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, December 31, 2010

Quote of the Day - December 31st Edition

A good thought to conclude the year, from one of my favorite sources, Henry Louis Mencken (via Joe Huffman):
I believe that liberty is the only genuinely valuable thing that men have invented, at least in the field of government, in a thousand years. I believe that it is better to be free than to be not free, even when the former is dangerous and the latter safe. I believe that the finest qualities of man can flourish only in free air – that progress made under the shadow of the policeman’s club is false progress, and of no permanent value. I believe that any man who takes the liberty of another into his keeping is bound to become a tyrant, and that any man who yields up his liberty, in however slight the measure, is bound to become a slave.
Unfortunately, too many of our fellow citizens reject this philosophy.  It makes me think of this from Robert Heinlein:
Roman matrons used to say to their sons: "Come back with your shield, or on it." Later on this custom declined. So did Rome.
Most Americans used to believe in liberty, but this custom has declined. See above.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Quote of the Day - W.H. Chamberlain Edition

One of the most insidious consequences of the present burden of personal income tax is that it strips many middle class families of financial reserves & seems to lend support to campaigns for socialized medicine, socialized housing, socialized food, socialized every thing. The personal income tax has made the individual vastly more dependent on the State & more avid for state hand-outs. It has shifted the balance in America from an individual-centered to a State-centered economic & social system.
Found here. I am convinced that the nation's current path began with the "Progressive" movement that brought us the 16th and 17th Amendments, and for that matter, the 18th.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Quelle Suprise

111th Congress Added More Debt Than First 100 Congresses Combined: $10,429 Per Person in U.S.

The federal government has accumulated more new debt--$3.22 trillion ($3,220,103,625,307.29)—during the tenure of the 111th Congress than it did during the first 100 Congresses combined, according to official debt figures published by the U.S. Treasury.

That equals $10,429.64 in new debt for each and every one of the 308,745,538 people counted in the United States by the 2010 Census.

The total national debt of $13,858,529,371,601.09 (or $13.859 trillion), as recorded by the U.S. Treasury at the close of business on Dec. 22, now equals $44,886.57 for every man, woman and child in the United States.

In fact, the 111th Congress not only has set the record as the most debt-accumulating Congress in U.S. history, but also has out-stripped its nearest competitor, the 110th, by an astounding $1.262 trillion in new debt.
No pitchforks, no torches, not even any tar and feathers.

I am reminded once again of Thomas Jefferson's letter to William Stephens Smith in which he said:
The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. ... What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.
We have lethargy even when we're informed.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Quote of the Day - Parenthood Edition

This one comes from Cybrus over at Lost and Found:
Listen up people - raising safe kids isn't done by waiting until they've hit puberty to let them touch anything fun. It's done by TEACHING them how to think and how to play and then by letting them try and, sometimes, fail. Hell, minor injuries as a child end up being good lessons - if they're not getting the occasional bruise or risking a broken bone, they're not really playing! And I'm not talking about sore thumbs from 12 hour XBox sessions. Get your kids outside and playing. What they play is not as important as the fact that they ARE playing.

At the end of the day, bubble-wrapping kids isn't about making THEM safer - it's about making YOUR life easier by not having to do your job as a parent.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

GBC Secret Santas

Those of us who spend time over at the Gunblogger Conspiracy chat room got the opportunity this year to do the "Secret Santa" thing.  Each of us who volunteered was assigned to send a gift (of restricted value) to one other member, and we would receive a gift from someone else.  I won't say who I was assigned, but I will say that I'm very pleased and grateful for the 100 rounds of Winchester .38 Super unprimed brass I received from Top of the Chain!  Thanks!

Dilbert Got the Wrong Reference Librarian

One of my gifts this Christmas was Dilbert 2.0:  Twenty Years of Dilbert. I'm just barely into it, reading from the first few years of the strip, when I came across this one:


Really, Breda is much cuter than that. And she's modular! The Dilberts of the world all think that is way cool.

Quote of the Day - Globular Warmering Edition

No doubt the warmist crowd will be quick to express outrage at this blatant confusion of global climate with local weather, but that won’t wash. The Met makes its short-term forecasts on the basis of the same brand of massive computer power and Rube Goldberg modelling used to project the global climate. The suggestion that forecasting the climate is easier than forecasting the weather comes into the same category as acknowledging that governments couldn’t run a lemonade stand, but then believing that they can “manage” an economy.

Red Faces at the Met Office,The Global Warming Policy Foundation
Via Vanderleun

Saturday, December 25, 2010

This is Why I Love Christmas

Via Borepatch, a "Random Act of Culture" - a flashmob performing the Hallelujah Chorus in Macy's in Philadelphia, accompanied by the Wanamaker organ. Just, ... wow:


More a random act of beauty, I think.

And once again, Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 24, 2010

An Appropriate Piece for the Season

I am an atheist, but not an anti-theistTheodore Dalrymple is as well, and several years ago wrote a piece for The New Statesman I think is appropriate for the season: Why religion is good for us.

So, Merry Christmas everyone!

I'm Jealous

I'm still waiting on my wheelbarrow full of cash.

Quote of the Day - Constrained Vision Edition

Also from Robb Allen:
So, instead of fixing security, what does the Touchin’ Squeezin’ Assaultin’ department do? That’s right, they send SIX ARMED MEN to the pilots house. They even suggested he have his CCW revoked. Because you see, the fact that he would show the TSA for the joke that it is clearly indicates he is a danger to society at large and, while he can be trusted with a 800,000+ pound aircraft full of 416 human beings and 57 thousand gallons of jet fuel, he cannot be trusted with a hand gun kept in his pocket.

That, folks, is your government at work. It is why I condemn the leftist belief that for every problem, there is an equal and opposite government solution.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Duty to Protect

A few days ago I wrote:
I believe that I am not responsible for your safety. The police are not responsible for your safety. That's your job. You have no "right to feel safe." Such a right would put an obligation upon others that cannot be fulfilled. You have a duty (should you choose to accept it) to protect yourself and a duty to help protect the society in which you live, but those duties carry with them a certain amount of unavoidable risk. Dealing with risk is one thing adults do.
And:
I believe that as members of a society founded on the concept of defending the rights of individuals, we yield certain rights that are unquestionably ours "in a state of nature," but the right of self-defense isn't among them. Self-defense and the tools of that defense are, as Oleg Volk points out, a human right - another corollary of the right to ones own life. I believe that instead of yielding our right to self-defense to the State, we extend to the State the power necessary to assist in our defense, while recognizing the State's inherent limitations in exercising that power. Again, in belonging to a society that defends our individual rights, the corresponding individual duties that go with those rights expands to include the protection of the society in which we live, best expressed by Sir Robert Peel's Seventh Principle of Modern Policing:
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 upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
Incumbent or not, however, I believe that duty must be voluntarily accepted, and cannot be forced on any individual.
Well, one person who accepted that duty voluntarily is Ramon Castillo, who defended himself and his wife from three men who attempted an armed robbery of his Houston jewelry store. Mr. Castillo was hit four times and survived. The robbers didn't.

SayUncle advises that Mr. Castillo doesn't have health insurance. I doubt that workman's comp would cover this, anyway. So his family has set up an account to help the family pay his medical bills. I'm a little short this year with Christmas shopping and all, but I'm going to throw $100 in. Please see if you can help, too.

And I'm sure that the three Hondurans who were preying on Hispanic businesses in the area were only doing it because they lived in poverty.

Your Moment of Zen - Christmas Edition

Another one from Digital Blasphemy.  Click for the wallpaper-size version:

A merry Christmas to all!

We May Not Possess WMDs, but Who Cares?

Instapundit linked to these videos yesterday:


I'm sure the very existence of events like this (there's one at Knob Creek Kentucky and another at the Big Sandy wash in Arizona, too) cause certain parties to wet themselves, but I see that as a feature, not a bug.

The REAL "Firearms Industry" Helps Us Dodge a Bullet

So to speak. The National Shooting Sports Foundation reports that SAAMI, Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute, "recognized a potential risk of losing ORM-D status due to the emerging 'global harmonization' of shipping regulations" and took steps to prevent the cost of shipping ammunition from going through the roof. The pertinent excerpt:
Simply put, the U.S. was likely to adopt UN regulations in an attempt to help ease the global shipping process by adhering to one uniform policy. The problem with shifting to UN regulations is that there is no "ORM-D" status, so if/when this happened, ammunition would have to be shipped under the UN 1.4s category – a category that includes HazMat fees.
Would you have liked to pay HazMat fees on any ammo you purchased mail order? How much do you think the ammo at Wal*Mart would go up if it all had to ship as HazMat? But SAAMI stepped up to the plate, lobbied hard, and got ammunition exempted.

You'll note absolutely no mention of the National Rifle Association in this story. They do other things.

Bah, HUMBUG!

Just another reminder of how "The Other Side" views their opposition, from Madison, Wisconsin's "Progressive Voice," The Cap Times:


Yup, corruption and greed. That's all.

Amazing how the "plutocratic" "Grinch-elect" got elected isn't it?  

I guess the Progressive Whos in Who-ville don't vote.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Quote of the Day - Zinger Edition

And, of course, we are all grateful to the American Civil Liberties Union for standing up for Brian's rights under the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.

Oh, wait. My bad.

TigerHawk, Brian Aitken is home
RTWT.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Well, We've Flipped James Kelly's Rock Over . . .

...and what's underneath is about what you'd expect. I'd like to say I'm surprised, but I can't.

James, for those just stumbling upon this site, is the other party in a longstanding exchange of posts and comments here, at his site Scot Goes Pop, and in comment threads here, there and afar. James is a Scot, apparently carries dual citizenship (as he claims to have the ability to vote in U.S. federal elections), is a proud left-winger, vocal supporter of gun- and knife-controls, and a bigot.

Wait, what? A bigot I say? Surely I'm mistaken?

No, I don't think so. I think James hates America and all things American, at least anything leaning politically to the right of, say, Jane Fonda.  And he really hates gun owners.

Let me elucidate.

In the nearly 5,000 word essay I posted last Saturday, This I Believe, I responded belatedly to a months-old exchange between James and myself. I painstakingly selected excerpts from his old posts and from comments across the web to illustrate the differences between my beliefs and his, one of which was this one:
...people will construct the most astonishingly complex defensive arguments just to avoid having to let go of their familiar certainties, whether those certainties be that cruelty to animals can always be justified because life wouldn't be so easy without it, or that wealth inequality is justified by differential intelligence, or that there was no immorality in the mass slaughter of innocents at Hiroshima and Nagasaki (because it was the US that dropped the bombs, and the US doesn't do genocide). The more well-rehearsed these complex arguments become (and the defence of the Hiroshima atrocity is a good example of one that has become extraordinarily well-drilled)
When called on the genocide claim in the comments to this post, he didn't back off, he doubled-down:
The atomic bombings were war crimes because they had no other purpose than to obliterate civilian areas and slaughter the innocent people who lived there. Hiroshima had no military value - it was specifically selected because it had been relatively untouched by conventional bombings, and the US wanted a proper test of how much destruction the blast could cause. Genocide with the side-benefit of scientific testing - now what regime does that remind you of?
And again:
"Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group"

I'm struggling to see how the waging of nuclear warfare on the civilian population of Japan did not constitute the systematic destruction "in part" of the Japanese national group. Nice try at hair-splitting on the genotype/religion point, though.
So Americans are, in his mind, guilty of genocide. Check. Moving on.

There was also a discussion of poverty and America's black population in a post at his place that I excerpted:
Carnaby : With the conclusion that we ought to increase the restrictions on legally owned firearms. Well, given that logic, how do we solve the following problem here in the USA: you're (anyone) far, far more likely to be shot in the US by a black person than a white person. Furthermore, you are far, far more likely to be shot by a black person using an "illegal" gun than anyone using a "legal" gun. Your solution, James?

A massive policy effort to raise the educational and living standards for black people up to the national average, and then the differential will disappear over time. Unless you're about to tell me that black people are somehow innately more prone to violence. Of course, rational gun control laws would reduce the problem in itself, without the slightest need for racial discrimination in its implementation.
My response to this concerned the massive failure of that "massive policy effort":
Like gun bans, it's blindingly obvious to James that poverty is the driving force behind crime, everywhere. He might want to talk to Richard Cohen about that. We've had a decades-long "massive policy effort" the intent of which was to "raise the educational and living standards for black people up to the national average." Like gun control, it has failed utterly at its stated goals. The actual outcome has been a larger population living in poverty than we started with, and a poverty rate that's just about flat. Among that population are more broken homes, more fatherless children and a homicide rate six times greater than that of the rest of the American population.
And James, bigoted James, was true to form:
Moving on, this is Kevin's response to my suggestion that a massive policy effort to raise the educational and living standards of black people would wipe out the differential in the rates of gun crime between ethnic groups -
(He quotes my reply here)
And what is the inference here about what is so wrong with the philosophy? It can only be that he feels black people are innately more prone to violence than white people. No wonder he doesn't feel like fronting up to that.
Really, James? It can only be that I "feel" that? You can't possibly imagine any other reason for what I wrote?

Then you're the bigot. I've addressed this question before, in several places. The fact is that in this country young urban black males (many of them not old enough to be called "men") kill and are killed at a rate six times greater than the rest of the population. Facts aren't racist, they're just facts. James asserts that it's because they live in poverty. He further asserts that I "feel" it's because they're "innately more prone to violence." Here's an answer to that charge I wrote a long time ago:
Is the incredibly disproportionate level of violent crime in the young urban black male community due to the fact they're black? Don't be ridiculous. Black immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean don't exhibit the same behavior. (Which is why I don't use the appellation "African-American.") Throughout history it has been the poor who have been the primary criminal predators and who have provided the primary pool of victims, regardless of skin tone. If you're well off, you don't have to steal, for example. Nor do you feel it necessary to "drown your sorrows" in intoxicants in order to escape the crappy life you live for a few minutes or hours or days.

There's obviously more to it than just general poverty, though, because the level is so high. I would point to the exceedingly high percentage of fatherless children (due, I believe, to some really idiotic welfare policies), a welfare system that punishes attempts to escape it (I'm sorry, but you make $20 a month too much for us to subsidize your day-care! You'll have to bear the entire $400/month burden of that yourself!), and a drug policy that makes trafficking in drugs so tremendously lucrative that - in that environment - it appears to be the best (and often only) way out.

Our national history of oppressing blacks, combined with a well-meaning but incredibly flawed social policy, plus a drug policy well-intentioned but completely disconnected from reality have all combined to create the level of violence that the numbers show.

Who is to blame? My finger points at us, because the people we voted into office chose to do what felt good, rather than taking a hard, objective look at what the policies they voted for would actually result in. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis put it very well: "Experience teaches us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficent."

Edited to add: If you want further evidence of this, look what our government policies have done for the American Indian populations.
Again and again and again, however much it irritates James, I point to CULTURE as the primary factor in violent crime.  Our welfare state has destroyed the black family.  Even our President has commented on this:
Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation. They are teachers and coaches. They are mentors and role models. They are examples of success and the men who constantly push us toward it.

But if we are honest with ourselves, we'll admit that what too many fathers also are is missing - missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.

You and I know how true this is in the African-American community. We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled - doubled - since we were children. We know the statistics - that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.

How many times in the last year has this city lost a child at the hands of another child? How many times have our hearts stopped in the middle of the night with the sound of a gunshot or a siren? How many teenagers have we seen hanging around on street corners when they should be sitting in a classroom? How many are sitting in prison when they should be working, or at least looking for a job? How many in this generation are we willing to lose to poverty or violence or addiction? How many?

Yes, we need more cops on the street. Yes, we need fewer guns in the hands of people who shouldn't have them. Yes, we need more money for our schools, and more outstanding teachers in the classroom, and more afterschool programs for our children. Yes, we need more jobs and more job training and more opportunity in our communities.

But we also need families to raise our children. We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. We need them to realize that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child - it's the courage to raise one.
Obviously the President and I disagree on a number of topics, but on the question of fatherhood, not at all.  A decades-long massive welfare program and its result? "(M)ore than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled - doubled - since we were children." You don't see that in Asian immigrant families. You see much, much less of it in Hispanic families. Is it because black people are somehow innately more prone to illegitimacy? I refer you back to "(I)t's most important that all potential victims be as dangerous as they can", and this excerpt from the post Social Harmony at Grimm's Hall:
Very nearly all the violence that plagues, rather than protects, society is the work of young males between the ages of fourteen and thirty. A substantial amount of the violence that protects rather than plagues society is performed by other members of the same group. The reasons for this predisposition are generally rooted in biology, which is to say that they are not going anywhere, in spite of the current fashion that suggests doping half the young with Ritalin.

The question is how to move these young men from the first group (violent and predatory) into the second (violent, but protective). This is to ask: what is the difference between a street gang and the Marine Corps, or a thug and a policeman? In every case, we see that the good youths are guided and disciplined by old men. This is half the answer to the problem.
They don't get that guidance. It's not an innate characteristic of young black men, it's their culture. Heather Mac Donald points out:
Daniel Patrick Moynihan warned presciently in 1965 about the disaster of black family breakdown when the black illegitimacy rate stood at what would today be regarded as a paradisal 23 percent. In response, liberal elites turned Moynihan into a pariah and shut off all discussion of the topic for the next four decades—during which time the national black illegitimacy rate exploded to 71 percent. Nicholas Lemann broke the taboo in 1986, writing in The Atlantic that illegitimacy is “today by far the greatest contributor to the perpetuation of the misery of ghetto life. . . It is the aspect of life in the ghettos over which the people there have the most control, and it will be the last and hardest thing to change.” Unfortunately, Lemann, too, was ignored, and few today echo his argument.
(Read that last link.)

Not that I "feel" that this in any way will have any effect on James' "feelings" on the topic, but I thought I might as well get my side out in the open. Again.

Now, on to the question of statistics and studies.

James objects:
Having harangued me for so long to engage with him on the statistical front, what do you imagine his reaction was to being presented with powerful evidence from the US and the rest of the world that gun legality increases both the gun homicide and general homicide rates? A vague mumble about how the funding of the studies calls their findings into question.
This in response to my assertion that I believe that statistics can disprove one philosophy, but not the other. James pointed to three studies performed by the Harvard School of Public Health as incontrovertible statistical evidence for his side. I objected:
You'll note that in the majority of those studies, a primary author is Dr. David Hemenway. I've had some discussion with the good Doctor you might find interesting. Or not.

I see your Harvard School of Public Health Studies and raise you one National Academies of Science study of the efficacy of gun control. I've mentioned it to you previously. One of the problems with such academic studies, James, is that they generally find whatever it is that the funding party is paying to find. This is true of both sides, by the way - something else I've pointed out to you. Sometimes, as I have also noted to you, the studies come back completely inconclusive, as was the case for the National Academies study, the previous Carter administration study that produced Under the Gun: Weapons, Crime and Violence in America, and Colin Greenwood's study of gun control in England and Wales, which you dismissed.
Here's the difference that James can't seem to get his mind around:  He quotes studies.  I quote data, and I tell you where to get the data for yourself.  You see, I've been studying this subject for about fifteen years now, and the one thing I've discovered is the one thing that both the National Academies of Science and the authors of Under the Gun discovered - gun control studies prove nothing.  Their data is, at best inconclusive, worse, often contradictory, and at absolute worst, sometimes obviously falsified.  And both sides are responsible.  Again I will quote from the conclusion to Under the Gun:  Weapons, Crime and Violence in America, the publication resulting from a meta-study of all gun-control related studies up to that time, commissioned by the Carter Administration:
The progressive's indictment of American firearms policy is well known and is one that both the senior authors of this study once shared. This indictment includes the following particulars: (1) Guns are involved in an astonishing number of crimes in this country. (2) In other countries with stricter firearms laws and fewer guns in private hands, gun crime is rare. (3) Most of the firearms involved in crime are cheap Saturday Night Specials, for which no legitimate use or need exists. (4) Many families acquire such a gun because they feel the need to protect themselves; eventually they end up shooting one another. (5) If there were fewer guns around, there would obviously be less crime. (6) Most of the public also believes this and has favored stricter gun control laws for as long as anyone has asked the question. (7) Only the gun lobby prevents us from embarking on the road to a safer and more civilized society.

The more deeply we have explored the empirical implications of this indictment, the less plausible it has become. We wonder, first, given the number of firearms presently available in the United States, whether the time to "do something" about them has not long since passed. If we take the highest plausible value for the total number of gun incidents in any given year - 1,000,000 - and the lowest plausible value for the total number of firearms now in private hands - 100,000,000 - we see rather quickly that the guns now owned exceed the annual incident count by a factor of at least 100. This means that the existing stock is adequate to supply all conceivable criminal purposes for at least the entire next century, even if the worldwide manufacture of new guns were halted today and if each presently owned firearm were used criminally once and only once. Short of an outright house-to-house search and seizure mission, just how are we going to achieve some significant reduction in the number of firearms available? (pp. 319-20)
--

One could, of course, take things to the logically extreme case: an immediate and strictly enforced ban on both the ownership and manufacture of all firearms of every sort. Let us even assume perfect compliance with this law -- that we actually rounded up and disposed of all 120 million guns now in circulation [Remember, this was 1982. - Ed.] that every legitimate manufacturing establishment was permanently shut down, and that all sources of imported firearms were permanently closed off. [Like the UK has! *snort* - Ed.], what we would then have is the firearms equivalent of Prohibition, with (one strongly suspects) much the same consequences. A black market in guns, run by organized crime (much to their profit, no doubt), would spring up to service the now-illegal demand. It is, after all, not much more difficult to manufacture a serviceable firearm in one's basement than to brew up a batch of home-made gin. Afghanistani tribesmen, using wood fires and metal-working equipment that is much inferior to what can be ordered through a Sears catalog, hand-craft rifles that fire the Russian AK-47 cartridge. Do we anticipate a lesser ability from American do-it-yourselfers or the Mafia? (p. 321)

--

Even if we were somehow able to remove all firearms from civilian possession, it is not at all clear that a substantial reduction in interpersonal violence would follow. Certainly, the violence that results from hard-core and predatory criminality would not abate very much. Even the most ardent proponents of stricter gun laws no longer expect such laws to solve the hard-core crime problem, or even to make much of a dent in it. There is also reason to doubt whether the "soft-core" violence, the so-called crimes of passion, would decline by very much. Stated simply, these crimes occur because some people have come to hate others, and they will continue to occur in one form or another as long as hatred persists. It is possible, to be sure, that many of these incidents would involve different consequences if no firearms were available, but it is also possible that the consequences would be exactly the same. The existing empirical literature provides no firm basis for choosing one of these possibilities over the other. Restating the point, if we could solve the problem of interpersonal hatred, it may not matter very much what we did about guns, and unless we solve the problem of interpersonal hatred, it may not matter much what we do about guns. There are simply too many other objects that can serve the purpose of inflicting harm on another human being. (pp. 321-22)
(My emphasis in bold.  Italics in original.)  So I restrict myself to sourced raw data.  James just points to "studies" that support his worldview.  Here's a clue, James: studies are not statistics.

Oh, and the Academies of Science report?  Same result:
Should regulations restrict who may possess firearms? Should there be restrictions on the number or types of guns that can be purchased? Should safety locks be required? Answers to these questions involve issues that go beyond research on firearm violence.

These policy questions cannot be informed by current studies. Available data are too weak to support strong conclusions.
(My emphasis)  Another twenty years of "studies," still no "strong conclusions."  The recommendation?  More studies needed.  Quelle surprise!

I'm not going to delve into James' complete (and completely predictable) misapprehension of the "right to one's own life" that he insists confers rights to "food, shelter and decent health care."  One überpost at a time.  Instead, I will conclude this essay with a discussion of our divergent views on the topic of the utility of an armed populace, in particular his characterization of my position as:
the arrant nonsense of the idea that privately owned guns are protecting you against your own government.
James asked:
Tell me, Kevin, do you have the right to own weapons of mass destruction? No. Who decides that? The government? Are they probably right?
He expands on this here:
Perhaps that's because you haven't met very many people who...see through the utterly laughable argument that one purpose of gun legality is to the protect the citizenry against a government armed to the teeth with WMDs.
That's because James does not understand the difference between warfare and despotism. Governments (and terrorists) use WMDs on other populations, not on their own soil. No, as the Geekwitha.45 so eloquently put it (as usual):
I reject the premise that potential abuse justifies suppression, but if I were to accept it for the sake of argument, then an honest examination of history and consideration of potential outcome would force me to prioritize its application towards the disarming of Nation/States, who have both a greater potential for mayhem, and a far worse historical track record than the individual. A cunning individual, with careful planning, preparation and luck might kill dozens or hundreds, but to get the body count really rolling to kilo and mega death levels requires the sustained, concentrated efforts of a Nation/State.
To quote Vladimir Lenin:
One man with a gun can control 100 without one.
Or Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:
And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?... The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin's thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If...if...We didn't love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation.... We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.
James does not understand that governments tend not to bomb or gas their own population centers. Oh, Saddam did it, but he only gassed Kurds, not, say, downtown Tikrit. No, to control a population, it is only necessary to cow them, and as James has himself admitted, having a gun pointed at you when you are unarmed renders one "powerless," which is what despotic governments want.

In James' latest post, he says:
What else can the citizenry do when faced with a tyrannical regime armed to the teeth with weapons of mass destruction? Just as well they'll have their trusty handguns.

"I believe the gun isn't necessarily civilization, but it is most definitely responsible for the existence of modern democracy."

Now, given that there are any number of modern democracies with strict gun laws, and many with a US-style free-for-all, Kevin might as well be asserting that heat, cuckoo clocks or the Spanish language are a necessary precondition for democracy. Of course, what he means is that UK democracy is bound to eventually falter...
There he goes reading my mind again. Had he read Those Without Swords Can Still Die Upon Them, he would have understood that I believe the gun was necessary for the rise of modern democratic government. Do I believe that UK democracy is bound to eventually falter because the populace is disarmed? No. If it does falter it will be from the same cause Solzhenitsyn railed against - "We didn't love freedom enough."

I have to ask, though, how much democracy does the UK have now that a lot of the laws there come not from the British Parliament, but from the EU? However, my point remains: If the government does some day show up, armed with submachineguns to round up whoever it determines is an "enemy of the people" that week, won't James find himself "powerless?" Or will he, instead, grab an axe, a hammer, or a poker and wait behind a door for the dreaded midnight knock? Where will his freedom from fear be then?

And, finally, I'll deliver a tit-for-tat. James stated in one of his comments:
(B)y allowing people to own and carry handguns, society is massively increasing the risk that everyone faces.
That sounds remarkably like:
Arms in the hands of Jews are a danger to public safety.
Of course, coming from a bigot, this is not a surprise.  How's it feel, James?

Quote of the Day - Cognitive Dissonance Edition

Moshe Ben-David's sigline from his blog The ComPost Files:
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.
Ohmain.

Moshe left that as a comment to This I Believe yesterday. I liked it so much, it's been added to the masthead of this blog.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Silvio Berlusconi for the Unfamiliar

FabioC over at The Second Version has written a brief introduction to the life and politics of Italy's Prime Minister for those of us ignorant of what's going on over in the land of Beretta, Ferrari and spaghetti trees. Thank you, Fabio.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

This I Believe


(At last, the long-promised Überpost!)


Last year I wrote some more posts in my ongoing series on the topic of the British gun control experience. It would be misleading to call these particular posts a "debate" as no actual exchange on the topic took place, but there was another party involved: James Kelly of the blog Scot goes Pop. If you're new to this, or you need to get up to speed, it started with a blog post (no longer available) over at Rachel Lucas' place. Rachel, a Texan, recently moved to London because her significant other had transferred there on business. Rachel kept reading stories in the media there about people being attacked and sometimes killed, and could not understand the British attitude that supports universal victim disarmament. The comment thread to that post was quite long, and one commenter - James - was willing to engage the rest of us in defense (no pun intended) of that disarmament.

I can't link to everyone else's posts, but I can link to mine and James' to this point if you'd like to get caught up:

James: Tonight, Matthew, I'm going to be George Foulkes...

Me: Violent & Predatory vs. Violent but Protective

James: The only freedom I'll ever understand

My response to that last: Of That, I Have No Doubt

I followed on a few weeks later with Cultures: Compare and Contrast, a piece apparently too much for James' brain as he declared it "incomprehensible, logic-bending, pseudo-scientific 'analysis'" in his counterpiece, Culture : the root cause of voodoo statistics and the sudden urge to write 10,000 word dissertations?

James has posted a few more times since then, but these posts cover the majority of the topic.

In the comments to The only freedom I'll ever understand, however, James wrote this:
The difference in this debate is that I have been arguing on the basis of what I believe to be true, and doing my best to explain why I believe it. Kevin, by way of contrast, claims to be able to literally 'prove' his case beyond any doubt whatsoever by recourse to detailed statistical data.
Not exactly. The difference is, I believe that statistics can disprove one philosophy, but not the other. James seems to think so, too, because in one of his later posts, he asks for statistical proofs! However, I did state in my invitation to debate that this was about the philosophies.

And I think James has a point: There's a time to do extensive research, footnotes and statistical analysis, and there's a time to expound on philosophy. I've started and restarted and re-restarted this essay about a dozen times now, wanting to get it right. This time I just may get it.

Back in the 1950's, there was a radio show called This I Believe. NPR picked up on the idea decades later:
During its four-year run on NPR, This I Believe engaged listeners in a discussion of the core beliefs that guide their daily lives.
This blog has been a seven-year exploration of the core beliefs that guide my daily life, and I think this is the appropriate place to drop the statistics for a change and declare "This I Believe."
_____________________

I believe that most human beings are born morally neutral and develop their personal ethics, their moral code, from the culture they mature in. This is not, however, universal. There really are those people who, for whatever reason, end up at the outer edges of the bell curve regardless of culture. Those who populate the extremes are - by definition - extremely rare, but those one or two standard deviations off of average are - also by definition - not. The extremes may be due to genetic flaws or brain damage or abuse or who knows what, but the ones a standard deviation or two off of norm for any major culture are generally part of a sub-culture.

However, under the veneer of culturally-inculcated morality, most human beings remain morally neutral. Many can (and do) abandon what their culture teaches them in times of stress or moments of opportunity. The atrocities of history teach us this, if we're willing to face up to it. As I have written previously:
"Never again" is the motto of the modern Jew, and many others just as dedicated. But "again and again and again" seems to be the rebuke of history.
Despite this part of humanity's history, the record also shows us that mankind is capable of feats of greatness. Further, human societies - and even individuals - are capable of both at the same time.

By holding these beliefs, I am a believer in the "Tragic Vision" of humanity, and all that belief entails.

I believe, in agreement with Ayn Rand, in one fundamental human right: the right to ones own life, and that all other "rights of man" are its consequences or corollaries.

I believe that John Locke was correct when he named three corollaries of that right as "life, liberty, and property," and that Thomas Jefferson was a brilliant rhetorician when he substituted "the pursuit of happiness" in the Declaration of Independence.

And I believe that any purported "right" that demands something of another is no right at all.

I believe that I am not responsible for the acts of others except where I directly induce or coerce those actions, nor are other people responsible for my acts except where they as individuals have induced or coerced me.

I believe that I am not responsible for your safety. The police are not responsible for your safety. That's your job. You have no "right to feel safe." Such a right would put an obligation upon others that cannot be fulfilled. You have a duty (should you choose to accept it) to protect yourself and a duty to help protect the society in which you live, but those duties carry with them a certain amount of unavoidable risk. Dealing with risk is one thing adults do.

I have stated previously:
I believe that there are three things crucial to the rise of individual freedom: The ability to reason, the free exchange of ideas, and the ability to defend one's person and property. The ability to reason and the free exchange of ideas will lead to the concept of individual liberty, but it requires the individual ability to defend one's person and property to protect that liberty. The ability to reason exists, to some extent, in all people. (The severely mentally retarded and those who have suffered significant permanent brain injury are not, and in truth can never be truly "free" as they will be significantly dependent on others for their care and protection.) The free exchange of ideas is greatly dependent on the technologies of communication. The ability to defend your person and property - the ability to defend your right to your own life - is dependent on the technologies of individual force.
From this observation grows my belief that Mao was right when he observed that "all political power grows from the barrel of a gun," but I take a different lesson from this than he attempted to teach: I believe that if individual rights are to be protected, whether from individuals with criminal intent, or governments with tyrannical or even beneficent intent, enough individuals in a free society must possess weapons and the willingness to use them to say "NO!" and make it hurt if and when necessary. Done properly, the mere threat is deterrence enough.

I believe author Robert Heinlein was right when he wrote:
Political tags - such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth - are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.
I believe that the purpose of government should be the protection of the rights of the individual, but it very seldom is and never stays that way. I believe Thomas Paine was correct when he wrote in Common Sense:
Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil, in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamities is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer!
I believe that, as members of a society founded on the concept of defending the rights of individuals, we yield certain rights that are unquestionably ours "in a state of nature," but the right of self-defense isn't among them. Self-defense and the tools of that defense are, as Oleg Volk points out, a human right - another corollary of the right to ones own life. I believe that instead of yielding our right to self-defense to the State, we extend to the State the power necessary to assist in our defense, while recognizing the State's inherent limitations in exercising that power. Again, in belonging to a society that defends our individual rights, the corresponding individual duties that go with those rights expands to include the protection of the society in which we live, best expressed by Sir Robert Peel's Seventh Principle of Modern Policing:
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 upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
Incumbent or not, however, I believe that duty must be voluntarily accepted, and cannot be forced on any individual.

I believe the gun isn't necessarily civilization, but it is most definitely responsible for the existence of modern democracy.

I believe that our ancestors in Britain once properly understood this, having learned it as the yeomanry with their longbows, for it was they who first codified this knowledge into law.

I believe they have since lost this understanding.

I believe 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski was right when he wrote:
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.
I believe the Geek with a .45 was dead-on right when he said:
In a truly civil society peopled primarily by enlightened, sober individuals, the carriage of arms might be deemed gratuitous, but it is nonetheless harmless. In a society that measures up to anything less than that, the option to carry arms is a necessity.
It's a cultural thing.

While nearly everyone is capable of reason, not all utilize their full capacity for it. When all of this started, James characterized his culture this way:
. . . Rachel Lucas' bafflement in encountering a society where it's not simply the case that ordinary citizens are legally thwarted from owning guns for self-defence purposes – for the most part they simply have no wish to do so. After all, she comes from a society where it's taken as a given that people will be constantly aware of potential threats against them and will want to directly protect themselves against those threats, in many cases by owning and even carrying a gun. But upon arrival in Britain, she cites examples where innocent people have been attacked and have been unable to adequately defend themselves. Isn't it obvious, she asks, that these individuals would have been more likely to survive if they'd had a gun handy? On the face of it, the answer can only be yes. So haven't other people in the society around them heard about these attacks, haven't they read the newspapers, haven't they seen the photographs? Yes they have. So don't they want to possess a gun to lessen the risk of the same fate befalling them? On the whole, no they don't. Utterly inexplicable.
As I recall, Rachel was noting that the comments to the original story reflected a significant loathing of the concept of having a firearm or other weapon for personal defense by the majority of commenters. Not only did many commenters not want weapons for themselves, they were fully supportive of the laws that prevent anyone from being legally armed in their own defense, and yes, to most Americans (especially most Texans) that's, well, "baffling" is an understatement.

That comment thread ran to nearly 300 posts if I recall correctly, and the lone voice in defense of the UK's victim disarmament policy was James. He took a lot of abuse. He was at the same time both a stereotypical representative of his side of the argument and a unique one. His arguments were stereotypical, but he remained engaged. He did not take his ball and leave, and he did not descend into insult. (At least not unsubtle, deliberate, blatant insult. Much.)

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for many arguing my side, though I'm used to that.

James eventually got around to posting about his experience at his own blog, and there I invited him to debate the topic. James was reluctant, at one point saying:
. . . the cultural differences on the gun issue are massive and probably unbridgeable. We’re barely even speaking the same language on the topic.
As once observed by someone, we're two nations divided by a common language. More than that, we don't think the same way. (Culture, again.) We use the same words but those words too often have entirely different meanings. And we absolutely do not see the same reality around us. He eventually accepted my invitation, but on reflection I think that neither one of us received what we expected, though we each struggled mightily to fit the other into the boxes we'd mentally constructed.

For me, it seemed just another experience in "Deja moo": I'd heard this bullshit before. And it was, for me, such obvious bullshit that doubtless James had to understand it, and was therefore being disingenuous.

But no, he was perfectly serious. He had earlier written (and I had dismissed):
Even as I speak, other posters on the blog are busy archly agreeing with each other that I am 'dishonest' and comparing notes about exactly what point in the discussion they had first realised I wasn't 'arguing in good faith'. One of the posters even noted Ms Lucas' patience for allowing the discussion to go on - the implication being that my 'behaviour' was so beyond the pale that she had been extremely generous in even permitting me to have my voice heard. Since I was, in fact, being very honest and arguing from deeply-held principles throughout this is obviously rather hard to swallow . . . .

--

At one stage I tried to introduce an alternative concept of personal liberty (one, which as it happens, I genuinely and passionately believe in) that doesn't define itself so narrowly as being entirely dependent on the capacity to defend yourself with a gun - that, it was immediately pointed out to me, was a "bridge too far".

--

The sometimes bemused, sometimes angry 'does not compute' reaction I stirred up was so intense that I began to realise that the posters on that blog simply have very little exposure to the type of arguments I was - for the most part in a fairly restrained manner - putting forward, even though millions of people in their own country (let alone beyond their shores) would broadly agree with me.
What I should have understood from this is that he'd had very little exposure to the pro-gun side of the argument, and couldn't accept that we were sincere. Instead, I took him as just another of the people I had been arguing with for nearly a decade.

That "bridge too far" James referred to? It was this:
I think this is another crucial aspect of the cultural difference between the US and countries like Britain with strict gun controls. You see, I believe in liberty as well - and the cornerstone of that is the freedom to live and the freedom from fear. Freedom that can only be safeguarded by a gun in my hand and the sharpness of my physical reflexes is a very poor quality, one-dimensional freedom. The widespread possession of deadly weapons by others is therefore a severe infringement of my personal liberty. And, yes, I am being utterly serious.
(My emphasis.) And it's not just firearms that infringe on his "freedom from fear":
I’m one of those idiots who think we’d all be a lot safer without so many knives around. And it seems the police in the UK (not a bunch of woolly liberals on the whole) agree with me, as they’ve fairly regularly held knife amnesties with the intention of making the streets safer.

At the end of the day, it’s a legitimate philosophical difference - am I safer with there being far fewer guns around to shoot me with, or is the proliferation of guns a price worth paying as long as one of those guns is in my hand and I’m trained to use it? I prefer the former option, and I suspect I always will.
As I have noted, I've started and restarted this essay probably a half-dozen times, because as I want to get it right. I understand, even more deeply than I did before, that James is not reachable. He has "reasoned" as far as he's going to, his conclusions are intractable, and all evidence (voodoo statistics) will be dismissed or massaged to fit his worldview.

Nate of Guns and Bullets wrote a post on this topic, and in the comments to one of my posts (gone for the moment thanks to Echo), Nate said:
Accepting that the underpinnings of a deeply-held political position are complete bunk is not an easy thing for most people to do, and again, this is why Kevin is wise to point out that he's not trying to convert James.

No, he's trying to convert me. And it worked; two years ago when I was just beginning to learn about guns, stumbling on this site was enormously helpful in learning the nitty-gritty specific facts of how and why each gun control policy and law was ineffective and counter-productive.

So keep it up, Kevin. Use the facts and kill 'em with kindness.
I shall. That is what I try to do here.

Nate stated in his piece:
(T)his debate isn’t really about guns; it’s about what kind of society we want to live in; one where we’re responsible for ourselves, or everyone around us.

James was being honest when he repeatedly said that statistics wouldn’t faze him. Because the truth is, when it comes to conflicts of visions like individualism vs collectivism, it’s not about the facts. Each of us arrive at our conclusions due to intensely personal and emotional events, and we only later dig up facts to support our views.
Mr. Kelly is convinced that only by disarming his neighbors can society enhance its collective "freedom from fear," and any attempt to illustrate to him that his simple and obvious solution is wrong is an exercise in "voodoo statistics" or is "incomprehensible." It has to be, because to acknowledge a flaw in one's basic philosophical premise means questioning the entire philosophy. As Nate noted, few people can do that.

Mr. Kelly epitomizes what Thomas Sowell describes in his book A Conflict of Visions as a believer in the "unconstrained vision." Like William Godwin, Mr. Kelly's worldview tells him that people are (or should be) perfectible, and that the intention to benefit others is "the essence of virtue," regardless of the actual outcomes of ones actions. As Sowell illustrated, followers of the "unconstrained vision" believe that there is a solution to every problem if we just put our intellects to it. To once again quote:
In the unconstrained vision where the crucial factors in promoting the general good are sincerity and articulated knowledge and reason, the dominant influence in society should be that of those who are best in these regards. Whether specific discretion is exercised at the individual level or in the national or international collectivity is largely a question then as to how effectively the sincerity, knowledge, and reason of the most advanced in those regards influence the exercise of discretionary decision-making.
And, not to put too fine a point on it, Mr. Kelly sees himself as one of those "most advanced" in knowledge, sincerity, and reasonableness. In short, his position is morally superior to that of those insisting on retaining a right to what he describes as "luxury items."

Let's spend a bit of time exploring Mr. Kelly's worldview and self-image to further illustrate this. Bear with me, it's not a frivolous exercise.

First, James is a member (or at least supporter) of the Scottish National Party, described by Wikipedia as "in the mainstream social democratic mould" in nature, "center left," and "(A)mong its policies are a commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament, progressive personal taxation and the eradication of poverty, free state education including support grants for higher education students . . . and is against membership in NATO." Second, James is an ardent opponent of the death penalty. In fact,  James claims:
In terms of issues which I could have imagined myself getting into conflict with American right-wingers over, the death penalty would have come top of the list by some distance. That is a subject I feel extremely passionately about and always have done. Indeed, I’m entitled to a vote in American federal elections and I always go out of my way to vote for candidates who are opposed to the death penalty (which led me, against almost every instinct in my body, to vote for Ralph Nader ahead of Barack Obama).
Oh, how he suffers for his beliefs, but his sincerity is unquestionable!

I'm only speculating on this point, but I somehow doubt that his argument against capital punishment has anything to do with the fact that governments use such power badly, and thus shouldn't have this particular one. No, I get the feeling it's a "sanctity of life" issue with James, or a "poor, misunderstood criminal" thing. In fact, let's look at Thomas Sowell on the topic of those of the unconstrained vision's understanding of crime:
The underlying causes of crime have been a major preoccupation of those with the unconstrained vision of human nature. But those with the constrained vision generally do not look for any special causes of crime, any more than they look for special causes of war. For those with the constrained vision, people commit crimes because they are people -- because they put their own interests or egos above the interests, feelings, or lives of others. Believers in the constrained vision emphasize social contrivances to prevent crime or punishment to deter it. But to the believer in the unconstrained vision, it is hard to understand how anyone would commit a terrible crime without some special cause at work, if only blindness.

--

Within this vision, people are forced to commit crimes by special reasons, whether social or psychiatric. Reducing those special reasons (poverty, discrimination, unemployment, mental illness, etc.) is therefore the way to reduce crime.

--

The unconstrained vision sees human nature as itself adverse to crime, and society as undermining this natural aversion through its own injustices, insensitivities, and brutality.
And James' own words:
Scotland does have a huge knife violence problem. I'd have to disagree with you, though - part of the solution is to get as many knives as possible off the streets (and from what I can gather, that's a crucial part of the police strategy). But there are all sorts of other sides to the equation as well - the biggest thing that would help would be the alleviation of poverty, although of course there are sharply differing views about how that might be best achieved.
And:
My own view (and note that I don’t claim to be able to prove it) is that Brazil and Mexico are not more like the UK largely for one very simple reason – a greater rate of poverty.
And:
Carnaby : With the conclusion that we ought to increase the restrictions on legally owned firearms. Well, given that logic, how do we solve the following problem here in the USA: you're (anyone) far, far more likely to be shot in the US by a black person than a white person. Furthermore, you are far, far more likely to be shot by a black person using an "illegal" gun than anyone using a "legal" gun. Your solution, James?

A massive policy effort to raise the educational and living standards for black people up to the national average, and then the differential will disappear over time. Unless you're about to tell me that black people are somehow innately more prone to violence. Of course, rational gun control laws would reduce the problem in itself, without the slightest need for racial discrimination in its implementation.
Like gun bans, it's blindingly obvious to James that poverty is the driving force behind crime, everywhere. He might want to talk to Richard Cohen about that. We've had a decades-long "massive policy effort" the intent of which was to "raise the educational and living standards for black people up to the national average." Like gun control, it has failed utterly at its stated goals. The actual outcome has been a larger population living in poverty than we started with, and a poverty rate that's just about flat. Among that population are more broken homes, more fatherless children and a homicide rate six times greater than that of the rest of the American population.

But correlation isn't causation, and its implementers meant well and that's what really matters. And if they failed, it wasn't because the philosophy was wrong . . .

To go even further, that his is the obviously morally superior position is illustrated by this excerpt:
...people will construct the most astonishingly complex defensive arguments just to avoid having to let go of their familiar certainties, whether those certainties be that cruelty to animals can always be justified because life wouldn't be so easy without it, or that wealth inequality is justified by differential intelligence, or that there was no immorality in the mass slaughter of innocents at Hiroshima and Nagasaki (because it was the US that dropped the bombs, and the US doesn't do genocide). The more well-rehearsed these complex arguments become (and the defence of the Hiroshima atrocity is a good example of one that has become extraordinarily well-drilled)
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were genocide and indefensible! Once again, don't confuse him with facts and "voodoo statistics." (Oh, and there's apparently no justification for wealth inequality either. Where have I heard that before?)

So, we have established that James Kelly cares about his fellow humans and wants nothing but the best for them: he wants everyone to be safe, free from fear, have an equal share of the wealth, etc. But it's the reactionaries that prevent his personal vision of utopia from coming true, people who "construct the most astonishingly complex defensive arguments just to avoid having to let go of their familiar certainties", people who are willing to carry weapons and use them against their fellow-man.

In short, people like those who read this blog. People he terms the "Kevin Baker Fan Club."

Mr. Kelly's entire argument is that the number of weapons is what dictates the level of violent crime. If gun crime is increasing in the UK, it's obviously because there are more guns, despite the UK enacting every gun law that our gun ban control safety groups want to enact here, up to and including complete bans on legal possession of whole classes of firearms. If knife crime is up, it's due to more knives (not weapon substitution). But when the US adds 3-4 million new guns each year and our gun crime goes down, then what?

We hear crickets from Mr. Kelly. Or further insistence that things are still worse in the US! As he himself said:
If I could make sense of much of it, I might be provoked into breaking my word and responding directly to some of Mr Baker's points, but frankly I can't (doubtless a lack of intellectual capacity on my part).
He said it, I didn't.

It all hinges on CULTURE, that question of "what kind of society do you want to live in?" Do you want to live in one where you get to decide whether to exercise your duty to protect yourself and your society, or one where your superiors tell you that they'll handle it, you're not qualified, while not telling you that they're generally not capable?

I know what my choice is, and I know what James Kelly's choice is. If you live in the U.S., your choice is still, for now, up to you.

(Hey! Less than 5,000 words!)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Clueless

That would be the gun-control forces.  D.C. radio station WTOP has a story from May where gun-control, er -safety, uh -ban activists were protesting a Senate bill that would allow - finally - the law-abiding residents of the city to legally purchase and possess semi-auto pistols.  In order to illustrate the obvious folly of the bill, one organization protesting it was joined by "family members whose children were killed in the drive-by shooting violence in D.C. in late March."

Curious, I went to the linked story, where I was told that:
Two men -- Orlando Carter, 20, and Nathaniel Simms, 26 -- are being held without bond in the drive-by shooting left four people dead and five wounded in front of an apartment building Tuesday night.

A 14-year-old boy, with nine convictions since 2005, is being held in a juvenile facility. D.C. Superior Court Family Court Judge Elizabeth Wingo described the boy as a danger to himself and others and a flight risk.

All three face murder charges.
(My emphasis.) Gun control works so well, doesn't it? They've done a marvelous job of disarming the law-abiding and leaving them helpless against their feral youths.  Hey, if this was England, that 14-year-old would get a get-out-of-jail-free card when he turns 18!  Let's do it some more, only harder!

The argument, as always, is that "more guns equals more crime."  Except it doesn't.  We keep repeating it until our fingers are worn to the bone, but we add a few million firearms to the total in private hands here in the U.S. every year, and for nearly the last two decades, violent crime and firearm-related violent crime keeps going DOWN.  Gun laws are relaxed, and violent crime goes DOWN.  We're told endlessly about "blood in the streets" and "Wild-West shootouts" and they NEVER HAPPEN.  Here, once again, is the map of  concealed carry progress across the nation:

And here are the Bureau of Justice Statistics for violent crime.

Homicide is at rates not seen since the 1960's:


Non-fatal firearm victimization is way down:


Non-fatal firearm-related crime is also down:


Rape is down:


Robbery is down:


In addition, even burglary is down:


In short, all serious violent crime has been trending down while the "number of guns" in private hands has gone up, up, UP over the same period.


According to this 1997 National Institute of Justice report;
In 1994, 44 million Americans owned 192 million firearms, 65 million of which were handguns. Although there were enough guns to have provided every U.S. adult with one, only 25 percent of adults actually owned firearms; 74 percent of gun owners possessed two or more.

--

There were 13.7 million firearm transactions in 1993-1994, including 6.5 million handguns. About 60 percent of gun acquisitions involved federally licensed dealers.
And this isn't unusual. Typically 3-4 million of those transactions annually are for new guns or newly imported firearms (my Garand and M1 Carbine are re-imports, for example). About half are usually handguns. The rest are used. Bear in mind, this report is for 1993-94. The big news in 2009 was the massive buying of guns even in the midst of an economic downturn. The major difference, it was new guns that were selling. All of the major manufacturers had a banner year.

So when the worst you can say about "more guns on the streets" is that you cannot definitely prove that they help violent crime rates decline, why do people keep pushing the lie that "more guns equals more crime"?  Because they live in their own world. Reality is not allowed to intrude.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Quote of the Day - Clear Vision Edition

Bubba over at What Bubba Knows runs one of the best aggregation sites on the web, and also does some pretty fine commentary of his own.  Commenting on a story of riots in Rome after Berlusconi won a confidence vote, Bubba hits on the heart of the subject:
Students? No, anarchists. Raised and groomed by the socialist institutions of public education. Taught to believe that anything they want is a right, that the government that refuses their 'rights' to anything they want is to be pulled down and destroyed.


Workers? No, unions. Unions and their members that have grown accustomed to constant reductions in production expectations and constant increases of expectations from them. More pay, more benefits in exchange for less production. When the government teat runs dry, they have been trained to rebel.


Immigrants? No, muslims. They've migrated, not immigrated, to European countries where they promptly enter into the welfare systems and become bloated leeches with attitudes. While contributing nothing, they feed on the resources and wealth of their host nations. When their benefactors run out of other people's money, the muslim migrants have learned to riot and demand their 'rights'.


All of these parasites get their concepts of rights from a single source, a single ideal. That source is the same source of the policies that have created the need for austerity. It's name starts with a 'C' ... and ends with a 'nism', and it's the exact opposite of Capitalism.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The New New Math

Unix-Jedi emailed me a link to this one. Sabra of Trailer Park Paradise tells the story of her third-grade daughter and the San Antonio school system's "Strategies" method of teaching multiplication. Quote of the day:
We learned a saying in Russian...повторение мать улица. Repetition is the mother of learning. Drills don't sound fun, but you know what? They work.
Yes, they do. But apparently they don't build a child's self-esteem.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pictures from the Pin Match

Bill and Elaine sent me some of the pictures they took from yesterday's match. I promised I'd put them up.

So, what's a bowling pin match you ask? As CapitalistPig put it, it's a combination of drag racing, bowling and shooting. Two people line up side-by-side to see who can shoot five bowling pins (or pin tops) off their table fastest. Here's a table set up for shooting Minor (centerfire smaller than .40 S&W):


The table is eight feet wide, four feet deep, and about 42" high. The pins are placed 18" off the back edge of the table, and are spaced 16" apart. Those people in the back there are my pin setters.

Once the tables are set, the competitors line up, and at the sound of the horn, they're off!


This pair is shooting Major - .40 S&W and larger - with the pins set 12" off the front edge of the table, making it harder to get them on the ground.

Then there's the .22 Rimfire class, with five pin tops placed on the back edge of the table:




In all cases, the shooter stands at a table that is 25 feet from the front edge of the bowling pin table.  Those pin tops are pretty small 29' away.

In all cases the shooters start with their guns in their hands in the "low-ready" position (in this case, muzzle on the surface of the table) and at the sound of the beep, they try to clear their five pins as fast as they can.

The rest of the competitors watch the matches,


or help reset the pins between matches,


or shoot the breeze.


All in all, it's a fun way to spend the day! And since pin shooting emphasizes speed, accuracy, and power, it's good practice, too.