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

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

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

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

Friday, March 31, 2006

I Almost Forgot!. Another CCW State!

Today Nebraska voted to join Kansas and become the 37th "shall-issue" state. Both were previously "no-issue" states. This leaves only Wisconsin and Illinois as the remaining holdouts, and nine states remain as "may-issue." As noted before, Vermont and Alaska require no permit for concealed carry, so the map has changed again! (At least, it will effective 1/1/07.)

Of course Omaha will opt out, so if you live there you're SOL. I guess they'll post big signs on the way in, "NO GUNS ALLOWED."

Yeah. That'll work. Look at D.C. and Chicago.

Quote of the Week.

I've been reading Orson Scott Card's Shadow of the Giant, the fourth (I think) book in the Shadow series that he wrote as a sequel to the Ender's Game series. If you're not familiar with them, I strongly recommend Ender's Game. You can skip Xenocide and Speaker for the Dead, if you'd like, and jump directly to Ender's Shadow and its sequels. I find Card to be a hit-and-miss author, my personal tastes I suppose, but these books are quite good and I think everyone should read Ender's Game.

Anyway, reading through Shadow of the Giant I came across two passages quite close together that resonated with me, all spoken by one of the main characters, Peter Wiggin:
(America) was a nation created out of nothing - nothing but a set of ideals that they never measured up to. Now and then they had great leaders, but usually nothing but political hacks, and I mean right from the start. Washington was great, but Adams was paranoid and lazy, and Jefferson was as vile a scheming politician as a nation has ever been cursed with.

...

America shaped itself with institutions so strong that it could survive corruption, stupidity, vanity, ambition, recklessness, and even insanity in its chief executive.

--

Islam has never learned how to be a religion. It's a tyranny by its very nature. Until it learns to let the door swing both ways, and permit Muslims to decide not to be Muslims without penalty, then the world has no choice but to fight against it in order to be free.
Just thought I'd share.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Why I Am an Atheist

"What is the purpose of religion?" This is a question asked by Professor Daniel Dennett , author of a new book on that topic, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. If you're a member of the faithful, then I imagine the answer to that question is (in one form or another) "To bring you closer to The Creator." But what Dr. Dennett is advocating is that we study religion just as we would study any other topic of scientific interest, and I find that (from my perspective as an atheist) a pretty fascinating idea. I caught a lecture by the professor a couple of weeks ago on C-SPAN. Considering a recent brouhaha over the topic of religion, it seemed unusually pertinent.

Professor Dennett defines "religion" in one, pellucid statement:
Religion is a social system that postulates supernatural agents whose approval is to be sought.
Note the two essential characteristics that separate religion from science: supernatural agents, and the need to seek approval from same.

All religions, from a scientific standpoint, are memes; ideas that spread from person to person within or between cultures. The word "meme" was coined by Richard Dawkins, Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, a book "which argues that life is simply a means of propagating DNA, with every creature ruthlessly determined to continue its own line."

Memes, Professor Dennett pointed out in his lecture, are very much like parasites, from a scientific point of view. They require a host - in this case, the human mind. They cannot survive on their own. They come in three types: symbiotic, commensal, and malignant. When it comes to biological parasites, symbionts are beneficial, often even crucial to our survival (B. thetaiotaomicron for example). Commensals are neutral, neither harmful nor beneficial (e.g. most strains of e. coli). The malignant ones can be a nuisance (athlete's foot) or deadly (the Ebola virus.)

In all cases, the only measure of success is how well they spread. (Since there are about ten times as many bacteria living in the human gut as there are human cells in the entire body - and that doesn't include the ones living in our skin or other organs - I'd say that parasites are particularly successful.) Malignant species are less successful than the commensals and symbiotes. The Ebola virus is virulent, but it kills so quickly that this limits its ability to spread. Commensals and even symbiotes can sometimes become malignant, though. One strain of e. coli is pretty deadly to humans, for example.

Memes are much the same. "I like the song, 'The Macarena,' " is an example of a commensal meme - it's pretty much value-neutral (really, the pain is only mental), and thankfully short-lived. Communism is a good example of a malignant meme. During its short existence it has been responsible for the death of millions, and the misery of millions more. While still extant, it has lost most of its carriers.

Most religions are, by all apperances, symbiotic memes.

But what's religion for?

Professor Dawkins believes that the only purpose of life is to propagate DNA. That is, the purpose of viruses is to make more viruses, the purpose of people is to make more people. Period. As Robert Heinlein put it,
A zygote is a gamete's way of producing more gametes. This may be the purpose of the universe.
Dr. Dennett wonders if the purpose of religion is simply to spread the meme of religion. It's an interesting idea. Dennett believes that religion is a result of evolution. Dennett thinks that perhaps the proto-meme of religion has evolved into the various modern faiths through its symbiotic relationship with the human species - the only species on the planet that can carry it.

An interview with evolutionary sociobiologist and entymologist Edward O. Wilson played on Sunday's edition of NPR's To the Best of Our Knowledge. He said something that echoed Professor Dennett:
Religious belief itself is an adaptation that has evolved, that we're hard-wired to form tribalistic religions. And that's what religion is - it's intensely tribalistic... It binds people together into cooperative groups. It gives them faith in the particular group to which they belong, and that set of beliefs and moral values.
Heinlein was much harsher, a while back:
History does not record anywhere at any time a religion that has any rational basis. Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough to stand up to the unknown without help. But, like dandruff, most people do have a religion and spend time and money on it and seem to derive considerable pleasure from fiddling with it.
Heinlein may be technically correct, but I think Wilson and Dennett have the right of it: Humans are religious because we're wired for it. Religious memes survive because they have been beneficial to the survival of our species, albeit not for large swaths of particular individuals or groups carrying less successful memes.

Religion, defined as
a social system that postulates supernatural agents whose approval is to be sought
is a very successful meme - one that's mutated into literally millions of memes of varying elaborateness (and, truth be told, virulence.) The Christian meme has had something on the order of two thousand years to evolve. The primary vector of that meme is the Bible - a document that has undergone considerable mutation itself. Dr. Hugh S. Pyper, Associate Director & Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies for the University of Leeds in Scotland, lends a bit of ecclesiastical support:
If "survival of the fittest" has any validity as a slogan, then the Bible seems a fair candidate for the accolade of the fittest of texts.
Professor Dennett asks a very interesting question: Why is religion so successful? He points out that, from a purely gene-based standpoint, religious faith is often not all that good for spreading ones genes. For example, it certainly isn't advantageous for spreading the genes of (no offense intended) members of the Catholic clergy, yet human beings seem to be capable of latching on to memes that are counter to what Dr. Dawkins claims is the ultimate purpose of life - the spreading of our molecules of DNA. The Catholic religion meme is more successful than the biological imperative to reproduce, at least in the Catholic clergy. They can spread the meme, but the meme means they can't spread their genes.

Dr. Susan Blackmore wrote a book entitled The Meme Machine having to do with this topic. I haven't read it, but the Publisher's Weekly revew had this comment:
From a gene's point of view, celibacy, birth control and adoption are horrible mistakes. From a meme's point of view, they are a gold mine. Few or no children free up the meme-carrier to devote more energy to horizontal transmission to non-relatives (monks and nuns the world over figured that out long ago), something the gene is incapable of. With adoption, memes can even co-opt vertical transmission between generations. Blackmore posits that, in modern culture, meme replication has almost completely overwhelmed the glacially slow gene replication.
An interesting observation, especially given declining birth-rates in the "modern" Western world. It gives me pause to wonder if the "secular humanist" meme that is apparently replacing religion, at least in Western Europe, is a malignant one for the species.

However, religion is successful Dennett argues, because it serves to provide answers to age-old questions; Heinlein's "unknown." Religions remove uncertainty, and bind groups of people together with common beliefs. Group unity is definitely a survival-positive trait, so this has been evolutionarily useful, but now we've reached a quandary. We've recently developed science, and science often conflicts with religion. Wilson said in his interview:
I think it's fair to say that modern biology is instructed by two powerful principles, so powerful and generally well-tested that they amount to virtual laws of nature. The first one is that all living process is ultimately obedient to the laws of physics and chemistry, and that is the foundation of molecular and cell biology. And that is so thoroughly established that no one questions it seriously any more. The second law is that all living processes evolved by natural selection. And those two are so well substantiated and now interlocking that it is very hard to see that out of this will come traditionalist religious views to explain the meaning of life on this planet.

--

There is no reconciliation between the theory of evolution by natural selection and traditional religious view of the origin of the human mind. You have to choose between the scientific materialist view of the origin of the mind and therefore the mortality, I should think, of the human mind on the one side, and the traditional religious view that the spirit and the mind are independent of the process of evolution and thereby, eventually, non-corporeal - that is capable of leaving the body and going elsewhere.
He also said:
That's possibly the greatest philosophical question of the 21st century, the resolution of religious faith with the growing realization of the very different nature of the material world. You could say that we evolved to accept one truth - you know the religious instinct - but then discovered another. And having discovered another, what are we to do? You could say that well, it's just best to go ahead and accept two world views and let them live side by side. I see no other solution. In fact, I believe they can put their different world views into position to solve some of the great problems, for example, of the environment. But generally speaking the difficulty in saying they can live side by side is the sectarianism of the world today, and the use of traditional religions to be exclusionary and to justify violence and war, and you just can't deny that this is a major problem.
While human beings are the only creatures on the face of the planet capable of believing three or more mutually-exclusive ideas simultaneously before breakfast, I'm not as sanguine about the coexistence option, and a recent minor conflict illustrates this well.

A couple of weeks ago Fran Porretto wrote one of his Sunday Ruminations on things religious - in this case "God's Divine Plan." He made a statement concerning atheists, and I - being atheist (please, however, note the small "a") - commented. Things didn't go well from that point forward. (I did later apologize for any unintended insult or misunderstanding.)

A few days later I found an Eric S. Raymond piece on why he believes "The End of Faith" would be a good thing. In fact, a necessary thing. I took one sentence out of that piece that I believed was accurate and insightful and posted it as "Quote of the Week," and Fran assumed I was in complete agreement with Raymond based on that one sentence (and, I'll admit in the interest of full disclosure, some things I've written here previously).

Things continued downhill. Fran seems to hold to the idea that I am a "militant anti-Christian," and that I attribute guilt to him and those like him for things others have done in the name of the religion he embraces.

Pardon my language, but just one fucking minute. For the record, I was attempting explanation, and he took it as accusation. The fault for the misunderstanding may well be mine, but the intent was never there. Apparently I've poked a pretty raw nerve, because Fran has taken what I've written and blown it way the hell (no pun intended) out of proportion. Yes, I'm an atheist (again, note the small 'a'). Yes, I have professed that I think we need to develop a rational system of morals independent of a religious framework, and yes, I've said that I believe we need to do that in large part because of the friction between different belief systems.

Pardon the hell(?) out of me, but I don't think that defines me as "militant anti-Christian." I'm pretty much on the record as saying that I think Protestant Christianity has overall (but not always) been a force for good. But Fran's not a Protestant, he's a Catholic. Or at least he professes to be a Catholic. (Again, this is not intended as insult. More on this a bit later.)

Remember Dennett's definition of religion:
Religion is a social system that postulates supernatural agents whose approval is to be sought.
That's a simple, and I think accurate definition. It pretty much covers the bases, and differentiates religion from science, where science rejects the concept of "supernatural" for "we don't understand yet. Possibly ever." No approval is to be sought because there's no agent to get approval from. Robert Heinlein (again) put it a bit more insultingly:
The most preposterous notion that H. sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all history.
Them's fightin' words to people who believe in supernatural agents. But a lot (a significant majority in fact) of people on this planet do believe in supernatural agents. We're all (minus some psychopaths) prewired for it. There is significant circumstantial evidence that our prehistoric ancestors believed in such, and all documentary evidence shows the existence of religion as far back as recorded history goes.

A significant portion of today's population believes in the existence of the God of the Abrahamic faiths, in one form or another. Well, more accurately a significant portion, as Professor Dennett recently pointed out in his book, at least believes in belief. That is, they want to believe in God; they know others do. They go to church and (more or less) follow the precepts of the faith they adhere to, but they may not actually believe. They may doubt, but act as though they don't. Fran himself makes note of this in last Sunday's "Rumination". How many people are like this? There's no way to tell, but my personal guess is "most." After all, Fran proclaims such doubt "inexorable."

Why do I mention this, and why is it significant? In our society in which a large majority professes faith, expressing disbelief can have certain social costs. Politicians, for example, can't declare themselves atheist and expect to get elected to higher office. (Wait! I was trying to illustrate a downside...) Militant Atheist (note the captial 'A') Steven Weinberg notes a change, however:
As you learn more and more about the universe, you find you can understand more and more without any reference to supernatural intervention, so you lose interest in that possibility. Most scientists I know don't care enough about religion even to call themselves atheists. And that, I think, is one of the great things about science -- that it has made it possible for people not to be religious.
That is, not to be religious without significant social cost. This is a relatively new phenomenon. Still, things haven't gotten very far. According to a recent report, atheists are identified as America's most distrusted minority.

Wilson, again:
I think it was Camille Paglia who talked about Foucault and the almost religious awe that the French post-structuralist philosophers once had in France. She compared it to the power of the Judeo-Christian tradition and said 3,000 years of Yahweh beats one generation of Foucault.
Yes, indeed. In my many arguments discussions on the topic of religion with Sarah of Carnaby Fudge, she often points out the fact that no "secular humanist" society has ever been formed that was anything less than a disaster. And yet, we've only been able to form such societies in the last hundred or so years. Three thousand years of Yaweh...

So, humans are wired with an instinctive need to believe... in something. If you think about it, the belief in Piltdown Man, UFOs, Raelianism, et al., up to and including the religions of the God of Abraham all fill the same basic need: answers to unanswerable questions. Comfort in the face of uncertainty. A crutch to help one stand in the face of the unknown. Through millenia of meme evolution, we've reached a point today where very robust memes are at war with a very new, but suprisingly strong one. The new one is strong not because it can answer those unanswerable questions, but because it can point out weaknesses in the other memes and sow doubt. Its strength comes from the fact that it acknowledges its own weaknesses, and seeks to systematically address them. Its entire purpose is seeking answers, not bestowing them.

Fran wrote:
One of the stumbling blocks to faith is exactly that inability to accept a Divine Plan that's inherently beyond our ability to comprehend.
I will admit that my response to this easily could be interpreted as accusatory. It was not intended as such, but I'll accept the blame for it. However, in his lecture Professor Dennett made a couple of comments that explain my position much better:
We lay-people do the believing and leave the understanding to the experts.
There is a large amount of truth there, especially when it comes to the Abrahamic faiths as I understand them, and the higher sciences. He also said:
With religious formulas, even the experts claim not to understand.
If a divine plan is inherently beyond human ability to comprehend, then the second quotation is perfectly accurate. From my way of thinking, an incomprehensible divine plan presents questions even faith cannot answer. That's what faith is for - believing even though there is no (or contrary) evidence of fact. Science acknowledges ignorance, but at least offers the possibility of eventual understanding. What it doesn't offer, is comfort. Faith offers that.

But sectarianism offers conflict. As Dennett said,
...generally speaking the difficulty in saying (religious and scientific truth) can live side by side is the sectarianism of the world today, and the use of traditional religions to be exclusionary and to justify violence and war, and you just can't deny that this is a major problem.
I raised just that point with Fran. His response:
He who claims that that religion excuses violence against non-Christians is contradicting the explicit words of Christ, and therefore is no Christian himself.

--

No true Christian did those things. Period. The nature of Christianity is at odds with that behavior.

Because evil people act in evil ways and "claim" to be Christian, or do so "in the name of Christ", does not imply that Christ approves of that behavior.
Og the Neanderpundit commented:
We're not talking about the things so called christians have done in the past, and I will brook no discussion on that subject.
I find that a fascinating position to take. Let me recount two jokes here (damn you, DJ!) to illustrate my perspective:
How many Christians does it take to change a light bulb?

Charismatic: Only 1 - Hands are already in the air.

Pentecostal: 10 - One to change the bulb, and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.

Presbyterians: None - Lights will go on and off at predestined times.

Roman Catholic: None - Candles only. (Of guaranteed origin of course.)

Baptists: At least 15 - One to change the light bulb, and three committees to approve the change and decide who brings the potato salad and fried chicken.

Episcopalians: 3 - One to call the electrician, one to mix the drinks, and one to talk about how much better the old one was.

Mormons: 5 - One man to change the bulb, and four wives to tell him how to do it.

Unitarians: We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey you have found that light bulbs work for you, you are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your light bulb for the next Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, 3-way, long-life and tinted, all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.

Methodists: Undetermined - Whether your light is bright, dull, or completely out, you are loved. You can be a light bulb, turnip bulb, or tulip bulb. Bring a bulb of your choice to the Sunday lighting service and a covered dish to pass.

Nazarene: 6 - One woman to replace the bulb while five men review church lighting policy.

Lutherans: None - Lutherans don't believe in change.

Amish: What's a light bulb?

--

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off.

I said, "Don't do it!" "Why shouldn't I?" he said.

I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!" He said, "Like what?"

I said, "Well...are you religious or atheist?" He said "Religious."

I said, "Me too! Are you a Christian or a Jew?" He said, "A Christian."

I said, "Me too! Protestant or Catholic?" He said, "Protestant."

I said, "Me too! What franchise?" He says, "Baptist."

I said, "Me too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?" He says, "Northern Baptist."

I said, "Me too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?" He says, "Northern Conservative Baptist."

I said, "Me too! Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist or Northern Conservative Reformed Baptist?" He says, "Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist."

I said, "Me too! Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist, Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist, Eastern Region?" He says, "Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist, Great Lakes Region."

I said, "Me too! Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist, Great Lakes Region, Council of 1879 or Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist, Great Lakes Region, Council of 1912?" He says, Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist, Great Lakes Region, Council of 1912."

I said, "Die, heretic scum!" and I pushed him over.
(The first joke is unattributed. The second is by comedian Emo Phillips.) The first joke illustrates the way religious memes can mutate. The second, the historically demonstrated result of many such mutations. Replace "Council of 1879" and "Council of 1912" with "Catholic" and "Protestant," or "Jew" and "Gentile," or "Sufi" and "Shia," or simply "Muslim" and "everybody else," and history can point to violence attributable to the alleged apostasy.

It is the history of repression and bloodshed that "militant anti-Christians" like Eric Raymond object to. However, as Fran noted (and Sarah before him), atheists only hold a better track record because they've been in the race for much, much less time.

So let me speak now on why I'm an atheist.

Fran said of such acts of bloodshed, "No true Christian did those things. Period. The nature of Christianity is at odds with that behavior." I believe wholeheartedly that Fran believes this to be so. When I attempted to clarify by noting that such actions were often done with the blessing of the Catholic Church, Fran rebuked me:
Your interpretation of my statement merely reveals that you think the Church to be something it isn’t. The Church is the teachings of Christ; its adherents, number they one or billions, cannot affect that. If every living soul who called himself a Christian were an agent of evil, it would not affect the nature of the Church.
Since to Fran "The Church" is limited to Christ's teachings, then such behavior is, by definition, unChristian. But the "lightbulb" joke illustrates that "The Church" is, for most people, defined as the specific system of beliefs and behaviors of a group who use the Bible as the basis of that system. More expansively, it encompasses the "experts" who explain to the lay people Christ's teachings, and those 'experts' vary widely in how they interpret those teachings.

From my perspective, the Catholic Church represents a specific belief system with an attendant pattern of behaviors expected of its adherents, one of which is the requirement to follow the edicts of the church's heirarchy - those who the lay people depend on for understanding - without question. When one of Catholicism's adherents concluded he could no longer do that, he broke from authority and created Protestantism. Fran's position is that if the Catholic heirarchy veers from his understanding of the teachings of Christ, then the fault is theirs and not his, and he is not bound to abide by their dictates. If Fran holds the belief that he can - with safety to his soul - refuse a Papal edict commanding him (for an extreme example) to slay Protestants for being Protestants, then he is not, in fact, a Catholic. He's a Protestant who follows most of the pattern of behaviors of the Catholic church. He is, in fact, a member of his own specific Protestant Christian sect.

And that means that the people he attends Mass with may refuse to go along with him, rather than refuse to go along with the church.

Like all faithful members of any sect, Fran is confident that his beliefs are right and true, and that the beliefs of other sects are possibly (if not definitely) lacking in some way, even unto the possibility that - however much they believe themselves to be - members of those other sects might very well not be Christians at all.

People of faith often take offense to ideas like this.

Violence can ensue. And has.

But this is not why I'm an atheist.

The definition of religion is "a social system that postulates supernatural agents whose approval is to be sought." Sought why? When it comes to the Abrahamic faiths, the approval is to be sought so that the appellant can go to Heaven. The religion, of whichever sect, has a set of rules that must be obeyed in order to win this reward. Fran, and millions of others, are Catholic. They believe that only Catholics, true believers, will achieve this goal. Protestants, of whatever sect, believe similarly.

Fran relates:
My wife is a secularist, born Jewish but non-practicing. When we married, I was a non-practicing Catholic. She hasn't changed; I have. But it's made no difference to our relations or our attitudes toward one another...because we were both decent, tolerant persons before the change, and we've remained decent, tolerant persons since.
My stepdaughters are much like my wife. Both have said that they don't quite comprehend what's come over me since I returned to the Church. But both treat me exactly as they did before...because my behavior toward them has not changed. They understand that my "re-Christening" has nothing to do with them.
Yet Fran's religion says that his wife and his daughters, and everyone Fran knows who is not a "true Christian" will burn for eternity in Hell, at worst, or simply cease to exist at best.

But because he's decent and tolerant, his relations and attitudes towards his loved ones have not changed with his return to his faith.

What was the quote I selected from Eric Raymond's piece?
The trouble with ‘tolerance’ is that it only works as a cultural compact when all parties are civilized and have in practice largely agreed to abandon the more inconvenient claims of the religions they theoretically profess.
Fran is not alone. I use his words only as an example.

Charles Darwin, Professor Wilson relates, lost his faith not because of his formulation of the theory of evolution, but because he realized what his faith meant:
He gradually dropped his Christian beliefs because becoming a man of the world, much more aware of other cultures and other religious beliefs and so on, he said that he realized that the stories of the Bible were basically no different than the stories of these other religions, and it seemed to him that they were not in of themselves convincing. But what really turned him against religion was the doctrine of damnation. He said "If the Bible is true, and you must be redeemed in Christ and be a believer in order to go to Heaven and not go to hell, you must be this and others will be condemned," and he said "That includes my brothers and all my best friends," and he said "That is a damnable doctrine." Those are his words.
I'm often told that it's a better choice to behave as though I believe, as though my actions will garner me the approval of the supernatural agents. However, at least as far as the Abrahamic faiths go, this is a non-starter:
Yes, I generated that sign on a web page, but it's an accurate representation of real ones I have seen, and it's an accurate interpretation, as far as I can tell, of all the Abrahamic faiths.

No faith, no salvation.

If it exists, Heaven must be a very lightly populated place.

I am an atheist because I have been exposed to science, and science has pointed out weaknesses in religion. I cannot believe that there are supernatural agents, much less ones I must seek approval from. I am not a "militant anti-Christian" because I know that Christianity is, in the main, a symbiotic meme. Read the story of Medal of Honor winner Desmond T. Doss, (Mr. Doss died on March 23) or the words of a young official election witness for the recent presidential election in Belarus who was interviewed on NPR. When asked if he was worried about speaking to the media about what he saw, he replied:
"I don't think I'm brave, but I count on God to help me."
I don't think religion is evil - at least not the overwhelming majority of them. I just don't think that there is a reconciliation between the "truth" we're hardwired for and the "truth" we've discovered. The one we're hardwired for has flaws, some of them so severe that we must be decent, tolerant, civilized people to ignore those flaws and still believe we believe. The one we've discovered doesn't offer us comforting answers. Both require that we depend on experts for understanding. In both cases, even the experts admit that they don't understand everything. But one claims that by faith some will reap an eternal reward, while others will suffer for eternity. The other claims that by hard work, we'll eventually understand. Perhaps not everything, but more and more, continuously.

That's a meme I can accept.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

At This Rate, I'm NEVER Gonna Finish...

Sorry about the lack of posting. Last night my wife and I went to see V for Vendetta (which we both liked very much. It's not hard to ignore the moonbat conspiracy-theory vis-à-vis the current U.S. administration. It's a pretty damned good story, well done, regardless.) And I'm STILL working on another über-long piece, this time on the topic of religion. At present, it's a mere 3,600 words - but I'm far from finished.

Bear with me. I'll get there.

Then y'all can bitch about the length! ;-)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Well, Since the Crackdown on GUNS Has Failed...

...it seems only logical, I suppose. Mr. Free Market emailed me a link to the BBC:
Call for crackdown on gun crime

A campaign is being launched aimed at reducing gun crime in Wales.

The number of firearm offences in north Wales was almost six times higher in 2004-2005 than the previous year, according to Home Office figures.
How high was it in 1996, right before the "ban?"
In south Wales, gun offences have more than doubled. There were smaller rises in Gwent and Dyfed-Powys force areas.

Crimestoppers Wales is asking anyone with information on people who own guns or imitation guns being used in crime, to let them know anonymously.
Yes, you too can be an agent of Big Brother, spy and narc on your neighbors. The ones who are otherwise good guys will get arrested and go to jail. The really bad actors will find out who turned them in and torch their houses, or throw hand-grenades through their windows.
The total number of firearm offences in Wales - excluding those involving air weapons - rose from 169 in 2003-2004 to 288 in 2004-2005, according to the Home Office.

Neale Evans, chairman of the independent charity Crimestoppers Wales, said: "We are focusing on people who are on the fringes of gun crime - relatives, friends of people who are being pressurised to get involved in crime and use a gun, or an imitation gun."

As part of the anti-gun campaign, the charity will be distributing posters and leaflets across Wales.
Note, they haven't leared yet. "Anti-gun campaign," not "anti-criminal campaign." As long as they keep focusing on the wrong target, things will continue to get worse. So, in short, the title to the piece is wrong - it's not a crackdown on gun crime, it's another crackdown on guns, which means they haven't learned a damned thing in the last ten years.
Mr Evans said anyone who may have information about people who may have guns that are being used in criminal activity should call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. The information will then be passed on to the police.

'Innocent bystanders'


He added: "By doing this your anonymity will be preserved and you will be playing your part in protecting the community in which you live.

"Crimestoppers does not trace or record any information about any caller and you will not have to give evidence in court."

The charity said it was not just the criminals who were affected, but "innocent bystanders who can be caught up in this ruthless violence perpetuated by criminals who do not care who gets in the way".
Criminals, for the most part, that the police are already aware of and are unable to get the Crown Prosecution Service to lock up. Go read The Policeman's Blog for an hour or two.
It said the growth of imitation firearms over "real firearms" is no less worrying, as criminals use them as blunt instruments or to intimidate and threaten people.

However, the publicity Crimestoppers has generated about imitation firearms has not found favour with everyone.

Tim Wyborn, spokesman for a pressure group linked to a simulation game called Airsoft which uses imitation guns, said the publicity presented replica firearms in a poor light.
Welcome. You're the next victim of firearm phobia, of a culture that does not recognize the difference between "violent and predatory," and "violent but protective." It sees only "violent," and violence is bad.
But he stressed their games players were against any sort of gun crime.

"Owning an imitation firearm is perfectly legal and there are many legitimate uses of imitation firearms in the UK," he said.
It's legal now, until the Nanny-state concludes that letting adults play with toy guns is psychologically harmful and it takes those away, too.
The games players fear they will be adversely affected by impending legislation to ban the sale of replica guns.
And you are right to fear that.
"As the bulk of crime with replicas is by 13 year old children with cheap replica BB guns, a better way of tackling the problem (of those crimes) would be education," Mr Wyborn added.
Now, I've got a question: Is that true? That the bulk of crime with replicas is by children with BB guns? Is the majority of those 288 firearms crimes recorded in Wales kids shooting out windows with BB guns, or is it kids mugging people with BB guns? I'd really like to know. But either way, it's obvious that "gun control" has been a dismal failure.

So of course the reaction is to "turn up the power" and escalate the failure. After all, the philosophy cannot be wrong!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Gunblogger Rendezvous.

Mr. Completely is putting out feelers for a late October / early November blogger get-together in Reno. First I've heard of it.

Sounds interesting. Drop him a line if you think you might be able to make it.

b l o g ( a t ) w h i d b e y ( d o t ) c o m

I've already told him I'd like to go. That's no guaranteed I'll be able to, of course.

In Re: CULTURE.

Remember that piece I wrote a couple of weeks back?

From today's Washington Post comes a story that illuminates one of my points better than I was ever able:
"Marriage is for White People"

By Joy Jones
Sunday, March 26, 2006; Page B01


I grew up in a time when two-parent families were still the norm, in both black and white America. Then, as an adult, I saw divorce become more commonplace, then almost a rite of passage. Today it would appear that many -- particularly in the black community -- have dispensed with marriage altogether.
A point I made in Culture.
But as a black woman, I have witnessed the outrage of girlfriends when the ex failed to show up for his weekend with the kids, and I've seen the disappointment of children who missed having a dad around. Having enjoyed a close relationship with my own father, I made a conscious decision that I wanted a husband, not a live-in boyfriend and not a "baby's daddy," when it came my time to mate and marry.

My time never came.

For years, I wondered why not. And then some 12-year-olds enlightened me.

"Marriage is for white people."
And that ladies and gentlemen, is one shining illustration of the different weltanschauung - world view - between America's black culture and every other culture living along side it. That world view is responsible for the lack of good male role models for black youth - instead, at best they get "baby's daddy," who often doesn't turn up on his weekends with the kids.
That's what one of my students told me some years back when I taught a career exploration class for sixth-graders at an elementary school in Southeast Washington. I was pleasantly surprised when the boys in the class stated that being a good father was a very important goal to them, more meaningful than making money or having a fancy title.

"That's wonderful!" I told my class. "I think I'll invite some couples in to talk about being married and rearing children."

"Oh, no," objected one student. "We're not interested in the part about marriage. Only about how to be good fathers."
THAT, at least, is better than not giving a damn at all.
And that's when the other boy chimed in, speaking as if the words left a nasty taste in his mouth: "Marriage is for white people."

He's right. At least statistically. The marriage rate for African Americans has been dropping since the 1960s, and today, we have the lowest marriage rate of any racial group in the United States. In 2001, according to the U.S. Census, 43.3 percent of black men and 41.9 percent of black women in America had never been married, in contrast to 27.4 percent and 20.7 percent respectively for whites. African American women are the least likely in our society to marry. In the period between 1970 and 2001, the overall marriage rate in the United States declined by 17 percent; but for blacks, it fell by 34 percent. Such statistics have caused Howard University relationship therapist Audrey Chapman to point out that African Americans are the most uncoupled people in the country.
But they're still having children.

This March, 2002 Washington Monthly article notes:
An alternative explanation focuses on the boys and the harm allegedly done to them by the weakening of the African-American family. Former Senator Daniel Pat Moynihan (D-NY) famously made this argument in his 1965 report on the Negro family. Many black leaders criticized the report for "blaming the victim," even though Moynihan clearly placed the blame on this nation's unemployment record and discriminatory history. In any event, his analysis proved prophetic. While a quarter of African-American families were headed by single women in the year Moynihan issued his report, today that fraction has more than doubled to reach 56 percent.

But the argument that single-parent families disproportionately hurt boys is suspect. Girls may not be going to jail in large numbers, but they face their own considerable problems, such as out-of-wedlock childbirth. Today, fully half of black women between the ages of 20 and 24 have children, which most raise on their own. Sociologists Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur, authors of the authoritative Growing Up with a Single Parent, make a convincing case that girls, not boys, are most damaged by the absence of a parent. Yet, despite these significant obstacles, young black women are attending college in record number.
While young black men are attending prison, and dying, also in record number.

Read the whole thing; both pieces. Very interesting.

UPDATE, 3/27: Through the miracle that is Technorati, I found a related piece at Tom Maguire's JustOneMinute:
The Times follows up on last Tuesday's gloomy statistical portrait of black men in America with an op-ed piece by Harvard sociology professor Orlando Patterson. His theme - people are unwilling to invoke cultural explanations:
SEVERAL recent studies have garnered wide attention for reconfirming the tragic disconnection of millions of black youths from the American mainstream. But they also highlighted another crisis: the failure of social scientists to adequately explain the problem, and their inability to come up with any effective strategy to deal with it.

The main cause for this shortcoming is a deep-seated dogma that has prevailed in social science and policy circles since the mid-1960's: the rejection of any explanation that invokes a group's cultural attributes — its distinctive attitudes, values and predispositions, and the resulting behavior of its members — and the relentless preference for relying on structural factors like low incomes, joblessness, poor schools and bad housing.
Which was another point I made. Usually the "rejection of any explanation that invokes a group's cultural attribute" is done with one word: "Racist!"

Absolutely, positively read the whole thing, and all the links.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Feast Weekend.

For some reason, I feel like cooking this weekend. I've got a nice 2-lb. London Broil marinating in the refrigerator, and a big batch of spaghetti sauce simmering in the crock pot. A lovely 10-oz. Ahi tuna steak is thawing in the fridge near that London Broil.

Tonight is Surf & Turf. I'll grill that London Broil and my wife will make sashimi. (I don't eat raw fish, but she does eat beef.) Tomorrow is lasagne and home-made bread. I'm getting my grocery list together now for the stuff I need to complete these meals (and restock the house, since I didn't get to the store last week).

Looks like I'll be picking up some Rice-a-Roni (in the box) while I'm there.

In the mean time, I'll be doing some reloading. I got my bench and supply cabinet back in the house last night. And, hopefully, I'll be posting that piece on religion that I've been fighting with for the last couple of weeks. Stay tuned.

Dept. of Socialized Medicine

It's been a while since I did one of these, but perusing the blogosphere I came across an excellent post on the subject at The Munchkin Wrangler. Excerpt:
If you think the personification of evil is the organ recipient who dies because they were not high enough on the organ waiting list, and you think that socialized medicine would fix such ills, you have a surprise coming your way. In socialized-medicine countries like Germany or Great Britain, you'll be shocked to find waiting lists for seeing the doctor.

Last year, my 84-year old grandmother collapsed in her kitchen on a Saturday, fully conscious but unable to move. Luckily, a neighbor found her, and they took her to the hospital. Because she was fully conscious and not in an immediately life-threatening situation, she had to wait until Monday morning to even see a doctor to assess her, because the public hospital only keeps doctors on call for life-threatening emergencies on weekends for cost reasons, and the pencil pushers in charge of health care decided that her situation did not warrant seeing a doctor right away.
Usually the response to this is something on the order of the defense of Communism: "It wouldn't be like that if everybody participated!"

Bullshit.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Van der Leun Channels Ginsberg.

My favorite passage:
who passed gas and on into universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating President Al Gore and Vice-President Noam Chomsky envisioning world peace among the masters of war and stayed on and stayed on and stayed on sucking off the great teat of academe in upaid student loans and over-paid professorial positions the better to molest the minds of children for decades with every third year off for bad behavior,
I told a Brazilian fan of Ginsberg (and Chomsky) who went by the handle "Tupiniquim" quite a while back that I didn't read the man's stuff. One reason (aside from his political bent) is his style. "Howl" is irritating to read just for that, but I've got to admit, Van Der Leun's paean(?) is entertaining!

The BATF Meets the Blogosphere.- UPDATED (AGAIN)

Oh, I HOPE this gets really interesting (for them). Yesterday Say Uncle reported
Reader, commenter, arfcommer, and friend Shoot-N-Scoot just called to tell me that:
*The ATF is at his house

*They’re asking if he has any machine guns

*They have seized his house pending approval of a search warrant

*Told him he was free to go but they were going to search his house

He did the smart thing and left. He also called his lawyer. He (like me) is one of those gun owners who meticulously follows the law to avoid trouble. In that situation, I, myself, would be wondering if I had all my I’s dotted and T’s crossed as there are a lot of technicalities out there. His only crime is apparently marrying his ex-wife, who has supposedly called the ATF and said he has machine guns. He does not have machine guns and is one of my friends who I build AR-15s with.

He asked that I spread the word. More details as I get them.
Say Uncle has a collection of updates at this post, and he's getting Scoot some attention. Michael Silence has a round-up of links here. One of the bloggers taking note is Glenn Reynolds, which means millions of eyes are now pointed Tennesseeward.

Interestingly, Say Uncle notes that all of this is going on while the ATF is involved in hearings on its alleged abuses of power.

Let's blogswarm this one.

And if you feel like contributing to Scoot's defense, Say Uncle is taking donations. Remember: The government's prosecutorial pockets are bottomless. After all, we're funding them, whether we like it or not.

Uncle partially quotes a decision I noted a long time ago: New Jersey v. Pelleteri:

When dealing with guns, the citizen acts at his peril.

That's true outside of New Jersey, too. Let's see if we can help deflect, if not reduce the peril.

UPDATE, 3/25: Say Uncle reports
In comments, KNS reporter Jamie Satterfield writes:
I cover the courts for the News Sentinel. I have checked out this case after being notified by Mike Silence of blog interest. Although I will be reporting on it next week, court records show the person at issue was charged with being a convicted felon in possession of firearms that included two rifles, a shotgun and a loaded .45-caliber pistol. He was not charged with the “assorted gun parts” the ATF agent wrote in his affidavit that he found in the gentleman’s basement. Stay tuned to the Sentinel next week when I will write about his court appearance.
I’ve had some private correspondence with her regarding the situation and she basically read to me right from the database the felony info. Convicted felons can’t own guns and thems the rules. That said, I think the ATF went for the MG. Then manufacturing. Then, finally, the felon thing would stick. It was a fishing expedition and, unfortunately, they dug deep enough.
He has more to say, but the fact remains that Scoot is apparently a convicted felon who did not get his rights restored. One thing about the blogosphere that I really like: instant updates, and the willingness to admit error. (However, Publicola's comment echos my thoughts somewhat.)

Additional UPDATE: Say Uncle has more information on Scoot's felony. Money quote:
A person who murders a child is a felon. But so is a person who imports orchids into the United States. You can lose your right to arms, right to vote and others whether you’re an axe murderer or you import lobster tails in plastic bags instead of cardboard boxes. Obviously, some crimes warrant stripping access to guns.

In other words, when it comes to determining the severity of a person’s crime, the term felon is about as useless as a cock-flavored lollipop.
That's a point I've made several times here, myself. So many crimes are felonies these days that, for example, using a false ID can possibly get you a felony conviction that will revoke your right to arms essentially forever. The exclusion is far too broad, and it looks like it caught Scoot. As far as I'm concerned, that's the next law that needs to be aggressively attacked, but it never will be. Our opponents will label it "arming felons," and that will kill the idea deader than the proverbial doornail.

Someone You Might Find Interesting.

New blogger Jason of Wight Wing Radical introduces himself. Go say hi, and read some of his other stuff.

More Good Concealed-Carry News.

Ben Swenson dropped me an email:
I thought you might be interested in commenting on some recent gun law changes in Indiana.

HB 1028 and HB 1176 were signed by Governor Mitch Daniels Tuesday giving Indiana lifetime handgun carry licenses as well as clarification of the protection from prosecution or civil suit provided for someone involved in a good defensive shooting. HB1176 is a little like an expanded Castle Doctrine - a very good law.

Daniels was quoted as saying:
For those of us who believe the 2nd Amendment means exactly what it says ... this is exactly the kind of step we need to take.
There was some consternation regarding HB 1028 as it has provisions to send 4473's to the Indiana State Police, but that simply replaces another form that did essentially the same thing, so it's not really a loss.
Well, Ben, I would comment, but you already have, and since you're on the ground there I bow to your local expertise. Rock on, Indiana!

Range Report.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I jumped the gun a bit and bought my BAG day purchase a month early - a Winchester 94 chambered in .45 Colt. I didn't get a chance to shoot it the Sunday after I bought it, and I ended up working all weekend the following week, so I took a vacation day today. My wife and I just got back from the range.

Now, I don't get to the range anywhere near as often as I'd like, and my wife only wants to go two or three times a year, tops. But this time she wanted to go since it had been (in her words) too long since she'd shot anything. It being a Friday, I figured we'd have the Tucson Rifle Club's pistol silhouette range all to ourselves.

When I was a match director for the TRC's pistol silhouette matches, I had keys to everything and could set up the 25-yard silhouette chickens for her. She really enjoyed knocking those down with my Contender. Once I introduced her to my Aimpoint-equipped Ruger Mark II Target, she was hooked. Well, I don't have those keys anymore so I can't stand the targets up, but when I was in Sportsman's Warehouse picking up a couple of boxes of .45 Colt loads (reloading bench is still in the garage), I found this:

I figured she'd have as much fun shooting that as the chickens, and I wouldn't have to go stand the targets back up. I also picked up a box of 525 rounds of Federal .22's.

So, off to the range we went. Today's arsenal consisted of the aforementioned Mk II Target, my brand-spanking new Winchester 94, my S&W M25 Mountain Gun, my Kimber Classic Stainless 1911, my 3" S&W M60 .357, my Single-six, her father's 2" M60 .38, and at least a hundred rounds each for everything.

First off, the Winchester is more accurate than my eyes are. Off the bench, at 100 yards I was able to shoot about a 3" group - which is literally better than I'm able to see (and quite possibly a fluke). I was able to knock down the 50 yard chickens and the 100 yard pigs with ease, but the rear sight won't elevate enough to go much beyond that - at least not shooting Cowboy Action (read: "slow") loads. When I get back to reloading, however... The rifle was absolutely flawless in action. No failures of any kind, though in the interests of full disclosure I only fully loaded the magazine (12 rounds) once. It's quick and light - even with the 24" barrel - and fits me perfectly. I just need better sights. Or better eyes.

My wife got in about 75 rounds of practice with the .38 and did pretty well. She has a flinch, and knows it, so one of the things she worked on was that. By loading only two or three of the five chambers, she never was certain whether the next round would be a live one or an empty, so it forces her to concetrate on the trigger and sight picure, and ignore the upcoming "BANG!" Her groups were nothing to write home about, but any mutant entering our home and confronting her would not be leaving vertically.

After a break, I set up the Birchwood Casey target and checked the sight setting on the Mk II. It was zeroed for that Federal ammo at the range I put up the swinger (about 15 yards).

A couple of hours later, she'd gone through about two-thirds of that 525 rounds! There was .22 brass all over the place, and she'd enjoyed herself thoroughly. That little swinger stand is kind of addicting. I ran through five or six magazines myself, plus a few cylinder-fulls from the Single-six.

Damn, I'm glad I took the day off! And I'm supposed to meet up with fellow-blogger Engineer Poet during his Tucson stopover, and take him shooting on Sunday. Twice in one weekend! What a deal!

Edited to add: I forgot to mention that when we got home my order of 500 Mt. Baldy .45 calibler (calibler?) caliber 270 grain "SAA" cast bullets was waiting for me on the front porch! Now I HAVE to get the loading bench set up!

Time to Modify That Map Again!.

Kansas has joined the "Shall-issue" concealed-carry team. Both houses of the state legislature overturned Governor Kathleen Sebelius' veto. That makes Kansas the 37th "Shall-issue" state (Vermont has no restriction on concealed-carry. Alaska is "shall-issue," if you want a permit for reciprocity with other states. Otherwise, you can carry concealed in Alaska without a permit.) Eight other states are "may-issue" (which generally means "only if you're well-connected".)

Note that the argument was the same-old, same-old:
A microcosm of the debate played out between Clark Zeit, of Olathe, and his mother, Carolyn Zeit, of Prairie Village, when they were asked about what the Legislature did.

"They say it will make it more difficult for police to do their job. But I think there are enough safeguards," the son said.

The mother said: "I'm totally against it. I think too many people will have guns and you won't be safe anywhere."

--

The Kansas Sheriffs' Association remained neutral because its members were divided. But its president, Stafford County Sheriff Jeff Parr, said such a law bothers him.

"I feel that with more people able to conceal weapons we're going to have problems with guns," he said. "Instead of getting into a fist fight, if they have a gun, they are going to pull a gun instead of fighting."
Although that hasn't been the case in ANY state that has passed "shall-issue." And, as I pointed out - in detail - before "more guns" DOES NOT equal "more crime." What concealed-carry does is allow people to protect themselves and others:
Democrat, Rep. L. Candy Ruff, of Leavenworth, was the bill's chief champion.

"People now have the right to defend themselves if they want to," said Ruff, adding she doesn't plan to get a concealed gun permit.

"I've never had a desire to carry a concealed gun," she said. "I pushed it because two rape victims in my district asked me to."
That's called "serving your constituents."

But, of course, there's always the "YOU'LL PUT YOUR EYE OUT!" crowd:
"My concern is people thinking they are safe because they are packing a gun," said Yonally, R-Overland Park. "It's only going to become a weapon that can be used against them."
(*SIGH*) Anyway, here's the map, updated just yesterday!

And perhaps later, Nebraska!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

THIS is Why Tam is on My Blogroll!.

Beside the fact that she's a great gunblogger, she has a wicked sense of humor!

Edited to add:

She's a damned good writer, too.
Why is it that when some bright spark in the marketing department at Apple, Cannondale, or Pontiac notices that slightly more than 50% of the planet's population is setters rather than pointers, it gets two column inches on page 24 of the WSJ, but when their counterpart at Remington or Smith & Wesson does likewise, it calls for a panting TeeWee news spot from ABC? Build a Saturn that has room to stow a purse in the front passenger compartment, and nobody notices. Make a SIG small enough to fit in that purse, and shoulders get dislocated in newsrooms across America as folks reach for dusty tomes by Freud. Weird.
Ayup.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

"If it hadn't been for him (the armed customer), there's no telling what would have happened."

I guess robbing a Tulsa grocery store wasn't such a bright idea. Not when the customers can carry concealed weapons:
Man shot during store robbery
By SHAUN EPPERSON World Staff Writer
3/19/2006


Police say a customer with a concealed-pistol permit shot one of two armed men holding up a Tulsa grocery.

A man was shot Saturday evening as he and another man attempted to rob a Homeland store near 91st Street and Memorial Drive, police reported.

Two men in dark clothing approached a register around 7:15 p.m and demanded money from employees as one of the men brandished a semi-automatic pistol, Capt. Brett Bailey said.

Shortly afterward, a customer in line nearby pulled out a revolver and shot the man holding the pistol, Bailey said.

Police think the customer fired one shot at the robber, he said.

Although police don't know where the gunman was wounded, they know that he was hit, Bailey said.

"There was blood on the floor," he said. "He definitely was hit."

The two bandits then ran into the parking lot and fled in a white four-door sedan, Bailey said.

The vehicle possibly was an older model Oldsmobile, police said.

Police do not know whether the men got any money from the store, they said.

Officers locked down the store and asked everyone inside to give a statement about what they saw, Bailey said.

Police said the customer who shot the robber had a license to carry a concealed pistol.

Several bystanders were in the store, but no one else was injured, police said.

A Homeland employee, Linda Lewis, said she was sacking groceries when she saw two men wearing hoods trying to push their way into a gated area of the store to an office where a safe was located.

"I turned around and saw these guys come in with hoods over their faces," she said.

She lay down on the floor, she said, because she "knew something was going to happen."

Next, she said, she heard gunfire and feared that an employee had been shot.

"I heard two shots, and I didn't know if a customer or a robber was shot," she said. "I thought we'd be next."

Lewis said she was "scared half to death," adding that she was thankful that no cus tomers or employees had been shot.

"If it hadn't been for him (the armed customer), there's no telling what would have happened," she said.

Police were searching for two men in connection with the robbery Saturday.
More:
2 Percent Of Oklahomans Have A Permit To Carry A Concealed Weapon

49,221 people in Oklahoma have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, which is less than 2 percent of the population. One of those is a 75 year old retired man who shot a robbery suspect this weekend inside a Tulsa grocery store.

News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright takes a look at the law.

Tulsa Police say two men confronted a store employee at a Homeland grocery store near 91st and South Memorial on Saturday and demanded money at gunpoint.

A 75-year-old man, who was standing in the checkout line, legally had a revolver hidden inside his pocket. He pulled it out and shot at the robbers. Tulsa Police Sgt Mike Huff: "Fired a couple of shots. One hit one of the suspects in the mid-torso area. We feel he is seriously injured."

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation says 7,622 people in Tulsa County have a permit to carry a concealed weapon anywhere except into government buildings, schools, universities, jails, places that sell beer, places where there's betting, professional sporting events or any other business that forbids it. Violating that part of the law will cost you a $250 fine and you'll have your permit suspended for three months.

The News on 6 could not find a posting at the 91st and Memorial Homeland store, prohibiting firearms.

Tulsa Police say deciding to shoot isn't simple, even when it's legal. Sgt Mike Huff: "We always have to think about our backdrop, what we're shooting at, if we miss it, what will we hit and if there's a gun battle, if they miss us, what are they going to hit. It sounds simple but in a split second, it's a big decision to engage someone in deadly force."

What police officers can't publicly say is most of them secretly applaud citizens who defend their own lives or the lives or others. Sgt Mike Huff: "The bad guys with guns are shooting at people and they have no rules to follow. They obviously disregard the laws. The good, hard-working people are the ones who are following the rules. Over the years, they've acted very responsibly." (Halleluja!)

58 concealed permits are currently under suspension, the state revoked 18 of them last year. (That's less than 0.12% under suspension, less than 0.04% revoked.)

Tulsa Police say this weekend's shooting appears to right in line with the law and folkswith Homeland told us they have no comment.

Tulsa Police say if the robbery suspect doesn't get medical treatment soon, he could die, in fact, they wonder if he might already be dead.
Sweet bleeding Jeebus, GOOD PRESS! (You did note, I hope, that the TV station checked to see if the grocery store was posted against concealed-carry. Like the cops hadn't done that already.) Here are a couple of shots of the wounded bad-guy:

It's reported that the shooter used a .357 Magnum revolver. Looks like it was pretty effective.

And what is it with elderly guys intervening? This reminds me a lot of 72 year-old Due Moore who intervened in an assault occurring in a New Mexico WalMart last August. I fully expect the GFW to wail and gnash their teeth over this shooting just as they did after Mr. Moore saved Ms. Joyce Cordova's life. Screw 'em. Regardless of the repeated "let the professionals handle it" mantra we normally get from the press, the rank-and-file cops on the beat know that citizens who defend themselves are a net asset. It's only for political reasons that cops "can't publicly say" that. Kudos to Sgt. Huff, who will probably catch a lot of flak for saying it on record.

As for the shooter, good on you, sir! There's no telling what would have happened had you not fired, but chances are really good that at least one of those scumbags will never try to rob anyone again.

(All links via AR15.com)

Monday, March 20, 2006

Please, Hold Your Breath, Sharon.

Radio personality Laura Ingraham wrote a book, Shut up and Sing: How Elites from Hollywood, Politics, and the U. N. Are Subverting America. The title is pretty much self-explanatory. Perhaps, given the recent bloviations from Hollywood, she should have named it "Shut Up and Act."

Breitbart reports today:
Peace just a breath away, says Sharon Stone

A peaceful co-existence between the peoples of the Middle East is but a breath away, Hollywood star Sharon Stone said after a highly publicized visit to Israel.

"It feels to me that we have an opportunity ... to choose understanding in a new way," she told a press conference in Paris when asked about her trip.

"And it really is just a breath. It's just an agreement that's just a breath. We are not far apart. We can choose to have this alternative kind of growth that is a collective nuance of understanding.

"We are just that breath away from a peaceful co-existence," she added after her visit to Israel as a guest of the Peres Center for Peace, a foundation run by Nobel laureate and former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres.

Stone, 48, who visited several projects aimed at promoting peace, including a kindergarten for Israeli and Palestinian children in Jaffa, was also photographed praying at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, the holiest Jewish shrine.
Doesn't that just give you the warm-and-fuzzies? "Just a breath..."

The puff-piece goes on:
Stone, who is also an ardent champion of women's rights, was in Paris ahead of the release of her latest film "Basic Instinct II".

She told journalists that she was delighted that women were stepping up to take their place in the world, taking on new jobs to which they brought something unique, "their feminine instinct."

"This is a new and very exciting time for women, because women by their very nature are creative and not destructive. And this is an extraordinary and important thing that we can bring into a world that awaits the opportunity for peace."
I guess Ms. Stone is in denial about the volume of angry breathers out there who would happily rape her for going around without covering her head, much less stone her to death for the acts she simulates in "Basic Instinct II." (Video absolutely, positively NOT safe for work. Broadband recommended.) There is, I suppose, a kind of peace in death, where the breath she waxes poetic about is one's last.

Why does the media give these people attention?

This Looks Like an Interesting Storyline.

The next few strips promise to be interesting.

And I was right. Here's Tuesday's strip:

I'm with Zed. Endlessly fascinating!

Wednesday does not disappoint:

Hmm.... Wet T-shirt shooting competitions... Well, we are trying to recruit new shooters!

Thursday's strip.

Yes. Yes, we do.

Friday's:

Yes, this is why you don't wear a shirt with a loose (or a low) collar at the range!

And this is a GREAT country!

UPDATE: Denise of The Ten Ring is apparently responsible for Friday's inspired cartoon! Too cool!

Saturday: I was hoping for a continuation of the "hot brass" theme, but...

I can just SEE Jan's "But nobody needs a .50" thoughtfeel-waves radiating from her skull.

Muir does big multi-panel strips on Sundays. I wait with bated breath.

SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY!:

Yes, some of them are. Why that tends to surprise other Democrats, I don't know. It is a right that unites... Well, a lot of us.

Zed is "black ops" military? This WILL be interesting!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

S&W Quality Control?.

This is making the rounds of the message boards:
N.C. wants Smith & Wesson to replace faulty revolvers

Faced with problems ranging from misfires to barrels breaking off, the state has asked gun maker Smith & Wesson to replace hundreds of sidearms carried by probation and corrections officers.

None of the revolvers have failed in the line of duty, and for now, the department is keeping the guns in service. But in testing, about one in four revolvers didn't fire when the trigger was pulled. In some cases, the barrel of some models broke off when the gun was fired.

"In one sense it's funny," said Chief Deputy Correction Secretary Dan Stieneke. "In another, it's alarming."

So far, the state Correction Department has asked the Massachusetts-based gun maker to replace only 500 Model 64 revolvers bought in 2004, though there have also been problems with two other models. But officials could wind up asking Smith & Wesson to provide replacements for all 5,000 of the department's revolvers.

At a meeting last month at a shooting range in Smithfield, Smith & Wesson representative got a live demonstration of the problems. During test firing of about three dozen revolvers, four misfired, meaning nothing happened when the trigger was pulled. The barrel also broke off a different model when it was fired, something that has happened 14 times in practice firings since 2003.

"On the one hand, statistically (the revolvers' performance) is not bad, but it's just the safety issue," Stieneke said. "That kind of failure gets people's attention."

Officials at Springfield, Mass.-based Smith & Wesson, one of the world's largest gun makers, did not return repeated calls seeking comment.

For at least two decades, state prison officials have used Smith & Wesson revolvers. They are assigned to probation officers and correction officers who work outside of prison walls, patrolling perimeters and escorting inmates. The guns are not carried by officers who work inside prisons, where there is too great a risk of inmates getting a gun.

The guns cost about $320 each, meaning it would cost the state more than $1.5 million to replace them all. That doesn't include the cost of buying new ammunition, holsters and other accessories, plus retraining officers to use a new model of gun.

"We're at a point where if we have to make a quick switch, it's going to cost millions of dollars, and it's going to take a lot of training and effort to get back up to speed," Stieneke said.

Many law enforcement agencies have moved away from revolvers in recent years, switching to semiautomatic pistols, something Stieneke is considering.
Here's a picture of a couple of failures:

Just DAMN! (Edited to add: These guns are from a rental range, not the NC Dept. of corrections, so the problem apparently goes beyond a single contract run.)

Most people who like revolvers like them because they're about the simplest, most reliable mechanism out there - the original "point and click" interface. This does not say good things about S&W's new management. (Can't apparently blame it on those Limey pooftahs who bent over for Clinton. Just had to get that jibe in!)

Further reading available at AR15.com, GlockTalk, and the Smith & Wesson Forum

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Power of the Blogosphere.

(h/t Instapundit)

Spread this around far and wide. The internet has a flawless memory, even when the intelligentsia and the old gatekeepers try to distort reality. From OpinionJournal:
The Bend of History
"President Bush sketched an expansive vision last night of what he expects to accomplish by a war in Iraq. Instead of focusing on eliminating weapons of mass destruction, or reducing the threat of terror to the United States, Mr. Bush talked about establishing a 'free and peaceful Iraq' that would serve as a 'dramatic and inspiring example' to the entire Arab and Muslim world, provide a stabilizing influence in the Middle East and even help end the Arab-Israeli conflict."--editorial, New York Times, Feb. 27, 2003

"One prominent neoconservative, Francis Fukuyama, asserts in a new book that the administration embraced democracy as a cornerstone of its policy only after the failure to find unconventional weapons in Iraq. The issue was seized upon to justify the war in retrospect, and then expanded for other countries, he says."--New York Times, March 17, 2006

Editor? What's an editor?

Picking at the Scab


Quote of the week, from Eric S. Raymond:
The trouble with 'tolerance' is that it only works as a cultural compact when all parties are civilized and have in practice largely agreed to abandon the more inconvenient claims of the religions they theoretically profess.
(The title is from a comment I left at a post over at Eternity Road.) (Link broken. - Ed.) Discuss.

Update, 3/18/06: Fran Porretto comments (Link broken. - Ed.) on Eric S. Raymond's post, but misidentifies which portion I quoted "with approval."

Apparently he's still upset with me.

One more update. Og the Neanderpundit links approvingly to Fran's post, and comments:
We're not talking about the things so called christians have done in the past, and I will brook no discussion on that subject.
But we have to discuss that subject, because no one's proven to me that such things can't happen again:
When news of this holocaust of French Protestants reached the world, Catherine de'Medici received the congratulations of all the Catholic powers, and Pope Gregory XIII ordered bonfires lighted and the singing of the Te Deum. Indeed, the Pope's joy was so great that he commanded a gold medal to be minted, with the inscription, "Slaughter [strages] of the Huguenots." He then had Giorgio Vasari paint pictures in the Vatican of "the glorious triumph over a perfidious race."
I suppose Catherine de'Medici and Pope Gregory XIII were "so-called" Christians? Sarah claims that Protestant Christianity is the answer. Perhaps it is, but some of the Protestant sects seem quite content in quoting the Old Testament and holding it up for reverence. The Ten Commandments, for example, which is a rallying point for a lot of American Christians, is from the Book of Exodus. Fran states:
The Book of Deuteronomy is Old Testament, and has no relevance to the Christian New Covenant; the same applies to the bloody commands of the Book of Leviticus.
Are the Ten Commandments still valid, then? A lot of people seem to believe they are. Or is this just another example of where civilized parties have "largely agreed to abandon the more inconvenient claims of the religions they theoretically profess?"

I've made the point that I'm not a biblical scholar, but I'd wager the majority of people who are "so-called christians" aren't either, and never have been.

--

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