Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It's worth it. It's a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else's rights, because if you don't there is no one to defend yours. -- MaxedOutMama

I don't just want gun rights... I want individual liberty, a culture of self-reliance....I want the whole bloody thing. -- Kim du Toit

The most glaring example of the cognitive dissonance on the left is the concept that human beings are inherently good, yet at the same time cannot be trusted with any kind of weapon, unless the magic fairy dust of government authority gets sprinkled upon them.-- Moshe Ben-David

The cult of the left believes that it is engaged in a great apocalyptic battle with corporations and industrialists for the ownership of the unthinking masses. Its acolytes see themselves as the individuals who have been "liberated" to think for themselves. They make choices. You however are just a member of the unthinking masses. You are not really a person, but only respond to the agendas of your corporate overlords. If you eat too much, it's because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it's because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem. -- Sultan Knish

Friday, October 31, 2003

Who Says the Economy is Bad?

Sorry about the lack of posting, but I've been putting in long hours and a lot of windshield time (note that I'm posting this about 5:20AM). Today I'll be on the road again, and probably won't get home until after 6:00 (again), and tomorrow is the AR15.com shoot in Casa Grande (which I haven't finished loading ammo for, either.) So, no more posts today, and probably not until tomorrow afternoon at the earliest. Sorry about that, but sometimes life intrudes.

Anyway, if you're new to the site, please peruse the archives or just click on the "Best of" links on the lefthand column. Thank you for your patronage.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

More Guns in Church! (Concluded)

I commented on the incident of Rev. Phillip Mielke of Big Lake Alaska here, when he was charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide for the killing of two men who were burglarizing his church. Well, his trial is over, and he's been acquitted of all charges.

Of course, there's the obligatory reference to "taking the law into their own hands" in the story, and the obligatory call to depend on the State for the protection of yourself and your property.

Nice to see that an Alaskan jury still can reason. Sometimes the justice system does get it right.

UPDATE: Ravenwood comments, and does a better job than I did.
You Missed: "Everything Sold There is Made in China"

Mike Smith, Las Vegas Sun
THAT'S IT!!!

Chip Bok, Akron Beacon Journal.

That's precisely the reaction that appears to be occurring.
That Was MY Take On It.

Mike Thompson, Detroit Free Press
22 Days Until:


National Ammo Day/Week

Monday, October 27, 2003

Not In My Back Yard - or Anybody Else's Either!

Arizona recently suffered through a gas shortage because a pipeline that runs gasoline from Texas to Phoenix through Tucson ruptured. Aside from the problem of tens of thousands of gallons of spilled gasoline, the pipeline was down for a considerable period of time. This affected prices not only in Arizona, but in California as well as gasoline was shipped by truck from there to Arizona to help cover the loss.

So, why am I not surprised to find that a proposed refinery in Arizona is being fought by environmentalists?

John Moore of Useful Fools has done a bang-up job of investigative journalism on the subject. Seems that the site of this proposed refinery violates the doctrine of "environmental racism." Yes, the 33 people living within four miles of the site include five blacks and five Indians.

As John points out, this would be the first refinery built in the U.S. for 25 years, and would cost $2.5 billion to construct. You can bet your ass that Mobile, AZ wouldn't be just a wide spot in the road anymore.

If you're an "environmentalist" you can't have that.

Go read the whole thing. You won't be seeing it in the major media.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

"Democrats give up gun control issue" - For Now...

MSNBC.com carries a Washington Post article on the Democrat abandonment of gun control as a policy topic. Money quotes:
Democratic presidential candidates are distancing themselves from tough gun control, reversing a decade of rhetoric and advocacy by the Democratic Party in favor of federal regulation of firearms.

--

MOST DEMOCRATIC White House hopefuls rarely highlight gun control in their campaigns, and none of the candidates who routinely poll near the top is calling for the licensing of new handgun owners, a central theme of then-Vice President Al Gore’s winning primary campaign in 2000.

--

“It’s very important for us as Democrats to understand that where I come from guns are about a lot more than guns themselves,” said Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), one of nine Democrats seeking the presidency. “They are about independence. For a lot of people who work hard for a living, one of the few things they feel they have any control over is whether they can buy a gun and hunt. They don’t want people messing with that, which I understand.”

--

In the presidential race, several candidates said the gun issue contributed to Gore’s defeat in 2000 and could backfire on the party again next year if Democrats do not quickly lose their anti-gun image.

--

Indeed, the Democrats’ shift away from gun control is rooted more in politics than in a belief that gun laws do not help prevent crime and death, several Democrats said privately.

--

“The gun issue is the silent killer” of Democrats, said Deborah Barron of Americans for Gun Safety, which is tutoring candidates on the gun issue. “Democrats will be extinct in red states unless” they change how gun owners view their party.

--

In some ways, the shift is more rhetorical than substantive.
No, REALLY? Color me shocked.

Remember, kiddies: Gun Safety = Gun Elimination, just like Gun CONTROL used to.
I Have Only One

There's been a running thread of posts over at the Volokh Conspiracy and other sites concerning bumper stickers recently.

I have only one (aside from my NRA, GOA, Tucson Rifle Club and IHMSA membership stickers):

This Bumper Isn't BIG ENOUGH
For What I've Got to Say!

Which is, of course, why I've got a blog.

It is Not the Business of Government


It is not the business of government to make men virtuous or religious, or to preserve the fool from the consequences of his own folly. Government should be repressive no further than is necessary to secure liberty by protecting the equal rights of each from aggression on the part of others, and the moment governmental prohibitions extend beyond this line they are in danger of defeating the very ends they are intended to serve.
Henry George*
Prohibition was introduced as a fraud; it has been nursed as a fraud.
It is wrapped in the livery of Heaven, but it comes to serve the devil.
It comes to regulate by law our appetites and our daily lives.
It comes to tear down liberty and build up fanaticism, hypocrisy, and intolerance. It comes to confiscate by legislative decree the property of many of our fellow citizens. It comes to send spies, detectives, and informers into our homes; to have us arrested and carried before courts and condemned to fines and imprisonments. It comes to dissipate the sunlight of happiness, peace, and prosperity in which we are now living and to fill our land with alienations, estrangements, and bitterness.
It comes to bring us evil-- only evil-- and that continually. Let us rise in our might as one and overwhelm it with such indignation that we shall never hear of it again as long as grass grows and water runs."
Roger Q. Mills**, 1887
Sorry Roger, sorry Henry. Nobody listened.

This post was inspired by a piece written by Clayton Cramer on his blog a few days ago. I've read a lot that Clayton's written (I highly recommend his book For Defense of Themselves and the State if you're interested in the judicial history of the right to arms) and I find his work on the right to arms exemplary, but he and I differ on some other topics. In this piece he discussed Rush Limbaugh's addiction and talks about his support of the criminalization of drugs. The quote that got my attention was this one:
I still don't think that prohibition of drugs is the most effective way to deal with the problem. It does have one positive effect, however: it encourages parents whose lives are built entirely around intoxication to move to places where those values predominate, like Sonoma County, leaving other parts of America relatively civilized.
That's not the problem, though, in my opinion. Roger Mills foresaw the real problems, and he was right.

The Harrison Narcotic Act was passed in December of 1914:
To provide for the registration of, with collectors of internal revenue, and to impose a special tax on all persons who produce, import, manufacture, compound, deal in, dispense, sell, distribute, or give away opium or coca leaves, their salts, derivatives, or preparations, and for other purposes.
It was passed in response to an international treaty on the opium trade, and in response to the fact that the United States had just taken possession of the Phillipines where there was an established trade in opiates. On its face, the Act is not a prohibition, but part of the wording having to do with who can legally provide opiates was interpreted to mean that physicians could not legally prescribe drugs to addicts to support their habits. A drug addiction wasn't a disease, so giving an addict a prescription for his fix was a perversion of a doctor's practice. Shortly after passage, Roger Mills's predictions began to become realities. Doctors were arrested and jailed for giving out prescriptions. Addicts, unable to get their drugs through legal channels, found illegal ones. A market to feed their needs (and build a market of new users) was established. The cost of drugs went up - and crime increased to supply money to fill the need. Users were arrested for possession of illegal narcotics. People who, while addicted, were able to provide an income for their families through honest work, instead went to jail and left their families destitute. Addicts relocated to major cities where access to (now illicit) drugs was easier, and crime came with them.

New drugs hit the market, and were in short order added to the Act. Heroin was banned in 1924. Boy, that was effective, wasn't it? According to this site, in 1926 the Illinois Medical Journal carried an op-ed that said:
The Harrison Narcotic law should never have been placed upon the Statute books of the United States. It is to be granted that the well-meaning blunderers who put it there had in mind only the idea of making it impossible for addicts to secure their supply of "dope" and to prevent unprincipled people from making fortunes, and fattening upon the infirmities of their fellow men.

As is the case with most prohibitive laws, however, this one fell far short of the mark. So far, in fact, that instead of stopping the traffic, those who deal in dope now make double their money from the poor unfortunates upon whom they prey. . . .

The doctor who needs narcotics used in reason to cure and allay human misery finds himself in a pit of trouble. The lawbreaker is in clover. . . . It is costing the United States more to support bootleggers of both narcotics and alcoholics than there is good coming from the farcical laws now on the statute books.

As to the Harrison Narcotic law, it is as with prohibition [of alcohol] legislation. People are beginning to ask, "Who did that, anyway?"
Not enough people, and not the people who had just cracked a Pandora's box of enormous powers - powers "...to confiscate by legislative decree the property of many of our fellow citizens. ...to send spies, detectives, and informers into our homes; to have us arrested and carried before courts and condemned to fines and imprisonments." Not those people.

In between passage of the Narcotic Act and subsequent "tightening of the loopholes," America in another fit of Puritanism ratified the Eighteenth Amendment - Prohibition - and then went home and had a stiff martini in celebration. What followed paralleled the results of the other attempt "to regulate by law our appetites and our daily lives," - abject failure. Increased crime. Increased misery. Increased prison populations. Increased poverty. Death. Mayhem.

And ever-increasing, ever more intrusive government power at the expense of the rights of the individual.

I am not an advocate of "If it feels good, do it." I'll tell you right up front that I have never been intoxicated in my life. I don't drink, I don't smoke, the only drugs I take are over-the-counter medications when I'm ill, or prescriptions as prescribed. I've never wanted to take a mind-altering substance. But I know a lot of people who have and some who still do. I understand that, for some people, drugs lead to addiction and death. They fuck up families. They destroy lives. They're best left alone, in my opinion.

But it shouldn't be the job of government to protect us from ourselves.

Because it can't. All it can do is oppress us. And in its effort to protect us, it doesn't just oppress the people who abuse drugs, it oppresses us all. The "cure" is worse than the disease - except there is no cure - just a new (and in many ways worse) problem on top of the one it's supposed to cure.

The Illinois Medical Journal saw it in 1926. The American public saw it well enough to repeal Prohibition in 1933. But drug users (other than of alcohol and nicotine) represent an unpopular and unsympathetic minority in this country, and our elected officials were unable or unwilling to tell the electorate "We don't have that power." The Founders understood the dangers of creeping expansion of government power and tried their best to ensure that our system inhibited that expansion, but in this they failed. Regardless of the best idiot-proof designs, human nature constantly provides unprotectable idiots. In volume. Congress didn't have that power. Aside from the fact that protecting us from ouselves is impossible, Congress wasn't given the power to try. But they went ahead and tried anyway.

Here are some of the results of the War on (some) Drugs© as we know them:



  • The prison population in America as of December 2002 was 2,033,331.






  • 20% - 400,000 - of those incarcerated are there primarily on drug charges. (They may be there for other reasons as well, but drugs are the primary conviction.






  • 35% of college students surveyed in 2001 admit that they had used marijuana daily within the previous year.






  • 4.7% admitted daily cocaine use within the previous year






  • 47.8% of high-school seniors admitted to having used marijuana or hash.






  • Of high-school seniors reporting drug availability, 25% said they could easily get PCP. Twenty-eight percent said they could get crystal meth. Twenty-nine percent could get heroin. Thirty-eight percent could get crack. Eighty-seven percent could get marijuana. Easily.






  • 42% percent of the population of this nation admits to having used an illicit substance at least once. Thirteen percent within the last year. Seven percent, some fifteen million, within the previous month.






  • 70% of illicit drug users, age 18-49, were employed full-time.






  • 6.3 million of full-time workers were illicit drug users.






  • 1.6 million of these full-time workers were both illicit drug and heavy alcohol users in the past.






  • The DEA's budget is in excess of $300 million annually, and that's just one government agency. And that budget never goes down. How can it? It's a government agency.

    So what does that tell us? For one thing, all the drug laws on the books haven't affected availability. For another, it's possible to be a drug user and still hold down a job, be a productive citizen, and pay taxes. For a third, all that money we're shelling out to interdict drugs is wasted. Fourth, we're incarcerating only a tiny fraction of drug users. The laws aren't preventing drug use.

    Here's some more:



  • There's a Treasury office dedicated now to Asset Forfeiture. There's another belonging to the Department of Justice. Remember the words of Roger Mills from 1887: "It comes to confiscate by legislative decree the property of many of our fellow citizens." Civil asset forfeiture is an affront to the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure and Fifth Amendment protection against deprival of property without due process. Under current law your property can be seized and the government can keep it even if you're never convicted of anything.






  • You are now subject to random, suspicionless drug testing at most workplaces. Officers may search your vehicle and the posessions of your passengers without a warrant. What happened to the Fourth Amendment protection against warrantless search?




  • Fundamental rights of individuals that were supposed to be protected against infringement by the Bill of Rights have been chipped at under the guise of "Drug Control." A little bit here, a little bit there. Just in this special circumstance. Until they decide they need to widen that window. Just a bit, you understand. To make us all safer.

    Alcohol prohibition created many problems not foreseen: Organized crime, gang wars, bathtub gin, just to name a few. But when Prohibition ended, beer truck drivers no longer shot at each other for infringing on their territories. The incidents of people being blinded by drinking poisonous homebrew dropped dramatically. And tax revenues went up. Yes, alcohol remains one of the most devastating drugs out there - responsible for violence, broken homes, ruined lives, and horrendous numbers of dead on the nations highways - but it was better than the alternative - which was all those things and government in everybody's lives.

    Legalizing drugs wouldn't be a panacea. It wouldn't make everything peachy-keen. Much damage is already done that cannot be undone, but you cannot honestly argue that it will make drugs easier to get. It might reduce the number of overdoses and unintentional poisonings due to inconsistent quality and cutting with who knows what. It would put a major dent in the illicit trade, and hopefully the violence associated with it. It should reduce the crime associated with supporting addiction. It might make drug abusers more employable - though that should remain a choice that businesses make for themselves. But it would end an ever-increasing intrusion on our lives and our rights by government. And hey! It might be a new source of revenue, so long as they don't try to regulate useage (as they are now with tobacco) via onerous "sin taxes" that just lead back to a black market.

    And it should save a considerable amount of tax dollars. But of course it wouldn't. After just a few years of Prohibition the Federal agents tasked with that job weren't let go when it was repealed, they were just given a different job - enforcing the new Federal firearms law. You can bet all those DEA agents would be put on something.

    How about anti-terrorism?

    *Henry George was, for want of a better term, a "social philosopher," and a contemporary of Mark Twain and Thomas Edison. He wrote Progress and Poverty in his spare time and self-published it in 1879. It was picked up by a publishing house in 1880 and became an international best seller. It's a book on economics. I've not read the book, and I have no other knowledge of the author, but the quotation that begins this piece is as concise an expression of the purpose of government as any I've ever seen.

    **Roger Mills was a Democrat and (after fighting on the side of the South during the Civil War) served as a representative for Texas in the House from 1873 to 1892, and the Senate from 1892 to 1899. He died in 1911, so he never saw the 1914 Harrison Narcotic Act pass, and he missed the passage of Prohibition, but his warning was prescient, and I've often wondered why more people do not understand what he put so eloquently 116 years ago.


    Update: Francis Porretto takes the basic premise and runs with it.

    Update, 10/27: In a related issue, Ravenwood reports that we obviously haven't learned anything yet.

    --

    UPDATE:  As of August 6, 2013, due to the herculean efforts of reader John Hardin, the original JS-Kit/Echo comment thread for this post (read-only) is available here.

    Saturday, October 25, 2003

    Fisked by Phelps, So I Don't Have To.

    I read about this letter by idiotarian (but still fair musician) John "Cougar" Melonhead Mellencamp, and I wanted to tear him a new one, but The Everlasting Phelps has done a capital job of it, so I don't have to.

    I'll just go back to work on my upcoming opus on the War on (some) Drugs™.
    For the Children

    With no sarcastic little ™ either.

    Science fiction author L. Neil Smith has written an open letter and posted it on Usenet - and it's a doozy. I hereby submit for your consumption said letter without comment (which I leave up to you, gentle readers):
    The October, 2003 issue of Discover contains one of the saddest letters I've ever read. Gil Bell, of Duluth, Georgia, writes
    " ... one would have to conclude that travel out of our solar system is impossible. The fusion, fission, and antimatter engines require too much fuel ... The laser sail is doomed by the fact that building a 6,600-mile-wide collecting mirror is simply not feasible, and ... a 600-mile-wide sail would be torn apart by cosmic debris on a daily basis. And why build a fusion ramjet when there's no fuel in space to run it, and its design would not allow it to attain the speed it needs?

    "The fusion or fission engine concepts would be useful in getting around out own solar system, but what's the use in traveling to other planets in our neighborhood? Venus will never be inhabitable and neither will Mars or any of the Jovian planets or their moons, and changing the environment on another planet will never be within our capabilities. It is fun to speculate on way that humans might accomplish interstellar travel, but in the end it is just more science fiction."
    There are lot of unsupported assertions in Mr. Bell's letter, and a great many factual errors (most of them, I'm afraid, based on an incredible ignorance of history), but the saddest thing about it is its spirit of defeat. As I said in a recent essay, Americans seem to have given up on the future. This letter from Discover is typical and symptomatic.

    But it doesn't speak for everyone.

    I've been reading the works of Robert A. Heinlein (as the Brits say, "man and boy") for forty-six years, having found his books when I was sent to the school library to spend several afternoons there as a punishment. After all these years, I don't recall what for, more's the pity.

    In all that time (and earlier, in fact) I always expected that, sooner or later, I'd end up space myself, maybe even die there (after living a couple hundred years, like Lazarus Long). And although I didn't necessarily want to move there, the one sight I always wanted most to see in person was Saturn and its rings, from one of its inner moons.

    As I grew up, I became disappointed and disillusioned. The Mercury program came and went, the Gemini program came and went, the Apollo program came and went, followed by SkyLab, the Shuttle program, and the International so-called Space Station. What they all taught us (unless you actually care about fruitfly reproduction in microgravity) was that the only individuals who would ever be allowed to get into space were precisely the kind of government-approved jockstraps who were on the varsity football team when you were in high school -- oh yes, and an occasional cheerleader -- oops, make that public school teacher.

    To all the rest of us, meaning those who are "encouraged" (at the point of a gun) to pay for these programs, the message was clear: "Get lost. Outer space, 99.99999999999999999999999999999999 percent of all there is, is government property, like the Lincoln Monument and Area 51."

    Nothing has happened in all that time to change that. Just look at the bewildering maze of impossible regulations the government relies on to keep anyone else from trying out a new vehicle design, or from launching anything without their permission and supervision. Or the way they squirmed and struggled, trying to keep that zillionaire space "tourist" on the ground. Or the way they're employing the handy (if illegal) Homeland Security concept in an attempt to shut down model rocketry.

    Novelist Victor Koman was dead right, when he said (in his great work, Kings of the High Frontier) that the actual mission of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration -- its not-so-hidden agenda, having nothing to do with the development of space travel and exploration -- is to keep scum like you and me from ever getting into space.

    At the same time (as Victor also points out), NASA mouthpieces have been telling the public since the 1960s that our being able to visit space, perhaps even vacationing on the Moon, or in zero gravity at a space station, was "only about thirty years away". That's what they said in the 60s, that's what they said in the 70s, that's what they said in the 80s, that's what they said in the 90s, and that's what they're still saying today. It's always just about thirty years away.

    In a way, you can't blame the government. Being what they are, politicians and bureaucrats, they have a very unhealthy tendency to project their own ethical and psychological shortcomings onto others, especially members of the unwashed public. Even before September 11, 2001 -- and before Luis and Walter Alvarez discovered what it really was that killed the dinosaurs -- someone in government read Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (individuals are paid to do that; see James Grady's Six Days of the Condor), in which penal colonists on the Moon ultimately achieve their independence by threatening major cities on Earth with boxcar-sized rocks, launched from an electric catapult.

    Like politicians who push victim disarmament (erroneously known as gun control), they're afraid they're going to get what they deserve. So if you ever want to see Saturn's rings (or any other astronomical wonder) up close, you must absorb the following truth and never forget it: given their way, governments will never let ordinary people into space.

    Never.

    Quite aside from the question of boxcar-sized rocks, think of the historically unprecedented savagery with which the Union prosecuted the War between the States. Think of similar savagery at Waco. Think about the War on Drugs -- and recall why many folks use drugs to begin with.

    You're not allowed to escape.

    Governments will do anything -- absolutely anything, no matter how violent or morally repulsive it happens to be -- to prevent anybody from getting out from under their authoritarian thumb. If you don't shut your mouth, sit up straight, fold your hands, look at them when they're lecturing you, and spit that gum out this minute, they'll kill you.

    However if there's on thing I've learned about politics over the last half century, it's that, when there's something you need to do, and government (or anybody else) stands in your way, you simply say you're doing it "for the children" -- and it helps if you really mean it.

    I really mean it.

    I have a little daughter I sometimes regret having brought into this world because it's become such a dark and horrifying place. If I believed that she could live her life in some of the places I've described in my novels -- that I'm describing again in the novels I'm writing now -- I would do virtually anything I could just to make that happen.

    And if I could go there myself ... Well, there just might be a way.

    Roughly a hundred years ago, Lord Robert Baden-Powell was having a tough time, don't you know, in one of Britain's last fun wars, because the soldiers she shipped to South Africa by the, er, shipload, didn't have a clue how to survive in the open country. Their foes were Dutch-African settlers -- "Boer" means "farmer" -- who lived and worked there very day. They knew what plants to eat and where to find decent water.

    When Baden-Powell got home to Old Blighty, he created the group that was to become known as the Boy Scouts, to fix the shortcomings he'd seen in Africa. The idea was imitated in many other countries, including the United States to impressive effect. I was in the program myself, from 1954 as a Bear Cub, to about 1963, by which time I was an Explorer Scout, an Eagle, and a Brotherhood member of the Order of the Arrow. I also held 23 merit badges, a God & Country Award (believe it or not), a translator bar (German), and a whole ladderful of BSA/NRA sharpshooter bars. Although the roots of the Boy Scouts are sordidly statist, scouting was practically my whole childhood, and a very good one.

    About the same time I first got into scouting -- and well before the Soviets' Sputnik scared the Eisenhower Administration shitless, spitless, and witless -- I began to collect newspaper clippings and magazine articles about space and space exploration. I also bought a book about going to the Moon on a visit to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry -- the author opined that no single government would ever be able to afford such a trip, so the idea must be turned over to the United Nations; and wouldn't that have been interesting? -- and I'd vowed that very evening to stand, someday, on the Moon, myself.

    So what have I found in all my experiences that might be useful in solving our little space problem? The basic idea is simple, it's just a lot of hard work. At the moment, I'm writing Ceres (a sequel to my 1993 novel Pallas) which concerns itself with terraforming asteroids and preventing "extinction level events" like the one 65 million years ago that killed the dinosaurs. Ceres is not meant to be anybody's fantasy (although one of my former editors informed me that I'm not qualified to write on this subject); it's meant as a blueprint for the future.

    I'm also doing research now for another novel, Ares, which will stand, chronologically, right between Pallas and Ceres. It's about the men and women who terraform Mars, despite violent opposition from Earth.

    At the same time, I've begun collecting ideas and material for a third book, the working title of which will be (for lack of anything better) The Space Scout Manual. That book will try to do three things.

    First, it will help young people (I'm aiming the book at a certain mindset, rather than a given age group; it should appeal at some level to everyone of both sexes between the ages of 5 and 20) to prepare themselves for working, living, and eventually settling in space, in more or less the same way that my old Boy Scouts of America manual, A Handbook For Boys (1955 edition), helped to prepare me to survive -- and even prosper -- in several different kinds of wilderness on this planet.

    The book will also contain detailed instructions and suggestions for establishing your own local chapter of what I'm presently calling (again, for lack of anything better) the "Space Scouts" and everything necessary to affiliate it with a national organization of the same name. Unlike a great many other organizations I've been involved with, I want this one always to grow from the ground up, not from the top down.

    The The Space Scout Manual's third mission will be to establish a political constituency for abolishing NASA and getting government out of the way of space exploration. If the book, and the organization it creates, are useful and interesting enough, then within a few years, there should be hundreds of thousands of young Space Scouts and maybe, a few years after that, millions. Politicians and bureaucrats will eventually be up against an enormous group of voters who are educated, tough, who won't take "No" (or even "Give us another 30 years") for an answer.

    I want this book to get into conventional distribution channels and to show up on paperback racks everywhere. I want this book in airports and grocery stores where the words SPACE SCOUT MANUAL will leap out at all those who had almost -- but not quite -- given up the dream.

    Please note that the manual will not be about the current hardware of government space exploration (which is constantly changing anyway) but about personal physical, mental, and moral preparation. It will draw on history, and on both factual and fictional sources. Also, it will give its readers the beginnings of a decent science education (another thing public schools were never up to), and encourage in them a proper skepticism with regard to public education and the democratic process.

    Another reason not to get bogged down in such details is that there's no telling what methods of spaceflight will evolve if this idea works.

    The book's moral outlook will be rooted in the Bill of Rights and the libertarian Zero Aggression Principle, but it will not preach. It will assume from the outset that individuals own their own lives and the products of their lives, and that no one has a right to initiate force against another human -- no, make that sapient -- being for any reason.

    The book will advocate "Reconstitutive Unanimous Consent" as the preferred means of making group decisions and settling disputes. It will also advise politicians and bureaucrats that, from the moment that the first off-planet settlement is created, on Mars, on the Moon, in the Asteroid Belt, or wherever, it should reasonably be expected to become politically independent of Earth whenever its people want it to be.

    Don't let any of the above mislead you, however. This will not be a book about libertarian or constitutionalist philosphy. It will be a book about getting into space and staying there. It will be guided as much by the scientific method as it will be by the Zero Aggression Principle. Its largest section, by far, will be a detailed survey and commentary (despite that editor's view that I'm not qualified to write it) on everything that's known, at the moment, about the Solar System, including its constituent star, its planets, moons, planetoids, and comets.

    It will also talk -- again in detail -- about all of the many reasons we might want to see these things close up, and even go to live on, in, or among them. Those reasons will range from what might be called the "spiritual" -- because it's the destiny of humankind and a good first step to the stars -- to the exceedingly practical: our species won't survive another rock like the one that put an end the Cretacious; we're 15 million years overdue, so we have to go out and stop it, the topic of a lecture I delivered to the Eris Society in 2000.

    Your thirty years are up, NASA.

    They've been up a couple of times over.

    There will be no more waiting politely. Even if it has to be done like the moldy old joke -- the hotel clerk admits that a room is available, but you'll have to make your own bed; upstairs you find you've been supplied with a hammer, saw, and lumber -- it will be done.

    So this is what I've given up electoral politics for -- at least this decade, when the goodguys are powerless. But I think I've traded up. I'm ready to make my own bed. And to plant the seedlings for the lumber.

    How about you?
    OK, NOW I Understand the Attraction of Ebay

    Via Acidman comes this Ebay auction which is one hilarious read.

    Looks like the guy is going to have a good time at Home Depot and the liquor store. Hope he doesn't operate a power tool under the influence.

    Friday, October 24, 2003

    What are the Gun Laws in Detroit, Again?

    Via Clayton Cramer comes this Detroit Free Press story of a drive-by by the good guys:
    Police seek shooter who saved teen girl

    They say passing car stopped and passenger opened fire, killing pipe-wielding assailant

    A man was beating a 16-year-old girl with a pipe Wednesday morning on Detroit's west side.
    Something people need to remember, firearms are used in violent crimes only about 18% of the time. If neither party has a firearm, the bigger one with the most effective weapon generally wins. And a 22 year-old man with a pipe wins out over a 16-year-old girl - until...
    Suddenly, the man was dead, shot several times by a passenger in a passing car.
    A good guy with a gun shows up, be it citizen or police officer.
    Police are looking for the driver of the car and the gunman, who might not be a criminal suspect, but a much rarer species -- a drive-by vigilante.

    "Under certain circumstances, a citizen taking violent action to protect themselves or others is warranted," said Detroit Police Cmdr. Craig Schwartz of the major crimes division. "We need to know if these actions are justified.'
    With the assumption being "guilty until proven innocent."
    The dead man was identified as Johnny Donaldson Jr., 22, of Detroit. Police said he was swinging a metal pipe at several women and girls at Northlawn and Plymouth at 7:45 a.m.

    That's when the motorist, with the passenger next to him, rolled by in a silver Pontiac. The driver stopped, and the passenger opened fire from inside the car. Then, police said, the car might have driven over the man.
    Just to be sure?
    Police were investigating Donaldson on Wednesday evening and had no motive for the pipe attack. It was not known if he knew his victims.

    Several children and adults suffered minor injuries from the pipe, police said. At least two of the girls were on their way to Mackenzie High School.
    So this will end up as another incidence of "school-related" violence, I'm sure.
    Police said they do not have a description of the two men.
    For that I'm glad.
    "We need them to come in to talk to us and tell us exactly what happened," Schwartz said.

    "The information is that a girl was being violently assaulted at the time of the shooting. We really need to talk to these guys to get their side of it."
    Let me translate: We really need to identify the people who took the law into their own hands. We know that the shooter and the driver probably have long records, because honest law-abiding citizens don't drive around with loaded firearms and drive over the body of the SOB they just shot. So we want to get their side of the story, then charge them with illegal possession of a firearm, discharging a firearm within city limits, and any other charge we can come up with.

    The peons should not be defending themselves. This must be Nipped. In. The. Bud!
    That's Not Logic, My Friend

    Fedup Citizen has a post up about why he can't understand how good people don't believe in Jebus. (His links appear bloggered, so scroll down to "How can such logical people be so illogical".) I'd have responded to him in an e-mail, but he doesn't have an address up. Perhaps someone will point him to this.

    Let me see if I can explain it to him:
    I start from the question of, "Where did all of this (universe, earth, life) come from?" If you answer chance, sorry. Chance is not a creative force. Chance merely describes a condition of mathematical odds. There only three possible explanations for the existence of everything you see around you. Either it always was, or it created itself, or some intelligent entity created it.
    Um, you missed one - it just is. More on this later.
    Point number one gets thrown out by the laws of physics. Second Law of Thermodynamics. Look it up. Created itself? Think about it. Imagine the computer in front of you not existing, but then deciding it needed to exist and willed itself into existence.
    You failed physics, didn't you? The Second Law of Thermodynamics essentially states that for a closed system (that's critical) the amount of entropy contained within must increase. That's essentially it. What it does not say is that order cannot occur within a closed system either spontaneously or with intent. All that takes is the application of energy - and in that application of energy, the net entropy of the system must increase, even if the entropy of a locality is decreased. If the Second Law was as you apparently interpret it, planets could not form, the sea could not be separated from the land, hell, you couldn't build elements heavier than hydrogen. That's not the case.

    People misapply the Second Law of Thermodynamics quite a lot. This is just another example.
    Let's dispense with the ignorant question, "Well, who created God?"
    Let's not.
    Sorry, but using linear logic, that question is pointless.
    It is? I'll give you that point if you agree that asking "Where'd the Universe come from?" is exactly the same question.
    The assumption is that God always was, (and here I'm going to really offend some people) just as the Bible asserts. It is perfectly logical to assume that if only one answer fits the given conditions, it must be correct. If points one and two are obviously wrong, point three has got to be it.
    Here's where your 'logic' fails. You believe God exists and is responsible for the creation of the Universe. You admit that you cannot know where God came from, and that therefore he has always existed. I don't believe that God exists, and I admit that I cannot know where the universe came from. But it's here - I can detect it, measure it, perform experiments on it. The fact that it exists is not a matter of faith. Whether or not it was a billion-to-one chance, it doesn't matter because we hit the jackpot! Else we wouldn't be here discussing it. Or, as some believe, the Universe has always existed and is cyclical - ever expanding then contracting then starting over again. Or, it may be steady-state and will some time in the incomprehensible future become a vast volume all at one uniform temperature. We don't know, but we keep trying to understand.
    Look at biology. Living systems are incredibly more complex than that of our most sophisticated technology at NASA or the DoD. But even a mousetrap or a handgun illustrate irreducible complexity. For those unfamiliar with the concept, tell me which item you can remove from a common mousetrap and it will still function as intended. Even Darwin admitted that the eye gave him fits because you just couldn't explain it apart from an intelligent designer. This was more than a century before Watson and Crick discovered DNA. The chance of a single nucleotide forming by accident is one in 10 to the 23rd power, yet it takes millions of such nucleotides to make up all the genes necessary to create a human being.

    To look at that incredible amount of design and figure there is no God is tantamount to looking at the space shuttle launching and saying, "gee, wonder how that happened."
    There's that Second Law problem again. There is no reason that life, in all its complexity could not be chance. If it were impossible, we wouldn't be here discussing it. The fact that we are here, as we are, is not proof of a designer. Because if there is a designer, you just pushed the question of "faith" back one level. That is all. Because, as flippantly as you tried, you cannot dismiss the question of "Where did God come from?" It's exactly the same question as "Where did the Universe come from?" And the answer is the same: You cannot know. The difference between those of us who do not believe in a God and those who do, is that we who do not believe don't require that there be an all-powerful being in charge of it all. The only difference between my faith and yours is that I believe I can't know where the universe came from. You believe in a God you cannot measure, test, or even detect. As someone once said:
    "I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."
    I'm not an atheist - I accept that, just as I cannot know where the universe came from, I cannot know that there is no God, but I find the idea quite illogical. Occam's razor says, in my logic, that the existence of a God is a more complicated explanation for the existence of the Universe than "it just is."


    I Feel Safer Already (not)

    Ravenwood links to this story of the BATFE running a months-long "investigation" of retired gun collectors being busted for “engaging in the gun business” without a Federal Firearms License - something the BATF purposely doesn't define. As the article states:
    The BATF and its predecessors have always opposed any objective standard of what constitutes an “illicit gun sale” – as opposed to unlicensed buying and selling for the purpose of enhancing a personal collection, which is specifically authorized in the law.

    At the 1968 NRA convention in Boston, officials from BATF’s predecessor, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Unit of the Internal Revenue Service, discussed what constituted “engaging in the firearms business” at a crowded NRA Gun Collectors Committee Meeting.

    The Midwest Region ATTU director considered the dividing line six gun sales in a year. The head of Boston ATTU contended two sales made a person a dealer. (That guy later charged a Fall River, Mass. memorial group with failure to register the 16-inch guns on the Battleship Massachusetts.)

    Significantly, the ATTU official from Washington declined to give an objective definition, saying “dealing” should be decided on a case-by-case basis.
    Pardon the hell out of me, but a retired guy selling a few guns each year out of his collection is a far cry from a guy selling guns out of his trunk in downtown Chicago. You can bet your ass the guns these guys were selling weren't cheap handguns.

    This is what pisses me off about the BATF - they spend months and tens of thousands of dollars to build a case, get a warrant, arrest and prosecute the wrong people - because it's easier to find, charge and prosecute people like this than it is to find the guys who provide guns to VIOLENT CRIMINALS. And with the BATF, it's all about getting convictions.

    Wednesday, October 22, 2003

    Dept. of Our Collapsing Schools

    Good news, this time. From a link at Opinionari comes this Newsday story about the increasing incidence of black families homeschooling. Money quotes:
    Nationwide, increasing numbers of African-Americans, dissatisfied with public and private school systems, have turned to homeschooling. For some it was a last resort, found after years of shifting schools before deciding that their children would get a better education at home than in classrooms where minority children often get caught in a cycle of low achievement.

    --

    African-Americans have grown from 3 percent of homeschoolers in 1994 to 10 percent in 1999, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.
    And blacks make up about 13% of the population, so this is a very good thing, IMHO. Hell, more would be far better, considering the school systems.
    Parents of different races said they homeschool primarily to avoid the crime, drugs and lack of discipline in schools, Slatter said, but several African-Americans said their choice is an effort to combat low expectations traditional schools set for black children.
    (Emphasis mine) Kids will live up to what you expect of them - regardless of color. That single paragraph is a damning indictment of the public school system.
    "A lot of families are saying there is a stigma of minority underachievement ... and we can't allow this to happen anymore," said Jennifer James, founder of the National African-American Homeschoolers Alliance. The organization, launched on-line in January, 2003, has 230 members, said James, who homeschools her 5- and 2-year-old in Chapel Hill, N.C. "In some circles of the African-American community, homeschooling has become sort of a push ... because there really are no options," James said.
    And more and more families are waking up to the fact. But there are many that just cannot take the financial hit required to homeschool. The loss of a second income is very difficult for many families.
    No formal research on achievements of homeschooled African-Americans exists, said Ray, but data from ACT, the company that administers a college exam, homeschooled students of all races consistently score one to two percentage points above the national average.
    So much for the idea that homeschooling is a poor choice educationally. If you can homeschool, you should. The public school system is broken beyond repair, and sending your children through it does them a severe disservice.
    When it Comes to Restricting My Rights, the Burden of Proof is on YOU

    Tim Lambert (the guy hard after John Lott) poo-poo's Glenn Reynold's take on increasing gun crime in England:
    The story also states that gun crime has increased to 0.15 gun homicides in England and Wales per 100,000 population in the previous year, compared with 3.6 per 100,000 in the US. Reynolds take: gun control is “Not a smashing success, so far”. Gun control may not be responsible for the difference, but it seems a bit much for pro-gunners to point to a gun homicide rate one twenty-fourth of that of the United States as evidence for a failure of gun control.
    I took issue with Tim's position in his comments:
    You miss the point. "Gun control" is supposed to control GUN violence. By extension, I suppose, all violence, but gun violence for certain. The mantra chanted at the (somewhat less than) Million Moms March was "England can do it, Australia can do it, we can too!" Well, England has systematically (through the death-by-a-thousand-cuts method) ensured that the law-abiding population is, for all intents and purposes disarmed. There are a few who still have rifles and shotguns (that they may not have for defensive purposes, must keep locked up separate from the also locked ammunition, etc., etc.) and it hasn't made them SAFER from gun crime. What so many gun control advocates so adroitly ignore is that England's firearm homicide rate has always been 1/20th of ours - REGARDLESS of the firearms laws in either country at the time. It was true in 1919 and it's still true today. You point to England's rate as if gun control were somehow responsible for it, and it's not. Correlation does not equal causation, but the facts remain that America has passed no significantly restrictive gun control laws and our homicide rates (historically very high) have dropped to the levels they were last in the 60's. England has passed ever-stricter gun control laws up to and including a ban on handguns (with all legally owned and registered ones handed in) and their gun crime is continually increasing.

    So the typical reaction is: "It would have been worse if we hadn't passed these crucial laws!"

    Horseshit.
    To which Tim responded:
    Kevin, I didn't say that English gun control was definitely responsible for keeping their gun crime rate far lower than the US one. It's possible that it would have stayed low anyway. But I don't see how you can rule out the possibility that the laws might have helped keep the rate low.

    A few years ago, the gun crime rate in England was decreasing. Do you think that any of the pro-gunners reported that?
    No changing the subject, Tim! My response was such that I felt it appropriate to copy the thread here:
    Tim, "A few years ago, the gun crime rate in England was decreasing"? How many years ago, and how much? It's never been high - never - but that hasn't stopped ever more draconian "gun control" legislation from passing there. Now the law:

    A) Bans all fully-automatic weapons

    B) Bans all semi-auto and pump-action rifles

    C) Severely restricts semi-auto and pump-action shotguns

    D) Bans all modern handguns

    E) Requires "safe storage" of the few weapons still legal

    F) Prohibits carrying a firearm (or any other weapon) for self-defense

    G) Requires all legally owned weapons to be registered and all legal owners to be licensed

    H) Severely restricts (legal) firearms distribution

    and so on and so forth.

    All these things (we are told) will make us safer. Here's what we know:

    1) The number of legal owners is at an all-time low.

    2) England has never had a high homicide rate, but that rate is increasing, and the percentage committed with firearms (handguns in particular) has gone up since the ban.

    3) Crime committed with handguns has significantly increased there.

    4) Incidents of crime committed with fully automatic weapons are increasing there.

    5) Incidents of crime involving hand grenades (easily smuggled along with firearms) have occurred.

    And remember - England is an ISLAND. A fact hasn't affected "gun availability" to the criminally inclined.

    AT BEST the gun control laws in England have affected "spree shootings" by licensed gun owners. (Hey, if it saves just one life!) But those incidents are extremely rare, and the net number of homicides doesn't seem to have been affected for the better.

    "I don't see how you can rule out the possibility that the laws might have helped keep the rate low." I'm NOT ruling it out - I'm asking you to prove it. According to the recent CDC report, all the gun control laws passed here have proven inconclusive in their effectiveness. I'd say the same can be said of England's.

    I believe there is an individual right of law-abiding citizens to possess weapons for defense of themselves and the state. I believe the Second Amendment of the Constitution guarantees us that right will not be infringed by the government. I believe that the laws of England are offensive to that right, but it's their country. I believe that gun control activists here want to pass laws identical to those of England. I believe that's unconstitutional, and if allowed will do irrepairable damage to our individual rights. I also believe that, once the law-abiding are disarmed, our criminal class (which has never been shy about shooting people) will have a free playing field and our rates of firearm-involved crime will skyrocket.
    (Some typos corrected for readability)

    The burden of proof isn't on the gun rights side.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2003

    I TOLD You I Was Cutting Back

    Got up at 4:00AM, hit the road at 5:00, two hundred mile drive, six hours at the customer's site, two hundred miles back, got home at 6:45PM.

    Oh well, no entry in the Carnival of the Vanities this week.

    I'm still fermenting that essay, though. Maybe this weekend....
    Chris Muir's Best One YET!

    Day by Day - (GOTTA be coming to a paper near you soon!)

    Monday, October 20, 2003

    Now THIS is a Fisking!

    Rise of the Common Man does an EXCELLENT fisking of an LA Times op-ed. (Nod to Alphecca for the pointer!)
    More Political Cartoons

    It beats writing another essay (which I'm fermenting in my mind even now...)

    Robert Arial (The State, SC) comments on Congress' reaction to the $87B reconstruction package for Iraq:

    John Cole of the Durham (NC) Herald-Sun puts a bit more pop-culture spin on it.

    But you'll note that Congress isn't quite as hated as Mr. Bartman.

    Mike Ramirez (who remains about the only good thing about the LA Times) makes an accurate and pithy comment on the ACLU's choice of what they defend and what they attack:

    And another on China's space program (which I comment on below:)

    Jim Day of the Las Vegas Review Journal is a bit more pointed in his comment on that topic:

    Randy Bish of the Pittsburg Review-Tribune puts a more comical spin on it:

    Chip Bok of the Akron Beacon Journal comments on Rush Limbaugh's addiction. (See? I told you it would be interesting!)

    Dick Wright of the Columbus (OH) Dispatch comment (at some risk to his job?) on media bias:

    And finally, Clay Bennet of the Christian Science Monitor does too:

    Call it Synergy

    Several people commented over the weekend on this Washington Times piece, Democrats rethink gun-control stance, not the least of whom was C. Dodd Harris of Ipse Dixit (which got him another Instalanche). Quoted in the comments to Dodd's piece was this paraphrashing of a post on Blaster's Blog:
    Some things are beliefs. Those things aren't messages. And if you don't believe those things, your message can't be credible, no matter how good you are at faking sincerity.
    And Commoner gets right down to the bullet points:
    Mainstream Americans are sick of being told by politicians of all stripes that they're simply not good enough.

    While the Republicans are hardly innocent, consider the long list of Democratic positions that are elitist in nature:
    School vouchers. What's more fundamental than deciding how your child should be educated?

    Citizens shouldn't be allowed to put some of their social security money in the private sector; they're not smart enough to make that decision.

    Blacks and Hispanics, no matter how well off, simply can't keep up with white students; they need help. Note that the logical alternative-- basing affirmative action on poverty-- is scoffed at.

    California recall. Two major objections to the most direct form of democracy were that it gave the people too much power, and that they were voting for Arnold simply because he was a movie star. Both send an unmistakable message: You're not smart enough to vote. While on the subject of that recall, remember the one debate that Arnold participated in? How many times did Cruz use a variation of, "You don't understand the issue.". If he feels that way about other candidates, how does he feel about you?

    The oft-heard talking point that those who support the president in Iraq do so out of ignorance or misplaced patriotism.

    Contempt for commercial media. How many times have you heard a Democrat complain about Fox News? It doesn't matter that millions of people watch it every day; they're obviously all deceived dupes.
    Indeed, it often seems that the only decision the people can be trusted with is to abort fetuses.
    But of course - we're all morons, so the abortion of morons is a net good thing. Nothing should stand in the way of that. The fewer voters there are, the better democracy works.

    This all relates back to the reaction to the California recall election so many of us discussed. As the OpinionJournal put it,
    If it comes as a revelation to the Democratic Undergrounders that 20% is less than a majority, they're not exactly rocket scientists, are they?
    Well, granted the DU denizens aren't in Von Braun's class, but that doesn't stop many of them from being elitists. Other comments from that thread:
    I would prefer 20%-25% voter turnout!!!! There are very few people on either side of the aisle who understand the issues! The masses can be so easily mislead that they really should not vote!

    I know - maybe they should start giving tests to voters

    (T)he public means well, but they are uninformed, reactive, fearful and the part of the brain they are voting with now is reptilian. I could go into the zillions of factors behind this but bottom line is the educational level of 75% of the voter base is approximately 7th grade, beyond this point they have closed off.

    It's no good being smarter, better educated, better informed, and a kinder, gentler border collie if you don't know how to herd the sheeple. Obviously, our leaders have lost the herding instinct. We need new blood.
    Current shepherd Evan Bayh complains "We (Democrats) cannot be perceived as cultural elitists," but he isn't really interested in not being cultural elitists - just not being perceived that way. Or, as Blaster put it, he's interested in faking sincerity better, as evidenced by "Democratic Pollster" Mark Penn, who was quoted in the Washington Times piece as saying:
    "The formula for Democrats is to say that they support the Second Amendment, but that they want tough laws that close loopholes" in current gun laws, Mr. Penn said, adding that polls show the term "gun safety" is received better than the more commonly used term "gun control."
    As I wrote earlier when commenting on another Washington Times piece,
    "Gun SAFETY" = "Gun ELIMINATION." Just Like "Gun CONTROL" Used to.
    Cultural elitists who know what's best for the proles. And in the ultimate irony, they call themselves democrats.

    Update: John Moore of Useful Fools links to this SFGate story about the recall and comments on the arrogance of the Anointed.

    Friday, October 17, 2003

    China in Space

    James Rummel of Hell in a Handbasket posts that he's not all that worked up about China's recent orbiting a manned spacecraft. He writes:
    So why hasn't an old space and technology enthusiast like me talking about it much?

    Pretty much because I'm in waiting mode. What am I waiting for? I'm waiting for the Chinese to do something original, something that we didn't do more than 30 years ago.
    I left him this comment:
    Just my 2¢:

    China has (at the moment) the only kind of government that can pursue an ambitious space program - a dictatorship. More precisely, a well funded dictatorship.

    If you accept (as I do) that the future of mankind rests in getting our genome off this planet, then exploring and colonizing space is a high priority in and of itself. But it's expensive, and the free nations of the world have pretty much demonstrated that they're not willing to pony up the dough required to build an infrastructure capable of getting us off Earth in any permanent manner. (Or apparently in much of the way of a temporary manner, come to think of it.)

    For the military, the high ground is best, and space is that high ground. Untold mineral wealth exists in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. There's literally unlimited acreage and power just within our solar system.

    But the entry cost is high.

    China can be the nation that gets there firstest with the mostest.

    They may actually have that vision. They may have the necessary will. We're providing the money (Thanks, Walmart!) and we've already provided most of the technology. They've got the necessary scientific minds (take a look at the postgraduate Physics departments of most major universities here.)

    Pardon me if the idea that space will be the domain of Red China a bit disturbing.

    We should have had a lunar colony twenty years ago, and we should be exploring the asteroid belt now.

    But of COURSE!

    In the long tradition of butchering good books, and the only slightly more recent tradition of making movies "politically correct," and the split-second more recent tradition of pushing a political agenda, Hollywood brings us "Runaway Jury" - the big-screen version of John Grisham's bestselling courtroom thriller.

    Of course, Grisham's book was about a lawsuit against a tobacco company, and that was before the big settlements rolled in, so in the footsteps of Paramount's production of Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears where they replaced Arab Muslim terrorists with neo-nazis, Fox replaces the tobacco company with an assault weapon manufacturer, which (being, of course a billion-dollar business) can afford to hire high-tech thugs to fix the jury (because Jebus knows that's the only way these evil purveyors of death could escape JUSTICE!)

    This, of course, has nothing to do with the upcoming sunset of the Assault Weapons Ban.

    I've got this bridge for sale. In Brooklyn? Drop me a line if you're interested.
    Sorry 'Bout the Lack of Posting

    I was called away unexpectedly for the last three days (work related) and just didn't have time. I'll try to do some posting this weekend, but posts might be few and far between for the next couple of weeks.

    Tuesday, October 14, 2003

    PRE-FVCKING-CISELY!

    Den Beste (I'm getting repetitive, I know) comments on our two-party system and the stability it lends in this piece, (and as always, RTWT) but here is the kicker quote that current high-school graduates and almost anyone who call themselves liberals just don't get:
    In general, we tolerate a great deal which in Europe would be suppressed as "hate speech". We let Holocaust Deniers make their case, which is also illegal in much of Europe. There's no benefit in letting them exist, but there's a huge benefit in not having the government decide what is and is not "acceptable" political speech (including "hate speech"), since there's such a huge potential for abuse if it has that power.
    That's the founding concept behind the Constitution and the Bill of Rights - restriction of government power because of the huge potential for abuse.

    Every single law that is passed has a potential for abuse. Each new law confers a new or greater power to government, thus increasing the risk of future abuse. And it's, if not a logarithmic, at least a geometrically increasing expansion. I wrote a long time ago (Bloggers archives seem to be screwed at the moment) "It's frightening when you think that we started out with just ten commandments". While our Founders didn't establish a two-party system in the Constitution, and in fact some railed against the Party system, it has proven to be one of the things that has kept America stable and moderate over the course of over 250 years.

    It works.

    So of course progressives want to change it.
    Steven Den Beste Predicts a Democratic Nadir

    In November 2004 when Bush will be re-elected.

    As usual, I find myself in agreement with Steven's cogent analysis - except I differ a bit with his conclusion:
    Barring extraordinary events, in 2004 the Democrats will crash and burn, and then many in the Democratic party will finally start asking whether the "Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party" is actually a liability rather than an asset, something to be isolated and frozen out instead of pandered to. Given that they, like the religious right, have nowhere else to go, it's not even clear that the Democrats actually need to pander to them. If that happens, the Democrats may again become viable in the US.

    The Republicans eventually did that to the Falwell-Robertson religious right, and that's part of how they regained viability. But the practical effect of that was for the overall party ideology to move closer to the uncommitted American center. It wasn't just a cosmetic change, an attempt to find a new way to deliver the same old message.

    If the Democrats eventually marginalize the Tranzis, they too will move closer to the American center, from the "opposite side". If a disaster in 2004 doesn't bring that about, they'll suffer further disasters in 2006 and 2008 (and 2010...), and eventually they'll make that change, and once again become competitive out of narrow self interest. For in the long run, not even leftists like being ideologically-pure losers.
    Yes, indeed, the Religious-Right were marginalized by the Republicans - and they had nowhere to go. They certainly weren't going to vote Libertarian, and Ross Perot's Reform Party was stillborn, though the miscarriage did cost Bush 41 re-election.

    But the (to be less charitable) "Barking Moonbat Wing" of the Democratic Party does have the Greens to move to. And the moonbat wing is, apparently, not insigificant given their representation in the current "Deep Space Nine" array of presidential hopefuls. The best the Religious-Right ever managed was Pat "Idiotarian" Robertson. According to this recent Gallup poll on media bias:
    (A)bout 4 in 10 Americans today identify themselves as conservatives and about the same number identify as moderates, while less than 20% identify as liberals.
    And that "less than 20%" is apparently in control of the Democratic Party, something I don't think you can really say about the Religious Right. They were pandered to, but never had their hands on the reins. The Moonbats apparently do, and most aren't going to be "marginalized," I think. They'll leave first, and remain fervently active.

    I'll be the first to admit I may be wrong, but the thing that has changed as far as I can see is the militance of the far-left. They don't care about being "ideologically pure losers." They just condemn the conservatives and the moderates for being "ignorant sheep" and soldier on in their efforts to save us from ourselves like good socialists should. Evidence for this militance? Increasing eco-terrorism for one thing. Earth First!ers setting fire to SUV dealerships and luxury homes under construction, PETA activists raiding labs and fur farms, protesters actively advocating soldiers killing their officers - and forums praising such action.

    The Information Age has allowed everybody to politically organize, and nowhere is this more apparent than at the fringes, and yes, I realize that I represent one of those fringes. They no longer feel alone and helpless. Gun control activist are acting in our own self-interest (I believe preserving the Constitution is self-preservation, anyway). The liberals are crusaders out to save us from ourselves, and they will never rest until they do. (Scratched that last out because there's always one more crusade for the true believer.) For the Religious Right, being politically marginalized just made them resigned to wait for the Second Coming. For the Moonbat Left being marginalized will just make them more fervent. Crusading is their religion.

    So, I don't think the Democrats will quite reach their nadir in 2004. I think it will occur after the more moderate forces of the Democratic Party attempt to marginalize the moonbat wing - and the moonbat wing, in large part, leaves. When that happens, the Greens will gain strength - and may actually manage to elect a representative or two, especially in areas such as San Francisco where they have a strong following. The Green Party will certainly further harm the Democratic Party - until the Democrats complete the second step and sell themselves to the electorate to the point where they can draw more from that 40% of the population that identifies itself as moderate. That will be a few years after 2004, I think, and it's going to be a definite two-step process.

    But, while the third-party of the Greens will remain ineffective as far as getting candidates elected, I think it's going to be a drag on the Democrats for some time to come. There are just too many moonbats out there.

    Monday, October 13, 2003

    OK, I'm LIVID!

    Keepandbeararms.com has a court transcript of a hearing in the Seegars v. Ashcroft case where a suit has been brought to overturn the D.C. firearm ban. Stephen Halbrook, as lawyer for the Plaintiff isn't exactly trying to win on a Second Amendment basis. And though Dave Kopel recent wrote two NRO pieces slamming the non-NRA Silveira case on the basis that they're not taking the "slow-and-careful" approach and that the chief counsel for Silveira isn't a hot-shot NRA lawyer, Halbrook comes off pretty badly in the transcript IMHO.

    If that's how the NRA is working to protect our Second Amendment rights, I want them off the job, and they're going to get a letter from me to that effect.

    And the Silveira team is going to get a check.

    Fuck 'em when the counsel for the NRA says:
    YOUR HONOR, WE ARE HERE WANTING TO REGISTER HANDGUNS. WE ARE NOT HERE WANTING UNRESTRICTED ACCESS. WE'RE NOT HERE ASKING TO CARRY THEM, OTHER THAN IN THE HOME.
    Tell me that THAT quote won't show up in every anti-gun newsletter, publication, and website - and bet your ass it will end up on the Nightly News.

    "We are here wanting to register handguns"???? Even IN context I cannot abide that statement.

    UPDATE: Halbrook is the author of Registration: The Nazi Paradigm, which opens:
    It would be instructive at this time to recall why the American citizenry and Congress have historically opposed the registration of firearms. The reason is plain. Registration makes it easy for a tyrannical government to confiscate firearms and to make prey of its subjects.
    And concludes:
    Individual criminals wreak their carnage on individuals or small numbers of people. As this century has shown, terrorist governments have the capacity to commit genocide against millions of people, provided that the people are unarmed. Schemes to confiscate firearms kept by peaceable citizens have historically been associated with some of the world's most insidious tyrannies. Given this reality, it is not surprising that law-abiding gun owners oppose being objects of registration.
    And yet he could say what is quoted above?

    And you wonder lawyers have such a bad name?
    Read Lileks Today

    He's on an anti-idiotarian Fisking RANT, and it's EXCELLENT.
    Well, That's Apparently What They Believe...



    Day by Day by Chris Muir. Bang on the money again.

    Sunday, October 12, 2003

    It's Getting Closer

    "The time has come," the Walrus said,

    "To talk of many things:
    Of votes --and chads --and democracy--
    Of Republics --and of kings--
    And why the earth is getting hot--
    And when will pigs have wings."

    (With abject apologies to Lewis Carroll.)

    Last week I had a couple of posts on the reaction of the moonbat wing of the Democratic Party to the California recall election - specifically those people who post to Democraticunderground.com. Those posts are here and here, with the second being by far the most egregious example. And I warned you at the end of "Not with a Bang, but a Whimper?" that I might have more to say on the topic. This post is it.

    Now, I've ranted about Democrat hypocrisy like this before. In fact, in that essay written back during Election 2000 (long before I started this blog) I essentially wrote a companion piece to "janekat's" DU post, which - for my own amusement - I present part of in counterpoint to her comments:
    Janekat:
    What we MUST realize in order to win - Americans are stupid and uninformed

    This is very important because in order to win we must understand the way the average American thinks. I'm afraid WE have nothing in common with them.

    I came to the two following conclusions when I saw the large number of people who voted for Bush back in 2000.

    #1 - I would dare to assume that most of us here are in the upper 1%-20% of the population intelligence-wise. We must come to the realization that the majority of the population is in the lower 80% to 99% percent of the bell-curve. WE are not the norm.
    Me:
    An Uncomfortable Conclusion

    With the continuing legal maneuvers in the Florida election debacle, I have been forced to a conclusion that I may have been unconsciously fending off. The Democratic party thinks we're stupid. Not "amiable uncle Joe" stupid, but DANGEROUSLY stupid. Lead-by-the-hand-no-sharp-objects-don't-put-that-in-your-mouth stupid. And they don't think that just Republicans and independents are stupid, no no! They think ANYBODY not in the Democratic power elite is, by definition, a drooling idiot. A muttering moron. Pinheads barely capable of dressing ourselves.

    Take, for example, the position under which the Gore election machine petitioned for a recount - that only supporters of the Democratic candidate for President lacked the skills necessary to vote properly, and that through a manual recount those erroneously marked ballots could be "properly" counted in Mr. Gore's favor. They did this in open court and on national television, and with a straight face.

    So, it is with some regret that I can no longer hold that uncomfortable conclusion at bay:

    They're right. We are.
    It would appear that "janekat" has what it takes to be a member of the DNC elite. And she's absolutely one of Thomas Sowell's "Anointed." I have not yet had a chance to read Mr. Sowell's book The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy, but I have read the text of his speech on the subject, and it rings wholly true. This part of the speech particularly so:
    Just as economic issues are often seen as being about "the rich" and "the poor," various statistical disparities between social groups are often attributed to the moral failings of "society," just as innumerable dangers that are allowed to exist show society's blindness or callousness.

    Whatever the issue, it tends to be seen within this framework -- this vision of the anointed-- and to take on the aura of a moral crusade. "Intellectuals cannot operate at room temperature," as Eric Hoffer put it. They cannot simply say that policy A is preferred to policy B for the following reasons and with the following evidence. To do that would be to lay their reasons and evidence alongside the reasons and evidence of those who disagree with them, so that others can weigh the one against the other. To argue in this way, on the same moral plane and under the same impartial rules of logic and evidence applying to both sides would be a violation of the whole vision in which the anointed see themselves. Their role is not to put themselves on the same plane as other people. The very words and phrases they use reveal the loftier plane on which they see themselves. From this loftier plane they are to raise our "consciousness," make us "aware" and hope that we will "grow." Those who nevertheless continue to disagree with them must then be shown to be not merely in error but in sin.
    And let them without sin cast the first stones, as it were.

    But here's the question I have had, as succinctly put by Sowell:
    How do the anointed manage to survive - and, indeed, flourish - after being wrong so often?
    And he answers it:
    Much as animals and plants survive in nature-- by being in environments favorable to their strengths and not very severe on their weaknesses. The strengths of the anointed are verbal strengths and mental nimbleness, combined with whatever academic credentials may help sustain their sense of intellectual and moral superiority. There are environments in which that is sufficient and other environments in which that counts for virtually nothing. The anointed can be found concentrated in the former kinds of environments, rather than the latter, just as fish are found in the sea and not on mountaintops, just as it is just the reverse with eagles.

    The academic world, for example, is a sort of natural habitat or wild-life refuge for ideas that cannot stand the test of empirical results-- except for those fields in which there are decisive tests, such as science, mathematics, engineering, medicine-- and athletics. In all these fields, in their differing ways, there comes a time when you must either put up or shut up. It should not be surprising that all of these fields are notable exceptions to the complete domination of the left on campuses across the country.
    Where they are free to brainwash the young, some of whom become the primary and secondary educators of our children. And make no mistake - the world of the NEA is, too, a cloistered academic one where there is no decisive testing of empirical results. To the education system, how a child feels has become more important that what (s)he learns. Rand's Comprachicos have spread greatly since the 50's. They exist in politics as well - for "verbal strengths and mental nimbleness" are the hallmark of the successful politician, are they not? And how often do politicians actually debate "Policy A" vs. "Policy B" on the merits, rather than on the intent? Even in closed-door sessions away from the cameras? As the link above shows, the ranks of editorial cartoonists are rife with The Anointed as well, and they are but the most visible indicator of The Anointed dominating the media.

    Nowhere has this jarring disconnect from reality in favor of lofty "higher ends" been more pronounced than with the gun control fight. That prominence has been due to, as Sowell put it, a lack of conclusive tests for empirical results. The fight over "Affirmative Action," the fight over "Welfare reform," the fight over taxes, all of those fights and more have not produced clear, unassailable empirical evidence of success or failure.

    But "gun control" has. And presented with that evidence, the only thing The Anointed can respond with are reports like this one that states that the research in to whether gun control laws are or aren't effective is inconclusive, and more research is needed. But here's the incontrovertible, conclusive proof that, at least in part, "gun control" doesn't make the public safer - concealed-carry. In every state where "shall-issue" concealed-carry legislation has been promoted, the gun control groups predict "blood in the streets," "Dodge City shootouts," carnage and mayhem and death, Oh My! And it never happens - anywhere. The "gun control" of keeping guns out of the hands of the law-abiding has been conclusively proven ineffective at making us safer.

    Faced with that incontrivertible empirical evidence, the best argument The Anointed can come up with is that it can't be conclusively proven that guns in the hands of the citizens make things safer, but what it demonstrates unquestionably is that more guns doesn't equal more crime - yet they don't abandon their mantra. Regardless of the empirical evidence they totally ignore the absence of the dire consequences they always predict, and in each new state the emotional argument is repeated, rather than debated on its merits as it should be. Again - "gun control" up to and including outright bans has not made England safer. They've simply disarmed the law-abiding, but pointing this out to The Anointed doesn't phase them.

    However, that is only an aside to the larger problem I discussed earlier. Gun control is my particular hobby-horse because, to me, it encompasses the most explicit and outrageous attack on individual liberty that The Anointed pursue - a deliberate, undisguised, and direct attack on the integrity of the Constitution of the United States. It is that document that stands in the way of their quest to give us what they feel we deserve - good and hard - and it is that document that we, the masses, are tasked to protect and defend.

    Because if we don't do it, no one will. Certainly not our elected officials without our torches and pitchforks behind 'em.

    My earlier piece "Not with a Bang..." decried what I saw as a defeatist attitude among more than just the two examples I gave. The question I asked there may have been answered: Have we reached a "critical mass" where The Anointed have sway over enough of the population to get them to yeild our rights for The Anointed's "higher purpose"? After the California recall election, the answer appears to be "not quite yet." California - that bastion of the liberal Anointed (and make no mistake, there is a small conservative Anointed as well - and to the horror of both,) elected a man considered to be wholly unsuitable to be Governor of the 7th largest economy in the world. A man who was not one of The Anointed. A man who may not be controlled by The Anointed (but seeing as he married into one of the Brahmin families of the Anointed, that remains to be seen.) Worse, a man popular with the hoi polloi - which, in a democracy gives him power that The Anointed seldom receive. Worse still, the recall election demonstrates that the electorate can still be motivated to turn out in volume - and that cannot be good for The Anointed who see them as "not very bright" - ignorant, easily lead rubes who are the willingly-manipulated pawns of the forces of sinful self-interest.

    Still, it's not all good news. As the joke goes "I want to vote for the best candidate, but he never runs!" - and the system is set up to ensure that he doesn't. If the recall election proves nothing else, it shows that the entrenched powers will stop at nothing short of actual assassination to retain power, so if you want to run for office it indicates something other than a desire simply to do a good job. I've said for quite a while that anyone actually willing to run for office ought to be immediately disqualified. Arnold's election proves, actually it only reaffirms, that popular recognition is the only way to elected office other than through the political party machinery, and John and Jane Q. Citizen don't have a chance of running through those machines without coming out mangled beyond recognition.

    (Let me say that I hope Arnold does a good job as Governor, but I will not be surprised if he is thwarted at every turn by his legislature, or if he turns out like Jesse Ventura to be not up to the job on philosophical grounds.)

    Here's the situation as I see it:

    The The Anointed control the halls of higher education with the possible exception of the schools of engineering and the hard sciences (which are populated more and more by foreign students rather than domestic ones, as our population produces fewer and fewer students willing and capable of competing.) The Anointed have a firm grip on primary and secondary education in this country, and are only threatened by home-schooling (not an option for most families) and school vouchers (which they oppose vehemently.) Controlling these is actually more important than controlling higher education - it's easier to indoctrinate the young before they learn to think, as Ayn Rand explained so graphically in "The Comprachicos," or as illustrated in the present by this post. At any rate, both home-schooling and vouchers are, I think, too little, too late.

    The Anointed occupy positions of power in the media, and are less and less concerned about the obvious exercise of that power in attempting to influence the "people of average or lower intelligence." Even when the manipulation fails as it did in California, there is no hue and cry over it. Yes, the conservatives have talk radio, and conservative print media exists, and Fox News for TV, but overwhelmingly the Anointed run the newsrooms in TV and print. Listening recently to the Hugh Hewitt radio show a caller commented that, during the news breaks on his local station, the news being reported was in diametric opposition to what what Hewitt was reporting. Reuters and the AP represent the news-reporting bodies of most small radio outlets. As more and more children process through the school system and have children of their own, the less likely they are to understand, less be swayed by, the relatively minor influence of conservative media that preaches pretty much only to the faithful.

    The Anointed occupy seats in the legislatures and benches of the judiciary, though not yet in numbers large enough to completely control policy. While there they are active in the pursuit of increasing their numbers, however, and thwarting attempts to increase the number of conservatives - see the Democrat opposition to judicial nominees who "believe in anything." Possibly the most blatant example after that is the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals - also of California - of whom fellow blogger Phelps recently wrote:
    The discouragment comes from realising that I have no expectation of the application of law from the 9th circuit. None. The 9th is so activist, so interventionist, and so partisain(sic) that it is a mockery of what the Judicial branch is supposed to represent. They are supposed to be the brake on the engine of government. Instead, the 9th has ventured so far into judicial activism that they are not slowing the engine, but instead speeding it along.
    He is not alone in that assessment.

    I have written that liberals and conservatives are both necessary to the proper functioning of a healthy society, and I truly believe that. But there's a caveat: The liberals have to play by the same rules. They cannot abandon logic and reason for "higher purposes" and "greater callings." They must recognize that their reality has to be the same one the rest of us live in, and right now that doesn't appear to be the case. Bill Whittle, for instance, longs for the day when the Democrats return to "the party claimed by Jefferson and Truman, and many millions of other decent, patriotic Americans, people of integrity with whom it is a pleasure – sometimes an honor – to disagree." They certainly aren't that today, and to be honest, neither is the Republican party. In the world of politics, things have gotten to the point illustrated in this Sacramento Bee article:
    "What is a little disconcerting for the French is an American president who seems to be principled," said Jean Duchesne, an English literature professor at Condorcet College in Paris. "The idea that politics should be based on principles is unimaginable because principles lead to ideology, and ideology is dangerous."
    But we who are politically engaged are all ideologues. The difference is in our ideologies. Maximum freedom for the individual, or maximum conformance to the ideals of the Anointed?

    I've also written that I believe we sit at a crossroads in history - where, through the easy availability of disparate opinion and vast amounts of information, we can, as a minority, influence our political futures far beyond our mere numbers. Besides the resignation I illustrated in "Not With a Bang...", there is a great deal of frustrated anger out there in the Jacksonian community, and the internet lets the frustrated communicate - and organize - in ways never before possible. Again, the gun control issue is foremost in this, as the gun control Anointed have commented at length on our ability to quickly and effectively organize and resist their efforts. Perhaps Missouri's concealed-carry legislation, over a decade in the making and requiring the overturning of a governor's veto, best exemplifies this. However, I don't think this window of opportunity is going to be open long. We must seize it, soon, or resign ourselves to one of two uncomfortable futures: Losing with a whimper, or eventually being forced to take arms and risk losing with a bang.

    Discussion of this would also be appreciated, because I'm pretty much out of ideas.