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, April 30, 2010

It's Official: Echo SUCKS

I've received numerous comments and several emails concerning the general suckitude of the Echo comment system. As one put it, "If you told me I'd be missing Haloscan . . ."

Now one entire comment thread, the one to this post, refuses to load for most people. I am unable to access the "moderation" function to look at and/or modify ANY comments at the present time. I tried to do an export of all comments (it's supposed to go to an XML file). The system tells me it's finished with the export, and the file is 12Mb, but when I download it, it's 48Mb and won't open.

I really don't want to go to the hassle of moving to another comment system. There are about 40,000 comments on this blog from the last seven years, and I don't want to lose them. I've saved all of them up to December, 2009 when I was forced to "upgrade" to Echo, but they're not in a format that is exportable to anything else commercially available.

This SUCKS.

UPDATE:

Now this is fascinating. Under Firefox I can get into Echo's moderation function, but whole pages of comments will not load. Under IE 8 Echo recognizes me when I log in, but tells me that I don't manage any sites, nor will it let me add this site to those I manage. As far as Echo's concerned, under IE 8, TSM doesn't exist. Yet I can see the comment thread to the education post. I can even click on the "admin" button and log in. It just won't give me actual, you know, administration privileges. WTF??

Quote of the Day - Law Enforcement Edition

Polite, efficient and responsive policing is a luxury that can only be afforded by states not drowning in politically motivated entitlement spending. The rest of the world gets by with surly, low paid constables and paper-checkers who exist to serve the needs of the state and not the citizenry, and sooner rather than later, we will find out what that’s like here. - Papa Delta Bravo, What Civil Collapse Looks Like
This is a good place to repost Sir Robert Peel's Nine Principles of Modern Policing from all the way back in the nineteenth century:
1. The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.

2. The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions.

3. Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.

4. The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.

5. Police seek and preserve public favour not by catering to public opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.

6. Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient.

7. Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

8. Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.

9. The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.
Looks like Philadelphia is failing #9.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

And Then There Were Eight

Josh Sugarmann, Kristin Rand, Petey Hamm, Paul Helmke, Sarah Brady et al. must be especially sad pandas about now. 2010 is barely a third of the way done, and things have only gone from bad to worse for them.

2009 showed record sales for guns and ammunition. Arizona is about to become the third state with no requirement for a permit to legally carry a concealed weapon, and Iowa's governor has just signed a bill to make that state "Shall Issue" effective January 1, 2011, leaving only eight "may issue" and two "no issue" states in the Union.

Once again, I LOVE this graphic:



Look at the progress that's been made since 1986, and homicide rates nationwide continue to trend down. Yet in "gun-free" Chicago, the murder capital of Illinois by a large margin, 113 people have been murdered as of two days ago, Chicago lawmakers think that the way to fix things is to bring in the National Guard to stop the violence, and the mayor wants to use the World Court to sue gun manufacturers out of existence.

Mayor Daley said:
This is all about guns, and that’s why the crusade is on.
The evidence is (literally!) all around them that the problem is not guns, but the philosophy CANNOT be WRONG! It just hasn't been implemented correctly! They must do it again, only HARDER!

And we await the outcome of McDonald v. Chicago . . .

Quote of the Day - Understatement of the Century Edition

Y'all (Republicans) spent the first half of this decade rearranging your "family values" deck chairs while metastasizing the government. Some of you are obviously not getting it. - Tam, Dense as Steele

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Quote of the Day - Tea Party Edition

The problem is that most Americans’ trust in the ability of Congress to solve such things, or even to tackle them in a way that will not make them worse, is nonexistent. The idea that our representatives would listen to our concerns, be responsive to our needs, and then have the intelligence to craft solutions based on common sense and/or intelligent thought or even well-meaning effort has been waning over the years but has finally evaporated. If there had been any lingering faith in Congress, HCR erased it. . . . We assume that the cure will be worse than the disease. We expect that the bills will be rushed through without proper debate and enacted at the stroke of midnight, like evil spells in a fairy tale. We are no longer surprised at the depth and breadth of the corrupt and shady behind-the-scenes deals involved. We know the legislations will be lengthy and complex. We do not think our representatives possess the intelligence to even understand the bills they pass—that is, if they bother to read them at all—and either do not appreciate their negative consequences or actually intend them to do us harm. We know that, just when we think we’ve driven a fatal stake into the heart of an unpopular bill, it rises and staggers forward to attack us.

-- Neo-Neocon, The calm before the storms
And this describes why people who were apolitical are coming out and attending TEA parties better than anything I've seen.

Moment of Zen - Spectacular Violence Edition

Yeah, humanity's a threat to Mother Nature. Sure.

(click pic to embiggen.)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Quote of the Day - Capitalism Edition

It's a stark illustration of the inequities of capitalism that organized labor can only afford to buy one political party, but Wall Street can buy both of them. - Mickey Kaus
Ain't it, though?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Dept. of Our Collapsing Schools - Twofer Edition

Let's start out local.

Front page today, above the fold, in the local Daily rag newspaper:
One-third of freshmen found not ready for college courses
UA to teach high school level math in the fall
Let us fisk:
The University of Arizona will teach high school level math starting in the next school year, because a third of its freshmen aren't ready for college level math, officials said.
Really? A third?

Back when I wrote The George Orwell Daycare Center a report had been released indicating that:
30% of students in the Tucson school districts fail basic subjects, but 90% are promoted to the next grade anyway. Plus, investigation suggests that up to a quarter of the students receiving passing grades should not be. (For the innumerate out there, that's possibly over half, in total.) Nor is this limited to the Southwest.

The AP reports:
More than 50 percent of students at four-year schools and more than 75 percent at two-year colleges lacked the skills to perform complex literacy tasks.

That means they could not interpret a table about exercise and blood pressure, understand the arguments of newspaper editorials, compare credit card offers with different interest rates and annual fees or summarize results of a survey about parental involvement in school.
This would seen to lend further credence to those reports.

I wonder how long the U of A has been teaching remedial English?
The class will cover intermediate algebra through a lecture component, an online component and required time with trained peer instructors.

"It's math that you would hope students already knew coming in, and a lot of them don't," said William McCallum, the UA's math department head.

About a third of the UA's 7,000 freshmen didn't place in college math in a placement test they take during class registration time.

"We don't want to put students into classes that they're going to fail," McCallum said.

Two-thirds of freshmen were ready to take college algebra, which is required for most degree programs, or "math in modern society," a class for students whose fine arts or humanities degree programs don't require much math.
I would love to get my hands on a copy of the final exam for "math in modern society."
Those who take the new high school level math class - about 1,000 students per year at full capacity - also will get help with adjusting to the university culture, finding out what it's like to take a college math class and learning which study skills are required for success.
That they SHOULD have learned before GRADUATING FROM HIGH SCHOOL.
The class doesn't satisfy the UA's math requirements; it just gets students ready for college algebra or "math in modern society." The class will count as a general elective toward a degree.

Most UA students who aren't ready for college math take intermediate algebra through Pima Community College and transfer the credit to the UA. PCC faculty taught seven sections of the class at the UA campus in the fall.

But if a student takes the class through PCC, it doesn't count as part of the student's full-time schedule needed to get financial aid. So students end up taking five classes at the UA plus the math class at Pima. Those underprepared and overloaded students are less likely to succeed as freshmen.
Then perhaps they should prepare before becoming freshmen?
"The main reason we're doing this is to retain those students," Vice Provost Gail Burd said.
Yes, you desperately need their tuition dollars.
The UA also will benefit from the tuition revenue that would otherwise go to the community college.

The university has an open admissions policy and is working on the state's goal of producing more degree holders.
Said degrees which are becoming almost as worthless as a High School Diploma. But that's what happens when something becomes an entitlement - its value declines, sometimes precipitously.
"My attitude is: If we admit students who are not sufficiently prepared in mathematics, we have some sort of obligation to help them," McCallum said.
Perhaps then you shouldn't admit them??
The UA's undergraduate council came to the same conclusion, said Jake Harwood, a UA communication professor and the council chair.
Color me shocked.
The council, composed of faculty members and others who make curriculum decisions, at first was concerned about starting down a slippery slope of teaching remedial classes, but the faculty has to work with the students it gets, Harwood said. So the council approved the class.
Because otherwise the University might have to get smaller, and who would THAT benefit?
"If we're admitting you, we're saying you're ready for college," Harwood said. But if students aren't ready, especially in a fundamental area such as quantitative skills, the UA should help them instead of telling them to sink or swim, he said.
How about "If you're not ready, we're not ADMITTING YOU"?

Doesn't anybody in administration do logic anymore, much less math?

I thought this was an appropriate place to put that.

Next up: The Standford School of Education!

Over the weekend, both in email and in a comment, Unix-Jedi sent me links to a heartwarming story:
A Model School Flops

It sounded like a great idea: Stanford education professors would create a model school to show how to educate low-income Hispanic and black students.

Or, as it's turned out, how not to.

In March, Stanford New Schools (aka East Palo Alto Academy) — a charter high school started in 2001 and elementary grades added in 2006 – made California's list of schools in the lowest-achieving five percent in the state.

This month, the Ravenswood school board denied a new five-year charter. The elementary school — now with K-4 and eighth grade — will close in June. Another year or two wouldn't be enough to improve poor student performance and weak behavior management, Superintendent Maria De La Vega told the board.

The high school will get two years to find a new sponsor: the local high school district has said "no," but there are other options.

How did it happen? Stanford New Schools, run by the university's school of education, seems to stress social and emotional support over academics.

Stanford New Schools hires well-trained teachers who use state-of-the-art progressive teaching methods; Stanford's student teachers provide extra help. With an extra $3,000 per student raised privately, students enjoy small classes, mentoring, counseling and tutoring, technology access, field trips, summer enrichment, health van visits, community college classes on campus, and community service opportunities. The goal is to send graduates to college as critical thinkers, lifelong learners, and "global citizens."
"Global Citizens" who are illiterate and innumerate, have no knowledge of history or civics or science, but by God they have a HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA and they FEEL GOOD about themselves!
The school provides students a web of support, reports the New York Times:
High school students have one teacher/adviser who checks that homework is done, and when it is not, the teacher calls home. Teachers know students' families and help with issues as varied as buying a bagel before an exam to helping an evicted family find a home. Teachers stay late and work weekends, and tend to burn out quickly — causing a high rate of turnover.
EPA Academy enrolls very disadvantaged students: Most are the children of poor and poorly educated Spanish-speaking immigrant families; the rest are black or Pacific Islanders. Their English skills are poor. Those who come in ninth grade are years behind in reading and math.

In comments on the news stories that have run, I see a common refrain: It's impossible to teach these kids. Not even Stanford can do it.
Ahem. Time once again for Den Beste's Definition of Cognitive Dissonance:
When someone tries to use a strategy which is dictated by their ideology, and that strategy doesn't seem to work, then they are caught in something of a cognitive bind. If they acknowledge the failure of the strategy, then they would be forced to question their ideology. If questioning the ideology is unthinkable, then the only possible conclusion is that the strategy failed because it wasn't executed sufficiently well. They respond by turning up the power, rather than by considering alternatives. (This is sometimes referred to as "escalation of failure".)
But no, no! says Ms. Jacobs:
But other schools with demographically identical students are doing much better. The top-scoring school in the district is East Palo Alto Charter School (EPAC), a K-8 run by Aspire Public Schools, Stanford’s original partner. An all-minority school, EPAC outperforms the state average.

Rather than send EPAC graduates to Stanford’s high school, Aspire started its own high school, Phoenix, which outperforms the state average for all high schools. All students in the first 12th grade class have applied to four-year colleges.
All of them. And I'm willing to bet that 30% aren't going to have to take high-school level algebra, either.

But wait! It gets better!
Aspire co-founded East Palo Alto Academy High with Stanford, but bowed out five years ago. There was a culture clash, Aspire's founder, Don Shalvey told the New York Times. Aspire focused "primarily and almost exclusively on academics," while Stanford focused on academics and students' emotional and social lives, he said.
Okay, boys and girls, say it along with me! "Which philosophy WORKS?!?"

But Cognitive Dissonance is still in effect:
Deborah Stipek, Stanford’s dean of education, says the elementary school is too new — in its fourth year, but with only two years of scores — to be judged. Stanford considers the high school a success.

In an email to Alexander Russo, Professor Linda Darling-Hammond, who helped create the high school, defended the high school's "strong, highly personalized college-going program." The graduation rate of 86 percent exceeds the state average. "In addition, 96 percent of graduates are admitted to college (including 53 percent to four-year colleges) — twice the rate of African American and Latino students in the state as a whole." Half the students enroll in Early College classes on campus.

Given the horrendous drop-out rate for Ravenswood students who go to large public high schools — it's estimated only one out of three receives a diploma — EPA Academy is helping students stay in school.

But its graduates are not prepared for college.
I won't rain on Ms. Jacob's follow up, but I want to interject here: Fifty-three percent of East Palo Alto Academy High's students get admitted to a four-year school (and we've seen what the requirements for that have declined to), but ALL of the graduating class of Aspire's Phoenix high school have applied to four-year colleges.

Same student demographics, massive disparity in philosophy, and massive disparity in outcome.

Ms. Jacobs:
The 96 percent college admission rate is meaningless, since it includes community colleges, which take anyone, and California State University campuses, which admit students with a B average or better, regardless of test scores.

EPA Academy students are graded on a five-dimensional rubric, based on (1) Personal Responsibility; (2) Social Responsibility; (3) Communication Skills; (4) Application of Knowledge; and (5) Critical and Creative Thinking.

Only 20 percent of the grade is based on knowledge, notes Michele Kerr, who taught an ACT prep course for disadvantaged students at a nonprofit from 2007-09. Compared to district high school students, East Palo Academy tutees had "the lowest skills and the highest grades," Kerr recalls. Students with high A averages turned out to have very poor reading and math skills, though their writing was relatively strong.
Lowest skills, highest grades.

Yup, that's modern teaching!
EPA Academy students got into CSU on their grades, while much stronger students with lower grades were shut out, says Kerr, now a Stanford-trained high school teacher.

On CSU's test of college readiness, no EPA Academy 11th graders were deemed ready for college English; only 11 percent were deemed ready for college-level math. Of course, they might catch up in 12th grade. But the state exam shows 11th graders are far behind. In English Language Arts, 54 percent are below basic, 40 percent basic, and only 6 percent proficient. No students tested as proficient in Algebra II or chemistry, 9 percent in biology, and 6 percent in U.S. history.
They're in school five days a week, supposedly taking six hours of class per day. WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY BEING TAUGHT?
The median scores for SAT takers are in the high 300s in each section, about the 15th percentile. ACT scores average 15, equally low.
Apparently nothing that anybody tests for.

And we return to Sowell's Social Visions once again. Had anybody asked me back when Stanford New Schools started their experiment, I'd have predicted precisely this outcome. I wouldn't have understood as well as I do now why it would have been the right prediction, but I'd have made it: Total Failure.

The Unconstrained ("Progressive") vision doesn't work. But that vision embraces cognitive dissonance and hangs on for dear life in the face of all the evidence. Jacobs concludes:
When I started the reporting that led to my charter school book, Our School, I planned to write about the Aspire-Stanford school. I was at the school board meeting when Aspire-Stanford got the charter. I talked to East Palo Alto parents eager for a high school in their own town. I interviewed Shalvey and Darling-Hammond, who took the lead in getting the high school started.

However, I couldn't get the access I needed — the inexperienced teachers didn't want a writer taking note of their mistakes — so I ended up at Downtown College Prep, a charter high school in San Jose designed for underachievers from Mexican immigrant families.

As at East Palo Alto Academy, DCP started with a progressive philosophy and very high ideals. But the two high school teachers who started the school had no trouble acknowledging mistakes. When things didn't go as they'd hoped — which happened a lot — they tried something else. No time or energy was wasted blaming the students' poverty or the tests. The unofficial motto was: We're not good now but we can get better. And they did.

Will Stanford education professors learn from their mistakes? I fear they’ll write off the elementary, claiming the program didn’t get enough time, and continue to claim the high school as a success. That would be a waste of a "teachable moment."
Pointy-headed professors of Education admit error?

Inconceivable!

I will reiterate my ongoing argument:

You Never See "Psychic Wins Lottery" Either

US woman sentenced to death for killing fortune teller and her daughter

A WOMAN convicted of murdering a fortune teller and her daughter was today sentenced to death by a judge in Orange County, California.

Mother-of-four Tanya Nelson, 45, did not react when Orange County Superior Court Judge Frank F Fasel imposed the sentence, the Orange County Register said.

She still denies committing the crimes, but in March a jury recommended the death penalty for Nelson, who resided in North Carolina, for the April 23, 2005, stabbing of Ha Smith, 52, and her 23-year-old daughter Anita Vo.

Nelson had been a long time client and friend of Mr(sic) Smith, who she allegedly murdered because a fortune did not come true.

A man who plead guilty to the murder of Mr(sic) Smith, Philippe Zamora, 55, told the court that Nelson felt cheated because Mr(sic) Smith told her that her business would do well if she re-located to North Carolina, but instead it went bust.

The LA Times reported that Nelson was arrested five weeks after the murders after she had assumed the identities of the victims and spent more than $US3000 in a shopping spree at South Coast Plaza.
And it's nice to see that the foreign press also has layers of editorial oversight like the US media does. Either Ha Smith was a woman with a daughter, or "Mr." Smith was in the midst of a sex-change the story failed to inform us of.

I don't like to make light of another's tragedy, but this story just hit me that way.

Quote of the Day - Dr. Zero Edition

This is the dreadful equation of socialism. Money can be used to create value, or it can fuel the exercise of power, but not both...It is possible to ration subsistence, but not prosperity. Americans are slowly, painfully beginning to appreciate the difference between those two levels of existence. We’ve been so prosperous, for so long, that we lost sight of how far our economy would collapse when value was traded for power. The arithmetic of poverty and unemployment is simple, and merciless. Free people multiply. The all-powerful State is only good at division. -- Hot Air, The Dreadful Equation

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cook's Postulate

The key to understanding the American system is to imagine that you have the power to make nearly any law you want. But your worst enemy will be the one to enforce it. - Author Rick Cook
On Friday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed SB1070, which will become law (assuming no successful court challenges in the interim) in about three months. There has been quite a national uproar over the bill (PDF), ostensibly designed to deal with what is essentially uncontrolled illegal immigration into and through Arizona, along with kidnappings, drug smuggling and, recently, drug cartel warfare coming across the border as well. One of the primary questions is, "is the bill Constitutional." Even Instapundit took up that question. Quite possibly part of it is not, though it's difficult to see where the majority of the law wouldn't be.

Still, as Vox pointed out over lunch yesterday, this looks like the right-wing's "big government" reaction to an admittedly profound problem: "DO something!!"

Thus we return to Cook's Postulate. Does this law pass, for example, Joe Huffman's "Jews in the Attic" test? Honestly, I doubt it. And I'm concerned about the unintended consequences of this law (which, admittedly runs a paltry 17 pages, as opposed to, say, the "health care" bill's 2000-plus pages).

Whatever happens as a result of the passage of this law, I doubt seriously it will be much of an improvement over present conditions. Remember, any law that is passed can be enforced by your worst enemy.

Rio Salado Open House

Yesterday I drove up to Phoenix in order to have lunch with some Arizona bloggers and make a visit to the Usery Pass target range managed by the Rio Salado Sportsmen's Club and Arizona Game & Fish. Attendance at the restaurant was slight, but I did meet the lovely Vox and her significant other, and Papa Todd, so my list of "bloggers I've met" has grown a little.

After lunch we visited the range. The facilities boast:
  • Covered shooting benches with target holders from 25 to 300 yards
  • A Practical Pistol range with 4 lighted bays from 25 to 50 yards
  • A lighted, covered 40-position Smallbore Range to 100 meters
  • Covered long range rifle and pistol silhouette ranges to 500 meters
  • High power rifle range to 500 yards
  • Sporting Clays Range - 12 stations, cart accessible, card based activation
  • 5-Stand, Trap, Wobble Trap facility with lights and voice activation
  • Indoor Air Rifle Range coordinated by our Junior Division
  • Restrooms, Activity Center, and Training Classrooms
They had it all set up for visitors to try, most of them for free, and the turnout looked pretty good. This is something I think I'll bring up at the next Tucson Rifle Club board meeting.

I took a few pictures and shot a little video, nothing worth posting unfortunately, except this sign:

I doubt seriously anyone was killed or injured at the range yesterday, or on any range in Arizona. Gun ban control SAFETY advocates so often complain about how dangerous guns are, and they can be. They are, after all, designed to hurl small metal projectiles at high velocity, but that sign says why, in the overwhelming majority, the several billion rounds fired recreationally in this country each year harm no one.

On the other hand, while driving the 120 miles back home, traffic on I-10 East slowed to a crawl at one point. After about ten minutes of creeping along at about 10-15 mph tops, there were several lumps of clothing scattered down the right shoulder:

That was just a couple. There were at least five or six like those. Then there was obvious evidence that someone had lost control, and gone from the right shoulder into the median, and shortly after that, the scene of the accident:



A couple of miles further down the road in a closed rest area were a couple of ambulances and a Life Flight helicopter spooling up to take off. I didn't get a shot of that.

Hopefully no one got ejected from the vehicle, but those lumps of clothing that looked like the were spilled from luggage makes me wonder.

I've never felt unsafe on a target range, but driving in traffic at highway speeds? And people think GUNS are dangerous?

Quote of the Day - Mordor Edition

The run into Chicago through Lake County, Indiana always reminds me of Frodo & Sam approaching the borders of Mordor: The vegetation gets blighted and unhealthy looking; there are murky pools and low-lying swamps that look like they could contain anything from tentacled horrors to Blinky the three-eyed fish; whole neighborhoods of rusting industry and boarded-up homes can be seen from the highway; and atop a giant black pinnacle on the horizon is the malevolent, unblinking red eye of Mayor Daley... Or maybe it's just the aircraft warning light atop the Sears Tower; it's hard to tell from a distance. - Tam, Chicago, part one:
I needed something to grin about today...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Just a Couple of Things

I'm way behind, I know, but I wanted to get these links out.

First, I strongly recommend you read the text of Vanderboegh's April 19 speech. Seriously. It's damned good, and it needs saying and spreading around. I've been known to use the key phrase myself occasionally.

Second, I want you to read this post at The Ultimate Answer to Kings, which carries today's Quote of the Day, because Joel's right:
The people at those rallies aren't the extremists. They're just good, brave people who still believe in the political process. The real extremists stayed home, because they don't.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

WANT!!!11!!

Can't have! (Didn't win the lottery. Some schmuck in Missouri did.) I've got the money to pay off my still-indeterminate delivery M14, but not for this:

US model M1903A4 Springfield bolt action 30.06 Rifles. These Rifles are built using original Remington-made World War II M1903A3 actions and turned-down bolts. These fine Rifles feature newly manufactured 4-groove barrels identical to the originals. Each receiver is carefully drilled and tapped using replicas of the original "Redfield" rings and mounts and an exact copy of the M73B1 scope, used on the 1st model M1903A4's. Each barreled action has the original military parkerized finish
Price? A grand.

Damn.

Do Your Children Know Who Won WWII?

On Tuesday this week author Jerry Pournelle wrote an interesting piece he entitled The Education Mess. I strongly suggest you read it. Here are a few interesting excerpts:
Diane Ravitch was one of the architects of No Child Left Behind, but in her new book she now admits that it isn't working, and is in fact helping kill the kind of education she advocates. She continues to believe that the American public schools do a poor job, and that we can build a much more successful system of public education.

I agree with her on the first point. She's dead wrong on the second. We can't build a better system.

That's not a cry of despair, it's a statement of fact. There is never going to be a national school system much better than what we have now. It may get worse, but it won't get much better.

--

In 1983 the National Commission on Education, headed by Nobel Laureate Glenn T. Seaborg, wrote that "If a foreign nation had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war." I've been pointing this out for years. We have a system of public education indistinguishable from an enemy attack -- and it has been getting worse since the Seaborg report.
In 1983.

I graduated from High School in 1980.

The whole thing is quotable, and I'm going to archive it in my records, but I came across something else today that is a perfect companion to Pournelle's spot-on diagnosis. From a comment at American Digest to his piece Somebody's Been Raising A Generation of Schmucks:
As the webmaster of an educational resource site for the humanities, we hold focus groups of teachers to get feedback on our site and its content. One teacher from one of D.C.'s tonier private schools pointed out that they no longer teach the "military aspect" of our nation's wars. She said (in refrence to WWII in particular) they focused on things like the home front, Japanese internment, A. Phillip Randolph and civil rights -- you know, the important stuff -- but NO "military history." An astonished history teacher at the table turned to her and asked, "but Susan, do your students at least know who WON World War II?" - Don Rodrigo.
It's already worse. The suck just isn't evenly spread around.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I Thought the Goldwater Institute was a THINK Tank

My friend and (former) fearless leader Primeval Papa has had a rather involved discussion with a member of said Institute on the topic of one of their recent commercials. Arizona is attempting to pass by referendum a sales tax increase to recover the loss in revenue due to the economic downturn. The Goldwater Institute commercial picks out several budget items that it calls "waste" available to cut.

The first "waste" item is Arizona Game & Fish planned spending for shooting range maintenance - $800,000 this year.

First picked up by Arizona Bloggers Great Satan, Inc., Primeval Papa went them one better: he has had an extended email exchange with a representative of AuH2O.

Please, go read. That's MY money, and it's going where it's going by law. "Waste" my aching sphincter.

They obviously didn't think too hard about this one.

Quote of the Day - Balko Edition

On Rooting for Government To Fail - Reason online, Radley Balko. Not long, so I'll quote the whole thing for my archives:
The American Prospect's Mori Dinauer is just a hair off in this post.

I don’t promote government failure, I expect it. And my expectations are met fairly often. What I promote is the idea that more people share my expectations, so fewer people
are harmed by government failure, and so we can stop this slide toward increasingly large portions of our lives being subject to the whims, interests, and prejudices of politicians.

I will concede that there’s a problem, here. In the private sector failure leads to obsolescence (unless you happen to work for
a portion of the private sector that politicians think should be preserved in spite of failure). When government fails, people like Dinauer and, well, the government claim it’s a sign that we need more government. It’s not that government did a poor job, or is a poor mechanism for addressing that particular problem, it’s that there just wasn’t enough government. Of course, the same people will point to what they call government success as, also, a good argument for more government.

It’s a nifty trick. The right does it with national security. The fact that we haven’t had a major terrorist attack since September 11, 2001 proves that the Bush administration’s heavy-handed, high-security approach to fighting terrorism worked! But if we had suffered another attack, the same people would have been arguing that we need to surrender more of our civil liberties to the security state. Two sides. Same coin.

That Pew poll is also a pretty good indication that the more government tries to do, the more poorly it does it. Your usual caveats about correlation and causation apply, but the federal government certainly didn’t shrink over the period the trust-in-government trend line has taken a nosedive. Note too that during the Clinton administration, federal spending actually shrank as a percentage of GDP, and the federal workforce shrank by nearly 400,000, leaving it at its lowest level since 1960. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s one period in the last 50 years over which trust in the federal government took a sharp climb.

But in general—yes—I think the fact that more people are realizing that government isn’t capable of solving all of their problems is an encouraging trend. Because it isn’t.

Monday, April 19, 2010

"Treat me with benign neglect." - Ashton O'Dwyer

Vanderleun has a short piece on his sidebar today about Texas Governor Rick Perry, from which comes this excerpt:
I want people elected to Congress, to the United States Senate, and to the presidency in 2012 with the express message that we are going to go to Washington and try to make Washington as inconsequential in your life as we can. I want the states to become the laboratories of innovation and experimentation. And I want to get this country back.
Why is this so difficult for people to understand?

Because we've been trained.

Back when I wrote The Church of the MSM and the New Reformation, I quoted part of a comment sent to Glenn Reynolds by reader Mike Gordon:
Perhaps the most pervasive way in which journalists are different from normal people is that journalists live in a world dominated by government, and they reflexively see government action as the default way to approach any problem. Journalists' world is dominated by government because it's so easy to cover: Public agencies' meetings take place on a regular schedule and, with rare exceptions, have to admit journalists. As a result, participants in the meetings play to the press, inside and outside the meeting room, and the result is the elaborate dance of symbolic actions - gaffes, denials, sham indignation, press conferences, inquests and endless process - that dominates our news pages and means next to nothing in the long run.

Journalists tend to give private enterprise short shrift because it's harder to cover: The meetings are private, aren't announced in advance, and reporters aren't invited. Unlike politicians, most businesspeople aren't required to interact with the press, and many avoid doing so when possible - the downside is usually greater than the upside. As a result, journalists are generally reduced to covering what businesspeople do more than what they say. This is more work, so less of it gets done.

It's no accident that for the most part, the news is dominated by people whose value is largely driven by how much publicity they receive: politicians, athletes and entertainers. The people who actually make the world work - people in private industry, rank-and-file government employees and conscientious parents - are largely invisible in the news, except when they're unlucky enough to make one of the rare mistakes that reporters manage to find out about.
And we live in a media-saturated world. Of course it's government's job to "do something" about whatever the crisis du jour is. Benign neglect? Who on earth wants that?

A lot of us.

I was watching the news this evening, and the topic of the regulation of Wall Street came up. Wall Street, you know, is notoriously unregulated. That's why all those bad things happened recently, and why the government had to "bail the fat cats out." Now they want to modify the rules (that apparently don't already exist, since, you know, there's no regulation of Wall Street) and among the changes that Washington wants to impose is a $50 BILLION slush fund "controlled liquidation" fund, financed not by tax dollars but by the Wall Street firms themselves.

This, we are told, will help prevent future financial catastrophes.

I cannot help but return to Thomas Sowell and his theory of social visions. The constrained vision, he says, is dependent on incentives to get desired results. The unconstrained vision, he says, is more interested in intent than outcome.

What incentive is there if failure is cushioned? Does this not encourage greater risk-taking? What, then, would be the outcome expected by the constrained side of the aisle?

And when that outcome occurs? What would be the expected response from the unconstrained side? Would it not be "the fund needs to be bigger"? Otherwise known as "escalation of failure" or "do it again, only HARDER"?

I think O'Dwyer uttered the motto of the Tea Party Movement all the way back in 2005: "Treat me with benign neglect." Or as Rick Perry put it more recently, we want Washington to be as inconsequential in our lives as possible.

Like that's gonna happen.

Harry Brown

Harry Brown

Good news. I first heard about this film back in December. It will open in limited release in the U.S. on April 30. I want to see this one.

Quote of the Day - Tea Party Edition

The Obama Democrats see a society in which ordinary people cannot fend for themselves, where they need to have their incomes supplemented, their health care insurance regulated and guaranteed, their relationships with their employers governed by union leaders. Highly educated mandarins can make better decisions for them than they can make themselves.

That is the culture of dependence. The tea partiers see things differently. They're not looking for lower taxes; half of tea party supporters, a New York Times survey found, think their taxes are fair. Nor are they financially secure: Half say someone in their household may lose their job in the next year. Two-thirds say the recession has caused some hardship in their lives. But they recognize, correctly, that the Obama Democrats are trying to permanently enlarge government and increase citizens' dependence on it.

And, invoking the language of the Founding Fathers, they believe that this will destroy the culture of independence that has enabled Americans over the past two centuries to make this the most productive and prosperous -- and the most charitably generous -- nation in the world. Seeing our political divisions as a battle between the culture of dependence and the culture of independence helps to make sense of the divisions seen in the 2008 election.

-- Michael Barone, Washington Examiner, Tea parties fight Obama's culture of dependence

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Quote of the Day - Economy Just Like WWII Edition

Believing that a crisis is a useful thing to create, the Obama administration -- which understands that, for liberalism, worse is better -- has deliberately aggravated the fiscal shambles that the Great Recession accelerated. During the downturn, federal revenues plunged and spending soared. And, as will happen for two decades, every day 10,000 more baby boomers are joining the ranks of recipients of Medicare and Social Security, two programs with unfunded liabilities of nearly $107 trillion.

In the context of this concatenation of troubles, the administration's highest priority was to put an enormous new health care entitlement on the welfare state's rickety scaffolding.
- George F. Will, If VAT, Ditch the Income Tax

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Quote of the Day - TamNation Division

We have guys with their jockeys full of Semtex buying airline tickets with cash, and the feds are busy getting spun up about bubbas in Mossy Oak angry about taxes. Way to keep your eye on the ball... - Tam in I feel so... so... dangerous!

Friday, April 16, 2010

In Celebration of Earth Day . . .

I would REALLY like to win the next Powerball lottery drawing, because for Earth Day I'd REALLY REALLY like to celebrate by purchasing my version of the Ford EarthFucker™ - the SVT Raptor:

411Hp, 14MPG.

I like my rather sedate 2006 2WD Toyota Tundra, but I REALLY WANT this truck.

Unfortunately, the Tundra is paid for, and I am not interested in making payments on a new vehicle.

Thus: I must win the lotto.

UPDATE: No one won the Powerball drawing Saturday.

Wednesday, then!

Vermont Carry

Governor Brewer signed the bill.

Beginning some time in June, I believe (90 days after the legislature adjourns the current session), any non-prohibited person in Arizona may carry a concealed firearm without a permit. This includes visitors from other states.

And now there are three.

Far out!

WANT

On a T-shirt:

Seen at Uncle's.

I Guess I Need to Start Shopping for a Stainless-steel Colander

U.S. military warns of oil production shortage by 2015

The U.S. military thinks we're one step closer to peak oil, the point at which oil demand will forever outstrip oil supply, and therefore we're one step closer to fighting over the last rusting cans of gasoline like so many scraps of meat. On the plus side, we're also one step closer to finally equipping our cars with superchargers and massive gas tanks rigged with explosives a la Mad Max and his archetypal peak-oil sled, "the last of the V-8 Interceptors."
RTWT. (h/t Glenn)

I hope my M14 comes in by then . . .

Your Moment of Zen - Icelandic Sunset Edition

Europe should be getting these for a while:


(Click for larger)

We might get some global cooling out of it, too, even though volcanoes produce massive amounts of "greenhouse" gasses.

The Taurus Paperweight

I've had a couple of inquiries about the Taurus that I bought, and then shortly later traded in last year. BAG day 2009 I bought a 605 2" barreled, blue, snubby .357 revolver. It sat for a few weeks before I had a chance to take it to the range. I actually loaded it up and put it in the console of my pickup for a while, even before I tried it out on the range.

I was later reminded of a scene from the film The Ghost and the Darkness:
You went into battle with an untested weapon?
Thankfully, I didn't.

On that first trip to the range I brought both .38 Special and .357 Magnum loads. Factory loads. I haven't handloaded .357 in a while, and I pretty much never load .38. The first cylinder of .38's went fine. On the second, the lockwork locked. Solid. On the second shot.

I had a revolver with three live rounds in it, and I couldn't fire them, and I couldn't get it to open up.

The three fired rounds looked fine. The projectiles hadn't backed out of the cases or anything, the mechanism was just LOCKED. I suspected the "safety" lock, but I had the key, and THAT wasn't it, or at least I wasn't able to use the key to clear the problem. I ended up taking the gun home and DISASSEMBLING it. I blew it out with carb cleaner, in case something was loose inside the lockwork, I lubed everything lightly, reassembled, and it worked fine - empty.

Another trip was made to the range. Again .38's were loaded. On the second round, it locked up again. By playing with the cylinder and hammer I was able to fiddle with it and get it unlocked. I loaded up some .357's. ONE round, and it was locked up. I was able to get it open, but I was DONE with it. A five-shot revolver that only goes "BANG" at most TWICE is useless.

It sat on my desk in paperweight mode for quite a bit while I debated either returning it for warranty repair, or trading it in. I finally decided on trading it in. Hey, it was hardly used!

Once the trade was agreed to, I told the dealer about the problem. "You can't trade in a defective gun!" he said. "Why not? You sold it to ME that way!" I replied. We agreed to knock $50 off the trade-in value for them to handle the warranty return, and I came home with a (perfectly functional) Kel-Tec PF9.

I don't think I'll be buying another Taurus.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

B.A.G. Day

Today is B.A.G. day - "Buy a Gun" Day. B.A.G. day was created by blogger Aaron back in 2003. I've participated many times. In 2004 I bought a Makarov. 2005, a S&W Model 60. 2006 brought a Winchester '94 in .45 Colt (a month early, but still. . . .) I missed in 2007, but in 2008 I bought a scope instead of a gun. Last year I bought a Taurus revolver. (Got rid of it, too, traded it in on a Kel-Tec PF9 that actually goes 'BANG' every time I pull the trigger.)

This year? Well, this year I'm still waiting for my Ted Brown M14. He has the receiver. He's expecting the barrel shortly. The stock is on order.

And still I wait . . . .

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Interesting Statistics

Reported recently in an Arizona paper comes these statistics on concealed-carry permits in Arizona:
BY THE NUMBERS: CONCEALED
WEAPONS
• Total number of permits in the state as of April 4: 154,279
• Number of permits suspended: 1,785
• Number of permits revoked: 1,011
• Number of women who have a permit: 33,053
• Among women, the 50 to 59 age group has the largest number of permits at 9,050.
• Number of women over the age of 80 who have permits: 177
• Number of men who have a permit: 125,582
• Among men, the 60-69 age group has the largest number of permits at 28,380.
• According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, some of the revoked or suspended permits may have been reinstated since the state started keeping records in 1994.
• The four counties with the largest number of permits in the state: Maricopa: 81,375; Pima: 25,246; Yavapai: 9,521; Mohave: 8,726
So, out of 154,279 permits issued, 1,011 (0.655%) have been revoked.

The largest groups taking advantage of concealed carry permits are older men and women.

There are some feisty octogenarian ladies in this state.

Somehow, 33,053 + 125,582 = 154,729

Quote of the Day - Constrained Vision Edition

Society is, always has been and always will be a structure for the exploitation and oppression of the majority through systems of political force dictated by an elite, enforced by thugs, uniformed or not, and upheld by a willful ignorance and stupidity on the part of the very majority whom the system oppresses.

But that's just me. - author Richard K. Morgan

Monday, April 12, 2010

We Were Warned

A government which robs Peter to pay Paul, can always count on the support of Paul. – George Bernard Shaw

--

The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money. - Alexis de Tocqueville

--

A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship. "Alexander Tytler"
So the news is out that this year 47% of households in this country pay no income tax. One (AP) story (which I won't link) states:
The bottom 40 percent, on average, make a profit from the federal income tax, meaning they get more money in tax credits than they would otherwise owe in taxes. For those people, the government sends them a payment.
In other words, the government "redistributes wealth" from the upper 60% to the bottom 40%. (And it's still not enough!)

And what is the result of this?
The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Monday shows that 31% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-two percent (42%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -11. . . Overall, 48% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President's performance.
CNN reports that 46% approve of Obama's job performance. CBS puts his approval rating at 44%. Gallup says 48%.

Ladies and gentlemen, I think we've hit rock-bottom on Obama's popularity unless and until he's caught in bed with either a live boy or a dead girl, as the old saying goes.

That 44-48% is bought and payed for - with my tax money and yours.

According to the George Mason University US Elections Project, about 62% of the voting-eligible population in the US turned out for the 2008 election. More than a third of the eligible population didn't vote.

I am going to be fascinated to see the results of the 2010 election. But almost definitely not happy. Billy Beck is right - we're not voting ourselves out of this.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A New Supreme Court Justice

. . . another confirmation hearing.

I'm going to copy-and-paste something I wrote a few years ago, because it fits so perfectly here now that Justice Stevens is retiring. With Obama in the White House and both houses of Congress with Democrat majorities, I'll go out on a limb here and predict that the next nominee will make the retiring "most liberal justice" look like Barry Goldwater.

The founding document of this nation is a legal CONTRACT. This is a point that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia keeps making time and time again in his public speaking. "How," he once asked an audience rhetorically, "do you write a moderate contract?" And if the courts can decide that the words in a contract can mean whatever they want them to mean, then the contract isn't worth the paper it's written on:
If we're picking people to draw out of their own conscience and experience a 'new' Constitution, we should not look principally for good lawyers. We should look to people who agree with us. When we are in that mode, you realize we have rendered the Constitution useless.
Absolutely right. Now bear with me again, because I'm going to quote quite a passage from a speech Justice Scalia made on March 14th of 2005 that makes his point explicitly:
Consider the 19th Amendment, which is the amendment that gave women the vote. It was adopted by the American people in 1920. Why did we adopt a constitutional amendment for that purpose? The Equal Protection Clause existed in 1920; it was adopted right after the Civil War. And you know that if the issue of the franchise for women came up today, we would not have to have a constitutional amendment. Someone would come to the Supreme Court and say, "Your Honors, in a democracy, what could be a greater denial of equal protection than denial of the franchise?" And the Court would say, "Yes! Even though it never meant it before, the Equal Protection Clause means that women have to have the vote." But that's not how the American people thought in 1920. In 1920, they looked at the Equal Protection Clause and said, "What does it mean?" Well, it clearly doesn't mean that you can’t discriminate in the franchise - not only on the basis of sex, but on the basis of property ownership, on the basis of literacy. None of that is unconstitutional. And therefore, since it wasn't unconstitutional, and we wanted it to be, we did things the good old fashioned way and adopted an amendment.

Now, in asserting that originalism used to be orthodoxy, I do not mean to imply that judges did not distort the Constitution now and then, of course they did. We had willful judges then, and we will have willful judges until the end of time. But the difference is that prior to the last 50 years or so, prior to the advent of the "Living Constitution," judges did their distortions the good old fashioned way, the honest way - they lied about it. They said the Constitution means such and such, when it never meant such and such.

It's a big difference that you now no longer have to lie about it, because we are in the era of the evolving Constitution. And the judge can simply say, "Oh yes, the Constitution didn't used to mean that, but it does now." We are in the age in which not only judges, not only lawyers, but even school children have come to learn the Constitution changes. I have grammar school students come into the Court now and then, and they recite very proudly what they have been taught: "The Constitution is a living document." You know, it morphs.

Well, let me first tell you how we got to the "Living Constitution." You don't have to be a lawyer to understand it. The road is not that complicated. Initially, the Court began giving terms in the text of the Constitution a meaning they didn't have when they were adopted. For example, the First Amendment, which forbids Congress to abridge the freedom of speech. What does the freedom of speech mean? Well, it clearly did not mean that Congress or government could not impose any restrictions upon speech. Libel laws, for example, were clearly constitutional. Nobody thought the First Amendment was carte blanche to libel someone. But in the famous case of New York Times v. Sullivan, the Supreme Court said, "But the First Amendment does prevent you from suing for libel if you are a public figure and if the libel was not malicious" — that is, the person, a member of the press or otherwise, thought that what the person said was true. Well, that had never been the law. I mean, it might be a good law. And some states could amend their libel law.

It's one thing for a state to amend it's libel law and say, "We think that public figures shouldn’t be able to sue." That's fine. But the courts have said that the First Amendment, which never meant this before, now means that if you are a public figure, that you can't sue for libel unless it’s intentional, malicious. So that's one way to do it.

Another example is the Constitution guarantees the right to be represented by counsel. That never meant the state had to pay for your counsel. But you can reinterpret it to mean that.

That was step one. Step two, I mean, that will only get you so far. There is no text in the Constitution that you could reinterpret to create a right to abortion, for example. So you need something else. The something else is called the doctrine of "Substantive Due Process." Only lawyers can walk around talking about substantive process, in as much as it’s a contradiction in terms. If you referred to substantive process or procedural substance at a cocktail party, people would look at you funny. But, lawyers talk this way all the time.

What substantive due process is is quite simple - the Constitution has a Due Process Clause, which says that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. Now, what does this guarantee? Does it guarantee life, liberty or property? No, indeed! All three can be taken away. You can be fined, you can be incarcerated, you can even be executed, but not without due process of law. It's a procedural guarantee. But the Court said, and this goes way back, in the 1920s at least, in fact the first case to do it was Dred Scott. But it became more popular in the 1920s. The Court said there are some liberties that are so important, that no process will suffice to take them away. Hence, substantive due process.

Now, what liberties are they? The Court will tell you. Be patient. When the doctrine of substantive due process was initially announced, it was limited in this way, the Court said it embraces only those liberties that are fundamental to a democratic society and rooted in the traditions of the American people.
Just to insert, the Dred Scott court listed "those liberties that are fundamental to a democratic society and rooted in the traditions of the American people" and here I repeat Chief Justice Taney's listing of the rights that could not be conferred upon blacks, free or slave:
(Citizenship) would give to persons of the negro race, who were recognized as citizens in any one State of the Union, the right to enter every other State whenever they pleased, singly or in companies, without pass or passport, and without obstruction, to sojourn there as long as they pleased, to go where they pleased at every hour of the day or night without molestation, unless they committed some violation of law for which a white man would be punished; and it would give them the full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its own citizens might speak; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went.
Those liberties. In 1856 the Supreme Court wasn't yet willing to reinterpret a "living Constitution," so instead the Court's members decided that excluding an entire race of people from its protections was perfectly valid. It's only a little damage, and it's for public safety, you know.

Scalia continues:
Then we come to step three. Step three: that limitation is eliminated. Within the last 20 years, we have found to be covered by due process the right to abortion, which was so little rooted in the traditions of the American people that it was criminal for 200 years; the right to homosexual sodomy, which was so little rooted in the traditions of the American people that it was criminal for 200 years. So it is literally true, and I don't think this is an exaggeration, that the Court has essentially liberated itself from the text of the Constitution, from the text and even from the traditions of the American people. It is up to the Court to say what is covered by substantive due process.
And, we see even more damage done in the name of that "Living Constitution" idea. Erosion of the First Amendment protections on political speech under McCain-Feingold, the continuing decimation of the Fourth and portions of the Fifth Amendment because of the War on (some) Drugs™, and the continuous assault on the Second Amendment under the aegis of "public safety," just to name a few. (Granted, we've started winning on that last item over the last decade or so, though there are still examples of that assault in the courts.)

Scalia again:
If you believe, however, that the Constitution is not a legal text, like the texts involved when judges reconcile or decide which of two statutes prevail; if you think the Constitution is some exhortation to give effect to the most fundamental values of the society as those values change from year to year; if you think that it is meant to reflect, as some of the Supreme Court cases say, particularly those involving the Eighth Amendment, if you think it is simply meant to reflect the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society - if that is what you think it is, then why in the world would you have it interpreted by nine lawyers? What do I know about the evolving standards of decency of American society? I'm afraid to ask.

If that is what you think the Constitution is, then Marbury v. Madison is wrong. It shouldn't be up to the judges, it should be up to the legislature. We should have a system like the English - whatever the legislature thinks is constitutional is constitutional. They know the evolving standards of American society, I don't. So in principle, it's incompatible with the legal regime that America has established.

Secondly, and this is the killer argument - I mean, it's the best debaters argument - they say in politics you can’t beat somebody with nobody, it's the same thing with principles of legal interpretation. If you don’t believe in originalism, then you need some other principle of interpretation. Being a non-originalist is not enough. You see, I have my rules that confine me. I know what I'm looking for. When I find it - the original meaning of the Constitution - I am handcuffed. If I believe that the First Amendment meant when it was adopted that you are entitled to burn the American flag, I have to come out that way even though I don't like to come out that way. When I find that the original meaning of the jury trial guarantee is that any additional time you spend in prison which depends upon a fact must depend upon a fact found by a jury - once I find that's what the jury trial guarantee means, I am handcuffed. Though I'm a law-and-order type, I cannot do all the mean conservative things I would like to do to this society. You got me.

Now, if you're not going to control your judges that way, what other criterion are you going to place before them? What is the criterion that governs the Living Constitutional judge? What can you possibly use, besides original meaning? Think about that. Natural law? We all agree on that, don't we? The philosophy of John Rawls? That's easy. There really is nothing else. You either tell your judges, "Look, this is a law, like all laws, give it the meaning it had when it was adopted." Or, you tell your judges, "Govern us. You tell us whether people under 18, who committed their crimes when they were under 18, should be executed. You tell us whether there ought to be an unlimited right to abortion or a partial right to abortion. You make these decisions for us." I have put this question - you know I speak at law schools with some frequency just to make trouble - and I put this question to the faculty all the time, or incite the students to ask their Living Constitutional professors: "Okay professor, you are not an originalist, what is your criterion?" There is none other.

And here's where I quote (again) my favorite judge on my pet topic, 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski, in his dissent to the denial to hear Silveira v. Lockyer en banc:
Judges know very well how to read the Constitution broadly when they are sympathetic to the right being asserted. We have held, without much ado, that "speech, or . . . the press" also means the Internet...and that "persons, houses, papers, and effects" also means public telephone booths....When a particular right comports especially well with our notions of good social policy, we build magnificent legal edifices on elliptical constitutional phrases - or even the white spaces between lines of constitutional text. But, as the panel amply demonstrates, when we’re none too keen on a particular constitutional guarantee, we can be equally ingenious in burying language that is incontrovertibly there.

It is wrong to use some constitutional provisions as springboards for major social change while treating others like senile relatives to be cooped up in a nursing home until they quit annoying us. As guardians of the Constitution, we must be consistent in interpreting its provisions. If we adopt a jurisprudence sympathetic to individual rights, we must give broad compass to all constitutional provisions that protect individuals from tyranny. If we take a more statist approach, we must give all such provisions narrow scope. Expanding some to gargantuan proportions while discarding others like a crumpled gum wrapper is not faithfully applying the Constitution; it’s using our power as federal judges to constitutionalize our personal preferences.

The able judges of the panel majority are usually very sympathetic to individual rights, but they have succumbed to the temptation to pick and choose. Had they brought the same generous approach to the Second Amendment that they routinely bring to the First, Fourth and selected portions of the Fifth, they would have had no trouble finding an individual right to bear arms. Indeed, to conclude otherwise, they had to ignore binding precedent. United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939), did not hold that the defendants lacked standing to raise a Second Amendment defense, even though the government argued the collective rights theory in its brief. The Supreme Court reached the Second Amendment claim and rejected it on the merits after finding no evidence that Miller's weapon - a sawed-off shotgun - was reasonably susceptible to militia use. We are bound not only by the outcome of Miller but also by its rationale. If Miller's claim was dead on arrival because it was raised by a person rather than a state, why would the Court have bothered discussing whether a sawed-off shotgun was suitable for militia use? The panel majority not only ignores Miller's test; it renders most of the opinion wholly superfluous. As an inferior court, we may not tell the Supreme Court it was out to lunch when it last visited a constitutional provision.

The majority falls prey to the delusion - popular in some circles - that ordinary people are too careless and stupid to own guns, and we would be far better off leaving all weapons in the hands of professionals on the government payroll. But the simple truth - born of experience - is that tyranny thrives best where government need not fear the wrath of an armed people. Our own sorry history bears this out: Disarmament was the tool of choice for subjugating both slaves and free blacks in the South. In Florida, patrols searched blacks' homes for weapons, confiscated those found and punished their owners without judicial process. In the North, by contrast, blacks exercised their right to bear arms to defend against racial mob violence. As Chief Justice Taney well appreciated, the institution of slavery required a class of people who lacked the means to resist. See Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. (19 How.) 393, 417 (1857) (finding black citizenship unthinkable because it would give blacks the right to "keep and carry arms wherever they went"). A revolt by Nat Turner and a few dozen other armed blacks could be put down without much difficulty; one by four million armed blacks would have meant big trouble.

All too many of the other great tragedies of history - Stalin's atrocities, the killing fields of Cambodia, the Holocaust, to name but a few - were perpetrated by armed troops against unarmed populations. Many could well have been avoided or mitigated, had the perpetrators known their intended victims were equipped with a rifle and twenty bullets apiece, as the Militia Act required here. If a few hundred Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto could hold off the Wehrmacht for almost a month with only a handful of weapons, six million Jews armed with rifles could not so easily have been herded into cattle cars.

My excellent colleagues have forgotten these bitter lessons of history. The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid stories of gun crime routinely do. But few saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed - where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.

Fortunately, the Framers were wise enough to entrench the right of the people to keep and bear arms within our constitutional structure. The purpose and importance of that right was still fresh in their minds, and they spelled it out clearly so it would not be forgotten. Despite the panel’s mighty struggle to erase these words, they remain, and the people themselves can read what they say plainly enough:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The sheer ponderousness of the panel's opinion - the mountain of verbiage it must deploy to explain away these fourteen short words of constitutional text - refutes its thesis far more convincingly than anything I might say. The panel's labored effort to smother the Second Amendment by sheer body weight has all the grace of a sumo wrestler trying to kill a rattlesnake by sitting on it - and is just as likely to succeed.

(All emphasis in original, most legal references removed for clarity.)
Now there's a man who can read and understand a sentence.

"The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed - where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees." And what might give the government the belief that it could refuse to stand for reelection? What might strip the courts of their "courage to oppose" or the people their power to resist?

How about the systematic evisceration of the Constitution by making it a "living document" decided on by nine black-robed Justices who have, as Scalia pointed out, divorced themselves from the restrictions of that document. And we've let them. Scalia one more time:
The worst thing about the Living Constitution is that it will destroy the Constitution. You heard in the introduction that I was confirmed, close to 19 years ago now, by a vote of 98 to nothing. The two missing were Barry Goldwater and Jake Garnes, so make it 100. I was known at that time to be, in my political and social views, fairly conservative. But still, I was known to be a good lawyer, an honest man — somebody who could read a text and give it its fair meaning — had judicial impartiality and so forth. And so I was unanimously confirmed. Today, barely 20 years later, it is difficult to get someone confirmed to the Court of Appeals. What has happened? The American people have figured out what is going on. If we are selecting lawyers, if we are selecting people to read a text and give it the fair meaning it had when it was adopted, yes, the most important thing to do is to get a good lawyer. If on the other hand, we're picking people to draw out of their own conscience and experience a new constitution with all sorts of new values to govern our society, then we should not look principally for good lawyers. We should look principally for people who agree with us, the majority, as to whether there ought to be this right, that right and the other right. We want to pick people that would write the new constitution that we would want.
And that way lies chaos.

Which appears to be the plan.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Bowling Pin Shoot - Tucson, Sunday, April 11

OK, I'm going to do a "dry run" of the bowling pin match on Sunday, April 11 at the Tucson Rifle Club. The plan is to try to have the first rounds downrange by 8:00AM. I'm not charging entry fees for this one, other than the daily range fees if you are not already a member.

The plan is thus: Each shooter will shoot five tables of five pins, each run timed on a shot timer. Longest time gets thrown out, the remaining four are averaged. Once everyone's been through, shooters will be paired off by time to compete against each other, best two runs out of three. Winners from the first match-ups will be paired off, losers will be paired off. Lose twice, and you're done for the day, but you'll have shot at least nine tables, four in competition against another shooter. We keep going until only one shooter is left who hasn't lost twice.

Any repeating handgun in .38 Special / 9x19mm or higher caliber. Hollow-point, soft-point and flat-point bullets are far superior to round-nose "hardball" ammo. The more power, the better, BUT:

"Major" loads (.40 S&W and larger) will have the pins located 12" back from the FRONT edge of the table.

"Minor" loads (smaller than .40 S&W) will have the pins located 16" off the BACK edge of the table.

The front edge of the table will be 25 feet from the firing line.

Bear in mind, this is a PRACTICE RUN to see how all of this works out. If it goes well, I plan to run a match each second Sunday of the month.

We'll see how it goes. Hope you can make it.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Knowledge Problem

Yesterday I quoted a bit from Glenn Reynold's weekend piece Progressives can't get past the Knowledge Problem wherein he also wrote:
Economist Friedrich Hayek explained in 1945 why centrally controlled "command economies" were doomed to waste, inefficiency, and collapse: Insufficient knowledge. He won a Nobel Prize. But it turns out he was righter than he knew.

In his "The Use of Knowledge In Society," Hayek explained that information about supply and demand, scarcity and abundance, wants and needs exists in no single place in any economy. The economy is simply too large and complicated for such information to be gathered together.

Any economic planner who attempts to do so will wind up hopelessly uninformed and behind the times, reacting to economic changes in a clumsy, too-late fashion and then being forced to react again to fix the problems that the previous mistakes created, leading to new problems, and so on.
Turns out, it's not just what they don't know that's the problem.

Like Ronald Reagan said, "It's what they know that ain't so."

Today I read an interesting piece by Lane Wallace in The Atlantic, The Bias of Veteran Journalists. In that piece Lane noted that she was disturbed when she recognized her fellow journalists were asking questions that indicated that they'd already chosen a story line and only asked questions that would further that story line. I recommend you read the whole piece.

But what jumped out at me was this:
In his new book, How We Decide, Jonah Lehrer cites a research study done by U.C. Berkeley professor Philip Tetlock. Tetlock questioned 284 people who made their living "commenting or offering advice on political and economic trends," asking them to make predictions about future events. Over the course of the study, Tetlock collected quantitative data on over 82,000 predictions, as well as information from follow-up interviews with the subjects about the thought processes they'd used to come to those predictions.

His findings were surprising. Most of Tetlock's questions about the future events were put in the form of specific, multiple choice questions, with three possible answers. But for all their expertise, the pundits' predictions turned out to be correct less than 33% of the time. Which meant, as Lehrer puts it, that a "dart-throwing chimp" would have had a higher rate of success. Tetlock also found that the least accurate predictions were made by the most famous experts in the group.

Why was that? According to Lehrer,
The central error diagnosed by Tetlock was the sin of certainty, which led the 'experts' to impose a top-down solution on their decision-making processes ... When pundits were convinced that they were right, they ignored any brain areas that implied they might be wrong.
Tetlock himself, Lehrer says, concluded that "The dominant danger [for pundits] remains hubris, the vice of closed-mindedness, of dismissing dissonant possibilities too quickly."
It's not just pundits. It's the people that Thomas Sowell characterizes as "The Anointed" who gravitate into government to save us poor rubes from ourselves.

Apply Tetlock's observations, for example, to the Anthropogenic Global Warming Intelligentsia. Or the gun control organizations that constantly predict "Wild-West shootouts" and blood in the streets after each incremental repeal of gun control.

"Dart-throwing chimps" indeed.