they might be—that high-octane energy drinks can make them into the heroes of their stories, or something.
The thing is, in her reporting, Allen doesn’t question the big premise, the stupendous sociological underpinning: How did the four Texas psychologists who published this study in the November issue of Health Psychology define “traditional masculinity”?
As the author of The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide—Recovering the Lost Art of Manliness I had to unearth how they defined traditional masculinity, as it could finally be the answer to Dean’s question.
This led me to an online questionnaire designed to determine if participants in this study have “traditional masculinity ideology.” The psychologists had to determine this before they could find out how these old-school men feel about energy drinks as compared to other types of men.
There are 21 simple questions.
Each question uses a scale from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”
The first is: “Homosexuals should never marry.”
The next is: “The president of the U.S. should always be a man.”
The fourth is: “All homosexual bars should be closed down.”
I paused. Hmm, so a man with traditional values is a sexist homophobe?
Click here for the rest of my article at Forbes.com.
Almost 15 years ago the Manhattan barbershop I then went to took the Playboy magazines off the tables in its waiting area. The old Midtown barbershop was going unisex and Vinnie, its veteran barber, was apoplectic. After hearing Vinnie rant I looked at the table with the magazines and realized that I never saw anyone read them. They just lay there like a dare: Are you man enough to open this here, in public? This prompted me to pick one up. After looking and looking, I found didn’t want to stop reading. The old maxim that men buy the magazine for the pictures but subscribe for the articles isn’t just a joke. What was alluring, though, was an old-school gentleman’s point of view that was all over its prose and photos.
Now Playboy says it’s going to drop the nudity.
“You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passe at this juncture,” said Playboy’s chief executive Scott Flanders.
The thing is, even as we can click away on the Internet, Playboy’s totally nude photos have long required that the magazine be sold where children can’t get their hands on it for a looksee. In many places this means men have to ask for it—men don’t even want to ask for directions, let alone ask some 16-year-old cashier to hand them a mature men’s magazine. For this and other reasons Playboy’s circulation has dropped from over 5 million in the 1970s to about 800,000 today.
Given this, it makes sense that Playboy would drop full nudity to compete for magazine rack space and audience share with titles like Stuff, Esquire, and Maxim. Like those titles, Playboy says it will still feature beautiful women showing a lot of skin.
In fact, Playboy’s website has already dropped the nudity. This has given Playboy access to social-media mouthpieces like Twitter and Facebook, which reportedly has already greatly expanded its reach.
All that has been reported. Here’s why, as the author of a book on manliness, I’m applauding this change.
For the rest of this article at Forbes.com click here.
SNL’s parody is a really a parody of their lack of gun knowledge.
Sometimes a Saturday Night Live (SNL) skit says something important altogether by accident.
Last Saturday comedian Amy Schumer lampooned women and others who own guns in an SNL skit. Yeah, gun sales have boomed for so long that even SNL has noticed their pop-culture appeal.
Of course, SNL is right that guns sales are up. Last month, for example, the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) reported that more people than ever before in any September had their names run through the NICS database (something people must do before buying a gun from a licensed dealer). The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for firearms manufacturers, said this was 4.7 percent greater than the previous record set last year.
Interestingly, as gun sales have been booming the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports have been showing decreases in the violent crime rate nationally. The FBI’s figures show a 35.2 percent decline in violent crimes over the past 20 years and a 16.2 percent decline over the past 10 years.
Now let’s get back to SNL’s pop-culture critique.
The skit opened with scenes showing a man and a pregnant woman rushing to the hospital, a couple sitting down for a dinner at a restaurant, a lone man in a party, a woman jogging by herself in a park, a man leaning over his desk…. Meanwhile, in the background, a woman’s voice is saying, “Whatever you’re waiting for, whatever you face, whatever you’re looking for, there are things we all share.”
The man at the restaurant then hands the woman a boxed gift as the narrator says, “Love … family … connection … a sense of purpose … and also guns….” The skit next cuts back to all the people it showed before but now they’re gifting each other guns. The man with the pregnant woman, now in the hospital, even gives the newborn baby a derringer.
Click here for the rest of my column at Forbes.com.
While promoting my book The Future of the Gun on radio and television I often made the point that if the Obama administration would just work with America’s 100-million-plus gun owners, instead of treating them like enemies, America could become an even safer place. From promoting responsible gun storage to teaching safe gun use, the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups already do a lot to promote gun safety. Also, the gun industry through its trade association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), has developed a lot of programs, videos and literature to promote responsible gun ownership and use. Why not promote these things that everyone agrees make America safer?
Despite political differences, it just makes sense for the federal government to work with gun owners and their organizations, even to see them as allies who can and are helping to stop illegal sales and to find those few who might do others harm.
When I made this point most of the television and radio hosts agreed and lamented the blinding nature of politics on the issue. A few, however, attacked the idea that the government should work with law-abiding gun owners (see this debate I did with a gun-control advocate); these few argued that the NRA is an evil force that must be destroyed, not parlayed with; still, none of these types were aware that the NRA, for example, has 97,000 instructors and range safety officers, more than 5,700 coaches and more than 1,800 training counselors spread all over the U.S.—in sum, an army of gun-safety personnel ready to do even more.
So it’s marvelous to see, perhaps, dare I say it, a thaw, in the way the Obama administration treats gun-rights groups and those who chose to own guns.
The NSSF announced it has been awarded a two-year, $2.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide firearm-safety education messaging and free gun locks through NSSF’s Project ChildSafe program to communities throughout the country.
Go here for the rest of my article at Forbes.com.
Every day Marina Lamprecht of Hunters Namibia Safaris makes sure the children in Otjivero, Namibia, a shantytown of little self-made buildings with corrugated metal roofs, get meat to eat. All the meat is wild and killed by travelling hunters.
In the emotional aftermath of the killing (possibly poaching) of the lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe by a dentist from Minnesota, Delta Airlines, America’s largest carrier, has made a decision: “Effective immediately, Delta will officially ban shipment of all lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo trophies worldwide as freight. Prior to this ban, Delta’s strict acceptance policy called for absolute compliance with all government regulations regarding protected species. Delta will also review acceptance policies of other hunting trophies with appropriate government agencies and other organizations supporting legal shipments.”
This reverses a Delta Airlines policy decided last June in which Delta said it would accept trophies “in accordance with all U.S. domestic and international regulations, which prohibits the possession of trophies or other items associated with protected species.”
This new decision isn’t the complete ban on hunter-killed trophies Delta opted for after an anti-hunting petition from change.org collected nearly 395,000 signatures earlier this year, but a new petition is circulating and traveling hunters are now watching South African Airlines to see if it will reverse its recent termination of a ban on transporting hunting trophies.
If both Delta and South African Airlines ban the export of taxidermy some hunters might decide not to travel to South Africa or Namibia. Some would cheer this outcome, but perhaps not if they knew all the consequences.
If it becomes too difficult or expensive for traveling hunters to get legally killed taxidermy home they might decide not to go in the first place. This would impact many game species. For example, South Africa and Namibia have both done a good job of using hunting dollars as an incentive to get cattle ranchers and other landowners to reintroduce native wildlife and to let big-game animals repopulate their regions—without hunting many ranchers see kudu, zebra, gemsbuck and more as nothing more than competition for their cattle or goats; without trophy fees from hunters they also see leopards, cheetahs, lions, and other predators only as problem species, as those meat-eaters will kill and eat their livestock.
I witnessed what hunting tourism can do firsthand when I travelled to South Africa and Namibia with Dallas Safari Club in 2013. On one stop on our journey we saw how hunting had transformed parts of Namibia back into how it once was.
While taking photos the author looked over the tops of hundreds of students eating meat at Ben Carter, the executive director of Dallas Safari Club, and Marina Lamprecht of Hunters Namibia Safaris talking to the school’s principal and wondered how feeding these children could be politically incorrect.
Marina Lamprecht of Hunters Namibia Safaris met us at the airport in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. Her smile was infectious. She clearly enjoys the part she and her husband, Joof, created in the safari business. We followed her out into the sun and were soon driving out of the city. The city is clean and modern. Namibia is known for being a safe and officious country. It was a German colony. The country around Windhoek looks like West Texas’ dry, brushy expanses and escarpments. We saw baboons and warthogs along the roadside and herds of springbucks and wildebeests.
We arrived at a group of thatched-roofed buildings that seem to have naturally grown from a rock outcropping in the camel thorn forest. Inside are posh rooms filled with African art and taxidermy in such an overwhelming collage we have to pause and look closely to see everything. Our private rooms faced waterholes. We sat on patios watching warthogs, springbucks and impalas drink.
“When we started building this outfitting company many of the cattle ranchers told us we’d be out of business in a season,” said Marina. “But in the years since, thanks to travelling hunters, we’ve bought many of those ranchers out and let our now 80 square miles return to its natural state—there are no cattle or men worrying about their cattle on our wild lands. We now tell hunters they’ll see a minimum of 500 animals per day.”
She wasn’t exaggerating; in fact, I’d like to tell you about the four gemsbucks we stalked and killed the next day with Johnnie, a black PH whose charm is only surpassed by his ability to hunt, but instead I have to tell you about Otjivero, a village I’ll never forget.
Click here for the rest of this article.
Jim Shepherd (shown here) is a former CNN founder. He now runs The Shooting Wire. He has thoughts on guns and the media that are worth hearing.
The reporting on why U.S. Army personnel stationed at recruiting centers aren’t allowed to carry pistols has to make anyone who knows a little about guns, and the gun issues, wonder if those news outlets are aware of what they’re not reporting? Do they understand why some Americans feel compelled to stand outside Army recruiting centers with guns? Any curious person might then wonder if ignorance or bias is the central reason why the mainstream media so often ignores studies and facts that are inconvenient to the anti-gun-rights point of view? There are, after all, over 100 million gun owners in the U.S., so how can mainstream journalists not be aware of basic facts about guns or of the reasons behind other points of view?
To understand how CNN, in particular, became a media outlet only interested in one point of view on guns I called one of its original seven founding members, Jim Shepherd, now the editor and publisher of The Shooting Wire. Shepherd has held a number of senior news executive positions during his career, including with CNN, the Financial News Network, the Golf Channel, and other television networks. He left CNN in 1985 after he became “disgusted with what they wouldn’t report.”
Jim says, “Part of what happened to CNN is what happened to Hollywood. The news, like Hollywood, became trapped in creating and fawning over celebrities. Getting Anderson Cooper publicized became more important than breaking the big story. When you have celebrity reporters telling you how they feel about being in Iraq instead of reporting on how our troops are doing you begin to lose perspective. With guns, instead of going to gun ranges, gun-owner’s homes, instead of interviewing women who’d stopped an attacker, and instead of really trying to understand the world such women live in and what they’re going through, they just tell us how they feel. Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer, and the rest are stars, not reporters. They’re not hunting for the truth. They’re telling you what they think and what they think all comes from the cocktail parties on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and from conversations with other reporters.”
When I ask about his experience at CNN, he says, “When I was at CNN the lead stories in The New York Times and The Washington Post drove what we covered. They still do that for CNN and network news to a large extent. The cable news’ reporters and producers are intellectually lazy. They’re so busy chasing each other they don’t stop to find the truth.”
Click here for the rest of my article at Forbes.com.