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

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Quick Post.

Saw Serenity last night. Full house, 413 seat theater. Quick take: Excellent movie. Much longer post to follow, but I got up at 3:30 this morning, and I walked in the door to my home at 9:45PM this evening. Long day. Another one tomorrow.

Go see Serenity. You won't be disappointed if you like this blog.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Compass Resigns. Lawsuits to Follow.

Glad to see it. Hope it doesn't get him off the hook.
Police Superintendent Eddie Compass resigned Tuesday after four turbulent weeks in which the police force was wracked by desertions and disorganization in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath.

"I served this department for 26 years and have taken it through some of the toughest times of its history. Every man in a leadership position must know when it's time to hand over the reins," Compass said at a news conference. "I'll be going on in another direction that God has for me."

As the city slipped into anarchy during the first few days after Katrina, the 1,700-member police department itself suffered a crisis. Many officers deserted their posts, and some were accused of joining in the looting that broke out. Two officers Compass described as friends committed suicide.
The story goes on, but no mention of Compass's announcement that "Everyone will be disarmed. Only police officers will have guns." Nor was there any mention of the Federal District Court injunction against further confiscations, nor the claim by Nagin and Compass that they did not order any confiscations, and that no confiscations occurred, nor that the plaintiff in the case resulting in the injunction has had the guns that weren't confiscated from him returned.

Check out SayUncle and work your way backwards. He's got all the details.

Awwww DAMN.

Fellow blogger Dale of Mostly Cajun reports on the aftermath of Hurricane Rita's rampage through SW Louisiana as it directly affected him:
I got into my own van and headed to my house. I’d lost shingles and the chimney to my fireplace and the old TV antenna, in addition to some corrugated steel off my workshop. I’d brought a portable generator to power up my freezer and refrigerator so I wouldn’t lose any food. I connected that up and had them both running.

Further exploring the house, I found that I had water dripping inside from the damaged roof, so I spread some pans around to catch the drips and headed to my office to get a wet-vac and a ladder so I could suck up the water and put one of those blue tarps over the damaged roof.

When I got back, smoke was pouring out of my house. I called 9-1-1 to report the fire. After I finished reporting, I ran to the house to see if I could break in windows to let out my cats, but the smoke and the fierce heat coming off the building were so much that I couldn’t get within a few yards.

The local fire department responded very fast, but when they got there, the community water system was dry, killed by Hurrican Rita. They called for assistance from several nearby fire departments who transported water in, but the house was a total loss.

Did you ever think about what you lose? Four loyal pets...irreplaceable. Itty, Splot, Mollie, Callie, my four cats... Mom and Dad’s photo albums... photos of the past 80 years. My library...books I’d acquired over the past twenty-odd years. My gun collection... Personal papers... On and on and on... All gone. Devastation is an over-used word. I use it here...
Damn, Dale. What can I do to help?

Monday, September 26, 2005

OK, Ravenwood,.

I'll see your fighting hamster, and raise you a commando gerbil!

Never take a knife to a gunfight!

(Thanks, Ben. I needed that!)

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Newspeak

I watched a movie this afternoon that I hadn't seen in a while, The Majestic, starring Jim Carrey. It was set in 1951, during the House Unamerican Activities hearings. It's a sort of Capra-esque period film, but, given what's been happening in the news politically recently, it was interesting to watch. It has inspired this post, and hopefully one other if I can eke it out by tomorrow.
The Declaration of Independence? The Constitution? They’re pieces of paper with signatures on them. And you know what a piece of paper with a signature is? A contract. And contracts can be renegotiated at any time. - Author Michael Sloan from the screenplay for The Majestic, spoken by the character Leo Kubelsky, studio lawyer.
--
In his opening statement kicking off "Ghosts of Nominations Past: Setting the Record Straight," Sen. Schumer declared that Senate Democrats on the committee had been doing their level best to grapple with a breakdown in the process caused by Republicans. The problem, according to Sen. Schumer, went well beyond the stalling resorted to by Republicans when they were last in charge of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The crux of the matter was President Bush's determination to pack the federal courts with "right-wing ideologues" in the mold of Scalia and Thomas, judges well outside of the mainstream, bent on implementing their extremist political views through conservative judicial activism. What was needed, Sen. Schumer proclaimed, was for the president to nominate moderates — by which he seemed to mean those who would interpret and enforce the law, rather than disregard and willfully rewrite it in order to advance a fierce partisan agenda. - Peter Berkowitz, National Review Online - It's Unanimous - May 17, 2002
--
(Senator Hillary) Clinton announced Thursday she will oppose Roberts after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-5 to recommend confirmation. The full Senate is expected to vote next week.

She cited "an obligation to my constituents to make sure that I cast my vote for chief justice of the United States for someone I am convinced will be steadfast in protecting fundamental women's rights, civil rights, privacy rights, and who will respect the appropriate separation of powers among the three branches."

She added that after Roberts' testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month, "I believe the record on these matters has been left unclear."

She said her "desire to maintain the already fragile Supreme Court majority for civil rights, voting rights and women's rights outweighs the respect I have for Judge Roberts' intellect, character and legal skills."

Edward Cox, a Manhattan lawyer and son-in-law of President Richard Nixon who also is seeking the GOP Senate nomination, said Clinton "had a chance to show that she could rise above blind partisanship and not be beholden to left-wing attack groups."

"The senator unfortunately has again decided to join the likes of Ted Kennedy and the liberal wing of her party in support of judicial activism," Cox added. - Associated Press story, 9/24/05
--
Ruth Bader Ginsburg told an audience Wednesday that she doesn't like the idea of being the only female justice on the Supreme Court. But in choosing to fill one of the two open positions on the court, "any woman will not do," she said.

There are "some women who might be appointed who would not advance human rights or women's rights," Ginsburg told those gathered at the New York City Bar Association. - AP Story, 9/21/05
--
If Americans loved judicial activism, liberals wouldn't be lying about what it is. Judicial activism means making up constitutional rights in order to strike down laws the justices don't like based on their personal preferences. It's not judicial activism to strike down laws because they violate the Constitution.

But liberals have recently taken to pretending judicial activism is -- as The New York Times has said repeatedly -- voting "to invalidate laws passed by Congress." Invalidating laws has absolutely nothing to do with "judicial activism." It depends on whether the law is unconstitutional or not. That's really the key point. - Ann Coulter, Actually, 'Judicial Activism' Means E=MC2
--
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - that's all." - Lewis Carrol, Through the Looking Glass
--
“My obligation is to the Constitution. That’s the oath.” - Judge John Roberts, Senate confirmation testimony.
That's a lot of quotes, but hopefully you got the gist of it. For the Left, "judicial activism" is restraining "progressive" legislation (that just happens to contravene the Constitution). For the Right, "judicial activism" is creating law from the bench, or upholding "progressive" legislation though it violates the Constitution, because it "advances rights," (as the Left defines "advancing rights.")

The Senate Democrats proclaim that they want to make sure that Roberts is a "moderate," or at least not a "judicial activist." They've suddenly fallen in love with the concept of stare decisis. As I noted back in June over the Janice Rogers Brown nomination, at question is what Duke University law professor Erwin Chemerinsky called "shred(ding) the last eighty years of American Constitutional law." Yet his counterpart, Chapman University law professor John Eastman rebuked him:
What happened seventy or eighty years ago that changed the Constitution? There was not a single amendment at issue in the 1930's that changed the Constitution. Some radical, federal programs were pushed through. Some radical judges, under pressure, finally signed on them, and the notion that we can't question that unconstitutional action that occurred in the 1930's, and somehow that defending that unconstitutionality is adherent to the rule of law, is rather extraordinary. There are scholars on left and right that have understood that what went on in the 1930's was...had no basis in Constitutional law, or in the letter of the Constitution itself.
But it extends well past the 1930's, and everyone in the Senate knows it. Chemerinski recently wrote:
Since (Lewis F.) Powell's resignation, Sandra Day O'Connor has been the fifth vote in such crucial areas as upholding the right to abortion, limiting campaign contributions, protecting the separation of church and state, and permitting universities to engage in affirmative action.
None of this was, in Chemerinski's eyes, "judicial activism," and he adds:
Democrats need to oppose any nominee who would bring about significant changes in these areas.
James Madison, writing under the pseudonym Publius, in Federalist #78 defined the intent of the Supreme Court:
By a limited Constitution, I understand one which contains certain specified exceptions to the legislative authority; such, for instance, as that it shall pass no bills of attainder, no ex-post-facto laws, and the like. Limitations of this kind can be preserved in practice no other way than through the medium of courts of justice, whose duty it must be to declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void. Without this, all the reservations of particular rights or privileges would amount to nothing.
However, see: Kelo v. New London, Raich v. Gonzales, Wickard v. Filburn, Scott v. Sanford, U.S. v. Cruikshank, ...
There is no position which depends on clearer principles, than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.

If it be said that the legislative body are themselves the constitutional judges of their own powers, and that the construction they put upon them is conclusive upon the other departments, it may be answered, that this cannot be the natural presumption, where it is not to be collected from any particular provisions in the Constitution. It is not otherwise to be supposed, that the Constitution could intend to enable the representatives of the people to substitute their WILL to that of their constituents. It is far more rational to suppose, that the courts were designed to be an intermediate body between the people and the legislature, in order, among other things, to keep the latter within the limits assigned to their authority. The interpretation of the laws is the proper and peculiar province of the courts. A constitution is, in fact, and must be regarded by the judges, as a fundamental law. It therefore belongs to them to ascertain its meaning, as well as the meaning of any particular act proceeding from the legislative body. If there should happen to be an irreconcilable variance between the two, that which has the superior obligation and validity ought, of course, to be preferred; or, in other words, the Constitution ought to be preferred to the statute, the intention of the people to the intention of their agents.
Which is why every elected and appointed Federal official swears an oath, not to the flag, not to the nation, not to the President nor to Congress, but to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

But of course, if you're able to redefine the language, "uphold and defend" can mean anything you like. Just like "judicial activism."
Today’s decision is simply the latest in a string of our cases construing the Public Use Clause to be a virtual nullity, without the slightest nod to its original meaning.

Something has gone seriously awry with this Court’s interpretation of the Constitution. Kelo v. City of New London, Thomas, J. dissenting.
--
The Court must be living in another world. Day by day, case by case, it is busy designing a Constitution for a country I do not recognize. Wabaunsee v. Umbehr, Scalia, J. dissenting.
--
That's the First Amendment, Mr. Chairman. It's the backbone of this nation. It's everything that gives us the potential to be right and good and just -- if only we'd live up to that potential. It's what gives me the right to sit in this chair and say my piece before this committee without fear. It's the most important part of the contract that every citizen has with this country. And even though this contract... the Constitution and the Bill of Rights -- even though they're just pieces of paper with signatures on them -- they're the only contracts we have that are most definitely not subject to renegotiation. - Author Michael Sloan from the screenplay for The Majestic, spoken by lead character Peter Appleton.
Apparently Mr. Sloan hasn't been paying attention to the courts.

But he's bang-on-the-money about that "if only we'd live up to that potential" part.
I Hope Everyone's All Right.

Mostly Cajun and the Layabout Sailor have both headed for higher ground to get out of Rita's way, along with tens of thousands of their neighbors. Since Jim lives on his boat, I was heartened to see that Rita bore more Eastward and did not, in fact, slam directly into Galveston harbor. Hopefully the sloop New Dawn will be none the worse for wear when Jim comes home. Dale doesn't live on his boat, but he was more in the direct path of the storm. Dale, I hope like hell everything is still upright and tight when you get back.

To the rest of you out there that I don't know, best of luck to you all.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

I KNEW This Blogging Thing Would Eventually Pay Off!

Via Instapundit, I'm now going to a Sept. 28 preview of Serenity! All I have to do is write a post reviewing the film afterwards.

I've mentioned Serenity here before. Specifically, I got the box-set DVDs of Firefly for Father's Day last year, this EXCELLENT cartoon from May, and this post from April linking to the first trailer. (Just establishing my bona fides.)

Man, I can't wait. This looks GOOD, unlike most of the dreck that Hollyweird's kicked out this year.

Tagline of the year: "I aim to misbehave."

UPDATE: Per the requirements to get into the advanced screening, the synopsis of the film:
Joss Whedon, the Oscar® - and Emmy - nominated writer/director responsible for the worldwide television phenomena of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE, ANGEL and FIREFLY, now applies his trademark compassion and wit to a small band of galactic outcasts 500 years in the future in his feature film directorial debut, Serenity. The film centers around Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a hardened veteran (on the losing side) of a galactic civil war, who now ekes out a living pulling off small crimes and transport-for-hire aboard his ship, Serenity. He leads a small, eclectic crew who are the closest thing he has left to family –squabbling, insubordinate and undyingly loyal.
IMHO, the ensemble acting is some of the best I've seen since M*A*S*H. Maybe better.

And check THIS out:

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Validation.

Me, election 2000:
Those of us still capable of intelligent, logical, independent thought have been overwhelmed by the public school system production lines that have been cranking out large quantities of substandard product for the last thirty-five years or so. The majority of three or four generations have managed to make it into the working world with no knowledge of history, no understanding of the Constitution or civics, no awareness of geography, no ability to do even mildly complex mathematics, no comprehension of science, and realistically little to no ability to read with comprehension, or write with clarity. And we seem to have developed attention spans roughly equivalent to that of your average small bird.

After all, about half the public accepted the Democratic premise that we were too stupid to vote correctly because their guy didn't win by a landslide, didn't they? And the other half was outraged, not that they made such a ludicrous argument, but that they didn't want to play fair and by the rules that no one seems to understand or to be able to explain.

The other majority party isn't blameless in this; they like an ignorant electorate too. It's easier to lead people who can't or won't think for themselves. It took both parties and many years of active bipartisan meddling to make the education system into an international laughingstock.

However, the end result of this downward spiral has been an electorate ignorant in the simple foundations of this country and its government. Most especially the foundation of a rule of law in which EVERYONE is equal under the laws of the land. The Democrats have taken advantage of this general ignorance to its logical extreme. President Clinton, when testifying under oath, debates the meaning of the word "is", and essentially gets away with it. Vice President Gore, when shown to be in direct violation of campaign finance law states that there was no "controlling legal authority".

Laws don't MEAN anything to them. A law is an inconvenient bit of wording that just has to be "interpreted" properly to achieve their ends. When they file suit, they must shop for the proper judge, or they might not be able to get the "spin" they want. Like the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, words mean just what they want them to mean, no more no less. And that meaning can change at any time.
Paul Mirengoff, Sept. 15, 2005:
And herein lies the problem: to Democrats, respect for the rule of law doesn't count as a value. To them, the law is simply a pretext for achieving desired results or (if not suited for that work) an obstacle to be circumvented for the same purpose. No wonder John Roberts gives them the willies.
His was more brief, but we just said the same thing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

It's Been Over a Week, Now.

Since I sent my emails to Sen. Kyle, Sen. McCain, Rep. Kolbe, the White House and the Vice President. All I've received in acknowledgement is this:
Subject: FROM THE OFFICE OF CONGRESSMAN JIM KOLBE
From: AZ08IMA.PUB@MAIL.HOUSE.GOV
Date: 9/11/2005 5:24 PM
To:
(My other email address)

Your message has been received.
That's more than I've gotten from anybody else.

Ravenwood Fisks One.

So I don't have to.

This Doesn't Look Good.

And I've seen nothing on this side of the blogosphere about it.
UK DEFENDS IRAQI JAILBREAK

The British government has defended the actions of its troops in southern Iraq who forced their way into a prison and freed two of their soldiers arrested by Iraqi police.

It said its troops smashed into the jail cell only after negotiations to secure the release of the two men failed.

This comes as a suicide car bomber attacked a US diplomatic convoy in the northern city of Mosul, killing four Americans and wounding two others.

Defence Secretary John Reid told the BBC the two soldiers should have been handed over to British forces after being arrested by local police.

Earlier, senior UK army officer Brigadier John Lorimer said in a statement the men wound up in the custody of Iraqi militias.

"We don't actually know the details of why these people were handed over - whether it was under threats or by collusion, or whatever," Mr Reid said.

"What we do know is that under the law they should have been handed back to the British forces themselves. That is the law which enshrines our presence there.

"I understand also that the Minister of the Interior, at the highest level, instructed that they should be, that the local judicial authorities said the same," he said.

The Ministry of Defence said when the soldiers were not released, British forces broke down a perimiter wall at the police station, and found evidence that led them to a house where the two were held captive.

Basra's governor denounced the incident as a “barbaric” act of aggression.

“A British force of more than 10 tanks backed by helicopters attacked the central jail and destroyed it. This is an irresponsible act,” Governor Mohammed al-Walli told the Associated Press.

An Iraqi interior ministry official told the AFP that the two Britons were involved in an undercover “intelligence-gathering mission”, a claim that has been neither confirmed nor denied by British military officials.

“They were driving a civilian car and were dressed in civilian clothes when a shooting took place between them and Iraqi patrols,” the official reportedly said.

The pair were said to be wearing traditional Arab headdresses and clothing.

Mohammed al-Badi, an official with the Basra governor’s office, said the two men had appeared suspicious to police.

“A policeman approached them and then one of these guys fired at him. Then the police managed to capture them,” Mr Abadi said.

They were reportedly arrested and charged with shooting two Iraqi policemen.

Arab satellite television networks broadcast photos of two Western men, identified only as Britons, seated on the floor of the jail, one with a bandage covering most of the top of his head and the other with blood on his clothes.

The incident has forces tensions between UK troops and Shi'tes in southern Iraq to an all-time low, and followed a chaotic day of rioting in which at least two Iraqis were killed.

The clashes raise questions about how much sovereignty Iraqi authorities have really been granted when the US-led Coalition
Provision Authority handed over power to an interim Iraqi government in the northern summer of 2004.

The soldiers' arrests sparked violent protests outside the prison after Iraqi demonstrators reacted angrily to the presence of British armoured units.

Petrol bombs, burning furniture and tyres and stones were hurled at the troops.

At one point, a British soldier was seen fleeing from a tank, his body covered in flames.

Two Iraqis were killed in the clashes, an interior ministry official said.

Tensions in the comparatively peaceful, Shi’ite dominated south have been simmering since Sunday, when British forces arrested three members of the Mehdi Army, a militia group loyal to radical Shi’ite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr.

Among the three was the group’s Basra commander, Sheik Ahmad Majid al-Fartusi.
The Left is going to have a field day with this. I hope the soldier who was burned makes it. The pictures I've seen are not encouraging.

Monday, September 19, 2005

They Never EVER Stop

Part Who-the-Hell-Can-Keep-UP?

Via David Codrea's War on Guns comes this mendacious and malicious op-ed from the Strib:
Guns at work/A recipe for danger, not defense
September 19, 2005

Neil Mahmoud had every reason to live. Newly married and on the verge of a career as a computer programmer, the 23-year-old student saw little peril in his job at an Apple Valley convenience store. The job entailed ejecting the occasional troublemaker, of course, and just this July Mahmoud tossed out two young men who tried to rob the place with a pellet gun.
Good thing they didn't have a real gun. Or a knife. Or a crowbar. Or a really bad attitude (it was two against one.)
But the neighborhood was regarded as supremely safe, and locals were shocked late last month when Mahmoud was found on the shop floor bleeding to death from a gunshot wound. How could such horror invade a tranquil town?

It invaded not because a criminal came to call, but because the store's owner had recently purchased a gun. The weapon was meant to deter robbers and protect employees, but -- as too often is the case -- ended up underwriting a tragedy. The person who shot Mahmoud, police have determined, wasn't an intruder. All evidence suggests that Mahmoud shot himself -- accidentally.

The accident may seem a fluke, a rare and unfortunate happenstance hardly worth a second thought.
That's because in this case it is a fluke. If it were common, you wouldn't be reading about it in an op-ed. Man-bites-dog. If-it-bleeds-it-leads.
In truth, Mahmoud's needless death vividly illustrates the folly of counting on guns for safety.
Right. An absolute minimum of 68,000 defensive gun uses per year, but "counting on guns for safety" is "folly." Tell that to the Algiers Point Militia. Tell it to Joyce Cordoba.

But the first mendacity:
Thousands of accidental gun deaths occur in this country every year.
Thousands? As in "In excess of two thousand?"

No.

The editorialist just lied to you. According to the Centers for Disease Control WISQARS tool the number of accidental gunshot deaths in 2002 was 762. In 2001 it was 802. In 2000, 776. In 1999, 824. That's quite a few, but those aren't scary numbers like the vague "thousands" that could imply 7,000, 8,000, 9,000 or more are they?
The key to reducing the number is clear.
Of course it is! "Reduce the number of guns!"
More than a decade ago, a study from the New England Journal of Medicine found that private gun ownership heightens a household's risk of homicide threefold and raises the likelihood of suicide five times above that of a gun-free household.
That's our friend Dr. Arthur Kellermann's study. I discuss Dr. Kellermann in This is the Kind of Thing that REALLY IRRITATES ME, from June of 2003. (See why I say they never EVER stop?) Note the logical fallacy of correlation = causation. If you own a gun, it will cause you to suicide or become a victim of homicide. Not that you might own a gun because you live in a dangerous neighborhood, or you purchase a gun because you have suicidal feelings. Oh no. The evil mind-altering waves given off by firearms are the cause of Bad Things Happening.

The Joyce Cordoba link above relates the following:
Former assistant district attorney and firearms expert David Kopel writes: "When a robbery victim does not defend himself, the robber succeeds 88 percent of the time, and the victim is injured 25 percent of the time. When a victim resists with a gun, the robbery success rate falls to 30 percent, and the victim injury rate falls to 17 percent. No other response to a robbery -- from drawing a knife to shouting for help to fleeing -- produces such low rates of victim injury and robbery success."

What do "gun control activists" say?

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence's Web site displays this oft-quoted "fact": "The risk of homicide in the home is 3 times greater in households with guns." Their Web site fails to mention that Arthur Kellermann, the "expert" who came up with that figure, later backpedaled after others discredited his studies for not following standard scientific procedures.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Kellermann now concedes, "A gun can be used to scare away an intruder without a shot being fired," admitting he failed to include such events in his original study. "Simply keeping a gun in the home," Mr. Kellermann says, "may deter some criminals who fear confronting an armed homeowner."

He adds, "It is possible that reverse causation accounted for some of the association we observed between gun ownership and homicide -- i.e., in a limited number of cases, people may have acquired a gun in response to a specific threat."
That op-ed was signed. By Larry Elder. Back to Mr. (or Ms.) Anonymous:
In short, having a gun close at hand is generally more dangerous than not having one. Plain logic suggests that this is true not just on the home front but in the workplace as well -- and research bears out the speculation. Workplace violence has become an American commonplace, and those who study it insist that blessing the presence of guns on the job can only bring more bloodshed.
Got some cites? Names of "those who study it"? Another example of argument by "appeal to authority" - anonymous authority. "Take my word for it! I'm unbiased!"

"Workplace violence" seems to be a new stick with which to beat the gun-control drum, attempting to frighten people into defenselessness, but read the FBI's 2004 report Workplace Violence (an 80-page PDF file) where it reports that from 1993-1999 there were an average of 900 workplace homicides annually (more than the average number of accidental deaths by gunshot) and
(V)iolence by criminals otherwise unconnected to the workplace accounts for the vast majority - nearly 80 percent - of workplace homicides. In these incidents, the motive is usually theft, and in a great many cases, the criminal is carrying a gun or other weapon, increasing the likelihood that the victim will be killed or seriously wounded. This type of violence falls heavily on particular occupational groups whose jobs make them vulnerable: taxi drivers (the job that carries by far the highest risk of being murdered), late-night retail or gas station clerks, and others who are on duty at night, who work in isolated locations or dangerous neighborhoods, and who carry or have access to cash.
Robbery. Not accident. Victims like Mr. Mahmoud, even though his Stop-and-Rob was in a good neighborhood.

More than that, however, is this little tidbit:
As the total number of guns in circulation has gone up, as the total number of people with concealed-carry licenses has done likewise, workplace homicide has been declining. I'm not arguing correlation = causation. I'm arguing the opposite. More guns does not equal more death.

But this guy is.
As researcher Dean Schaner has argued in a book about employer liability, "It is far more foreseeable that an employee will be injured in a workplace full of guns and an environment reminiscent of the Old West, than one in which weapons are prohibited."
And here we have an invokation of Ravenwood's Law: "As a discussion about guns grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Dodge City or the Wild West approaches one."
All tragedies give rise to a flood of "if onlies." Surely all who cared for Neil Mahmoud are consumed with thoughts about how his life might have been saved. Yet such thoughts should preoccupy not just those mourning this charming young man, but all Minnesotans. This tragedy teaches a lesson to which employers -- and all of us -- should hold fast: To keep the workplace safe, banish weapons.
Right. So only the criminals and disgruntled employees can have a "safe working environment."

Sell it somewhere else. The American public isn't buying it. They're buying guns.
Get Your Kim du Toit Fix, While It Lasts!.

Jim at Smoke on the Water has the link to the Kim du Toit archives. Per his request, I'm linking to his post, rather than directly to the archive. As he says, "save what you can while you can."

I doubt we've heard the last of the du Toit clan, but right now a lot of people are suffering psychological withdrawal.

Michael Bane's Got a Good Point.

Read what he has to say. I'm in complete agreement with him.

We still have a long way to go.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Oh, and the Best of Me Symphony #95 is Up.

I've got an entry this week, too. I forgot to post about last week's, of which (IMHO) this was by far the best entry: Don Surber's Clone Clarence Thomas.

Amen. Ramen!

An Atheist No Longer.

I am now a Pastafarian! I realize that I'm a late convert, but no less sincere for that! I have been touched by His noodly appendage!

(For those without a sense of humor, get a life!)

Militias.

Last month, as most of you are aware, I had an abbreviated debate with guest poster Alex on the meaning of the Second Amendment. As I noted in the first post of the debate, I ran into Alex in the comments of a post at Ian Hammet's Banana Oil! In that comment thread, Alex raised this question:
When was the last time an “armed militia” did anything at all to protect my freedom? Can you give even one example? A free press that can expose government overreaching, that gives me freedom. The right to protest and create a groundswell of changes through civil disobedience, that gives me freedom. The military that keeps the fight with our enemies away from my doorstep, that gives me freedom. Many people have died (or at least put their own lives at risk) in these pursuits just in an attempt to keep you and I free.
I responded:
(C)oncerning your comment “When was the last time an ‘armed militia’ did anything at all to protect my freedom? Can you give even one example?” I can give an example of how an “armed militia” has protected it’s own freedom. I can give you four, in fact, quite easily.

First, during the Los Angeles “Rodney King” riots, the Korean community armed itself in defense of their businesses and prevented arson and looting. Second, during the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, residents of the devistated areas armed themselves and again defended against looting until law enforcement could be reestablished. Third, Secretary of State Rice recently recounted to Larry King how her father and others armed themselves in defense against “night riders” during the civil rights struggle. And finally, I recommend that you read up on The Battle of Athens, TN. These may not have affected you, personally, but I assure you, these incidents affected the participants greatly. And before you complain that these acts were not carried out by “militia,” I feel it necessary to inform you that according to the U.S. Code, Title 10, subtitle A, Part I, Chapter 13 § 311 defines the militia as:
(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.

(b) The classes of the militia are—

(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and

(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.
Those involved in these actions fall under subsection 2 - the “unorganized militia."
Alex took exception, of course:
As for the Militia- I would argue that if you go by the definition where anybody of a certain age with a gun constitutes a militia, then yes, maybe there have been acts of liberty by “militias”. However the more prevalent (and realistic) definition (the first one usually listed in a dictionary tends to be the more generally accepted one) is:

An army composed of ordinary citizens rather than professional soldiers.

By that definition I would argue that none of the “examples” you provided were, in fact, militias. (The one debateable example would be the Tennesee folks since they had some basic military training- but even that seems like a stretch).

To turn your argument on its head- by your definition, Condaleeza father was simply facing another “militia”, right? The “Knight Riders” were armed folks trying to get what they want since the government wouldn’t do it for them. It doesn’t matter the intention of these groups by your definition, they should all be armed. Hey, the looters were armed too (some of them), does that make them a “militia”? I would argue it is the formal weapons and tactics training aspect that seperates a true militia (one that could be looked at as an “army of citizen soldiers”) , from a bunch of idiots with guns. If my neighbor’s house is burning and I turn my garden hose on it, that doesn’t make me a fireman.
My rejoinder:
"I would argue that if you go by the definition where anybody of a certain age with a gun constitutes a militia, then yes, maybe there have been acts of liberty by 'militias'.” That would be the legal definition, by the statute quoted. However, "I would argue it is the formal weapons and tactics training aspect that seperates a true militia (one that could be looked at as an 'army of citizen soldiers') , from a bunch of idiots with guns." I would argue that it most definitely is not "formal weapons and tactics training" - it is intent. Is the intent of the group or individuals to uphold and defend the rules of society, or break them? Does the group or individual protect and defend the intent and purpose of the Constitution, or does it seek to violate it? Whether the group or individuals are "formally trained" is immaterial. The "formally trained" classification divides the "organized militia" from the "unorganized militia."

By that definition, how would you define Ms. Rice's father and his group, and how would you define the "night riders" they were defending against? The Korean shopkeepers? The Miami homeowners? The looters? The mobs?
Alex did not address this last question.

Well, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina certainly illustrates the dichotomy between the looters and the "unorganized militia" in stark contrast once again. Certainly most people interested in this topic are familiar with the Algiers Point militia story:
The Algiers Point militia put its armaments away Friday as Army troops patrolled the historic neighborhood across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter.

But the band of neighbors who survived Hurricane Katrina and then fought off looters has not disarmed.

"Pit Bull Will Attack. We Are Here and Have Gun and Will Shoot," said the sign on Alexandra Boza's front porch. Actually, said the spunky woman behind the sign, "I have two pistols."

"I'm a part of the militia," said Boza. "We were taking the law into our own hands, but I didn't kill anyone."

She did quietly open her front door and fire a warning shot one night when she heard a loud group of young men approaching her house.

About a week later, she said she finally saw a New Orleans policeman on her street and told him she had guns.

"He told me, 'Honey, I don't blame you,' " she said.

For days after the storm, the several dozen people who did not evacuate from Algiers Point said they did not see any police or soldiers but did see gangs of intruders.

So they set up what might be the ultimate neighborhood watch.

At night, the balcony of a beautifully restored Victorian house built in 1871 served as a lookout point. "I had the right flank," said Vinnie Pervel. Sitting in a white rocking chair on the balcony, his neighbor, Gareth Stubbs, protected the left flank.

They were armed with an arsenal gathered from the neighborhood — a shotgun, pistols, a flare gun and a Vietnam-era AK-47. They were backed up by Gregg Harris, who lives in the house with Pervel, and Pervel's 74-year-old mother, Jennie, who lives across Pelican Street from her son and is known in Algiers Point as "Miss P."

Many nights, Miss P. had a .38-caliber pistol in one hand and rosary beads in the other.

"Mom was a trouper," said Pervel.

The threat was real.

On the day after Katrina blew through, Pervel had been carjacked a couple of blocks from his house. A past president of the Algiers Point Association homeowners group, Pervel was going to houses that had been evacuated and turning off the gas to prevent fires.

A guy with a mallet "hit me in the back of the head," said Pervel. "He said, 'We want your keys.' I said, 'here, take them.' "

Inside the white Ford van were a portable generator, tools and other hurricane supplies. A hurt and frustrated Pervel threw pliers at the van as it drove off and broke a back window.

Another afternoon, a gunfight broke out on the streets as armed neighbors and armed intruders exchanged fire in broad daylight. "About 25 rounds were fired," said Harris. Blood was later found on the street from a wounded intruder.

Not far away, Oakwood Center mall was seriously damaged in a fire caused by vandals.

"We were really afraid of fires. These old houses are so close together that if one was set afire, the whole street would all go up," said Harris. "We lived in terror for a week."

Their house is filled with antique furniture, and there's a well-kept garden and patio in back. "We've been restoring this house for 20 years," said Harris.

There are gas lamps on the columned porch that stayed on during the storm and its aftermath. The militia rigged car headlights and a car battery on porches of nearby houses. Then they put empty cans beneath trees that had fallen across both ends of the block.

When someone approached in the darkness, "you could hear the cans rattle. Then we would hit the switch at the battery and light up the street," said Pervel. "We would yell, 'we're going to count three and if you don't identify yourself, we're going to start shooting.' "

They could hear people fleeing and never fired a shot.

During the days, the hurricane holdouts patrolled the streets protecting their houses and the ones of evacuees.

"I was packing," said Robert Johns. "A .22 magnum with hollow points and an 8mm Mauser from World War II with armor-piercing shells."

Despite their efforts, some deserted houses were broken into and looted, said Pervel.

Now the Algiers Point militia has defiantly declared it will not heed any orders for mandatory evacuation. The relatively elevated neighborhood area is across the Mississippi River from the city's worst flooded areas and has running water, gas and phone service.

"They say they're going to drag us kicking and screaming from our houses. For what? To take us to concentration camps where we'll be raped and killed," said Ramona Parker. "This is supposed to be America. We're honest citizens. We're not troublemakers. We pay our taxes."

"It would be cruel for the city to make us evacuate after what we've been through," said Pervel.

The roof was damaged on her house and the rains left "water up to my ankles," said Boza. So she moved into her mother's nearby home.

She said she still has 42 bullets to expend before she could be forcibly evacuated.

"Then I hope the men they send to pull me out are 6 feet 2 inches and really cute," she said. "I'll be struggling and flirting at the same time."

By BOB DART,
Cox News Service
Monday, September 12, 2005
In Biloxi, Mississippi, the same:
Jeffrey Powell yanked the cushions off his living room sofa and arranged them on the bed of his truck. Then he got his shotgun, made himself comfortable, and spent the night in his driveway, protecting his hurricane-ravaged home and enjoying whatever breeze he could catch on a steamy night.

Powell is part of the Popps Ferry Landing neighborhood watch, a group of citizens trying to restore order and peace in their middle-class community a week after Hurricane Katrina brought her chaos.

"We're not going to have any looters out here," said Dan Shearin, 56, Powell's next-door neighbor. "We have some burly men who are sleeping outside with guns. If the looters come, we'll take care of them."

They haven't shot anyone, but they had to scare off a few groups of people they didn't know in the middle of the night, Shearin said.

As stories of violent and desperate looters have made their way across Mississippi, people in communities where law enforcement has been overwhelmed are reaching for their guns to police their streets.

In Popps Ferry Landing, many neighbors had lived near each other for years but had never spoken. The realization that their safety and homes were vulnerable and police presence was scarce brought them together quickly. The Dollar Store up the road was looted and vandalized pretty badly.

"We haven't exactly seen organized law enforcement out here," said Hugh Worden, 53, who lives on the other side of Powell. "The first day after the storm, we saw law enforcement out here. After that, there's not been much patrol. I suppose police are protecting the main streets."

Worden, a manager at Treasure Bay Casino before it was destroyed, said he has talked to everyone within three blocks of his home.

"The good thing is, now we all know each other," he said.

Popps Ferry Landing is tucked away in an enclave of western Biloxi, not far from Pass Road, the main east-west thoroughfare through town. Most of the houses here are two-story Colonials built in the early 1990s, and valued between $100,000 and $175,000. Many lost all or part of their roofs in the storm, and on some the entire front was torn away, as well. Piles of wood and aluminum siding stand in yards. So many trees are down, the road is an obstacle course.

Shearin said he did not sleep outside with a gun, but like most of his neighbors, he owns one. He has a Smith & Wesson .38.

"If I see somebody who's not supposed to be here, I'd shoot over their head," he said. "I wouldn't shoot anyone. I'm not a violent person -- not yet, anyway."

Shearin, a retired phone salesman, said he has been disappointed that police don't have the manpower to deal with looters.

"What good is the federal government?" he asked. "You've got to take care of yourself."

Sitting on his porch drinking a bottle of Aquafina, Shearin said he'd never seen as much destruction as Katrina brought.

"The terrorists couldn't do this much damage," he said.

He and his wife, Dottie, said they'd like to get out of Biloxi for a while, but they, like their neighbors, have to stay and wait for insurance claim agents to come by and assess the damage. The Shearins lost half their roof and most of their back yard, including a new hot tub.

"We are waiting on the insurance agents," Dottie Shearin said. "They have to come by and make a visual inspection."

Around the corner, Marti McKay, 30, said she and other neighbors have scattered their cars around the street to make it look as if everyone is home. It was scariest before they got their power back Saturday.

"It's nerve-racking at night around here because it's so dark," McKay said. "It's so quiet. We're used to the sound of air conditioning, and lights."

Her housemate Robin Frey helped organize some spotlights in the neighborhood powered by generators. And neighbor Oliver Fayard, 49, walked the streets with a flashlight to check on everyone.

"You didn't have a choice but to get out there and network," Frey said. "We saw some cars we didn't know that came through the neighborhood. We gave them a look to kill. We made it known these are not vacant houses."

By Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 5, 2005; Page A23
Another example from New Orleans:
When night falls, Charlie Hackett climbs the steps to his boarded-up window, takes down the plywood, grabs his 12-gauge shotgun and waits. He is waiting for looters and troublemakers, for anyone thinking his neighborhood has been abandoned like so many others across the city. Two doors down, John Carolan is doing the same on his screened-in porch, pistol by his side. They are not about to give up their homes to the lawlessness that has engulfed New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

"We kind of together decided we would defend what we have here and we would stay up and defend the neighborhood," says Hackett, an Army veteran with a snow-white beard and a business installing custom kitchens.

"I don't want to kill anybody," he says, "but I'd sure like to scare 'em."

With generators giving them power, food to last for weeks and several guns each for protection, the men are two of a scattered community holed up across the residential streets of the city's Garden District, a lush neighborhood with many antebellum mansions.

The streets, where towering live oaks once offered cool shade, are now often impassable because of huge fallen branches and downed power lines. Lovely porches framed in wrought iron lay smashed. Many of the homes appear only slightly damaged, or even untouched.

But the neighborhoods are stunningly empty, and so quiet that they sound like a forest.

It is a short drive but a world away from the city's downtown, where tens of thousands of hungry, thirsty and increasingly angry people waited in misery at the Superdome and the New Orleans Convention Center before evacuations finally began.

Here, Carolan starts his nightly watch by lighting a big fire in his barbecue pit. Hackett turns his lights on and jams a 15-foot wooden brace against the front door so no one can break through.

The night is "black, black, black," Hackett says. "It reminds me of when I was in Vietnam, it reminds me of Dac To."

They have not had a problem staying awake. Each night there are gunshots in the distance, sometimes people walking through, an occasional car driving by.

"Last night I had to draw down on some people," Carolan says. A car with what sounded like a crowd of drunken, partying kids came through and stopped.

"I had to come out with a flashlight in one hand, pistol in the other," he says, crossing his arms like an X. "I said: `Who are you? Do you live here? What are you doing here?' They said, `We're leaving.'"

Hackett, who in his 50s, lives alone, with his two cats and a bunch of neighbor's pets that he is caring for. Carolan, 46, is keeping watch with his brother, wife, son, and 3-year-old granddaughter.

In the first few days, they were especially fearful. Looters smashed windows and ransacked a discount store and a drugstore a few streets over. Three men came to Carolan's house asking about his generator and brandished a machete. He showed them his gun and they left.

"It was pandemonium for a couple of nights. We just felt that when they got done with the stores, they'd come to the homes," Hackett says. "When it's not easy pickings, they'll go somewhere else."

Things have gotten quieter, the men say, but not quiet.

"What do you say, I'm a survivor," John Carolan says with a laugh, thinking of the reality TV show. "Hey, give me the million bucks now."

How long can Carolan and the others hold out?

Hackett has enough gas and food for a month. Carolan says they have weeks' worth of food and bug repellent, and he will siphon gas from left-behind cars to keep his electricity going.

"Everything we have is in our homes. With the lawlessness in this town, are you going to walk away from everything you built?" Carolan says. "A lot of people think we're stupid. They say, `Why did you stay?' I say, `Why didn't you stay?'"

ROBERT TANNER
Associated Press
Sept. 5, 2005
These are just a couple of the stories of people arming themselves and organizing. The militia is made up of all the population who are willing and able to come together to assist in the defense of people and property against enemies foreign and domestic.

Alex tried to claim that the KKK and looters qualified as "militia" under the legal definition spelled out in U.S. Code, Title 10, subtitle A, Part I, Chapter 13 § 311. Not so, and it is blindingly apparent to anyone who is not self-deluded into believing that guns in the hands of the law-abiding are a threat to the safety of the public.

Remember: Any law that could be passed to "reduce the number of guns" in circulation, will reduce the number of guns in the hands of the law-abiding - not the criminal, nor the criminally inclined. It will disarm the victims, not the perpetrators.

Ask Patricia Konie. And do a Google News search on Ms. Konie. She's not to be found on any Mainstream Media link. Interesting, isn't it?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Square on Jefferson's Chest.

I can live with that. Another one of those useless internet quizzes, the OK Cupid Politics Test. My score:

Jefferson!

I can concur with that conclusion. But John Kerry being nearly dead-center? I find that difficult to believe.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Someone Else Getting Educated?.

I check my sitemeter stats a couple of times a day just to see how things are going. Every now and then I see something like this:

Over two and a half hours and 24 pages viewed. I figure the people who do this are either really pissed off (or aghast) about what I have to say, or really interested. But as far as I can tell, they hardly ever leave any comments either way.

I find that lack of feedback odd, when someone would invest that much time reading.

UPDATE:

Holy smokes! Look! New Orleans is back online!

This Letter Makes This All Worthwhile.

Bright and early this morning I logged on and got my email, and found this (printed here with his permission):
I have been reading your blog for a while, learning about the subjects you write about...and even prior to N. Orleans, I was leaning towards your position, and possibly arming our family.

Can I tell you what a radical departure that is for me? And then maybe why it shouldn't have been in some ways? I was raised in a religious Jewish household. Religious Jews just don't hunt; we're not raised in a culture of guns (outside of Israel, in which this has changed things). I was also a child of the liberal 60's, thought guns kill and all that nonsense.

My dad, however, was a survivor of Auschwitz. My grandparents were murdered there. And it is now a cliche, but it's true, the 'average' Jew could not defend themselves. So that got me to thinkin...and then seeing how it starts to look like America could end up like many S. American countries, with gated communities and barbed wire or broken glass up on the walls of the compounds...and I used to think this was the siren song of the Cassandras, but New Orleans showed that ain't necessarily true...well, all this speaks of the need to have some protection.

Of course, we had someone, a rabbi, say in his 30's, walking in his house, not too far from where we live, and he was mugged by a man with a gun. Fortunately, and almost unusually in these cases, in spite of the fact this rabbi had literally nothing on him, the creep ran without shooting. But this happened basically in MY neighborhood. And all it takes is one occasion (though otherwise, it's a relatively safe area, whatever that means!).

I can't think of any reason not to. Child safety? That's all just TEACHING, like it is with a hundred other lethal things we have inside the house.

I don't want to go on too long, but I do hope either we'll travel near someone on your list offering shooting sessions (and yes, I have never shot a gun in my life, never thought I'd think about it, which is the point of all this) or someone will be added to the list close by to home, Saint Louis, MO and I can take 'em up on the offer.
I've given him the contact information for John Ross, but if there's someone else in the St. Louis area who would like to join Publicola's list of volunteer instructors, drop me a line.

When I emailed him to thank him for the letter and to ask permission to print it, he added this:
You've helped me understand a great deal of things I otherwise might not have. I had a lifetime bias against guns...still won't say I like 'em, but that's that cultural bias I mentioned, and having one for self-defense is not the same as enjoying killing. (I still have a problem with hunting, but that's MY BIAS, and I never was opposed to anyone else hunting just because I don't "get it". Who am I to tell anyone else to do unless it bothers my life? That seems SO self-evident, but then we grow up and learn it's not. Half the world wants to rule the other half, or so it seems, and that's from most politicians down to the petty bureaucrats running health care nowadays ). But self-defense? Yeah, we have the right to that. Another thing that would seem self-evident, but...gosh, dealing with that other 1/2 of the world...).

I figured out I was as bad as some mama bear, when it came to wanting to protect my family. I think I never understood that idea UNTIL I had children. After that, I realized I had an obligation to MY FAMILY. Another simplistic notion, but one that seems to flit by most people (though interestingly, I read that many of the "refugees" from N. Orleans and Mississippi have been taken in by...gasp...family members!).

I couldn't sleep last night, was reading one of James Lee Burke's novels, and (start up the Twilight Zone music) he had his character mention that very thing about how the police don't, can't prevent most crime, and in fact, how most crime is never punished. It WAS weird that I read it not a couple of hours after I had written you.

On a bigger scale, , I have enjoyed learning about the Constitution, the ideals America was founded on...We drove the kids to Boston some years back and have continued to now take driving vacations literally all over the country. Early one, though, we were in Lexington and Concord, saw the statue of the Minuteman...who had a RIFLE (doh). Just wanting to teach my kids about these things, I started reading myself..and soon found out I knew nothing, like most Americans, about why we started this country.

Put it all together..and I have one other story to tell: When Nixon resigned, my dad cried with relief. Why? He wasn't an avid Nixon hater at all, but he said, and I remember it like it was yesterday (and my dad's been gone since '84), but he thought it was amazing we could have a bloodless revolution, that the rule of law WORKED here, unlike how it had been corrupted in WW2 Europe, and he had a respect and a feeling for America, for its institutions and ideals, that most of us take for granted, or more unfortunately, don't even understand or know (as we slide farther away from those ideas). It's that stereotype of immigrants who came here and appreciated freedom, never took it for granted; on my mom's side, her parents were from Russia/Poland, and my grandfather's father was murdered in front of my grandad in the 1905 Revolution. So when they came here, same thing as my dad...none of it was taken for granted. We're in real danger, I've come to see, of losing those ideals.

Having said all the above, it's thanks in large part to blogs such as yours that I've learned anything. I'm still learning, economics, political philosophy, Consitutional law, and finding intelligent blogs has been an amazing help.

And I think its important to thank our teachers sometimes, let 'em know we appreciate the efforts. But I wanted to let you know why this is a big deal for me. I realize too, that for most, there is a reason they don't bother to learn, whether it's that lifetime of indoctination, the sheep-like attitude of most folks, or even the (somewhat true for a while) idea that 'ignorance is bliss" (because the more I learn, some days, the more pissed off I am), but I had a need and desire to do so, and I think we all should have SOME obligation to know, otherwise we are screwed.

You know that. I didn't, but I'm learning.
I've had a big smile on my face all day long.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Maybe I Do Need an Editor...

I got another letter-to-the-editor published in the local lefty fishwrap, The Tucson Weekly. Five weeks ago (!) one of the op-ed columnists wrote a piece I found quite offensive. I wrote a post about it entitled Gun Bigots a few days later. Then I sat down and wrote a letter to the editor, as I have done a half-dozen times in the past.

The editor asked me if I could cut it down, since it was about twice as long as a normal letter. I tried, but I was only able to cut it by about a third.

Well, they finally published it, (tenth letter down) but cut further for length. It's not what I'd have preferred, but it'll do. I'm now five for six, and the one they didn't print I wouldn't allow them to cut.

Nice to know the editor allows a dissenting voice. Now I'm trying to angle for a "Guest Commentary." Hey, he told me I was a good writer and "you have a different viewpoint than most of our commentators, so I'd be glad to get future pitches from you." A different viewpoint? I should hope!

I think I'll do a little warming-up.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Awakenings IV.

(Via Jeff.) The Boston Glob Globe reports that Louisiana Wal*Mart stores stopped selling firearms in the aftermath of Katrina, but that didn't slow the explosion of sales of firearms:
Halted gun sales infuriate customers

By Sasha Talcott, Globe Staff | September 11, 2005

BATON ROUGE, La. -- As fearful residents rush to stock up on guns, Wal-Mart, one of the region's biggest suppliers, abruptly stopped selling them at 40 stores scattered throughout the Gulf Coast.

The move infuriated some Wal-Mart customers in this fiercely progun region, some of whom said the big chain left them without protection as the violence increased after Hurricane Katrina.
Ah, but here's the part I particularly like:
Smaller stores are eagerly filling the void. Spillway Sportsman, near Baton Rouge, sold 172 guns in one three-day period after the hurricane, when normally it might sell 15. One mother came in to buy her first gun after she and her two children, ages 9 and 12, witnessed a slaying on the streets of New Orleans, said Scott Roe, Spillway's owner.

''Her comment was, 'I was a card-carrying, antigun liberal -- not anymore,' " Roe said. ''She said, 'I'm going back home, and I am not going back unarmed.' "
Someone else wakes up. And it's reported in the Boston Globe no less!

Previously:

Awakenings, Awakenings II, Awakenings III, and Apparently Not Totally.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

AAAAAAAGGGGHHHHH!.

I'm really tired of posting negative stories (as the ratio seems to run about 5:1 that way), but here's another "Dept. of Collapsing Schools" story from Head's Bunker that I. Just. Cannot. Fathom.
You can use the f-word in class (but only five times)

A secondary school is to allow pupils to swear at teachers - as long as they don't do so more than five times in a lesson. A running tally of how many times the f-word has been used will be kept on the board. If a class goes over the limit, they will be 'spoken' to at the end of the lesson.

The astonishing policy, which the school says will improve the behaviour of pupils, was condemned by parents' groups and MPs yesterday. They warned it would backfire.

Parents were advised of the plan, which comes into effect when term starts next week, in a letter from the Weavers School in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire.

Assistant headmaster Richard White said the policy was aimed at 15 and 16-year-olds in two classes which are considered troublesome.

'Tolerate but not condone'

"Within each lesson the teacher will initially tolerate (although not condone) the use of the f-word (or derivatives) five times and these will be tallied on the board so all students can see the running score," he wrote in the letter.
"Tolerate." Sweet bleeding jeebus.
"Over this number the class will be spoken to by the teacher at the end of the lesson."
And if they do it again, they'll get another severe speaking to!

If the teacher can get a word in edgewise.
Parents called the rule 'wholly irresponsible and ludicrous'.
Gee, you THINK??
"This appears to be a misguided attempt to speak to kids on their own level," said the father of one pupil.

Should have do's and don'ts

Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: "In these sort of situations teachers should be setting clear principles of 'do and don't'.
As in "don't spout off again, or you'll be picking yourself up off the floor again.
"They should not be compromising in an apparent attempt to please the pupils. This will send out completely the wrong message.

"Youngsters will play up to this and ensure they use their five goes, demeaning the authority of the teacher."
Someone's actually raised a child there, I'd say.
Tory MP Ann Widdecombe said the policy was based on 'Alice in Wonderland reasoning'.

"What next?" she asked. "Do we allow people to speed five times or burgle five times? You don't improve something by allowing it, you improve something by discouraging it."
Um, Ann? They're pretty much doing that. It's spreading into the classroom, not from it.
'Praise postcards'

The 1,130-pupil school, which was criticised as 'not effective' by Ofsted inspectors last November, also plans to send 'praise postcards' to the parents of children who do not swear and who turn up on time for lessons.
Instead of warning postcards and expulsion notices to the parents of children who do swear and who don't show up? Brilliant.
Headmaster Alan Large said he had received no complaints about the policy. "The reality is that the fword is part of these young adults' everyday language," he said.
Oh, I'm sure he's received complaints, he's just so disconnected from reality he doesn't recognize them.
"As a temporary policy we are giving them a bit of leeway, but want them to think about the way they talk and how they might do better."
Why, oh why did England do away with pillory?

(If this story's a fake, a lot of news services are treating it as real.)

Well, I'm Certainly on a List Now.

I just sent versions of this letter to Senators Kyle and McCain, Representative Jim Kolbe, the White House and to the Vice President:
Dear (fill in the blank):

This week I watched and read about the organized door-to-door disarmament of the remaining residents of New Orleans at the order of Superintendent of Police P. Edwin Compass III. His words were: "No one will allowed to be armed. We're going to take all the weapons." I watched elderly New Orleans resident Patricia Konie body-slammed by a police officer and forcibly disarmed, though she was no threat to anyone in the room. She specifically stated "I don't want you in here."

I watched a CNN report in which another resident, attorney Ashton O'Dwyer, asked "Has your neigborhood ever been invaded by state troopers from another state? Let them be warned. If they come to my house, if they try to evict me, if they try to take my guns, there will be gunfire." I believe he meant it.

I understand the sentiment. I am not alone. I am a blogger, one of the millions of people who run a "web log." I'm a particular type of blogger, in that I write about individual rights in general, and the right to arms in particular. My site is The Smallest Minority (look it up on Google, if you wish.) I'm a member of a group of self-identified "gunbloggers" that currently numbers about 90. Combined, we have a daily readership in the thousands.

Every single one of us is appalled at what we are seeing.

I'm a paying member of another on-line group, AR15.com. This is a discussion board with over 10,000 active members. In fact, as I write this the site informs me that there are over 4,000 people logged on to the site; about 1,500 members, and another 2,500 "guests" who are not registered users. There is a topic in the "General Discussion" forum entitled "The official gun confiscation thread." It currently runs 28 pages long. There are also threads entitled "Video of LAPD forcing evac of little old lady," (it turns out that the officer that body-slammed Ms. Konie was an California Highway Patrolman!) and "Two enlisted men, one Marine and one Soldier, would confiscate your firearms if ordered," (which is pretty self-explanatory.)

(Sir), I don't think people inside the beltway quite grasp what a hornet's nest has been stirred by the actions of the New Orleans and Louisiana state governments. There are a LOT of very angry people out here. There are people angry about the NOPD's failure to protect, people angry about the NOPD's mass resignations, the NOPD non-response to (and actual involvement in) looting, and now the forced disarmament of the remaining residents not only by NOPD officers, but by officers from other agencies, by (we are told) federal Marshals, and by National Guard units from other states.

Let me try to boil it down: There are a LOT of people in this country who believe in the individual right to arms. After witnessing the lawlessness that occurred in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina, a lot more have joined our ranks because they finally realize that the government is not responsible for their protection - they are. And a lot of us believe as Mr. O'Dwyer believes. If anyone comes for our guns, there will be gunfire.

I urge you to take action on this. This must stop. Sanity must prevail, or the aftermath of the next natural disaster or terrorist incident in this country might make New Orleans look like a walk in the park.

Thank you for your attention.
I'm sure I'll get some nice boilerplate return emails, but I had to do something even if it was useless.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Iraqi Soldiers Donate to Katrina Victims.

I will be damned.
Iraqi soldiers collected 1,000,000 Iraqi dinars for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

TAJI, Iraq, Sept. 9, 2005 — Iraqi soldiers serving at Taji military base collected 1,000,000 Iraqi dinars for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Iraqi Col. Abbas Fadhil, Iraqi base commander, presented the money to U.S. Col. Paul D. Linkenhoker, Taji Coalition base commander, at a Sept. 5 staff meeting.

“We are all brothers,” said Abbas. “When one suffers tragedy, we all suffer their pain.”

The amount of money is small in American dollars - roughly $680 - but it represents a huge act of compassion from Iraqi soldiers to their American counterparts, said U.S. Army Maj. Michael Goyne.

“I was overwhelmed by the amount of their generosity,” Goyne said. “I was proud and happy to know Col. Abbas, his officers, NCOs and fellow soldiers. That amount represents a month’s salary for most of those soldiers.”

Abbas read a letter he wrote after giving the envelope to Linkenhoker.

"I am Colonel Abbas Fadhil; Tadji Military Base Commander,” Abbas wrote. “On behalf of myself and all the People of Tadji Military Base; I would like to console the American People and Government for getting this horrible disaster. So we would like to donate 1.000.000 Iraqi Dinars to help the government and the People also I would like to console all the ASTs who helped us rebuilding our country and our Army. We appreciate the American's help and support. Thank you."
No sir. Thank YOU.

First Disarm Them, Then Imprison Them?.

Fuck THAT! Via the Engineer Poet of The Ergosphere comes this description of what the saviours of FEMA are doing with the refugees (yes, that word) from New Orleans at a "detainment camp" in Oklahoma. Excerpts:
We then started lugging in our food products. The foods I had purchased were mainly snacks, but my mother - God bless her soul - had gone all out with fresh vegetables, fruits, canned goods, breakfast cereals, rice, and pancake fixings. That's when we got the next message: They will not be able to use the kitchen.

Excuse me? I asked incredulously.

FEMA will not allow any of the kitchen facilities in any of the cabins to be used by the occupants due to fire hazards. FEMA will deliver meals to the cabins. The refugees will be given two meals per day by FEMA. They will not be able to cook. In fact, the "host" goes on to explain, some churches had already enquired about whether they could come in on weekends and fix meals for the people staying in their cabin. FEMA won't allow it because there could be a situation where one cabin gets steaks and another gets hot dogs - and...

it could cause a riot.

It gets worse.

He then precedes to tell us that some churches had already enquired into whether they could send a van or bus on Sundays to pick up any occupants of their cabins who might be interested in attending church. FEMA will not allow this. The occupants of the camp cannot leave the camp for any reason. If they leave the camp they may never return. They will be issued FEMA identification cards and "a sum of money" and they will remain within the camp for the next 5 months.

My son looks at me and mumbles "Welcome to Krakow."

My mother then asked if the churches would be allowed to come to their cabin and conduct services if the occupants wanted to attend. The response was "No ma'am. You don't understand. Your church no longer owns this building. This building is now owned by FEMA and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. They have it for the next 5 months." This scares my mother who asks "Do you mean they have leased it?" The man replies, "Yes, ma'am...lock, stock and barrel. They have taken over everything that pertains to this facility for the next 5 months."

--

When we got through and were headed outside the host says to me and my daughter, "How did you get in here?" I told him we came in through the back gate. He replies, "No, HOW did you get in here? No one who doesn't have credentials showing is supposed to be in here." (I had noticed all the "hosts" had two or three badges hanging around their necks.) I told him it might have had something to do with the fact my daughter was snapping pictures of the OHP presence at the gate. He then tells us, "Well, starting in the morning NO ONE comes in. So if you have further goods you want to donate you will have to take them to your local church. They will collect them until they have a full load and then bring them to the front gate."

--

We then loaded back into our vehicles and headed toward the cabin we had been told was for women so that we could off-load our appropriate products. When we arrived there was no one in the cabin so we preceded to unload our vehicles and take the merchandise in to the cabin. A horde of "hosts" who had been hovering at a nearby cabin head toward us.

"Can we help you?"

I explained to them what we were doing.

"Uhh... you can't just leave donated goods in the cabins. FEMA has stated they want all supplies to go to their central warehouse. They said they have had far too many supplies come in and they need to handle them. You can't leave ANY clothes."

I just stared at them.

One chubby-checker, after several moments of pregnant pause broken only by the sound of my 82 year old dad continuing to shuffle boxes out of the back of his car (GO DAD!), says "I'll call "BASE" and confirm what should happen here."

I continue to stare.

He pounds out the number on his cell phone and when some one picks up he chickens out and just asks "I need to verify that cabin 11 is a female only facility." When he hangs up he says that it is and I respond, "Well, good, we'll get on with this then." It's at that point my son pulls me aside and says, "Every damned one of them have the same phone. That's what the comm tower is for at the amphitheater. Now we know how FEMA runs through billions, they've given every one of these people a Cingular phone when walkie-talkies would have worked just fine."
Lots of pictures, too.

"We're from the government, and we're here to help you!"

Personally, I prefer a policy of benign neglect.

UPDATE, 9/12: Ed Kostiuk, Oklahoma State Dept of Health, Emergency Management, responds to the accusations, and well, I think. Thanks to Ravenwood for the pointer.

I've Been Saying This a Lot, Recently.

Read this. That's an order.

Screw it. He's given permission to reproduce it, so I will:
Background:
My name is John and I live in Central Texas. I have served in three different military components totaling 25 years of service and I am recording this story for posterity. All opinions are the author's and if you disagree with them, that's really too bad.

Katrina Day 1: Monday, 29 August 2005
Watching the news today was horrific. Hurricane Katrina has devastated an area larger than the United Kingdom. When I heard that Biloxi was savaged, I immediately thought about my best friend Tracy. Tracy was a Master Sergeant with me in the US Air Force and we were stationed together for several years. Friendships formed in the military are far stronger than anything a civilian can experience. They usually last until the grave. I won't go into the psychology of it, it is just so. You usually bond to one particular individual, and Tracy was it. He was my Best Buddy, and that is spelt with two capital B's. I know this man well enough to know that he was not going to evacuate, he would tough it out. Now I was worried sick about Tracy and his family. I tried calling him for several hours but gave up realizing that communication would be non-existent.

Katrina Day 2: Tuesday, 30 August 2005
Spent several more hours trying to contact Tracy, to no avail. It just was not going to happen. The body count is increasing. The question now is: what can I do?

I am sitting at home in air-conditioned comfort, watching a disaster of biblical proportions unfold on the idiot box in the corner. I am a man of action, not talk - always have been and always will be. What action could I take? How could I personally make a difference to what was going on? Even inaction is a form of action, but it has never been my choice. Now the news is telling me that getting food and water to the survivors is the number one priority. I rarely agree with television talking heads, mainly because they are so liberal and also so ignorant about the world around them. I had to concede that, for once, they were right.

What do I do? A plan. A plan is a good thing and helps you anticipate difficulties before they become disasters. I would need transport. I personally own an ex-army vehicle called an M35A2, better known as a deuce and a half. It is 30 years old, has ten driven wheels and is still camouflaged in its original paint scheme. All 3 axles are driven and it is one of the best all-wheel drive off road vehicles in existence. It also has a large cargo bed, with a 5 ton load carrying capacity. Perfect for getting large quantities of food and water into remote areas with difficult terrain.

I also realized that there would be many roadblocks manned by civilian law enforcement and by military personnel. How would I get past them? Would they think of me as a fruitcake? Would they turn me back? Would they think I was selling water for ten bucks a bottle? Would they shoot me?

I dusted off my old camouflage uniform. A bit tight around the middle, but acceptable. This should get me through roadblocks. My next fear was that the news was reporting widespread looting and general mayhem. I did not want my truck, food or water hijacked, so what to do? I loaded my .45 caliber H&K semi-automatic pistol, some extra magazines of ammunition, and buckled on a shoulder holster in plain sight. I did not plan on shooting people. I planned on staying alive. I am a firm believer in the old adage that it is better to be judged by twelve people than to be carried by six.

The next several hours were taken up by servicing the truck. You do not just jump in a 30 year old truck and high tail it a couple of thousand miles, you'll never get there. I had to add several gallons of oil to the various places that were going to leak and burn. I had to load up all of the tools necessary to make roadside repairs, the manual tire changing gear alone weighs a couple of hundred pounds. A good friend, who will remain unnamed, helped me work through the night servicing and tweaking the truck. We loaded my survival supplies, sleeping bag, cot and a hundred other things that make living in the back of a truck a little less painful.

Katrina Day 3: Wednesday, 31 August 2005
Still servicing and loading the truck at 3 a.m. and now realizing that availability of fuel would be difficult or non-existent in a disaster area, we rustled up 20 five-gallon jugs. Off we went to the all night gas station to fill up. All told, it took an hour and $300 to fill everything. My friend shook my hand and wished me luck. He wanted badly to come with me, but his line of work is saving lives and he knew that he would be sent in an official capacity soon enough. Departing now would be madness, I hadn't slept in 24 hours and I had a grueling trip ahead of me. It's 100 degrees in Texas in August and a deuce has no air conditioning. There is no insulation between the motor and the driver so the inside cab temperature stays around 140 degrees. The metal surfaces can exceed 200 degrees and I have melted more than one pair of shoes driving in the summer.

I went home and sent an e-mail to my friends on the military vehicle mailing list telling them what I planned and asking for tips and advice on what I was attempting to accomplish. At 9 a.m. after four hours of deep sleep my girlfriend gave me a wake up call. It was time to load food and water. Our local grocery mega-store had enough water to fill up a pallet. When I explained to the manager what I was doing, he said that he was willing to empty the shelves of canned food, but it was not even a quarter of a pallet and most of it required can openers. I asked him if he could give me a break on the price of the water, the worst thing he could do was say no. He said no.

I have a pretty high limit on my credit card, so $250 wasn't going to kill me. The next stop was Sam's club which is another mega store which can sell food by the pallet. Unfortunately, this store requires a membership card and does not accept credit cards for payment. My girlfriend's parents, bless their hearts, wrote a check for a pallet of chunky soup with pop-top openings. Her father even offered to pay half of the thousand dollars that the soup cost.

At noon I departed Central Texas, heading for Biloxi, Mississippi. Due to hurricane damage, I thought the southern route along Interstate 10 may be closed, so I headed North to meet Interstate 20 in Shreveport, Louisiana. I got into Shreveport just after dark and needed fuel. Right away I noticed panic at the gas stations. Lines of cars for blocks and fuel gouging. I thought to myself "what the hell was going on"? This was hundreds of miles from the hurricane.

I committed my first rude action of the trip. I went to the front of the truck line and asked a driver if I could butt in. Instead of the expected rude reaction I anticipated, the trucker seemed happy to see me and even backed up to let me get ahead. Other truckers in line waved to me, and not using just one finger. As I was fueling, a very old grandma came up and gave me a hug. She told me she always hugs servicemen, and she will never forget our sacrifices. Although I am retired, I did serve 25 years, so maybe, just maybe, I deserved that hug. I certainly appreciated it. Back into the truck I crawled and onwards through the night.

Katrina Day 4: Thursday, 1 September 2005
I'm falling asleep, my feet are burning, I've got to stop and stretch my legs. I get a cup of coffee and talk to the lady behind the counter. I ask, "Why is your 24 hour restaurant closed"? We have no food, the evacuees have eaten everything. I ask, "Why are your gas pumps closed"? We have no gas, it's all gone. I look around the store. There are no potato chips, no snacks, and no batteries. Pretty much nothing but knick-knacks is all that remains.

Back into the truck I crawl with only a couple of hundred miles to go. Turning South in Jackson, Mississippi, I start to see storm damage. The further I go, the worse it gets. Gas stations have five-mile lines with armed policemen guarding them. Not just pistols, but shotguns and long guns. People wave and cheer as I pass by. I ask myself "Why"? Then it hit me. I am the only vehicle heading South. There were no military or relief convoys, no nothing heading South. Only streams of families heading North. I suppose the military truck I was driving gave them comfort, the feeling of order amongst chaos.

The damage is increasing as I progress South. There are now no more gas stations, just empty shells with the roofs torn off. All power is out. The trees have fallen across the power and telephone lines many of which are hanging dangerously low. I'm out of fuel so I transfer 30 gallons from cans to the tank.

As the sun comes up, the scenery gets worse. I pass a church. The building has vanished, but the steeple is stuck in the ground completely upside down like an enormous lawn dart. The last few miles were one bizarre scene after another. There's a man walking his dog with a machine gun on his back. Twenty state troopers pass me, nose to tail, at 100 mph. They all have camping gear in their cars. Helicopters are everywhere. There are no road signs or traffic lights. Cars and trucks are piled like toys tossed in a box. There are big yachts in the forest. Half of the trees are horizontal. I have to start zigzagging around trees and power lines to make headway.

There's Tracy's street, which doesn't look too bad. There's his house, with only minor damage visible. He lives several miles North of the Gulf of Mexico, North of Interstate 10. Tracy's wife Kathy opens the door. She seems very happy to see me. Is everyone okay? Where's Tracy? Everybody survived, we're all okay, only minor damage. Tracy is out helping friends who live near the water. I told her I brought food, water and fuel. She thought I would come.

She sees me stagger and gives me a pillow. I am fully clothed, stinking and asleep in five seconds. Three hours later I woke up because someone sat on the bed next to me. It is Tracy and his head is hung low. He is crying.

He said, "John, the devastation, the death, it's just overwhelming. I know you're tired, but we need you right now". Tracy, Buddy, that's why I'm here.

We unloaded the food and water in his driveway; at least none of his neighbors would be hungry or thirsty. His friend, Joe, lived in a housing subdivision on the Biloxi back bay. His neighborhood was blocked with trashed vehicles and debris, so the residents could not get in or out. Although friends from inland had brought food and water, it was very slow going on foot carrying the supplies a mile through the debris. We fired up the deuce and headed for the coast. Tracy started to sing 'You 'aint seen nothing yet' an old 70's song. He was right.

The closer we got to the water, the worse the devastation was. Fully 50 percent of the houses were just gone, concrete slabs bare beside the road. Do you remember that old game, pick up sticks? As far as the eye could see, someone had been playing pick up sticks. These sticks were 10 to 20 feet long and stacked 10 to 20 feet tall. Square miles of 2 by 4's were everywhere. Of course, they were all that remained of thousands of homes.

We got to Joes subdivision and a pickup was upside down right in the middle of a stack of debris. I dropped the transmission into first, engaged low range on the transfer case then air locked the front axle. We played bumper cars for a few minutes, shoving some cars up onto lawns, some of them into the ditches. T he debris clung in clumps to the front of the truck, and we rammed it up onto the concrete slabs. Residents watched from a safe distance and then began to applaud. I was smashing their vehicles beyond recognition and they were clapping?

We passed several houses that appeared whole from a distance, however as we drew alongside, we could see that the ground floors contained no glass, doors or possessions. Sort of an open-plan. Many walls were missing also.

Have you ever seen any of the zombie horror movies like Dawn of the Dead? That's what these people looked like. They were filthy, standing around in two's and three's and I have never seen so much blank confusion in people's eyes. Still, they thanked us and went about whatever it was they were doing. When we got to the remains of Joe's house, he was sitting on the ground where his front door had been. He was cradling his dead dog in his arms and weeping. When the ocean began to rise, Joe took his wife and children across the street to the only two story house in the neighborhood. He did not have time to go back and save the dog. Tracy found a shovel amongst the debris and buried the dog in the soggy lawn.

I was trying to untangle some of the two by fours in the street when my back gave up on me. At this point, I had better clarify my medical condition. During one of my many overseas vacations with Uncle Sam, I suffered multiple explosive impact traumas against my spine. T his left me with multiple broken vertebrae and a lifetime of prescription painkillers. After years of poking and prodding by the Veterans Administration, the federal government declared me 100% disabled and I now became an official burden to society. Whatever you say, Doc. Driving, standing and sitting is painful, but walking is agony. Bending and lifting is torture beyond belief. Tracy knows all this and bitched at me until I took double my dose of happy pills. Five minutes later I was unconscious next to the dog's grave. A couple of hours later, Joe and Tracy had loaded up Joes remaining meager possessions, not very much, and we headed back North.

Driving over the debris, the deuce suffered its first puncture of the trip. Because we only had a few miles to travel at low speed, and the deuce has 8 wheels on the back, we left it flat until we got back to Tracy's. After putting Joe's trash, sorry, I meant possessions, in the garage, we changed the flat tire. Coffee, exhaustion, bed.

Katrina Day 5: Friday, 2 September 2005
Daybreak, up and at 'em. Spent most of the day clearing debris in Biloxi and Gulfport. The deuce makes a pretty good plow when you use a compact car turned sideways as a plow blade. As before, local residents cheered when they realized that we were making access for them. One man did ask us if we could help him load his piano onto a truck. We both thought of several rude answers, but his piano was all he had left. We just told him, "No, we're just a little busy right now". I left Tracy and headed to Keesler Air Force Base to see if I could get any help with the deuce, which had started to severely overheat. Because of the fear of federal prosecution, and because of future security considerations, I cannot relate that part of the story. I will only say that the military men and women were wonderful to me, and helped me beyond the call of duty.

As I headed towards highway 90, I decided to turn East along the coast to see if East Biloxi needed any streets cleared. The most incredible sight on my left! Biloxi has several floating casinos which appear to be nothing more than two enormous Mississippi river barges welded side to side with six story hotels built on top of them. These are truly stupendous looking structures when they are moored to the piers in the Gulf. They are doubly stupendous when they are sitting on dry land two blocks inland. Beyond description!

Every couple of blocks there are police roadblocks manned by law enforcement officials from all over the country. Seeing an Arizona Sheriff drinking water with an Alabama Parks and Wildlife Officer is not what you expect to see sitting on quads in the middle of a four-lane road.

Remember, I am in an obvious military vehicle albeit retired from current inventories, in uniform and armed. Over the next couple of days I was waved through more than 100 roadblocks, even those manned by regular Army Military Police. I did not feel guilty of deception because I was not rubbernecking; I was helping those in need. As I traveled further East along highway 90, I began to see more and more large white vehicles with huge satellite dishes on the roofs. Ah, the esteemed members of the press. The vehicles were clumped into groups and formations reminiscent of wagon trains in the wild west movies. What is the correct name for a large number of vultures on a corpse? A flock? A feeding frenzy? That seemed apropos.

There is a large group of men with oversize red hard hats on my left. They are wearing suspenders and baggy pants. Clowns? No, they look like half dressed firemen. The one in the middle is wearing normal clothes, older than the rest. T here were lots of cameras on tripods. A couple of cameramen hear the deuce and swing the cameras towards me. The older man waves. He's definitely waving at me. I hesitantly wave back. Caramba! It's George Bush! I really don't think stopping here would be a good idea. I turn right, around a huge pile of debris, and get out of Dodge. I feel like I just narrowly avoided disaster.

Back onto Highway 90 and head east. There are hundreds of oak trees along the side of the highway. Every single historic residence that was built amongst the oaks has disappeared. The oaks appear to be unscathed. There is something poetic in that. The further East I go, I begin to notice that every second street has been bulldozed clean. This end of town does not need an old fart in a deuce helping them out. They are pretty well organized. So it's back across the back bay bridge into the residential areas. Got to play bumper cars for a few more hours until dark.

Too dangerous after dark, the citizens are friendly but the water moccasins are lethal. There is a veritable plague of them. Heard the news that the hospitals were completely out of anti-venom, so discretion was the better part of valor.

Back at Tracy's, all of the neighbors sat around and discussed the current situation. Because there was no electricity, we had no television or radio. The telephone system was inoperative and only a couple of cell phones managed to capture weak signals. Neighbors with generators provided all of our information, mostly skewed towards the negative. Everybody got in a dither because of rumors of armed thugs from New Orleans were headed our way. T here are just so many things wrong with that rumor that I tried to explain. What are they using for transport? What are they using for fuel? Why do you think they would steal from you when every store on the coast has millions in merchandise just lying in the street? My objections fell on deaf ears. The neighborhood blocked the entrance and put out armed patrols. I thought it most likely that a couple of them would shoot each other so it was a good time to go to bed. Wake me up if anyone needs a tourniquet.

Katrina Day 6: Saturday, 3 September 2005
Spent a few hours trying to find out why the deuce was overheating again. Removed the radiator and flushed it. Removed the thermostat. Flushed the block. Put it all back together. Bingo! Now it's running at 160 instead of 230.

Headed for the back bay to clear debris. At noon, Tracy and I head back down into Biloxi to see if any relief has arrived. Overnight, several tractor trailers of food and water had been parked in the major shopping areas, Wal-Mart, Home Depot etc. These tractor-trailers were guarded by dozens of lawmen, although the public was conspicuously absent. How odd.

We headed back down onto Highway 90, actually searching for a cup of coffee. We stopped at a gaggle of satellite vans because they all had generators. Generators equal electricity and electricity equals coffee. At least that's been my experience in the military.

We got talking with a CNN reporter called Chris Huntington who appeared not to be too much of a wanker. Although he was most definitely a city boy, there was a glimmer of intelligence in one eye. He soon realized that our truck could get him into the Forbidden Zone just a few miles West of his present position. He asked for a ride along so that he could see first hand the devastated residential neighborhoods that we described to him. We knew that aiding and abetting the enemy is a treasonable offence, however, if CNN could transmit more footage of serious carnage, the likelihood of more monetary donations to the Katrina victims would offset the distaste of actually having to shake a reporters hand. We agreed.

We locked both windshields in the full up position so that Chris could have an unobstructed 180 degree view with his mini-cam. We took him on a tour that he will remember his whole life. He was suitably sympathetic to the residents of Eagle Point, not one of who had escaped the carnage. Nothing shown on any television station had captured what we showed him. The deuce ride scared him to the point that he began to babble. He is a highly educated professional type, the type whose enunciation is great, his grammar perfect. Towards the end of his ride along, every second word began with an F and rhymed with duck. Looks like the scenery affected his speech abilities. Too bad. CNN probably is not going to air this one.

There was one incident with a couple of looters, however, I had decided before coming here that I was going to avoid looters except to protect my own property or well being. People who were stealing food, I did not even consider them to be criminals.

Once back at the CNN truck, Chris paid us with a Gatorade each and got back into his air-conditioned command post. Another reporter asked us if we had seen any dead bodies. Yeah, I told him, there are three in the back of our truck. He ran away salivating to find his camera crew. When he came back I told him that it turns out they weren't quite as dead as they appeared. They didn't want to be filmed and had gone for a swim. He threw a hissy-fit, however I was close to three times his size and armed. I could only laugh at the miserable bastard.

It was starting to get dark so we headed back home for, would you believe it? Spare ribs! I have died and gone to heaven. One neighbor who knew that I was penniless and out of fuel, drained his motor home and filled my diesel tank and canisters.

It's dark now, but the Eastern horizon has a strange yellow glow. We were discussing this odd phenomenon when the air conditioning unit let out a groan and began to whine loudly. Good Lord! Power is restored! Screams of joy erupted from the entire neighborhood. If someone told me that power would be restored within four weeks, I would have bet against him or her. Seven thousand linemen from all over the USA and Canada had restored power to Northern Biloxi in under six days.

Before going to bed, I told Tracy that my work here was finished, everything I came to accomplish was done. I did not tell him that I was headed for New Orleans because I knew we would get in a shouting match about it.

Katrina Day 7: Sunday, 4 September 2005
Up at dawn, coffee in belly, fire up the deuce, wave goodbye. Turn off the deuce, stagger in house, first time I sat on the throne in 7 days. Lots of blood, that's probably not a good thing. Can you say Too Much Information! Pop some more painkillers, fire up the deuce, wave goodbye, hit the road - Round 2.

I knew New Orleans would be bad, but honestly, I had no idea. The roadblocks were no problem, just waved on through. Although the damage in New Orleans was enormous, it was very different than Mississippi, completely flooded, but most buildings were standing.

I had a plan on what to do after observing the food distribution in Biloxi. Imagine if the closest food and water to you was four miles away in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Fire up the car and go get it? Wait a second. Our car is under 12 feet of water. A lot of big city residents don't even own cars and the bus schedule in New Orleans was probably not very accurate this week. My plan was to find a food distribution center, load up as much food and water as I could scrounge, head into the residential areas and get the food and water to people whom, for whatever reason, refused to evacuate the city.

The police loaded my truck at the first center, stuffed in as much as would fit, even filled up the passenger side of the cab. T hey pointed me South and warned me that some residents were hostile, but no one volunteered to ride shotgun.

Now I had to weave to avoid trash. No, not trash. A large corpse lies right in the center of my lane. The stench was overpowering. Mixed in with it was a strange brew, similar to the stink of a paper mill. It smelt like flammable chemicals and sewage. Another body and another were present. A very unworthy thought hit me. These corpses were very well fed. I had seen bodies in war zones, and they were always pathetically skinny. At least here there was no charred pork smell.

The plan fell apart as soon as I stopped. I opened the tailgate and was mobbed. People began snatching cases of MRE's and water with not a lot of restraint. No problem, go right ahead. This way, I didn't even have to lift a single box. Some of the stronger young men actually got up into the truck and helped unload. As I was closing the tailgate, I noticed that one of my mobility bags was unzipped. I climbed in and checked it. All of my prescription drugs were missing! That really, really sucks. Within 36 hours, my blood pressure would skyrocket and I'd have no way to reduce it. I could stroke out in two days. Without my painkillers I would become a zombie basket case within 12 hours. I'm trying to help and this is the thanks? The two young men were long gone.

Mission, John, think of the mission. No way I'm going to get the meds I need in New Orleans. No way I'm going to become a burden to the rescuers. I would have to leave before dark, and risk seizures on the way home.

Back to the food distribution center, I load up and head southwest. Same story as the first run, except this time I watch over my personal belongings. This time when I closed the tailgate, I looked down and to my right and there was a large black doll under a bush. It sure looks oddly big for a doll. I look closer, then double over in pain. It's a baby girl, just a few months old, eyes closed, hair in cornrows. Her skin is tight, no wrinkles. She is absolutely angelic. I turn and projectile vomit.

On the way to the food center, a filthy soaking wet teenage girl shouts and runs up to the truck. "My Grandma! my Grandma! Please h'ep". I put her in the passenger seat and she is crying and giving me directions. I cannot understand a word she is saying, as her accent is so thick. I follow her hand signals for a few blocks and we come to a large depression that looks to be way too deep for the deuce. It's up to the roofs of the cars in the street. Why the hell was I too lazy last winter to install the deep water fording kit? I figure if the water stays below my fenders and I go slow enough to not make a bow wave, I'll give it a shot. Several hundred yards further the water gets shallower. There is one house with the water only about a foot deep around it. Standing in the yard are at least 60 people. There was a whole lot of "Praise Jesus!" going on. Then I realized, here were Grandma and all of her kin. My second realization was that they thought I was their knight in shining armor.

They all spoke at once, and I understood not a word. I almost blundered and asked if anyone spoke English. A Blackhawk had dropped food a couple of days earlier, but since then nothing. The water had gone down far enough for the young girl to swim for help. She walked/swam through half a mile of sewage, chemicals, dead bodies, snakes and rats to find me. If there is a hero in this story, she was this bedraggled little girl. We loaded up, put the teenagers on the hood, roof and fenders, Granny and the kids up in the cab.

Can you fit 60 people in and on a deuce? Yes sir, you can. It rides low and slow, but it still moves. As soon as I got to dry ground, I had to unload, I was afraid of damaging the deuce. I told them to sit tight for one hour and I'd be back. Two of the teenage boys came with me to the food center. They helped the Police load up to the roof again and back we went. When we got back to Grandma and the family, there was a crowd of over 200. They began to sing a gospel song. I couldn't understand the words, but I understood they were thanking their Lord for sending an angel. I'm sure they meant the little girl.

We offloaded everything right there in the middle of the street. Before the last case came off, some of the children were on their second MRE.

Back to the food center. I did not know it, but this was to be my last load. It had been several hours since I last took my painkillers, and I could no longer walk properly upright. This time guardsmen loaded me up. I headed further Southwest into what looked like a beat up industrial area with a lot of smaller poorer houses. I honked the horn again and dropped the tailgate. As at all the other stops, people starting to come up to me. Something did not feel right this time, just a bit creepy. These people were not friendly, but I had no idea why. I realize that some people hate you just because of the color of your skin. I have no control over the color of my skin, nor do I have control over other people's stupid bigotry. I decided to hurry up and off load quickly, this felt ugly.

Wheeeee, an angry bee went by followed by a loud deep boom. Wheeee, boom again. CRAP! I've heard that before. Some son-of-a-bitch was shooting at us. I dropped and looked right. There were two men standing waist high behind a pile of scrap metal about 75 yards away. One had his arms up and was pointing at me. Everything went slo-mo and someone behind began to scream. My .45 was out and I was squeezing the first shot. I jerked and the weapon bucked. Idiot! Slow down! T he next 11 rounds were gone in seconds. The magazine was empty and I was ejecting and running behind the left side of the deuce. I got the second magazine in and released the slide with my thumb. I looked back at the people who were taking the food and they were gone! Every single one!

I came around the front of the deuce slowly below the bumper. There they were, two heads popping up and down. They looked comical, were they crackheads? Two more booms. I knew what they were using, nothing in the world sounds like a .44 Magnum.

Twelve more rounds at ½ second intervals, a whole lot of screaming from that direction. Eject, reload. Only 12 rounds left. The screaming is faint, I think my eardrums are damaged as I've never fired this thing without ear protection. The two of them pop up together and take off at high speed in the direction away from me. Should I? They are running in a straight line directly away. Should I? They are around a building and gone. Release the hammer, holster, get in the deuce. Fire it up and go directly the opposite direction of those two. You don't want to know what I am thinking about New Orleans at this point. About two miles down the road I stopped and closed the tailgate. I think its probably time to head back to Texas.

As I head up Interstate 10 towards Baton Rouge, I see literally hundreds of Army vehicles convoying in to the city. I stop to change a ladies flat tire. She is 5 feet tall and 500 pounds. She needs my help. My painkillers have worn off, I'm in agony, less than 500 miles till home.

Katrina Day 8: Monday, 5 September 2005 (Labor Day)
It's almost midnight and I've just crossed the border into Texas. One more odd thing happened on the way home. A Ford Crown Victoria was tailgating me on the Interstate. After a couple of minutes he pulled up next to me and hailed me on the loudspeaker. The only two words I could make out were "left tire". Arm out my window, wave thanks, took the exit not 50 yards away. At the top of the ramp, there was a well-lighted gas station. I went in to ask the owner if he minded me changing my tire under his lights. He had no problem with that, would I like a fresh pot of coffee? Yes sir, I would.

Because I was back in Texas, I had placed my weapon and holster in the glove box of the truck. I had also locked the passenger door so that no one could steal the weapon while I was in the gas station. I went to the back of the truck to get the many tools required to change my flat tire. As I was dragging the tools out, I heard voices next to the truck. I looked down the drivers' side towards the front. There stood three 'gangsta's'. All 3 were black and naked from the waist up. They were very heavily tattooed, all kinds of symbols and stylized block writing. They were young and wiry muscular and very fit looking. Their pants hung very low and several inches of underpants were showing. My gun was beyond reach, I had a ¾ inch ratchet in my hands, but I thought this is it John, you are dead meat.

The tallest oldest one looked at me and smiled. "Sir", he said, "we know what you done been doing". I didn't know what he meant. He told me he meant he knew I had come from New Orleans. How did he know? "You stink like the dead, man". Ahhh, I hadn't noticed. He wanted to shake my hand and thank me. Of course, grabbing a man's hand is the perfect set-up for punching him in the head. I had no choice. I grasped my 18" Craftsman tighter, and then I shook his hand. They asked what was I doing here. Flat tire. He asked why was I moving so bent over. I told him, I'm in a lot of pain.

He swore at me, then told his two brothers to get my tools off of the truck. I asked him what the hell was he doing? "We is changing your tire, old man, you go sit over there and watch. My Ol' Daddy would whup us all upside the head if he saw us watch an old man change a tire without helping".

What they lacked in experience, they sure made up with enthusiasm. All three were dripping with sweat within a couple of minutes, swinging that six foot cheater bar. T hirty minutes later they are almost finished, the spare is being hoisted back up the winch. The oldest one turned to me, "Sir", he said, "I know that you will now offer us money, but my Ol' Daddy would whup us all if we took it from you". I turned and walked back in to the gas station. I came out with another cup of coffee and three tall cold beers. I can't drink these beers. I'll just have to set them down here. They sat with me. I shook their hands and thanked them. "No sir", said the oldest, "we thank you".

Several hours later, I am back at my house. It takes 15 minutes for me to get down from the truck. Another five minutes to get in the house. I sit down and take a double dose of painkillers. What is wrong with my eyes? I'm crying. I just can't stop crying..

I could have done so much more.

Epilogue
Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, blah, blah, blah. That is what is known as a legal disclaimer. That being said, I do not know how many laws I broke, nor do I care. While others sat, I moved. Although I am not proud of everything I did in those seven days, I did directly affect the lives of thousands. I made access to hundreds of homes. I fed and gave water to thousands. I ferried dozens of people to safety. I gave comfort when comfort was all I had to give. The entire trip cost me between four and five thousand dollars.

It was the best spent money in my entire life.

EDIT TO ADD: Friday, 9 September, 2005
I'm in a lot of pain still and probably will be for a few more days, so I will be a bit hard to get a hold of.

I am overwhelmed at the number of positive comments by strangers. As far as the skeptics are concerned, oh well, whatever. I did not take a camera with me, simply because I thought it insensitive to take pictures of my truck amongst the ruins of people's lives. I am no longer concerned about privacy, if you want to post my e-mail account on the web page, the best account is probably micdunn@ev1.net

Also I freely give my permission to anyone who requests it to reproduce, reprint or copy or use for whatever purpose they wish. I really don't give a damn.

And one very important note. I am not a hero, I am just a person who believes you sometimes have to do what you feel is right.

-John

EDIT TO ADD: Friday, 9 September, 2005
Dear Scott,
I just looked at our website. Whereas I really appreciate your concern about my monetary situation, I am afraid that there are people who may misconstrue the intent of telling my story. As I stated, the money is gone and it was well spent. I shall recover from the loss within a few months. Some of the people I met are never going to recover from this. Could you remove the donation information and print this apology on the website? Any money already received through the website will be immediately donated to Katrina relief through an aid organization. Anybody wishing to donate money to 'Sarge', please choose any Katrina relief fund you wish and send the money to them. It will reach the victims faster than if you send it to me. In the words of the older Gangsta, "My Daddy would whup me upside the head" if I took payment for doing what needed to be done. P.S. I don't know what heroes look like, but I just look and feel like a tired old man.
It is an honor, sir, to share the planet with you. John (on the left) and his Deuce-and-a-half.

Thanks, Kim. I needed that.