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

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

"But What Do You NEED That For?"

How about an ultra-violent watermelon blaster?

Check out this Windows Media clip of the S&W 500 against an army of charging angry watermelons.

You never know when the herd might attack.

(Warning - 8Mb file.) Film provided by rec.guns contributor David Webb.

"But You Don't Even Know This Person!"

In a moment of idiocy Out of the goodness of my heart, I have invited Seldom of Seldom Sober to stop by and spend the night at Chez Minority on his Blogs Across America Tour from LA to NY. I'll be stop #2 after Da Goddess in San Diego. Hopefully there's an Albuquerque blogger who'll put him up one night and cut that Tucson-to-Denver leg into a two-day trip. There's a T-shirt in it for whoever volunteers. I've done Tucson-to-Denver in a single day, but it's a LONG day.

I know the trip will occur in early September, but he's being pretty vague on the specifics.

(I hope he knows this is a "dry" house! He'll have to BHOB!)
Control Loops, Chaos Theory, Endocrinology, Psychiatry, Economics...

Steven Den Beste, in his inimitable way, has a fascinating (Hey, I'm a geek an engineer...) new post up on, well, pretty much everything. But he eventually gets around to the main thrust of the topic and it has to do with Greenspan raising the interest rate by a quarter point in an effort to stave off inflation.
Generally, the Fed uses two main tools to try to control the economy. The Fed can pump new money into the system by "buying" federal bonds with money they conjure out of thin air. The Fed does this at a pretty regular rate, but generally they don't like using this for primary control, and prefer to rely on the discount rate.

When the Fed changes the discount rate, in theory other kinds of interest rates tend to track it up and down. Of course, in practice it's nothing like that straightforward. Sometimes they respond immediately and proportionally. Sometimes there's a delay. Sometimes it has no effect. Sometimes other interest rates move in the opposite direction. Sometimes they move the same direction but less far; sometimes they move the same direction but much further. And in terms of larger effects, sometimes changes in interest rates affect overall activity and sometimes such changes don't. And almost always it takes a long time.

The theory says that lowering the discount rate leads to lower interest rates overall, which tends to stimulate economic activity. But it doesn't always work that way.
Now, I didn't even get Father Guido Sarducci's Five Minute University education in economics ("Supply and-a Demand. That's it.") but I remember one thing I read long ago: The Fed has essentially only one control, and that control is like a rope around the neck of the economy. The Fed can pull on that rope and choke the economy with a fair amount of effectiveness - cut the money supply or raise the interest rates and the economy takes note right fast. But if it increases the money supply or lowers the interest rate, it's a lot like pushing on that rope. The noose might not loosen, and the economy might not notice.

Hey, I'm my expertise is in gun control. Do you come here for economics dissertations? But that mental image stuck with me, and I thought you might find it interesting. And besides, I love Chaos Theory. I strongly recommend James Gleik's Chaos: Making a New Science if you want to know more about this relatively new field in mathematics, physics, chemistry, economics, medicine....

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

I Also Do Requests, Part III - More Deliberate Mendacity

Continuing with the dissection of the Brady Campaign's CCW FAQ page, we come to the next question:
Q: Has any peer-reviewed academic research been done on the effects of weakening CCW laws in Florida?
Pretty simple question, no? And here's their pretty simple answer:
A: Yes. In March of 1995, a study was released by criminologists at the University of Maryland who examined the effects of the weakening of CCW laws in three states, including Florida. They found that gun homicides increased by an average of 26%, while homicides by other means did not increase. The study concluded that weakening CCW laws did not reduce homicides and could actually increase the frequency of homicide. The researchers noted that by weakening limits on concealed weapons, states may be giving up a simple and effective method of preventing firearms deaths.
This is the internet, ladies and gentlemen. ONE peer reviewed study? No link to said study or a third-party synopsis of it? No, we're just supposed to take the Brady Center's unimpeachable word that agendaless researchers at the unbiased University of Maryland did a detached scientific study of CCW and found that gun homicides increased after CCW laws - in three states - went up (by the scary number of 26%!) while other homicides "did not increase."

That study, I am forced to assume, is one by the title "Easing Concealed Firearm Laws: Effects on Homicide in Three States" produced by David McDowall, Colin Loftin, and Brian Wiersema of the University of Maryland's Violence Research Group. Problem is, the researchers didn't study three STATES, they studied five metropolitan areas in three states, and they did so over a period in which national homicide rates were trending UP (see the Bureau of Justice Statistics graphs from Part 1 of this series.) Here's what the paper says they studied:
We studied patterns in Florida, Mississippi, and Oregon. In addition, we analyzed monthly homicide counts and examined only large urban areas within the three states. To find if the laws influenced gun deaths differently, firearm homicides were separated from homicides by other means.

We conducted analyses for Dade (Miami), Duval (Jacksonville), and Hillsborough (Tampa) counties in Florida, and for Hinds (Jackson) county in Mississippi. Because there were relatively few homicides in Multnomah county (Portland), we combined Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties in Oregon. For each area, we used death certificate data compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) to count monthly homicides through December 1990. Health departments in Florida, Mississippi, and Oregon provided additional cases from January 1991, to December 1992.

For all areas except Miami, we studied the period between January 1973 and December 1992 (240 months). We confined our Miami analysis to January 1983 through December 1992 (120 months) because of an unusually sharp increase in homicide rates in May 1980 after an influx of Cuban refugees. In late 1982 the rates appeared to stabilize.
Well, gee, national firearms violence trends were UP during this period, and CCW laws were in effect in these three areas at the same time. OBVIOUSLY CCW made the homicide rates go up, right?

Right?

I'm not a statistician, but to me the answer appears to be "Not quite."

Look at table 1 of the research paper. It's a doozy all right:

Notice anything interesting? Notice the wide variations within the three cities studied. Miami - with a very high homicide rate, very little change (+3%), yet Jacksonville's rate went up 75% (another scary number!) But Florida's homicide rate overall after passage of their CCW law did what? That's right - it went DOWN, except for that first year after passage while the permitting process was under way. Remember, the law went into effect OCTOBER 1 of 1987. By the end of 1988 the initial rush of everyone who wanted a CCW permit had been taken care of, and from 1988 onward, Florida's homicide rates overall went DOWN. But by cherry-picking urban areas, our intrepid researchers made it appear that Florida's homicide rates went up, did they not? Is that not what the Brady Center just said?
In March of 1995, a study was released by criminologists at the University of Maryland who examined the effects of the weakening of CCW laws in three states, including Florida. They found that gun homicides increased by an average of 26%, while homicides by other means did not increase. The study concluded that weakening CCW laws did not reduce homicides and could actually increase the frequency of homicide.
(Note the use of the weasle-word "could.") This is known as deliberate mendacity. Because the report clearly states:
Despite this evidence, we do not firmly conclude that shall issue licensing leads to more firearms murders. This is so because the effects varied over the study areas. Firearms homicides significantly increased in only three areas, and one area witnessed an insignificant decrease. In combination, the increase in gun homicides was large and statistically significant. Yet we have only five replications, and two of these do not clearly fit the pattern.

The statistical significance of the combined results aside, the analysis implies that shall issue policies do not always raise levels of gun murder. Sometimes, at least, local conditions operate to blunt any effects. The areas without significant increases, Portland and Miami, may be unusual, but we lack the data to examine whether this is true.

Stated in another way, we cannot completely dismiss historical events as an explanation of the increases in firearms murders. One would need a complex theory to explain how history could mask a decrease in homicides after the laws. Historical accounts of the apparent increase might be much simpler. One would then be left with the hypothesis that the effects of the laws are nil.
In other words, "shall-issue" CCW laws don't seem to affect homicide rates in any provable way.

Which means the Brady Center CCW FAQ page is lying. Boldly, blatantly, and with deliberate intent to mislead. They tell their readers that a research paper they didn't name and gave no link to proved that "liberalized concealed carry" increases homicides, while the actual paper makes no such claim.

But "shall issue" CCW protects many people who jump through the hoops and actually carry. People like Barbara Holland. Ask her if CCW is a good idea.

How do you like being lied to? It's a standard tactic in the gun control debate - both sides do it. They lie with statistics and expect you to just accept that their researchers are the unbiased ones. But if you bother to actually look it's blindingly obvious which side is more deliberate, blatant, and outrageous at it. The gun-rights side tells you that CCW reduces crimes by some small but significant number, the gun-ban side tells you that CCW makes crime go UP by some scary number. But the facts show that CCW doesn't seem to have much effect on crime rates overall. However, as each new state has considered and then passed "liberalized" concealed carry, the gun control groups have always predicted increases in firearm crime, "blood in the streets," "Dodge City shootouts," and so on. And they never happen.

But that's how it works in this conflict. Supposedly neutral researchers do some "research" and come to some conclusion, generally vague and tentative, and above all deniable. Then advocates take those vague and tentative conclusions and blow them out of proportion - often without attribution - and the two sides start throwing bogus "facts" at each other, pissing off the vast middle ground who decide (and often rightly so) that both sides are lying again, and tune them out.

Now some questions: As a control, why didn't our intrepid researchers look into homicides over the same period in urban areas in which CCW was prohibited or still highly restricted? Why did they not study the entire state rather than just the urban areas. Why was there no data on the number of CCW permits issued over the study period? Some estimate of how many, and where such permit holders lived? Were they mostly urban? Rural? Did it not matter, and if not, why? What was suggested to the reader when the report showed a 75% increase in firearm homicides in Jacksonville after CCW passage? Was there any effort to find evidence of CCW permit holders being involved in homicide?

This is the kind of thing that made me an advocate. I studied both sides. I concluded that one side was lying in order to deny me a Constitutionally protected fundamental right, and one side was lying to me in order to protect that right. Lying isn't justified by the intent, in my opinion, but when it comes to my rights I'll cut them a bit of slack. (John Lott excepted.) I will not forgive the other side.

And I don't think Barbara Holland would either.

UPDATE: If you want a beautiful example of unattributed assertions of statistical "fact" that are complete and utter horseshit - by, of course, the Brady Bunch - please go read Phelps's fisking of this op-ed.

Remember, it's for the children!
That's It. Allah Goes on the Blogroll

I'm sure by now you've heard about the Armed Services Committee recommendation that Israeli-made small-arms ammunition be used for practice only, and not in combat against the too-tight-turban crowd. Well, AllahPundit has weighed in.

Photobucket pooped!

That's it. On the blogroll he goes!
They Still Haven't Quite Figured it Out

Ravenwood finds another one.

It seems that the mothers of England have figured out that marching for gun control didn't work. After they got all the gun control they seemed to want, things just didn't get any better:
MUMS ON MARCH AGAINST GUNMEN

BY ALISON BELLAMY - Leeds Today

HUNDREDS of mothers are to march through Leeds to protest at gun crime.

The Mothers Against Violence group is being headed by Pat Regan, whose son Danny, 26, was blasted to death by three bullets.
Er, no. He was shot to death by someone who shot him three times thus ending his life. I thought the "marching against gunmen" part made that clear?
The march is part of a national campaign which aims to rid the streets of violence and gun-related crime.
I thought all that gun control was supposed to do that?
Mum-of-five Pat, 49, of Hyde Park, Leeds, a trainee community development worker, said: "So many lives are lost due to guns and violence. By carrying a gun many young people think they have some sort of standing or will gain respect but I can say that it will eventually result in death or injury.
I thought that young people were supposed to think that carrying a gun was going to get them five years in prison? I thought that the gun ban was supposed to remove access to the guns they carry?

Guess not.
She added: "My son was no angel and became involved in drugs. I would not want anyone to go through what I have been through.

"We want to put a stop to the wave of gun crime and street violence and will demonstrate this by marching through Leeds. We want people to join us."
And this will affect the drug-culture criminals... how, exactly?
Danny was killed on December 12, 2002. He had moved to Merseyside to escape the West Yorkshire underworld but was shot dead in a house in St Helens.
Police have never caught his killer: "Danny knew the dangers he was facing. I was always waiting for a knock at the door.

"He came home in a coffin and his designer gear came home in big brown envelopes."
Pat said she was also keen for any families of people who had committed gun crime to also become involved. The group is also applying for funding and hopes to establish offices in Leeds and a support network.

Crimes involving firearms have doubled in West Yorkshire in five years, from 1,062 to 2,044 for the year 2002/3. In 18 months between 2000 and 2002, 11 people were killed and 24 injured in shootings.
Wow. Gun control has been so effective in West Yorkshire, hasn't it? Licensing, registering, confiscating, heavy sentences. They've managed to take a pretty tiny problem and make a significant one.

I have an idea! Let's do it here! We can take a significant problem and make it an overwhelming one!
West Yorkshire police has received national recognition for its work with drugs and gun crime. The force's Operation Stirrup has led to 425 arrests, 36 guns and £1.6m of drugs seized.
And a doubling of "crimes involving firearms." Dont' forget to "recognize" that. Congratulations!
The march is on August 7 from noon from Potternewton Park, Chapeltown, through Little London and Woodhouse to Hyde Park. Hundreds of mothers from across the UK are expected to attend.
Hundreds. Can they call it the "Hundred Mom March"?

Sorry about the snarkiness, but I'm just in that mood.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Sorry 'Bout the Light Posting

Life interferes. I've been working a lot, today was my IHMSA match day, birthday party for my neice, and my belated Father's Day gift came in - the entire 14 episode DVD collection of the Fox Sci-Fi series Firefly.

Damn, this show is GOOD! I hadn't heard about it before it had already been cancelled, but apparently the DVD's have been selling well enough by word of mouth to inspire Fox to make a 2-hour movie. Maybe they'll bring it back. Great Western Space Opera. Good writing, good acting, good special effects, neat guns. What more could you want?

Anyway, I'll try to post something pithy tomorrow. Maybe Part III in the Brady CCW FAQ fisking.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

I Also Do Requests, Part II

More fisking of the Brady Center "CCW FAQ" page, per reader Sarah's request.

Next up:
Q: What are the state laws that allow people to carry guns?
A: The carrying of concealed weapons is prohibited in the following 7 4 states:
Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Wisconsin
The carrying of concealed weapons is permitted in the following 14 9 states, but only with a CCW license issued by police. These states allow local law enforcement authorities to approve or deny an application for a CCW license based on an applicant's full record. Called "may-issue" licensing, an applicant must demonstrate a specific need (e.g. a security guard or merchant who transports money to a bank) AND these licenses are generally restricted to certain times and places. Because of the stringent "need" requirement, few CCW licenses are issued in most of these states:
Alabama, California, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina
In the following 29 36 states, practically all non-felons can obtain a CCW license and carry a concealed weapon. These states require law enforcement officials to issue a CCW license to an individual unless s/he is in a prohibited category (generally, a convicted felon). Called "shall-issue" licensing, applicants are not required to demonstrate "need" to be granted a license, and in most of these states, applicants can obtain a license by only claiming a lawful purpose such as basic "self-defense":
Alaska*, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado*, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming, New Mexico, Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio
*Note: Although Colorado does not require a showing of "need", law enforcement officials have considerable discretion in granting CCW permits. In practice, it is extremely difficult to obtain a CCW license in Colorado.
Then Colorado isn't really a "shall-issue" state, is it? I'm actually uncertain as to the status of Colorado's CCW laws. Perhaps someone out there can clear up the confusion.
In one state, Vermont, no license is required to carry a concealed weapon.
*Not quite. Alaska became, as of 2004, the SECOND state with "Vermont Carry" though for reasons of reciprocity with other states you can jump through the hoops and get an Alaska CCW. Overall, I don't have a problem with this as it is factual, though badly out of date, and lacks the visual impact of the animated graphic from the previous post.
Next up, the meat of the issue:
Q: What happened in Florida after they weakened their CCW law?
A:
Florida was the first state to pass a CCW law. Weakening CCW laws has not made Florida a safer place; in fact, the opposite is true. Florida's CCW law became effective on October 1, 1987. Between 1987 and 1992, the violent crime rate in that state increased 17.8%. In every year since 1987, Florida has had the highest rate of violent crime in the nation according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report. The violent crime rate is composed of four offenses: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault; all of which involve force or threat of force according to the FBI.

Florida's handgun homicide rate has decreased somewhat in the past few years - part of this may well have been a result of the strong gun laws enacted during that time. As the following chart indicates, the handgun homicide rate in Florida increased considerably after passage of the CCW law in 1987. Decreases in handgun homicide occurred only after tough new gun laws were passed:

Year

Number of Murders

Legislative Action

1987

569

CCW becomes effective October 1, 1987.

1988

N/A

No data available.

1989

700

After a rash of unintentional deaths of children by firearms, the Florida legislature passes the first Child Access Prevention Law (CAP) in the nation.

1990

588

A background check on handgun purchasers passes in the Florida Legislature, effective October 1, 1990. A state-wide election on a Constituional Amendment (Article 1, Section 8) for a three-day waiting period on handgun purchasers passes by a margin of 85% to 15% effective November 6, 1990.

1991

565

In accordance with the Constitutional Amendment, the Florida Legislature makes it a felony to violate the three-day waiting period.

1992

554


1993

525*


The bottom line is that Florida, now the most violent state in the nation, has not seen the results promised by their CCW law. There has been an increase in violent crime with no corresponding increase in personal security.

These trends continue in Florida. According to 1994 FBI Uniform Crime Report data, Florida cities still rank high in terms of violent crime. In 1994, Tampa and Miami were the 4th and 5th most violent cities in America. Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Miami ranked 1, 2 and 3 respectively in the category of highest rates of property crime (which includes burglary, larceny-theft and motor vehicle theft).
Let's look at ALL homicides, not just HANDGUN homicides, shall we? (All data from the CDC WISQARS tool)

Year

Number of Homicides

Florida Homicide rate

National Homicide Rate

1987

1,480

12.34

8.59

1988

1,709

13.89

8.91

1989

1,593

12.61

9.15

1990

1,583

12.16

9.87

1991

1,460

10.92

10.38

1992

1,369

10.03

9.80

1993

1,374

9.87

9.87

1994

1,308

9.19

9.33

1995

1,230

8.46

8.47

1996

1,176

7.92

7.66

1997

1,115

7.34

7.15

1998

1,061

6.85

6.49

1999

964

6.12

6.05

2000

937

5.86

5.96

2001

969

5.92

7.12


Now, starting in 1989 the total number of homicides did nothing but trend DOWN, did it not? And meanwhile, what was the rest of the nation doing? National homicide rates continued to trend up for two more years. The Brady Center called Florida the "most violent state in the nation" but in 1993 Florida's homicide rates matched the national average, down from 43% higher than the national average just five years before. And Florida's homicide rate - continuously trending downward - hovered in close proximity to the national average from that point forward.

Yet weren't the gun control groups calling Florida the "Gunshine State" and "Dodge City East" when the bill was being considered in the legislature? The Brady Center has to cherry-pick homicides committed with handguns to obscure the fact that initially, homicide trends in Florida were better than the national average, and later were at least equal to the national average. And the only thing that changed in 1989 was a "Child Access Prevention Law" that made it a misdemeanor to leave a gun where a child could access it. Yet we're supposed to accept that THAT law was the "tough" one that caused the decrease in homicide rates after 1989?

If you believe that, I've got the title to this bridge in Brooklyn...

And what of that "most violent state" business? Well, check this page out for National rates of various types of (recorded) crime from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, and this page for Florida's rates. Here's a graph of Florida's violent crime rates since 1994:

Photobucket pooped!

And one showing the percentage change from year to year:

Photobucket pooped!

I thought "liberalized concealed carry" was supposed to make violent crime go UP? Isn't that what the gun control groups told anybody who'd listen? Isn't that still what you see in the op-eds when another state looks at joining the 36 other states that have it? Florida's ALWAYS been at the top for violent crime! Why do you think the people finally went for a "shall-issue" concealed carry law? They were tired of the high violent crime rates. They may still be #1, but the actual rate is far, far lower today than it was in 1987.

The gun control groups tell us that "liberalized concealed carry" legislation will result in "more guns on the street" and that more guns on the street will lead to "Dodge City" shootouts and higher crime. But it never happens. Gun rights proponents tell us that "shall issue" concealed carry laws will make the community safer. That hasn't been (in my opinion) statistically proven, but the assertions of the gun control groups have been proven wrong over and over and over again. The worst thing they can honestly say is that liberalized concealed carry might not reduce violent crime.

I can live with that.

One more thing: It would be a relatively simple matter for the Brady Center to update this "FAQ" page. The data is out there. But it apparently suits their purposes better to use older data, since the later data doesn't make their position look as good, does it?

(More to come...)

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

More Excellent News from the Youth Front

A week ago I got an email from a young reader. Here's what he sent me:
Dear Sir,

I'm in 8th grade and visit your blog almost every day. I enjoy shooting my uncle's handgun (a Smith and Wesson .44 special). I also like politics and am interested in what you have to say about current events. You're definitely one of my favorite bloggers.
(Sucking up never hurts.)

My 7th period Civics teacher assigned our class a writing assignment yesterday and, because I respect your opinion, I was hoping you could reply briefly.

She passed out columinst Ted Ralls article about Ronald Reagans death to the class yesterday and assigned us a 2 page paper that addresses a list of issues that the column mentions. She listed 10 questions but we only have to answer 3. These are the 3 that I decided to answer:

1. "According to the author, the Reagan administration slashed AIDS research budgets in order to fund tax cuts for the upper 2% of American taxpayers. As a result, AIDS research was set-back at least 8 years, resulting in the deaths of millions of innocent people and costing billions of dollars in health care costs. Knowing what we know today, what would you have said to Ronald Reagan about AIDS the day he was elected President?"

2. "The author notes that the Reagan administration illegally authorized the sale of 107 tons (!) of anti-aircraft missles to the nation of Iran in order to support an extremist right-wing insurgency in Nicaragua. Iran was - and remains - a staunch enemy of the United States. The author argues that because Mr. Reagan violated an act of Congress and provided material support to the enemy he should have been tried for treason and faced the death penalty. Do you agree that people - even presidents - who sell weapons to enemies of the United States should be prosecuted?"

3. "After retreating from Lebanon (a country in the Middle East) in 1983, Mr. Reagan ordered the invasion of Grenada, a tiny island in the Caribbean. The author says that this was a way for him to "look tough" by bullying a country that couldn't fight back. Do you agree with Reagan's decision to invade a peaceful country most Americans had never heard of in order to "look tough?" Reference George Bush's similar efforts to "look tough" after the tragic events of 9/11."

I wasn't born when Reagan was president, so I'm not very familiar with the background behind the questions. Ms. Hawthorne told me she supports gun rights, she is definitely a very smart teacher, and I respect her opinion. However I think the assigment is biased by the tone of the questions.

This is due Friday and I'm trying to find articles that argue with Mr. Ralls conclusions. I've googled "Reagan + AIDS", "Reagan + Iran" and "Reagan + Grenada" among many others. Alot of what I found agrees with the author, more or less. If you have time before Friday, do you know of a link that deals with one or more of these topics and offers a counter-argument? I know you're busy, so PLEASE don't take any time to help unless you know of a link immediately. It's not a big deal, I'll definitely get the paper done regardless. Thanks in advance for any help.
Well, after sucking up, and then invoking the RCOB™ by mentioning that subhuman pustule Ted Rall, of course I had to help out. So I gave him a pointer to a site showing government spending on AIDS from 1981 through 1999, and a PBS (!) site for an overview of the invasion of Grenada. On question #2 I was not as sanguine. I told Mr. Pomeroy:
In regards to question #2, Ronald Reagan was, in my humble opinion, in the wrong.

Strategically I understand what he was doing, but he was doing it outside the law. The weapons were sent to Iran to be used in the then-raging Iran-Iraq war, not "to free hostages in Lebanon" - or at least not ONLY for that reason. Better, I assume, that they fight each other than sit and plot against us. Plus, the money from those sales went to fund support for the anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua - people who were none too savory themselves. Had this gotten out, the scandal probably would have resulted in impeachment. As much as I hate to say it, he should have been prosecuted for it. As one of my favorite people to quote - Justice Louis Brandeis - said:

"Decency, security and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subject to the rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, omnipresent teacher. For good or ill, it teaches the whole people by example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a law-breaker, it breeds contempt for the law. It invites every man to become a law unto himself. It invites anarchy."

However, Reagan was successful in his effort to defeat communism both in South America and in the Soviet Union. To me, that mitigates the crime. But it does not negate it. If we allow leaders to violate the law, it does damage to the entire system. What good is it to defeat an external enemy if the system we are striving to save collapses from internal rot?
Well, he did more research and wrote his paper, which I will reproduce here in its entirety:

Analysis of “Reagan’s Shameful Legacy” by Ted Rall

1. "According to the author, the Reagan administration slashed AIDS research budgets in order to fund tax cuts for the upper 2% of American taxpayers. As a result, AIDS research was set-back at least 8 years, resulting in the deaths of millions of innocent people and costing billions of dollars in health care costs. Knowing what we know today, what would you have said to Ronald Reagan about AIDS the day he was elected President?"

The author writes that the Reagan administration “refused to do anything about the AIDS epidemic, all so they could fund extravagant tax cuts for a tiny sliver of the ultra rich.” However, he does not use any evidence to support his claim.

According to the “CRS Report for Congress, AIDS Funding for Federal Programs 1981-1999”, funding for AIDS increased every year Reagan was President. When he took office in 1981, funding for AIDS was only $200,000. When he left office in 1988, annual funding for AIDS was over 1.3 billion dollars. According to my calculations, that is approximately a 4000% increase in spending. In contrast, during Clinton’s presidency, there was only about a 100% increase in AIDS spending.

Although the author does not mention the “deaths of millions of innocent people”, the question does so I will address that. While some people definitely caught AIDS from blood banks, I would assume (though I don’t have any sources to back this up) that most caught it from unprotected sex and sharing needles. When you knowingly engage in high risk behavior, this does not make you “innocent”. They did not deserve to die but, if they had practiced some basic personal responsibility they probably would be alive today.

I would have told Reagan in 1981, based on what I know today, that he probably did everything he could by funding research. The only thing he should have done differently in my opinion, is also fund needle-sharing programs and condom programs which would have cut down on health care costs since less people would have caught AIDS.


2. "The author notes that the Reagan administration illegally authorized the sale of 107 tons (!) of anti-aircraft missles to the nation of Iran in order to support an extremist right-wing insurgency in Nicaragua. Iran was - and remains - a staunch enemy of the United States. The author argues that because Mr. Reagan violated an act of Congress and provided material support to the enemy he should have been tried for treason and faced the death penalty. Do you agree that people - even presidents - who sell weapons to enemies of the United States should be prosecuted?"

Based on my research, this is a complicated issue that the author simplifies in order to make a point. There were strategic and political goals besides supporting the Contras in Nicaragua that led to sale of weapons to Iran. At the time, Iran and Iraq were at war and supporting that conflict (rather than have them scheme to harm the United States) may have been in the best interest of the U.S. Reagan also compared the Contras to the Founding Fathers during the Revolutionary War. This may have been an exaggeration or even completely incorrect but, it seems obvious that Reagan thought he was doing the right thing and decided to make painful compromises to achieve his goal. I also think it was a different time too. When Reagan was President, Communism was the biggest threat, like terrorism is today.

However, it is clear he did break the law by going around Congress and doing something he said he wouldn’t do (sell weapons to terrorists). He probably should have been prosecuted. However I think the death penalty is extreme in this case. If Reagan was just trying to put money in his bank account or sold weapons to be used against the United States, then maybe. But the evidence points to the fact that although his methods were wrong, his intention was good. In court, this probably would have been a “mitigating factor” that resulted in a much lighter sentence.


3. "After retreating from Lebanon (a country in the Middle East) in 1983, Mr. Reagan ordered the invasion of Grenada, a tiny island in the Caribbean. The author says that this was a way for him to "look tough" by bullying a country that couldn't fight back. Do you agree with Reagan's decision to invade a peaceful country most Americans had never heard of in order to "look tough?" Reference George Bush's similar efforts to "look tough" after the tragic events of 9/11."

I do not agree that Reagan, or any other leader, should invade a peaceful country in order to “look tough”. Putting people’s lives at risk just to “look tough” is immoral and should be illegal. However, again the facts do not back up the authors claim. There were many other factors involved.

According to an article on the PBS website, the Grenada invasion had been planned long before the terrorist attack in Lebanon. The reasons included Cuban soldiers stationed in Grenada, a Communist coup, martial law on the island, and the construction of an airstrip that could have been used as a “Communist beachhead”. There were also the 800 medical students whose lives may or may not have been in danger. After the fact, some said they were in danger, others said they were not. After the invasion, U.S. soldiers found enough arms for 10,000 men. Although there is not anything necessarily wrong with being armed, it sounds like they were doing more on the island than just being peaceful.

In my opinion, the author is showing bias by only telling part of the story. If the reader did not research the facts, it would be easy to believe what he says. But once you do the research, there is a lot more to it. It makes me think that Mr. Rall is not informed or he is trying to deceive. In my opinion, neither option speaks well for him.

Comparing Grenada to Iraq and Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon is difficult to do because, there doesn’t seem to be much connection. Although I have mixed feelings about the Iraq war, I fully support the war in Afghanistan. Also, we were attacked and I think we need to fight back out of necessity. There are also many strategic and political factors that influenced the decision including strict Wahabist Islam, countries in the region like Syria and Iran which support terrorism, and the flaunting of U.N. resolutions by Iraq for 12 years. There is a big difference between “looking tough” and “being tough” when it is necessary. For the most part, I think Bush is trying to do what is necessary.
Chris also sent me the other seven questions he had to select from:
According to the article, at the end of the 1980's America was "buried in the depths of a recession and a trillion bucks in debt. It took us over a decade to dig out." It wasn't until the less-rightist Clinton administration took office that the economy began to improve. What does this tell you about Reagan's theory of "supply-side economics"?

The author states that the Reagan administration "turned welfare recipients into homeless people" through welfare reform initiatives. Which do you think is more harmful to society as a whole: higher taxes that help provide necessities for the poor or lower taxes and millions of homeless families with nowhere to go? Would it affect your decision to know that a few welfare recipients took advantage of the welfare system?

The author reminisces about his time in college, when Reagan slashed education budgets, forcing universities to strip their best and brightest students of their scholarships. As a result, many had to take low-wage jobs and have never reached their full potential as members of society. Were tax cuts for the rich worth denying those students a future? Was it just those students who suffered or have we all lost something?

Twenty years ago, many people believed that war with Russia (then the USSR) was a real possibility. The author argues that the Cold War isn't over. He asks "In which direction do you think those old ICBM's (nuclear missiles) point today?" Did Reagan give us real safety from a nuclear war or just an illusion? Based on our reading, do you think the USSR was even a real threat to the United States, or was it "manufactured"?

The federal tax code was designed to redistribute income from the most wealthy to the least fortunate. Reagan took steps to dismantle this century-old social contract and now Bush is continuing his legacy. As a result, a tiny sliver of the population now controls 80+ percent of all the wealth in our country. Discuss how this affects our prospect for democracy. What can be done?

The author notes that Reagan, like Bush, "relied on Christianist depictions of foes as "evil" and America. as "good"." Based on the passage we discussed from "A People's History of the United States", do our foes have any legitimate reasons to hate and fear us (excluding the fact that they're all just "evil")?

The author draws parallels between Reagan and Bush, including the fact that "both appointed former generals as secretaries of state and enemies of the environment to head the Department of the Interior." Based on what we've learned, what do you think the most likely motive is behind appointments like these?
Chris and I discussed, as you might imagine, the teacher's apparent leftist bent, despite her stated support for gun rights.

Well, now that you've read all that, I thought you'd like to know the last and most important part:
Just thought I'd let you know I got an A minus. She wrote that it was well thought out even though she wrote almost as much as I did arguing with me! Thanks again for your help. I'm very happy with my grade and the paper.

Sincerely,
Chris
Congratulations, Chris. Glad I could help. And keep thinking for yourself. Perhaps you ought to correspond with Bryan Henderson for some ideas.

I haven't felt this good in a long time!

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Let's Pick on the Amish

Just kidding. I came across an interesting thread in the rec.guns newsgroup on the Amish and firearms. It seems that the Amish, while pacifists, do use modern firearms for hunting. Learn something new every day. So, of course the jokesters came out to play. Here are some highly offensive jokes at the expense of another culture:
(Armed Amish homeowner confronting a burglar)
"I am Amish, and I cannot harm thee.

"But thou standest where I am about to shoot."

--

What goes clippity-clop, clippity-clop, bang, clippity-clop, clippity-clop?
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
An Amish drive-by.

--

What do you call a man with his arm up a horses ass?

An Amish mechanic!

--

And then there was the Amish man who took his young son into the big city so he could see first-hand the temptations of Mammon.

They walked into a large modern building and watched as a shriveled, decrepit old lady hobbled into a small room in the lobby. The shiny metal doors slid closed and an illuminated number above them counted up to ten and then returned back to one. The shiny metal doors slid open again and a stunningly beautiful woman stepped out of the small room.

The Amish man thought about this phenomenon for a few seconds and turned to his boy. "Son, go fetch your ma."
I'm gonna smoke a turd in hell for this, aren't I?
There is Still Hope

As you know, I've blogrolled ProtestWarrior.com near the top, as this group takes the fight directly to the Left. No passive response here, they get right in their faces and force them to confront into congnitive dissonance by making them face their hypocrisy.

Well, there are still some young people able to think for themselves. I'll have another example up later, but this one makes me want to stand up and cheer.

Go read Operation Tiger Claw. It's worth every second of your time.
Not as Smooth as it Looked

NewScientist.com has an interesting story up on the SpaceShipOne flight of yesterday.
'Anomalies' in first private spaceflight revealed

12:27 22 June 04
NewScientist.com news service


The flight of the first private astronaut was not as perfect as it first appeared – a number of glitches occurred during the flight, some potentially catastrophic.

The revelations were made by Burt Rutan, designer of SpaceShipOne, which on Monday became the world's first privately funded craft to enter space. Until the team fully understands exactly what went wrong during the flight, he said, they will not go ahead with the pair of flights needed to claim the $10 million Ansari X-Prize.

Luckily, the glitches did not prevent a successful flight. But pilot Mike Melvill said that a partial failure of the system controlling the spacecraft's orientation could have been disastrous if it had occurred just slightly earlier in the flight,.

The problem struck at the end of the rocket engine's firing time of about 70 seconds, just as Melvill reached space. "As I came out of the atmosphere I no longer had any attitude control," Melvill told New Scientist and other reporters. "If that had happened earlier, I would never have made it and you all would be looking sad right now."
Read the whole thing.

See why I recommended that you re-read Bill Whittle's essay Courage?
Pass the Word

John Moore, author of Useful Fools is a fellow Arizonan and a Vietnam vet.

And John is not happy with the Democrat frontrunner for President.

No, I'd say John is pretty damned irate at the white-washing Kerry is receiving in the press when it comes to his "heroic war record" and his service in Vietnam. So John would like some help from the blogosphere in spreading the truth, rather than the elaborately stage-managed propaganda that we've been seeing.

Please read his link-filled post "Kerry Smeared His Country and The Press is Hiding It", and send a link to it to all your friends.

Hell, maybe even Prof. Reynolds will pick up on it.

Monday, June 21, 2004

I Also Do Requests

Reader Sarah forwarded a link to me and asked that I fisk it. It's to the Brady Campaign's "CCW FAQ" page. I'm very much pressed for time at the moment, so I'm going to have to do this in pieces, but I promised her I'd do it, and it is fiskworthy, as you'd expect. Let's get right to it, shall we?
Q: What is a "carrying concealed weapons" license?
A:
A "carrying concealed weapons" (CCW) license allows an individual to carry a loaded, concealed gun.

CCW laws have nothing to do with private firearms ownership in the home. They relate solely to allowing individuals to carry their concealed guns almost anywhere in the community.
Except places where the government prohibits, like courtrooms and schools and restaurants that serve alcohol, and places that have signs prohibiting concealed carry on the premises. Pretty much anywhere the Brady Bunch et al. can get the business owner to object.
Q: The gun lobby, headed by the National Rifle Association, has been engaged in a major campaign in all 50 states to pass the weakest CCW laws. What is their rationale for making it easier for just about anyone to carry a concealed, loaded weapon?
A:
It is extremely important to understand the NRA's motivation for advocating these laws - the NRA is a special interest group whose primary goal is to increase gun ownership in America.
Right-o! The idea behind the NRA is to have a nation of marksmen - people who possess weapons and are trained in their proper use. I'm all for that.
The NRA no longer disguises the fact that they are an advocacy group for the gun industry. In response to questions about the new, more deadly ultracompact guns that have appeared on the market, Tanya Metaksa, chief lobbyist for the NRA, crowed that: "The gun industry should send me a basket of fruit - our efforts have created a new market."
"More deadly"? More deadly that what? The high-capacity pistols that they made ultra-expensive by stopping the manufacture of magazines of greater than 10 rounds capacity? How is an "ultracompact" 9mm handgun that holds ten rounds "more deadly" than a regular sized one that carries fifteen? Sophistry.

This is evidence that "the NRA is an advocacy group for the gun industry"? The NRA must have a gun industry to accomplish its ends - defined above as "increasing gun ownership in America." Allowing the gun controllers to wipe out the source lets them end-run the Second Amendment without bothering to overthrow it. Damned straight the NRA supports the gun manufacturers. The gun banners change the rules, and then bitch when the market responds to the rule changes. You don't get it both ways.

Or perhaps, if you're the Brady Bunch, you do.
Laws that make it easier to carry concealed weapons are legislative sales tools for the gun industry and their loudest cheerleader, the NRA. In fact, gun sellers view these laws as excellent marketing tools. According to the Vice President of Marketing for Interarms, the effort to weaken CCW laws is the "most important star on the horizon."
They sure are. And they're also a great way for people to take responsibility for their own safety. It's a win-win situation for people who want to be citizens and not wards of the State.
Former National Rifle Association President Tom Washington was often quoted as saying: "an armed society is a polite society."
If he was, he was quoting author Robert Anson Heinlein from one of his science fiction novels.
If this were the case, the United States would be the most polite society on earth. Already there are over 222 million privately-owned firearms in the country, and we are by no means the safest nation on earth.
And we are not and armed nation. We're a nation with a lot of guns, certainly, but we're not "armed" in the sense that Heinlein meant it. Here's the entire quotation:
"An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life."
(Emphasis mine.) In Heinlein's meaning, "armed" means "bearing weapons." Yes, perhaps as in carrying concealed. Yet in the states that have "shall issue" CCW only about 2% of the eligible population actually acquire a permit, and it's probable that only about half of those actually carry at any time. This is hardly an "armed society."

We've got lots of guns in cabinets, safes, and closets, but very damned few in hand or on hips. Perhaps if there were more of the violent but protective out there bearing arms, our society would be more polite.
In 1994, 38,505 Americans were killed by firearms - in homicides, suicides and accidents. Between 1987 and 1994, the rate for non-handgun murders declined by 11%, while the rate of handgun homicides increased by 52%. 1.1 million violent crimes were committed with handguns in 1993. Recently, the extraordinary benefits of reasonable gun control laws like the Brady Law, the Federal ban on assault weapons, and certain state laws have started to emerge. Crime with guns is just now falling faster than the overall crime rate. It is vital that we continue to move forward in our fight against gun violence in America.
Spin, spin, spin. It's all they can do. They know that all the gun laws they've tried have not affected violent crime in the least, but they've got to make it look good. How about some reality? Here's the long-term homicide trend in the U.S., 1950 through 2000:

Click on the graph for the data set by year. Note that there were peaks in 1972, 1980, and 1991. By 1994 and the passage of the Assault Weapon Ban, the homicide rate was declining. Bear in mind that each and every year about two million new long guns and one million new handguns enter the civilian market. Including lots of those "assault weapons" that the Brady's and others protest "skirt the ban."

The Brady's want to take credit for that decline by citing "the Brady Law, the Federal ban on assault weapons (that isn't a ban), and certain state laws." Let me present another graphic for you to look at of "certain state laws," and please note the dates:

Is CCW in any way responsible for the precipitous decade of decline in homicide rates? I don't know, but my assertion is every bit as possible as theirs. Throwing in the other statistics about violent crime and handguns? Just more cherry picking to obscure the fact that gun control laws haven't had any noticeable effect on crime rates. Here's another long-term trend, this time of gun crime:

Again, click on the graph for the source data. Notice that the Brady center picked 1993 - the WORST year for gun crime in the last 30 for their piece. But the Brady law was passed in 1994 and was reviewed in 2000 by the (not gun friendly) Journal of the American Medical Association by (not gun friendly) Jens Ludwig and Philip Cook of Georgetown University in their paper “Homicide and Suicide Rates Associated with Implementation of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.” Let me quote from the paper for you:
Our analyses provide no evidence that implementation of the Brady Act was associated with a reduction in homicide rates. In particular, we find no differences in homicide or firearm homicide rates to adult victims in the 32 treatment states directly subject to the Brady Act provisions compared with the remaining control states.

--

Although our study detected no reduction in homicide rates in treatment states compared with control states, we found that suicide rates for persons aged 55 years or older were reduced in the treatment states. The estimated association between the Brady Act treatment and gun suicide rates among persons aged 55 years and older is equal to ?0.92 per 100000 (95% CI, ?1.43 to ?0.42), or about 6% of the gun suicide rate among this age group in the control states after the Brady Act had become law.

However, we did not detect an association of the Brady Act with overall suicide rates.Wefind some signs of an offsetting increase in nongun suicides to those aged 55 years or older, which makes the reduction in the total suicide rate smaller than the reduction in gun suicides. Neither the increase in nongun suicides nor the decrease in suicides from all causes are statistically significant at the conventional 95% level, though the overall pattern of findings is consistent with theories of “weapon substitution."
Let me translate: The Brady law did not affect homicide. It resulted in some elderly men choosing a different method of committing suicide. That's it. And that result was reported by two champions of the gun control movement.

As I keep saying, the gun control philosophy cannot be wrong! So "Do it some more, only HARDER!" is ever the cry.

More to come...
WTF?

Kim, oh, Kim. And to think, I once respected your opinion.

Kim du Toit put up his flameworthy list of 25 People, Places Or Things That Are Popular, For No Apparent Reason

Here they are, with my comments:

1. Light beer

I don't drink, so I'll give this one a pass.

2. Chev Camaro

Chevy. It's CHEVY. And I'm a FORD GUY, but I'd still like to have a 1970 SS396.

3. Apocalypse Now

Another pass. What the hell was that about?

4. Tofu

I'm not into it, but my wife, who is Japanese, loves the stuff. Hell, I love grits.

5. Bob Dylan

Here we are in complete agreement, though I do like Lay Lady Lay.

6. DisneyWorld

I grew up in Florida, and went to Disney World the year they opened, and several times after. I went there on my honeymoon. Try being a KID, Kim. It helps.

But I would like to machinegun It's a Small World. And napalm the ruins.


7. Piercing of the private parts

I'm in full agreement on this one. Semi-precious boogers (nose piercings) are bad enough.

8. Candy with coconut in it

Mounds Bars RULE!.

9. Olive Garden restaurants

Salad and breadsticks. They need no other justification.

And have no other justification.


10. the NBA

Male ballet. We agree again.

11. Les Miz (the musical)

Haven't seen it, don't plan to.

12. California

An absolutely beautiful state. Too bad it's occupied by Californians. As someone once said, in the middle of the night the country tilted, and everything loose rolled into California.

13. Unintended Consequences, by John Ross

It's worth the read just for the history lesson in how civil liberties slip away while no one notices.

14. Windows operating systems

I've been using Windows since it came out. Beats Linux for the average user. And commercial software makers write A LOT of stuff for it, which is more than you can say about Apple.

15. the Rolling Stones

They're still going to be on stage when they're using walkers. They were once very good. Now they're just good, but I give 'em points for longevity.

16. Any novel by John Grisham

I've liked almost all of them. What, you were expecting Tolstoy?

17. Margarine

Two words: "Soft Spread."

18. Hawaii

Another beautiful place full of people disconnected from reality.

19. Lettuce

Iceberg. See "Olive Garden" above.

20. Sex In The City

Kim Cattral.

21. Buffalo wings

We're in full agreement here.

22. New Orleans

Never been there, but any place where women flash their breasteses for some cheap-ass plastic beads is OK in my book.

23. Suntanning

I burn like Joan of Arc, so I understand his aversion, but toasty brown is much more appealing than pasty-white.

24. the "music" of AC/DC

Hell's Bells. Back in Black. Highway to Hell. 'Nuff said.

25. Tattoos

Unless you're a sailor, I agree.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

And Now For Something Completely Different

The Bestofme Symphony™©® resides here this week, at The Smallest Minority. It's a bit of a change of pace for me, but as I've contributed to it several times, it seemed only fair to host it once. The Bestofme Symphony is made up of posts at least two months old that the authors were particularly pleased with, or some reader was and recommends that we all take a look at. In internet time that makes these posts antiques, but collectables.

Our first entry in this week's iteration is My Invasi...Err...Trip to Canada by The Lefty Destroyer from March 14. Described as "Aboot Invading Canadia, eh?" our fearless author reports on the land that is like America, only unarmed and with socialized medicine.

I think he's angling for Frank J.'s job, myself.

Entry #2 comes from The Smarter Cop, vintage March 29 (apparently a rare vintage). Entitled 20 MORE Questions I'd Like To Ask John F*** Kerry, Pietro gives the Presidential hopeful the other barrel from his 20 gauge. I'd like the answer to some of those, myself.

Our third entry comes from Mr. Cruse of The Owner's Manual. A brief piece from last April, Land of La Mancha? shows us a proposed $12 billion superscraper for the Moscow skyline, and draws a parallel of interest for the reader. Actually, it looks kinda cool, but I think that until we get a handle on those wacky muslims willing to fly airliners into tall structures, the insurance bill might be a bit high.

Fourth up, Andrew Ian Dodge of Dodgeblogium decries the sad editorial state of the once-righty UK newspaper The Spectator in another April entry, The Speccie in decline. Give it a read, eh wot?

Number five this week, one more April entry, comes from Practical Penumbra, with the tremendously enjoyable Pythonesque title Oh, Denis, there's some lovely filth down here! While this entry has nothing to do with Monty Python in actuality, it is set in a movie theater, and it does sound as though someone could use the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. On the customers.

Entry six comes to us from The Cycling Dude, who, unsurprisingly sends us an entry on (wait for it...) Cycling! But in this case political cycling! He gives us his April 5 entry, Congressional Bicycle Caucus: An Introduction. As he says, "How many ordinary bicyclists are even aware that there is such a thing as the Congressional Bicycle Caucus among the members of the United States House of Representatives?" (Damned special interest groups. They're in the pocket of the bicycle manufacturers, you know. Only interested in selling more bicycles. They just want to see more kids killed and injured in bicycle accidents... Ok, I'll stop now.)

Our seventh entry comes from link whore Symphony Founder Jim Peacock of Snooze Button Dreams. His January 13 post I Can Read Your Mind is one of those "How the Hell Does THAT Work?" mindbender things. Try it out.

Entry #8 comes to us again from April. The Watcher of Weasles gives us A Recipe for Disaster. Yes, hindsight is 20/20, but sometimes that light at the end of the tunnel is the oncoming train, too.

Our ninth entry comes to us from Interested Participant from (guess when?) April. Apparently Acidman read this one and it inspired his last trip. It seems that Key West has been taking suggestions from San Francisco on how to attract vagrants, er, bums, um... the employment-challenged. *Ahem* The Homeless. In Key West - A New Image he explains how in a matter of weeks after implementing new plans to "help" the unfortunate, they got themselves a LOT of unfortunates. Who'dathunkit? Give it a read and see, once again, how the concept of "cause and effect" seems to escape people who win public office. Sounds like a dream vacation to me. (The beach bum part, not the public official part.)

I have no personal entry in this week's Symphony. I do, however, have a fairly long list on the left column of my blog of posts I think were good or important that you can peruse. I will ask you to read something, though. In honor of today's (June 21) attempt by the team at Scaled Composites to meet the challenge of the X-Prize in their scheduled launch of Space Ship One to 100km altitude, please read (or if you already have, re-read) Bill Whittle's essay Courage. It takes courage to do this stuff, and America is the land built on courage and the willingness to face risks in order to win in the end. We may stumble, and we may fall, but we always get back up. Nobody does it better. We will carry on the dream. We ARE carrying on the dream.

Upcoming sites for The Bestofme Symphony:

Jun 28 - Xset
July 05 - Wetwired
July 12 - The Owner's Manual
July 19 - Sneakeasy's Joint
July 26 - Various Orthodoxies
Aug 02 - (Your blog here) Go ahead. Volunteer. I did. NOW Jim's bribing people to host. Me, I did it for free. (grumblegrumblegripebitchmoan...)

Saturday, June 19, 2004

I Can See Myself Wasting LOTS of Time on This

Via MadOgre I found this, ah, entertaining little game.

Try it out.

Be careful with the rocket launcher, though.
Oh <sarcasm>JOY</sarcasm>.

John Lott has The Smallest Minority on his blogroll.

Somehow I don't think John has read all I've had to say about him.
Rodger is Back, and In Style

Read, if you would please, this post at Curmudgeonly & Skeptical. Then study this photo:

And remember, our kids learn this stuff, they aren't born with it. Someone has to teach it to them while they're still young skulls full of mush. People like Lt. Smash recently interviewed.

And we let it happen. And these people grow up to be CNN employees, and NYT employees, and other media outlet employees, and so affect the information that the rest of America gets to see, and not see.

We'd best get off our asses and stop that.

(Edited to add:)

Kids need to learn about THIS:


CONGRATULATIONS!

SayUncle is now a DADDY!

Go wish him and his family well.

Friday, June 18, 2004

I Just Ordered My Next Politically Incorrect T-Shirt


You might consider one for yourself.


Available through The Ranger Quartermaster. $15 plus freight.
Black Man with a Gun

I'm really short on time, but in response to one commenter yesterday that prompted me for the first time to edit a comment for content, I'd like to put up two links I think everybody should read.

The first is Justin Buist's latest post from Monday entitled Michael Moore (post permalink seems broken) - particularly his transcription of part of a Kenneth Blanchard CD that he has. The second is the link to Kenneth's site, www.blackmanwithagun.com.

Violent and predatory, or violent but protective. Remember the difference. Skin color is irrelevant in that.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

SAY IT AIN'T SO!!!

Curmudgeonly & Skeptical calling it quits?

And I was about to add Roger to my blogroll!

Nooooooo!

Come back, Rodger, come back!

Kim du Toit reports that C&S was spambombed and his site was wrecked, but he will be rebuilding it. Bummer, Rodger.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

More on the "Aggressive Edge" and the Joy of Shooting

Just ran across this post by SondraK via Curmudgeonly & Skeptical (who refers to Ms. K as "Our Lady of Perpetual Moistness"... Hmmm.)
I had a fear of guns for a long time. Not that I thought they were bad or dangerous, but mostly because I thought I might be with one in my hands. Lack of experience was largely to blame and a fear of having so much power. I waited until I was 28 to get my driver's license for pretty much the same reason.

I decided a couple years ago to get a grip on this and hooked up with a local Libertarian group who were sponsoring a women's rifle class at a gun club nearby. On a whim I signed up and showed up on a Saturday morning with a girlfriend who had a little experience but wanted to brush up on her knowledge. There were about 50 women and about 20 instructors, mostly gentlemen intent on making the experience fulfilling, comfortable, and safe. It was. I ended up coming in 3rd place out of 50 and was hooked. It was so exhilarating! I went out shortly after and procured my concealed weapon’s permit.

About a year later I hooked up with my blogger blastorama boys. Their goal too, was to get as many folks out there learning and shooting. I must say that spending time with these guys was the best thing I could have ever done for my firearm training. They are patient, knowledgeable, and generous with both their time and their vast collections of guns to share. I started out fairly slowly, my confidence building each time I put a gun in my hand.
Read the whole thing. Really excellent! Read the comments, too.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Pardon Me, But I Don't Want to be "Anglicized"

From ThisisLondon.com
Steaming gang's terror reign

A "steaming" gang has been convicted of preying on passengers in a four-month rampage on trains and buses.

The gang, sometimes more than 20 strong, attacked up to 80 victims on public transport.
Is that "80 victims at a time" or "80 victims in total"?
In an eight-week trial, Harrow Crown Court heard how the mob, aged between 13 and 23, came together from all over London and met at the Trocadero in Piccadilly Circus.

They concentrated on late-night buses in central London and early-morning commuter trains from Gravesend, St Albans and Brighton.

They would surround victims, holding passengers captive and systematically robbing them. As the reign of terror went on, the violence increased.

One man had his cheekbone shattered in an attack on a late-night bus and required surgery to reconstruct his face.

Days earlier, an off-duty woman police officer had been surrounded on a train, covered in spit and threatened with rape.

The mob were caught in a police operation involving more than 250 officers who targeted 20 addresses across London. The last of 15 identified members was convicted yesterday. They will be sentenced next month.
Now, if ONE victim had a handgun, do you think this group would have dispersed and thought long and hard about attacking anyone else?

One phrase comes to my mind when I read this: "No, Ace. Just you."
Outside court, Detective Chief Inspector Philip Kent, the officer in charge of the case, said: "The railways, streets and buses are a safer place as a result of this trial.
Bullshit. There's not a damned thing to stop another group from doing exactly the same thing. THIS group got away with it for MONTHS. And criminals never think they'll get caught.
"It is an excellent outcome and the result of a lot of very hard work by the British Transport Police, the prosecution team and Met police officers.
Except for the guy who needs his face reconstructed, that is. Oh, and the eighty-odd other victims. I'm sure they're just thrilled at the outcome.
"The levels of violence in these attacks were increasing and it is important now that they are sentenced appropriately as a warning to others."

The court heard how the gang used street names, such as Evil, Havoc and Boxer, and carried knives, metal pipes and an imitation handgun. They were convicted on 25 counts of robbery and conspiracy to rob between September and December 2002, although police believe they may have targeted up to 80 victims.
I seem to recall someone defending England's weapons laws by saying,

"If the law disarms attackers, then it can make self defence possible where it would have been impossible if the attacker was armed."

I liked Sarah's version of it better:

"If the law disarms citizens, then it can make self defence impossible where it would have been possible if the citizen was armed."

One against twenty? And the only weapon available to the victim is foul language? But they've got knives, blunt instruments, and an imitation handgun. According to reports I've read, getting your hands on a REAL handgun isn't all that difficult in London. You just have to be a criminal with a little cash.

That you could get from, say, mugging some people on a bus.
Twelve members of the gang pleaded guilty at two connected hearings - Joseph Gbonda, 18, from Herne Hill, Ashraf Ali, 18, from Peckham, Richard Tavenier, 18, from Mitcham, Philip Fahie, 21, from Edmonton, Jarrell Edwin, 22, from Peckham, Malik Jones, 19, from Acton, Faisal Navaid, 20, from Wandsworth, Foday Dumbuya, 18, from Mitcham and two 17-year-old boys and a 16-year-old boy and girl who cannot be named because of their age.

Chelsea Waldron, 18, from Hayes, David Moroney, 18, from Islington, and a 13-year-old boy who cannot be named were found guilty by the jury of conspiracy to rob.

Half the gang were under 16 at the time of the attacks - and yet among them they had 35 previous convictions for offences including robbery and grievous bodily harm.
LOVELY set of thugs they're growing over there, eh? They don't fear anything because, quite frankly, there's not much to fear.

Violent and predatory.

There is no more violent but defensive.
One senior police source said: "They are opportunist thugs. Their crime was not sophisticated, but they became embroiled in a gang culture.

"They were in it for the kicks and to finance a life based around underground clubs and girls."

Stolen mobile phones were the gang's trophies and plundered cash funded designer clothing and gold jewellery, but the spoils of crime were only part of it. Success fuelled their egos and they began to enjoy the ritual humiliation of their prey.

Victims recalled the laughter as blows rained down upon them.

Damon Murphy, a strapping 30-year-old taking a bus home after a night out in the West End, was so badly beaten he required surgery to reconstruct his face.

The attack only lasted five or six seconds, but the force of the blows shattered his cheekbone. He could not eat for two weeks and feared permanent damage to his sight. Last month, two years after his ordeal, he broke down in court while giving evidence from behind a protective screen. "I am still not over it," he admitted.

Excluded from schools and torn between parents, the gang slipped easily into a life of petty crime on council estates and the streets. The uncle of one of the 17-year-old boys, who had been expelled from school, said: "I do not know how he could do these things. It is very sad and distressing."
Hmm... Could it be because NO ONE PARENTED THE KID??? No discipline, no guidance, no parenting?
Joseph Gbonda, who became known as Flamer after scarring himself playing with fire as a child, took to the streets after his father Joseph, an accountant from Sierra Leone, split from his mother Juliet.

Even when he was locked in his room under a 7pm to 7am curfew, Gbonda would escape through the window. A cousin claimed he preferred the streets to being torn between his mother and father. Youths from estates in Peckham and Mitcham joined with those from Edmonton and Hayes to form a loose-knit group of 15 that could swell to more than 20.
The obligatory "society is at fault" spin.

IT DOESN'T MATTER.

These kids are DESTROYED. They have NO FUTURE as anything but thugs. Their society does not have the resources necessary to retrieve them and make them productive citizens. No society does. IT'S TOO LATE. When they get out, they'll do something similar (probably several dozen somethings similiar - or worse) and finally get caught and go right back in. Except this time they might actually kill someone.
The Trocadero's frenzied music, noisy arcades and flashing neon lights have long attracted groups of youths.

It became the mob's favourite haunt as they waited for numbers to accumulate and the late-night stragglers to start making their way home.

Dressed in bright coloured hoods, baseball caps, beanies and baggy jeans, they greeted each other with a casual press of their fists.

There was no ringleader, but there was always a plan of attack.

The gang would take it in turns to make the first approach, with the youngest member often chosen as a test of his bravery and to add to the humiliation for the victim.

A 13-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, became a specialist. A small child, his angelic face belied his vast experience on the streets. He has two previous convictions for common assault and two for theft.

The boy's mother had abandoned her flat on a squalid council estate in Streatham to live with her boyfriend. But during the day the boy and his friends would use the derelict house as a den.

They ravaged the house, breaking all the windows. Neighbours said the boy never went to school and roamed the streets. In the attacks, while he made conversation with victims, the others filed into seats in front and behind the target and some hovered in the aisles. They taunted the victim, watching their fear turn into panic. Then they struck.

The passenger would be engulfed in a flurry of fists and boots.

Hands rummaged through pockets and bags looking for wallets and mobile phones.

Sometimes victims managed to push the emergency stop button on trains, and the gang would flee along the tracks. On buses they burst through the doors and split up, escaping to all parts of London.

Jarrell Edwin, also known as Evil, would return to the flat he shares with his mother in one of Pe ckham's mo s t abject council estates. Gbonda lives nearby, as does Ashraf Ali. Ali, a quiet and shy child from a large Bangladeshi family, developed into an impossible adolescent after falling in with gangs on his street.

His meek mother barely speaks a word of English. His father, who suffers from a long-term illness, is intimidated by Ash and unable to control him.

Richard Tavenier lives in Mitcham and is king of his estate, threatening anyone who confronts him and even breaking into his neighbours' cars parked near his house.

His mother, Beverley, a devoted Christian from Jamaica, does not dare chastise him.

When Tavenier's stepfather, Randolph Nevins, tried to assert himself, it only made things worse.

He is already out of prison after serving half of his two-year sentence. One of his neighbours whose son has been threatened by him said she fears for her boy's life and is trying to move out of the area.

The first trial - which convicted eight members of the gang who had pleaded guilty - served only two prison sentences.

But even as they faced jail, the gang's casual disregard for the law remained unchecked.

In the dock they were noisy and arrogant - swearing, laughing and sneering their way through an eight-week trial.

Police said many broke their conditions of bail and have been reoffending on an almost daily basis.

Even relatives of the mob agree it is a depressing cycle of violence and crime.

"I cannot defend my cousin or any of them," said one relation. "It is a service to society that these kids should be named and their crimes exposed. But I only wish it would impact on the way they act.
Named and exposed. Oh my.

Probation. Oh dear.

And they wonder why this happens?
"Sadly, I fear it will not make any difference."
It won't. You can see it RIGHT NOW.

Because the philosophy says protection of the citizenry is the responsibility of the government, not the people themselves. And the government can't do the job.

Not won't - CAN'T. And everybody knows it.

Everybody.

Some just won't accept what that means. So they do the same things some more, only harder, and never wonder why it never helps. They just pat themselves on the back over the "very hard work" that results in "excellent outcomes".

Outcomes like those described at the bottom of the article.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Americans, Gun Controllers, and the "Aggressive Edge"

I rented the Collector's Edition 2-disc set of James Cameron's Aliens this weekend, and thoroughly enjoyed the extended director's cut of the film. It made a good movie that much better, in my opinion, and it should have been the one originally released. Anyway, the second disc has a lot of special features about the making of the movie; the pre-production, the casting, filming, special effects, etc. And there were interviews interspersed with the cast and crew and support people. Some of those interviews were really fascinating to me.

The first section on pre-production talked about the fact that the film was shot in England, mostly at Pinewood Studios, but this little bit piqued my interest:
Mary Selway, UK casting for Aliens:

"It was INCREDIBLY hard to do, because, um, James kept saying, 'State of the art firepower. They've got to be incredibly, sort of on the cutting edge of American military...'

"So, what often happens here when American actors come to live in England, they become a bit Anglicized, and they don't... they lose that really, sort of aggressive edge if you like, that this sort casting required."
She said it, I didn't.

Immediately after Ms. Selway's piece:
Gale Anne Hurd - producer.

"I think we probably went through 3,000 people before we could even consider bringing anyone over from the United States."
Hmmm... They went through 3,000 "Anglicized" people and couldn't get enough aggressive ones?

Well, two Americans they did find in England were Jenette Goldstein, who played Vasquez, and Mark Rolston, who played the other heavy gunner, Drake. However, they apparently brought Lance Henrikson, who played the "artificial person" Bishop over straight from New York:
"The first time I walked on the set..

"I told you this story...

"The AD (Assistant Director) put his hand on my chest, and, and, nobody ever touched me like that - you know, like stopping me, and I, um, being from New York I said to him, uh 'You ever touch me again, I'm gonna kick your ass.'

"The next thing he did was say, 'Alright. Bring in the Artiste!"

"And I said, 'Man, you really are a wise guy' because I thought he was, like, putting us down, and I, I didn't realize the British call people "artistes."

"Even though we speak the same language, it's a different language. And...

"They're different than us."
That's pretty apparent. And it's also apparent that we both prefer it that way.

The next part that really got my attention was the section on the weapons used in the movie. There's a lot of neat technical stuff and pictures to keep us gun-nuts happy, but the interviews with the actors were, shall we say, illuminating. Some of the interviews were shot during principal filming, and some were shot for the 2003 DVD special edition re-release. I'll identify them where I think it's important:
Sigourney Weaver, during initial filming:

"It's actually hard for me morally to justify being in a film with so many guns.

"I just find it... very upsetting. And that's the biggest problem for me, is that I, reading the script, I had no idea how...martial the atmosphere would be, and how much emphasis that would have.

"I give money to anti-gun legislation, and..

"I mean, I never, I never even go to see movies about guns. Especially killing people. I can't, you know, I mean I just think... Oooh, I think it would be very difficult for an actor. You'd really have to sort of, do a number on yourself, you know."
Apparently not some actors:
Bill Paxton (Hudson):

"I love shooting guns. That's like the best part of my job."

Michael Biehn (Hicks):

"I got a really good sense of handling weapons when I did The Terminator because I had that shotgun throughout, and I was always firing off weapons and working with, with uh, you know, the guns."

Bill Paxton:

"Oh, I've shot a few weapons in a couple different situations, and I grew up in Texas. I shot a lot of shotguns and stuff like that."

Jenette Goldstein (Vasquez):

"I've never shot a gun before. I'm actually frightened of guns. You know. It doesn't take any imagination for me to pretend that it's a real weapon."

Al Matthews (Sgt. Apone):

"Well, y'know I suffer from the Vietnam syndrome. If you point a gun at me I'm gonna shove it down your throat. I'm sorry to say that. (Laughing) Sorry gang! But that's the truth. If you point...

"So, uh, we have things where everyone's instinct is to automatically put their fingers on the trigger. Well they stopped doing that on the set with me, because I don't have it. I really don't have it. It's an instinct. That's the way I was trained, thank you very much America. Uh, that's how I was trained because you put your finger when you're talking or you're waving your weapon around, I'm gonna jam it down your throat. I gotta do that."

"At some points, we're using blanks. Uh, blanks can hurt people. And so if everyone's aware of, of what it is that they're actually walking around with, I want each and every one of these people, which they have already done, they're starting to fall in love with their guns. I know it sounds very silly, but, from a military point of view, it's correct."
Remember that quote. There'll be a test at the end...

I was very pleased to see Al Matthews' interview piece. Excellent!

However:
Sigourney Weaver, filmed during the original shooting of Aliens:

"I don't think Ripley is a gun person. At all. And I want to make sure that in those scenes, although I look like I'm handling it, I don't turn into a Marine. I'm not a soldier. I never wanna be a soldier.

"The thing that scares me about the guns is that after you've been using then a couple of days, you go 'Oh, well, you know, this is...' you know, it, you sort of get into it. And I think that's what happens to people with real guns, and I think, I think Jim Cameron's very anti-gun too, in his own way, but yet I think he's fascinated by them in a way that I'm not.

"I don't like that feeling you get after you've shot off a few rounds of "I'm Immortal" you know. It's just.. garbage."
So, familiarity breeds contempt. Or, in the case of some of the actors, love. For an "anti-gun" guy, Jim Cameron's made some hellacious gun advertisements blowup movies.

But wait! There's more!
Sigourney Weaver, filmed for the 2003 special edition release:

"There were moments on Aliens where I had to shoot stunt dummies who were dressed as aliens. I would have to shoot stuntmen who were moving as aliens. And, um, I always thought it was amazing. We rehearse it, of course, in detail. But then they kinda left it to me. I mean I know they were blanks, but still the.. I mean, what if I'd flamed a real person, you know? They trusted me completely. And I have to say that once you start shooting, you get to lik... you know, the, the target practice alone was, you know, very, like (growls) you know. (With a smile.)
Putting on my amateur psychoanalyst's jacket...

So, Sigourney Weaver, gun hater, was trusted to use a flamethrower and a (blank-firing) gun on the set. Other people trusted her completely. Apparently she doesn't trust herself and finds the concept somewhat disturbing and encouraging at the same time. She admits - almost - to liking to shoot the set weapons. She found it, let's say, primitively exciting, but at the same time the fact that she liked it frightened her.

One thing I think that is common among the really strident anti-gun people is the fear of responsibility, and they see guns (quite rightly) as a large responsibility. They don't think themselves worthy of it. They fear a loss of control. Or they fear an inability to handle it. Not that evil brain-warping waves will cause them to rush out and commit mass murder, but that they just aren't responsible enough to have a gun. Since they have found themselves unworthy, they don't trust others to handle that responsibility either, because hey! They're just average people like everyone else, right?

After all, they have so many examples to point to of people who misuse guns both criminally and negligently, they must be right.

Right?

This letter to Kim du Toit (fourth one down the page) is illustrative of that mindset. An excerpt:
I thought, all my life, that I couldn't own a gun safely, that no one could, really. Guns were dangerous and icky. Even after I realized that the Second Amendment was not quite the shriveled, antiquated appendix I'd been taught, for a couple of years or so I still wobbled around with the training-wheel comfort of believing that while not all gun owners were necessarily gap-toothed red-necked fascist militia whackos, I myself ought not to own firearms. I was too clumsy and careless, and guns were still dangerous and icky.
Read the whole thing, and Kim's response. I'll still be here when you get back.

Some who get over their inner misgivings actually learn to shoot. Many of them lose that fear, learn that they are responsible, and begin to see the flaws in gun control philosophy. Some "get into it." They learn to like guns - something Sigourney Weaver fears. Few of us develop an "I'm Immortal" sense of power. Guns don't make you immortal. Only fools think that. But some stay fearful, and never learn to be responsible for themselves. They depend on others exclusively to do the difficult, dangerous stuff.

I think the difference between Americans in general and the "anglicized" English is that most of us believe we're at some level personally responsible, and that along with that responsibility comes at least a little agressiveness.

I'd much rather have Lance Henrikson as a neighbor than Sigourney Weaver. And I think having Bill Paxton or Michael Biehn on the other side would be a blast.

I hope that America doesn't ever lose that aggressive edge. It's important in more than just casting.

(Edited to correct the spelling of "aggressive" - which I know has two "g's" - dammit.)